Business musings

Articles and thoughts about Marketing Strategy & Planning

It’s that time of year again when you will be thinking about and planning your marketing for 2013. You may remember that last year we wrote an article on planning your marketing for 2012 and provided a marketing planning and budgeting template to enable you to hit the ground running. With the new year less than 2 weeks away, we thought it was about high time we gave you an updated spreadsheet.

Download: Marketing Planning & Budgeting Template 2013 (MS Excel file)

What’s new?

You’ll see that much is the same but there are a few small changes. One year on and, as always in the fast moving world of tech, things have changed slightly in the online arena, so we’ve ammended and added various marketing elements to reflect this.

Specifically, social media marketing (such as LinkedIn Ads, Facebook advertising, Twitter promoted tweets and accounts) have become more recognised and prominent, so these have been added. Similarly, Pinterest and Instagram are now also being used increasingly by businesses, so we’ve added rows for these. Lastly, we also added Yahoo! Bing Advertising as this was something we realised we’d overlooked in 2012.

What’s the same?

Last year we said that your goal is to end up with a scheduled and co-ordinated marketing plan that effectively engages your customers, that is aligned with your strategy and that, of course, drives both your brand awareness and your revenue growth. This hasn’t changed. Nor has the advice we included on how to achieve this aim. In summary, we said that you need to:

  • Take an engaging approach
  • Use the marketing mix effectively
  • Allocate resources wisely
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Measure results and learn
  • Plan ahead
  • Focus on existing customers too
  • Not drop the ball

A note on collaboration

Marketing is often highly collaborative with multiple people and parties liasing, discussing ideas and working together. Typically, teams use email to communicate but this can get somewhat confusing and overwhelming; it also lacks any real transparency and things can get lost along the chain.

Our top tip for 2013 would be to try out a collaborative, online project management tool, such as Basecamp for example, to oil the wheels as you work together. (Other project management tools are available but Basecamp is particularly easy to use and minimal training is needed).

Screen shot of Basecamp's website explaining their product features

Once you’ve chosen your preferred project management software, try turning your marketing calendar into a series of projects and using the software’s calendar function to recreate your calendar of campaigns and events.

Once these are in place, you can then:

  • Add milestones
  • Allocate and manage tasks
  • View project progress
  • Message your team
  • Upload files
  • Share information with your designers and developers

And all this in a single location with complete transparency, thereby making it easy to keep track of what is happening, when and how much is still left to do. It could save you a lot of time, money and stress as well as making sure you achieve your goals.

Over to you

Download: Marketing Planning & Budgeting Template 2013 (MS Excel file)


For those of you who use Facebook and Twitter, you’re likely to have come across the story of Lily Robinson, Sainsbury’s and why Tiger Bread should really be called Giraffe Bread. In case this internet sensation happens to have passed you by, allow me to tell you the story.

How a bread changed its spots

Photos of the letter exchange between Lily Robinson and Sainsbury's. The photo on the left shows Lily's letter with her biro drawings at the bottom. The photo on the left shows a child's hand (Lily's) holding a letter from Chris King at Sainsbury's flat against a table.

In May 2011, Lily Robinson (age 3 ½) wrote to Sainsbury’s to ask them:

Why is tiger bread c\alled tiger bread? It should be c\alled giraffe bread.

Chris King (who at the time worked in Sainsbury’s customer service team) replied to Lily saying:

Thanks so much for your letter. I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it?

It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.

I really liked reading your letter so I thought I would send you a little present. I’ve put a £3 gift card in with this letter, if you ask your mum or dad to take you to Sainsbury’s you could use it to buy some of your own tiger bread (and maybe if mum and dad say its OK you can get some sweeties too!).

Chris King (age 27 & 1/3)

I first came across this exchange via a post on Facebook last week and it certainly made me smile! Personally, I’m a big fan of Sainsbury’s anyway but this only added to my delight. And I am certainly not alone!

