- diversity = better ideas
- change of plan
- the Planner’s 12 days of Christmas
- they Asda to have a plan, right?
- Christmas 2016 trendwatching
- who will be the next BHS?
- *everyone* really is totally just winging it, all the time
- why don’t we treat powerpoint like a piece of creative communications?
- CERM is the way forward when marketing service industries
- Tesco’s new Farm brands – smart move?
I've been thinking quite a bit about diversity in the marketing world recently. Agencies in particular (and particularly outside London) seem to be staffed predominantly by youngish middle class white people, which isn't terribly reflective of the diverse Great British Public that we're supposed to flogging stuff to. There's also lots of research that says that the more different backgrounds you put together to come up with ideas, the better the ideas will be. It's one of those ever decreasing circle type problems - as well as undoubtedly a bit of recruiting-in-your-own-image in some places, agencies who need experienced staff mainly have to recruit them from other agencies, who are also full of youngish middle class white people and thus the issue perpetuates. By diversity I'm not just referring to ethnicity - the industry has historically been bad at attracting women to technical roles (how many female Developers do you know?) and bad at being flexible enough to accommodate people who need to work less than a fifty hour week in order to look after their health or to care for children or elderly parents. And don't get me started on the rarity of agency staff over 50. My new place is doing their bit by addressing the problem bottom-up. They've linked up with a local university to give talks, projects and placements to students from all kinds of backgrounds who might not be considering agency life as a career and they're getting involved in She Does Digital - a Leeds group encouraging women to pursue careers in digital, set up by #girlbosses from search agency Epiphany. Importantly, my place is also open to flexible working and 20% of the staff are on some kind of non-standard contract including me - it was a big factor in my decision to join. If other agencies follow suit, perhaps in a few years the industry will be a more diverse, more creative place - meaning we turn out even better work. _a Diversity Wheel, courtesy of John Hopkins University_
I've been working as a freelance Planner for six and a half years with no intention of going back agency side - then I got offered my Dream Job which it would be nuts to turn down. So I'm now officially Head of Planning at Bloom in Leeds, who recently became part of Jaywing. Bloom's clients might be a bit surprised to read this as 'new' news as I've been in the role since January and was doing contract Planning work for Bloom for months before that, but now that everything is official I can announce my news properly. I know Bloom well as I've been freelancing for them on and off for four years, I've worked with lots of the senior team before and in a nice full circle I'm now working in the same building where I started my Planning career at CWG in 1999. Bloom are like an iceberg - on top is a mid sized integrated agency driven by Planning and Insight, with a refreshing approach to work/life balance and creds that firmly state they only employ nice people who are shit hot at their jobs. The lower part of the iceberg is Bloom's awesome data science team. Who wouldn't want to get their hands on cutting edge intelligence products that turn Big Data into the kind of actionable insight that has global brands queuing up for a turn. And when your work colleagues include Data Scientists, PhDs and enough high IQs to start a branch of Mensa there's no risk of coasting along. Add in the wider Jaywing offering of sister agencies in Sheffield and Sydney, search specialists Epiphany, PR and CRM divisions and a specialist financial and regulatory risk management arm (i.e. even more data scientists, statisticians, mathematicians, information architects and computer scientists) and you have the ability to look at the customer journey end-to-end. Basically, I've been given the keys to an amazing toy box.
On the 12 days of Christmas, the Planner gave to the Agency: twelve propositions, eleven customer journeys, ten creative briefs, nine internal meetings, eight marcoms workshops, seven big brand pitches, six brand personas, loads of PowerPoint, four brand positionings, three focus groups, two conference calls, and a client away-day by the sea.
