Tag Archives: financial services

Barclays Bank spreads its wings

O2 has Gurus.

Check them out here.

Apple has Genius’s

Check out the Genius Bar here.

I have used both in my time.

The Apple Genius Bar is an excellent facility. I had to take my iMac in for a new hard drive – they made me feel less like I was leaving a child behind and that it was safe and necessary to leave my beloved item of tech in their safe hands.

I’ve used O2 for ages – I love their service and the priority moments, and the in shop Guru proved helpful in resolving an issue with my iPhone when I was some distance away from an Apple Store.

Barclays Bank now has Digital Eagles!

Check out the service here.

It is a tried and tested path that Barclays have gone down with their Digital Eagles. I suppose the two best descriptors have gone, the third, Geek, is not suitable so if you apply the phrase ‘Legal Eagle’ this works.

The ads and the guides should be on a loop in the You Tube channel link above.  Alternatively use the link above on the service to see the creative.

It is a lovely campaign, the press ads are copy light, rich close up photographs of real people. The TV ad is great as well But the real genius (sorry, eagle doesn’t work here) lies in the insight exploitation and how they have brought the solution to life.

The insight first of all:

What Barclays have done is respond to insight, as simple (and as difficult in believable execution) as that is.

Barclays are story telling in a really sensible non patronising manner how to embrace the digital age, largely to those over 55.  I would imagine their target is over 65s in reality looking at the imagery.

The stories on their You Tube channel are solid, likable and realistic. The customer benefit is clear to see. The neat trick is that they are not all about financial services, it’s a pitch to help people become digitally aware and confident. The natural progression and payback for Barclays is that they will eventually do their banking on-line or via the App.

So the strategy is clear and long-term, the advertising is good, rich and based on insight, the storytelling is a great device, and finally, crucially, to bring this to life Barclays have 7,000 ‘Digital Eagles’ in branches.

The Facebook site is interesting too, heavily leading on the Legal Eagles and in a very natural, non sales way.  The use of Facebook amongst over 55s has grown by 80% since 2011, so it’s a natural lead in.

Read the 2014 Facebook Demographic report here.

I really hope this works, it feels like a brave campaign that is clearly aligned to the strategy of Barclays long-term. Barclays have been the subject of some criticism recently, but I cannot fault this campaign and approach. Really interesting, I speak as the son of a Mum who is in her Eighties and uses FaceTime, email and Apps. The world is changing and Barclays seem to have noticed!


30 June 2014

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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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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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Print is far from dead

Print has a future.  Ok I said it out loud. I know I’m a digital creature, happy in the cloud, but I like print too, in fact I’d go further than that … I love print, I still have inky fingers I think.

I’m reading a magazine called Print Power currently – a free mag but packed with some interesting thought articles – one from a friend of mine, Robin Bonn, is well worth a read alongside a complimentary piece from Nick Craig Walker.

One of my hero’s is also featured – the Incomparable Dave Trott.  Dave’s ‘Final word’ is a lovely eulogy to the benefits of integration.  But as ever with Dave’s writing it is grounded in a sense of reality.  I have identical views to him on QR codes, I’m less in agreement, at least in my own sector, as regards smartphone usage, but the scanners themselves are low take-up/usage.

I posted recently about Newsprint and its bounce during the serious news story of the death of Margaret Thatcher. – I will be intrigued to see if there is a similar bounce given recent tragic events in Woolwich. His point is well made … I will paraphrase : If print is dead why is everyone reading the Metro?

All of this is well and good – I get the fact that if you use print properly it can call to action via a different media and still resonate – that has been my stock in trade for the last few years with Insurance marketing.  The response from direct mail activity had to be measured in a number of ways:

  1. Actual response via phone – our principal call to action
  2. Actual response vis the website – a secondary call to action
  3. Halo increases in search traffic (Paid and Natural) and finally
  4. Halo increase in Aggregator traffic

The idea of a solus channel is long gone I fear – even with big data delivering personalisation and individual CTAs.  Solus Press advertising without an awareness driving campaign is doomed to failure if you are measuring for optimised costs of acquisition, the hit rate is just too low and digital will outscore on unit cost 9 times out of 10.