The letters first appeared online in June of last year when Lucy Robinson (Lily’s mum) posted to her blog Lily’s letter followed by Sainsbury’s response. The letters quickly went viral both last year and again this month. Bloggers have written about them; the photos have been shared on Facebook literally tens of thousands of times; the topic has trended on Twitter; Sainsbury’s say that “phone calls from customers mentioned the exchange and commended us for this great piece of customer service”; and BBC News, Huffington Post UK, The Sun and This is Money have all run articles about the story. This simple exchange has certainly made a big impact. To such an extent that Sainsbury’s have today announced that they are renaming their Tiger Bread to Giraffe Bread and will be seeing how it goes.

Screen capture of a tweet by @sainsburys. The tweet reads, "We're renaming #tigerbread to #giraffebread thanks to Lily Robinson. RT if you'll be looking for it instore"

A tiger story of my very own

Reading Lily’s story reminded me of one of my own childhood experiences.

I’m sure many of you know and love Kellogg’s Frosties and Tony the Tiger. One of the promotions Kellogg’s ran when I was a child featured a set of four Tony the Tiger water games. By collecting tokens from Kellogg’s packs, you could send off for a small plastic game that you filled with water. To play the game, you pumped buttons at the bottom that caused either small plastic rings or balls to rise through the water, hopefully landing on hooks or in holes that were your targets.

I diligently collected tokens for such a game and sent them off, receiving one of the four games shortly after. So excited was I by this gift that I wrote a letter to Tony the Tiger thanking him for my present. In what was to me a completely surprising twist of events, I then received another parcel with a letter from Kellogg’s saying how pleased they were to hear from me and, as a show of their appreciation, here were the complete set of four games just for me.

Much like Chris King’s response to Lily’s letter, this was such a simple act on Kellogg’s behalf but it is something that has made a big difference. As a child, I was thrilled to receive the games and Tony the Tiger seemed like the kindest tiger in the world. With age came the realisation that it was in fact Kellogg’s who had been thoughtful and generous but the story has stuck. Kellogg’s actions had such an impact on me that this is a story I continue to re-tell more than 20 years later (just ask Matt!).

When Smarties failed to have the answer

In contrast, I read an article last week featuring Lily Robinson’s story in which the author said:

When I mentioned this story to my wife (@Jilltovey) she told me about the time when she, aged 8 or 9, wrote to Smarties to ask them why they had the answer and was sent a curt reply telling her it was “just a marketing slogan”.

Again, the story has lasted.

Simple acts of kindness lead to customer delight

I’m sure we all have our own stories of great customer experience and times when brands have let us down. What has struck me reading about Lily’s story and being reminded of my own however, is how simple the acts are that make a lasting impact. It would be easy to dismiss a child’s letter or to send a stock response (just as Smarties did) but by taking a little time to respond to the child in a way they relate to, Sainsbury’s and Kellogg’s have both not only made two children (and their parents) very happy but have also created lasting memories and stories to tell for years to come. Isn’t this how we should be treating all our customers, both young and old? Reaching out to them where they are and delighting them in every interaction we have?

Toothpaste aside for a moment, I’d love to share with you an idea that I’ve been mulling over for nearly six months now…

Less is more and, believe it or not, your business can be more with less!

Minimalism and de-cluttering have become popular personal paradigms—you only have to Google ‘de-cluttering’ for a wealth of hints, tips, articles and websites on how to de-clutter your life.

Surprisingly, there is also a profusion of literature (both academic and experiential) that supports the value of de-cluttering your business, particularly your product lines and service offerings.

Reducing the range of choices that you offer your customers not only increases the likelihood that they will buy in the first place but it also increases their level of satisfaction with the purchase they make.

De-cluttering therefore creates value for your business. Simplification also frees up your time and resources enabling you to be outstanding at the few things you do rather than mediocre at the many.

Allow me to tell you a story…

I have sensitive teeth. When I bite into an ice cream or switch quickly between hot and cold, needles of pain shoot through my teeth. Until earlier this year, I was relying on Colgate Time Control to reduce these sensations. For whatever reason, Colgate seem to have discontinued this toothpaste and eventually I found myself in Sainsbury staring at a rather overwhelming myriad of choices.

Photograph of seven shelves filled with different brands and types of toothpaste at Sainsbury supermarketColgate alone sell no fewer than six different types of sensitive toothpaste: Total Sensitive, Sensitive Pro-Relief, Sensitive, Sensitive Whitening, Sensitive Multi Protection and Sensitive Enamel Protect.

