Tag Archives: Co-op

Ageing population response

There has been much written about the UKs ageing population.  I am indebted to the Royal Geographical Society for this link. Please check it out.

In short, it summaries the challenges we face as the number of over 65s grows in volume, and over indexes as a percentage of the population as the birth rate drops.

I will not recreate all of that story here, please click the above link, it is a simple 60 second read on the 21st Century challenge of an ageing population.  It explains it far better than I can.

So why post if I think someone has already written so well on the topic? Well, I have seen a response, and I like it !

That sounds very grand, especially given I saw this response about 5 minutes walk from my home in Norfolk, and trust me it is very simple …

The East of England Co-op have created this value add service for their shoppers…


It is so simple in fact, I am going to leave it to you to read the poster, rather than explain it.

It is available in my local convenience store, which sort of makes sense … as an ageing population drives less, the convenience store market will undoubtedly grow.  The nice thing for me is that it is a response from a smaller business.  I have yet to see similar tests from the bIg supermarkets.

The whole business is less than 200 stores and whilst you would expect this sort of member focused activity from a Co-op it still really demonstrates that they know their customers – there is no point adding these in a city centre store with footfall with an average age of under 25!

I work for a smaller business and one thing that I have noticed is that I have a more detailed understanding of what makes our members tick, you feel closer, you don’t rely on the big omnibus surveys and full-blown presentations.  You are inherently closer to your customers, and, if you have support from your Exec to test and learn, as I do, and like East of England Co-op clearly do, then it makes sense to try new things.  This is a great response, I for one hope it works well for them.

10 June 2015

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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 Ten Lifestyle Adverts

Advertising trends come and go over time, but one trend, certainly in TV advertising terms, seems to be sticking around and in some cases becoming quite brave.

I call it ‘Lifestyle’.

Creative agencies may call it real life, and for a different generation this is a 21st Century version of kitchen sink melodrama. It’s more complex than it sounds, I mean it feels obvious doesn’t it, that if you reflect real life then it shows your brand as empathetic, but that’s a hard trick to pull off in broadcast media. It has to be ‘average’ enough to not polarize I imagine.

The most common manifestation is an everyday life scene, but I have had a bit of fun with my top ten and stretched that a bit:

10.  Homepride Fred

“Fred about the house” is the ad title and it is indeed a slice of just that. There is no first person commentary here, and that style is evident again in this list. Other factors that make this work: The actors are all attractively engaging and not too perfect, the humour works; it’s wry and gentle and just racy enough.

Bringing back Fred as a real life hero seems not to jar (sorry I could resist the pun). Nice ad.

09. Co-operative

As you know I have a fondness for the Co-op having worked on the brand (still no heritage story play by the way !) “Here for you for life” never really resonated for me but this ad really does. It’s entitled ‘Easter made easy’ and that plays nicely into the local co-op positioning for last-minute, low basket value, shopping.
As in many of these Lifestyle ads the hero’s are children and good they are in this ad. The nice thing for me about the ad though is the normal housing, this is clearly not ‘Waitrose-land’ and the ad works better for it.
Again minimal first person narrative makes this feel unhurried and engaging

08. Sky Movies on demand

This is a beautifully shot short film in my view, I forget it’s an advert, the production values are so very high. It uses the diversity of families in 2015 to make a point about there being a movie for everyone.
Its brave and smart and knowing and the art direction is beautiful. And I don’t even subscribe to Sky anymore !

Lovely work.

07. KFC Burritos

A love story in 30 seconds. The Troggs soundtrack rocks this ad along, but what makes it work is the ‘average girl/boy next door’ looks, the normalcy of the setting: Office life, lunch in the sun, boy meets girl, rain, romance. A truly lovely little ad in a category that needs a little inspiration to go beyond the ‘burger as superhero’ fodder that usually airs on our TVs and cinema screens.

