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Strategic marketing consultancy | Brand consultants | The Marketing Directors
Marketing technical excellence. M&S boobed by charging extra for larger bras

Marks and Spencer boobed by charging extra for larger bras but helped restore their reputation by fessing up

The devil is in the marketing implementation detail

In highly competitive markets, both strategy and execution can make a big difference to the results.  For example, a misplaced or poorly articulated word in a strategy can lead to misinterpretation,  cause confusion and errors.  From the customer stand-point, it also risks inhibiting response and potentially wasting money. This is particularly the case in markets where companies follow similar strategies or offer similar benefits. Conversely, a well-placed or well-chosen word cuts-through and connects, thereby boosting demand.  So set up processes, tools and techniques to make sure that both strategic and executional decisions are of the highest order.

Overcoming perceptions that marketing is ‘fluffy’ is often an inter-related challenge

Master and use analytical tools and techniques to help marshal and present your arguments in a simple and easy-to-understand way. Not only can these distil complexity into simple messages but also give added rigor and impact to your arguments.

Simple spreadsheet models or more complex econometric modelling also help to prove the ROI.

Your own motivation, drive and rigor in checking and enforcing marketing excellence will also mitigate any negative attitudes to marketing among your colleagues.

Another way to deliver excellence is to use new technology. However, as new technology shortens planning cycles, clever anticipation and pre-planning is important. For example, digital technology cuts promotion origination and reproduction time and costs, though database management requires extra time and attention to keep data up-to-date.

Find more useful tools and techniques in The Marketing Director’s Handbook.

Read successful marketing part 7 – creative problem solving.

Storytelling predates writing; the earliest forms were spoken, combined with gestures and expressions. They include fairy tales, myths, legends and many of religious origin. There is much to learn from stories and with brand storytelling it is possible to transform a brand from a frog to a prince, prolong brand life and even slay a competitor or two in the process.

Great stories endure

Saint George (AD 280 to 23 April 303), for example, is immortalised in the myth of Saint George and the Dragon. A soldier in the Roman army, he later became venerated as a Christian martyr and adopted as patron saint of many countries, cities and organisations. The story about George and the Dragon returned from the Crusades (11th Century). In the legend, the dragon lives at a water hole and requires a gift of a sheep or maiden to allow the locals to reach the water. When it is a maiden, they draw lots.  One day a princess is chosen. She begs for her life but to no avail. Then George comes along, slays the dragon and saves the day.

Great stories are retold

Great stories touch and move us. Particularly when seen in a cinema, and increasingly through mini movies – as some television advertising has become. Not only do great stories engage, but they merit retelling and sharing. In this rich digital media world (1), we are all writers, photographers, producer/directors and editors. Only the best stories grab attention, are ‘liked’ and shared.

It is the same for brands. Only the best impress journalists, trade buyers and of course, consumers. Some brands have become great by telling great stories. Some are born of reality, many of accident or serendipity and some invention.

Great stories offer inspiration for brands

Figure 1 shows a typical cinematic story structure. This is useful for brand storytelling. Act 1 involves setting the scene, introducing the characters, conflict and setting. It concludes with a climax or set-back (turning point 1 (TP1)). Act 2 develops the story, with rising action and tension, and concluding with another climax or set-back (turning point 2 (TP2)). In the last act, the dénouement, the story reaches a final climax, and the story resolved.

Brand storytelling - Fig1 - 2 act story structure

Great stories tend to recognise deep truths, important life lessons

For example, that good always triumphs over evil. That every cloud has a silver lining – i.e. that you can derive some benefit from every bad thing that happens to you. Or that fortune favours the brave – that drive and determination is essential to success. Christopher Booker’s Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning, espoused seven basic plots (2). Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson highlight eighteen, eight guides or gifts and ten warnings (3). Figure 2 shows eight familiar stories mapped to Mark and Pearson’s need-states.

Brand storytelling - Fig 2 : Common storylines

‘Transformations’ deal with significant change in attitude, behaviour or personal growth. ‘Overcoming the Monster’ stories are crime and adventure staples. They feature archetypal heroes (and villains). Including George and the Dragon. Also James Bond vs. Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun). And Harry Potter, growing from boy to man, while battling Voldemort.