The marketing speak on the boxes is virtually indecipherable and, to all intents and purposes, they all seem to do the same thing! I’m sure there’s more science involved but, from a lay-person’s perspective, the subtle differences between each product are almost impossible to discern.

And that’s not even including other brands. Sensodyne, Arm & Hammer, Oral B, Sainsbury’s own brand—the list goes on!

After standing at the shelves for a rather long time (certainly longer than should be necessary to buy a tube of toothpaste!), I eventually dropped a box of Total Sensitive into my trolley. Why? To be honest, simply because Matt uses Colgate Total Advanced Whitening and it seems to work for him.

Fortunately, my choice seems to have been a good one and I haven’t suffered any sensitivity or pain. Yet, every time I pass the shelves I find myself questioning whether there is a better toothpaste for me. Surely choosing toothpaste shouldn’t be this complicated?!

The art of simplicity

In another, totally different situation earlier this year, I was conversely impressed by the art of simplicity.

Photograph of a free-standing blackboard inside the door of the tearooms at David Austen's Plant Centre. Written on the blackboard in chalk is the title 'Today's Lunch Menu' with a selection of six main courses: A Rose Gardeners plate; A Generous Garden platter; Constance Spry; Graham Thomas; The Countrymans Sandwich; The Charles Darwin sandwich.For a thoroughly English outing and to celebrate my mum’s birthday, Matt and I visited David Austen’s Plant Centre. Heading to the tearooms for lunch, we found ourselves stood inside the door by a blackboard with ‘Today’s Lunch Menu’ handwritten in chalk.

As we waited to be seated, we read the menu. Served between 12 – 2.30pm, diners at the tearooms could choose from a selection of six lunchtime platters: two different types of sandwiches, a garden platter, pâté, coronation chicken or dressed Devon crab. Even with only six options, we had difficulty choosing but, by the time we were seated, the waitress was able to take our order immediately.

A restaurant menu is one situation in which an abundance of choice is generally thought to be a good thing. Interestingly however, the limited selection offered in the tearooms not only conferred benefits upon the diners—we were seated quickly despite a long queue, received our meals almost immediately, were given great customer service and ate a fabulous meal—but also upon the business itself.

The tedious chore of queuing was transformed into a creative choice process; diners reached their decisions faster, enabling a higher number of covers to be filled within the short lunchtime period; food production was highly efficient as only a limited number of dishes were being served; and ordering processes are likely to have been simplified and relatively volume based.

Around the same time as this, I stumbled across another article on the idea of less is more. In this article, Lawrence Chan profiled The Doughnut Vault—a doughnut store in Chicago .

Starting at 8.30am Tuesday-Friday and 9.30am on Saturday, The Doughnut Vault typically sell between 750 to 900 doughnuts per day but once they’re sold out (often by 10am!), that’s it—they’re sold out. Even though the store only offer a limited range of flavours, the queue to buy is often 40 to 50 people deep and nearly an hour long to wait.

As Lawrence points out, “scarcity lends value”. By limiting availability and supply, The Doughnut Vault creates a sense of urgency and demand for their product. Not only that, but as Brian Adams expresses in one of the blog’s comments, limited options enable “higher quality control”, conferring further benefits upon the business.

I was similarly intrigued by another of the blog’s comments by Fabiana Loverde de Huffaker:

My sister opened a home decor store that is only open on Thursdays. She has 400-600 transactions per week. Prices are to die for, service is top notch. People come from all parts of the western US with trailers and will clean her out. The thinking was, if you need something from Walmart, and you know it is open 24/7, you put it off. If you can only get it one day a week, you make it a priority to get there on that one day. People thought she was crazy and 5 years later, she can not keep up with demand. Donuts or decor – the principle works!

A sound business case

As I hinted earlier, aside from the experiential evidence above, an extremely sound business case can be made for embracing the idea of less is more.

Back in 2000, Sheena Iyengar (a professor at Columbia Business School) and Mark Lepper (a professor of psychology at Stanford University) conducted what has become a classic study on the consequences of choice.

