Tag Archives: brand

Types of Client-side Marketers – Part One

Client-side Marketers, in my experience, fall into a number of natural roles.  In Financial Services the impact is amplified by the presence of an unusually specific role relating to product management.

So, what are the role types?

  • Product Marketers
  • Comms Marketers – broken down into Marketing Services/Operations and (pure) Marcomms
  • Brand Marketers
  • Commercial Marketers

Product Marketers
In FMCG this is not a role you will see commonly, it is a role that has a specific focus and resonance to the complexities of financial services and particularly to the regulated nature of the products.  The core accountabilities for these marketers typically include;

  • Product build and management – by this I mean design and build of the product from concept to live status to archival as an historic product
  • Pricing – all aspects, be it cost or return, fees or charges.  In some complex products this is in harmony with Actuarial support and in the case of Investment businesses the Product Marketer might be a Marketing actuary
  • Delivery of the sales, engagement and retention targets (when the Comms Marketers are operating as a marketing services function)
  • Technical and regulatory expertise.

It is a fascinating role, one I have carried out with full commercial accountability in some cases and in other brands acted as an SME whilst the Comms Marketers have held accountability for delivery of sales, retention and other metrics.

Experience tells me the following 6 aspects of the role are the critical success factors:

  1. Really understanding the product is crucial from a  technical and regulatory standpoint – it helps hugely with the second CSF…
  2. Understand what makes your customer buy/cancel/avoid the product

    These two areas may seem obvious, my point is the depth of skill and understanding is really important, you can’t ‘blag it’.

  3. Understand the value engineering of the product i.e. know and use what value your customers place on all elements of the product versus your cost to build.  I wrote a post on this topic some time ago, you can read it here. Without this your pricing decisions run a significant risk of simply being hit and hope
  4. Understand the channels of delivery available to you.  There is a holy trinity in most businesses that you would do well to note:  Product Marketers & Comms Marketers & Operational/Channel capacity planners.  The multiplicity of levers you can pull across these three dimensions to establish your price elasticity and deliver your plan is considerable 
  5. Measurement.  Product Marketers generally have Excel open permanently on their screens and are likely to be the only people other than your data team that prefer to use pivot tables!  Joking aside a good Product Marketer understands the measurement across the key areas of new business and stock. The really great ones work further down the value chain and understand the impact of how changes in the product dynamics can be used to improve profitability, customer satisfaction, retention and so on.  This is one area where ‘geekiness’ is a highly valued commodity.
  6. Product Marketers hold the keys to many an armoury.  They will be able to deploy any number of tools to improve product design, attractiveness, beating the competition and so on.  It is possible to design great products and services from the gut, but the weight of P&L accountability usually weighs heavy enough in risk management terms to ensure that a more scientific approach is applied in Financial Services. 

    Here are some links you might find useful in this specific area

Tool 1 – Analysing the marketplace and your place within it

Tool 2 – Strategy sizing and assessment of profitability

Tool 3 – Product Strength scoring

Tool 4 – Value engineering & Good Better Best Product assessments

Tool 5 – Product Pricing

You will note that I have not discussed propostion build in this role. My strong belief is this sits in the brand space and I will cover it later in this series.

If you have any thoughts on my post, then please spare a moment to comment, I would love to hear your opinions.

Paul Hemingway
13th Feb 2020
Photo by Lukas from Pexels

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Brand development in California

On vacation in Cambria, California, last month I came across a lovely example of branding in action. One that I think so exemplifies certain areas of brand success and risk that it’s worth thinking about in some detail.

First of all some background:

Cambria is a lovely little seaside town in San Luis Osiba County in California, USA. It’s population is c6,000 but that is swelled somewhat during the summer season each year as surfers and ‘west coast road trippers’ use it as a stopping off point. It’s location next to William Randolph Hearst’s castle and Moonstone beach make it a great place to overnight.


Branding means many things to Marketers it has categories such as sub-brands, brand extensions, product as brand and so on. It is however, most Marketers believe, much more than mere communications and messages. It is an end to end experience of a company or in some cases of a product. For an example of the latter, think product as brand like Hoover or Google.

