Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rise and Fall of Newsprint


I am a Guardian reader, I have been since I first started buying a newspaper, whilst at school.  I briefly flirted with The Herald when I lived in Scotland and in fact I still pick up copy up if I am north of the border.

But the Guardian has been a delightful, entertaining, informative and challenging constant in my life.

I have changed my reading habits though, and the recent ABC figures released in April for March 2013 make interesting food for thought for me.  There was a rise in newspaper sales of a considerable amount coinciding with the coverage of the death of Margaret Thatcher.

This was not of major concern to me personally, my readership of the Guardian should give you a clue as to my political leanings.  But the sales bounce was considerable across the majority of papers.  The Telegraph, as can be expected, made the most fuss and printed several editions, which I cannot bring myself to comment upon.

The Guardian stats are interesting Source: ABC

  • Mar 2013 circulation ave 196,004
  • Feb 2013 circulation ave 193,780
  • Month on Month Change +1.15%

The danger for the guardian though is in the Year on Year stats – you see I resisted the urge to use YoY, a popular TLA as per last weeks blog post !

The March 2012 circulation average of the Guardian was 214,128, so a full 8.5% down on last year.

The Sun have now announced a firewall price for their on-line newspaper and I wonder if the frankly brilliant Guardian website is going to go the same way.

I could not bear the thought of not being able to buy a hard copy Guardian, but yes, my purchase behaviour has, like millions of others, changed and I now read the news on on my iPad and buy three actual issues a week, down from 6.  Monday for the sport, Friday for music and Saturday for reviews and culture.  I also buy the Observer for a Sunday relax over a coffee.

It will be interesting to see, if Guardian ever do charge for web access, if I will revert back to the paper … the cost dimension will play a part, but I do hope that print survives for a long time to come.  The recent sales boost cannot just be down to souvenir hunters, it must be something to do with reading serious news in newspapers and I bet you TV news viewing figures bounced as well.  It feels like the place you should read important news.  Despite the old saying about chip wrappers it retains a sense of gravitas and editorial strength that feels better in print than on-screen. It feels more permanent, and yet the reality is the web is more permanent.

I will keep using the website and buying the paper for now, reading the Guardian on a Saturday is one of my most favourite things, I hope I can enjoy doing it for years to come, especially if my iPad has run out of battery !


25 May 2013


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Blogging inspiration – Dr Alice Roberts

Back in November 2012 I was quite new to blogging, but a visit to a lecture by Dr Alice Roberts really kick started my enthusiasm.

Dr Alice Roberts

Her lecture inspired my post – Polar Bears and Marketing.  I know some of you enjoyed it at the time I wrote it and that enthusiasm gave me the confidence to continue.

The lecture Dr Roberts gave was an early taster of a TV series that airs on BBC 2 for the next few weeks.

I will be watching avidly, she is a passionate advocate of her profession and a skilled, natural presenter – Ok, I am a bit of a fan !

Anyway, this short post is to point you at her programme “Ice Age Giants” – it starts at 8pm on Sunday 19 May 2013.  There are 3 episodes over consecutive weeks.

I will be watching, not least to make sure I got the gist of her arguments correct in my post !

19 May 2013


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PWM (or the Problem with Marketers) …

The title gives it away.  The main problem with marketers is lingo bingo, the TLA (Three Letter Acronym), the tendency to speak only in a jargon driven language that other marketers speak.


I have recently changed jobs, I am loving my new job, but the TLAs are all different, after 8 years with my last brand this is a challenge.

It stands out starkly when you move job, as frankly even I don’t understand some of the jargon and I have been a Marketer for nearly 30 years.  It’s a new language I need to learn.

TLAs were supposed to be a means of making life easier, but I think as a habit it just gets in the way of allowing Marketers to shine, it can appear foolish in the extreme – I was once asked when discussing ATL (above the line) advertising and BTL (below the line) advertising, by an exasperated Finance colleague to just “either tell me where the bloody line is, or better still speak plain English”.  Sound advice.

TLAs were supposed to make life easier, they were developed as mnemonics to assist learning initially.  The idea being, in biological sciences, that they would make learning easier.  The irony of that objective is not lost on me.

They can assist in marketing only conversations, but there is a clear risk with new starters in a business that a TLA in one company can mean something different in another.  I also think they can belittle.  It is hard to be honest and say “what on earth do you mean?” unless you are either confident or senior.

The IT industry really took to their use and so it’s no surprise that the worst offenders in marketing are the on-line boys and girls.  They just proliferate each year and it makes it inordinately difficult to break out of that world.  Currently the worst offender for me is SMM – Social Media Monitoring.  It really doesn’t need to be abbreviated – it’s a task that is basic and will be universally understood if you say it out loud.  If you say I am about to engage in some SMM – people will either mis hear you and think it’s a S&M party or just plainly have no clue.  If they ask you what it stands for they may be expecting grandiose IT developments, revolutionary techniques, a ground breaking IT solution … but monitoring? Really?