The typical story-line is baddie does bad thing (set-up), goodie fights baddie and loses (story development, set-back) and then goodie digs deeper, fights back and wins the day (dénouement). In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he kills a young maiden and then goes after Harker, the hero’s fiancée. Harker and friends then hunt and eventually kill Dracula thus saving Harker’s fiancée (and allowing them to live happily ever after).

Great brand stories follow from brand archetypes

Brand archetypes can play different roles in narratives, and inspire brand storytelling. In a typical ‘overcoming the monster’ story-line, archetypal heroes, such as James Bond and Harry Potter are protagonists (leading players). Equally the brand could still be the hero, but not the protagonist but instead a bit player – perhaps the protagonist’s assistant or ‘weapon’.

Consider a utilitarian hero archetype, cleaning brand Mr. Muscle.  In a typical 3 act story, we see the housewife battling the dirt, getting tired and frustrated at her inability to clean the house etc. until along comes the hero, to clean away the dirt and save the day. The protagonist is the brand user or housewife and the adversary, simply dirt.

Nike is a more inspiring, hero(ine) archetype (4).  The protagonists in Nike advertisements are usually athletes or ordinary people, and adversaries, fellow competitors. In a typical 3 act story, we see the athlete competing against another, wearing Nike clothing or using Nike equipment, suffering set-backs yet eventually winning, and winning applause.

The Nike advert (below) features a tennis playing protagonist vilified for being a pretty face. Here the antagonist is not just a fellow competitor but public dismissal, or disdain. All questions confidence in the athlete’s skills. Will she, won’t she succumb to the pressure? Watch the advert to see the dénouement. Feel how the rising tension strengthens the brand story.

Brand Storytelling Marketing Inspiration

Now work through these simple brand storytelling steps to finesse and execute your brand strategy.

1. Understand your brand truth, archetype and positioning
Great brands like great stories are based on great truths. Great truths include customer and brand truths. Look inside and outside your business to find them. Consider what do customers’ really think, believe or need? Is there anything meaningful and true but unknown or disbelieved about your brand? What is your brand founder’s tale? What’s special about where or how it was invented? Perhaps a ‘secret’ production or delivery process or ‘magical’ ingredient? And what’s special about the brand look, livery or the people who make or deliver the brand.

2. Create/shape/select stories to engage and dramatise the brand benefits.
Consider characters, the role of the brand, and how your brand could transform customers’ lives. How can you create rising tension, and a dénouement that fits the brand? Also involve disparate people in the creative process and allow time to nurture the ideas.  Figure 3 shows a start-point brand storytelling concept.

Brand storytelling - Fig 3 Brand story concept

3. Express the story idea through multiple media.
While great stories and great brands touch people in different ways, they express a consistent message. Consider how the story could unfold or be presented through different media. Involve media experts in early brand storytelling. Choose media to enhance the message and enable sharing.

Get in touch for help to tell your brand tale.


(1) According to http://www.internetlivestats.com there are now over 1.1 billion websites including a burgeoning range of social media including Facebook, You Tube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat and many more.
(2) Booker, Christopher The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.
(3) Mark, Margaret and Pearson, Carol S. The Hero & the Outlaw. Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes.
(4) Named after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.

On June 23rd 2016 the UK decided to leave the EU. So what does this mean for UK businesses and marketers? The consensus is to expect a period of uncertainty as everyone digests the facts, and devises strategies to manage the risks of Brexit and plan a way forward.

Rather than think doom, gloom and despondency, think positive, and as global citizens, embrace the world

The trade barriers erected around the EU protect EU businesses from global competitive pressures. As a result they cause ‘flabby’ rather than ‘fit’ competitors. The UK has a proud history as a free trading nation and being ‘open for business’. Thus UK business should be materially ‘fit’ to compete in unfettered markets. Also to attract inward investment.

The world is a big market

In 2015 the world economy was worth $73.2 billion with the EU accounting for $16.2bn (22%) (Figure 1). Thus the rest of the world accounts for the larger proportion (78%), with the USA, China and Japan, being the largest markets.

Global economy 2015

Many global opportunities

Moreover, emerging markets are forecast to grow faster than the developed markets, and China and India will both reach the top 3 by 2030 (Figure 2). There are many opportunities to grasp.

