Brand Automation : The Good, Bad and the Amusing

Hanging on the telephone - BlondieThe trend to employ IT systems, automate telephone systems or outsource call centres to lower cost markets is common in developed markets. Most notably in sectors such as banking, insurance, utilities and the public sector. And usually designed to cut costs and compete with online services.

The trouble is that it is usually to the detriment of the brand experience.

Banking service experiences

Below is an actual letter sent to a bank by an 86-year-old woman. The bank manager, to his credit, thought it amusing enough publish in The Times.

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month.

By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an OFFENCE under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete.

I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public figure, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me.

I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further.

When you call me, press buttons as follows:


#1. To make an appointment to see me

#2. To query a missing payment.

#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

#4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required.

Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier

#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 to 9

#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?

Your Humble Client

And remember:

Don’t make old people mad We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.

I was held in a phone queue to a well known Scottish Business Bank for 6-7 minutes myself last Thursday. The number of buttons to press and codes to remember weighted heavily. The service agent was unable to help and said a colleague would call-back by Friday. On the following Tuesday, I received a letter to say they’d tried to call (8.08am, Friday) and repeated the message (call this number). Thank-you. My call back prompted a repeat of the first experience, with two different people. It lasted 25 minutes. It was less than satisfactory. Correctly noting his inability to help, the bank guy asked if I’d like to make a complaint. Struggling to discern a benefit in so doing, my answer was ‘no thank-you’. We’re just emptying our bank account.

Marketing Inspiration

While brand automation may save money there is usually a trade-off in terms of customer or brand experience.

If in doubt where the balance lies, put yourself in the customer’s shoes, or ask a few to test your service or process out.

Avoid spurious processes, keep processes simple, practical and empower your people to listen and solve problems without passing the buck.

Not all customers are the same. Tailor your services to the needs, attitudes and behaviour of specific segments.  Also match your business operating hours to your customers.

If you are a bank and reduce your savings interest rates to 0.05% remember that lots of customers will consider that a message to shift business elsewhere. And if you don’t value loyalty, expect to lose it.

A customer who has a bad experience is more likely to tell lots of folks about it than a customer who has a great experience.

And if you are wondering where the example of good is, so are we. Let us know your views.

Traditional vs. Digital Market Research Methods. Does ‘New’ Mean Better?

Traditional vs. digital research methods

The advent of digital media has inspired many new forms of customer research, which businesses are embracing with a passion.  We have witnessed marketers foregoing more traditional approaches of gaining customer insights.  Primarily to generate cheaper and quicker results but also to be seen as trend-setting, being the first, and generally jumping on the bandwagon just because it is new.

Whether it is just because online is new or that it provides something that more traditional forms can’t deliver, what is clear is that there are lots of myths, perceptions and misconceptions surrounding it.

Social media services : You Tube, Twitter. Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Facebook
Some social media services

So what are the facts and considerations that need to be taken when choosing a research methodology?  New doesn’t necessarily mean better …. or does it?

Main traditional research approaches

More traditional forms of research involve either face-to-face contact or verbal conversations in real-time such as;

  • Qualitative focus groups or group discussions; enable topic discussion, exploration and idea generation, sharing, building and challenging. For example, by recruiting respondents with differing views to ‘conflict groups’ it is possible to both challenge beliefs and understand and uncover ways to overcome possible prejudices.
  • Depth interviews – face-to-face or telephone; enable in-depth understanding of topics and people; who they are, their attitudes, beliefs and motivations. Also suited to more confidential and sensitive topics e.g. healthcare, business-to-business.
  • Accompanied shops in a real-life shopping environment; help reveal real-life shopping motivations and behaviour.
  • Ethnography – observing people in specific settings/environments to understand unconscious and unreported behavioural influences. For example, a builder in his/her work environment, to see what helps or hinders getting a job done.
  • Intercepts – stopping people in the street or other locations; useful to gain fast and high-level insights. For example, to assess motivations, quantify preferences, such as reaction to products or brands in out-of-home eating situations.
Face-to-face customer research
Face-to-face customer research

Traditional research pros and cons

Traditional face-to-face or telephone methods enable the moderator to follow the natural flow of the discussion and understand what’s really important to interviewees. Also to flex the discussion, intervene, probe and challenge at any point in the proceedings.

Face-to-face methods allow observation of non-verbal indicators, such as facial expressions, body language, general behaviour and voice intonation. What’s not said is sometimes as important as what’s said. Albert H. Mehrabian found that body language accounts for 55% of received communication, while tone of voice accounts for 38% and words only account for 7% (1). Non-verbal communication provides extra richness and texture to information and gives deeper insight.

