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Quantitative Research Survey Methods: Comparing Online vs. Telephone vs. Face-to-face

Best in Show Winner Crufts 2015. Comparing Quantitative Research Survey Modes

Comparing Online vs. Telephone vs. Face-to-face Quantitative Research Survey Methods;  Which is top dog?

Quantitative Research Survey Modes, Top Dog at Crufts
Top Dog i.e. Best in Show Winner Crufts 2015

Recent OFCOM Research (1) highlighted that 71% of the UK receive 9 nuisance calls a month. Also that telephone is the #4 culprit. This questions whether this quantitative research survey mode has had its day? But while online has grown in share, is this top dog? We’ve looked closely at the merits of online, telephone (random direct dialing) and face-to-face (ftf).  Several insights emerged. So if you are about to brief in a quantitative research survey, this article summarises our findings. It also spotlights ideas to help you make the most of your research investment.

Cost of research

Costs vary by sample size, ease of reaching an audience or ‘incidence’, the length of survey, mode, and also complexity of fieldwork and analysis. Some costs such as coding for online research, computer aided telephone interviewing (CATI) and computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) are similar. Compared with online (index =100) fieldwork costs are typically higher for face-to-face (index 250-300) than telephone (index 250-300) due to the greater human time involved.

Coverage or reach

Online presently reaches 87% of the UK (1) though many online surveys run via panels which cover just 5% of the population. Thus sample carefully to cover geographic gaps and bear in mind that respondents are also usually more ‘Internet experienced’. Conversely, nearly all homes have access to at least one phone though telephone databases cover just 60% UK (and we suspect even fewer are opted-in to research). Within this fixed line telephone reaches 79% (with greater penetration among older respondents) and mobiles reach 96% (with greater penetration of younger respondents) (1).  Face-to-face also reaches most places (though at a cost).

UK penetration of quantitative research survey modes 2019 graph
UK penetration of quantitative research survey modes – 2019

Response rates

Online response depends on the nature of the panel, and how responsive and interested respondents are; expect between 5-30%. Conversely, response from links on websites or emails depend on the nature of the source. Telephone responses have also fallen over the last decade and responses are now around 10-15%. Face-to-face response, by contrast, is around 15-20%.

Avidy bias (Sample bias)

The self-selection nature of online means there is a greater risk of respondents opting-in to surveys that interest them. This is called avidy bias. Typically online respondents are younger, more familiar with the online world and spend more time on it. They are also more informed, more opinionated and more politically activist. (2) Panels also contain more early technology adopters though it remains possible to discern other types on the diffusion of innovation spectrum.

Social desirability bias

Research (3, 4) observes that those responding by telephone present more socially desirable responses more often than face-to-face (FTF). This is particularly the case with those with lower intellectual ability/fewer years of formal education (i.e. C2DEs).  Research also shows that respondents are more comfortable discussing sensitive subjects face-to-face as they can see. This they have greater trust in the interviewer. Conversely, FTF interviews conducted in the respondent’s home eliminate anonymity, making socially desirable responses more pronounced. Overall however, interpersonal trust between the interviewer and the respondent has a greater influence resulting in more honest responses. FTF also shows similar results to online (where there is no interviewer effect). However some research (5) has observed higher valuation responses to some ‘willingness to pay’ questions. For example, when there is a perceived ‘civic virtue’ in being seen to contribute to a common good.


Satisficing (combining the words satisfy and sacrifice) involves short-cutting the response process, settling on a solution that is ‘good enough’ but could be ‘optimised’.

Telephone poses an increased cognitive burden. The increased difficulty to fully comprehend questions, reduces the effort to cooperate, search the memory and process information. Perceived time pressure also fatigues and demotivates. As a result, questions are less considered, giving rise to higher acquiescence (answering affirmatively regardless of the question), having no opinions, choosing mid-points or only extremes in rating scales, easier to defend answers and reduced disclosure. Again this is more evident with those with lower intellectual ability.  Further research (3, 4, 5) suggests FTF researchers are better able to judge confusion, waning motivation, distraction (via watching a tv, eating etc.), Thus also be better able motivate and make it easier for the respondent to understand questions and improve cooperation on complex tasks. Conversely, with online, respondents go at their own pace.

Marketing Inspiration

(1) Great research starts with a great market research brief. Decide your target and what’s most important. Beyond feasibility and answers to questions, what’s the relative importance of cost, speed, precision etc.

(2) There are many pitfalls in conducting quantitative research. Even more if you would like to repeat a survey or set up a tracker.  So use larger samples to give greater reliability; a sample in excess of 1000 will give more reliability than a sample of 500. This means that repeating a survey 100 times means that in 95 instances, responses (confidence interval) will be within +/- 1%. Also make sure data is comparable from wave to wave, and design shorter surveys to cut the risk of satisficing.

(3) Take care to make sure samples are not biased and give reliable findings. Nationally representative samples are essential to measure awareness, usage and market share. Also make sure your sample eliminates any demographic, subject affinity, usage or other bias.

(4) Buyer beware. Remember the Whiskas advert that famously told us that ‘8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas’. This was eventually changed to ‘8 out of 10 owners that expressed a preference said their cats preferred Whiskas’. However, what we still don’t know is the sample size, how many said ‘don’t know’, and how many expressed a preference. So whatever the survey mode, be clear what is statistically significant or merely directional, and make the context clear. This will help you avoid being duped and make better decisions! Meoww, yum!


(1) OFCOM (2019).

(2) Duffy Bobby, Smith Kate, Terhanian George, Bremer John. Comparing Data from Online and Face-to-face Surveys. International Journal of Market Research Vol 47 Issue 6. (2005)

(3) Holbrook Allyson L, Green Melanie C, Krosnick Jon A. Telephone versus Face-to-face interviewing of National Probability Samples with Long Questionnaires. Public Opinion Quarterly, Volume 67:79–125 (2003).

(4) Szolnoki G, Hoffman D. Online, face-to-face and telephone surveys – Comparing different sampling methods in wine consumer research. Wine Economics and Policy 2 (2013) 57-66.