So, given that I have in the past been very very guilty of the extensive use of MTLA (Marketing Three Letter Acronyms), which is in fact an ETLA (extended Three Letter Acronym) can I change?  I am reminded of the book of memories that my last team gave me (thank you so much if any of you are reading this .. I love it !) when I left that I once ran a Lingo Bingo session in one of the quarterly huddles – I won !!   I did it to poke fun at Marketers, done gently it does give you permission to use our secret language, but I think I’m going to try to reduce my use of it.

Marketing should be about great communication and we strive to do that for our customers and members, so why should I knowingly make that less of an objective within my business.

I will let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, an observation, in Manchester, Barclay’s Bank have a concept branch which has reduced branch collateral (ok … leaflets for customers).  They are brilliantly written in plain English – even the small print.  I aspire to that level of simple communication.

Check out how they label their ATM (Automated Teller machines) BTW (by the way) and why not let me know you favourite, ridiculous or otherwise, TLA.

Barclays Hole in the Wall .. An ATM if you want a TLA !

Barclay’s Hole in the Wall .. An ATM if you want a TLA !

My long-term pet hate is CSR – a hugely important social change, a movement in fact (Corporate Social Responsibility) that is belittled by its abbreviation in my view.

Now … over to you !


18 May 2013

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Big Data in Edinburgh


Big Data – a lot of print and web space has been taken up by this topic recently.  I will post my views in more detail over what I think it means and how I think it should be leveraged by Marketers, but here is a great example of a sensible use of data, harnessed alongside customer service.

I like Marriott Hotels.  I have a bank of good memories from weekends away in Marriott Hotels around the UK.

I stayed at the Edinburgh Marriott last Friday night.


It was a simple over night stop at a hotel I have used regularly over the last few years.  It is a nice hotel, good gym and pool, nice bar and like most hotels of this type has a reasonable turnover of staff.  I don’t expect them to remember me – I stay there, maybe 4 or 5 nights a year.

But Friday was interesting.  Greeted by a trainee and one of the permanent team, I had to wait a while – The Newport Gwent Dragons were staying there (RUFC – they lost to Edinburgh on the night) but I digress…

After giving my name, the receptionists clearly used data to make my experience of check-in personal and engaging;

  1. They knew I was a Marriott rewards customer and confirmed that my logged preferences had been accommodated in the room they were assigning me too
  2. They knew I had stayed with them before, “but just in case you need a reminder of where anything is please just ask any of the team” – nice and engaging phrasing
  3. They knew when I had last stayed – “well at least the weather should be better than when you were here in December Mr Hemingway”

Really simple stuff, but excellent service empowered by good, ACTIONABLE, data.  The added value for me is feeling engaged and welcomed by that hotel and the brand.

I would hope its’s policy, but it might just be great thoughtful customer service, either way … guess where I will be staying when I go back to Edinburgh in August for the Festival


12 May 2013


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Documenting your new marketing strategy

Marketing business sales

Over the last few weeks my posts have concentrated on the steps I like to follow in building a marketing strategy. I identified 7 steps initially – the Customer Review.

Once you have completed the Customer Review you need to document your strategy. Remember my guide is not there to be adhered too slavishly. You will have your own processes and procedures and formats to follow, but below is a suggested approach to sharing the outcomes of your customer thinking;

What you should have now is a series of outputs that you can turn from thinking into action. By working through the 7 steps you should have:

  • Engaged your team
  • Identified the key strategic challenges faced by your business
  • Organised your thoughts logically and given yourself some answers to the critical questions posed
  • Identified the areas where you and your business can ‘win’.

What you now need to do is to collate your thoughts and create a coherent plan that can be communicated ‘up the line’.

I suggest this is summarised as follows:

Current State Assessment

  • Current market defined; Customer needs and wants
  • Marketplace trends, alongside clearly articulated segments/sectors of attractiveness to your business
  • Sales, retention, profit KPIs of your current business in the your current market context (and by sector of your marketplace wherever possible)
  • Your current market position in terms of shares and other KPIs
  • The importance of market segments to you
  • Your overall value engineering picture and price position vs costs

Target State Assessment

  • Your desired financial position: costs to target, value of business forecast and your price position
  • Your target customers defined as deeply as you can
  • How the target state fits with your overall long term business strategy
  • How the brand essence articulates and supports your strategy (or in rare cases; conflicts)

Way-finding Guide (for your Exec Team/Board)

  • Say how you plan to move from current state to target state
  • The customer focus / tactics you will employ
  • Articulate coherently the customer proposition or offer – what will drive take-up/use etc
  • Identify what needs to change across your business to allow the strategy to succeed

The Plan

  • Show a short summary of all of your conclusions from the 7 steps
  • Show your objectives – qualitative and quantitative
  • Show how you will measure success or failure – what are your tolerances?
  • Show the strategies you will employ alongside tactics employed at a granular level
  • Show your financial assessments and paint a payback picture over 3 years


  • Finally, using Step 7 show how the 3 year strategy is affected by / influences your 5 year strategy – short and sharp – but it lends huge credibility to your thinking.

