Monthly Archives: March 2013

Developing a successful marketing strategy : the marketplace

Last week I started to share my thoughts on developing a marketing strategy.

For me it starts with thinking, and then moves into delivery.


I started with the Customer Review.  I covered the first and arguably most important topic in my last blog – Customer insight.  Now I will move on to assessing your marketplace;

Customer Review

The building of the concrete foundations in 7 stages;

  1. Customer insight ✓
  2. The marketplace 
  3. Critique the current strategy
  4. Identify and critique your enemies
  5. Critique your current/planned offer in detail: Product / Service / Channel
  6. Pricing Review
  7. Futurology

2. Analysing the marketplace(s) you are in


  • To really understand the big picture, the significant changes affecting your target customers and the wider market
  • To understand if the same market is being addressed differently elsewhere
  • To understand the macro economic environment and then drill down
  • To understand the impact of technology, media changes, new channels, legislation and consumer trends
  • To place your offer in context of the ‘marketplace for the offer’ as well as the wider marketplace that consumers will experience


  • My start point is always a qualitative marketplace audit.  In this model the macro view should focus on the general economic situation, taxes, new media, new distribution channels, new technology, legislative change and so on.  Then get tighter and try to bring to life any channel shifts that affect you and your competitors equally e.g. the recent EU Gender Directive in Insurance.  This is the market-wide ring. Then finally assess the direct impact for your business alone – short term and long term – but just you.
Marketplace audit visual

Marketplace audit visual

  • This leads nicely into the next step …
  • … a PESTLE  and overlay a SWOT into it to drive some conclusions out
PESTLE with a SWOT overlay

PESTLE with a SWOT overlay

  • It is important to identify the key market trends – are there elements to the market that you like and some you don’t?  A Boston Matrix still works for me

Boston Matrix – Wikipedia

  • I also like the GE/McKinsey model – which gives you an “invest or not read”.  Do you actually have any opportunity left in your market?

GE/Mckinsey Model – just replace Industry with Market

  • NB: both of these tools are quite old, but I have used both in anger and find them helpful, simple ways to assess opportunities.  They are a staple of marketing training … don’t forget them !
  • Map past sales and attrition over a number of years to show seasonality – and overlay any market trends you can get to see if your brand behaves differently.  I indexed sales to a rolling three month average in the past to try and eliminate spikes of spend – but mapping your sales to your spend, then to market spend is essential in giving a view of your activity in your marketplace context.  You will know how best to visualise this
  • Examine competitors strategies (more of that later, but here) look at ATL vs BTL strategies and the impact on their market share
  • In short try and use these tools to drive out critical views on your brand in the market.  I did an exercise last week which may be a tool I use in the future:  Ask yourself what would convince someone to buy my brand?  Then reverse brainstorm it and ask yourself why would they not.
  • Look to other countries for inspiration too – the internet is your best friend here, it used to be expensive to commission that research, now it is just a click away – for lists of like companies, ask your trade bodies for their counterparts in the countries you want to look at, they should save you some time
  • Market prices should be assessed quickly at this stage.  If prices are falling and squeezing margins then look deeper into why that is happening and assess if it is you, a sector of the market or the whole market.  Can you buck the trend, realistically?
  • Market sustainability assessments need to be made at this stage.  What has fallen out of favour with customers vs what lines have been stopped.  A good example of a market shift here has been the flight to fixed term savings accounts from variable rate ones – a factor that would have been picked up in the PESTLE – as a consequence of record low base rate in the UK.
  • Finally do a sense check of why new entrants have entered the market – what did they say in their press releases and then reverse this and look at why companies have consolidated or left the market or exited product lines in your market


  • A view on emerging trends you can exploit/or should be wary of that mean something to consumers – remember to view this with your brand eyes and the eyes of your customers
  • Prioritised views of attractive market sectors and what you need to succeed in them with a preliminary view of which market segments may be growing and at what times of the year to begin the journey of focusing your marketing investment
  • A start point for your risk assessment of the strategy you will recommend

I hope you continue to find my thoughts useful … let me know what you think as always, leave me a comment or two.  I am pleased with the number of boxy charts I have managed to weave into this blog too – sorry, it often happens !

