Emotional Connections…

Whilst I am hugely intrigued by the way in which the human brain works, I am not an expert in neuroscience. My simplistic understanding is that the human brain has three key parts or layers which control how the brain processes information and makes decisions. The primitive part (the spinal cord and base of the brain) is responsible for many of our automatic systems and is core to our survival. Breathing, eating and sex all fall to this part of the brain. Around this is the emotional layer (the limbic system) where fear, happiness and aggression all start to play a part. Finally, surrounding and encasing this is the rational part of the brain (the human cortex). It manages a variety of things including logical reasoning, abstract thinking, hearing, seeing and our personalities. This is called the ‘executive’ part of the brain because, when we allow it, it considers all the inputs from the brain and makes rational decisions.

According to scientists who have studied and photographed the brain when it is making decisions, whilst all three parts are active, the rational and emotional parts are constantly in debate and it is not always logic that wins. Often our emotions win over rationality and we then create logical excuses after the fact. These interactions occur deep within our brains so fast, we aren’t even aware of them. 

It is this last point and not neuroscience that I think is really interesting and particularly powerful when we consider building relationships with others. When we can connect emotionally with others, we will build a much stronger and deeper routed bond and we will actually care about how they are and how they are doing.

From a marketing perspective, emotional campaigns have been proven to be more impactful. In the book Brand Immortality, Pringle and Field analysed over 900 IPA advertising campaigns to understand whether campaigns designed to appeal to the emotions or campaigns which provided information to rationally persuade people had higher profitability boosts. The results showed ‘fame’ campaigns, effectively campaigns delivering maximum emotional engagement were the most powerful, followed by emotional campaigns, then a mix of emotional and rational and then finally purely rational ones. It proved that emotional campaigns are almost twice as likely (31% vs. 16%) to generate large profit gains than rational ones, with campaigns that use facts as well as emotions in equal measure falling somewhere between the two.

Years ago, I was fortunate to take part in an internship for Unilever and spent some time working on Lynx, Vaseline, Dove and Sure. I then became a student brand manager on Lynx whilst at university. Since this point, I have always found the deodorant market interesting and whilst over the years the market has changed dramatically, one thing that has remained constant is the way in which different brands have positioned themselves.

First, at one extreme is Sure which has a very rational positioning and focuses on the fact that the deodorant will last and protect for 24 hours. This is a very rational requirement, although based on a strong and clear consumer insight and need. People are worried that their deodorant or anti-perspirant will not last long enough and this will mean they will smell bad later. Sure provides information and evidence to address these fears and aims to ensure that everyone who uses the brand will be ‘sure’ that they will be protected for an entire 24 hours. The resulting feeling from a user is probably safety, trust, comfort and a belief that Sure won’t let them down.

Gillette positions itself as ‘the best a man can get’. I have often wondered what this actually means as although it feels like quite an emotional positioning, it is actually quite rational. In essence, it is saying that Gillette products are the absolute best on the market for men. Normally this is backed up by technical information (like ‘the smoothest shave because it has three blades’) and this reinforces the positioning, again a rational one. The positioning is one step towards emotion from Sure but is still very rational.

At the other end of the spectrum is Lynx (or Axe) which has a hugely different positioning. For as long as I can remember, Lynx has had a strong identity, and has been, is and will always be about ‘guy gets girl.’ All communication and packaging reinforces this positioning. Everything tells the consumer that if you use Lynx, you will do better with the opposite sex. This is very emotional positioning. Is it believable? I am not sure but it has stood the test of time in countries all around the world, so the evidence probably speaks for itself. There is no doubt however, what Lynx stands for and how it connects with people.

Many people have studied and written in depth about this subject. Malcolm Gladwell in his book  Blink says ‘we make instant decisions without knowing why, and then make up rational reasons to justify an emotional decision’. Al Ries states in Positioning in the mind of the consumer, “the mistake we make is to assume people make wise, rational decisions based on the objective analysis of costs and benefits.” Conversely, Maya Angelou captures the power of this reality really well when she says: “they will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel”. However, I think Benjamin Franklin probably said it best in 1793, “If you must persuade, ’tis better to appeal to emotion rather than intellect.”

What about if you have no money?