Top 20 economies 2015 - 2050 ranked by GDP in dollars

As marketers we know that the most successful businesses are those that understand and meet the needs of their customers. As global citizens, speaking the world’s languages, investing in research and marketing to continue to understand and meet current and future customers’ needs, and build relationships and commercial value makes sense.

Marketing Inspiration

1. To address short-term economic turbulence from Brexit, businesses should take every opportunity to strengthen relationships with overseas suppliers and customers. Make clear that you are open for business as usual, and value your relationships. There is reassurance and value in relationships.
2. Keep searching for win-win opportunities to sell, invest and buy. Also acquire knowledge to gain competitive advantage. Use research to uncover new insights and opportunities.
3. Have no fear. The fittest or most able will be the most successful. So stay true to good business and marketing principles; understand customer needs, and demonstrate and deliver value in meeting needs.
4. For any sector of the economy or business that considers themselves unfit, start working out how to get fit now. So use time wisely to maximise the value of your offer.

In many markets, particularly business-to-business, it is common to find products, services and brands making the same claims. In other words, occupying the same brand positioning spaces. For example, almost every business service claims to improve business efficiency.  Brands in the most competitive markets often make the same claims too. Almost every washing powder washes clean, most food is tasty, and nearly every feature film entertains. These are examples of ‘basic’ benefits; they match the most basic or prevalent product needs.

Standing out from the crowd therefore requires care. Careful choice of benefits and careful expression of those benefits. All needs distilling into an idea that is easily communicated and understood. This is where the idea of brand personality has a role to play. Brand personality can transform your brand into a super brand.

What is brand personality?

Brand personality confers human characteristics on a brand; physical characteristics, beliefs and behaviours – these guide how the brand looks, speaks, what it thinks, believes and how it behaves.

While there are usually few benefits to express, there are almost limitless ways to express the benefits. For example, with candour, authority or through humour.

The influence of brand personality

A great deal of psychological literature suggests that people have a tendency to perceive those they like as more similar than those they dislike. People also have a tendency to perceive themselves in a positive light and seek congruence (1).

In human discourse, a personality helps attract and engage. Consider the criteria involved in selecting a mate. Other than physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality and the consequential benefits of a personality.  Beyond the obvious, “And Mrs. Ecclestone, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Bernie?” other potential benefits include reinforcing self-knowledge, self-consistency and self-esteem (2).

Brand personality also enriches differences and helps attract and cement relationships. There are three main strategic applications or benefits of a brand personality (Figure 1) (3). To:

Influence of brand personality

    • express or enhance either functional or emotional benefits (these are essential criteria for strong brands). Mr. Muscle adds strength to a cleaning brand, Fairy suggests a delicate touch or care, while Nike suggests those who wear their sports-wear are winners (4).
    • reflect consumer types/enable self-expression. BMW creates stylish automobiles (this is aspirational to non-owners and confers ‘cool’ on owners), Fosters imbues macho and comedy to beer drinking (and thus confers self-esteem and sociableness on the drinker), while Apple suggests high style, easy communication (and confers cool and feel-good in belonging to an ‘elite’ group).
    • strengthen consumer-brand relationships; The ‘cool’ of Starbucks is attractive as a place to chill while John Lewis is trusted as a place to shop (because of their clear and consistent trading and returns policies). The passion and success of Manchester United not only generates extraordinary physical support but club shirts are labels (akin to high-style and premium brands).

Archetypes add meaning to brands

Considering and applying archetypes to brands helps distil and define a brand’s personality.  Archetypes came to popular consciousness through the work of Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Carl Jung – the founder of modern psychology.  An archetype is collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, behaviour, image, etc., that is universally present myths, legends, literature and art. Archetypes are neither good nor bad, they simply exist. Although the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few notable, recurring archetypes, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden, and lastly the anima in men (the feminine side in a man’s psyche) and the animus in women (the masculine side in a woman’s psyche)” (5).

Humans automatically inherit archetypes and enrich them based on our own experiences. These archetypal images call people to fulfil their basic human needs and motivations. Mark and Pearson (6) summarised these needs along two axes: belonging/enjoyment versus independence/fulfilment and stability/control versus risk/mastery.