Town ownership or control by a family is somewhat more common than you think. In the UK we have Bournville the West Midlands town created by Cadbury’s for its workers and Port Sunlight on Merseyside, created by Lever Brothers. In the USA it is most common in agricultural or industrial towns. Wilson in Arkansas is one example – owned for 125 years by the Wilson family and run for years by Boss Lee (I’d like to apologise to his family if you now have an image of Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazard in your mind … I know I do). Interestingly it shares a common, strange, architectural preference for mock Tudor buildings with Cambria.

Oregon State University is in Corvallis, Oregon and has an enrolment that dwarves the population of Cambria at c27000+. It has a tradition grounded in agriculture and in developing sports stars – NBA, MLB and NFL especially. Significantly for this post it has extensive and significant levels of research funding.

Ok, so those four pieces of background information, seemingly disconnected are a simple set up to a story of The Linn family and Olallieberries in Cambria and their brand and the brand experience. I found it fascinating and I hope you do … It’s a tale of innovation, branding and marketing with lessons aplenty.

I am indebted to the Linn family for providing the following background to their story and how they have developed Cambria, their brand and their brand experience. I will summarise the story but you can find more information here.

IMG_0623 IMG_0624

In the early 1970s John and Renee Linn determined that they wanted to be farmers. It took a lot of hard work and planning to create the reality In 1977. The intervening period involved buying a gas station, finding a plot of land in Cambria during a visit for a friend’s wedding and stretching their finances to the limit. Their 5 year plan was coming together.

Farming is a tricky business and despite all of their graft and commitment, by 1979 things were becoming a little ‘sketchy’ as Californians are wont to say.

The turning point was turning the farm into a ‘pick your own’ concern, both vegetables and soft fruits. It was the latter that kick started the dynasty they have now created. At this point you know why I talked about Cambria.

To the University of Oregon now; in 1949 the University, funded by the US Dept of Agriculture developed the Olallieberry They are a cross of a Loganberry and a Youngberry, in essence 2/3rd blackberry and 1/3rd raspberry. The Linn family farm specialised in this crop, it took an innovation and turned it into a commercial success for them. It was, and still is, a rarity, so the competitive advantage and brand experience is fairly unique. It provided them with brand differentiation and a USP.  Now you know why I talked about the University of Oregon.

The Linn family has a heavy presence in Cambria – it has a Olallieberry monopoly and four distinct businesses – a cafe, a homewares store, a restaurant, and a gourmet foods business as well as their farm and farm shop. So a little way off town ownership but they are on their way I would contend. Now you know why I drew your attention to family owned towns.

f830b538858aa973eb2f6897fbcf6bb9 linn-s-fruit-bin-restaurant

So, to the brand lessons themselves.


It is clear that the choice of Olallieberry gives the family a clear and almost unique advantage. The soft fruit is still rare and it lends itself to multiple uses as well as supporting the core PYO business. This will allow pricing advantage and the development of a cult following; gold dust in engagement terms.


From the simple fruit comes jams, and other foodstuffs, the fruit pie is truly outstanding by the way,  I have first hand experience. The opportunity to build out into the deli and into gifts is natural and the restaurant is a clever way of offering Olallieberry gifts alongside fine dining. This increases the value engineering off a simple soft fruit crop. It also allows a degree of balance that smoothes the cropping season challenges (in income terms) across the year.

Interestingly I think the next category, whilst on the surface contradictory, is actually still supportive…


Simply, the law of branding contraction states that the greater the focus the brand becomes stronger. I would contend that in this instance the brand extensions reinforce the focus rather than take you down a riskier brand expansion route. The tightness of the extension and its roots mean the dominance gives a clear focus …


The brand dominates the town, it feeds off Cambria and Cambria feeds off it. The multiple family outlets, and the brand extension work to ensure the Linn family and the Olallieberry are synonymous with each other, interchangeable almost.


Clearly Olallieberry is a sacred word for the Linn family brand and the abbreviations, the pies and jams continually reinforce this. I am a big fan of the Primal Branding approach, and that theory from Patrick Hanlon, fits this brand really well: there is a clear creation or heritage story, obvious sacred words and Icons ie the berry itself. The development of a creed is inherent in the family’s decision to embrace farming and is central to its creation story.  Finally there is a clear use of the berry as an icon and that is reinforced with offers to have your photo taken with a life-size ‘cuddly’ Olallieberry at one of the family venues. The pie itself is an icon to and trades on the law of publicity…


Brands that are borne of publicity and word of mouth last longer and are generally more successful – as well as being very cost-effective in revenue to advertising cost terms. The publicity courted by the family on TV and entering it for accolades was a wise move.  It has allowed a supportive tribal following and enabled the brand to extend further by selling branded goods through other stores in wider California. The Food Network TV channel has been a rich seam, well mined.

