Tuesday, 23 December 2008

That was the wonder of Woolworths

The administrator’s announcement of the closure of all 807 Woolworths’ stores shows that no value could be realised from the business as a going concern. The question remains whether there is any value in the brand and if anybody will be willing to pay a price for it.

In our brand value blog last month we argued the worth of the Ryanair brand and made the case for significant value by using the metrics of awareness; understanding; preference and stretch: this despite the airlines apparent unpopularity with many.

When applied to Woolworths we get a very different result and some important pointers.

Woolworths is a highly visible brand. Brand awareness is invariably a positive attribute as it drives business through the comfort of familiarity and apathy in the search process. Somebody should be able to put this awareness to positive use.

Understanding is where the Woolworths’ brand starts to unravel. People lost sight of what Woolworths was and stood for. The shops were confused, a hotchpotch of crammed aisles offering everything from pick-n-mix sweets to garden furniture. The unifying element was price and when cost leadership is your sole basis of competition, there is only one direction for those prices to go - down. A major re-positioning exercise would be required by any acquirer.

There was a time when Woolworths was a natural choice for many, offering as it did an Aladdin’s cave of goods, conveniently located at fair prices.

In its dying days there was nothing the stores offered that couldn’t be acquired in a more satisfying way elsewhere. There was no positive reason to choose Woolworths other than it was there. Any benefit of convenience was rapidly eroded by the shift to out-of-town locations and the Internet.

To stretch the brand into new markets would require getting the preceding factors right, something that proved beyond the ability of the previous management. A new management team, however able, would surely ask itself, why it should invest in a broken brand for a new market when it can focus its resources on building something new.

So, any value beyond the awareness seems to have been destroyed. What lessons are available from this demise?

Woolworths started as one of the original penny bazaars when such things were seen as a marvel of commerce. But times change and Woolworths didn’t. As we warned our children away from the excesses of sugar and the music industry switched to downloads, Woolworths stubbornly kept its front of house offer as sweets and CD’s. If the strategy was for high-spending parents to be dragged in by low-spending children, it clearly didn’t work.

The brand lacked any clarity in its basis of competition. There are essentially three choices: focus, differentiation and cost leadership. Woolworths had no focus, try as it did to offer all things to all people. There was no point of difference and cost leadership is only sustainable by the market leader – and there can’t be a leader in an undefined market.

The greatest tragedy of all was that Woolworths stopped caring for itself. In the final years, the stores were a mess and the staff totally disengaged. Woolworths went from having a great brand to no brand at all in less than 10 years because it lost sight of what it had and failed to evolve a new space for itself in a changing market. A brand is defined by passion and loyalty and seemingly the staff noticed the problems before the management. If there is no passion and loyalty in your staff then you can hardly expect it of your customers.

A brand that falls out of love with itself is no longer a brand at all.

Friday, 12 December 2008

All play, no work

There's rarely enough time for play at The Marketing Eye HQ, but all work as stopped as we try to break the office record with our new Christmas game. Try it out yourself at

Let us know your highest score. We might even offer a prize!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Mobile marketing a no-no

A survey in New Media Age reveals that people aged 16 to 30 do not want to receive marketing messages via their mobiles, as they are “too intrusive”. The research discovered that 44% think mobile should not be used in campaigns and many are disappointed when they realise a text is a marketing message and not a message from a friend.

No surprises there. The use of text is the 21st Century equivalent of the double-glazing phone call in the middle of your favourite soap. “Interuption marketing” can cause grave damage to a brand and it is a surprise that there are brands out there still seeking to exploit it. Unfortunately, it is cheap, which encourages broadcast activity with scant regard for the needs of the recipient.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Is Twitter for twits?

I have generally avoided too much comment on social networking in this blog as it is amply provided for elsewhere. My colleague, Sam McArthur, posts some excellent content in her Savvy Marketers blog, which we include in our blog list.

Twitter, however, is one phenomenon that leaves me increasingly bamboozled as to what its best use might be.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is a social networking tool that asks the simple question ‘what are you doing?’ You then have 140 characters to say exactly that. You can ‘tweet’ as many times as you like and cover things as inane as putting the kettle on to as profound as saving the world. You can follow other twitters and other twitters follow you.

I signed on to Twitter in August in the interests of exploration and since then have miraculously acquired 12 followers. 10 of the 12 I have never met in my life. Quite why they are interested in what I have to say, I don’t know, but they are welcome. There was a mini-surge in followers after I posted a Squidoo lens on Corporate Social Responsibility, which, in itself, provides a clue as to the types of people who are sharing their lives on Twitter. Rather sinisterly, I have received 3 notifications this morning of new followers whose profiles I discover are under investigation by Twitter for strange activity. I’m not sure what this means, but it makes me cautious.

