Tag Archives: marketing

Single Customer View post GDPR

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) have led most companies to review not only their marketing consents and processes, but, based not least on the veritable explosion of requests in my email inbox just before, on and indeed after, May 25th 2018, to more fundamentally consider the state and value of data as an asset.

This is the real positive of the regulation in my opinion. I wonder if it may, in time, lead to a balance sheet thought around data equity in the same way as ‘Brand Equity’ was considered in the 90s as something that had a tangible and quantifiable GBP value.

The challenge facing marketers post GDPR strikes me as being initially straightforward, but time will tell if the impact of the changes makes this more complex.

In my view the single view of a customer (SCV) is becoming paramount in ensuring the valuable asset that is personal data, works for the benefit of the business concerned post GDPR, and does not adversely jar with customers. It is trying to create the dreaded ‘win win’ scenario in a landscape where the value paradigm has shifted significantly, and that is never an easy balance to strike.

In my view the twin and very simple benefits of a SCV of customers are:

the customer enjoys a consistent experience with the company concerned that they attach a value to, and
a ‘knowing’ personalisation level is possible and can be expressed in communication which the business can attach a value to (relating to relationship or sales and so on). The key word here for me is knowing.

The SCV should demonstrate the company knows the customer in a positive and unobtrusive manner. GDPR empowers the customer to manage their relationships more proactively and transparently. The value of an individual’s data to any company is more visible and obvious post regulation to the customer. For some the value of their data may be surprise, but the volume of email and white mail will have fuelled that understanding (or at least awareness) in a way that if not acknowledged is a risk for business success.

The emails, direct mail, calls and texts we have all received have created a long-term impact in changing the dynamic of the relationship, the paradigm shift is that SCV should now be read as Single Company View not single customer view: The dominant partner is now the more educated customer or prospect, one who will recognise on some level the value of their personal data.

To not recognise this shift is a high risk strategy for any data led business.  Customers are choosing to ‘freely’ interact with a company and this choice can be reversed easily and quickly if the company forgets the customer is dealing with a single company in that moment. If the SCV acronym we know and love as marketers is to stand, it must recognise the power shift to customers and be read as both single customer and single company view.

My thoughts on some post GDPR imperatives are below:

Seek to acknowledge the value of data
reassure the customer or prospect by dint of action, value offered and by not overusing the data. Thinking of the data as fragile and easily damaged is more likely to be a winning formula.

Make sure the personalisation is appropriate
a fine balance to strike and however good the marketing asset the best way to monitor this is likely to be opt out rates within the campaign decay curve and customer feedback. Thinking of the data as an asset to be retained for longer term value becomes more important, cherish it!

Make sure the personalisation has a test (and then test some more)
and use a control cell, this will give a quicker read on the level of personalisation that resonates and will protect the single view of the company by the customer (but make sure it is statistically significant).

Make the content rich and relevant and balance sales to service
Post GDPR service contacts can be an opportunity to drive marketing consent, but be careful, it is possible to damage consent levels if legitimate interest is abused for the sake of a quick sale. Remembering the customer may not have freely volunteered marketing consent for a reason …making the service contacts valuable may reverse that.

Remember the data has a value and that can be eroded
This mind-set change here is as important as thinking SCV is a single view of the company (in the moment) for the customer or prospect. Thinking of data like this should ensure the business considers its actions more deeply post GDPR and not lose long-term value by short termism.  Remember a chipped china cup might still function but it’s value is much less than the perfect version.

These thoughts are my own, and I would love to know yours, if you get chance send me a comment or two and thanks for reading.

Paul Hemingway
01 June 2018

Image courtesy of Pexels.com

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Disruption is an often used term in marketing but it is rarely seen in reality.  For many, in the hurly burly of marketing communications, it remains talked about and revered, but not delivered.

When it is seen it is rarely from a ‘smaller’ brand, but where budgets are bigger and the Agency voice may be more compelling and passionate it does show itself more frequently.

Disruption as a technique for me has a number of elements to it, a good disruptive execution will combine these rather than rely on just one factor;

  • Breaking the norm … if the world is beige then paint your comms or idea bright red, make it stand out.
  • Intensity … make your creativity stand out through intensity or through a ‘laser’ focus on your target audience
  • A novel delivery … make the delivery stand out through exaggeration or media choice or even solely by design, make the audience curious to find out more about you or the offer you are making

The aim of such disruption, for me, is always only appropriate if you have an end game that is  driven by a desire for an increase or a reinforcement; disruption should not be an end in itself.