The strongest brands are clear and familiar archetypes

Though it is likely that few were deliberately designed with archetypes in mind! Figure 2 shows the twelve main archetypes mapped on two axes, together with examples of well-known brands that fit each archetype. Some will be readily understood and others may trigger subliminal thoughts.  Virgin will be familiar to many as an Outlaw brand. Think Robin Hood. A challenger to authority, taking from the rich and ‘evil’ (as they have variously portrayed established national airlines, banks and railway companies) and giving to the ‘poor’.  Think also Zorro and Rebel without a Cause. This is a useful positioning for pioneering brands and those taking on the establishment.

Creating brand personality using archetypes: Twelve Master Archetypes

Archetypes add meaning and convey messages that verbal and written information cannot.  They help bring brands alive. They are powerful in revealing new ideas to help brands challenge category conventions, stand-out and reconnect with consumers. Understanding the archetypal nature and power of a brand is the first step to realising the strategic benefits outlined in Figure 1.  Archetypes can also help explain brand successes and failures; brand marketing activity that correlates most strongly with archetypes tends to be more successful and value enhancing (and vice versa) (6).  Once you name your archetype, and understand how it works, the more you can express it, use it and avoid career-limiting mistakes!

The right positioning, personality and archetype for your brand will depend on the market in which you compete, your customer segments and their needs, the positioning spaces occupied by competitor brands, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. As the world of search engine marketing relegates brands to a few keywords, don’t be suckered into dumbing down your brand. Invest in a colourful brand personality to be seen and heard.  If you are #2 or #3 in a category, this could give you an edge to overtake a competitor.
  2. Understanding and optimising brands transforms ability to compete.  So search for and express the distinctive and engaging combination of personality traits to build consumer-brand relationships. If products are people, then brands are friends or loved ones.
  3. A distinctive brand personality and archetype will also aid brand management. If you have a service glitch, customers will more forgiving.
  4. For service or digital brands, that customers meet through people, such as in call or service centres, a brand personality or archetype blueprint will help staff to communicate and behave consistently.
  5. A good place to start is with a brand and competitor assessment that encompasses personality and archetypes.


  1. Sirgy, M. J. Self-congruity: Toward a Theory of Personality and Cybernetics, United States. Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 14, (1986).
  2. Sirgy, M. J. “Self-concept in consumer behaviour: A critical review,” Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 287-300, (1982).
  3. Ahmand, Anees and Thyagaraj, K.S. Understanding the Influence of Brand Personality on Consumer Behaviour (2015).
  4. Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. The figure of Nike also appears on the bonnet of Rolls Royce cars, ‘the best cars in the world’.
  5. Jung, Carl. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Second Edition (1996).
  6. Mark, Margaret, Pearson, Carol S. The Hero and the Outlaw – Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes (2001).

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Batman vs Superman 2016.

Digitalisation and 24/7 global connectivity increases customer power and supply-side reach. As a result, markets become increasingly competitive over time and not less. Search and algorithms also reduce brands to keywords. These therefore all create pressure for change. And dealing with change requires foresight, new business and brand management skills and processes.

We often get asked to help businesses get closer to customers and to develop new marketing or brand strategies. Yet businesses plan, organise and manage in different ways. Further, marketing has not always been viewed as a management discipline. It only emerged formally as such in the 1950s (1). Marketing functions evolved from sales, and brand functions, from communications.  Digital functions evolved from the need to master new information and communication technologies. Yet customers and brands are the only constant in a fast-moving digital world.

Business strategy, marketing strategy and brand strategy are different

So at the outset recognise that marketing and branding are often misunderstood concepts. Customer marketing and consumer marketing are different to brand marketing. Some businesses have dedicated ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ teams and some do not.  Even when dedicated teams are in place, the functions and skill-sets tend to be very different. Marketers are rarely empowered to think strategically. While some businesses employ rigorous strategic planning processes others encourage entrepreneurship. The pattern of evolution tends to follow from the past, with the pace of change, depending on the knowledge and perceptions of senior management. While, there is no ‘one-size’ solution for all there is a useful strategic planning process to work out the right solution (2) (Figure 1 – Infographic).

Business and brand strategy planning process

Clarify where the business or brand is now and in the future

Only by understanding where a business or brand is now and where a business wants to be in the future allows route-map development.

So understand current business, marketing and brand strengths and weaknesses, business drivers, and create clear, challenging, and inspiring goals.

