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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.

Promotions; The Effect of ‘Labelling’ on Customer Behaviour

Qualitative vs. quantitative research | Food tasting research

How behavioural economics helps marketers

The labelling effect, recently discovered by behavioural economists, gives marketers another weapon in their arsenal of influencing techniques. Even small labelled promotions (vouchers to spend on certain items) shift spending patterns disproportionately. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and even the Government have used the labelling effect to alter behaviour. This short piece introduces the labelling effect and also explains how marketers can use this technique to influence customers’ choice of products.

Small promotions do not force customers to change their spending patterns because they can easily rearrange their budget. In reality, however, small promotions do affect which items are purchased. Thus marketers can target small promotions at highly profitable items to encourage customers to spend more on those items.

A promotion is ‘non-distortionary’ if the customer would have spent more than the value of the promotion on the targeted product anyway. The labelling effect occurs when consumers react to these promotions by spending more on the targeted item. For example:

Example 1: Retail

A recent study gave customers at a restaurant an €8 voucher (1). Vouchers could be spent on beverages (the ‘labelled’ voucher) or food or beverages (the ‘unlabelled’ voucher). As customers usually spend at least €8 on beverages the gift is non-distortionary: customers could rearrange their money to spend the same amount of money. However, customers who received the labelled voucher actually spent on average €3.90 more on beverages than those with the unlabelled voucher.

Interestingly, the most common behaviour was to spend the voucher on the targeted good. Additionally, those with lower non-verbal cognitive ability were more likely to respond to the label. Non-verbal cognitive ability involves problem solving skills and mathematical ability as opposed to language skills.

Example 2: FMCG

Supermarkets are also starting to use labelled vouchers to nudge customers towards more profitable goods.

Tesco promotion

Here Tesco is offering a 20p discount on top range lettuces. Clearly, the label means that customers are more likely to buy one more top range lettuce than if the voucher could be used on any item.

Sainsbury's promotion

Here Sainsbury’s is using a small promotion to nudge consumers towards bakery items. The labelling effect means that this 40p discount will disproportionately increase spending on bakery items.

Example 3: Government payments

The Government also uses the labelling effect on benefits such as the ‘Winter Fuel Payment’ (WFP). Currently, pensioners spend on average 41% of the WFP on fuel. However, if named ‘The Annual Allowance’ they would only spend 3% of it on fuel (2).

What causes the labelling effect?

There are three potential causes of the labelling effect: narrow bracketing, mental accounting and reciprocity.

Narrow bracketing  

This is the process whereby people split one decision into separate parts and then consider each part in turn (3). For example, people may decide to spend their budget on food, beverages or both.  If their usual budget decision were totally unaffected by say an 8 Euro voucher then, then all would be spent on the targeted good.

There are four possible causes of narrow bracketing. Firstly, customer’s cognitive limitations. Secondly, cognitive inertia (it simplifies decisions). Thirdly, by applying previous value judgements or ‘rules of thumb’ to spending behaviour, such as ‘always spending at least £10 on a bottle of wine’. This could cause customers to see the wine cost as separate to the rest of the cost of the meal. Fourthly, through deliberate or conscious action to control or check expenditure, perhaps as a New Year health or budget resolution.

Mental accounting

This is a form of narrow bracketing whereby people divide their expenditure, wealth and income into different ‘mental accounts’ (4). These mental accounts represent narrow brackets. For example, a restaurant patron may have two separate dining budgets in his or her mind; a food budget and also a beverage budget. The unlabelled voucher could therefore be split between either account, while the labelled voucher may only be added to the beverage budget. Once allocated to an account, money is not easily shifted as the label given to the gift affects spending.

Furthermore, the tighter the customer’s budget, the more strictly mental accounts are enforced.  So the labelling effect has greater impact on the less wealthy.

Feelings of reciprocity

These may cause customers to respond in a way they think is helpful to the gift-giver. Customers may see a promotion as a gift and reciprocate by spending more of the gift on the targeted good. Reciprocity does not cause the labelling effect on vouchers, but it may do for Government payments.

Is the labelling effect transparent?