(5) Lindhjema Henrik, Navrudb Ståle. Are Internet surveys an alternative to face-to-face interviews in contingent valuation? Ecological Economics 70(9): 1628-1637 (2011).

The Marketing Directors and The Market Researchers have no vested interest in promoting one quantitative research survey mode over another. Thus, we work in partnership with the world’s leading online, telephone and face-to-face fieldwork companies to deliver the best solution for you.  Read about all of our market research services.

Tesco Marketing; Can Big Be Beautiful Again?

Tesco marketing | Tesco store

Following recent profit warnings (2014), Tesco veteran and CEO Philip Clark has fallen on his sword and given way to an outsider – Dave Lewis from Unilever.

In this article and short video, Tim Arnold and Guy Tomlinson discuss what’s gone wrong with Tesco marketing, and suggest some issues and opportunities for Tesco’s incoming CEO to explore.

The Tesco success story in brief


Founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen, Tesco is one of the world’s largest retailers. In 1993,  facing more service-centric competition, under Lord MacLaurin, the original ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ strategy was replaced by ‘every little helps’. This manifest in improved service as well as low prices. In recent years Tesco has been so successful that it garnered a 30% share of the grocery market.

Big is not necessarily beautiful

When you grow so big, growth in core markets becomes increasingly difficult. Tesco addressed this challenge by diversifying into new markets. These include new countries (such as the USA) and new sectors such as telecommunications and financial services. In the UK, Tesco expanded into new neighbourhoods by taking over small high street stores and pubs.

What’s gone wrong with Tesco marketing?

The recession years have seen the rise of lower cost grocery alternatives such as Aldi and Lidl and experiential or ‘quality’ alternatives such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. As customers migrated to these two ends of the grocery market the middle-ground has become an uncomfortable place to compete.

Tesco’s ‘every little helps’ proposition appears to have become increasingly insignificant and meaningless. The price proposition – just a little too uncompetitive and the store experience – just a little boring.

However purchasing influences have changed. There are a growing range of price, experience, personality-rich and digital shopping options and tools. Customers have also become increasingly ‘savvy’. There is more shopping around. The price of loyalty also appears to have exceeded a couple of Clubcard points. Whereby Tesco marketing once had an advantage with the Clubcard and the accompanying big data insights this provided, this now seems eroded. Tesco appears to have failed to understand and adapt to changing customer behaviour and desires.

In a video interview, Dave Lewis also says that staff morale is low.  In turn this raises questions about the relationship between the management team and front-line staff, the management ethos and culture.

The challenge for Dave Lewis is to trace and understand the reasons behind these issues.

Between the lines we suspect that Tesco has become a victim of its own success. It has lost its heart. The relentless pursuit of profit has hindered and not enhanced customer, employee, community and supplier relationships. Perhaps by unwittingly creating a cultural myopia. Compounded by an over-reliance on big data systems and analysis. And also prioritising revenue growth and profit over the best interests of customers, employees, communities and suppliers. The £250m profit black-hole due to the accounting of supplier rebates also seems consonant with a less than open culture.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. There will always be a limit how big a brand can grow before the benefit of big becomes a liability.  Success is culturally reinforcing only to the point when something goes wrong. Then is the time to understand, challenge and redefine the cultural norms.
  2. Customers are not all the same. Thus one ‘size’ no longer fits all.  However, markets grow by adding new segments so by understanding and revealing new segments could reveal new growth opportunities.  This will therefore require creativity and research to understand and tap into customer needs, attitudes and motivations, not just big shopping and purchasing data analysis.   
  3. Over-reliance on one form of intelligence gathering and managing a business also risks myopia. Big data analysis is also limited in being just that – big data analysis. It risks ‘failing to see the wood for the trees’. It is also a rational activity, run by computers – with rational outcomes. Relying on rational analytic methods alone thus ignores important emotional drivers.
  4. Customers are human. They have emotional needs as well as rational needs.  When Tesco originally introduced their ‘every little helps’ strategy’ this added an extra ‘nice touch’ to their earlier wholly rational offer. A new way of connecting emotionally with customers therefore needs defining. The value proposition also needs strengthening and sharpening. In particular, the brand needs to become more human, personality-rich and experiential. Humans and human common-sense should take back control from computers and data management systems – and thus deliver the brand.
  5. Can big be beautiful again? There are precedents for success in Archie Norman’s revitalisation of Asda in the 1990s. Understanding customers and their needs via market research and then putting them first is a good place to start. The reward will be their loyalty. We wish Mr. Lewis every success.

Political Branding; Scottish Independence vs. Better Together

Scotland brand positioning

Battle of the nation brands

The Scottish electorate voted on the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ on Thursday 18th September 2015. The UK Government stated that if a simple majority of the votes cast were in favour of independence, then “Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations”. If the majority voted against independence, then Scotland would continue within the United Kingdom (1).  In addition, further powers would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as a result of the Scotland Act 2012. This article looks at some of the drivers and barriers from a political branding and also marketing perspective.

Salmond vs Cameron, political branding figureheads
What are drivers and barriers to Scottish Independence?

The Scottish electorate

Scottish residents over the age of 16 were eligible to vote, and according to the National Records for Scotland, 4.1m people registered to do so (2). Though of nearly half a million EU citizens living in Scotland just 94k registered. 16-17 year olds also voted for the first time. This is as a result of a political bargain or trade which suggests different benefits to the different political sides.

Influencing process

Influencing starts with awareness of an issue or opportunity. Appreciating or rejecting an idea, engaging (and potentially interacting with other influences or influencers) then follows to reinforce or change voting intention and behaviour. Research in political science has traditionally ignored non-rational considerations in theories of mass political behaviour though a growing literature suggests that affective states (i.e. emotions or feelings in contrast to cognition) are both beneficial and biasing (3). Further research (4) also found that anxiety and enthusiasm encourage more evaluation and consideration of political choices. In addition that events such as the outcome of football matches (5) and the weather (6) can stir emotions and affect voting decisions.

Political influencing process
Steps involved in the political influencing process

How does the electorate perceive the question?