Most people believe that marketing is the same as advertising (and I will come back to that misconception at a later date!)  For even more people advertising will be the solution to most problems.  And people believe this means TV if it can be afforded! What people seem to gloss over is that it should actually be the final thing on the list.  Don’t get me wrong, telling people about whatever it is you are selling is absolutely vital. However, you have to be telling them something they might be interested in hearing and thus buying. 
Sir Allan Sugar said “at the end of the day packaging and marketing is all superficial if what’s in the box is a load of rubbish. And so the most important thing to make sure is, what you’ve got in the box offers value for money, and then all the glitz is added on afterwards.”  On the flip side, Barbra James said “you can have the best product in the world, but if you can’t market it, it is not going to matter to anyone but yourself”.   So we have to find the balance between too much sizzle, not enough steak and a delicious steak but not enough sizzle!
Ernest Rutherford once said ‘We had no money, so we were forced to think’.  This is the perfect place to start developing any marketing strategy.  You must start with a core insight which should help you understand at the start and throughout a project, why you are developing the product / business / service.  You need to understand the target customer and accept that whatever you are creating won’t be suitable for everyone. Once the product has been developed and packaged, then and only then should you look to advertise.
At that point you should consider a whole variety of options from classic big budget TV (i.e. Cadbury’s) to the more innovative use of the labels on jeans (Howie’s Jeans give a manifesto on cotton which consumers can read prior to purchase).  It is important to note that consumers are receiving more messages, have more choice but have less time. The key is to find the absolute best way to talk to your target customer and stay true to that belief.
The key is to stay focused.  Steve Jobs is quoted as saying ‘I’m as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done’.  He goes on to say that ‘People think focus means saying yes to the project or commitment that it has already been decided to focus against. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully…’

Jog on kitties…

I LOVE the Cravendale adverts around ‘The Milk Matters…’ I think they are inspired.  Very simple, slightly odd and quirky, consistent but meaningful. 

For anyone reading this who doesn’t know what I am talking about, Cravendale is a brand of milk produced by Arla Foods and was the first milk brand to be officially approved as being beneficial for teeth. It is filtered to remove bacteria before pasteurisation and as such the milk lasts longer, stays fresher and is in theory more tasty than normal pasteurised milk. 

In 2011 Cravendale launched a new TV campaign called Cats With Thumbs featuring Bertram Thumbcat as its main protagonist.  In short, the advert implies that Cravendale is the greatest milk there is, the cats want it and the only thing stopping them getting it is the fact that they don’t have opposable thumbs.

The reason i really like these adverts is threefold.  First, I like the fact that they have found an insight which is that cats like milk and have used this to imply that if the cats want Cravendale then it must be good quality. This allows them to avoid having to explain all the details as to why it is better.

Secondly, their integration of the campaign across TV, Radio and the website is fantastic.  They are giving the same message to all, consistently and in a unique way.  They are also playing to the strengths of each medium.

Finally, the best  part of the whole advert is the fact it finishes with the phrase ‘jog on kitties’.  This is an insult, meaning ‘f*ck off’ which came from the British film “The Football Factory”.  So they have closed an advert by telling a bunch of imaginary cats to f*ck off.  Love it!

Superbrands… a good idea or not?

I had a meeting last week with UKA, the conversation digressed and we started chatting about P&G.  Their current campaign states the following: “We are P&G. We make many of your best-loved brands. We’ve been listening to mums for over 170 years. That’s why we’re delighted to be proud sponsor of mums.”  We debated how P&G can possibly claim to be ‘proud sponsor of mums’ when they aren’t actually paying for any official rights.  SPAR is an official sponsor of UKA and European Athletics.  The governing bodies have rights to sell. We pay for these rights and then use them.  To my knowledge, there is no governing body for ‘mums’ and therefore P&G have no ability to buy any rights to give them the ability to state what they are stating.  Curious eh? In reality though, not an issue i am likely to lose much sleep over.

However, what i find more interesting is how this campaign combined with their ‘worldwide partner’ status with the Olympic Games is designed to start to help consumers understand the size and scale of P&G and in effect help them build a superbrand.  P&G or Proctor & Gamble make a variety of the world’s top brands and sell billions of products every day.  Their brands include Pampers, Fairy, Gillette, Ariel, Lenor, Max Factor, Duracell, Olay, Pringles, Flash and more.  They seem to have recently decided that they want consumers around the world to understand who they are and what they do. 