I agree that content remains crucial to driving the desire to respond to the call to action, and that content must be appropriate to the media as well as the customer.  Digital printing has changed that game incredibly, and to the benefit of all concerned; less wastage for Business and better targeting/relevance for the consumer.

I was taken aback recently by a brand that I never really associated with print innovation: Nivea suncream.  Given a simple communication insight that their latest sunscreen “lets you stay out in the sun longer” as start point they delivered in print something quite remarkable.

Using smart paper they added a USB charger to a solar panel and gave in essence, all the magazine readers, a free solar powered phone charger.  The insight … you can stay at the beach longer than a smartphone battery will last.  Genius.

With thought and creativity print is far from dead, right, I’m off to read my book now … the title ? “Paper” by Ian Sansom.


11 June 2013

Useful Link: Print Power:


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Yorkshire take over !

Yorkshire. A massive County and a state of mind maybe after the 2012 London Olympics. A county that fires connections as soon as you mention it; Cricket, The Moors and Bronte sisters (without hats of course), Great Castles and Abbeys, The Steel of Sheffield, the grand coasts around Whitby and Scarborough, a great cultural scene with the Hepworth, YSP, York itself – all set to a stirring brass band soundtrack – and one of the great cities of the UK in Leeds at its centre.

The advertising of Yorkshire as a destination has a great call to action ‘Have a brilliant Yorkshire’.

Fair enough, I have lived in Yorkshire and loved it.

My Blog and this post though, are concerned with Marketing, and not of Yorkshire itself, but Financial Services.

I have posted before about the heritage of Yorkshire Building Societies, and Insurers and Banks abound in the County.

Three new TV campaigns borne out of Yorkshire are worth mentioning for their diversity and their aim, and that fact that all aired within a week of each other in May this year;

Yorkshire Bank are back on TV with a sweeping TV execution. This is a rare event in itself.

Let’s look at the facts: Founded in 1859 In Halifax, now a trading name of Clydesdale Bank which in turn is a subsidiary of National Australia Bank Group. Not the most promising structure from which to start a heritage play. But for Bankers building trust is the biggest game in town. You have to give it a go, or do you? (see First Direct later)

The TV ad is a minute of well crafted TV, scene by scene it hits you with resonance’s:

  • Fishing – Trawlers and the magnificent Yorkshire Coast – Whitby to Hull
  • Agriculture – calling to mind the vast moors and farming at the heart of the Dales
  • Modernity – to capture the hearts of the city dwellers of Leeds, Bradford & Hull
  • Steelworkers and a furnace – to warm the hearts of South Yorkshire’s finest
  • The boxing looks a clear play on the Olympic tradition and a subliminal reference to Nicola Adams/Billy Elliott
  • The NHS – perhaps a reference to the world famous Jimmy’s, but it’s a big employer regardless in such a large county

Clever ! Very clever in fact.

But the strap-line is horribly confusing – “We care about here” – in the context of examining the ad in detail it works, but even their own website (unusually clear and coherent for Financial Services) muddies the water – if you have to think what it means it may not be working. The clear idea is to target Yorkshire based folk – and it may well resonate with that audience, I fear for its reach though. Still, its nice to see them back !

One thing to note is clever use of photography on the website too – Humber bridge, Scarborough coast perhaps – nice colour palette too.


Yorkshire Building Society

They have extended their TV exposure and are continuing with their heritage focused advertising, but bringing in a rational trust argument alongside the emotional references. That end play is all about Mortgages, seasonally quite apt.

The Ad over labours the engagement metaphor, but I like it. The voiceover being earthy and Northern fits well. There are two points worthy of pulling out: emphasising the words “fair’ & “built” (on trust) works really well. Coupled with a measured tone you get the sense of a business on your side – Mutuals should be ! and one that is not jumping on a bandwagon. The more I listen to this “Built on Trust Campaign” the more I like it.