The ‘Yes’ camp framed the question as Scotland vs. Westminster and painted Westminster, and the likes of David Cameron, as the enemy. Meanwhile, the ‘Better Together’ team argued that the question is not about choosing between two states but about choosing between one or both. Though through the electorate’s eyes there is a greater spectrum of options from Scotland the brand, to both Scottish and British brands. However, exactly where perceptions lie is key to electoral success.

Nation brand architecture options
Some of the Independent Scotland vs. alternative brand architecture options

What are the benefits of Scottish Independence?

Establishing the benefits or disbenefits of Scottish independence is difficult as much is unknown. Financial management was centre-stage, with the ‘Yes’ campaign playing up the benefits of the oil reserves. Equally ‘Better Together’ stressed the ability of the UK to offer longer term financial stability. Both sides also espouse the benefits of their causes, and the negatives of the other. For example, while the ‘Yes’ campaign manifesto claims to have a costed and credible plan, ‘Better Together’ disagree.

At the most rational level, some studies suggest that voters vote for what they do not want to lose, as much as what they hope to gain (7). Which is why spreading fear, uncertainty and also doubt is a strategy employed by both sides to ‘diss’ the other.

Features and benefits of Independent Scotland
Features and benefits of Independent Scotland vs. Better Together

Our experience is that emotional arguments are more likely to hold sway. These are more deep-rooted than price/value arguments. For example, that Scottish independence gives Scotland greater control. Thus the ’Yes’ campaign challenge is to make this a meaningful benefit and convince the electorate that they can be relied on if granted ‘more’ control.

A distinctive Scottish voice?

A distinctive Scottish voice or personality is another feature of independent Scotland. Though the challenge is also to make this compelling. Historical evidence suggests ‘Scottishness’ is reasonably clear (Burns, bagpipes, whisky, golf, scenery etc.) though future ‘Scottishness’ is harder to comprehend.  The Saltire, for example, is more ubiquitous in Scotland, than the flag of St. George in England. It is possible that a distinctive Scottish voice could raise Scotland’s profile and status on the world stage. It could also raise self esteem. All are particularly powerful emotional benefits. Thus this perhaps explains why a lot of effort has gone into defining Scotland the brand (8) and promoting Scottish iconography. Though one suspects the electorate are unaware of the underlying strategic nation branding effort.

Nevertheless, all things Scottish instill pride in being Scottish as much as the white rose, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and Yorkshire Dales instill pride in Yorkshire folk. Pride is a powerful emotional benefit and is rooted in history as well as personal experiences.

A key issue is whether voters prefer ‘Scottishness’ over ‘Britishness’

Or the best of both. While the concept is ‘Britishness’ is harder to define, the Prime Minister recently attempted to do so (9), and the London 2012 opening ceremony illustrates some elements.

Marketing Inspiration

Scottish Saltire - brand logo
The Scottish Saltire signals welcome to Scotland the brand
  1. Brand promotion is a precursor to brand recognition and engagement whether in politics or not. So use multiple means, and all available relationships to promote your brand and identity in places where it has positive and credible associations.
  2. Abstract ideas are hard to understand yet alone agree with so clearly articulate goals to tangibilise an idea and foster support.
  3. Persuasion requires the winning of hearts and minds. Though different customer segments have different agendas; some are more cerebral, some more sophisticated, and some more emotional or cost driven. Thus by understanding the needs, and hot buttons of all, it is easier to devise messages and policies that resonate and persuade. And also avoid alienating.
  4. For those competing in high risk and high reward markets, be ready for ever-increasing scrutiny and challenge.
  5. And what’s our opinion? Make emotional benefits centre stage to your political branding strategy. Further, in the run up to, during and beyond the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games brace yourselves for even more emotion!

Post election update; as the ‘nayes’ won, we’re delighted to retain our Scottish cousins …. though there are maneoverings for #indyref2 – return of the big beasts.


  1. About the Scottish Independence Referendum, UK Government, May 2014
  2. National Records for Scotland May 2014
  3. Andreadis, I; Chadjipadelis, Th. (2005), Differences in Voting Behaviour, pp. 1-13
  4. Kyogoku, J; Ike, N. (1960) Urban-Rural Differences in Voting Behaviour in Postwar Japan, pp. 167-185
  5. Marcus, G; Neuman, R; MacKuen, M. (2000), Affective Intelligence and Political Judgement, University of Chicago Press
  6. Healy, A; Malhotra, N; Hyunjung Mo, C. (2010), “Irrelevant events affect voters’ evaluations of government performance”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences if the United States of America 107 (29); 12804-12809
  7. Kahneman, D.; Tversky, A. (1984), “Choices, Values, and Frames”, American Psychologist 39 (4): 341–350
  8. Scotland the brand aims and characteristics.
  9. Cameron, D. Stop being bashful about Britishness, June 15 2014, Mail on Sunday, as reported by the BBC.

Shopper Marketing: Context, Trends and Ideas to Help You Gain Competitive Advantage

Shopper marketing

Shopper Marketing : views from a small island

Shopper marketing started thousands of years ago. But in modern times it  emerged from the disciplines of retail marketing and trade marketing. It involves “understanding how consumers behave as shoppers, across different channels and formats. And also leveraging this knowledge to target and benefit shoppers, retailers and brand owners.”

Sub-titled ‘Views from a small island’ (the UK) this presentation was delivered at Marketing One’s Shopper Marketing Conference in Moscow in February 2013. It provides insights from one of the most competitive and concentrated retail markets in the world – the UK.  The video runs for 13 minutes.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. It is often quoted that 70% of brand selections are made in-store, however a similar proportion of buying decisions are unplanned. To make wise investment decisions, it is important to understand the entire retail buyer and shopper journey. In particular, to understand what triggers a consumer need, drives product awareness and consideration, selection, purchase, usage, loyalty and advocacy.
  2. How much, and where or how to invest also depends on the competitive context, brand life-cycle stage and the marketing and promotion challenge your brand faces. So consider who is the customer? Also whether to drive awareness, change brand perceptions, reinforce brand stand-out or added-value? Or increase purchase or usage frequency or volume, gifting, or pre-empt a competitor?
  3. Increasing in-store distribution and display drives visibility. So consider marketing strategies to do this. Should you be more trade marketing led or more consumer marketing led or both?
  4. Devise and use qualitative research to reveal new insights and gain an advantage over your competitors. This require both creative and commercial research approches.