By now you will have noticed the filming techniques common in this genre: not too sharp, feathered photography, panning shots from a relatively static camera and no ostentatious glamour. This really is a very nice ad.

06. KFC 50 years – Adoption ad

Can KFC better that ad, you bet they can, this is a love story in a minute, and of a different kind. This is brave ad. It could tip into mawkishness very easily but because it’s portrayed as a normal slice of life, of growing up, it doesn’t. The normal house, the normal bedroom, the light pastel colours, then the music picks up pace as the boy grows … and conversation in the background – no talking to the audience. Lovely work.

It has attracted degree of cynicism, but as an ad it says more about how the brand wants to you to feel than any number of ads that are making a hero of the KFC product itself.

05. Be Lungworm aware

Ok this is niche, but it is a brilliant little slice of family life. I like it because it is unexpected.
it’s an ad funded by a drug company but has at its heart a desire to educate. To do that and break through in a noisy marketplace it needs to resonate.

Whatever the reality of pet ownership is, this ad portrays it as we would like it to be. The family is engaged, attractive and interested in each other and the dog. The filming is atmospheric, pastel shades and sunny. The end frames are therefore very effective, as the delivery of the final message hits home hard. I like this ad a lot.

04. Cathedral City Come Home

This only makes my top ten because the start is so good. The second half of the ad uses the product as hero, so I’m stretching a point. I’ve included it because it ticks a number of lifestyle ad boxes:

  • Children as hero’s / spokespersons
  • Multi generational family scenario
  • Realistic photography with muted colours
  • Great soundtrack
  • Camera work that is largely static but pans and crops

03. Birds Eye ‘The Proposal”

Used to relaunch the brand this is a very brave ad in my view. It relies solely on making the frozen food look natural as the hero. The family are present and you can hear them in a good strong funny voiceover, but the ad gives the main voice to the food.

It’s realistic whilst being unrealistic at the same time. That said the delivery of “no” is genuinely funny at 26s in. The accents are important in the delivery too. Nicely cast and nicely imagined. Brave form Birds Eye I think.

02. Coleman’s Meal Kits

I have used the word brave a few times in this post. This ad is the bravest though. It is so easy to get this wrong. Coleman’s have pulled this family melodrama off really well in my view. Have a watch and see for yourself. I think it’s great that brands and Ad Agencies are now accepting that families in the UK are very different form the cosy Oxo family ideal of Mum dad and 2 children.

Excellent work Coleman’s and this builds on the excellent Shepherds pie ad from 2014.

In itself that was a step outside the category norm as you can see.

01. Habitat

Well this is my family life !

My top ten is:

10 Homepride Fred
09 Co-operative Food
08 Sky Movies on Demand
07 KFC Burritos
06 KFC 50 Years celebration
05 Be Lungworm aware
04 Cathedral City Cheese
03 Birds Eye
02 Coleman’s meal kits
01 Habitat

21 May 2015

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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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Random acts of kindness


Loyalty cards used to be such simple things – collect masses of points, get irritated when points mean less than you thought (you know who you are Co-op & Sainsbury’s), and cause burst seams in purses and wallets. Some you could trust to do a great job, flexibly, for example the Boots Card, some you just knew were cynical data gathering ploys – if in doubt read “Scoring points”and cases studies on Tesco Clubcard and Dunn Humbys influence.  Sainsbury’s and Nectar have always had a broader reach – but I never know if what I am collecting is valuable as the store has stopped mentioning them at checkout & my local BP garage has an unusually high staff turnover. 

But let’s start with a few interesting stats;

– Loyalty cards abound in the UK, 96% of the uk population own at least one
– 8m of us are using them less frequently – that’s about 12.5% of the uk population
– 21% would prefer them on our smart phones
– What’s more 1 in 3 of say we derive no value from them – these illuminating stats are from WorldPay, who conducted a survey just over a year ago.