Part 3 on critiquing your existing strategy to follow next week


28 March 2013

PS – Happy Easter !

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Chess and marketing strategy


I am acutely aware this blog is going to start off sounding  a little pompous … but here goes anyway.  I have set myself a personal objective of improving my chess skills.  My computer keeps beating me.  I have, at least, figured out how to prolong the games, but in reality I am no more offensively successful than I was a year or so ago.  This is frustrating, so I have retreated to test and learn (I am a direct marketer after all) and doing a bit of research to improve my strategies.

I was surprised to see in my research a lot of similar quotes to those I see in relation to marketing strategy – Sun Tzu & Eisenhower featuring strongly.  So with progress on chess being difficult, I wandered off down a more comfortable road of looking at marketing strategy.  Everything I started to read was very clearly rooted in the learnings of the past and is for the most part grounded in the same strategy development I learned early on in my marketing career.

It strikes me that it have become a little unfashionable in business to devote enough time to do some of the old school strategic planning, perhaps assuming that the new media opportunities, the new generations of x and y, mobile devices etc mean the old skills and approach are no longer meaningful, or that we have too little time to do the detail.

I think that is a mistake.

A  strategy is not ‘in year’ it has to have a longer relevance.

Marketing strategy and planning still needs, in my view, to reflect two distinctly different phases : Thinking and then Action.  

My use of “Offensive” earlier was intentional – my thoughts on developing marketing strategy are influenced by Davidson’s Offensive Marketing and is guided in delivery by MacDonald’s Marketing plans (you can tell I am the age I am !) and more recently has been inspired by Peter Fisk and his work on customer propositions.  I will use my blog over the next few weeks to share my own views on how this works for me.


My starting point is always a belief that you need to look inside and outside and do some detailed thinking about what your strategy should be before leaping into delivery.

I will call this thinking stage the Customer Review.  But even before that step I believe you have to be clear what your overall business vision or long-term objective is.   If that is unclear then the development of marketing strategies that are effective is going to be down to luck not judgement.  Let’s assume we have that clear vision expressed, or even better that Marketing have been asked to develop it based on Customer Insight already !

Customer Review

This is the grunt work. The building of the concrete foundations in 7 stages;

  1. Customer insight
  2. The marketplace
  3. Critique the current strategy
  4. Identify and critique your enemies
  5. Critique your current/planned offer in detail: Product / Service / Channel
  6. Pricing Review
  7. Futurology
  1. Establish Customer Insight


  • To understand who the customer is in the market you are in
  • To understand their needs, wants, desires and dissatisfactions
  • To understand their scale and how this shows in segments
  • To understand growth and decline in the marketplace by segment
  • To understand what drives purchase, retention, apathy
  • To understand what and who they believe meets their needs now .. and how .. and where … and when ..
  • To understand their value to your brand


  • If you have a preferred segmentation already, then map it and show movements; growth, decline, size, profitability – in short mine the data to understand the mapping – sense checking its continued validity as you go
  • Talk to customers, and more importantly LISTEN to them.  This need not be expensive research, think about using the communications you have already and ask pointed questions you have thought about.  Pay attention to recording answers.  If you can afford a ‘Usage and Attitudes’ Survey then do one – gain attitudinal as well as more tangible insight.  But in most cases there is plenty of research in the business so collate it – borrow a room and create a customer wall/data-room – live and breathe it.  It’s especially important to understand how customers use what they already have bought from you, is it as you expected? Remember Lucozade !
  • I like to use boxy charts to identify basic needs/wants – then map outliers over this; variations by age, demographic, life-stage etc
  • Use publicly available insight – sign up for a few white-papers & use the research conducted by the likes of the IDM, DMA, ISBA, Thinkbox, MMC, Google etc.  And remember to ask your agencies & business partners what they have available that you can use
  • Talk to the people who talk to customers – a rich vein for feedback on customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction.  Your front line staff will know what drives customers to leave/join the brand first hand
  • Review customer complaints
  • Review Ombudsman rulings – mine the data that identifies the causes of dissatisfaction amongst customers
  • Pay particular attention to loyalty – what makes advocates for your brand – use your management information to establish the lifetime value of your customers based on price elasticity and include cross fertilisation of products.  Do some modeling of loyal customers to determine the financial impact of what an increase in loyalty will deliver vs acquiring new customers
  • Document their responsiveness to media types/channels and compare to their attitudinal assessment of channels.  Ask them how much a USP or differentiation matters vs relevance and brand appeal vs cost
  • Finally – if you get the chance to do some research think about asking harder questions than normal … try some value engineering;  Establishing how much ‘value’ a customer puts on say, great customer service vs good customer service, is really informative in developing your proposition.  It drives investment decisions and informs/creates customer focussed strategies  Use a 2×2 matrix of Value (high/low) and Cost to deliver (high/low) – simple and easy to understand priorities.  You will need to have at least a high level view of your customer journeys by channel to truly leverage this insight