But why?  Is this a good idea?  Will it give consumers additional confidence to buy P&G products if they are aware that other products are also made by P&G?  Will it build trust?  Am i more likely to buy Pampers if i already buy and trust Fairy and they are made by the same company? Maybe, i guess.  But is there a danger that people will dislike learning that some of their favourite brands are part of one of the world’s largest companies?  Will they see it as a good thing or another company trying to dominate the world?

What do others do? Are the same people aware of all the products that Unilever make?  Are sports consumers aware that Reebok is owned by Adidas?  Are car customers aware that Volkswagen owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen. Do soft drink consumers know the full range and extent of the products made by the Coca-Cola company?  Do people know that General Mills owns Old El Paso, Green Giant, Betty Crocker, Haagen Dazs and much more.  Does it matter?

I don’t really have an answer.  I know a lot about what these major companies do probably because i have spent most of my career in FMCG marketing. Does the average consumer know?  I doubt it.  But will it be a good thing if they are told… only time will tell.

Finding a decent trader…

One thing I am always amazed by is the lack of professionalism that certain companies exhibit.  At the moment I am trying to find a landscape gardener to do some work in my garden (obviously!)  Nothing too drastic but a new layout and fixing up some current issues.    I asked around and got given a couple of recommendations and I used yell.com and Google to find some businesses in the local area whom I could contact.  Of the 7 or 8 companies I wrote to (emailed) or called or both, only one ever called me back.  This in itself amazes me when we are in the middle of a recession!
The one who called me seemed great.  He was very attentive and he came round fairly quickly to have a look at the job.  He clearly knows his stuff about gardens and landscape design.  He is a young guy who actually started his own business with a grant from the Prince’s Trust a number of years ago.   We got on well and he even let my 3-year old daughter help him measure up.  I immediately trusted that this guy would do a good job and that I would be happy having him in my home. 
A week or so later we had a digital meeting where with a combination of the phone and an internet meeting, he was able to talk me through his designs (3D) and the associated quote.  All good so far!  He promised to send me a quote the next day.
Since that point it has all started to go downhill.  The next day turned into a week later and the quote was a random selection of standard paragraphs about grass and gravel with a cost at the bottom.  We had a chat and I explained that I needed a more detailed, itemised quote which actually explained what he would do and what was and wasn’t included.  He told me they stopped doing this a few years ago but he would do one for me.  I helped by sending him a list of 12 questions to which he responded, pretty much proving my point!  As an example…he hadn’t included the cost of a skip but we needed one!  His understanding of some of the work required on the patio was different to mine.
What I just don’t understand is why these this guy (and other good people and companies) can’t understand that as a consumer, with limited knowledge about gardening, I need some detail and confidence before I can commit to spending a decent amount of money on a job.  I have had a lot of ‘dodgy’ experiences with builders etc who always try to add stuff on that ‘wasn’t included’ when clearly it was.  Even at work, I have this a lot, especially with agencies but over time I have learnt that the more specific I can be up front the less surprises there are later.  There is definitely a gap in the market for a trader who actually provides all the information required to give me confidence as a consumer, build trust and get the work!  One day I might find one…

Effective Marketing Communications…

Developing effective marketing communications is difficult and complicated.  However, before any communications plans can be developed, it is vital to invest time in getting the objective for any communication activity right from the outset.  I would argue that is actually the most important part of the communication strategy. There are many more permutations of media, content and touch-points than ever before. This means the process of planning all this multi-channel, often multimarket communication can get very complicated. But by having a clear objective and the right kind of objective, it is possible to keep things as simple as possible.


The objective must also be rooted in the commercial requirements of the business.  It is important to remember that marketing communication is not the sole solution for all commercial goals. It is surprising how often communication is posed as an answer to any business problem. There are things that communication can do and things that it can’t do. Communication is obviously good at creating awareness, imparting information, creating a brand image and creating desire for products. But it can’t replace the effect of good product innovation or an effective distribution strategy or good stores. Therefore marketing communication must sit alongside all other business tools aimed at delivering commercial success.  

Marketing communications includes all channels and media used to engage target audiences, from PR to advertising, sales promotions to packaging design.  In the past whilst communication activities may have had individual strategies, they rarely had strategies that ‘touched’ each other. Different channels were used to do different jobs and as long as the jobs got done, then that was fine. More recently, several new factors have emerged to challenge this way of working and as a result it is important that you question your assumptions about the media world to ensure that it reflects a landscape that is changing in some fast and fundamental ways. It will also help inform your decision on which marketing communications channels to use for your business.