Some discernment is required in deciding who to follow. Blindly agreeing to follow anybody who follows you only leads to your Twitter page being filled with rubbish. I am following 4 people: the best user is Ethics Blogger, aka Chris McDonald,
who provides regular tweets on ethical malpractice that he discovers around the world. I only wish I had time to read more of what he promotes. LouiseBJ on the other hand shares with us that she is logging on in the morning, un-jamming the printer and logging off at night. Very chatty and Louise is no doubt posting some very useful tweets amongst all this minutiae. They are, however, lost and I for one don’t have time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

The Marketing Eye tweets have generally been business focused, covering promotion of posts on this blog, developments with clients and recommendations of services or web content that I have discovered. Perhaps this is too straight-laced, but I want anything that I impose on the rest of the world to add value in some way.

As marketers we have a responsibility to explore and be at the leading edge of new methods of communication. At the same time, we have to avoid undermining our profession with the promotion of activities that won’t deliver a commercial return for our clients.

So, where are the business-related benefits?
  • Twitter for common interest groups could provide some payback: the prompt and succinct sharing of information and updates with agreed terms of engagement about what is to be posted would aid communication and not waste people’s time with nonsense.

  • I can see too, that Twitter has benefits as an online PR tool as it is very popular with journalists. This then demands the same focus on quality as would be applied to a press release. I don’t see ‘The dog needs a leak’ cutting it as a press release, so why should it cut it anymore as a tweet?

  • As a brand builder, Twitter can reveal the person behind the company. This will only become genuinely useful, however, when Twitter is adopted beyond the world of marketers and social entrepreneurs. A client in the demolition industry will need some convincing that they need to start tweeting to reveal the human side of their brand to their target audience.

The clue for Twitter, and large parts of other social networking media, is in the title. I read in yesterday’s Guardian that Twitter has been used extensively in India over recent days to appeal for blood for the injured in Mumbai. This is an undeniably brilliant use of the facility. Barak Obama used Twitter widely in his presidential campaign to mobilise the population to vote. If it can enfranchise the disenfranchised, we are looking at something very powerful indeed.

Some forms of communication are designed to be ‘social’ and need to remain that way. Care and moderation needs to be applied when seeking to exploit them for commercial purposes.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Cut VAT? Will somebody please explain

So, the great white hope is a cut in the rate of VAT.

Forgive me, but aren't prices set according to supply and demand (or has the free market gone for ever too)? Every shop in the High Street is already cutting prices by 20%, 50% or more in an attempt to stimulate demand, so what difference is another 2.5% going to make?

And even if we do all feel a little warmer at the thought of paying less VAT, are we really going to spend the money or are we going to save it?

From a business perspective, I just don't see where the benefit is. We collect and reclaim VAT, so it's going to be the same exercise with a different number. Instead we'll have to make changes to our accounting software to accommodate the change, get confused by what rate to charge over the intervening period and then go through it all again in reverse in 12 months time.

The big opportunity was to defer the collection of corporation tax. We, like many businesses, have a March year end, which means we've got a corporation tax bill to pay in a few weeks time. Deferring the collection of these monies for 6 months or longer would put much needed liquidity immediately back into a large number of small businesses and reduce their reliance on the banks - who can't be counted on to help them out in any event.

We are fortunate that our liquidity is OK, but none of us knows how long or how deep the recession is going to be and when we will be tested.

All of the measures announced today will take a long time to trickle down into the pockets of businesses and their customers. In the absence of cash, the hope has to be that the budget will instill confidence, whether it's real or perceived, because that is what is missing at the moment. If consumers and businesses are confident they will buy more and the economy will start moving forward again.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Our first award!

The website that we have designed and developed for our client Ultissimo has been awarded 5 stars and Best Developer Website, Italy in the 2008 CNBC Property Awards.

Naturally, we are all delighted. Jo Allen, our creative director, has worked extremely closely with Ultissimo since its inception to define the brand and create a visual identity that reflects the quality and style of Ultissimo developments while at the same time evoking a true sense of life and living in Italy.

The website is an integral part of Ultissimo's business and we have worked hard with our client to marry distinctive design with informative content and ease of navigation. Like all of the best websites, the Ultissimo site has never stood still and there has been an on-going programme of new content and improvements.

Paul Belcher, Managing Director of Ultissimo, said: 'This is fantastic news and congratulations must go primarily to Jo for her amazing creative design work and execution. Our whole launch of Ultissimo really has been amazing. Quality has been a hugely important driver for our business and the public recognition of our successful teamwork makes me really proud.'

We are feeling pretty proud too!

Programming by Irene Soler www.neujuice.com

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Brand value

I was at a talk yesterday, given by Paul Fifield, visiting professor in Marketing Strategy at Southampton University. Paul’s style is witty and down to earth, which made for an entertaining address. His lecture centred on the importance of engendering passion and loyalty into our brands – all sound stuff as the economy goes into recession.