In the context of retail vouchers, most people are aware of the labelling effect per se but fewer are aware of its real impact (5). Awareness of the labelling effect is driven by non-verbal cognitive ability and age. The use of labels is less obvious to younger people with lower cognitive ability. Conversely, those more likely to respond are less likely to know about it.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Labels change behaviour so target promotions such as vouchers to increase spend on more profitable goods. Do not assume your customers will rearrange their money, even with small promotions. So if your customer spends £10 on books and £10 on (more profitable) DVDs, a £5 gift can significantly change  spending balance. Evidence suggests labelling the voucher for DVDs would cause customers to spend £2.50 more on DVDs than they would with an unlabelled voucher.

2. Nudge your customers into narrow bracketing by creating new product divisions in categories and markets. If some DVDs are more profitable than others, then divide them into groups by age or genre.

3. Use the labelling effect to make the most of loyalty scheme promotions. Perhaps by making reward points worth more on certain products, or by allocating reward points to different ‘accounts’ to spend on different products.

4. Use behavioural economics to uncover new insights and optimise your promotions. Small promotions and labelling or small changes in copy can change spending patterns. Schedule research, such as quali-quant tests or hall tests to understand the causes and effects.


(1) Abeler, J. & F. Marklein (2013), ‘Fungibility, Labels, and Consumption’, Working Paper. First published May 2008 as IZA Discussion Paper No. 3500.
(2) Beatty, T., Blow, L., Crossley, T. & C. O’Dea (2011), ‘Cash by any other name? Evidence on labelling from the UK Winter Fuel Payment’, Institute for Fiscal Studies Discussion Paper.
(3) Read, D., Loewenstein, G. & M. Rabin, (1999) ‘Choice Bracketing’, Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 19(1–3), p.171–97.
(4) Thaler, R. H. (1999), ‘Mental accounting matters’, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 12, p.183-206.
(5) Hogg, T. (2013) ‘Fungibility: Are People Aware of Non-Fungibility?’, MSc Dissertation at The University of Nottingham. Available on request.

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.

Marketing Christmas with Music

Using music for marketing

SFX: Christmas Bells

Ring, ring. Ring, ring!

Music has long been associated with Christmas, and Christmas with music. The first specifically Christmas hymns (carols) for Christians appeared in the fourth century. Music is also a terrific gift; the size of the market increases in the run up to Christmas and record labels battle to win the coveted #1 single and album slots. Marketers are also catching on to the power of marketing Christmas with music.

For the last three years, John Lewis has been top of the pops in using music to market their business. The Gabrielle Aplin cover of ‘The Power of Love’ used in John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas campaign by Adam & Eve/DDB knocked Olly Murs off the top of the official UK singles chart on 10 December. You can watch it here.

John Lewis’s sales for the week ending Saturday 8 December rose 15% year on year to £142m. John Lewis is attributing this to the success of its “omnichannel strategy”. It says sales were driven by customers looking for that special Christmas gift, including gloves, cashmere, lingerie, handbags or jewellery. The strong performance of gloves as a gift coincides with the Christmas ad showing a snowman making a long journey to get a pair of gloves for his snowwoman.

In 2011, John Lewis used the Slow Moving Millie soundtrack, ‘Please, please, please’ to promote its Christmas offer. This has amassed nearly 5m You Tube views.

Ellie Goulding’s haunting cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ was used in its 2010 Christmas ad. But can you recall the ads pre 2009?

Seasons Greetings to you!

Since we founded our marketing consultancy in 2005, we’ve included lyrics from Christmas songs in our Christmas cards. Finding lyrics that convey the right sentiments is a tough task! Matching words and pictures is equally difficult. This year we’ve selected lyrics from a song written by Leigh Haggerwood called ‘My Favourite Time of Year’. Disappointed at the high-jacking of the Christmas charts by likes of X-Factor, Leigh wrote this song to reflect the true values of Christmas. Also funded without the backing of a record label, and promoted only by social media, it charted at just 40 in December 2010. You can watch it here. ‘There is goodwill in the air tonight’.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Music elicits powerful emotional responses and influences behaviour. It’s also powerful in rekindling memories. Thus if used correctly the sound of sleigh bells can have a powerful effect on tills.