The marketing discipline uniquely looks through the lens of customers and customer segments to assess issues, size market opportunities and influence demand.

By clarifying where you are now and want to be, the size of the gap, potential route-maps or strategies to bridge gaps will become clear. Potential roadblocks or issues should also become clear. So opportunities and solutions can then be developed to address key issues. If this is not possible, then new goals need setting.

Use human imagination and analysis to generate and build ideas

Work with colleagues and have confidence in human imagination to generate and build ideas (2).  While some organisations may prefer an analytical approach to strategy development, and others a more creative approach, there is merit in dual ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ thinking. Left brain thinking involves assessing the pros and cons of each opportunity. Right brain thinking requires stepping away from the detail, and taking inspiration from the world around, to imagine new opportunities and strategies. In our experience no-one has a monopoly on good ideas, and employing different brains hastens progress.

Planning from the customer, market and brand point of view can inspire those more familiar with technology-push, creative-push or financially targeted methods.

Engage colleagues to win a mandate for change

Engaging colleagues is important to fact-find, ensure understanding and reassure. It will help reveal hopes and fears and add colour to issues and opportunities. It will also help clarify what’s understood or misunderstood, and agreed or disagreed. This helps focus attention on what’s required.

By agreeing goals and collaborating, the best ideas should naturally surface to the top, and win support. Though the best solution is not necessarily the one that is 100% technically correct, especially if only 20% of stakeholders agree with it. A better solution is one that is 90% technically correct where most stakeholders agree with it. Only then will there be a mandate for change.

Remember that change is difficult and takes time

The journey to create truly customer-focused businesses and powerful brands is a long one. Therefore be pragmatic about what benefits are achievable, at what cost, and by when. Also understand the barriers to change to devise more effective strategies and plans and mitigate any risks. Figure 2 shows a product-brand continuum with benefits delivered at each stage (3).

Brand strategy continuum
For product, service or sales-led organisations, there are benefits in simply understanding and meeting the needs of customers. This needs structures, skills and processes to put the customer and his or her needs at the centre of thinking.

For organisations in markets where brands are emerging as a differentiator, there are benefits in understanding customer awareness and perceptions. Also using these insights to influence choice and increase purchasing.  This requires structures, skills, planning and management processes to design, promote and manage brand(s), and drive demand and sales.

For digital and service organisations delivering through people, and for larger product brands, there are benefits in understanding and influencing perceptions through all brand encounters. This needs structures, skills and processes to create distinctive communications, align people activities and behaviour. Also to ensure consistent delivery through those multiple encounters.

The very largest organisations and those contemplating expansion into multiple geographic markets and categories, require more developed relationship building strategies. In addition, brand personality, structures, skills and processes to invest and manage wisely across countries and markets.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Customer and brand marketing is a strategic business development discipline. So help senior management understand this point. Further align stakeholder’s interests to ensure business-wide relevance and acceptance.
  2. Successful customer or brand-led business development requires multiple strategies, structures, skills and processes. Rarely will success follow if expectations rely on one person or activity.
  3. Understanding a business and brand’s current position is an essential precursor to future strategy development. Research customers to understand brand relevance in the digital world. And also avoid giving importance to unexplained information such impressions and clicks.
  4. As business and brand drivers continually wax and wane, stay aware of changing dynamics, and what works and doesn’t. This therefore helps better deploy your businesses’ finite resources and influence customer choice.
  5. Finally, use creativity to build relationships though important touch-points. Though for those new to marketing, investing in a brand may be a step too far.



  1. Webster Frederick E. “A Perspective on the Evolution of Marketing Management” Journal of Public Policy and Marketing Vol. 24 (1) (Spring 2005)
  2. Harari Yuval Noah. Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind (2014)
  3. Arnold Tim, Tomlinson Guy. The Marketing Director’s Handbook (2008)


With just 20 per cent of buying decisions based on pure logic, the psychology of marketing requires understanding. Psychology is the science of the mind and behaviour. Emotions and biases frequently influence our buying decisions. Whether we realise it or not, around eight out of 10 buying decisions are based on emotion (1).

This ‘Psychology of Marketing’ infographic (2) summarises common biases that influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. These include the status quo bias, the loss aversion bias, and the in-group bias.