Brand Personality; How Kulula Stands-Out in South African Skies

Kulula brand personality

Investing brand personality is an under-estimated way to set brands apart and engage customers. is an airline that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its humorous brand personality is clear through all aspects of the brand experience. So how did this all begin? And also what lessons can we learn and apply to your brand?

Having identified a gap in the market for a low-cost airline to bring air travel to the South African masses, launched in July 2001. It operates on major domestic routes out of Tambo International Airport and Lanseria on the outskirts of Johannesburg. As building a business based on price alone risks vulnerability to attack from more established airlines, it has hewn a positioning based on ease, inspirational service and safety. This is summed up in its name which means ‘easy’ in Zulu. Though most distinctive is its brand personality. Being totally honest, straight-forward and helping people lighten-up.

Convey brand personality through inventive advertising

Launching with a budget of just 3m rand (c. £200k) demands cut-through communication. The brand launched with a super heroes campaign. The  jingle espouses “Now Everyone Can Fly” (and there isn’t a plane in sight).

Convey personality through product and service appearance

Similarly to easyjet’s bright orange in the UK, Kulula has a distinctive lime green livery.  The unconventional markings include ‘this way up’ and arrows pointing to parts of the plane, including rudder, nose cone, sun-roof. Also to where ‘the big cheese’ (‘captain, my captain’) sits.

Amusing public relations

When South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup and in 2010 it ran a campaign describing itself as the “Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What”. This took place “Not next year, not last year, but somewhere between”. Another advert announced “affordable flights [to] everybody except Sepp Blatter” (the FIFA president), who was offered a free seat “for the duration of that thing that is happening right now”. Obviously, oblique references to the World Cup which FIFA intervened to stop. Thus creating even more publicity for Kulula.

People are key to brand personality

Kulula flight crew are encouraged to let their natural talent show through. Here are some examples heard of or reported from in-flight “safety lectures” and announcements :

“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks descend from the ceiling and provide free oxygen. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are with more than one small child, pick your favourite.”

“There are 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.”

“Your seat cushions float; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and then take them with our compliments.”

“It is with pleasure that Kulula Airlines announces that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

“We’ve reached cruising altitude and will now turn down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance your flight attendants’ appearance.”

Here are some comments heard after a few extremely hard landings

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please stay in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”

The airline has a policy which requires the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exit, smile, and say “thanks for flying our airline”. In light of a particularly bad landing, he had a hard time looking passengers in the eye, expecting a smart comment from someone. Finally a little old woman walking with a cane disembarked the aircraft saying;

“Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Why, no Ma’am,”
said the pilot. “What is it?”
“Did we land, or were we shot down?”

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement:

“We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to blast through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you think of Kulula Airways.”

“As you exit the plane, please gather all of your belongings. If not, we’ll then distribute anything left evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”

“Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.”

“Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Brand personality, i.e. characteristics, beliefs and behaviours, should be a key component of any brand strategy. Use it to enhance the ‘stand-out’ of your brand.
  2. In a world awash with corporate grey, a rich and clear personality, injects colour and breathes life into brands. Executed effectively this maximises impact and engages. It also fuels a strong emotional connection with customers.
  3. When problems occur or disasters strike, as often happens in the service industry, self-deprecation and humour defuses issues and alleviates stress. So allow your people to let their natural personalities shine through. Also recruit people to match your personality and build your brand.
  4. And great ideas also make budgets go further. As Kulula says “smiles and jokes are free” (1).
  5. A humourous brand message and personality entertains. It also creates a talking point and inspires social media and email sharing.
  6. And leave readers to question whether or not this is an April Fool’s joke ….


  1. Kulula Airlines

The Marketing of Science

Professor Brian Cox - A Scientist in the Media

It was a typical Manchester day as we drove north to my old University town. But a rainy day tinged with excitement at the invitation to listen to the University’s astrophysics professor, and particle physics researcher at the Large Hadron Collider (1) near Geneva, Switzerland, Brian Cox to speak on the subject of ‘A Scientist in the Media’.

Professor Brian Cox - A Scientist in the Media
Professor Brian Cox – A Scientist in the Media

His BBC tv series mesmerise – The Wonders of the Solar System and The Wonders of the Universe. Also, a  physicists take on The Wonders of Life. As Brian explains “It is what hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years”.

The Cockroft Rutherford Lecture 2012 | Brian Cox
Brian Cox delivers The Cockroft Rutherford Lecture 2012 at the University of Manchester

Marketing science in the tv age

Astronomer, Carl Sagan was one of the first scientists of the television age. His award-winning 1980s series, Cosmos – A personal voyage, opens with the stirring words. 

“The cosmos is all it is, or ever was or ever will be. The contemplations of the cosmos stir us. There is a tingling in the spine, that catch in the voice. A faint sensation as if a distant memory of falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries. The size and age of the cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home, the Earth. Our future depends on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float like a speck of dust in the morning sky.”

Carl Sagan

Underlining that science not just about creating a few smells and bangs, but a cultural endeavour to understand and also shape our futures.

More recently Jim Al-Khalili‘s (Professor of Physics,  University of Surrey) BAFTA nominated series on Chemistry: A Volatile History and Alice Roberts‘ (medical doctor, anthropologist and Professor at the University of Birmingham) The Incredible Human Journey have won widespread acclaim. Both series have powerful narratives. As testimony to their abilities, both are now Professors in Public Engagement in Science at their respective Universities.

Where science marketing started?

But the promotion of science predates the television age. The Royal Institution of Science first championed public interest in science some 200 years ago. Started by Michael Faraday in 1825, they are most famous for their Christmas Lectures. Situated in Albemarle Street in London, this is also the site of the first one-way system – established to marshall gentry in their horse-drawn carriages to and from the Royal Institution.