Costs not only include research moderation and analysis but travel and respondent recruitment and research incentives. Research incentives typically cover undertaking pre-tasks, travel as well as time for attending research.

Online research approaches, pros and cons

The massive growth in general Internet use, both at home and on-the-go and specifically social media networking sites, provides more direct consumer research options and ways to better understand the digital world. New digital functionality such as wikis, video filming and uploading and messaging provides researchers with a new means of capturing information too. All helps researchers and customers work together to explore and develop ideas.

Main online or digital research methods

  • Skype, Whats App and Facetime – provide new remote video interviewing possibilities, allowing the moderator to hear and see the interviewee.
  • Wearables – like Google glasses provide real-time or recorded/edited insights through the eyes of consumers.
  • Online surveys – respondents are posed a series of questions online. Typically following an emailed link. With high and growing Internet penetration, and faster broadband and mobile Internet speeds, this enables rapid, cost-effective, multi-country, multi-media quantitative research. There are many well established and proven methods able to reach various niche demographics. Also to gain vox-pop type feedback.
  • Online focus groups – real-time online discussions over a set period e.g. 2 hours (so-called synchronous research); useful to reach remote/difficult to find respondents.
  • Online communities – respondents join a community and answer/discuss questions, interacting with each other and the moderator.  Useful to gauge reactions to communications and products, ‘pressure-test’ plans and build ideas.
  • Bulletin boards – password protected forum, accessed via a browser, where respondents login at any time and respond to moderator led discussion. These usually last 3 to 6 days (so-called asynchronous research);  useful for product placement, assessing first and later impressions/experiences, engaging the digitally savvy and exploring the digital world, and developing ideas. There is a growing range of digital software and functionality allowing for more sophisticated and customised research solutions.
  • Social media sites e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram – useful for online and offline recruitment, dipstick research, gain anecdotes, perhaps at the start of a new product development process.
  • Social media analytics – such as to assess national sentiments, for example, via ‘big data’ analysis of tweets etc. It also possible to analyse emotional response from emojis. In November 2016, social media analytics correctly predicted the outcome of the US Presidential election in contrast to the national polls.
  • Facial recognition – uses software that’s more discerning than the human eye to determine emotional engagement (such as happiness, fear, surprise) with tv advertising, TV programmes or films. Enables better film editing and story-telling.
Online customer research
Online customer research

Online research pros and cons

Some groups have particular affinity with the digital world and are easier to engage e.g. kids/youth market. The anonymity of the online world encourages participation and openness.  Early technology adopters are useful to pressure-test new ideas and anticipate the future.

Some digital media offer an almost ‘instant’ sample. For example, polls on Facebook, Twitter or blogs. A high-number of engaged followers are needed to generate fast and cost-effective insights.

The growing range and extent of online communication, for example via smartphones, make it easier to reach a wide geographic target. Thus avoiding travel and sometimes communication costs. In-built cameras make it easier to collect visual or audio insights.

More complex technology, such as that involved in online qualitative research is a little more difficult to master. So allow time for set-up, to help respondents as well as moderate and analyse research. This means it is sometimes more expensive than face-to-face discussions.

Online moderation is more difficult. The process is often more linear and mechanical limiting ability to pursue all avenues of exploration. There are also visual limitations. Zoomed in head shots or screen size room views, make it difficult to see the big picture, and see non-verbal responses. Qualitative responses vary between the superficial and detailed. Initial superficial responses require more probing. In contrast, unduly verbose responses, especially if written, are time-consuming to follow and interpret.

Summary of traditional vs. digital research pros and cons

A summary of each approach is outlined below.

Traditional vs. Digital Research Pros and Cons
Traditional vs. Digital Research Pros and Cons