  • The simple pay-off of a rich understanding of customers is a strategy based upon what they will respond to/buy/keep not one that is grounded in what you as the brand owner think they want.
  • This moves you significantly to a customer pull model rather than a product push model and will validate your ‘value’ assumptions, ready for financial planning later

This is the very start of the ‘thinking’ phase for me.  And the most interesting.

I hope you find my thoughts useful … let me know what you think as always, leave me a comment or two

Part 2 on developing market place insight to follow next week.



24 March 2013


Peter Fisk & Genius works


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Insurance TV Advertising – a different approach

Thanks for all of comments on last weeks blog;  the NFU Mutual ad and the voiceover certainly attracted some interest.  The consensus of opinion is that it is beautifully voiced by David Thewlis.  It’s a great ad, doing a good job of reinforcing the NFU Mutual brand values, and I would guess widening their appeal.  The quote below (from NFU) sums up the ad and their values nicely:

NFU Mutual values are what set us apart – we believe in Trust, Customer Focus, Value for Money, Quality, Prudence

My sense is that they need to make a call over the consistency of messaging though … the website has a mixture of old brand statements alongside new ones.  I appreciate the new ad is a campaign and integration is costly, but I think the website weakens the impact and feel generated by the TV ad once you are off the home page.

Interestingly another ‘Insurance Brand’ – Hastings Direct – is back on TV in March ’13.  The contrast could not be more stark;  when I saw the first ad in this series I recognised a strong insight (after all the reason we have insurance is to protect the things we treasure and the real moment of truth comes when a claim has to be made).  So creatively the no fuss, “we clean it up” message comes across.  The attempt at humour at the end looks dangerously like an in joke for the marketing team though.  But I really did not like the advert at all.

But, being fair-minded, I thought I would check it out again and I found a second ad in the series that is much more interesting;

This ad is much stronger and plays out a message that is very important in building empathy with customers.  Like the first ad it is squarely aimed at a direct response audience and you can see what Hastings are trying to do:

  • Introduce the saving you can make by switching to Hastings
  • To build credibility for differing audiences by showing the typical savings for 51%, 25% and 10% of people
  • To show themselves as true consumer champions by showing all three and implying that Insurers that do not are not doing the right thing – the voiceover is strong here
  • They almost show a choice of prices, I appreciate this is not actually the case, but it leans towards talking to an audience very used to seeing more than one price on the price comparison websites – this aspect, intentional or not is quite clever
  • The call to action is typically Hastings and they are yet again going for a little humour, arguably more successfully than in the first ad I saw.

The art direction is interesting too – I like the stillness in the end frames and I like that the statue of ‘Harry Hastings’ is not animated.  It covers off the usual, annoying, insurance tendency towards cuddly creatures, but I will let that pass.  The insight resonates with me 100% – from my own experience I know consumers see Insurance and Insurers as a ‘necessary evil’ and they are fed up with rising prices at renewal, it’s no wonder they shop around.

So what values are Hastings trying to fit to with this, in their words, “refreshingly straightforward” campaign?