The Steve Reich like metronomic quality of the soundtrack drives the ad along to a nice CTA “Search Yorkshire Mortgages” … a clear invitation to the rest of us to bid on that term of course ! (sorry!)

First Direct – yes, they are Northern – based in Leeds.

Well their new TV and social media executions demonstrates a very different approach.

All I will say here is that is demonstrates consistency. You will either love or loathe it. It’s either quirky and original or pretentious twaddle. My observations:

  • It gives stand out if you persevere with the ad to find out its a banking ad
  • It is brand consistent – B&W, quirky (remember the Vic and Bob ads)
  • It plays well into an area First Direct obviously see as at the future – Social Media – the unexpected tweet is the latest in a line of attempts to leverage that channel

I know how good their service is, but recently they have been in the same zone of buying business with £100 incentives as many others have done, clearly a follow me strategy. This campaign, though is back to a strategy that clearly says .. Well we can go here and play amongst Meerkats … can you, other banks? No? I thought not.

The answer used to be some could .. Remember Cahoot and Smile. Those days are gone. For me only Triodos Bank and First Direct are operating a differentiated approach to their marketing in Banking terms.

So in summary … we may need to start adding Advertising to the things we associate with Yorkshire pretty soon.

Let me know what you think of these three different ads …


02 June 2013




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Documenting your new marketing strategy

Marketing business sales

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

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

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

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

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

I suggest this is summarised as follows:

Current State Assessment

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

Target State Assessment

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

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

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

The Plan

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


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

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

*- please chose one or more !

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

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

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

08 May 2013

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Marketing Futurology

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

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

Futurist Cinema – Scarborough – nice building !

(7) Futurology

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


02 May 2013

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Pricing Review: Step 6 in developing a marketing strategy

The final stages of the Customer Review are really important and we have just two to go before we start stitching things together.  If you remember, the first stage in developing a marketing strategy is thinking – which I call the customer review – and then we move into delivery.  We are now up to step 6 – Pricing review.

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

(6) The Pricing Review


My comments here can only be generic, but I will try to use examples, and forgive my inherent focus on Financial Services, it is what I know best.  There are clear and significant differences between actuarial pricing strategies and pricing an add-on service that is for related goods say.  The principles, process and purpose remain valid cross industry I believe.


  • To bring together your current pricing strategies and establish your position or powerbase in your chosen markets
  • To place you in context of customer and market expectations and reality