2. Remember the narrative. While many John Lewis ads pre 2009 also used music, for example, Taken by the Trees version of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ in 2009, Virginia Labuat’s version of ‘From me To You’ in 2008 and Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet in 2007, none are arguably as emotionally engaging and heart warming as the more recent ads.

3. Ensure consistency in marketing communications (through different channels and over time) to help get the message across, be understood and acted upon.

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.

Brand Development; The Fishy Idea that Turned into a Brand – Bubba Gump

It is a downer returning home from your holidays. You know all good things come to an end. You also expect a tedious wait at the airport and a tiring journey home.

So it was with squeals of delight that we discovered the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at our departure airport. “That’s the company founded by Forrest Gump” shouted the little one. It is a fabulous brand development story.

The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

The neon sign first caught the eye. It shouts all American and come and look at me.

Great brand experiences. The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co Logo
The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (Logo) in Cancun, Mexico

Bubba Gump Brand Development

So what could a company that originated in shrimp fishing possibly have to offer? Lots more than we imagined. Firstly, merchandise. The little one tried on a snug- fitting t-shirt emblazoned with the company logo. In a trice she became a cool able seaman on Bubba’s boat. Then we found some shrimp plush toys. And lots of sporting goods including football jerseys, water bottles and also table tennis bats. All stuff connected to the Forrest Gump film. And also based on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom. As a result, the miscellany of stuff and colourful displays were irresistible.

Some Forrest Gump Sayings

So we had to discover more. The diner itself was like a shack. Wooden beams held up a corrugated iron roof. In addition, three different ‘rooms’ decorated with US car number plates and signs also outlined simple morals or beliefs:

“When all else fails, try doing what the captain suggested”

“A promise is a promise”

“If the customer wants vanilla, give him vanilla”

Great brand experiences. Bubba Gump Market
Some of Forrest Gump’s sayings

The Bubba Gump Brand Experience

To get the waiters’ attention, we waved a “Stop Forrest Stop” sign. And when we were happy, we then displayed the sign “Run Forrest Run”. We ordered “Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Heaven”. The choice was essentially shrimp or shrimp. Either boiled, broiled, fried, baked, sauteed, steamed or barbecued. But hey that’s the difference. The coconut shrimp were divine as were the shrimp balls.

With the family engaged, we enjoyed a happy hour reliving and conversing about the film. As the little one remarked; “this would be a great place to go with a first date.”

Great brand experiences. Staff and customers at The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cancun Mexico
Staff and customers at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cancun, Mexico

Marketing Inspiration

Turn ideas in a winning brand by evolving a compelling brand story, and delivering a great experience

Every great business or brand starts with a great brand strategy or idea. The idea behind the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company are the characters and also the content of the film and novel. From the Forrest Gump story thus emerges a heart-warming and distinctive business and brand proposition.

Use clever brand presentation to reinforce the core brand idea and attract and engage

Experiencing the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is like peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal the magic of the brand within. Through attention-getting signage, to the fun physical environment and displays, to products and then the people.

Build ‘a must talk-about’ brand experience by including magical moments

Combining lots of little things adds up to a memorable experience – one that you want to tell your friends about. The staff were part of the fun – hence the reason they appear in our photographs!

Prove the business model and then drive rapid global brand development

Founded in 1996, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co was proven in the US before expanding to Mexico, Asia and now the UK. At the time of writing there are 33 sites with sales per location of c. $5.5m per annum. Merchandise sales add value beyond expectations of a pure-play restaurant. As the company’s website says, the idea was inspired by Paramount Pictures, and turned into a concept by Rusty Pelican Restaurants. This then led to a ‘licensing agreement’ based on the motion picture property.

To create and deliver a compelling and distinctive brand experience, check out our brand strategy services and also  brand masterclasses.

And as Forrest would say, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

All photographs © Guy Tomlinson 2010

Great Brand Experiences; National Geographic

Great Brand Experiences | National Geographic

National Geographic – A Great Brand Experience?