Don’t assume you only need paid for media
Don’t assume that mass coverage is necessary
Don’t assume communications is one-way
Because there are lots of available media doesn’t mean you have to use them
Selectivity of media becomes even more important as there has been an explosion of different media available.  You only need the channels that will deliver your objective. Sometimes dominating a single channel can be very effective or even choosing a specific positioning within one.
Nowadays it is more difficult to communicate with consumers and to make matters worse, communication budgets have never been under greater pressure. Broadly speaking this demands a holistic approach to planning how a brand can engage its audience. You must also consider how the creative content and the media work together. Where previously individual channel activity was planned separately, it should now be planned together. Where previously communication meant just above and below the line, you must now conceive it as the entirety of touch-points between a brand and the consumer.

It is also important to make sure each channel has a clear role to play and fits with the other media that are used – they must work together. You are aiming for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. Each channel should have a specific role to play in achieving the overall objective and each one should work harder because of the presence of the others. This is often called the multiplier effect. The channels used will reflect what we’re trying to achieve and the customer’s journey to purchase. This produces a series of ‘touch-points’ with customers, i.e. every opportunity where our brand comes into contact with a customer.

One of the benefits of following your target audience on their journey to purchase is a more efficient and impactful marketing spend which will enable you to surround your target customer at multiple touch-points throughout their journey to purchase with one consistent message and a strong call to action. 

Conducting the orchestra…

I have been in Marketing now for a number of years.  I was ‘classically trained’ in brand management  and only recently moved from an FMCG environment to a retail environment.  One of the things that i have learnt from my career so far is that it is not possible or important to play every role within a project but it is vital to coordinate everything.  That to me is what brand management or project management is really all about.
I used to compare the role to that of a football manager trying to get the most out of his team or the concept of spokes on a wheel with the brand manager at the centre.  However, more recently i believe a better comparison is to that of an orchestra, with the brand manager being the conductor.  There are a number of similarities and critical points i would urge you to consider:
1.  The conductor of the orchestra has to provide clear direction and leadership to the entire group.  He is the maestro and the one everyone looks to, including the audience. If it all goes smoothly, he/she gets the credit but if something goes wrong, he/she gets the blame.
2.  It is vital that every musician in the orchestra is playing from the same music sheets.  Everyone has to be ‘singing off the same hymn sheet’ if the recital is going to go smoothly.
3.  There are some musicians within the orchestra who may only play a very small role in a particular concerto.  However, everyone plays a vital part in the delivery of the music to the audience and they all need to be part of the journey from the start, even if they are only involved late on.
4.  Everyone in the orchestra stays alert and pays attention all the time. This is vital as the conductor brings in the right people at the right time to make it all work and the musicians have to be ready and waiting for their instructions. 
5.  The orchestra is a team with every member a critical part driving to ensure that the music sounds as perfect as possible.  Their goal is to play great music together, not to sound or look great individually.
6.   The conductor doesn’t have to play every instrument (or in fact any instruments) but instead his role is to bring good musicians together and help them play at the right time, in the right place and at the right speed to make the music sound right.
7.   A great sounding orchestra keeps the audience in awe  
The comparison to brand and project management is clear.  To deliver a project we don’t (and often can’t) do everything ourselves, and nor should we.  We must try to bring the right team together and lead and support them to a great project delivery.  As the brand manager, we have to become maestros!

Pizza dough like play doh!

I have always been a big fan of Pizza Express. I think the food has always been of a high standard and in my personal opinion their pizzas are the best around.  Meanwhile over the past year or two Pizza Express has become a very voucher oriented eating occasion.  It seems to be a cycle they can’t get out of.  Pizzas for £1.  Kids and adults eat for £10.  3 courses for £12 and so on…  I understand why this was created, especially in the heart of a recession, but unfortunately for pizza express, the main reason for visiting has become some form of offer.  This is made even worse by the fact that Ask and Prezzo are also always giving lots of discounts and vouchers!

They have tried to combat this trend recently through new menus, pizzas with salads in the middle and so on but nothing has really worked, especially on me personally. That was until recently when the Pizza Express in Stanmore was completely re-vamped. Now whilst it looks great, in reality it still serves the same food with the same moderate (at best!) service.  What has made a big difference for me is the innovation for children, and it’s so simple!

