Category Archives: Design

When to change marketing creative

As a client-side marketer this has been a constant balancing act for me over the last 30 years.

It is easy, on the one hand, to suggest the only time to change creative is when you have evidence it is no longer working as you would expect … or is it as it once did … or is it as it did last year … or even the year before.  I hope you see my point, context as well as rational argument is required.

At this point I will say that I am steering clear of brand identity creative, iconography and logotype in this post.  After all where would we be without those brands who have been so consistent since the birth of modern advertising such as Pears, Coca Cola and so on? 

I will assume the brand is in rude health and that the consistency of its delivery is at the heart of why the brand is successful.

Over the years I’ve seen a number of drivers of change, but the timing of when to ‘press the change button’ is perhaps just as important as the drivers of change themselves.

In direct marketing terms your key goal will be to generate a lead, a sale or some other form of conversion, so the key driver of change is likely to be ineffectiveness or at the very least declining effectiveness.

This can however take many forms, I hope my check list below may be helpful in establishing whether you should indeed change creative;

  • Increased Cost of Acquisition in the sense that it is no longer on plan – this likely to be your most important internal measure.  There is a tipping point where the marketing pound can be better spent elsewhere either in a different channel or on a different line.  Your task is to determine what is driving the downturn of course, the answer may not drive a creative change, it may drive a channel change or a targeting change that is more appropriate, at least in the short term.
  • Response rate falls – in a pure math sense this still may be giving you an acceptable cost of acquisition.  In a mature business with a longstanding creative, or one with integrated high cost assets alongside such as TV, this is a complex challenge because you may not be getting the volume to support your business plan.  Looking at targeting and channel is crucial because if one element is not working to plan but other channels or targeting are, there may be a compromise to be had with creative, or your cost of acquisition target.
  • Customer feedback – a difficult one as this is very subjective.  Complaints about creative (over time) are most often driven by external changes in my experience.  There may be an emerging risk around climate change and sustainability for any advertising which does not reflect the current societal view/mood as I write this post.  In my experience customer feedback driving creative change is infrequent and rare in practice.

    This could of course be related to the answer you give to the question “Do you ask your target customers what they think?”  I have done this consistently in the past on only one of the brands I worked on, with a dual objective of looking at TCF ‘compliance’ (note small c) as well as being driven by a desire to demonstrate “outside in” thinking.  It was refreshing and drove change, but came at a cost of course.
  • In some cases creative change will be driven by a need to express the proposition differently, this is most common where either a product changes for the better internally or there is a market shift which necessitates a refresh of the positioning of the product or what element of the proposition you are highlighting.
  • I did say earlier I would ignore brand, but if there is a change in branding or brand standards then of course your direct creative will need to be sense checked.  If it jars in any way then you should invest in a refresh that can leverage your fresh new brand assets and/or design.

So, there are my five checkpoints for positive creative change, but it is worth looking at what drivers of creative change are (likely to be) inappropriate or at the very least less valid;

  1. Executive whim/new broom – usually a new ‘Head of’ or New CMO and often a symbolic act and usually not grounded in the metrics but based on their last brand.
  2. Silo’d working – where a solus asset stops working as expected and drives wholesale change. Your risk here is of being backed into a ‘consistency corner’.
  3. New Year new challenge – there is a temptation to make a change just because you think it’s time. That’s dangerous unless it is backed up by hard metrics that show a decline in effectiveness.
  4. Old creative. This could also be called ‘New Agency New Creative’. There are many reasons to change creative agency and many reasons to review creative that has been around for a while, but please, if you are going for the shiny new agency pitch creative, remember they will in all likelihood know less about you than you’d like (so make sure you immerse them in the business before changing the creative … in this instance pitching can be dreadfully misleading). If a creative is old but still hitting your effectiveness measures then save yourself the extra time, cost and effort of changing it.

As ever if you have any comments on my post I would love to hear them.

Paul Hemingway
27 January 2020

Image courtesy of @bamagal via

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Great customer service … with honour!

I posted the other day about Manchester United and their proposition and positioning.

It reminded me of a stunning, and quite original, positioning that I came across almost by accident.

Those of you who know me will know certain things about me;

  • I love concrete and all things modernist and brutalist in architecture
  • I firmly believe that Roadhouse is the finest film ever made (with lessons for life in every scene)
  • I only really listen to Jazz
  • One of my favourite brands is Wilkinson’s
  • One of my favourite logotypes is Norfolk Line – lovely combination of type colour and design
  • … and I drive up and down the A14 most weekends to get home

All of which you are likely to know .. but the last 3 in that list have a connection … lorries, and in particular advertising on lorries.