This has also given rise to third-party brand credentials that are very believable…


The whole operation is driven by authenticity and the family connection and heritage story play well alongside the publicity to make this a very authentic brand. The understated packaging and shop fittings as well as the restaurant decor suit the town of Cambria and are not too modern or over designed, so they fit well with the brand rather than jar. There is a feeling of homespun authenticity that works really well.

I hope you found this post interesting, the brand, the product, the experience itself is an interesting one due to its uniqueness of offer, its clear sacred words and icons and it is a brand that ticks many boxes that a good brand marketer would strive to achieve. I suspect that the Linn family know exactly what they are doing but may not have expressed it quite as I have here. I have mixed and matched brand theories from the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Primal Branding, the Philosophy of Branding, and others, and I have tried, like Plato, to look below the surface of this brand.

I’d like to leave you with these final three thoughts:

1.  If you are passing then explore Cambria and just check if the family ownership of the town has grown
2.  Try the Olallieberry- the pie is delicious, trust me
3.  Avoid the pre-starter in the Linn Family restaurant! I’m used to bread and butter before my starter but this was bread and jam !! A brand extension too far in my view !!

24 June 2015
PS try Mozzi’s saloon over the road from the Linn family restaurant for a truly great beer (the 805) served icy cold

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Making the unfashionable, fashionable

Butlin’s is, I think it’s fair to say, unfashionable. Big Data on the other hand is very fashionable. Co-creation is oft talked about by Marketers but still rarely seen.

These three unrelated truisms sprang to mind when I wrote my last post in this blog, but the reason is worthy of this separate post.

Channeling Woodstock may not be very common terminology but in creating the forum “Mumstock” both Mumsnet and Marketing Week have developed an interesting concept to try and offer insight into how ‘Mums’ (apologies for the generalisation) respond to advertising and to try and distill insight into what makes a connection with them; a group of interested parties, just like the like-minded hippies that flocked to Woodstock in 1969.

Why did this spring to mind recently? Well, in my last post I looked at what I call Lifestyle advertising, and that centres, in most variations, on family and children. At Mumstock the reason this style is continuing may have been identified in a simple stat:

  • Only 1 in 5 Mums relate to the portrayal of Mums or motherhood in advertising.

Given the revenue potential of that target group that means a whole lot of advertising is missing the mark completely.

The Co-op Food business were keynote speakers at the event and unfashionably they picked a core headline grabbing insight themselves : Look beyond Big Data and create an emotional connection for your brand. Ok, the second bit is not rocket science, but the first bit is definitely anti trend ! Definitely an unfashionable sentiment for a Marketer in 2015.

Google.co.uk returns about 800 million results for Big Data, IBM and Xerox dominate the Paid ads which gives a sense of the investment in analytics and its value engineering potential.

So why did I mention Butlin’s? Well they have created a new suite of chalets at their MInehead, Somerset, UK holiday camp and their insight … well it was from Mumsnet. They consulted the Mumsnet community – a notoriously vocal community – and asked them how they should design their chalets to appeal to a family audience, by default identifying their target decision maker is, in most cases, the Mum. Crucially this demonstrates they have listened.

They are trying to develop a chalet that delivers that emotional engagement – if not physically (and they do look nice) then at the very least in their design and fit.  Take a look at the ad below:

A bold move, but one that is well thought out. Marketers rattle on about co-creation, and I don’t know how deep the research went, but its clear in the reality that they have listened; to questions about how many TVs to have in each chalet, what the exterior should look like, arts and crafts supplies for rainy days and so on. The ad doesn’t mention the link with Mumsnet, but you can see the GBP 16m investment has radically changed the appearance and facilities.

They appear to have listened to the research from Mumsnet that says that Mums see their motherhood as a relationship not a job … and by default I interpret this as meaning for Marketers that the emotional can clearly override the rational.

Billy Butlin’s empire was founded in the 1930s but in 2015 his vision/mission statement “Our true intent is all for your delight” seems well suited to this collaboration. Butlin’s refer to this development as a return to what made them popular, so it may be that if I post again in 12 months time my ‘unfashionable headline’ will need a change!