Marketing inspiration

  1. Digital research methods are welcome additions to the market research tool box.  They provide new ways to recruit for and conduct research, complementing more traditional forms. Online is a fast and cost-effective way to recruit and survey respondents. It broadens reach, helps identify specific ‘interest groups’ and mitigates against ‘serial groupies’. Skype et al are a boon to interview those in remote locations.
  2. The choice of research method should follow from your aims and needs. Analyse the pros and cons of each option to decide which is best for purpose.
  3. Technology needs selecting, setting-up and managing. It doesn’t automate every task and can fail. Pre-planning needs to be more precise to make sure respondents can access and use the systems. As a result, some online qualitative approaches advise running research with two people. One to manage the IT systems, and a second to run the discussion. All has a time-cost.
  4. Humans are important. There will always be a need for a moderator to ease the journey of discovery and dig into the detail.
  5. The nature of the social media, means there is more and more data available for analysis. Revealing insights from findings involves understanding what is unsaid, what’s missing, as well as what is said and available. Again this will remain a human task.
  6. Combining digital and traditional methods helps provide the benefits of both. For example, using online recruitment methods, or sharing stimuli via email or online.
  7. Don’t fear experimentation. If you don’t try and learn, you won’t.
  8. There are a growing number of communication platforms with functions suited to research, for example, forums and mini polls. For a bespoke solution, get in touch with our market research agency.


(1)  Mehrabian Albert H, Silent Messages; Implicit Communication of  Emotions and Attitudes 2nd edition 1981.

New research technology?

If you have some market research technology we’ve not covered let us know

Marketing Management 2017 : Keep Your Eyes on the Big Picture

Big picture marketing management

When we set out to write The Marketing Director’s Handbook our aim was to advance marketing management. The challenge has not diminished. It has increased. The digital revolution and associated media diversification adds extra complexity in managing search and social media. But in the rush to embrace digital opportunities, marketers have a choice to keep or lose their heads. In this article we look at some of the key dynamics and success factors for the year ahead. As we are marketers we must start with customers.

Rising digital media consumption fuels online sales

Around the world online access continues to grow. In the UK, 78% homes now have broadband access (1). Some 81% have mobile phones, and some 77% (and rising) (i.e 62% of the total) have smartphones (2). Faster broadband speeds, and increasing availability of 4G, mean more consumers spend more time online. Both in the home, multi-tasking and on the go. In the UK, consumers spend over 4.45 hours/day using digital devices. In 2017, this figure will exceed combined tv, radio and print consumption (3). As a result, online shopping is growing; rising from 15.4% of retail sales in 2015 to 16.8% in 2016. And with no sign of slowing (4). UK consumers spend on average £1760 each online – more per capita, than consumers in any other country in the world.

Internet/online continues to grow share of advertising spend

Globally online advertising spend is neck and neck with tv, with each accounting for 33% and 34% ad sales (5). Though in the UK online is dominant with over 43% share (6). Looking at Google, their share of online ad spend dwarfs all others. Google’s 2016 ad sales in 2016 grew 18% y/y though this masks an increase in clicks of c. 40% less a reduction in cost/click of c. 13% (7) (Figure 1).

The trouble with online advertising

Google remains the elephant in the corner and Bing/Yahoo, and others, relative small fry. Most online advertising is relegated to a few key words. With Google, their algorithms decide what is seen, when, by whom and how much is paid for a few words. Further, an advertising keyword ‘quality score’ bears no relation to the natural search term ranking, and Google and others are unable or unwilling to explain how this works.

Elephant in the corner - Google
Elephant in the corner

While online advertising innovation continues apace new initiatives need careful assessment. Extended advertising text presents an opportunity say more, and while early movers report click-through rates up by 20%, the advantage may be neutralised once all use extended text. Google’s ‘dynamically generated headlines’ are another innovation though only careful reading of the small print reveals both ads and keywords are automatically generated based on the content of your landing page. What Google omit to say is that keyword settings are over-ruled, effectively removing all control from the advertiser.

Google Analytics innovations also continue apace. There are now more data than ever to analyse website and advertising performance. Though key data remains missing. Many searches are omitted as are details on the searchers (customers). An entire search engine marketing and optimisation industry has grown-up second guessing Google and trying to analyse the data despite the significant gaps. Planning and management of digital advertising remains shrouded in ‘fog’ and obfuscation appears self-serving.

The advertiser has to make sense of it all

The last couple of decades have seen a continued rise of digital agencies and separation of functions; from media buying, planning, creativity, sales promotion, and a plethora of digital specialisms. Media is often planned and bought separately. It is usually managed in silos. As a result, few see, measure and manage the ‘big picture’. Agency heaven takes some finding and the buck stops with the advertiser who has to make sense of it all.

New media opportunities

Looking to the future, ever faster download speeds, and more powerful technology and devices, continue to fuel media consumption. Both in real-time and time-shift at home and on-the-go. Online search/social media advertising, though mainly display, grew 20% in 2016 (Figure 1) (7). We estimate 2017 growth at a slightly slower pace (8). Video offers more opportunities than plain words to build brands, and a growing range of media offer video advertising. You Tube raised over $5bn from video advertising in 2016 (c. 7% Google total), Facebook/Instagram projects $4bn video advertising revenue in 2017 and Snapchat nearly $1m. We estimate that video advertising will account for over 10% online advertising spend in 2017.