Since most of the agencies I work for are Shopper Marketing focused (welcome to Leeds!) I always keep a close eye on the Grocery sector, as do most of my agency mates. Grocery is knee-deep in challenges at the moment (the Discounters, provenance, excess floor space, trying to make Online pay, wafer thin margins, Marmitegate, the continuing shift from Big Shop to Top Ups etc.) and Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons are all taking clear steps to address these, from Sainsbury's buying Argos and bringing Habit instore to Morrisons revamping their loyalty scheme and Tesco's serious range reduction and behind-the-scenes cost-cutting. Meanwhile, in Convenience (the spiritual home of Top Up Shopping), the Co-op is seriously upping it's game rolling a new brand identity instore and on pack, a new membership/loyalty scheme and brand messaging built on Provenance. As for Asda…apart from being very shouty about Price (yet without undercutting Aldi and Lidl) they appear to be stuck in a bit of a time warp. I popped into one of their older stores this morning and Yazz's 1988 hit _The Only Way Is Up_ blasting throughout the store on full volume didn't exactly detract from that impression. The format was looking very tired and the only things obviously differentiating them from the discounters were the George clothing range and manned fresh food counters. There was certainly no sign of _Helping our customers live better_ (which is currently all over their website) their current endline _Save Money, Live Better_ OR their current brand campaign _That's Better_ Unusually, I am not currently working for any of Asda's agencies, but the impression I get from those who are is that Asda is _still_ struggling to find a positioning it can own and deliver on. To be fair, for a brand that built it's business on Price, only to be undercut by the Discounters, that's a tall orde_r._ _HT to the lovely Steve Dresser's excellent Grocery Insight subscription e-newsletter that tracks what's going on in Grocery in real time - if you work in Shopper Marketing, crack open the education/training budget and get signed up_
Last May, a couple of days work unexpectedly dropped out so instead I researched and wrote something on Christmas 2016 trends, thinking it might come in handy for my work with agency retail clients. Since Christmas 2016 planning is now a distant memory for agencies (last month I was working on shopper marketing for Father's Day 2017) I thought I'd share it here and on slideshare:
With the news that BHS is set to close it's final store on 20th August, I've been wondering who will be the next BHS - a business that dies because everyone knows their name, but no-one actually buys anything from them anymore. _yep, this London branch was trading with signage from two rebrands ago_ I get the feeling that Marks & Spencer are a lot closer to fitting that category than you'd think. I can see a future where M&S Simply Food and M&S Foodhall are the only trading facias of the business - in their last set of annual results in April, Food was up 3% while Clothing and Homewares was down 2.2%. In the three months since _then_,like-for-like Clothing and Homewares sales dropped a massive 8.3% _(source)._ What does M&S stand for? What does it believe in? Who is it's core customer? Why do they shop there? If I asked you about ASOS, H&M or even Debenhams I'm pretty sure you'd be able to have a stab at answering, but for M&S it's a toughie. And without a clear idea of what unmet need they meet and who they're aiming at, how are shoppers supposed to know whether they should pop in or not? Add in deep discounting and (IMHO) a general slide towards dodgy quality and even dodgier design in clothing and you haven't really got a compelling consumer proposition. And although Currys benefited massively from the demise of Comet, I can't see much of an _offline_ future for them as their customer service and instore experience is so dire that it outweighs the benefits of shopping in person. I've been in my local Currys four times in the last year and thrice came out empty handed and bought online instead - missing price and product information, an unmanned till desk, no-one on the shop floor to help you, terrible staff attitude, frequent out of stocks etc. rather cancels out the 'touch, feel, take it home today' benefit of bricks and mortar retail. Or perhaps I just happen to live near a really, really badly run store?
In May 2014, Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman wrote an excellent article titled _Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time_. It was a very reassuring piece for anyone who suffers from a touch of imposter syndrome from time to time: _We're all mini-New York Timeses or White Houses, energetically projecting an image of calm proficiency, while inside we're improvising in a mad panic. Yet we forget (especially in an era of carefully curated Facebook profiles and suchlike) that everyone else is doing the same thing. The only difference is that they think it's _you_ who's truly competent._ In the UK, recent Brexit related events have demonstrated that 'everyone' includes most Leave campaigners who seemingly made up campaign promises on the fly that are now impossible to fulfill, “A lot of things were said in advance of this referendum that we might want to think about again,” said the Conservative former Defence Minister and Leave campaigner Liam Fox only two days after the vote. But it's not just in politics that everyone is winging it - the marketing industry is just as bad. Pitches that promise the earth and deliver rather less. Clients whose marketing plans are a work of fiction. Overstretched, stressed-out account handlers trying to keep all their plates spinning. 'Strategists' with rather less strategic experience than their embellished CVs might suggest. Agency bosses with a 'la la la I can't hear you' approach to finance. If the marketing industry had a slogan, it would be 'it'll be fine…probably'. So if politicians, clients and agencies are all totally winging it, what about the people working in hospitals, nuclear power stations and the armed forces? If _they're_ winging it too, we're in serious trouble. _tee from here_
Recently I've been writing a lot of powerpoint presentations - short, to-the-point presentations of course because in my time I've lived through hours of Boardroom Powerpoint Hell and have no wish to inflict that on anyone else. I said I've _written_ a lot of presentations recently - but I didn't _design_ them. I'm a reasonably good writer but I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a designer and when I do attempt to make a presentation visually appealing, I end up spending more time trying to make it look good it than I did writing it, which seems to me like a pretty inefficient use of time for an inferior result. I (and the agencies I work for) are in the communications business, which means using both words _and_ pictures to tell a compelling, engaging story. You wouldn't run a press ad in Times New Roman with bullet points, so why shouldn't presentations that are supposed to be selling in creative campaigns be creative _themselves_? I worked on a big pitch for one agency a few years ago who insisted that the powerpoint was finished 48hrs before the pitch so that a designer on the pitch team could get hold of it and make it more visually engaging. The result was not just pretty slides but a more compelling _story_. So I've started saying to agency Account Directors that of course I can write the presentation - but someone else will have to handle the design side of things. Because a communication agency's 'shop window' should be just that.