31 May 2015

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Top 4 reasons to enter awards

I was speaking yesterday at an event organised by the DMA North and the CIM in Manchester.  The topic was Customer Journeys, but my post today is related, not to that, but to a topic we strayed into during my speech: Why enter awards for the creative work we produce?
Its an interesting question, given that last year the company I work for started to do just that.  We were very successful in our first foray and won two awards and were highly commended in a third category.  100% success for our three entries, we were as pleased as punch!
So what benefit have we gleaned and why would you enter creative, or indeed any other awards for your work?

Pushing the limits

  • It is very easy as a brand to develop and deploy creative that looks good and responds well, and if you continue to hit targets thats is a perfectly reasonable position to maintain.  Test and Learn after all can be iterative and small in scale.
  • The advantage to setting yourself an external benchmark test though, is that I think it pushes a greater degree of creativity, be that “how can i gain a higher response rate” perhaps, or a lower pack cost.  It stimulates thought and fundamentally changes your brief I think.  It makes you aware of what good looks like and that has to be a benefit.
  • Deciding you want to be great changes the pardigm of thought about what creative you produce and how you garner insight to ensure it works.  In customer journey development Alan Gilmour of our Agency, Cogent Elliott, describes this as walking in customers shoes, and I think the focus on seeing your work vs an external benchmark makes you do just that.


  • Winning a credible award gains you credibility, not just as an individual, but also as a team, I will guarantee you that in most cases an award entry is never based on the work of just one individual so it gives you a chance to ‘share the love’.
  • The externality of the benchmark is a natural credibility builder, if your peers recognise the work as effective, if your award entry crystalises and clarifies the impact then this will assist you in the next budget planning round.  in turn there are two clear benefits, for me, here, seeing success and seeing a benchmark will give credibility to budget requests and more particularly will give you credibility as you seek to evangelise changes and fund test and learn, both crucial benefits in my view.
  • One warning I would give here is to carefully select the awards you want to enter: make sure they are credible and stretching.  One of my former Marketing Directors used to say it was the quality of the brands you pass on the way up to collect your award that really matters and that is really evident if you enter respected National awards.

Leadership benefits

  • Here the benefit is about the short listing really, not the winning or losing.  Most awards ceremonies are glamourous affairs, black tie and ball gowns.  Yes there is a cost to that for the brand but can you really put a price on celebrating success with your team in such an environment?
  • The lasting effects of taking your team, or part of your team are clear.  In fact it also spurs those who did not attend to greater heights in my experience, to ensure they get the invite the next time. It is all to easy in assessing the appropriate use of your budgets to miss out celebrating sccess, but it need not be too expensive and the long term effects on performance are invaluable in my experience


  • sadly thsi really only works if you win! so be mindful of of that, but being able to display your award, and to call yourself an award winning business, gives your whole team and your whole business a rallying point, proof that what you are doing is valuable and is of high quality.  In engagement terms that sort of validation is gold dust.

So there you have it, my four big reasons to enter awards.  I have tried to make them industry and discipline agnostic as I appreciate that we Marketers can get all fluffy at times, so I have resisted the urge to say that it is a fun thing to do and where you can really spot and hone copywriting skills .. you can have those as 5 and 6 if you wish.

I hope you and the companies you work for chose to be brave and have a go at testing yourselves against your competitors in such a way, let me know if you do and how you get on.  Oh and wish my team and I well for Monday  the CIM awards – and we are shortlisted, and we are going and we do hope to win !
24 April 2015
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Biz Stone says creativity is a renewable resource

Biz Stone the co-founder of Twitter spoke last thursday at the LSE.

I was fortunate enough to attend with two colleagues. Carl and Holly agree this was joyous, inspiring two-hour master class in storytelling with relevance beyond just Twitter.

The story of Biz’s creative approach to business is truly inspiring. He is both a very nice guy and acutely self-aware; a rare and powerful combination. I picked up a copy of his new book “Things a little bird told me” on the day and I’m looking forward to reading it immensely. I just need to finish a book on Social media and customer service first!


There were many memorable soundbites from Biz, but the one I liked best is “Creativity is a renewable resource”.

I strongly agree with this sentiment.

In my day job creativity is crucial , we are trying to do things differently, to change the paradigm for the good of our members and our business, so I have to apply my creativity in no small order.