Chatting to Paul afterwards, our conversation got on to Ryanair. Paul asserted that there was no value in the Ryanair brand; a view that seemed instinctively wrong to me at the time and has remained so ever since.

I believe there are 4 contributors to a brand's value:
- Awareness
- Loyalty
- Understanding
- Stretch
Or, in the language of the psychiatrist’s couch: am I known, am I loved, does anybody understand me and what could I be doing with my life?

Applying these measures to Ryanair, we get some interesting results.

Awareness: Ryanair has phenomenal brand awareness in the UK and Europe. Ask anybody to name a budget airline and the chances are that Ryanair will be among the first mentioned. This means, love it or loath it, there is a good chance that you will check out Ryanair prices if you are looking for a cheap trip in Europe. Score: 10/10

Loyalty: Fair enough Paul, you’ve got me here. Tales abound of poor customer service and a sense of being ripped off by seemingly unavoidable extras. Most people will treat Ryanair as their carrier of last resort. (This said, we travelled to Italy with Ryanair in the summer, admittedly because there was no alternative, and found it surprisingly acceptable – we’ll use it again). Score: 2/10

Understanding: People are very clear about what Ryanair offers: it has become synonymous with low-cost and no-frills travel. Michael O’Leary’s abrasive style leaves us in no doubt what the brand promise is. To paraphrase him: ‘If you want to fly to Italy for a tenner, don’t expect me to serve you champagne on the way’. Score 10/10

Stretch: Could Ryanair take its brand into other markets? Of course it could. The low cost, no-frills approach has a place in many different markets, be they travel or otherwise. Easy Group has been at the forefront of this, admittedly with varying success, but it isn't the brand that has been the weak link in the failures. Score 7/10

Total 29/40

Paul will argue that value is transient and, in the absence of brand loyalty, it will migrate as soon as anybody new comes into the market with a better ability to meet customer needs.

This opens up a whole new debate about barriers to entry, but, let’s not argue the point that if Ryanair could sort out the loyalty element of its brand, its position would be even more unassailable. (That said, attracting 32 million travellers a year seems to demonstrate a pretty keen understanding of customer needs – do we really want pampering or price?).

Far from demonstrating that reducing your offering to a commodity destroys brand value, Ryanair does the exact opposite: the key is to become number one in your chosen market, by whatever route. High levels of awareness; absolute clarity about what you offer; sufficient stretch to support entry into new markets and high barriers to entry for new players combine to put a very meaningful and resilient figure into the balance sheet.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Successful sponsorships

An article on sports sponsorship by the banks appeared in the Times last Friday. What I expected to be a tirade against chief executives enjoying hospitality at the tax-payers expense turned out to be a very balanced piece by Ashling O'Connor on the benefits that sponsorship brings to the sponsor and sport at all levels. A link can be found at the end of this post.

The article coincided with a meeting that I was at yesterday with marketers in the professional services industry. There we discussed how to get the most out of sponsorships.

The problems faced by some members of the group are by no means unique: a portfolio of small, largely client-driven sponsorships with no cohesive link tying them together, the absence of an effective plan to get value from the sponsorships and intangible benefits making the return difficult to prove.

There are a number of guiding principles for using sponsorship effectively.

Let's start at the beginning - is it a sponsorship?
Many imposters masquerade under the heading of ‘sponsorship’: donations to charity and tactical payments to oil the wheels of client relationships are among the most common. Let’s be clear - these aren’t sponsorships. A sponsorship is something that is entered into in the expectation of a commercial return. Anything else should be recognised for what it is and not taken from the marketing budget!

What is the strategy – the real strategy?
A sponsorship should always be entered into as part of a wider business strategy. Too often a sponsorship is agreed and then a strategy of sorts is formed around it. Vodafone has a strategy to become one of the most recognised brands in the world. Sponsorships of Man Utd, The Derby, the England cricket team and McLaren Mercedes have all been part of this bigger corporate strategy. Vodafone didn’t sponsor the assets first and then decide how it might use them.

Have clear objectives
Typically the objective will be:
- Brand awareness
- Hospitality
- Brand positioning
Be clear from the outset what your objectives are and then think how the potential sponsorship can be made to meet them.

Work in partnership, be creative and be fair
Think creatively and work in partnership with the owner of the asset to develop a package that meets everybody’s needs. Don’t just settle for a standard package: great sponsorships are created, not bought.

And aim for a win:win. The holder of the cash is usually in the most powerful position, particularly in the current climate, but negotiating to drive the owner of the asset into the floor is rarely a recipe for success.