Global search and social media advertising spend 2015-2017
Global search and social media advertising spend 2015-2017

While traditional media has been dented by the growth in online display and video advertising, opportunities abound to buy wisely in both traditional and new online media markets. But there is also a need to see and think clearly to avoid traps set for the unwary. The savvy marketer will not go far wrong by developing and running creative campaigns via ‘reasonably high’ impact media offering ‘good value’ cost per thousand (CPT) impacts.

 Marketing Inspiration

1. Customers are increasingly busy and time-poor. They wish to make best use of precious moments. Digital devices offer speed and convenience to live life on the go. Also access to extra value in the online world. Build these insights into your product and marketing strategies.

2. Building enduring brands seldom happens by accident. Rigour and creativity are both required. We recommend a 5-step marketing management approach (Figure 2). Starting with analysis then creativity to find an idea and message that engages rationally and emotionally. Prefer pictures, videos and multi-media experiences to words alone.

The Marketing Directors' Marketing Management Approach
The Marketing Directors’ Marketing Management Approach

3. To select media to get your message across, understand your customer and customer journey, media landscape, and engagement drivers and barriers. Then use the objective and task method to plan your campaign, and assess which media offer best value. Look beyond digital media and marketing hype. Remember the story about the emperor’s new clothes. What’s new or big is not necessarily the best media option.

4. Don’t just rely on return on marketing investment (ROMI) to measure and manage performance. This risks short-term at the expense of the long-term gain. Use a broad range of metrics to measure customer engagement including brand awareness, interest, usage, preference and loyalty. Then test, measure and learn and test, measure and learn.

What do you think? Let us know.

And to review and enhance your marketing management methods ask The Marketing Directors for help. We’ll match our team to your needs.


(1) and (2)
(4) Retail
(5) PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2016-2020
(6) AA/Warc Expenditure Report, April 2016
(7) Latest company reports and accounts, (Jan 2017)
(8) TMD estimates based on published sources

Black Friday is Back! If You Can’t Beat them, Join Them ;-)

Black Friday
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming soon (November 25th and 28th 2016) we’re joining in the jolly japes, asking what’s up, and whether you should beat them or join them?

About Black Friday

Originating in the USA in 2003, Black Friday has become the most popular shopping day of the year when nearly all retailers in the country run sales. Now a global phenomenon, Black Friday is popular in other countries including Canada, Mexico, India and the UK. Most recently it has embraced Australia (2011), France, Germany and South Africa (2014) and the Netherlands (2015).

Black Friday marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season. It’s a day when retailers’ profits are said to turn ‘black’ from ‘red’. Though the term ‘black’ may also be borrowed from the financial markets to describe days when share prices fall dramatically (1). Being the Friday after Thanksgiving, many US employers give their employees the day off as part of the holiday weekend. Discounting emerged to entice traffic into stores to start their Christmas shopping. As competition increased so did the breadth and depth of discounting.

About Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is a extra special offer online shopping day. It takes place the Monday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

As Black Friday has grown so Cyber Monday has emerged to further extend the US holiday shopping weekend and provide a sales window for online and smaller suppliers. Originating in the USA, it has also spread to Canada and France (2008), UK (2009), Germany (2010), Australia (2012) and others.

Black Friday goes Global

In the USA, where Black Friday first emerged as a concept, sales peaked at $59bn in 2012 and have since fallen steadily to $51bn in 2014. The figure for 2015 is believed to be even lower. In context, Cyber Monday sales were $2.7bn in 2014 and £3bn in 2015. This suggests that the ‘Black Friday’ bubble may be bursting in the USA (2).

In countries where the Black Friday and Cyber Monday concepts are new, sales have grown, and generated both positive and negative publicity.

In the UK, Black Friday promotions are now trailed well in advance of the day, and this year Amazon is running a Black Friday week and a half. In 2015, some such as Asda eschewed the event, claiming their prices will be permanently low. However, our sources suggest special offers will return this year, probably as a result of competitive pressure (look out for cut price TVs;-)).

Black Friday Backlash?

In contrast, #BlackFriday has prompted the rise of #buynothingday (3) an international day of protest against consumerism. Participants include 65 countries. A glance at BuyNothingDay UK’s Twitter feed suggests that like King Canute, Buy Nothing Day has failed to stem the tide of consumerism.

