Tag Archives: john lewis

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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The Battle for Xmas No.1 !

Not so many years ago there was very little written in the media about TV advertising but an awful lot about the challengers for the Xmas number 1 in the hit parade (don’t you just love that name!).  I think that has changed and the most interesting debates are now being had about which TV ad will ‘win’ this year.

Now I go back a bit, so my early recollections are of Wizard and Slade battling it out in 1973, at the time that was fairly big news to 12 yr old me.  Were you a “Merry Xmas Everybody” fan or did you hanker after “I wish it could be Christmas everyday”?  I’m glad Slade won out personally.

There followed a number of media fueled fights for No1;  In 1984 Wham took on Band Aid (and the same songs/artists battled it out the following year too).  Novelty acts like Mr Blobby have taken on established artists like Take That, and Cliff Richard has had many a battle for No1 at Xmas – remember Millennium Prayer vs Westlife in 1999?

But today … in a connected social media world .. What are we discussing? “Do you like the new John Lewis ad?” (I don’t as it happens – but creative views are always subjective … just like music I guess).  A real cultural shift.

Lets look at a few;


These are a little worthy – trying quite hard to resonate: I would put M&S “no celebrity” ad this year into this camp.  The Waitrose ad with Heston and Delia very much lives here … the location even suggesting Cathedral like proportions and atmosphere.

These brands are trying to show they are thinking about ‘little old us’ and the current economic climate … does it work?  Time will tell, and you will vote with your feet and pennies just like I will.   This is the overwhelming theme this year.


A worthy mention to the evergreen Coke ad “Holidays are coming” it’s now so old it gets cut through due to its 4:3 ratio on-screen … but subliminally are they also trying to tie into the emotional resonance of  “well I’m not paying for their advertising on every can am I”  I wonder.  Great ad though and brilliant audio cut through in a world where we type as we view!


ALDI go into this camp as they are the current Supermarket of the year and their advertising is scooping awards.  Its likeable advertising .. Like being the key theme … it demonstrates cheapness in a likeable and engaging way.  That is at the heart of its proposition and its advertising strategy.  They are doing it brilliantly well in my opinion.  My favourite for winning the battle for return on marketing investment, and the Xmas campaign wins for me because it is so consistent with their messaging for the other 11 months of the year.

Compare it to Matalan who are trying to make us LOVE them this Xmas ! My view : you need to be liked first !



Boots ran a series of great ads over the years at Xmas that arguably started the trend for running around in ads if nothing else (now being used in a sub Captain Scarlet ‘stylee’ by Very.co.uk – the chutes remind me of the Angel Interceptors and Peter Gordeno in UFO every time I see it – really awful in my view, the ad that is, not the sci-fi). But 2012 sees a woeful strap-line that I really struggle with “Let’s feel good” – at the very least ‘here come the girls’ cut through with heavy audio cues.  I think the TV ad works, though I have reservations on the strap-line.


Littlewoods is another ad I think which will struggle.  Firstly I recognise her, but I am confused now with which brand Mylene Klass is the face of … this year.  My view here is that the heavy use of ‘interest free low weekly payments’ is a little too clumsy to be truly effective, but it’s that economic climate theme again.

In terms of ASDA .. well accusations of sexism & Mumsnet campaigns mean I think this will not be deemed a triumph for the brand this Xmas


Well its clear to see that John Lewis are going for the tactic of schmaltz and making us cry again .. Doesn’t work for me … but it resonates with middle England.  Don’t misunderstand me either .. I love Mr Lewis and his business model ! But it looks like the advertising equivalent of 2 become 1 by the Spice Girls, the Xmas number 1 in 1996 I might add.

It’s an interesting battle for our affections this year but personally I think the lack of glam rock longevity demonstrated by Slade and Wizard, the true emotional resonance of a Band Aid single or the musical joy of Wham is singularly missing.

With an honorable exception … I think Sainsbury’s use of  music combined with an ad style consistent with the rest of their campaigns, in that it’s homely and ‘nice’ and friendly, rather like Aldi, is a successful one – it does not try too hard but in doing so balances emotion and realism in a way that is easy to associate with.  They get my vote for this year !


let me know if you agree or not …


22 November 2012

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