Invest to leverage
Writing the cheque and hoping that it will magically turn into a quantifiable return is like hoping the tooth fairy will arrive in the night. You need a plan and you need a budget to support it. A common rule of thumb is to match the financial amount of the sponsorship with an equivalent amount of expenditure on leverage activities.

Think hard and work with the owner of the asset to make sure that every ounce of value is being extracted. Areas to look at include:

PR – create a plan for press releases – not just when the sponsorship is signed, but throughout the life of the agreement.
Websites – profile the sponsorship on your website and make sure the sponsored party clearly identifies your business as a sponsor on theirs. Is a separate micro-site justified?
Marketing collateral - integrate the sponsorship into your brochures, direct marketing and advertising. Use the imagery and the values that your sponsorship communicates to create cut-through and brand preference.
Access to data – does the sponsored party have a database of its own that you can market your products and services to?
Hospitality – what opportunities are provided or can be created for client and prospect hospitality?
Event branding – take every opportunity to get as much branding up at events as possible. Think about the obvious and then the not so obvious - and don’t be intimated if you’re not the lead sponsor. A creative marketer can steal the thunder of a lead sponsor by lateral thinking and simply having the audacity to ask.
Staff engagement – a really successful sponsorship will work well internally as well as externally. Look for scope for staff incentives, motivational talks or for members of staff to become involved with the sponsored activity. The sponsorship should feature regularly in internal communications.

Measuring the return on investment
The return on the investment is likely to be derived from the leverage activities, not the sponsorship itself. Measurement options include:
- Advertising value equivalent of PR coverage
- Number of clients and prospects entertained (with data on new business wins if your systems are sophisticated enough)
- Returns on marketing campaigns geared to the sponsorship
- Market research to measure movements in brand awareness, understanding and preference.

To attribute an individual sale to a sponsorship is often very difficult. This doesn’t make sponsorship an illegitimate part of the marketing mix. Marketing is about an integrated set of activities linked to a common goal and a well planned and well executed sponsorship can be one of the most sophisticated and effective tools in the box.

Bail out the banks and invest in sport - Ashling O'Connor October 31 2008

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

How will you survive or thrive in the recession?

The latest blog comes from another member of The Marketing Eye team, Sharon Wilding.

It seems that everyone, including the Prime Minister, now agrees that the UK is in recession, so we can stop saying ‘what if’. The question now is how much it will affect you and your business.

There’s no denying that some people will have a really tough time, but remember it is not inevitable that you should be one of them. This was the message that came out strongly from a telephone seminar I attended this week.

Chris Cardell describes himself as ‘a world leader in advanced thinking’ and the seminar was entitled ‘Seven Essential Strategies to Survive and Thrive During a Recession’. Chris offers marketing advice and guidance using a style with a strong American influence. This can get a bit grating, but basically he seems to make his money by talking a lot of common sense about marketing.

His number one message for surviving a recession was ‘Beware the scarcity mindset’. This means that you should not get carried away by all the talk of doom and gloom, because belief changes actions. If you think negatively, you become similarly negative in your approach. This is not merely advocating a ‘Pollyanna’ view, suggesting that positive thinking alone will make things work out right, but realising that 80% of people/businesses are NOT going to lose their jobs or fail. There are still markets out there made up of people who need things and who can be persuaded to spend their money with you.

You may not be surprised to hear that in his remaining 6 points his advice was, in various ways, to ‘become great at marketing’: not by spending large amounts on media necessarily, but by having a great strategy for attracting people who are interested in what you have to offer., A useful statistic quoted by Cardell was that it takes 7 contacts to turn interest into a sale. This means making sure you use all available means to generate those interactions: build a database, communicate regularly online and via email, and give information freely.

And finally, you must ‘wow them’ with how you deliver, making sure everything you do, you do to the best of your ability. And that you are delighting your customers in the process. That is the way to survive and thrive in the recession.

So, now is not the time to hold back. Work out what being ‘great at marketing’ means for your business!

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Technorati is the leading blog search engine and said to be the mecca of all bloggers. In the interests of exploring every frontier for our clients, we've decided to give it a go ourselves.

The problem is, we've signed up, only to be told that we are not members of our own blog!

Claiming our blog will establish that we are its owners and allow us to use Technorati services to increase the blog’s visibility. Amongst other things we can:

  1. Include a blog description on our Blog's page at http://technorati.com/blogs/www.themarketingeye.blogspot.com

  2. Have our blog listed in the Blog Directory and Blog Search

  3. Use and install Technorati Widgets such as "Favorite Me"

All of this seems worth having, so why are we made to stand waiting outside the door?

There looks to be an alternative way of manually claiming the blog, which requires us to post some code. Well, here it is:
Technorati Profile

Makes no sense to us either. Let's see what happens.

Update: it worked!