Increased sales and/or revenue are the obvious objectives of disruptive activity in marketing, but consider also increased curiosity and memorability as well as overall awareness.  These latter elements may be a precursor to the increases in financial returns which are your ultimate aim and can be used to reinforce the brand image or values which may be necessary in some cases.

If the offer itself, be it a product or a service, is truly innovative that may itself be disruptive enough. If, however, your task is to disrupt your audience through the communication then the process of disrupting may take more time as you establish the brand credibility through communications designed for memorability and cut through.

This reinforcement is required in my opinion to ‘mask’ the ‘me-tooness’ or ordinariness of the actual offer in many cases.  This is a strategy with a higher risk but the advertisement I saw recently, and which prompted this post, is really interesting and I think falls into this category.

It is interesting enough to drive me to post again, having been quiet for a long while on my blog.

The category:​  Car sales

The offer:  No different to any other car dealer, albeit I am sure they are a good company with a good offer

Disruptive comms? Hell yeah !

The ad is from Trade Centre UK, its disruption … silence !

TV Ad for Trade Centre UK

The silence is incredibly disturbing, the TV going quiet in an ad break is so unusual and the result initially, and repeatedly, is to watch TV while checking it’s not on mute.  The result being you watch the ad itself. The disruption is complete.

This is clever, low cost, disruption and my out-take … they have good prices.  Job done I expect.

Paul Hemingway

03 May 2018

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Paperless office reality

The paperless office was a phrase I first heard in anger when I was working at the Halifax in about 1989. Email was being rolled out to the great and the good in the business. Up to that point we were still issuing Memo’s and I fondly remember the Manilla reusable envelopes with a string and cardboard circle lock. The army of Internal Post workers did a great job of shifting paper around the business supporting the vast amount of memos generated.

The internal training confidently predicted the end of paper in short order. I instantly embraced this new cutting edge technology and found myself typing memos and then attaching them to these new-fangled emails so the recipients could print them out. I did the same when I received them. I think at that point I realised the sunny upland of the paperless office may take some time to achieve.

As you will know from my last post on this blog, I now work from home. This gave me a fresh opportunity to see if I could work in a way that removed or at least reduced the volume of paper I use to achieve my work outcomes. I came up with four very good reasons to do just that:

  • Space – selfishly, I did not want to add a second printer into my study and clutter things up – I like a clean organised workspace, and was trying to minimise the need for a filing cabinet and drawers
  • Cost reduction – if I could save the business some money by not having a printer and not supplying me with ink and paper etc that would have to be a good thing
  • Security – I am mindful that the security of work documents in my home, despite the alarm system, is less than a document held on our office IT filing systems
  • Collaboration – my team and I work remotely from each other and it’s quite hard to efficiently and effectively share pieces of paper: electronic files are much easier to ship around, update and share.

In the scheme of things I know that I am only making a small dent here, I still use my Filofax classic for notes, having tried Moleskine notepads and School Exercise books in recent years (actually very good and very cheap! and a reaction to everyone else using Moleskine books). So paper has not been completely eradicated. I’m also fond of a flip chart as my team know only too well.

I’m doing pretty well though. In the first 6 weeks of working at home I printed 6 pages of A3 paper on my weekly visit to Lichfield Head office. I am pretty proud of that.

I have found the experience liberating and it has given me a really good feeling, this is a good thing to do; for me, my business and the environment. For example I know that I used to print emails off and read them later, but that often included pages and pages of footers, and as much as I recycled this paper securely it was still using energy for the printing, costing the business money and was often stored in drawers until a convenient reading slot opened up … sadly the email had often been updated by then, so rendering it useless, or in need of a reprint. So all in all not a very environmentally friendly activity.