I posted about this some time ago, I may be becoming a lorry geek!

By now reader, you are wondering what on earth this post is going to be about … well lorries… and a proposition …and a surprise;

Allow me please to introduce Knights of Old .. in fact the Knights of Old Group.

If you drive around the Midlands in the UK you will know their haulage. It states boldly on every lorry “SERVICE WITH HONOUR” I really like that, its bold, it’s certainly original and I don’t know much about haulage and logistics, but I bet it’s a USP !


Check out the values on their website … here

This is a roll call of ambition, style, and growth. Mission statements may be a little old hat these days, much derided thanks to too much pomp and ceremony from Management Consultancies in the 90s (just my opinion you understand), but in this instance it absolutely backs up the vision and it must by its nature and presence unite a workforce that is by its nature dispersed geographically.

The typeface is also crucial in lending credence to such a nice line and vision. Can you use an old-fashioned word like ‘honour’ with a modern san serif typeface? I don’t believe you can, at least not for this brand.

And the surprise?  Well it is their website, a quite lovely piece of story telling across the piece. The rolling banner points you at three different stories and, my, how well they present them, especially the photography.

Can you make logistics sexy? You bet you can, especially with as clever a use of brand association as I have seen for a very long time, John Lewis, Carluccio’s anyone? … lovely!

Check it out here

But maybe I should not be so surprised at the quality of their advertising and marketing … look how they promote the cycling team they sponsor – very nice!


One final point to make as well. Added to my list at the top of this post you could have added I love brand heritage stories .. some brands lend themselves to it … Co-operative please note … why do you not embrace yours? … and this is one such brand. The history is well presented, not over done and it contextualises the whole vision. Very nice indeed

Read it for yourself here, its worth a few moments of your time I believe.

The story telling explains the origin of the company name and the use of the “Knight” and “Old”. The company was founded in the village of Old (near Kettering) by William Knight. It’s interesting to ponder how different their brand proposition might have been expressed if the two names had not worked quite so well together.

I hope you have enjoyed this slightly offbeat post, I find it really refreshing that a brand in such a non glamorous industry can make such a bold creative play but I guess you would expect that from a brand with such confidence to paint its proposition on every Lorry!

You will also be pleased to know you can buy toy lorries ‘a la’ Eddie Stobart too … I may seek one out, one on my desk would remind me that delivery of great service is important whatever industry you are in … and if you can do it with honour, even better.



01 May 2014

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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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Stop Press: Late arriving Marketing Valentine or Part 2 of my top 10

Well its time for the second half of my Marketing related top 10 – the late Valentine card, the one stuck in the post that genuinely does have a postmark from the 13th. 

The first five flowed easily, but I have had to whittle down my list to create this second half of my mix tape and I’m wishing I was using a C-120 not a C-90 to be fair, anyway here goes, and the first two should be very obvious to readers of my blog:

WILKINSON – a brand that evolves and lives its values

I really like the Wilkinson brand – they do lots of things really well.  I like how they take unusual city centre spaces and make them usable e.g. Carlisle Indoor Market.  I like the space they put in stores.   I like the fact that they are a family firm.  I especially like that their vision is called “Delivering the Extraordinary” and is centered on delivering “Extraordinary everyday shopping in the heart of the community”.

They seem to me to live their values, one of which I especially like which is “Pull together” – how nicely phrased is that?  But more than that, you know I admire their marketing (especially their lorries) and I admire their embracing of their heritage … whilst modernising it;

wilko lorry allsorts

Check out the link below for the work Jupiter Creative are doing on a new concept store in Crawley.  Nice looking store and an interesting retail approach. And the name, well it’s what we all call them .. Wilko’s.  Nice work Jupiter ! This is yet another example of the resurgence of the brand heritage story in a way that works in today’s society.

Jupiter Creative website – news story on Wilko’s


norfolkline branding

I’m not entirely sure when I first saw this logo/brand.  In fact the colours are an unusual palette for me to like … But I do.

It’s simple and I have always liked it.  No rationale really and that is one thing that is great about being in Marketing, sometimes it just doesn’t matter why you like something.  I was driving home from Lichfield yesterday and saw one of their lorries on the A50; I smiled.


Right then the next three; these were tough to arrive at, and if I posted this tomorrow they may change… but here goes;


AMMO magazines

I am a direct marketer by nature as well as by profession I think, so, and as a consequence, I take a healthy interest in print and paper.  By the nature of the brands I have worked on it is rare for me to be able to use illustration in my work, so I satisfy my interest in that sphere in the art I collect and in what I read.  AMMO magazine is pure little bundle of pleasure that drops through my letter box every now and again.  It’s published every now and again alongside some special issues.  It’s a funny shape.  It contains some truly great work, and some I don’t like one little bit, but it’s always interesting and it is crafted with such care and attention, from the size and format to the paper stock used.   I love it.