Friday, 24 October 2008


We have a number of clients that trade internationally and we are, of course, all interested in what is likely to happen in the UK. We helped our clients, Creaseys, organise an event with Barclays this week and the speaker from Barclays Capital got out his crystal ball for us. To compare the predictions with the forecasts of National Australia Bank, which we reported in our doom and bloom post a couple of weeks ago, is interesting.

Barclays Capital is forecasting a 0.5% cut in interest rates by the end of the year and a low of 3% in 2009. The year end prediction is 3.50%.

Barclays' record with forecasts is pretty good, but before we all rush down to William Hill with the pension fund, it's worth noting that Lloyds TSB is forecasting 4.50%, HSBC 3.50% and others, such as JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank, are saying 2.5% by the end of 2009. Make of that what you will.

A $:£ exchange rate of 1.77 in 6 months time and 1.79 in 12 months appeared from the mist of the Barclays' crystal ball, as did a euro exchange rate of 1.27 and 1.30 respectively. NAB were more pessimistic about sterling against the dollar and forecast 1.66-1.60 in 6 months time (but, that was two weeks ago!).

Don't rely on anything and don't be dragged down by what you read and hear is our attitude. We are currently involved in some very exciting projects, we're regularly talking to new clients and Jo is in Dubai at the moment exploring opportunities for us down there. You don't know if you don't ask and you don't find anything if you don't look.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Welcome to Bryony!

The Marketing Eye is pleased to welcome Bryony Saunders to the team.

Bryony has been appointed as a full-time Marketing Executive and will support Neil and Jo with the management of key accounts as well as keeping a number of aspects of our marketing moving forward. Yes, even The Marketing Eye suffers from 'cobblers' children syndrome' sometimes!

We know that Bryony will prove to be very popular with our clients and will add a delightul sparkle to the office too. Her favourite phrase 'Oh wizard' is already entering the lexicon of the studio!

Before joining The Marketing Eye, Bryony worked in a number of agencies and travelled widely. She has also set up a successful jewellery design business.

We look forward to introducing Bryony to new clients and old.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Sussex Enterprise Conference

The Sussex Enterprise Annual Conference was held in Brighton this week. 2 years ago we were a fledgling business and Sussex Enterprise had the inspired idea of creating a small business area at its conference offering stand spaces at £100 a time. We exhibited, picked up a few good leads (one very good) and returned home happy bunnies. Sadly, the idea hasn't been repeated since. 'Why not?' we ask.

So what of this year's exhibition? Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but it all looked a little under-invested to us, from the general decor to the stands.

James Caan was good value and we bumped into a few old friends, which saved the day.

The jury is still out at Eye HQ on the value we get from our membership of Sussex Enterprise. We are told that 'you get out what you put in,' which clearly indicates that £280 a year is not seen as enough. What do you think? If anybody feels they've cracked it and are getting a good return on their fees, please comment here. Don't keep the secret all to yourself.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Designed to Care

Our client, Designed to Care, launched this week.

Designed to Care, the brainchild of Keith and Natalie Burrows, designs and retails clothing that is specially fabricated for people with limited mobility or who are in need of assistance with dressing.

Natalie identified the gap in the market when her elderly grandmother was in care. Maintaining dignity while dressing was extremely difficult to do with conventional clothing and while Natalie was able to find some suppliers of adapted clothing in the US, the alternatives in the UK where drab and few.

Designed to Care has been established with a mission to provide a range of attractive, well made clothing that makes dressing easier for the individual, their relatives and their carers.

The Marketing Eye was commissioned to develop the corporate identity for Designed to Care and create the first set of marketing materials. We have also been on hand to advise on launch marketing. Keith and Natalie have used their own IT skills to develop the website, using open source e-commerce software. You can see the results at

The launch campaign involves outbound telemarketing and brochure distribution to nursing homes and care homes around the UK. This is coupled with press releases in collaboration with Age Concern, the charity to which 5% of all sales are being donated.

The world might find itself in an uncertain place at the present time, but no matter what happens, one thing is guaranteed: we are all getting older every day. Sadly, the prevelance of delibitating conditions such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons Disease also seems to be on the increase. To identify an under-served niche market with significant growth potential sounds like smart thinking and we will be watching progress with interest.

Please visit the website and spread the word if you have relatives in need of assistance with their dressing or know of others in a similar position.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Doom and Bloom

Yesterday, we were at an economic briefing given by Tom Vosa, Head of Market Economics UK at National Australia Bank. His commentary was both enlightening and thought provoking.

Just in case anybody is in any doubt, those of us in the UK, Europe and the US are heading for a full-on technical recession. According to Tom, the underlying growth of the Chinese, Russian and Indian economies means that the global economy is still in reasonably good shape, but there is little dispute that we must become accustomed to a trading environment that many of us will not have experienced in business before.