I have found the following invaluable in achieving and managing my own paperless environment:

  • My slightly larger than normal (24 inch screen) makes life a lot easier if reading long documents or in fact any document at my desk
  • Use the zoom sliders/facilities actively – it is so simple to increase the scale, and of course it retains the kerning on screen, it does help considerably
  • If reading web pages on your laptop or desktop why not save it as “Web Page, NAME” somewhere in your document folders (I created a folder called reading). You’ll get an HTML file and a folder full of images and other data contained within it don’t delete this. When you want to see the web page, just double-click on the HTML file and you should be able to see it just as it was when you saved it, whether you have a connection or not. Simples.
  • I make notes as I go to inform any response that is needed – I use a Sticky attached to my desktop (called scribble pad) or my Filofax. Tracking changes on a document is helpful too … just add your comments and save it down as your version in the correct folder will keep your thoughts front of mind even if you don’t need to send a tracked document back.
  • I have the advantage of a laptop… so I use it as such … I take it off the dock, sit down and read. That really helps me focus too, I wrote in my last post about the need to ‘change state’ and manage your mindset, this is another good example of how I find this can be achieved.

There are some traps to avoid however:

  1. There is a temptation to skim read and jump ahead, slow this down or you’ll miss things, I find I’m more prone to this on screen than with a hard copy for some reason
  2. There is no margin to scribble in so think how you want to make notes – I use tracking comments in the main at the moment for words and paper for calculations
  3. Think about when and where you want to read, you have to be a bit organized if you’re reading on a laptop… it’s bulkier than a sheet of A4
  4. Don’t be afraid to print, remember all the times you aren’t printing and for my ‘on a page A3 Marketing calendar’ it’s a must really
  5. Think about your filing – and then keep that folder clean, don’t replicate an over flowing filing cabinet – the IT team won’t thank you!

I would welcome any comments on your own ‘paper’ challenges, thank you for reading.

04 May 2017

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Top tips for working from home

I now work from home.  There I have said it. The last 6 weeks or so have been an interesting change in my working life because, after over 30 years of leaving home and going to work each morning, I now don’t, I work at home.

Change is good and I embrace it, knowing what the change is helps me accelerate through the change curve at a fair pace, it is unexpected change which takes me time to get used to.

This change though was planned, thought through and delivered in relatively short order, so that helped.  I did what most people would do when this became a real possibility I googled the subject.  More than once.

I also asked around and whilst I found some information this is inevitably a subject that is intensely personal and so it’s variable and in fact what I found was not very practically informed, a lot of theory in fact.

I haven’t posted on my blog in a while – apologies to avid readers – work and family have been all-consuming with new homes, new jobs and changes in my family too.  All positive but they occupy the mind and the body a little.

This is an ideal topic to share as it becomes an increasing reality for more workers in the UK.  In fact a year ago it was reported that 1.5m people work from home – a rise of 250,000 in a year.  I hope my tips below help anyone embarking on the same journey:

01.  I still commute to work

Ok, that sounds counter intuitive, but I do; my commute happens to be quite different though.  In some blogs I read it recommended this and I do find it works.  I choose to leave my house and go to the gym for an early morning workout.  If I can’t do that for any reason, I walk out of my house and down the lane to the fields near my house.  The reason? To change my mind-set and to recognise that for 30 odd years I have been doing a commute that in some way prepares me for a day’s work.  I would also recommend in the same vein making sure you dress for work, maybe lose the tie, but you are at work after all.

02.  Prepare your physical workspace

This is not quite as simple as it sounds.  My study at home is now my place of work.  My wife and I agreed not to refer to it as my ‘Office’ as this is a shared space.  We still have our own iMac etc on the desk next to me. This is where my wife and I edit photo’s use the web and so on.  Thus, I have to keep my ‘work’ element neat and tidy and organised and, crucially, separate.  It is important I follow the same clear desk policy at home as I did in the office.  This both helps security and keeps work life running smoothly alongside home life.  I did buy a larger desk and that has worked a treat in fact as I chose a bench style deliberately i.e. no drawers to fill to over flowing!

03.  Get the right equipment

This was out of my control to a certain extent, but I had great support from my company.  I used two screens in the office and have a powerful laptop but, and bearing in mind my tip above, I don’t have room for that at home, nor would I want to fill my home with work equipment.  The solution for me in my role, and thinking about using the design software we use, is a slightly larger screen and having a clear enough desk to use the laptop screen as an email view alongside it if I need to.  The use of a Bluetooth headset with our Skype for Business solution adds kit to my desk and uses another plug socket, so I use a simple USB headset now.  My team and I have also chosen to embrace a paperless strategy, more on that in my next post, so no printer – another reason the 24 inch screen has been a tremendous choice.  Collaboration software, to support team working, is next on my list to crack.