I have always viewed my creative thoughts as in need of a boost every now and again. My two tips for anyone in the same position are :

  1. know yourself and, or,
  2. find something completely inspirational that works for you, that inspires you to greatness.

I know myself well enough these days, at my age, I should, and I know that I am more creative early on in the day.  I am an early starter and work late, so I try to assess creative briefs and treatments first thing in the morning, when I am free of interruptions and can stick my iPod on and listen to some soothing Jazz while I think and develop my ideas. With a big mug of builders tea I might add!!

That is not always possible though, so over the years I have made a point of letting my team know when I like to do this work, the current team, like my old teams have soon got into the habit of leaving me hard copies to review in the morning … the joy of being a reflector I guess. The key to success here is agreeing with the team timelines that work for everyone.

So what have I done about external inspiration?

Firstly I try to get out of the office, it’s too easy to sit inside with a sandwich and brood – the result for me is diminished focus on creativity and increased focus on email – not the desired outcome.

So what do I do when I go out? Well these are my tips, a city guide if you like that works for me, with a little about why…

I was fortunate to work on the Headrow initially and then Lovell Park Road … a short step to the Henry Moore Institute or City Art Gallery from The Headrow – I love the sculptures: the hard work aligned to pure creativity always inspires. Lovell Park Road was equally easy … a wander to the end of the car park to look at the concrete (no laughing, you all know me by now and you do know that  I like a bit of concrete) in this instance its the form … the regular patterns in the underpass on the ring road, the scale and importance the solidity has. Well it works for me !!


Two or three sources of inspiration in this old industrial town. The architecture in Calderdale is wicked, really underrated and looking up, above the tatty modern shop fronts, will give you a turn of the century treat. The fabulous little Dean Clough Mill art gallery … a maze of corridors and little rooms on different floors that force you to turn your mind to what you are looking at, you get lost in the art. My favourite place though is the Piece Hall, it reeks of Industry and socialist aspirations. If a Brass Band is playing even better : the full Brassed Off experience is much underrated. Brassed off remains one of my favourite films by the way.

Harveys of Halifax your_pics_halifax_piece_hall_mike_glover_02_400x296

No contest – a trip to the sea front, and a look down at the road. Ok, that’s odd I know, but the Isle of Man was an Intern Camp for non-British Nationals during WWII and outside of the Sefton Hotel you can still see the remaining holes where the wooden fence posts were rammed into the ground. That just puts everything into context, the creativity exhibited by those interned was wonderful and is always an inspiration, mind the horse-drawn trams though, the stopping distance is not as controlled as a car!


Not my favourite city, I will admit, but two things always inspired me – the CIS tower on Miller street where I worked – a wonderful, great big modernist box of a building. But if regularity didn’t work I went to the Chinese Art Centre in the Northern Quarter. Green tea and some truly challenging art. The people were amongst the loveliest gallery staff I have ever met too.

CIS tower showing plinth

The Victorian Palm House at the Royal Botanical gardens – a real hidden treasure. An art gallery in the gardens, a park opposite with some excellent street art on the buildings and two Rugby Clubs within a mile – who wouldn’t be inspired


A shot hop from where I worked was the Glasgow School of Art – the whole building was just so beautiful, I hope the recent fire has not damaged it too much. Below that was the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA). A great place to eat, drink and check out some challenging modern art. The show Angel Camp: First Songs by Emanuelle Antille (Aug 2004) remains my favourite art show ever.


It has to be the cathedral in the town where I currently work … A huge Gothic 3 spired masterpiece – I love walking around it.

These are not all the places I have worked, who knows if you ask I may share even more, but these are my personal places of inspiration, I know you will have your own, if you can, add a comment or two on what inspires your creative mind.


23 June 2014

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A tale of three tweets


I’m very fortunate to have been asked, a fair few times, to speak to other marketers about how to make social media work for brands … tough in my case as financial services can be a) a tad dull if I’m honest and b) generate strong views.  

My first piece of sage advice is always to listen to what your members or customers are saying and then, and only then, chose to respond or not. My explicit advice is to do so knowingly.  It takes less than a second to retweet and each ‘Twitterer’ has an average of 208 followers. You can do the impact mathematics quite easily ! 