Psychology of Marketing


Marketing Inspiration

1. Marketers should take account of cognitive biases to boost sales. A brand name, special offer, and immediate gratification all enhance sales.

2. The most successful brands comprise rational and emotional dimensions – so build both into your proposition.

3. Use consumer research to uncover exactly what emotional dimensions will best influence and persuade.


(1) Damasio, Anthony Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (2005)
(2) Infographic courtesy Salesforce.com

Comparing Quantitative Research Survey Modes: Online vs. Telephone vs. Face-to-face; 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) highlighting that 71% of the UK receive 9 nuisance calls a month, and that telephone is the #4 culprit, questions whether this mode has had its day? But while online has grown in share, is this top dog? We’ve been looking closely at the merits of online, telephone (random direct dialling) and face-to-face (ftf).  Several insights emerged. So if you are about to brief in a quantitative research survey, this article summarises some of our findings and spotlights some considerations 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 complexity of fieldwork and analysis. Some costs such as coding for online research, computer aided telephone interviewing and computer assisted personal interviewing 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 82% of the UK 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 82% (with greater penetration among older respondents) and mobiles reach 81% (with greater penetration of younger respondents) (1).  Face-to-face can reach most places (though at a cost).

Graph of UK penetration of household services 2014

UK penetration of household services 2014

Response rates

Online response depends on the nature of the panel, and how responsive and interested respondents are. Expect between 5-30%. Response from links on websites or emails will similarly depend on the nature of the source. Telephone responses have fallen over the last decade and responses are now around 10-15%. Face-to-face response is also 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) has observed that those responding by telephone present more socially desirable responses more often than face-to-face. This is particularly the case with those with lower intellectual ability/fewer years of formal education (i.e. C2DEs).  Research has also shown that respondents are more comfortable discussing sensitive subjects face-to-face as they can see, and thus 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 shows similar results to online (where there is no interviewer effect) though some research (5) has observed directionally 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. This results in questions being 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 clear with those with lower intellectual ability.  Research (3,4,5) suggests FTF researchers are better able to judge confusion, waning motivation, distraction (via watching a tv, eating etc.) and be able motivate and make it easier for the respondent to understand the questionnaire and improve cooperation on complex tasks. With online respondents go at their own pace.

Marketing Inspiration

(1) Great research starts with a great 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.   Larger samples 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%. Make sure data is comparable from wave to wave. Prefer 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. Anything else has in-built bias and risks misleading. Ensure 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’. What we still don’t know is the sample size, how many said ‘don’t know’, and how many expressed a preference. 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 (2014).

(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 mode over another. We work in partnership with the UK’s leading online, telephone and face-to-face fieldwork companies to deliver the best solution for you.  So just get in touch for help.

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


Tesco – can big be beautiful again?

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.

Customers have also become increasingly ‘savvy’. Purchasing influences have changed. There are a growing range of price, experience, personality-rich and digital shopping options and tools. Shopping behaviour is also changing. There is more shopping around. The price of loyalty appears to have exceeded a couple of Clubcard points. Where 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 with Dave Lewis he also says that staff morale is low. It suggests that there are relationship issues between the management team and front-line staff. In turn this raises questions about 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 prioritising revenue growth and profit over the best interests of customers, employees, communities and suppliers. In turn this may explain the  £250m profit black-hole linked to the accounting of supplier rebates.

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.  But markets grow by adding new segments so by understanding and revealing new segments could reveal new growth opportunities.  This will 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 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 also ignores important emotional drivers.
  4. Customers are human. They have emotional needs as well as rational needs.  When Tesco originally introduced the ‘every little helps’ strategy’ this added an extra ‘nice touch’ to their earlier wholly rational offer. A new way of connecting emotionally with customers now needs defining. The value proposition needs strengthening and sharpening. 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 deliver the brand.
  5. Can big be beautiful again? There are successful precedents such as Archie Norman’s revitalisation of Asda in the 1990s. Understanding customers and their needs and putting them first is a good place to start. The reward will be their loyalty. We wish Mr. Lewis every success.

Battle of the nation brands

The Scottish electorate vote on the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ on Thursday 18th September 2015. The UK Government state that if a simple majority of the votes cast are in favour of independence, then “Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations”. If the majority is 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 marketing and brand perspective.