The effect on University science applications

With applications for 2012 entry down by 7% vs 2011 (180k) to 2.37 million (1) it is a difficult year for Universities. Further, against the backdrop of up to £9,000 fees introduced this year this is hardly surprising.

Yet what about science specifically? University applications for sciences held up better than the UK average for all subjects and therefore accounted for 33% of 2011 applications compared with 31% in 2010. Biological science applications are also 4.4% (9k) lower. While physical sciences are just 0.6% (546) lower and medicine and related sciences are 1% (4k) higher (2). Applications to the University of Manchester are 10% (5.3k) lower vs 2010.

Looking at another measure of public interest, the book best-seller lists; the hardback of Brian Cox’s The Wonders of The Universe sold over 100k copies in 2011. This was one of only two science related books in the non-fiction hardback top 20, along with David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet (2). In addition, Amazon reported sales of telescopes were up 500% following the airing of Stargazing Live.

So what’s the report card on the marketing of science? Shows much promise; has successfully increased appeal to more than just spotty geeks.

Marketing Inspiration

The media, and television specifically, are powerful means to promote all subject-matter, products and services. Also to win hearts and minds. Use them if you can!

Universities can and should also think like media brands to drive awareness, interest, and demand for their services. Their offerings comprise more than courses, but principles, beliefs and sheer force of personality to inspire and empower. Thus far overall 2011 University of Manchester application figures suggest ‘could do better’ but the 2012 Cockcroft Rutherford lecture is an example of the University at its best. Watch the lecture, be inspired by the answer to life the universe and everything – and the small blue dot that we call home.  

Prof. Brian Cox delivers the Cockcroft Rutherford Lecture 2012

I hope that this blog-post makes a small contribution to the University’s aims!


(1) UCAS 2011 in The Guardian

(2) Nielsen BookScan 2011

The Role of Marketing in Driving Business Success

Marketing strategy | Popping the cork to celebrate marketing success

What enables some businesses to weather the changing economic climate and the cold wind of market forces, while others wither? The most successful grow income and budgets steadily, while the weakest experience diminishing income and budgets. Or none at all. Just as Darwin observed, the fittest survive or thrive, and the weak die. While research by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (1) revealed the benefit of an ambitious, engaging business strategy, however, the role of marketing has received less attention.

business strategy
Popping the cork to celebrate success

Business success factors

Business strategy and marketing were first recognised as important in the middle of the twentieth century.

The role of marketing is also best understood by leading consumer goods companies. It is most influential in the most successful businesses, such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. By contrast the discipline plays second or third fiddle in companies in sectors such as business-to-business (b2b) and utilities.

Marketing is a business success factor

The effects of marketing communication campaigns are well documented. Some show positive results, yet some, negative. Though it is difficult to find empirical evidence to prove how or what aspects of marketing drive business success. Or explain what businesses should do strategically. So we’ve done some research and thus, here, we summarise some ‘hard’ evidence to spotlight the role of marketing.

In 2006 Booz & Company (2) identified that businesses with ‘healthy marketing DNA’ were almost 60% more profitable than their competitors. Further, that those with ‘super DNA’, some 9% of the sample, were 20% more likely to show superior growth. But what is ‘healthy marketing DNA’ and how can it be ‘bottled’?

Three marketing prerequisites to drive business success

1. Ability to measure contribution to business growth

Many organisations hire marketers with lots of experience in a business sector and then rely on them to ‘judge’ what to do and where to invest. This compounds a perception that marketers are ‘fluffy’. It also compounds that they are unworthy of a seat at the board-room table.

In 1955, Peter Drucker wrote ‘what gets measured gets managed’ (3).  Yet, in 2005, a CMO Council study of US CMOs (4) revealed that over 80% of organisations had yet to develop meaningful and comprehensive organisational measures or metrics.

However, the 20% introducing useful measures substantially outperformed their competitors in terms of revenue growth, market share and profit. Thus, around two-thirds now believe that measuring marketing ROI will be the most important measure of success in the next few years (5). So while far from easy, marketers must measure and prove marketing activities drive sales and profits.

2. Deep customer understanding

Organisations that invest more effort in capturing and using customer information to make decisions and foster customer relationships outperform others. This echoes a CMO study confirming market research as the most important source of information influencing strategy decisions (cited as important by 82% CMOs).

3. Broad strategic role, supporting and influencing senior decision makers

In some organisations, marketing operates solely as a communication or promotion department. In others, as a management ‘gopher’, responsible for tactical initiatives, and sometimes reactive to management demands.

Organisations with marketing teams structured to work closely with the CEO, across the organisation, and also assume broader strategic responsibility, are more successful. Their roles include business analysis and development, product innovation, and also approving large investments. Also gathering customer insights and communicating and making decisions based on those insights across organisation boundaries. By better and more quickly engaging management and employees also drives out-performance.

Marketing Inspiration

So what to do? Unlike the DNA of living organisms, organisational DNA can change. So start your business strategy process by understanding where the business and marketing capability is now. Then where it should be in the future. From The Marketing Directors’ research (5), there are just 14 executive marketing directors on the main boards of the UK FTSE 100 companies. This therefore suggests that the role of marketing is relatively unimportant in 86 of those companies. Or that competition is benign.

Yet the ability and role of marketing is widely misunderstood.

Deep business, customer and strategic understanding is necessary to reveal business opportunities. In turn these insights enable colleagues to make better decisions to design, deliver and promote experiences that customers want. Thus to advance growth and profitability.

Marketers should therefore view themselves as the voice of customers and directors of growth. This is endorsed by 63% of CMOs who believe they can grow their influence as the voice of the consumer (6). According to CIM, marketers’ influence is also greater when competition is intense and the market turbulent (7). Thus, explain what marketing is, how it works, and measure and report on how it drives business growth.