Insights on the US vs. UK from Russell Howard

In this short video, British comedian Russell Howard shares insights from both sides of the pond. Suggesting both frenzy and perhaps a little media hyperbole.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Beware of the pitfalls in using price-led special offers. Risks are simply to drive down prices, commoditise markets, bring forward sales and reduce future income.

2. While conventional wisdom suggests that price-led offers provide pure rational benefits, recent research using brain imaging (fMRI) shows that this is untrue. More strongly discounted offers do cause pleasure seeking parts of the brain (the nucleus accumbens), and the decision making parts of the brain (medial prefrontal cortex) to light-up while the pain sensing area (insula) remains inactive (4). Thus significant emotional benefits, and suppressed pain, can be gained. This may well explain some consumer frenzy.

3. Special offers are most effective when designed to meet clear and specific customer objectives. So think clearly what those objectives are and design the mechanic so it works for you. Use creativity and the power of your brand to enhance the emotional benefits!

4. Use promotion events to gain a strategic advantage rather than bring forward sales. For example, by benefiting from the extra attention gifted by the event to attract new users, enhance your reputation, or inspire loyalty.

5. And if you can’t beat them, join them! Starting with our own unashamed Black Friday special offer for marketers. The Marketing Director’s Handbook – the definitive guide to superior and successful marketing. Grab it while it lasts ;-).


4. Rick, Scott, Nutson, Brian and others. Neural Predictors of Purchase, Neuron (2007)

Oh Happy Days! What’s the True Value of Loyalty?

What’s the true value of customer loyalty?First Direct Happy Days. What price loyalty?

This week I received a greeting card in the post. It’s not my birthday or anyway near our wedding anniversary. On opening it had a message of ‘Happy Days’… It was a thank-you card from First Direct celebrating the fact that I had been a customer for 25 years or 9,131 days. Nice thought I mused until when logging on I was confronted with an offer of £100 cash if, as a new customer, I had just switched to them.

Greeting card or cash, which would you feel would be the best incentive to move or stay?
My loyalty is to a satisfactory service and reasonable facilities, greeting card or no… They may not have noticed but I moved all my standing orders for utilities etc. to Santander 123 for a cash back and interest on balances. Their approach to loyalty is even more cynical – having acquired me and many others, they have quintupled the cost of the account and cut the interest.

Marketing Inspiration

Marketing it seems to banks is to fool some of the people all of the time. Oh happy days?

Lidl Marketing too Successful?

UK Lidl MD leaves suddenly after overtaking Aldi in the UK with a raft of marketing innovations writes Tim Arnold.

After period of dramatic growth through ‘clever marketing’ and the introduction of many upmarket products, the Guardian this week (9 September) reported that UK Chief Executive Ronny Gottschlich has left the company. Sources say he is likely to face a year of gardening leave.Lidl marketing - Ronny Gottschlich

The Guardian goes on to suggest his relationships with head office ‘cooled’ as he adopted policies different to the parent group such as his focus on marketing and PR as well as the introduction of additional workers’ benefits.

Apparently the increased sales volume has created logistical and profit pressures and the German head office wanted to bring the UK back in line with the rest of the business.

Sacked for successful marketing?

So a successful marketer, under whose reign, Lidl opened 630 stores in just six years – and this year overtook Aldi as the fastest-growing grocer in the UK, has been replaced. Christian Härtnagel, long serving head of sales and operations for Lidl Austria takes over. Aldi Austria has has a more traditional  culture, and is seen as an executive training ground.

If the press reports are correct then we have a significant international company eschewing marketing success for conformity and placing emphasis on operations and sales rather than marketing.

A sad week for marketing

Surely if Ronny Gottschlich is to be’blamed’ rather than ‘applauded’ then this a sad week for marketing!! Or are we only seeing half the story…what do you think? We applaud Ronny and wish him every success.

Creativity Techniques : How to Crack (Almost) Any Business Problem Under the Sun!

Creativity techniques are thinking tools or methods to generate ideas or solve problems. They are also useful to uncover insights, and to create new products, services and brands.creativity techniques

Creativity is a business weapon

In a world that is fast-moving, and changing, seeing the world through new lens, or finding new solutions to problems requires new ways of thinking, i.e. creativity. History abounds with businesses that failed to grow, because they failed to see a problem coming or failed to think differently, from Kodak in analogue film, to Blockbuster in video, to Woolworths and BHS in retail.