I will lay my cards clearly on the table – I love twitter personally, but intellectually I know it is a danger zone for brands – just ask Waitrose or Ryanair about those impact stats – I know it from personal experience now as well ( that’s a cue to read on by the way…)

This post is about three tweets, that’s all, just three little tweets.  Approximately 500 million tweets are sent each day and the record appears to stand at 143,199 per second (2013 stats – source twitter)  

So this is a tiny fraction of the traffic – but all affected me personally so they are very important – well to me at least and I hope they prove interesting to you.

They all relate to customer service, and I could easily have called this post “The good the bad and the ugly'” by the way … Just to set expectations !

But let’s step backwards first: I have found myself defaulting to using twitter for customer service matters. The simple reason – brands are listening and they understand the impact mathematics all too well … (They must have been listening to me !). I bet you do the same – leave me a comment or two and give me your views if you have a moment to spare.

The Ugly
A well known supermarket messed up a pre-Christmas online food order of a, top drawer slap up dinner, delivery for my stepson who was unable to be with us on the day and so would be alone. Clearly to my Partner and I this was hugely important. They messed up the delivery time and then would not deliver until after Christmas. I won’t go into the details but needless to say the phone experience was not great at all and despite them clearly being in the wrong they did not resolve the matter to our satisfaction – despite their paying us compensation. So we tweeted our disappointment. 

The retailer did all the right things initially via twitter – took us off line into direct messages … but crucially did not do anything of substance including not following up what they said they would do. 

The outcome – we have told all of our friends and stopped using that retailer – ok, that is unlikely to hurt their profits in isolation … But it will not help if they keep doing it ! 

The Bad
Actually this started out as a good ! But tailed off badly !  I have moved house and dutifully told my energy provider. First of all I told them their website was not working as I was unable to register and so I could not give my meter readings over the Web.  I tried the app – same issue. I used the email form on line and I was promised a reply in two days … not great … but crucially I have still had no email reply other than that auto message in mid November 2013 ! That is just plain poor.

So I rang up and gave the reading. Then I managed to get the web working and repeated the task as requested by the phone handler. 

Then I got a bill and a nasty reminder threatening credit reference action – I was well in credit and on the phone they had told me to cancel my direct debit. I called again, 4 times, my last call took 50 minutes to get through and I was quickly put on hold – and finally they cut me off. My irritation led me to tweet. 

Great response initially, as before I was taken off line and handled very well by a named representative. Friendly and apologetic. I was impressed. However – I am no longer ! The first tweet was 29 November 2013 – I still await my refund 2 months later !

The result – I have told all my friends again  and will never use that energy supplier again. I am in regular contact with the tweet handler … daily in fact!

The Good
This was easily the slickest and best experience … probably in no small part by being the most human and friendly.  GREATER ANGLIA TRAINS please take a bow ! 

It started with a bit of a moan by me – on the early train from Diss to London and no coffee car … but what happened next was delightful – I was taken off line again and what a difference – I actually had a conversation with a human using no more than 140 characters. Clearly all they could do was apologise, but they checked my train time and service and got back to me with why … and another apology. They were now following me of course, so when I tweeted that evening what a nice journey I was having on the way home – including a free coffee in first class – you can imagine my surprise when they entered into a very good natured chat with me. No selling, no serious stuff, but the tweeter clearly had read my earlier messages. It was another conversation and an enjoyable one at that.

So what have I done? you guessed it  … told all my friends ! 

There is a few simple lessons to learn here for me :

– Twitter like most social media should be a conversation – being nice is a much under rated trait in my view and it generates a great word of mouth result. Check out my favourite film Roadhouse for inspiration !
– if you are going to respond to service issues – listen and then take the customer off line to reduce that impact math equation
– but just like any other channel you must do what you say you are going to do – it’s all lost if you don’t ! 

Simple lessons to remember, personally I see twitter as a way finding tool primarily in business, but as people use it more and more for complaints then these simple givens will become more important than ever.  Just ask me when I’m not in the office !!

24 January 2014

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Trust in Financial Services

Trust and Financial services.  Just 4 words but the amount of time this occupies in creative agencies and Banks and Insurers currently is incredible.

I have posted on my blogs about trust, heritage and credibility alongside customer insight regularly in the last few months.

The amount of money being spent on TV advertising alone is now significant in trying to rebuild trust in Banks and banking.  Some even use the word in the advertising.  A risky approach , who amongst us thinks, “trust me I’m a doctor is reassurring”?