(1) Porras Jerry and Collins Jim I, Built to Last, 1994, based on research and analysis of pairs of companies in 18 industries.
(2) Landry Edward, Tipping Andrew, Dixon Brodie, Six Types of Marketing, Booz & Company and the Association of National Advertisers, 200, based on an online survey with 30,000 responses.
(3) Drucker Peter F, The Practice of Management, 1955.
(4) The CMO Council, Assessing Marketing’s Value and Impact, 2004.
(5) Arnold Tim, Tomlinson Guy, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, 2008.
(6) Korsten Peter, Heller Baird Carolyn, et al, From Stretched to Strengthened, Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, IBM, 2011, based on face-to-face conversations with 1,734 CMOs in 64 countries.
(7) Argyriou Dr. Evmorfia, Leeflang Prof. Peter, Saunders Prof. John, Verhoef Prof. Peter, Paper: The Future of Marketing, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2009.

Traditional vs. Digital Research Methods ; Does ‘New’ mean Better?

Online customer research

The advent of digital media has inspired many new forms of customer research which businesses are embracing with a passion.  We have also witnessed marketers foregoing more traditional approaches of gaining customer insights, primarily to generate cheaper and quicker results. However, there are lots of myths and misconceptions surrounding digital methods. As one mobile phone marketer commented ‘let’s say we don’t wholly buy into the claims being made about online’. So what are the facts and considerations when choosing between traditional vs. digital market research methods? New doesn’t necessarily mean better …. or does it?

Some social media websites
Some social media websites

Traditional research methods

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

  • Qualitative focus groups or group discussions; enable topic discussion, exploration and idea generation, building and challenging. For example, recruiting respondents with differing views to ‘conflict groups’ in order to challenge beliefs and also understand and uncover ways to overcome possible prejudices.
  • Depth interviews – face-to-face or telephone; enable in-depth understanding of people, who they are, their attitudes, beliefs and also motivations. Also suited to more confidential and sensitive topics e.g. healthcare, business-to-business.
  • Accompanied shops – in a real-life shopping environment to understand real-life shopping motivations and behaviour.
  • Ethnography – observing people in specific settings/environments. For example, a professional in their work environment; useful to see true context, influences and behaviour, that may be unconscious and not reported.
  • Intercepts – stopping people in the street or other locations; useful for gaining high-level/fast insights, to understand motivations and quantify preferences, such as, assessing reaction to products or brands in ‘out-of-home’ eating experiences.
Face-to-face qualitative research
Face-to face qualitative research

Traditional research pros and cons

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

In addtion, findings or interpretations are based on respondent comments and non-verbal indicators such as facial expressions, body language, behaviour and voice intonation. Albert H. Mehrabian specifically found that body language accounts for 55%, tone of voice (38%) and words only just 7% of received communication (1). This non verbal communication therefore provides extra richness and texture to information and gives deeper insight. What is not said is often as revealing as what is said.

Conversely, traditional research approaches consume more time and cost. They sometimes need more time to set up. For example recruiting a very specific sample, such as frequent rail and air travellers with experience of mobile applications could easily take a couple of weeks.

New digital research methods

The massive growth in general internet and social media, enables marketers and researchers to communicate with their consumers digitally, and also better understand the changing digital world.  New digital functionality such as wikis, video filming and uploading and messaging also provides researchers with a new means of customer communication, and new means of capturing information. This therefore helps researchers and customers collaborate and co-create ideas.

New digital technology allows new digital research encounters

  • Skype, Microsoft Teams, Whats App, Facetime, Google Meet and now Zoom – provide new remote video interviewing possibilities. Thus allowing the moderator to hear and see the interviewee, while ‘social distancing’.
  • Wearables – like Google glasses provide real-time or recorded/edited insights through the eyes of consumers.

New online research methods

  • Online surveys – respondents are posed a series of questions online. Typically having followed or been emailed a link. These are now well established in high internet penetration Western markets. This therefore enables rapid, cost-effective, multi-country research.
  • Online focus groups – real-time online discussions over a set period e.g. 2 hours (so-called synchronous research); useful to reach remote/difficult to find respondents.
  • Online communities – respondents join a community and are set topics to discuss and questions to answer, interacting with each other and the moderator.  Useful for gauging reactions to communications and products, building ideas, and also ‘pressure testing’ plans.
  • Bulletin boards – password protected forum, accessed via a browser, where respondents login at any time and respond to moderator led discussion. These usually last 3 to 6 days (so-called asynchronous research);  useful for product placement, assessing first and later impressions/experiences. Also engaging the digitally savvy and exploring the digital world, and developing ideas.
  • Insight platforms – there are a growing range of multi-function platforms; at our last count, over 700. Some include focus group hosting with inbuilt transcription functions, plus software to ask questions, and upload and assess images, video and other files. With several websites dedicated to listing such software provides a glimpse into the burgeoning nature of the industry.

New social media functions

  • Social media sites e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram – useful for online and offline recruitment, dipstick research. Also to gain anecdotes, perhaps at the start of a new product development process.
  • Social media analytics or social media listening software – such as to assess national sentiments, for example, via ‘big data’ analysis of tweets etc. It also possible to analyse emotional response from emojis. In November 2016, social media analytics correctly predicted the outcome of the US Presidential election in contrast to the national polls.

Digital technology also spurs new analysis methods

  • Facial recognition – uses software that’s more discerning than the human eye to determine emotional engagement (such as happiness, fear, surprise) with tv advertising, TV programmes or films. Enables better film editing and story-telling.
Online qualitative or quantitative research
Online customer research

Digital research pros and cons

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of traditional vs. digital research pros and cons

Traditional vs. digital market research methods
Traditional vs. digital market research pros and cons


Digital methods complement traditional methods and vice versa. Digital tools also help automate research activities, for example, making some activities, such as recruitment, and quantitative fieldwork, cheaper and quicker.  In particular, online is a fast and cost-effective way to recruit respondents for traditional qualitative research. It ensures broader reach, and helps mitigate against serial groupies.

However, there will always be a need for a moderator, to ease the journey of discovery and dig into the detail. Online moderation is just more difficult. Witness any radio let alone text discussion.

Online pre-planning also needs to be more exacting to make sure respondents are capable of accessing and using systems. And this has a time-cost.

Technology can also fail. As a result, some online qualitative approaches advocate running research with two people. One to manage the IT systems, and another to moderate the discussion.