Creativity skills can be learned

In many organisations marketers are the creative lead as they as they hold responsibility for communication development, particularly advertising, literature and packaging. However, these skills are sometimes bought-in bought it and it is a myth that only marketers are creative. Creative ideas can be generated by anyone – simply using creativity techniques or tools and creating the right conditions for creativity to flourish.

Creative thinking processes

Creativity is simply a thinking process, an art and a science. Appreciating different ways of thinking, helps lift the lid on, and understand how creativity works and how to apply creativity to a business. Understanding the principles behind the techniques also helps inspire new creativity techniques or processes. There are three main thinking processes though any one can be combined with any another and at any stage.


divergent thinking

, whereby many new solutions are directly inspired by the problem (Figure 1). To generate ideas to address the problem, this creativity technique requires the problem and desired outcome to be expressed clearly. It is very simple to moderate a creative session of this nature, though a risk is that it relies on the creativity of the team, and the process may run out of steam quickly.

Creativity techniques : divergent thinking
Creativity techniques : divergent thinking

This could be mitigated by including different people in the process, and then combining them in different ways. For example, by combining different functional skills in small teams, and then passing the ideas from one team to the next for building. This adds energy and substance to idea generation.


linear thinking

, whereby a sequential analytical approach leads to a solution (Figure 2). In this instance a series of steps are taken to determine a solution. However, while the steps in a linear thinking approach are usually analytical or logical they could also be inspirational. For example, one of the steps could be to reframe the problem, or change the conditions surrounding the problem, so it is easier to solve. For example, a challenge to hydrate skin, could be reframed as a challenge to hydrate another part of the body, whole body or another object. Or to re-express ‘hydration’, for example, as a exposure or immersion in, a waterfall, dew, rain, snow, sand, wind etc. Re-expression requires each part of the problem to be delineated and expressed individually. Then for the individual elements to be analysed or recombined in new ways. Rather than conceiving a linear thinking approach as a series of analytical steps, but instead as inspirational steps, turns an analytical technique into a powerful creativity technique.

Creativity techniques : linear thinking
Creativity techniques : linear thinking


convergent thinking

, analysis of all facts, leads to the same conclusion or solution (Figure 3). While really the opposite of a creativity technique, this type of approach can be reversed to analyse a series of ideas or options and determine which is best. The start-point is to take the possible solutions, and generate data/insights on the solutions, and then assess arguments for and against the solutions. Alternatively, to assess the ideas using a simple two axis matrix, comprising for example, the ease, doability, cost or speed of implementation of an idea, vs. the impact or effect of the idea on the business or brand.

Creativity techniques : convergent thinking
Creativity techniques : convergent thinking

Marketing Inspiration

1. Bar ‘creatives’ in creative businesses such as media and entertainment, marketing departments have unusual creative expertise and experience, in comparison with other functions. This can and should be put to good use to solve pressing business problems.

2. Adaptation to change is essential for future success. As marketers have inherent creative skills and their primary role is to ensure the relevance of their offers, it is an opportunity, and natural stepping stone for marketers to take the creative lead to benefit their businesses. Marketers should seize the opportunity.

3. As no one has a monopoly on good ideas, and everyone has the ability to think creatively, marketers have an opportunity to, and should, engage their colleagues to this end. All that is required is to create the conditions for creativity, establish a simple lateral and logical thinking process, to dissect the problem, generate ideas, develop them into practical ideas, and then screen those ideas. Typically in a brainstorming session or marketing workshop.

Further Reading
Arnold, Tim, Tomlinson, Guy – Chapter 21, Creativity and Problem Solving, The Marketing Director’s Handbook
192 creativity techniques.

Branding – It’s All About Personality – Stupid!

In increasingly competitive markets, standing out from the crowd is not just a question of what you say but how you say it.

Line up a row of unbranded beers on the bar; how many of us can really tell the difference based on taste? And how many of us can really name the brand? Very few and even fewer we suspect. All of this goes to show the importance of brand positioning and communication. While beers do offer different benefits such as sociability and refreshment, the range of possible benefits is still relatively limited. This makes it hard to stand-out via the benefit message alone.  Yet, there are an infinite number of ways of expressing the benefit message. For example, though humour, being down-to-earth, authoritative or charming. Several brands assume personality traits that match the provenance of beers. Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX both assume stereotypical Australian male personalities. Both are laddish, blokey, witty – they suggest have a good time and male bonding.