Lets look at the cold hard facts, these stats are a little dated, March 2010 … so the numbers are only likely to have increased;

Selected UK Payment Volumes and Values Annually

Volume (billions) Value (£ billions)
Cash 22.6 267
Debit Cards 5.4 241
Credit/Charge Cards 2.0 139
Direct Debits 3.1 935
Direct Credits* 2.4 3000
Cheques 1.4 1429
Value transported by G4S, Loomis, etc around 700

* Including internet and telephone banking: Source UK Payments Council – the Future for cash in the UK report

In essence we trust our banks to do all of this every single day.  We trust that when we set up a direct debit that it will be paid as we instruct, the same with standing orders, the same when we go to the cash machine to draw out cash.

So on an unconscious level we do trust our Banks and Financial Services companies.  We even trust brand new companies to do this … look at the success of Metro Bank – a start up!.  And what convinces us to change our Bank … well I know switching is low currently – only around 2.5% to 5% according to the latest Payments Council report and Simon -Kucher research,  but the reports show that 37% of us would CONSIDER switching to a challenger Bank. Now I know that there is a difference between words and actions, otherwise the switching figure would be much higher, so maybe the trust issue is a lack of trust in the banks to switch our current accounts correctly.

That is a very different starting point and all the brand rhetoric in the world will not convince people this is low risk, unless there are some hard facts/proof points behind your claims.

To try to resolve that the Payments Council have now announced details of the switching guarantee scheme – a real positive forward-looking move.  I won’t repeat all the details but at launch in September 2013 almost 100% of Banks are included and in summary the details are:

  • The service is free to use
  • The customer can choose and agree the switch date with their new current account provider
  • The new current account provider will take care of moving all payments going out (e.g Direct Debits) and those coming in (e.g. salary)
  • For 13 months the new current account provider will arrange for payments accidentally made to the old account to be automatically redirected to the new account
  • If anything goes wrong with the switch, as soon as it is told the new current account provider will refund any interest and charges made on either a customer’s old or new current account as a result of the failure.

You can read the full details here.

Nationwide have the most interesting publicly stated approach to service driving loyalty which works well as a compliment to the above hard / rational approach.  In Marketing Week Magazine (2 May 2013) their Customer Strategy Director stated that “…we treat our existing customers, if not the same, then better than new customers…” interesting.  Santander are using their 123 offer to rationally drive loyalty by giving tangible benefits to loyal customers of its current account offering. Interesting.

It’s a fierce marketplace that generates lots of marketing activity and expenditure.  A simple fact I know, and you can trust me here (sic), as you will see this offer repeatedly, is that at present it only takes £100 to ‘incentivise (read “bribe”)’ someone to switch current account providers.  I’ve marketed on that basis successfully in the very recent past.

So do I think trust is key? No I don’t, not entirely.

I think you need to be ‘liked’ by your customers and your target market.  Here is an example; First Direct are loved by their customers

Look at this Which survey from November 2012.

Customer satisfaction for current accounts
Current accounts Internet Telephone Customer score
First Direct excellent excellent 92%
Smile excellent good 87%
The Co-Operative Bank excellent good 87%
The One Account n/a n/a 85%
Nationwide BS excellent satisfactory 76%
Intelligent Finance (IF) good satisfactory 64%
Yorkshire Bank satisfactory n/a 61%
Cahoot good n/a 60%
HSBC good satisfactory 58%
Lloyds TSB good satisfactory 57%

I would contend that the platypus campaign is an advertising strategy designed to make you LIKE the brand not TRUST the brand.

Likeability is a much underrated virtue and one that is, obviously tied up in trust, but its more complex, it plays into multiple dimensions of the emotional and rational belief in a brand.

I wonder if the customer engagement cycle now looks like this:


I think that in designing strategies for success in 2013 the banks that will win will demonstrate the following:

  1. leveraging the unconscious trust – perhaps through reminding customers of what they do day in day out
  2. developing a  friendly empathetic approach to service and acquisition to drive likeability
  3. Become more likeable in their public image – advertising and what they are famous for – I await the rise of Sponsorship here !
  4. A customer experience that holds at its core, that a customer who does not like you, even if they stay, will not repeat buy and will be a vocal pagan
  5. A brand that really champions the switch guarantee service – publicly and often … this will build trust, trust that the brand has its processes nailed already.  Early adoption will be crucial.


I would really welcome your views .. let me know what you think if you get a minute or two, thanks.


17 06 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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