by _The Marketoonist_
I changed opticians a couple of years ago - after a very minor eye problem that my high street opticians backed away from in horror and swiftly packed me off to the local eye hospital, I decided that I needed eyecare that was a little less _commoditised_. So my Dad referred me (as his mate had previously referred him) to a specialist independent opticians an hour away. It costs a bit more, but you really get your money's worth, from being examined by an experienced ophthalmologist with all the latest tech to having an actual optician (rather than a spotty adolescent in a badly fitting suit) assist with glasses selection. Add in comfy sofas, this month's Vogue and an unhurried appointment and paying a premium price isn't painful. The whole experience is so great that both my Dad and I recommend the practice all the time - and my lovely ophthalmologist tells me that in his growing business nearly all of his new patients come to him by recommendation, because his investment across the entire customer experience _does the marketing for him _and makes customers more than willing to pay for it. Essentially, while all service industries are migrating towards 'budget' and luxury' (gyms and hotels are great examples), the customer experience is what will most strongly differentiate and add Value - whether that is 'value for money' at the budget end or 'worth paying more for' at the higher end. If I had a client in a sector like gyms or hotels at the moment, I'd want to re-approach 'CRM' as joined-up 'CERM' - standing for Customer Experience and Relationship Management. Because happy customers do the marketing for you. by _The Marketoonist_
_update 22/7/16 - you can also read my (brief!) thoughts on this topic in Campaign here from March and here in July._ On Monday Tesco launched seven new 'brands' across fresh food, all bearing the names of fictional farms and 'exclusively at Tesco', i.e. Own Label in branded clothing.
image credit - NFUEssentially, Tesco are pulling their 'everyday value' ranges across meat, fruit and veg upmarket by means of literal Brand Value. Aldi and Lidl have been doing it for ages - most of their 'branded' products are in fact own label made-up brands produced exclusively for the retailer. Some of which are very much in the style of the original… _Aldi's brandjacking of Lurpak into Norpak, image courtsey of Solopress_ As the Aldi ads say, like brands, only cheaper. Anyway, back to Tesco - this move suggests that they are trying to win back the high-low shoppers who buy just-can't-live-without brands like Heinz Tomato Ketchup from Tesco then nip across the road to Aldi, Lidl or Netto to do the rest of their shop, perceiving that their second stop will offer similar or better quality than Tesco for a lower price. If the Value products at Tesco look this good then customer's quality perceptions at this price point should rise accordingly. I wrote _should_. The NFU (National Farmer's Union) are upset that the new packaging implies British grown food which might not be the case and that it is sourced from a single farm, which certainly isn't the case. The national newspapers (who seem to report on the Big 4 grocer's continuing difficulties as some kind of gripping soap opera) have been quick to inform their readers of Tesco's smokescreen. This leaves the door wide open for Morrisons and their new _Morrisons Makes It_ strapline to start talking about provenance and their uniquely vertically integrated supply chain - they own a lot of the British farms that supply their fresh food and a lot of the abattoirs and factories that process them too. So, overall, was it smart move for Tesco or not? Will it tempt the Aldirati back? I'm going to say that while moving to branded was very smart, making up farm names in an age when provenance is becoming ever more important was a bit short-sighted. _Updated same day to include this very relevant point from self confessed retail geek @BeansJust:_