Whichever method is used there is a need for human management and analysis. Particularly for qualitative, where online costs can be higher than face-to-face.

The nature of the social media, also means there is more and more data available for analysis.  Analysis of social media big data has shown more accurate insights than conventional polls, such as on the outcomes of election results.

New hybrids that cross the lines of traditional and digital media offer the advantages of both worlds. For example, Skype and Zoom are a boon for conducting remote face-to-face interviews and thus see and hear respondents.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Digital media is a welcome addition to the market research tool box.  It creates new ways to conduct research. So rather than see traditional vs. digital research methods as competitive view them as complementary. However, the merits of face-to-face research must be remembered. Those with long memories may recall the hype surrounding internet businesses in the late 1990s, and belief that these required a new way of thinking. However, many failed by forgetting basic marketing principles. As Simon Carter said recently, “Marketers are becoming lazy by over-using social media and ignoring the skills and disciplines traditionally learned by marketers” (2).
  2. The start-point for determining any research method is to start with objectives and requirements. Then shop around and fully assess the pros and cons of each method, to decide which is best.
  3. Best practice marketing requires a true understanding of customers and not technology. As Daryl Fielding, European Marketing Chief , Kraft Foods said recently,  “Marketers must remember they are talking to people”(3). There is a danger of technology getting in the way of understanding. Also, perhaps ironically to digital advocates, ethnography is essential to understand how consumers use digital media!
  4. Yet, try experimenting. If you don’t test new things out, you won’t learn. So just make sure it is not at the cost of, or detriment to, achieving your aims.

If you have or are aware of any new digital research methods that merit inclusion in our article please let us know.


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

(2)      Carter Simon, Managing Director, Fujitsu ‘Back to basics’ Marketing Week & Research Live April 2011

(3)      O’Reilly Lara ‘A blinkered digital vision makes marketers forget the customer’ Marketing Week 21 Oct 2011

Communication Strategy; Succeed by Understanding the Customer Journey

The customer journey and relationship ladder

With 96% UK households having internet access in 2020 (1), the ability to buy food, clothes, music, films, sports equipment, holidays, cars etc. has never been easier. Shopping no longer takes place just in the High Street but anywhere, anytime. So what is the impact on how customers shop generally and what does this mean for businesses and brands?

Customers are becoming more mobile and tech savvy

More UK customers shop online compared with other major countries.  Eight in ten (79%) internet users said they ordered goods or services on-line in 2010 (2). They also spent more time on retail sites; an average of 84 minutes in January 2011 compared with 20 minutes for Italy and Poland (2).

Mobile phones are also changing shopping behaviour with significant growth in those connecting to the internet via their mobile phone.  Further smartphone ownership nearly doubled in the UK between February 2010 and August 2011 from 24% to 46% and nearly half used their phone to go online in October 2011 (2).

The use of wi-fi hotspots increased seven-fold from 2007 to 4.9 million in 2011 as has watching TV online with over 27% of UK internet users watching TV online every week (2).

New opportunities and threats

Changes in customer behaviour present new opportunities and threats to ‘bricks and mortar’ and ‘clicks and mortar’ businesses and (r)etailers.

  • As customers shop both in-store and online, there are increasingly complex and overlapping behaviour Thus marketers must understand them.
  • Customers are increasingly multi-tasking; browsing online channels, while doing other tasks, such as watching tv, drinking coffee, and even when browsing the shelves. Thus online communication must complement or enhance the brand experience. It must inform and entertain, not just act as a functional route to purchase.
  • QR code (quick response) and phone apps such as Google Goggles enable customers to find out more about products. Applications even translate languages. Thus product packaging must compete within the visual noise of the category, work harder on a computer screen, and thus make buying easy.
  • Phone applications that use global positioning satellite technology (GPS), such as Foursquare, and O2 Media/Rewards present new High Street promotion opportunities. They allow marketers to target consumers ‘on the go’. Such as, by sending a timely text message when they near a shop.
  • The growth of comparison websites and functions such as Amazon (reviews and star ratings), Facebook (likes), Ciao (user reviews and prices) and TripAdvisor (reviews and ratings) are increasingly influential. Positive reviews, or ‘likes’ are valued by Google as well as prospective purchasers.
Abercrombie and Fitch
Daughters with the male model at Abercrombie and Fitch
  • Mobile phone recording and camera applications allow experiences and ideas to be recorded and shared with friends. These help seek feedback on a prospective purchase (‘what do you think my new dress, mum?’), enhance a brand experience (for example, taking photographs with the hunky model at Abercrombie and Fitch). They also enable promotion and endorsement via tweets, Instagram et al.

Why understand the customer journey?

Understanding the sequence, nature, and importance of the steps in the customer’s journey allows marketers to what influence’s awareness and sales of a particular service or product. In turn how to promote it and where and how to add value. The traditional view of the customer journey is as a linear series of steps, as espoused by Lavidge and Steiner (3) et al.

The customer journey
The customer journey

Though this is less relevant in the online world. With the proliferation of online media, the customer journey is becoming non-linear; a more random, looping, stepping stone process.  Customers use online to aid shopping decisions as well as buy.  Increasingly from the comfort of their own home, desk or even bus! Retail is used to see and touch.  Customers jump to and fro on their journey, reflecting, comparing and considering. They also jump from online to retail and back before finally buying.

The online customer journey
The customer journey (non-linear)

Many factors influence if, how and when they buy, as well as their relationship with, and propensity to endorse a brand.  Online media, specifically fact-finding tools and ratings on Amazon, ebay, Twitter and Facebook et al, play an increasing role.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Don’t underestimate the speed and impact digital media is having on all markets. New technology provides a host of new communication opportunities. These change the way that customers become aware of products, and are also influenced, and persuaded to buy.
  2. Marketers need to stay one step ahead by using creative qualitative research to understand the offline and online customer journey. Also the relationships between the two. This will then provide a foundation for a coherent marketing communication strategy, with a persuasive message, and also appropriate media to assuage customers to .
  3. View the whole customer journey as a relationship ladder. Your aim is to attract a prospect, build a relationship with them and ultimately encourage advocacy of your brand.