If products are people, then brands are friends or lovers

Let’s look at this another way. What do you look for in a partner, a mate? Beyond the flippant, “And Mrs. Daniels, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Paul?” what really attracted you to your partner? In addition to physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality. Most likely the answer will be a very specific and distinctive combination of personality traits.

Search for and express, a distinctive combination of personality traits to define brands

In humans, the range of personality traits is almost infinite. So apply the same thinking process to brands. To start to appreciate the range of variables just let your imagination go; Spiderman – young, flawed and broody, a superhero; Ruby Wax – comedienne, self-deprecating, game-on for a good cause; Fagin (in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist) dirty, a thief, miser, teacher, carer ……?

Brand personality mapped to Myers Briggs

Archetypes provide familiar constructs

Archetypes are forms, images or myths which occur all over the earth. Originally advanced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, archetypes have been present in folklore and literature for thousands of years. Jung originally identified five archetypes including the Anima (feminine image in a man’s psyche), Animus (the masculine image in a woman’s psyche) and the Shadow (the opposite of the ego image). Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson expanded Jung’s range of archetypes, and outlined twelve basic archetypes in their 2001 book – The Hero and the Outlaw – Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes.

The strongest brands tend to clearly reflect single archetypes. For example, Nike has a ‘hero’ brand personality. It takes its name from the ancient Greek goddess who personified victory. Think heroes overcoming monsters, such as St. George slaying the dragon, and apply this to competitive sport. Think beating an opponent, or the monster within, your inner self, frailty or lack of confidence. Applying archetypes to brands helps them stand-out and connect with customers. Conducting archetypal market analysis can also help spot opportunities to challenge category conventions.

Create communication stimulus to express whatto say and howto say it

To help explore and define brand personality and positioning we often create mock-up advertisements, like mini press ads or posters. We use advertising (sometimes called brandcepts) because it is familiar, clear and comprehensible to customers. Creating and using mock-up advertising helps provoke, intrigue and engage. In turn this helps them express what is interesting and appealing and why.

By creating a vast number of mini adverts, allows a very large range of brand positioning ideas including both rational and emotional benefit messages and style and tone of communication to be explored.

Brand personality stimulus

Brand personality analysis and definition

Through qualitative research it is then possible to explore what is interesting, different and persuasive to customers. Analysis reveals what is working and why, and what is not working and why, helping to focus on the small number of hot ideas for further exploration. Quantitative analysis helps reveal the sweet-spot for communication – the most appealing and persuasive combination of benefits and ways of speaking.

Brand positioning outputs include messages, and visual and language guidelines that can be understood and acted upon by communication teams, product developers and front-line staff.

Some proprietary, personality indicators, for example, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator helps analyse personality types in terms of four pairs of dichotomies such as thinking – feeling and extraversion – introversion. These are understood by human resources colleagues and potentially useful in helping apply brand personality concepts to organisation cultures and to inform people behaviour, recruitment and reward procedures. All can help deliver a consistent experience through multiple encounters from advertising and websites to call centres and retail operations.

Marketing Inspiration

Make sure a distinctive brand personality is at the heart of your brand positioning. It can enable more effective communications and relationship building through all encounters that customers have with your brand. If you are #2 or #3 in a category it could transform your brand and help you get and stay ahead.

Brand positioning and brand personality models come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of complexity. What’s right for you depends on your starting place, competitive context as well as the size of the potential prize.

Read more about transforming brands into super brands by adding brand personality.

Read The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ brand positioning success story.

Business Planning; A Simplified Process. Infographic

In this fast moving digital world, technology is ever-changing and brands are relegated to a handful of keywords. The only constants are customers and brands. Successful business development requires rigorous analysis of opportunities and creativity. It requires a plan to put the customer at the heart of decision making, and creativity to build the brand. Customers, creativity and brands are the realm of marketing.

Start by understanding where your business and brand is now and where you want to be in the future. Only by knowing where you want to be will you be able to plan how to get there. Then work with your colleagues to develop strategies to overcome the obstacles en route to your destination. Here’s a simplified process to follow.

Strategic planning process

Read a longform version of this article on our marketing consultancy website.

Marketing: Post-Digital Marketing – Success Factors for the New Era

We opened The Marketing Director’s Handbook by referring to the Bob Dylan classic ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’.

Change is the lifeblood of marketing

Understanding it, and adapting to it, is Darwinian theory applied to marketing.

