Tag Archives: sponsorship

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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Interfere with the British love of pets at your peril !

Britons love their pets. Fact. End of story.

So it is a brave brand that brings its marketing pounds to bear in a way that challenges this.

Marmite have just committed this error.  It has potentially damaged their brand and has cost them money.  More of that later.

Can I prove that Britons love their pets?  You bet I can … Confused.com carried out some research this year that suggests it is increasing:

  • 2 million of the UK pet owners would take their partner to court for custody of the pet in the event of a divorce if that became necessary
  • 1 in 10 said they would dump their partner if they didn’t get on with their pet
  • 30% of pet owners won’t even consider dating someone who was not an animal lover and 8% of all people would reject a potential partner if they were not an animal lover
  • 1 in 10 of the partners of pet owners think their partner loves their pet more than them

And trust me when I say that this is the tip of the statistical iceberg – I could have quoted many more from the same research!

According to the Oxford University Press the UK Pet population is around 27 million pets.  Assuming a total population of about 61m that’s 44%, that’s a lot!

In popularity terms it’s about equal at the top of the pecking order – 7.3m dogs and 7.2m cats.  I’m a dog person.

Paul O’Grady’s lovely prime time show about Battersea Dogs home won the BAFTA this year for best factual entertainment programme.  The sponsorship by Pedigree Chum is well extended into Social Media by the way … Nice twitter interventions especially.  Each episode generally only beaten by the soaps with 4.75 million viewers.

I rest my case … we Britons love our pets, cats and dogs especially.

So knowing all of this, especially the latter comments about the Paul O’Grady show, Marmite decided to run an ad campaign spoofing the very worthy and important work that animal rescue teams conduct every day.

The Ad itself is well filmed but it just makes you cringe inside as a Marketer when you try to resolve the funny antics of love Marmite or loathe it vs the British love affair with dogs and cats, especially, and all other animals.

I think this is a classic example of insight not being properly used.  The Ad agency probably used words like “edgy”, “brave” and “watercooler ad”.  My sense is that in this case the adverse publicity and the large number of ASA complaints – more than 400 so far – mean it has failed to position the Marmite brand as any of those things.  It even aired during Coronation street so topped and tailed by the lovely Meerkat sponsorship bumpers, insensitivity heaped on top of poor media consideration.  Not great use of insight or budget. My sense is that the Great British Public will see Marmite as insensitive.

I will let you judge the ad itself, I am not here to critique that, more to point out the danger of not getting the insight right.

Marmite have now made an £18,000 donation to the RSPCA. The question of all publicity being good publicity once more raises its head – but that looks like fire fighting to me.

Irrespective of whether you like the ad, it belittles important work to sell a product and that doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

Here is the ad :-

As an aside I watched the film Chocolat on TV again recently, a beautifully shot film, and it made me realise where , potentially, the insight came from in art direction terms for the ad below.  This is how the British see their pets, loyal and loving … interfere with that at your peril I say, at the very least, given this evidence it might cost you £18,000 !


23 Aug 2013

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The new subliminal marketing

A marketing mind like mine is troublesome at times and forever looking for new creative connections or media that will appeal to consumers.

I found myself thinking about advertising on bus backs the other day, remarkably unsuccessful if you are looking to optimise for take on cost in my experience, but I was thinking about new, different, media opportunities for 2013.

Only a couple of weeks ago in a presentation I found myself referencing subliminal advertising, and a recent drive took me along one of my favourite stretches of road – past the distribution depot near Worksop for B&Q and past the Wilkinson HQ and distribution centre.  Regular readers of this blog will know of my love for the Wilkinson brand. They do things very well in my view, from advertising to living by their brand values and ethics.


Unconnected you may think, well not to me … and I accept this blog may run a risk of me being seen as a bit of a geek !! But here goes anyway …

Subliminal advertising was a hoax initiated by James Vicary in the US in the 1950’s.  He reported that he had managed to induce cinema goers to drink more coke and eat more popcorn thanks to single frame images he had spliced into a film.  It took him 20+ years to admit this was a hoax and that it was driven by a desire to promote his marketing consultancy.  The effect lingers on however … just try searching subliminal advertising !  It still induces consumer fears of manipulation even today.

But maybe subliminal advertising is still relevant, at least in spirit.  I interpret this as being almost unconscious awareness and this is where my thoughts about lorries come in … see I told you this ran a risk of being a bit geeky …

B&Q lorry

Driving past B&Q distribution depots you realise a number of things;

  • The sheer number of lorries they own
  • The impact of their brand at the size it appears on their lorries
  • The sheer value of these moving ‘posters’ must be immense

They just reinforce the brand though, Wilkinson’s on the other hand have taken their use of freight advertising a step further.  They are using powerful visuals that are immensely appealing and have incredible standout as you drive past, either single lorries or, their depot.  The beauty of this is that they are timeless to an extent as well, no need for continued upgrades, they are not campaign specific.

wilko lorry allsorts

Why is this remotely interesting I hear you ask; well, the amount of domestic tonnage shifted by road in the last year has grown to over 400 million tonnes and so even if there are the same number of lorries moving about they are becoming more visible.  Alongside Germany, France and Italy road haulage volume has been consistently growing since 2009.  I am indebted to the fascinating DoT Road Freight Statistics Quarterly bulletin for this insight – a real page turner I might add!

Of course the exemplars of extending haulage into its own marketing success story are Eddie Stobart – from toys to TV shows to fan clubs.  But they are building their haulage brand B2B and that must have worked brilliantly. In fact if I need a haulage brand I would think of them first, then Norfolk Line – because I love their branding !  Ok I’d go for Norfolk Line just because of the branding, what can I say, I’m shallow !

eddie stobart

If Eddie Stobart is the exemplar in extending the brand then we should look at how the worlds most ubiquitous brand is using haulage to sense check if B&Q, Wilko’s etc have something:-  Coca Cola.

In simple terms they are using haulage as an opportunity in two ways

  1. they are using lorries in their advertising and
  2. they use their lorries to advertise with some very clever stand out in Europe.

cocacolaads2 coke lorry

Even Eddie Stobart tried something different with the Rugby League sponsorship on lorries, deemed to be a failure by the RFL and Rugby League supporters, but perhaps that is only because it was too few lorries for too short a period?

stobart sponsorship of Super League

One other company who have done some clever things very well, in my mind, recently are Currys & PC world.  Their co-branding makes sense in how they present it and connect it using colour.  A step further for them is the use of the “Knowhow” branding.  On lorries this is clever and engaging – look out for the messages on the lorry backs – funny and relevant (and the font is big enough to carry impact).

know how truck

So can I tie all of this together, perhaps it is not a perfectly thought out theory, perhaps it is not a trend for 2013, but I think the following are interesting points/opportunities to think about:

  • If you have ready access to a moving media that covers large amounts of the UK and is increasing in presence … and have a consumer brand … then use it !  People have spent enough on bus backs to make this worth a try when it is your own media
  • It will stand out, if you think about the media, as the vast majority of lorries out there are plain … take a look next time you are driving along
  • Think about longevity, like Wilkinson have done
  • Think about getting stand out through strong creative, just like any other media, and use Coca Cola etc as inspiration, or alternatively … use a big font and your name !

If you do that, maybe, just maybe, this will become a form of subliminal advertising in a way that works, after all Stobart have managed to create a very strong brand in the UK and extended it into areas well beyond traditional haulage.  Now back to the lovely Norfolk Line branding ….

norfolkline branding


26 December 2012

PS Have a great 2013 !

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