Next year is likely to be rough. Tom forecasts negative growth in the first two quarters before the first signs of recovery in the second half of the year. Year on year growth of 0.6%; a 4% fall in consumer spending; a $/£ exchange rate of 1.60; a 30% fall in house prices and oil bottoming at $80 a barrel are all on the menu for us to digest.

Real consumer spending power has already fallen by 1% due to the increase in fuel and energy prices and is set to fall by a further 3% next year in direct correlation with the fall in house prices. The retail, leisure and tourism industries will undoubtedly be worse hit by us feeling that we have less disposable income.

For those of us living and running businesses in the South East there are some glimmers of hope. Good levels of equity exist in house prices and the labour market is strong. The wave of job losses is expected to be largely absorbed by the migrant worker population and businesses on the whole are in a good cash position. We can also rely on government spending, particularly on infrastructure, to underpin the economy.

Tom described now as 'the end of the beginning' of the credit crunch and expects the MPC to bring the base rate steadily down to 4% by February next year. The frustration for most of us is that, while interest rates on deposits will be reduced immediately, borrowing costs are likely to remain unchanged as the banks seek to increase their lending margins to recover their losses.

So what exactly can we do about it? After all, we are individually powerless to influence the actions of the banks and not many of us have the option of switching our business to the Middle & Far Eastern markets.

There is a lot of debate at the moment about whether consumers will return en-mass to the large and trusted brands. After all, brands like Northern Rock and XL set out to kick sand in the face of the dominant players, but it is ultimately the established brands that have endured.

Our view is that it will be the businesses with reliable brand promises that will survive and ultimately benefit, regardless of their size. In times of uncertainty, consumers seek the reassurance of brands they can trust and a small business has more opportunity to present its trust credentials than a large business. The failure of Lehman's and XL graphically illustrates that we have no idea what is going on behind the scenes in large corporations.

Trust can be a more powerful motivator than price, even in a recession. Zoom and XL have proved a painful sojourn for those seeking a bargain.

Trust is gained by acting and delivering with integrity. Businesses that focus their marketing efforts on demonstrating transparency and giving outstanding customer service will win trust and maximise new and repeat business. Get closer to your best customers; make sure you have terms of business in place, have the courage to say 'no' to customers that abuse your trust in them and maintain your marketing effort to maximise brand recognition and affinity and you will be doing all you can. Nothing is guaranteed, but this seems to us the best way to bloom in the gloom.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Congratulations Ultissimo!

Congratulation to our clients Ultissimo who have just won the 5 star award for 'Best redevelopment Italy 2008' for their property development at Rancale in northern Umbria. The European Property Awards are run by CNBC in conjunction with the Daily Mail and are a prestigious accolade in the industry.

We can testify from first-hand experience that the design and standard of craftsmanship at Rancale is absolutely first rate. The development now goes on to compete in the international awards in Florida. We will all have our fingers crossed for the team!

As the Ultissimo success proves, awards are an excellent component of any marketing strategy. The submission process can sometimes be lengthy, but the rewards are well worth it if you win. Not only do they provide a great platform for PR, but they also offer another reason for customers to choose one business over another. We understand the celebrations went on long into the night, proving that winning awards gives a great boost to morale as well!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Signature Safaris

We are proud of all the work we do here at The Marketing Eye, but every now and again a job comes along that gets everybody even more motivated and engaged than normal. This is certainly the case with Signature Safaris and we are delighted to announce the launch of its new website today.

Simon Lacey, the Managing Director, contacted us at the beginning of the year following a referral by Sussex Enterprise. We were interested and delighted that Simon took the precaution of telephoning some of our clients before getting in touch with us and, fortunately, they all said the right things!

When Simon contacted us, the business was trading as Diplomatic Travel and had been so for 20 years or more. There were two main strings to the business: fully inclusive tours to Southern Africa and a jazz tour to New Orleans. The jazz-tour side of the business was steadily recovering from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina a few years ago, but it was the safari side of the business that Simon recognised he needed to grow.

Our first task was to help Simon with a new name and identity. The business had moved on its offering and yet the brand and the identity still reflected the business of 20 years ago. Brand development is a process that we at The Marketing Eye feel we understand very well and the starting point is always to identify and understand the target market. We identified 4 customers types:
  • Trendy traveller (holidays as a status symbol; follows fashion; brand aware)

  • Once in a lifetime (outside of target group, invests everything to join once)

  • Adventure seeker (seeks the thrill of doing something outside of the norm)

  • Intense nature lover (travels extensively to see nature first-hand)

The main targets for our client were agreed as the 'trendy traveller' and the softer 'adventure seeker'. Typically these are brand-conscious, professional couples in their early to mid 40’s, with dual income, with or without children, an executive lifestyle and an appetite for 3 or more holidays a year.