(1)   Office for National Statistics, Internet access – households and individuals, February 2020

(2)   OFCOM, Sixth International Communications Market Report, December 2011

(3)   Lavidge Robert J and Steiner Gary A A Model of Predictive Measurements of Advertising Effectiveness: Journal of Marketing, vol. 25, no 6, 1961.

Halloween Marketing; How to Grab a Slice of the Halloween Market Pie!

The marketing of Halloween | Trick or Treat Street - Asda 2012
Halloween pumpkin
Halloween pumpkin

Researching the Halloween market we discovered the market is not as shocking as it might first seem. While the tradition of Halloween originated on this side of the pond, the United States commercialised the event. As a result Halloween is now the third highest revenue producing US event, representing around £4 billion pounds a year.

Halloween market statistics

This equates to a mean household spend of £34 (1). Further, the UK Halloween market was worth a modest £310m (2011), with average UK household spend at just one-third of our US cousins. Yet the UK market has grown at twice the rate of the US since 2005 (1). So what market and product development lessons can we learn in order to grab a slice of the market pie?

USA vs. UK Halloween market 2005 to 2011
USA vs. UK Halloween Household Spend 2005 to 2011

Understanding the cultural context and origin of Halloween, different consumers, their needs, drivers and attitudes to Halloween, and the range and nature of Halloween offers and promotions around the world reveals new market and product development opportunities.

What is Halloween?

Halloween is an abbreviation of All Hallows Even, the night before All Hallows Day (All Saints Day). It started out as the Celtic celebration of  Samhain when the Celts believed that the border between this world and the ‘other world’ became thin and allowed spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. All Saints Day was founded by Pope Gregory III (690-784) to remember saints and those that died. It is recognised globally as a time to honour ancestors and departed souls. In addition, wearing costumes and masks originated as a custom to copy or placate evil spirits. Begging for food also dates from the Middle Ages when the poor went door-to-door, seeking food in return for prayers for the dead. So called ‘souling’.

Growing popularity of Halloween

Awareness and interest in Halloween is fueled by popular culture, such as Hollywood movies, The Hollow and Halloween, and cultural crossovers such as Stephanie Meyers’s Twilight – driving interest in the ‘undead’ amongst teen girls and middle-aged mums.

US corporations including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Disney and Wal-Mart embrace Halloween as their own. Making it more appealing and accessible to customers. They built Halloween into an event to fill the relatively ‘dead’ period between the Summer and Christmas.  In the UK, Asda Wal-Mart developed the Halloween market and remains market leader with around a 50% market share. Asda’s Halloween event runs for 6 weeks from late September. Much of their merchandise is also ‘own-brand’.

So how can you grab a slice of the growing Halloween market pie?

Trick or Treat Street - Asda 2012
Trick or Treat Street | Asda Halloween retail merchandising in 2012

Understand traditional needs and reveal new needs to inspire ideas

Consumers include both adults and children. Both seek a Halloween emotional experience. Beyond the traditional activities like carving pumpkins or turnips, and apple bobbing, needs include a ‘scary’ experience and to ‘trick or treat’ friends and neighbours. Also to socialise, look cool, be a good host, and of course, entertain. Adults seek gifts to satisfy trick or treaters, items for children’s and their own parties, or a day or night out. Children seek fun ways to spend their pocket-money.

Halloween consumer needs and drivers

Uncovering, defining and delineating needs, reveals new product opportunities. From confectionery, food and drink, scary stuff to entertainment, games, dressing-up gear and make-up – to go with the pumpkins, skeletons, turnips, and party fare.

Understanding and building on the rituals, such as pumpkin and turnip carving sparks needs for design inspiration, cutters, carving kits, tea lights and other decorative or special effects.

Trick o’treating, prompts needs for mixed bags of sweets. An area increasingly served, for example, by Swizzels Scary Mix, Cadbury Screme Eggs, Haribo and more. Thinking about combining needs, accentuating the emotional experience, stimulating or depriving the senses,  inspires more product ideas. For example, the sense of touch can add intrigue, shock or surprise to the sweet selection process. Using sound, light, colour or special effects adds decorative drama to a room or walk up a garden path.

Emotional and self-image needs such as socialising and looking cool are increasingly important. This is evidenced in, and suggests demand for products for sharing/making together. Also having a laugh, surprising and bonding to more dramatic make-over solutions. Thinking about the broad range of markets where needs could be fulfilled, such as food and drink, games, entertainment, mobile telephony prompts more ideas.

Excite and engage by combining ‘fun’ with terror

Being scared is fun, creating an adrenaline rush is like riding a roller-coaster. Most retail displays incorporate colours and symbols associated with the harvest (orange, pumpkins) or death (black, skeletons, bats). Adding more vibrant colours tones down the scary nature of the offer while providing a cultural signpost inviting people to explore the Halloween aisle. For example, greens, yellows and purples are colours that occur in nature, and cuddly ‘full-of-life’ characters. This year’s Asda theme is ‘Party time’ and ‘trick or treating’. While bats and skeletons abound, the aim is to engage and encourage partying rather than frighten away.

Looking overseas to mainland Europe, parts of Asia and Latin America provides further Halloween market insights and product ideas. Auchan in France takes the ‘fun’ a step further by hosting live entertainment – both to attract traffic as well as enhance the brand.

Spooky goings on at Auchan France
Spooky goings on at Auchan, France

Halloween Marketing Inspiration

Successful Halloween marketing and product innovation requires clear understanding of the market, cultural and psychological variables. Using market research or alternatively, a few simple thinking tools helps better understand and interpret what consumers think and feel. And thus better reveal new needs and product opportunities.

Utilising Halloween colours, symbols, artefacts and rituals further helps match deep cultural and emotional needs. Thus stimulating demand, and enabling more inelastic pricing.

The insight and ideation tools applied to understand the Halloween market apply any market, occasion or consumer experience. Try them out and you may even shock yourself ;-).


(1)   The Marketing Directors’ secondary research and analysis based on various trade sources, the ONS and US Bureau of the Census.