So is this trend continuing?  It looks like it to me, even though the typical shopper will still use their loyalty cards eight times a month, they will now only save an average of £98.04 annually, down from £100.32 in 2012, so in the continuing austere climate this is a worthwhile contribution to household bills but it is shrinking. 

But the reality is that a £2.28 reduction is likely to be immaterial in the overall scheme of things.  So I wonder if it is the ‘data’ effect that is leading us to challenge the use of loyalty cards … as a marketer the holy grail for me is being able to personalise communications to allow a true 1-2-1 conversation. But it carries risk – ‘Big Data’ scare stories are increasingly common and I think Consumers are smarter than they used to be – they may be happy to trade data for discounts, but it looks increasing like a blunt tool and one that does nothing for the customer experience or the brand health. 

But what does that really mean? It’s easy for me to just write the words. Ok, an example, a real one, imagine it’s your Saturday tea time & you are watching the X-Factor and having a disagreement with your other half. It happens, trust me, not to me you understand, but I hear that it does.  Now imagine your tv or digital box has a built in microphone & picks up that argument. Then imagine the value to an advertiser, say Relate or a marriage guidance counsellor, of that insight. Ads could be streamed direct to that tv for the remainder of the show. Far fetched I hear you cry, not a bit of it, this example was the subject of a US patent application in 2013 (ok it was for American Idol!) by one of the telecoms players. (source

At Advertising Week Europe in March, Bartle Bogle Hegarty founder Sir John Hegarty complained of a “creative deficit” in marketing caused by an over-reliance on new technology, while also warning that consumers are growing suspicious of “Orwellian” data collection practices. A few weeks earlier, “Now” creative partner John Townshend, had argued – at an event run by TV marketing body Thinkbox – that marketers are not giving agencies the freedom necessary to generate ideas, the implicit criticism being an over reliance on clever data. 

On a simpler level a past neighbour of mine, knowing my job, button-holed me after receiving a personalised motor insurance quote detailing his car type and registration from a company he had never insured with – I kept my “nice work” thought to myself though! 

But that’s only a hypothesis. The most interesting response I think to both the conundrum of data collection, knowingly, and the over abundance of loyalty cards seems to be the growth of random acts of kindness – not by chance either, they truly enhance word of mouth marketing by really enhancing the customer experience. 

Eschewing the collection of points, John Lewis and Jamie’s Italian are just two brands taking this approach and both are doing it really well. I base this on how many of my friends I have repeated these experiences too and first hand experiences. 

John Lewis and Waitrose, so long the outliers in the loyalty game – relying on great service and great advertising, but, not collecting purchase data and habits must have been hurting them every day in trying to grow value from customers when it did not even know if they were one offs or regular shoppers.  The ‘My’ card is very nice, chunky and solid feeling with a nice key line colour on the edge – stand out in the wallet is thereby assured. It’s simple premise – use it and get free cakes and coffee – genius – who doesn’t like a free cake and frothy coffee?  The benefit to John Lewis of all that data and word of mouth is incalculable. 

Jamie’s good old fashioned ‘Gold Card’ is anything but … pitched with a degree of exclusivity and luxury that really helps. It’s actively promoted by the great staff in Jamie’s – the Norwich staff recognised us and told us about it in fact. What does it get me? Free tasters each time I have a main course, the feedback from which will help future menu direction I imagine. Birthday treats and invites to exclusive events – where no doubt I will eat and drink and spend … All whilst Jamie learns if I like squid or chicken. It’s a glorious feeling as the free tasters are delivered. You feel special – you know other people, not in the know, are looking on jealously. 

I already like these brands so I guess I am biased but they are doing the same job as the Nectar card et al probably for a different target audience I grant you, but I think the not so random acts of kindness they bring are more sustainable, broader in their brand impact and no doubt much cheaper than the alternatives used so far.  Right I’m off for a cake in John Lewis now … See you next time.