04.  Use the technology to its fullest extent

In the same vein challenge the status quo, see what can help you.  At the most simple level what I am trying to say is: treat remote working as an opportunity to use the best of what you have.  Try and use video rather than just audio calling and definitely try not to hide behind email.  That’s a very easy trap to fall into and if you are used to working at home every now and again it is often to complete a specific piece of work, meaning the phone may be turned off and email checked infrequently.  This is different, guard against being an email warrior!  When working at home you are likely to have many fewer interruptions so it’s easy to respond instantly to emails, but it will break your efficiency.  In fact it is one reason I like the single big screen and I’m not currently double screening my email, as I used to in the office, to help me manage this. I am looking at how I might use chat rooms in Skype or SharePoint to help collaboration.

05.  Move about a bit!

This has been important to my well-being, in the office I always tried to have face to face conversations, go and see people, rather than email them.  This is no longer an easy option, so I have had to adapt a little and take a five-minute break every now and again to get away from my screen and change my state.  However this has led to an interesting learning … see my next tip

06.  Don’t be paranoid, be organised

Big Brother is not watching you!  One of the helpful things about our software choice of ‘Skype for Business’ is that it shows your availability.  It also shows if you are ‘INACTIVE’! This is my equivalent of the ‘big red button’.  Finagle’s Law means every time I nip to the kitchen to make a coffee or go for a 5 minute break … I know my phone will ring, I know my boss will email me and he will see I’m inactive having checked my diary, he will think I am bunking off watching the TV.  Clearly none of these things is actually happening but I think it is.  This is a factor of working alone and in isolation and is a perfectly human reaction. My only advice is to recognise it, and try to manage it and, well … try not to be paranoid.  My team and I have talked about this in our weekly team meetings.  I will address managing a remote team in a future post, but in the meantime we have agreed a simple but effective solution; diary notes.

Ok it’s not that elegant but it does work.  I simply add to my diary what I am doing if I think it’s going to be helpful to others e.g. if I’m taking an early lunch to nip to the local shop I diarise it,  If I’m going to be writing a paper, I put it into my diary as an appointment, and I have an open diary.  See, I said it was simple.

07.  Don’t expect it to be easy to start with

Even if you have worked at home intermittently, don’t expect this to be the same, it is not, it requires a mind-set change just as much as a physical change.  It can be lonely undoubtedly and for a creative role like mine the lack of conversation / someone to bounce ideas about with is hard.  My advice is to simply be open and talk about how it feels not just with your boss but with colleagues, try not to bore them though!  My post on team working will look at this in more detail.

So those are my tips, I hope they help you or are at the very least of interest, you’ve got this far after all!

The obvious question you, my reader, may be left with is simply: am I enjoying it? Honestly, I’m not sure, I do know it’s harder than I thought and I am having to change how I work more basically than I expected, I need to set more short-term goals I find and work in short 30 minute bursts, but overall it’s been a good experience so far.

I am indebted to one of my colleagues who gave me some sage advice having been a home worker himself by the way, a reminder that in the words of the late Bob Hoskins “It’s good to talk”.

If you have a few moments please share your thoughts on my post.  Thanks.

Paul Hemingway
24 April 2017

PS here’s my space – see I told you it was neat!


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Top 4 reasons to enter awards

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

Pushing the limits

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


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

Leadership benefits

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I strongly agree with this sentiment.

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

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

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

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

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

So what have I done about external inspiration?

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

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

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


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

Harveys of Halifax your_pics_halifax_piece_hall_mike_glover_02_400x296

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


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

CIS tower showing plinth

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


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


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

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


23 June 2014

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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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Positioning Manchester United


I will declare my colours early, I prefer Rugby League to football.

I will declare that my football supporting is entirely devoted to the finest team in Europe – Derby County, and that I harbour a grudge from the 8th December 2007 when Derby lost to Man United
4-1. We scored our first away goal of the season, but still a blatant dive won them a penalty to add the 4th in the 90th minute.  Just my opinion you understand ! You can check it out here

But this is a marketing blog and my concern is the proposition and positioning of Manchester United. I worked in Manchester for 8 years and the company I worked for had a box at Old Trafford, so I went quite a few times.

Its a fabulous Ground, a bit light on singing perhaps, but it’s a truly great stadium and the support is genuinely European, at the 4-1 defeat I sat next to a Dane and German – I was in the Stretford end, not being able to get a ticket for the Derby end, which I have to say was interesting for me when Derby scored and my enthusiasm brimmed over a little. The guys around me were nice to me … firm you understand, but nice nonetheless!