When a new era begins, it manifests as a hybrid of the past and the future. Remember how LPs gave way to CDs and now the likes of Spotify; how celluloid gave way to tv, then Betamax, VHS, satellite, DVD, You Tube, Netflix et al. Sometimes it is difficult to see the wood for the trees during a period of change. Sometimes there is resistance to change or an inability to embrace it. There are always leaders and followers, and those that judge incorrectly. The result is that new opportunities pass by some businesses leaving them shadows of their former selves. Equally some adapt and become more successful.

Digital marketing has given way to post-digital marketing. While there remain an enormous number of digital disciplines, and specialists occupying a variety of niches, the specialists are increasingly becoming mainstream. Joining together to provide a greater range of services, being absorbed into larger groups, or broadening their focus. In the same way, digital has merged with traditional marketing to create new value propositions, new brands, new business models and new routes to market.

Rightmove, a new digital brand
Rightmove, founded in 2006, is now the UK’s number 1 property site

Examples are everywhere. From or, to Rightmove, Uber to new Government services, to ALS’s ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ and Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ media campaigns. So what constitutes success?

Post-digital marketers put the customer first.

They understand his or her needs, attitudes and meet them. This wasn’t the case in the late 1990s Internet boom. It’s the reason so many businesses went bust. Back then I recall a well-known client, who had spent the best part of a million on a new website looking for evidence they spent their money wisely – with a budget equal to just 2 customer groups. Today’s digital marketers have learned the folly of pushing technology when there is no evidence of a need. They better understand and manage the risks and rewards.

Post-digital marketers know how to maximise their promotion bangs for bucks.

They know it’s the combination of insight, a great idea and digital connectivity must come together to generate awareness and demand. Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ video has been viewed over 85m times and rising. It echoes yet rebuffs a stereotype, it connects emotionally and the pay-off is feel-good. It gets a message across at much lower cost than a traditional tv advertising campaign. In the post-digital world digital is mainstream, a creative communication and distribution vehicle, on a par with the 30 second Coronation Street slot and Tesco gondola end. It’s why Marc. S. Prichard, P&G Global Brand Officer, says the company is quickly shifting to a digital-first approach to building brands.
Post-digital marketers use multiple of methods to capture customers.

Ice Bucket Challenge
One of the many folk dunked during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

They recognise we live in an always on world. It isn’t enough to plan and launch campaigns. The days of shot-gun marketing are gone, though post digital marketers need to be more like gamekeepers. Setting traps, baiting, luring and nurturing (less than wild) life 24-7. Understanding where customers are, when, how they behave, what is required to engage and build relationships. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a success because it fulfilled participants’ desire to socialise (reach out and connect with mates), look good (even if the experience was a little self-deprecating), and entertain. ALS understood the criteria for social sharing, and in so doing found an idea to promote its good cause. And probably in that order.

Post-digital marketers plan budgets to achieve outcomes.

At a recent Chartered Institute of Marketing event on how CMOs should influence CFOs, we asked for a show of hands on how delegates planned their budgets. Most take what they are given, or start with last year’s budget and increase it in line with expected sales. Less than 5% calculate the impacts and cost of impacts to meet the required sales. A post-digital marketer uses the ‘objective and task’ method and knows the relative promotion costs per sale across all media. He or she doesn’t view the digital budget in isolation. This also requires the customer’s journey, the media consumed, and enablers and barriers to demand at each stage to be understood. Only then can media be planned to intervene, at the right time, with the right message, and right impacts to change behaviour.

Post-digital marketers know how to maximise their promotion bangs for bucks.

They are sceptical of the relationship between impacts, clicks and sales. In the world of Google, as well as tv, there is lots of waste. They know what they don’t know. They know they don’t know who clicked and why. Understanding cause and effect relationships is difficult but they know it must be done. They look before they leap and test, learn and then replan promotion activities. They invest in small-scale tests before going large. They use econometrics to clarify causes and effects.  They may take a risk on a new medium but it is a calculated risk.

Post-digital marketing means connecting with the business.

While digital is code, and the realm of coders, coders are no longer just hunched over a computer in a back office. Digital should not be separate from, or different to, ‘business as usual’. Post-digital marketers have come out of closet; they are rightfully understanding and connecting with customers and influencing the business.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Post-digital marketing is business marketing. As business leaders, CEOs and CMOs define the entire business strategy, of which digital strategy is one important element.

2. CMOs and CIOs should work together – and with the customer as the arbiter of what’s right.

3. Focus on optimising products, creating new products, choosing the right distribution and promotion channels as well as getting your message across.

4. Stay truthful and authentic. The digital world is subject to more scrutiny, less forgiving and word travels very fast.