It is all about showcasing new illustrators work : Check it out I dare you .. It only costs about £5 a copy !


David Mellor was a great designer.  He had a huge range that stretched from cutlery to traffic lights to street furniture to hacksaws.  I am a serious fan.

Interestingly I knew nothing about him until I moved to the Peak District.  He came from Sheffield and his son Corin now runs the business from the fabulous ‘Roundhouse Workshop’ in Hathersage.  Of all his designs I like two hugely:  The square post box .. It never really caught on, but you know how much I like squares … so I will move on to my personal cutlery : Its called Minimal and its simple stainless steel crafted with care and attention… even down to the hand labelled box with bespoke calligraphy.  I think it is simply gorgeous.

Minimal Cutlery by David mellor

Minimal Cutlery by David Mellor

The small design museum is well worth a visit, the shop is great, and the food in the small restaurant is always lovely and often unusual.

David Mellor Design website


I realised I had no ads in my top 10 and this came to mind straight away.  I will do a  top ten of ads in the future I think, but I loved this idea.  The oyster card when launched was indeed a thing of the future and this tie up was very forward thinking as well.  The ad sums it up neatly, and when I saw it … I immediately went home and played Animals by Pink Floyd… the power of advertising!

barclaycard oyster

So there you have it ten simple things that make me happy .. Please add a comment or two and let me know what you think

17 February ’13

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My Marketing Valentines

Given the date I think its time I shared a few of my design and marketing loves on my blog.  Valentines day is a suitable day to celebrate some of the loves of my creative mind …  you, the reader, may well feel you know me a little better if you have read a few of my blogs, so I’d be interested if any of my selections surprise you.


It does feel like a few words of explanation are needed before I get into my top ten;

  • It’s not a straightforward top ten, it is more like a 21st century version of a mix tape
  • It mixes brands, type, design and more, but all are creative related and I have a genuine love of all of them
  • These are my top ten .. In any order you like, split across two blogs to keep you guessing (ok and keep it short and readable as well !)

Right, now that’s out-of-the-way, here we go with Pt 1 – my first 5…


Ilford logotype

Ilford logotype

I adore the beautiful simplicity of this logo, its simply always stayed the same.  The font is Futura Extra Bold I think.  Its been consistent for years and has lovely clean lines … always black, usually on crisp white, which given the company focus on B&W film is entirely appropriate.  It just sums up my early photography experiences.  I love it.  Always have.  Always will.

TRANSPORT MEDIUM FONT (as used on UK road signs)

Transport font

Transport font

This is one of those familiar types that is now so common that it almost passes you by, if you will forgive the pun.  It is wonderfully clear, so very legible, and works with a  variety of backgrounds.  It is so startlingly easy to read that I can absolutely understand why it is used and why it has endured so long.  Kinneir and Calvert the designers made the font to enable readership of the words/names to be completed quickly.  The fact that it is so attractive is a happy by-product for us all.  Motorway signage in “Motorway” font by the same designers is only slightly less lovely in my view.

Wikipedia entry on Transport typeface


What I love about Leica is the unashamed confidence in its own design aesthetic and principles.  The cameras are fabulous to use, I own quite a few in my collection.  My favourites are the pre and postwar Leica rangefinders.  They epitomise solidity, luxury and function, all in a quite wonderfully proportioned body.  They have always been a luxury camera, they have always been resolutely faithful to their design beliefs and considered by some to be constrained by their design and resolve to stay close to their heritage.

1955 Leica IIIF red dial

1955 Leica IIIF red dial

They have made great SLR cameras as well … but just look at a Leica IIIF red dial, or IIIG or M6 or the latest digital Leica.  Stunning looking designs that also perform to the highest standards and do so whilst looking genuinely tactile and absolutely beautiful.  Leica as a brand to camera enthusiasts comes very close to the cult status Apple enjoys today.  Which brings me to …

APPLE specifically my iMac (but equally my iPhone, MacBook and iPad) BRAND

My iMac looks beautiful, it is solid, confident and with a lightness in design that makes me forget the aluminum case is so heavy – I found out just how heavy when taking it to my local Apple store for a replacement hard drive recently.  Leaving my iMac was hard .. I had to plan the visit and time it properly … and yes, I do know this makes me sound sad, I do have a life honest.