When at Old Trafford though you do get a sense of the club being different. Its focus on the heritage story, the remembrance of the Munich disaster is touching but not overdone, the heritage play is impressive as is the use of their ‘Legends’.

The club positions itself as different, their charter is explicit about this not just being a ‘playing ethos’: The mission statement is simple “To be the best football club in the world, both on and off the pitch”.


It goes on to state in its CRS policy that it wants to tackle social issues regionally, nationally and internationally.

The reach they have is incredible – see the graphics here to see what I mean.  They can do it I would contend !

They position themselves as doing things differently, but did they/do they?  What is the evidence?

  1. The Class of 92 evidences a continued desire to ‘grow their own’ … and keep them as can be seen by the current coaching set-up.
  2. The Legends – Bobby Charlton was loved by the British public and is a fabulous Ambassador for MUFC
  3. Sir Alex Ferguson was an incredibly long serving manager at 26 years, having had a difficult first few years he built and rebuilt the team. (My explicit contention being that MUFC did not afford David Moyes the same level of support). He was given time to establish his approach and was famously only one game away from the sack, allegedly. when they won the FA Cup in 1990.
  4. They have a track record of keeping players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes for long periods of time – both were still playing in their 40s. They do buy in the open market naturally, but they do farm their own fields particularly well. The latest being Tom Cleverly I guess.  The interesting thought is that given the reach described above – blending home grown with worldwide talent ticks boxes in the UK and around the world – vital in todays international game … and for the MUFC mission statement to be believeable
  5. They innovate too – from using basketball training techniques on jumping for headers to yoga and Pilates and early forays into GPS tracking of plays during games (2010).

The ethos has been to do things differently ever since those days of 100,000 supporters at every game in the 1950s. For example Bobby Charlton was asked to work in a factory whilst an apprentice to make sure he understood what it/MUFC meant to ‘real supporters’.  The tragedy of Munich positioned the team and the Busby Babes uniquely in Britain in the still austere post war years … and who didn’t like George Best in the 60’s?

Their positioning was, yes was, all about not doing the normal football things like not hiring and firing Managers after short periods in charge.

To do things with class and dignity.

That has been evident in how the Club has responded to the ongoing criticism of its owners the Glazer family, where Sir Alex Ferguson has been vocally supportive of the regime, but perhaps not in how they handled the sacking of David Moyes.

The 49 million people who regularly watch Man United play each week around the world will possibly be conflicted by the recent events, they will have their own views on who they want to manage the club (don’t we all?) but will the manner of its handling make a change in perception … will the club museum be visited less, or stories of the legends, and doing things the Man United way, be viewed with more scepticsm now? I think they may … at least until the next trophy.

Moyes, was dignified in his exit but the League Managers Association has accused MUFC of acting in an unprofessional manner.

The reporting has been so extensive around the sacking of Moyes that this will inevitably have landed. The master stroke may well be making Ryan Giggs the interim Manger, but not, I would contend, if any new manager dispenses with his services when appointed.

Aside from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal only 2 other managers have been in charge for more than 2 seasons in the current premier league. MUFC and Arsenal standing out as being very different.

It is an interesting dilemma for MUFC, do they acknowledge failings in how the story leaked out and try and endear themselves to fans once more? or not?

I think this is where sports club brands are different to other business brands. The passion and often delusional faith that sports fans have is very different, I will forgive Workington Town RLFC virtually any indiscretion, they are my team, I follow them through thick and thin. If ticket prices go up, I assume this is to allow investment in the club, if facilities are reduced I assume this is to enable monies to be spent on the team and so on. Its irrational not rational.

MUFC will undoubtedly weather this storm but you do feel they will need to demonstrate their difference all over again if they are not to be linked with the usual managerial merry-go round and perceived lack of ‘ethics’ in the game.

Success on the pitch will be the defining factor I imagine, for the fans at least. For Marketers its an interesting propositional challenge to see if they are now viewed just like all other football clubs where Managers are accountable in a more direct way for performance failure than virtually any other business.

I would love your comments … especially on that 2007 penalty !


28th April 2014


Indie for photo
Telegraph and twitter for the reach stats
Forbes for the Bobby Charlton factory information

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2 bed flat, off road parking and walk to work please!