Scottish Independence Referendum, brand strategy

What are drivers and barriers to Scottish Independence?

The Scottish electorate

Scottish residents over the age of 16 are eligible to vote. According to the National Records for Scotland 4.1m people aged 16+ registered to vote (2). Though of nearly half a million EU citizens living in Scotland just 94k registered. 16-17 year olds also vote for the first time. This is the 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). In addition other research (4) found that anxiety and enthusiasm encourage more evaluation and consideration of political choices. Also 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 frame the question as Scotland vs. Westminster and paint Westminster, and the likes of David Cameron, as the enemy. Meanwhile, the ‘Better Together’ team argue that the question is not about choosing between two states but about choosing between one or both. Though through the electorate’s eyes the spectrum of options from Scotland the brand to both Scottish and British brands is probably greater. Where perceptions lie is key to electoral success.

Scottish - Great British Brand architecture

Some of the Scottish and Great British 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 has been centre-stage, with the ‘Yes’ campaign playing up the benefits of the oil reserves. While ‘Better Together’ stress 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. The ‘Yes’ campaign manifesto offers a costed and credible plan though ‘Better Together’ disagree.

At the most rational level, some studies have shown that voters will 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 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, at the most simple level, Scottish independence gives Scotland greater control. Thus the challenge for the ’Yes’ campaign 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 to make this compelling. Historical ‘Scottishness’ is reasonably clear (Burns, bagpipes, whisky, golf, scenery etc.) though future ‘Scottishness’ is harder to comprehend. A lot of effort has gone into defining Scotland the brand (8) and promoting Scottish iconography. The Saltire, for example, is more ubiquitous in Scotland, than the flag of St. George in England. It is possible that a a distinctive Scottish voice could raise Scotland’s profile and status on the world stage. It could also raise self esteem. All are powerful emotional benefits.

Scots, and 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. However, the key issue is whether voters prefer Scottishness over Britishness or the best of both.

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

The latest opinion polls  give an up-to-date glimpse of expressed voting intentions (10).

Marketing Inspiration

1. Brand promotion is a precursor to brand recognition and engagement. So use multiple means, and all available relationships to promote your logo in places where it has positive and credible associations.

Scottish Saltire - brand logo

A new Scottish Saltire sign-post welcomes visitors to Scotland the challenger brand

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 will be more cerebral, some more sophisticated, and some more emotional or cost driven. However by understanding the needs, and hot buttons of all, it is easier to devise messages and policies that both resonate and persuade. And also avoid alienating.

4. For brands competing in high risk and high reward markets, be ready for ever-increasing scrutiny and challenge.

5. And what’s our opinion? The man with the best plan may or may not win. So as emotional benefits will hold sway a brand strategy is essential. Therefore, in the run up to, during and beyond the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games expect even more emotion!

In conclusion, if the ‘ayes’ win, we’ll be sad to lose our Scottish cousins.


(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.
(10) Opinion Polling for the Scottish Independence Referendum 2014. Wikipedia.

‘Stay with me baby’ – from the Walker Brothers to Leanne Jarvis (1966+)

Staying contemporary and relevant is essential for successful marketing. Especially in the ever-changing digital world. However the basics of marketing, consumer and brand remain constant. In addition, so does the marketing director’s main function – to stimulate demand through great products and communication.

Examining these factors individually, a pattern emerges which helps improve marketing effectiveness.

‘Digital marketing’ is no longer separate from ‘marketing’

First the almost obvious point is that ‘digital marketing’ is no longer separate from ‘marketing’. The popularity of the smart phone (now in 53% penetration in the UK) (1) and the ongoing march of the tablets (now with 29% UK penetration) combined with the ubiquitous Internet and ever faster access speeds mean that ‘mobile marketing’ is all around us. Appreciating that mobile is digital, then the term ‘digital’ is no longer as isolationist as the term implies. Everything we do is created, managed, recorded and reported digitally. So now the starting point is to think digitally, from the outset. Both in planning and selecting media, and using the right platforms.