  • You will need to review your Boston matrices to remind yourself of the market and product attractiveness scores
  • You will need your value engineering that we completed in the last step
  • You will then need a clear and concise view of competitors.  You can use the Good Better Best tool and apply that to price if you like.  I find that helpful if using comparative advertising.  On that topic I was at an interesting DMA seminar last week on the improved ability we have as marketers to complete comparative advertising.  An area of legal flux that offers greater opportunities for exploitation than it once did. But only IF your target customers respond to comparative advertising or if one of your enemies is targeting you.
  • Establish answers to the following for the following three timeframes: 1) Now, 2) Go to in 12 months, and 3) desired position in 1-3 years i.e. where do you want to be in the pack?  Use a simple checklist for each of your offers:-
  • Best Market price – designed to drive SoM and place you as ‘new’ or as pack leader or innovative or indeed acquisitive territory.  Hero prices may be a tactic you employ here and of course you can, if your customers think it reasonable, come and go in this quartile e.g. by use of Sale pricing strategies
  • Best to Middle market pricing – compromising the profit of each sale, potentially, for higher than average growth in SoM.  Like best market pricing it may not be sustainable long-term unless you have a cost advantage vs the market – see Value Engineering in step 5
  • Mid Market – where the noise is in the field, you may want to have several competitive offers available rather than be a pack leader with a hero product.  This position is the mainstream and is usually a hard-fought battleground where leaders of the pack will emerge and others will fall back. This mid market price position usually drives long-term sustainable profit, but constraining growth potentially.  You may go here for cash cows to test elasticity of pricing – use your Boston Matrix from earlier
  • Worst in Market Quartile – you may have cost issues or exposure issues that drive this strategy or it may be that you have few strong competitors and no enemies attacking you.  Equally a new product or innovation as well as being keenly priced could be placed here if it truly is unique.
  • I would resist establishing too hard and fast a set of rules for competitive position vs your enemies.  I worked on a brand once that had a stated price position of being ‘the cheapest’ vs a basket of enemies.  The result – we had to move price and therefore profitability irrespective of our cost and performance if one of the enemies moved – not a great strategy I would suggest.
    • But do think about building in new year/summer sales, seasonality lifts in demand, making a new market in a new time period as options to allow you a pricing advantage or to beat your enemies.  One tool I have used in the past is to look at where companies over indexed on one product line e.g. ISAa at a specific time and used a great price in a different product line whilst their attention was diverted.  Your business intelligence of the strategy and performance of your competitors is invaluable here.  I love the HSBC New year sales … very good controlled marketing.
  • In pricing terms the value engineering and financial assessment we did in the last step is crucial but overlaying it with that of your competition is equally important … Try and look at what shifts they make and what their overall matrix of price positions look like – are they the same as yours?
  • Be clear what you can afford to charge/pay and know what your price elasticity is in each of your target customer groups and/or products.  This is critical.
  • Don’t neglect the new customer/existing customer balance either – in elasticity terms most consumers now ‘get’ the idea of an introductory discount, but too high a level of price shock at renewal (especially if there is an annual renewal or maturity) will drive churn and push costs up even higher.  In Insurance this allows the Aggregators to win – especially where prices are easily compared.
  • Finally write down and communicate the lead times it takes to make changes in prices for each offer – this could drive your responsiveness to changes by your enemies and could, at worst, mean you compromise your desired price position.

This process step is short – you have done most of the work earlier, but wide-ranging and it’s absolutely vital that Finance are engaged throughout to help you model your outcomes.

You need strategies for new sales, renewals, add-ons, cross sales and up sell and down sell levels for your customers.  Plus you need to be clear in what part of your Boston matrix is your brand and price offer credible.

  • You may also wish to determine how much first line flexibility in prices you want to give your sales force.  I would contend that unless you have good CRM systems or segmentation this is challenging as you may be discounting to customers whose lifetime profit is low and ignoring those in the opposite position
  • Don’t ignore transfer pricing either – if your organisation cross charges for goods and services, make sure they do not constrain you


I appreciate the above process is quite qualitative, but that is only because as a step this is using the outputs from earlier stages and asking you to write down your strategy with pay-offs in the following areas:

  • You will know the price elasticity of your customers
  • You will have a price strategy / actual price that you can then research how best to present to customers
  • This will then inform how you discount your prices and where you do so e.g. front line responsibility
  • It will also, off the back of your value engineering, have identified internal areas to target i.e. low value high cost impacts on your price position
  • You will price according to market attractiveness and in the context of your enemies and your own offer strength

Pricing is a difficult and wide-ranging topic that covers not just core price but also discounts, offers and so on.  In this field more than any other identify your RACI early in the process to define who is doing what.  Your P&L owners will be the ultimate owners and they must have the final say.  This is unlikely to be marketing, so be relentless in trying to get a good deal you can communicate to customers, but acknowledge that in some cases your business costs and performance may constrain you .

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it a prompt for how you may look at pricing differently.

Futurology is the final step in the Customer Review … see you next week !


25 April 2013

Price Image : Copyright (C) F. J. Cahill & Son Ltd., 2013

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Chess and marketing strategy


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

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

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

I think that is a mistake.

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

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

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


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

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

Customer Review

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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



24 March 2013


Peter Fisk & Genius works


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Voiceovers ‘maketh’ the advert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what is my benchmark, in advertising at least?

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

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

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

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

2 March 2013

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