In a highly competitive market, in which it is difficult to identify a true USP, the essence of the Diplomatic Travel business lay in the personal service provided by Simon and his small team. They all have high professional standards, true expertise (they wouldn’t offer to organise a trip to a part of the world that they didn’t know intimately) and a true sense of concern for the client.

Our challenge was to create a brand that met the needs of the target audience, portrayed the intimate, caring side of the business and yet positioned it to compete with the much larger travel operators.

After a thorough process (and two or three false starts) we settled on the name Signature Safaris. Signature Safaris was felt to communicate the commitment to use all available knowledge, experience and contacts to construct a holiday that was unique and truly tailor-made to the client’s exact requirements. The holiday would define both the company and the client. The strap-line 'quality beyond imagination' and the remaining elements of the identity followed shortly thereafter.

The primary execution has been the new website: an attractive, easy to navigate and information rich site that has turned into a labour of love for all of us over the past few months. We still have a few steps to go to make it even better, but we can't help share it with everybody now. Take a look, enjoy and dream! Hey, don't stop there...book!

Building the site is, of course, only the beginning of the process and we hope to work with Simon and his team long into the future to help the business grow.

Thank you, Simon, for commissioning the site and pushing all of us here at The Marketing Eye to give of our very best. We hope that it brings you great success.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tasty! - Effective use of direct marketing

Our latest campaign has just landed on the doorsteps of 10,000 homes in East Sussex. DineAsia is a Thai and Indian fusion restaurant in our local village of Nutley. We don't normally target restaurants, but we made an exception on this occasion, not only because it's our local eatery, but because we can tell that DineAsia is going places. As the first restaurant becomes established, more are being planned and opened in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire: we predict that Dine Asia will soon be a valuable chain.

The campaign is the first in a series and announces that the restaurant is open. Despite being open for nearly a year, there is still a lack of wide-scale awareness that this is the case. To tempt people to try the restaurant, we have distributed the take-away menu and included an offer of a free bottle of wine on orders over £25. A coupon is incorporated, which allows data to be collected for future marketing.

We recommended a door-drop as the most effective means of communication as we knew it would allow us to put the name and the menu physically through every door in the catchment area. By going for a 'solus' distribution, we have been able to ensure that our material is uncluttered by any other flyers or leaflets. This is a more expensive, but more effective method of distribution than a bundled delivery or inserts into newspapers.

With items coming through the door often being quickly discarded as junk, quality is the key to cut through and retention; it is also particularly important with this client to position the venue correctly and not have it bracketed as 'just another Indian restaurant'. We, therefore, devised an innovative and contemporary looking wallet into which the menu and the offer flyer is inserted. We also arranged for the pack to be poly-wrapped. All in all, it is a high-quality communication that we hope people will read and keep.

Ahmed told us last night that the first coupons are already coming back and we'll report on the full results in later posts.

What next? Now our thoughts are turning to building the momentum. A Christmas campaign in press and on radio is planned and we will also be starting email marketing.

Naturally, we've kept a few of the wine offer flyers in the office - purely for portfolio purposes of course.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Making waves with marketing

Neil has been to the Southampton Boatshow this week where he caught up with old colleagues from Lombard. Here are his thoughts:

Despite the credit crunch, it was good to see a good number of people at the show and to find former colleagues in fine form. The Marine business was always one of my favourite businesses to market.

From a very early stage, we agreed that our goal should be to make Lombard the best recognised and best understood brand in the marine finance market place. This, we believed, was the only way to make sure that Lombard had first choice of every piece of business that was going.

A goal of this nature was no soft target. At the time, the market for Marine Finance was dominated by Bank of Scotland. Bank of Scotland had superior relationships with the boat dealers and heavily outspent Lombard on promotional activity. Barclays was also active.

Lombard didn't have the budget to match Bank of Scotland on spending, so we had to be more strategic in our approach. Over a period of 3 years, we integrated PR with advertising, ensured a commanding presence at the London and Southampton boatshows, developed a leading website and devised some creative sponsorships, including working with round-the-world yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox Johnston.

The marketing effort supported the sales team, which worked hard to nurture the dealer relationships and also to get more introduced business from parent bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland. The product set and the brand were extended to support an entry into the Superyachts market and better products were developed for the Offshore opportunities.

The strategy has clearly paid off. At this weeks show, Bank of Scotland had reduced its presence to a shared space on one of its remaining dealer's stands and Barclays looked very corporate with what appeared to be an adapted general purpose show set-up. Of course, Bank of Scotland has its own particular problems at this time, but Lombard had it on the run in the marine market long before the current difficulties set in.

So, what do we learn out of this?