Hastings say they want to be easy to talk to, know their stuff, be open and honest and believe in good old-fashioned customer service.  Not perhaps as grandiose as NFU Mutual, but this will resonate with a target audience seeking to respond to price based messaging I think. The ads do a good job of measuring up to this ambition in my view.   The ad, in direct response airtime, does look a little different (but only a little) and it does benefit from a memorable phone number.

The ads are simple and the business seems to be growing… time will tell if this campaign helps, but I think that Antidote, the creative agency who developed the ad, have crafted one strongish ad and another that misses the mark a little by comparison, but, each, with minimal legal copy, are clean and bright.  It’ll be interesting to see how long they air as that is usually the litmus test of direct response TV success or failure.

Comments, as always, greatly appreciated


17 March 2013

Useful Links:

Campaign Live article

Antidote website   Love your home page by the way guys !

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Art or Advertising?

I have always assumed that advertising would have a long and positive association with art, but until recently I never really thought about this beyond the natural assumption that ‘creative types’ must be artists by default.  I have, after all, seen some beautifully drawn/painted ‘scamps’ in my time as a client-side marketer.

I spent time in Sheffield recently at the rather quaint Graves Art Gallery.  A council run art gallery with strange opening times and those wonderful polished wooden floors you only get in council run art galleries and museums. Parquet flooring supreme!  I am only gently teasing, it, like Sheffield as a city, often surprises and the recent Leonard Beaumont exhibition was quite engrossing.

What has this got to do with advertising and marketing I hear you ask?  Well my favourite book of 2012 (apart from a rather brilliant read on my favourite building – the concrete UEA in Norwich) was a rather scholarly read on the history of Sainsbury’s packaging (Own Label: Sainsbury’s Design Studio by Trunk & King).  The connection is that Leonard Beaumont, apart from being a fine print maker, was responsible for a large part of Sainsbury’s enduring brand identity.

Beaumont was born in Sheffield in 1891 so he witnessed a sea change in advertising and design in his long life, he passed away in 1986.  At 16 he had his first job in art/advertising – working in the art department at The Sheffield Daily Telegraph.  He served in WW1 but by the 1920s and through the 1930s he began to create some etchings and dry points that attracted the attention of the Royal Academy.  It is his Linocuts I really like from the same period.  They show a close affinity with Vorticism and the quality of the linocuts on display were exceptional, sharp and clean with punches of vibrant colour.  Unexpectedly, really interesting.

Grinders, 1932 (linocut) By Leonard Beaumont

Grinders, 1932 (linocut) By Leonard Beaumont

I love finding new work or new artists like this – I spent nearly two hours in what was a shortish exhibition.  A great show.

To hell with tin hats (1929) Linocut by LeonardBeaumont

To hell with tin hats (1929) Linocut by LeonardBeaumont

His work for Sainsbury’s from the 1950s and beyond was part of what must have been a brilliant era for packaging – where cardboard dominated and required design to work hard compared today’s modern world of ‘see through’ packaging.  His use of a single clean font – Albertus – hung everything together alongside muted colours and simple design. Quite beautiful work in my opinion.

Egg Box 1955 Sainsbury's designed by Leonard Beaumont

Egg Box 1955 Sainsbury’s designed by Leonard Beaumont

It prompted me to think about the work of other artists, perhaps better known, in marketing/advertising.  The list below was actually quite hard to come up with (let me know if I have missed any obvious ones !) …

Cameos/Brand spokespersons

  • David Bailey in the Olympus TV Ads
  • Andy Warhol in the Polaroid TV Ads
  • Salvador Dali in Alka seltzer TV Ads

Packaging design

  • Leonard Beaumont – Sainsbury’s
  • Sol le Witt – Nina Ricci

Creative Directors

  • Damien Hurst – TNT movies
  • Norman Rockwell in the US for Jello and Orange Crush
  • David La Chappelle directed Ads for Sky TVs Mad Dogs series
  • Terry Gilliam (the Python who is an illustrator and cartoonist) directed ads for MTV
  • Chris Cunningham was an artist on Judge Dredd comics before becoming a respected video artist and then directed ads for Orange and Gucci

It’s a shorter list than I expected.  In fact the most obvious current correlation of artists to advertising is diametrically opposed to their involvement as positive creators:

Banksy has been vocal in his opposition to the whole concept of advertising, and vocal means visual art in his case.