So the only thing left to do is to agree the media and creative communications strategies and plans to bring this to life. I will, perhaps, share my thoughts on those activities in due course, but at this stage the important thing is to remember to do the following before you go for a congratulatory drink of tea/lovely lager beer/champagne/fruit juice*

*- please chose one or more !

  1. Ask for agreement to the strategy
  2. Draw up your Internal communication plan of the strategy
  3. Start your formal stakeholder engagement around the business, your strategy team can help you, as not everyone will have been fully engaged, end to end, on your journey so you need to tell them the story to get their buy-in. Focus first of all on the Pagans – get them on board and the rest are ‘cheap dates’.
  4. One thing I think that aids this stage is to drive out a mission statement or descriptor for your strategy. This should not disconnect to your wider long term vision for the business, but may describe a stage in achieving it … for example- after a ‘Foundation’ plan to stabilise a business you may enter a ‘growth phase’ – describing that in a simple engaging way for colleagues, which will be a great boon when determining communications strategies in due course.

I hope you have found this series of posts informative – I need to thank my influences again, Davidson, Fisk, McDonald, Kotler (“The Prof”) and all of the teams I have worked with to date. Thank you.

And remember – if in doubt during this process … use a boxy chart – they can be used to explain everything in my view/experience (I’m only half joking by the way !).

08 May 2013

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Marketing Futurology

The final stages of the Customer Review are vitally important and we have just one more to go before we start stitching things together.  If you remember, the first stage in developing a marketing strategy is thinking – which I call the Customer Review – and then we move into delivery.  We are now at the final step, 7 – Future proofing of the Customer Review.

  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
Futurist Cinema - Scarborough

Futurist Cinema – Scarborough – nice building !

(7) Futurology

This step is the final step in customer thinking and is in fact a sense check of the customer research and trends exhibited in your marketplace currently.  It requires you to think qualitatively and quantitatively.  It requires you to think forward 3+ years;


  • To give you confidence that your 1 to 3 year strategy is not going to hamper your next strategic step that takes you out to 5 years.
  • To make sure you are future proofing where you can.
  • To make sure you are labeling no regrets strategies and tactics clearly as ‘no regrets’ if you pursue tactics that contradict your 5 year view of trends and market/customer developments.


  • The first step is to review your products and channels for innovation in the marketplace.  You should have this information in your Marketplace attractiveness research that informed your early matrix.
  • A useful tip to pick up trends is to use some of the trend-spotting websites and email alerts.
  • Review the industry reports and the Annual Report and Accounts of your competitors/enemies and use logarithmic trend-lines on sales growth etc to forecast out.
  • Your IT department can be tasked with keeping you up to date on technology trends – ask them for a monthly or quarterly report.
  • Do the same with your media planners, creative agencies, email dispatchers and so on.
  • Utilise the delights of your Industry bodies, ISBA, DMA, IDM, etc as well  as your trade press and marketing press.
  • Using these free channels greatly reduces your costs and makes this futurology task as simple as mapping the trends.  But don’t be afraid to pay – I find eBenchmarkers historic assessment of web channel usage really helpful in informing my expectations of web and telephony 5+ years out as Insurance looks more and more like a digital channel, for example.

My sense is that the universe you need to map is helpfully covered by your PESTLE from the very early steps of the Customer Review – just don’t overlay the SWOT in this step – this is about drawing a picture.

I worked for a CEO who used a very simple tool that was an email from himself in the future to his current Exec team today:  He liked to use either a press release or a piece on the company on  This works well and is a nice idea to engage the team.  Ask all of them to do this in isolation, and then to discuss why they have led on (usually) different things.

Finally don’t forget the Office for National Statistics if you are in the UK – a mine of census and other useful information.

The final step in this process is then to torture test the pictures you have drawn vs your emerging strategies i.e. does your channel pricing strategy look acceptable if you are seeking to retain customers for 4 to 6 years, but now can reasonably expect that channel to be radically more expensive and less used in 3 to 5 years time? Do you need different strategies and tactics to actively manage those customers you are recruiting now?

The hard part is making sure you have persona’s or pictures of how your customers will interact with you in 5 years time.  You might need to practice this, but Ad agencies are great at it, so use your retained agencies to help


  • You will have a clear view of future trends at a more granular and industry specific level than just, say, “we have an aging population”.  Which is helpful only if you have strategies to exploit or manage it.
  • You will have a list of some activities/strategies that when assessing for costs & effectiveness you know must be no regrets or not at all.
  • You will be able to demonstrate a longer term vision with customers, and with your members, or owners, or indeed shareholders.

Looking forward like this is enjoyable, try and use this as an opportunity to have a bit of fun with the team … I recently started a presentation with a view of what the makers of Space 1999 thought 1999 would look like when they created the show 20 years earlier – spectacularly wrong – but funny nonetheless.

That ends the Customer Review section … getting to the bones of your strategy.  You now have to make a coherent story from these parts to make your strategy come to life.

More of that next week though.  As ever if you have any comments or builds please post them.


02 May 2013

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