A quote from Simon Sinek in his book “Start with the Why” sums it up nicely for me:

“Their products unto themselves, are not the reason Apple is perceived as superior; their products, WHAT Apple makes, serve as the tangible proof of what they believe. It is that clear correlation between WHAT they do and WHY they do it that makes Apple stand out.  This is the reason we perceive Apple as authentic. Everything they do serves to demonstrate their WHY, to challenge the status quo.”

Simon Sinek on TED Talks

A long quote I know .. But I like it.  I’m typing this on my iMac on Apple software and that makes me happy.  On reflection, another reason it makes me smile is because I estimate I know only a good third of what my iMac is capable of and that’s after a good few years use.

ECM (record label) DESIGN and BRAND

ECM website – company history pages

This is a close as I get to cool I am afraid.  ECM was founded in 1969 by Manfred Eicher.  ECM stands for Edition of Contemporary Music and as a music label it does just that.  I came across it through my love of contemporary Jazz, and Tomasz Stanko in particular, at the CCA in Glasgow in the late ‘90s.  I bought the CD, Suspended night, and was blown away by the album and the design principles the label follows.  The website is clean, minimal and packed with concise, clear information – just like the CDs themselves and in some cases the music too.

The cover art is stunning in its simplicity and appropriateness to the music is prefaces.  The fact that the label hosts Steve Reich (a new love following an introduction by a friend) and Manu Katche, EST, Tomasz Stanko etc (some of my favourite jazz artists) is a happy coincidence, even if they stopped recording those artists I would still love this serious, adventurous and ‘cool’ brand.

TS simple album cover


Well, that’s Pt1 completed … let me know what you think so far please, Pt 2 to follow in due course .. oh and Happy Valentines day !


14 February 2013


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Brutalism, Boxy Charts and B Block

I was thinking about design this week having come across a photograph of one of my old schools.  What struck me was how much I liked the building, and how consistent it was with the buildings I love now.  In turn that led me to think about whether nurture has a greater influence on my design preferences than nature.

B Block at John Port School

B Block at John Port School

B Block, as it was known, at John Port School, seemed a lot bigger in my mind than shown here in the distance, across the school pond, but the most striking thing to me is the similarity to the CIS Tower on Miller Street in Manchester where I work now.  Both have tower structures and a plinth extending the ground floor footprint.

CIS tower showing plinth

I have blogged on here before about how much I love the CIS Tower as a building, but by far and away my favourite building is the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich. It is simply, to me, the perfect example of Brutalist architecture.  A stunning symbol of modernism rising from the green campus like a cruise ship coming in to harbour.  It’s a great big 3D boxy chart of a building. I have taken a lot of photo’s of it – some may argue too many !

UEA July 2011

The Architect Denys Lasdun constructed his ziggurat walkways and terraces with thought and the campus and buildings of 1964 still seem fresh and relevant today.  The concrete is suffering a little, but its weather-beaten patina just adds something extra to me.  I have a painting of it in my living room. I have restricted myself to a couple of pictures here, or concrete may take over completely !

UEA detail July 2011

So if my love of the CIS Tower comes possibly from going to B Block everyday for a few years, maybe my love of boxy charts and the UEA is born of something in my childhood as well.

Kodachrome 64 may be the answer.  My Dad loved photography; he was very good at it too.  I remember from being very young that slides were his preference and family slide shows became annual events – wedding fashions usually getting the most laughs at the Christmas slide show with my dad as head projectionist.  He only ever used Kodachrome when he could get hold of it – he was very brand loyal.


Slides, especially in the quantity my Dad took, are a nice boxy shape and if you file them, as he did, and as I do, (yes I still use slide film!) then they look like this (… for those brought up in a digital age);

slides filed

Nicely structured I think you will agree.  Slides, slide shows and the catalogued boxes were a constant in my childhood.   The grey magazines he, and now I, keep slides in, remind me of the CIS Tower even now.  They also satisfy my, nature driven, desire for rigour in filing, but don’t tell anyone.

agfa slide mag

If I go back even further Lego played a major part in my younger life … ok I am going back a fair way I admit that, but in those days I used base plate to build on – Lego was the same, but simpler in the early 1960’s:

lego board

You see the similarities I am sure.

This is not an overly scientific assessment, but I enjoyed revisiting some nice memories as I wrote it.  I’m not sure if my love of Brutalism, boxy charts and concrete is born of nature or nurture, but I am leaning to the view that nurture played a big part now I come to think about the influences in my childhood. Right, now I’m off to see when I can go visit the UEA again …..

10 February ‘13

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