First, they have continued with the Piccolo menu which isn’t bad value at £6.25 for dough balls, salad, pizza and a dessert.  Then there is a box with a few books and games which anyone can take and enjoy at their tables.  Pretty good for young children.  But then there is the newest addition… an area opposite where the chef makes his pizzas, where children sit on stools and are given some pizza dough, some flour, a rolling pin and a selection of cutters to play with.  When the chef has time he shows the kids how to make a pizza base or how to make dough balls.  The children love it as its like Play Doh but with pizza dough!  The cost is minimal, the engagement is huge and for me as a parent, knowing i can take my daughter to pizza express for food she will eat and an experience she will enjoy makes a massive difference.

The result is that Pizza Express is back on the list of family meals whether i have a voucher or not.  The solution was so simple!  Seems like a good trade off to me… a bit of dough from them in return for a bit of dough from me!

Emails popping up!

I do rather enjoy Friday’s.  For some unknown reason, which i cannot really understand, everything is quieter, more relaxed and i get far less emails.  It is almost as if there is an unwritten rule that the working week is really between midday Monday and Thursday afternoon. 

The rest of the week however, is pure madness where because of modern technology, i am able to be contacted at every opportunity whether by phone or email.  Emails sometimes remind me of that game at the fair where the little creatures pop up and you have to whack them on the head but no matter how quickly you hit them, more keep appearing and the result is you being tired!

I went to a meeting for 30 minutes yesterday and when i returned i had 23 new emails.  I quickly sieve them to see how many are likely to be junk, personal, filing or need to be dealt with.  I hope that the latter group is the smallest.  There is almost nothing more joyous than all the emails being junk or all being about football on Saturday morning as ‘the boys’ have started to banter and filled my inbox.  The panic of an increased workload disppears and is replaced with the amusement of the banter, made all the more enjoyable because they are the majority of the emails!

I sometimes wish i could have lived in the ‘pride and prejudice’ era of letters and horses.  Things would have been so much slower back then!  You wouldn’t have found people writing annoying one line unnecessary letters when they took 4 weeks on horse back to deliver!  Today people avoid phone and face to face conversations as it is easier to quickly send an email.  We all do this but it is a horrible behaviour.

Obviously, i don’t really want to live in that era as i love my Sky+ HD, my IPAD and my car but you know what i mean!  Working life today is a constant stream which rarely lets up… meaning that work-life balance and enjoying one’s job is absolutely critical.  I am fortunate that i see my wife and kids a lot and enjoy my job.  I feel for those who don’t…

Whats happened to the apprentice?

Every Thursday the conversations at work revolve around the apprentice!  I used to be a massive fan of the show but it just doesn’t do it for me any more… when it began in 2005 as a relatively unknown programme on BBC2 it involved a group of talented young businessmen and women and they competed for a chance to win a £100k a year job as Lord / Sir Alan Sugar’s apprentice.  Series 3 saw the show move to BBC1 and it was at that point that I think the essence has been diluted.

Over the years, the quality of the candidates has declined to the point where effectively now it is a group of absolute muppets who couldn’t tie their own shoes without help!  The show has moved from a quality group of aspiring young professionals being asked to complete interesting tasks to Big Brother on BBC1.  It is a bunch of people who are chosen to engage with a mass audience and are required to argue, fight and bicker whilst living in a house and doing tasks.  The only difference between The Apprentice and Big Brother is that the tasks are held outside the house (and the people might be slightly more intelligent!)

Dragons Den is another example of this dilution for mass appeal.  What started as an interesting programme focused on investments has become a show which focuses on people asking for money for stupid ideas and messing up their pitches.  Every episode also has to have a series of Dragon’s cliches so they can build their own TV personalities and careers.  I preferred it when they spoke about good ideas for a while as that was actually interesting.  See someone fluff their pitch on a stupid product that clearly has no hope, to allow Theo to say he wouldnt invest his children’s inheritance was funny at first but is now annoying. 

Now, don’t get me wrong… i understand why this has happened. From a TV perspective, the latest versions of both these shows are far more on trend for the mass audience and will be far more watched and thus lucrative from a BBC perspective.  However, as someone who used to watch because they interested me, i just don’t like them.  I’d rather watch Geordie Shore as at least they don’t pretend to be clever and business oriented! To make the Apprentice even worse, even Lord Sugar doesn’t want to hire them!  He has changed the prize to be a £250k investment in a business of the candidate’s creation, with Lord Sugar as a 50% owner.  I think that says it all!