Banksy Cow !

Banksy Cow !

Fischelli and Weiss briefly threatened to sue Honda for plagiarism over the ‘Cog’ advert, which may have been inspired by their installation “The ways things go”.  No action was ever taken.

Andy Warhol using advertising as art. Brillo, Campbell’s Soup etc. to debunk the myth of creativity – one of many theories I would point out!

Jake and Dinos Chapman’s long-standing obsession with ridiculing capitalism, and their continued use of MacDonald’s and other brands to illustrate this.

mcd jake and dinos

So while I can easily find lots of examples of Artists poking hard at advertising with a stick at the moment, this represents a swing from the 50s, 60s and 70s when the opposite was probably more common.  An interesting societal and cultural shift I think.  I will leave the last word to Banksy …

Banksy on Advertising

Banksy on Advertising


09 March 2013

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Voiceovers ‘maketh’ the advert

Last week in my Marketing team was all about voices.  I work in Insurance as you may know, and part of my day job is to keep abreast of what our competitors are up to.  One of them, NFU Mutual. has just launched a new TV advertisement and as I am in the early stages of developing new ads for my brand it is of particular interest.

The NFU mutual ad is very different to many Insurance ads;

  • It’s not loud and shouty
  • it doesn’t have images of houses or cars in it
  • there are no dancing ferrets or woodland creatures on show to carry us along
  • And, finally, it has no price saving messages or NCD claims

In short it’s a beautifully filmed ad that relies massively on you engaging with the narrator.  Irritatingly I cannot pin down the voice at present – I think it may be Rhys Ifans (let me know if you have a better thought).  It is a rare (for advertising) adult to adult conversation.  The execution by Grey is impeccable.  Grey – London

It is similar in approach to a recent Hiscox advertisement for Insurance, and a comparison of the two points to the voiceover as a decisive difference.

There is character in the NFU Mutual ad, and the voiceover engages me right away.   The ad is called “It’s about time”  and whilst this is only used as end phrase, the use of the variant: “It’s about taking the time” works well with the measured pitch and self-deprecating tone. A brand that can poke gentle fun at itself like this shows itself as endearing and warm – a brand you can trust in fact.

Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Hiscox ad and for me its only at the end they get the value of the reassuring timbre his voice can give, it feels a little too dark and sombre – check out the skies and dimly lit interiors for example.  This gives the ad a seriousness and tone clearly desired by the Agency and client, but for me its a little too cold, despite the voiceover bringing it back a little at the end – does it live up to the ads title I wonder?

The voiceover artist in essence becomes, by default and ubiquity, the most important spokesperson for the brand – even more than the contact centre operators, branch staff and field agents etc.

The voice and brand become inextricably linked.  When the two are in harmony; then 2+2 =5 or more.  Just think about the Dave Lamb voiceovers in Come Dine with Me, or Big Brother without the soothing Geordie accent of Marcus Bentley.  The programmes would lack that instant recognition and extra ‘something’ that makes them work better/harder for the viewer.

There are echo’s all around financial services advertising at present of brands trying to build empathy through trust to increase active engagement with, and selection of, the brand and its offers.  Yorkshire Building Society is doing nice TV work in this area and the Northern tones/accent of the voiceover artist compliment the script and imagery very well in my view.

But what is my benchmark, in advertising at least?

The two voiceovers that stick in my mind which add significantly to the advertisements they are a part of, and which work harder by being well cast are:

The O2 ads voiced by Sean Bean – he simply has a, great, rich voice that is genuine, not actorly or preachy, it could easily be your pal talking about the great deal on top-ups – genius casting in my view.

But the real benchmark for truly making an ad has to be the early ‘dine in’ M&S ads with Dervla Kirwan … not just any voice-over, an M&S Voiceover! (Sorry I couldn’t resist that!)

I will post our ads when they are ready, but in the meantime .. I hope you enjoy these ads and my observations .. Let me know which ads you think have great voiceovers if you get a moment – its a neglected field I think.

2 March 2013

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