2 bed flat, off road parking and walk to work – this was my brief to local estate agents in Lichfield recently. Home is in Norwich now, but work is in Lichfield during the week. 

I think that’s makes it fairly clear what I am looking for, let me know if you disagree, but I am fairly confident that is a clear brief.

I work with data every day and I try and make sure that at a simple level I am talking to customers about things they are interested in, sadly that has not been my experience of buying the flat. The service had been ‘patchy’ at best as well.

Now I used to be a surveyor and work in an Estate agents, so I know it can be a tough job but I have been completely amazed by the lack of attention to the following simple tenet: that you are likely to get a better response from people if you talk to them about things they want to know about and do so in a friendly helpful manner. 

My story starts when I actually walked around the estate agents in town – a bit old school I know – but I enjoy thumbing through sales particulars, usually in a pub with a pint of lovely lager beer and a sandwich and a big map. I’ve moved a lot more than the average person over the years, I guess, so it’s become a bit of a ritual.  

But I hadn’t moved for 8 years and the world has changed – a lot – it would seem !

Mortgages – this seems to be the priority – getting you in front of a mortgage broker ASAP before someone else does.  This is not just to organise a mortgage it’s also prioritising your insurance needs as well. And they don’t mind at all if you buy from someone else of course, the service is independent of the actual flat buying I was reassured on many occasions. 
Legal services – this is a clear second priority it would seem, why? Well again it’s a fee earner for the estate agent that actually does not rely on you buying from them. 
Tyre kickers – evidence I was a credible buyer with the necessary means to buy a flat was a clear priority – this is a poor feeling, buying a new home should be exciting  and not a drudge to prove who you are and how much money you have in your account – yes, I get that I will need to do that, but up front, almost before appointments are made? It weakend, in many ways what for me, is still a 121 experience. 
Data collection – I was surprised by the level of this, in part due to the tyre kicking problem I realise, but the detail was significant. Which makes the details of the wrong type of houses in the wrong location sent to me, even more irritating. Kirstie & Phil are strangers to Lichfield I suspect !
The internet – I have been, on occasion, heard to repeat the phrase, I live in the cloud, and I tweet, I Facebook, I link in and I write 2 blogs.  So clearly I like the internet but the lack of personal interest vs the referral to the excellent Right Move app and website belies the desire to organise my mortgage, insurance and legal services for me.  Nor does it build an all important trusted relationship. 
Social media – I am glad you have Twitter and Facebook pages, but that’s not helping me greatly to be honest, unless you can highlight for me the two bed flat that has off road parking  and is walking distance to work !

So all in all I am a little disappointed, as it happens I did find one good estate agent – and luckily they listened and they had a 2 bed flat with off street parking that is a 10 minute walk to my office. 

But …
– to the estate agents that sent me details of 4 bed properties over my budget 
– to the single estate agent that said just log on to our website every week
– to the estate agent that still just sends me a list of everything they advertise each week
– and to the estate agent that keeps inviting me to show home openings the other side of Birmingham … 

I implore you to follow some simple guiding notes from one of your potential customers;

– listen to my needs, I will accept that errors will occur every now and again but please try and get it right
– explain in greater detail why you need to collect so much personal data – and then reassure me how you will use it, because if you get the type of property wrong I will suspect you will get other things wrong too
– remember how exciting buying a house is … please … It’s a ‘biggy‘ and being pushed off to the web is no way to deliver a service that is so important to the buyer, and, you know what? when I sell the flat in the future I will remember you !
– keep in touch proactively – email is fine but I had no proactive contact from most estate agents at all – again when I want to sell my home I will remember that too
– don’t just prioritise your fee earning – think about this as a move of a home not buying and selling a house, and to quote my favourite film (Roadhouse) “be nice”.

The poor use of so much rich data has really surprised me in the last few months, I like to think the firm I used to work for would have had a better stab at the relationship with its potential clients. I know when I was negotiating a sale I tried to develop a relationship first … that way I stood a chance of getting a purchase this time and a sale and possible purchase the next time round and that meant more money in my pocket and that of the company. Very simple CRM. 

As the market is seeming to pick up the success stories will come from the companies that develop relationships I feel, rather than those directing you to self service. I don’t mind that when buying beans, but a 2 bed flat, with off street parking that is walking distance to my office is a different matter altogether!

28 January 2014

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A tale of three tweets


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 January 2014

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