Be number one in your chosen market: If you are going to be successful in a B2C business, be number one in your chosen market. This doesn't mean you have to have a massive above-the-line budget, the trick is to define your market as tightly as possible. The Marine market, as opposed to the finance market in general, is a clearly identifiable niche. The customers cluster around the two main boat shows and a small number of publications making reaching them relatively easy and cost effective.

Cover all routes to market: We recognised that the market not only had a direct component, but a valuable and influential intermediary network in the dealerships. Equal attention was paid to both segments and distinct strategies were devised for each. We also covered the off-line and on-line channels to provide customers with a choice of how they dealt with us.

Segment the customer base & talk to the customer appropriately: We established through research that there were a number of customer types - from the passionate sailor who spent his life and every last penny afloat, to the successful entrepreneur who saw the boat as a symbol of achievement. We started to talk to each segment differently, acknowledging their different needs and motivations.

Ensure a strong and differentiated brand identity: We developed a brand identity that stood out from the crowd using visuals and copy that empathised with the target audience. We didn't allow the brand to stand still and kept challenging ourselves to evolve it.

Be a specialist: The Marine market likes to deal with people that it sees as 'one of them'. We showed that we were specialist in the market and had real expertise by employing people with a passion for boats. We produced publications on buying and owning a boat and provided expert commentary through PR.

Align marketing and sales: Too often, Marketing and Sales retreat into silos, neither acknowledging or understanding the other. At Lombard we were able to solve this. The sales team was buoyed by a marketing effort that it saw to be working: marketing thrived on the support of a sales team that turned its campaigns into results. The strategy was jointly owned and jointly delivered.

All in all this is a marketing success story that proves that theory combined with creativity and commercial acumen gives rise to competitive advantage and tangible results.

Good luck guys, may you go from strength to strength: it was a pleasure working with you.


Monday, 15 September 2008

La Dolce Vita

We are just back from Italy, where we have been visiting our clients Ultissimo and viewing 2 of their property developments in Umbria.

Ultissimo is the brain child of Paul Belcher and Steven and Karen White. Typically they find and renovate rural buildings that have fallen into disrepair. The buildings are lovingly transformed into 6-8 extremely stylish second homes or holiday villas, which are then sold, predominantly to the UK market.

The renovations are all meticulously carried out and it is very clear that Steve and Karen, the principles behind the renovation activity, leave a lot of themselves in each project. They take their responsibilities to the community and the local environment very seriously and treat each development as a legacy to the country that they love so much.

Most of the original features of a property are retained, sometimes with surprisingly rewarding results. At San Vittorino, near Gubbio, they uncovered a 14th Century fresco on the wall of an abandoned chapel. This now forms the stunningly original centre-piece of the bedroom in one of the properties.

We have been fortunate to work with Ultissimo since its formation in 2007 and have watched it quickly grow into a successful business. Regular reviews appear in the property pages of the national press and the development at Rancale, nr Umbertide, was a 2008 Award Winner in the CNBC European Property Awards.

Jo, our creative director, is currently out with the clients visiting 2 new projects in the Lake Como area. We'll post her report as soon as she gets back.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

There be dragons!

No, not acerbic entrepreneurs from the Dragons Den, this is Dragon Boat Racing!

Our intrepid MD spent Saturday on the waters of Bewl Water in West Kent taking part in the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival. Racing for the Nutley Stags to raise money for Nutley Primary School, Neil and his team managed a credible second place from a starting field of 50 boats.

The team raised over £3,000 for the school and it is believed that the event generated more than £160,000 for local good causes.

This is the second year in succession that the Stags have got the silver medal. Bookmakers are already refusing to take bets on the team taking gold next time.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

We'll put some fun into the numbers

We'll start this adventure into blogging with some good news and a little bit of trumpet blowing by us at The Marketing Eye.

Tunbridge Wells chartered accountants, Creaseys - one of the top 100 firms in the UK - have appointed us to provide strategic marketing support on an ongoing basis.

The move is another step in Creaseys' strategy to position itself as the leading accountancy practice for businesses and high net-worth individuals in the South East. We are naturally delighted to be appointed and look forward to getting stuck into the task.

One of the things we are going to do is introduce Creaseys to the delights of blogging and other social media to make people more aware of the astonishing depth of resources that exist at the practice. Several of the partners have publications to their name - ideal material for blogs and Squidoo.

The greater focus on marketing at a successful business like Creaseys underlines how every business needs to think about how it is going to compete in the long term and have a proper marketing strategy and plan.

We are pleased to say that we are seeing a rise in the number of enquiries here at The Marketing Eye despite the slow-down in the economy - indeed, we have now decided we need to recruit. The attitude this time seems to be one of not waiting to be hit by a recession, but to improve efficiency and go out and compete for every piece of business that is going - thank goodness for that.