The greatest brands have high awareness and a clear and distinctive image. Also an ability to evoke a strong rational and emotional bond with audiences, stretch into new markets as well as change with the times. With the opening of its new London store, The National Geographic Society delivered a great brand experience.

The National Geographic Society

It all started in 1888 when 33 explorers and scientists gathered to form the National Geographic Society ‘for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge’. Over the years, the Society has supported many expeditions and research projects including polar and undersea expeditions, studies of animals, such as Dian Fossey’s study of mountain gorillas. It has also enabled discoveries such as the wreck of the Titanic (Robert Ballard) and the man-like Zinjanthropus in Tanzania (Louis Leakey).

Brand extensions

The first brand extension, National Geographic magazine appeared in 1888. Then with its articles on geography, science, world history and current events, dramatic photographs from around the world, and trademarked yellow border, it became an icon of our times. Also a coffee table essential for the chattering classes.

In June 1985, National Geographic chose a close-up of an ‘Afghan girl’ as the cover photo for an article on the refugee crisis in Afghanistan.

Photographed by Steve McCurry, the girl had sea green eyes striped with blue and yellow. She peered with a mixture of bitterness and courage from within a tattered burgundy scarf. As a result her picture touched the souls of millions.

Emergence of a media brand

In 1964, the brand extended onto television with stories of adventure and science. In turn, it gave fame to marine explorer and ecologist Jacques Cousteau and his adventures on board Calypso. The first TV channel then followed in 1997. Then in 2007, National Geographic created a global media group comprising all of its magazine, book publishing, television, film, music, radio, digital and maps units.

The new National Geographic store

Together with franchise partner, Worldwide Retail Store, National Geographic opened in Regent Street in November 2008. It is (or was*) a fantastic sensory experience.

On walking in you are greeted by a staff member from one of the many nations represented in the store. To the right are magazines and videos, all with the iconic yellow border, neatly displayed in a small pagoda-like structure. Beyond is a café with rustic tables and chairs. It is a great place to chat and enjoy a drink and pastry or pincho created by the fabulous Spanish chef.

An artistic experience

All is interposed with state of the art interactive screens and video walls bringing HD quality pictures from around the world up close and real. After hours, the merchandise then packs away and the room becomes a lecture theatre.

Inside the door are a series of horse sculptures carefully crafted from driftwood. Beyond are rows of hanging prints taken by National Geographic photographers. Also a market-place brimming with hand-crafted furnishings and artefacts from all over the world.

And lots of practical stuff

In the basement you’ll find clothing for the great outdoors as well as the most fashion conscious. Also a cold chamber to test the weather-proofing abilities of the outerwear. This includes a wind turbine, block of ice, thermal imaging camera and visual display to add dramatic effect. The shirts are priced at £119 therefore demonstrating the premium that great brands command.

Finally, on the top floor polished wooden desks adorned with glowing globes signal this is where to book your expedition (or holiday). In the nearby technology department the latest camera and optical equipment is showcased in sturdy steel cases. Dressed in their khaki safari gear, staff are unobtrusive yet close to hand. For example, to advise on what’s best to see the stars or (photographically) shoot beasts in the bush. All that seems missing is a Masai warrior or lion on the loose…… but then again, did I really look everywhere?

Marketing Inspiration

While many great brands evolved by accident, what’s critical is management vision and conviction to push the boundaries. Also rigorous attention to detail to inspire and deliver consistently through all activities. As with all great brand experiences you should see, hear, think and feel the quality, value and difference.

*Sadly the London store closed in 2017, and its demise is our loss. Thus, we presume the high cost of a Regent Street venue, and associated high costs of merchandise, were insufficient to keep the business in the black. And/or alternatively following Disney’s acquisition of 67% of the shares, the place to visit is now the Disney Store. 

Nevertheless, even without a stand-alone London store, National Geographic remains a great brand experience, with clever brand extensions, and underpinned by a clear brand strategy!

Photo credits: Afghan girl by Steve McCurry, other photos of the National Geographic Store © Guy Tomlinson 2009.