09 Dec 2013



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Wayfinding lessons


About a month ago I read a story about the Police helping a lost driver of a mobility scooter – a pensioner had been on holiday and somehow found himself on the A23 near Brighton – a dual carriageway.  Thankfully the Police managed to rescue him and he was unharmed.  It caught my eye as a news story for three reasons:

  • I was just about to start a marketing role focussed on the Police force as an affinity ( a job I am loving by the way, in case you were interested ! )
  • These news stories do pop up now and again, I remember the chap who spent two days on the M25 in 2011 trying to get to see his daughter, they are sad tales, usually centred on people who have become a little confused.  They remain rare enough to have stand out.
  • I drive around the UK a lot and I have posted before about my love of the signage we use on the roads in the UK – the fonts and typology are stunningly clear, to me at least.

In marketing I often fear wayfinding is a lost skill, a little old-fashioned perhaps.

We have called it funnel management in one sense – a very internal view of where people fall out of the sales funnel when buying or renewing their policy, account or subscription.  That is clearly a discipline that is required in sustaining a business commercially.  But I fear it misses the point in many cases.

We also call it member or customer journey management.  As marketers we spend a fair amount of time mapping and understanding these journeys, vital in managing our contacts with customers and members.  This is a much more proactive, positive, activity.

This latter discipline is crucially different to funnel management as it places the member or customer at the heart of the matter.  It is still connected to funnel management as it, usually, has a focus on the journey undertaken towards/to generate an action or decision.  It is that part of the journey where I think wayfinding is helpful, and if I am honest, underplayed as a discipline.

We may snigger at the lost motorway drivers and say it would never happen to me … but the better question is why does it only happen to so few.

Think about it for a moment or two, when we are about to embark upon a journey by road, we might look at a map, we might use a web-based route planner – I used the AA one for years – and now we might use Sat Nav.  But for most journeys I imagine you do what I do;  you refer to the wayfinding prompts on your way, as well.  The signposting of the journey if, clear and appropriate is still really useful, even if only to reassure you that your SatNav is right.  I trust a map because I can see the whole journey more easily.

I travel regularly from Lichfield to Norwich.  I could do so just knowing the places to go via in a broad sense, the road signs would do the job for me.  I appreciate these are main roads, but think about it.  There is a hierarchy of what you see:

  • On UK motorways you see city mileage signs – 59 miles to Leeds or wherever
  • On UK Motorways you now see signs telling you how long in current traffic it is to junctions – Junction 23 M1 30 miles 30 minutes for example
  • Then the simple wayfinding to services – telling you usually how many miles on which road to the next two or three service stations
  • Finally the junction and mileage signs on our main roads, and this is supplemented by brown signs telling you the way to hotels and places of interest.  I was on the A515 recently and then a B road both had signs to the hotel I was visiting in Hoar Cross.

Simple really and yet in financial services I would contend that this is a lost art.  I can recall some good wayfinding during a merger recently where I worked for the Co-op and a colleague reminded me how well the merger process was way-found (very clearly) for Britannia members.  We might use this inspiration for some colleague focussed work in the future.

So my contention is that the simple inspiration of our road network in signposting where to go next and how long it might take is a good one.

The latest trend for Live chat on web sites – whilst very helpful, yes I mean you BUPA, and O2 – could be seen as a response to having got the customer facing process wrong in the first place.  My provocation being that if the process is so complicated you need live chat, perhaps redesigning the customer facing process is a better starting point.

I am engaged in a large project at present, hence my visit to Hoar Cross Hall for a 2 day awayday and when reflecting last night on my way home this thought grew in my mind.  I will endeavour to build it into our work.

I am driving over to Nottinghamshire later today … I will use SatNav … but I will keep referring to the signs too – the instructions on the website of our destination suggest using the road signs rather than SatNav as it can take you to the wrong village … I rest my case !

Please let me have your collected thoughts on wayfinding if you get a moment or two, thanks.

05 July 2013

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