Web-based platforms are becoming more advanced

The demand to monetise, for Google, Facebook, Twitter et al, means growing advertising revenue. Furthermore this means making themselves more relevant to brands – to deliver relevant communication to consumers that brands wish to target. Google’s algorithmic heart beats faster as the metaphoric Hummingbird’s wings beat faster and faster to seek out the nectar in search behaviour. And sell it to us. That ‘nectar’ is message relevance to the search. As a result, this means that the irrelevant, from a search marketing perspective, activity of link building, creating pages of lists i.e. keywords, for the sake of a high Google search ranking is now redundant. In turn this also means that ‘content for contents sake’ is dead too. Distinctive, credible and relevant messages are taking its place. So the growing range of social media from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, require understanding.  Understand the customers, and their behaviour, before mining.

The marketing director must champion creativity

Recognising that these new offerings are simply new media channels means that marketing thinking is more important than ever. To rise above the operational hum-drum and relegation of content to a handful of keywords. Content has to become creative. In that simple sentence is a dilemma for the marketing director as the agencies providing ‘search’ marketing be it ‘pay-per-click ‘, ‘search engine optimisation’ and now ‘social media’ are all ill-equipped to be ‘creative’. The challenge for the marketing director is to embrace all these media and design and ‘brand’ platforms and pages to cut-through and appeal.

Also manage digital specialists

Specialist digital marketing agencies offer technical platform expertise but not necessarily strategic and message proficiency. They are in danger of being left behind, limited in their appreciation of how what they do fits in and inter-relates to marketing world. This is compounded by zero appreciation of the brand and the differentiation required. Consequently the marketing director must recognise the shifts in media platforms and where agency technical limitations lie.  The marketing director must fill the gap, champion creativity and lead the brand in all that (s)he does.

Plan your marketing not just digital marketing

It is not only in the message and media platform that the digital world has changed. Let us think about media planning. At the Marketing Society conference 2013, Chairman of WPP Group, Martin Sorrell gave the best rational for his giant agency group yet… ‘We remain committed to being ‘media neutral’ (2). The aim of media neutrality is to select the most cost-effective media to deliver the relevant message to the specific audience at the right time. This is a vital function of marketing. It is also more relevant than ever.

Marketing: The New Digital Marketing

Tim Arnold and Guy Tomlinson, authors of The Marketing Director’s Handbook. Chapter 31 Managing Digital Marketing is available in digital form.

In selling their media platforms to advertisers, agencies and media alike are not unnaturally using data, big data. Big data make it more doable than ever. As long as it is the right data. So now with a customer relationship management platform like Marketo (3), the right data can be captured and marketing communications integrated. Thus ensuring integrated marketing becomes more achievable.

Put customers first

The customer continues to drives all we do in marketing. In addition, now that the media is no longer in the hands of media owners but in the hands of customers, means more complex cause and effect relationships. The way mobile phones and social media are part of everyday life means that marketing needs to understand these morays and react accordingly. From apps for specific brand and product messages: activities to interact and engage social communities: the blending of blog, forum, network, web site. All amplified by text and tweet. All this puts renewed emphasis on planning. However not media planning in isolation, but in the context of all marketing. To build a matrix that fulfils the needs of your brands and only your brands, disavowing the numbers of each individual medium.

The challenge for the marketing director is to understand all customer groups and the customer’s journey to discover and build strong brand relationships. This means being aware of how they discover, and use brands. And also their thoughts and feelings at each stage (not a phrase we in marketing should ever forget!).  Through ALL channels. Phones, iPads and screens. From adaptive responsive web sites, viral this or that, to commercials that recognise fast forwarding, to multi-tasking using a phone or tablet whilst watching TV, to you name it. In so doing, you can choose the most cost-effective combination of messages and media to persuade and maximise sales and profitability.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Digital marketing is moving back to the marketing function. The role of the marketing director will always be to direct marketing. There has never been a more important time to be a strategic marketer.
  2. Examine the role of your agencies and the way your organisation creatively develops both brand and creative consumer messages exploit new opportunities.
  3. Embrace change, there’s more to come …  search fragmentation, specific search media, more miniaturisation, wearable technology, radio frequency identification (RFID) (products with embedded data), multi-platform management. Whatever!

Managing Digital Marketing, new Chapter 31 of The Marketing Director’s Handbook is available in digital form.


(1). Communication Experience Research, OFCOM January 2014

(2). Martin Sorrell, Speech to the Marketing Society 2013

(3). Marketo marketing automation software

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