Whether examining the behaviour of consumers purchasing jam in an upscale grocery store, the performance of social psychology students in an extra-credit essay assignment, or the satisfaction and purchasing behaviour of individuals tasting chocolates, Iyengar and Lepper consistently demonstrated that a wider range of choice can have a detrimental effect on satisfaction, performance, motivation and even purchasing behaviour. Even in situations where choice had relatively trivial consequences, their results were startling.

When consumers were presented with a tasting booth of Wilkin & Sons’ jam at Draeger’s Supermarket, those consumers who encountered a display of only six different varieties of jam were ten times more likely to buy than those individuals who encountered a display of twenty-four varieties.

Similarly, students who encountered only six different flavours of Godiva chocolates were four times as likely to choose a box of chocolates over the offer of $5 than those who either encountered thirty different flavours or those who had been given no choice in which chocolate to sample. Individuals who had encountered a limited range of flavours were also significantly more satisfied with the chocolate that they tasted.

Such findings have been replicated time and again. In 2004, Barry Schwartz wrote ‘The paradox of choice: why more is less’—over 200 pages of examples and evidence supporting the idea that whilst we feel like an abundance of choice should bring freedom and happiness, in fact too much choice “might even be said to tyrannize”.

And household brands are learning from these ideas and capitalising upon them.

In the early 1990s, Proctor & Gamble reduced its product roster by one third; “even the mighty Head & Shoulders line was pared in half”. In the same period, P&G’s overall sales grew by one third and sales per item in hair care more than doubled, with market share in hair care growing by nearly five points.

More recently, “when General Motors shrunk its brands from eight to four last year, dealers reported a 16% increase in sales.”

Is it time to de-clutter your business?

In the face of the possibility that your business could become more with less and could even gain competitive advantage, is it time to trim your product lines or service offerings? Have they become unnecessarily complex or overwhelmingly confusing? Could you create value for your organisation and your customers by adopting the idea that less is more?

In a world in which complexity increases almost daily, being able to make simple choices is a refreshing change and simplicity helps you to stand out from the crowd. Far from being unhelpful or constrictive, by giving our customers less choice, we actually release them to focus on the more important things in life. After all, life is too short to spend more than 2 minutes worrying about which toothpaste to buy!

And for those of you who like the research…

Button, G. (2011). Over-branding kills profits and scares off consumers. Fast Company’s Co.Design

Iyengar, S. & Lepper, M. (2000). When choice is demotivating: can one desire too much of a good thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 79: 995-1006.

Schiller, Z., Burns, G. & Lowry, K. (1996). Make it simple.

Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: why more is less. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Posted by Matt Stocker, stored in: Marketing Strategy & Planning  

I say this in a whisper but with only just over six weeks to go until the New Year, we’ve created a Marketing Planning and Budgeting template to enable you to hit the ground running in 2012!

Before we dive into your marketing plan however, I hasten to add that this template is based on a couple of assumptions. We’re assuming you already fully understand your market, customers, competition and organisational capabilities—yes? Great!

We’re also assuming you’ve decided on your target market segments and priorities, brand positioning, basis for competing and overall marketing strategy. Another yes? Brilliant!

In that case, let’s dive right into how to create a great marketing plan for 2012.

Introducing the template

  • The marketing plan template has two tabs: one for creating a plan of your marketing activities and the other for planning your marketing budget.
  • Down the left hand side of each sheet, you’ll find all the possible elements of the marketing mix you might want to make use of.
  • In the budgeting sheet, we’ve also included formulas that add up the monthly and yearly subtotals/totals so you can keep track of how much you’re spending and when.
  • The bit in the middle of each sheet is for you to fill in!

What you’re aiming for in a marketing plan

Your goal is to end up with a scheduled and co-ordinated marketing plan that effectively engages your customers, that is aligned with your strategy and that, of course, drives both your brand awareness and your revenue growth.

In order to meet this aim, you’ll need to…

Take an engaging approach

Given that marketing has almost wholly moved from push marketing to the creation of two-way engagement, you are not looking for opportunity to bombard your existing and potential customers with messages focused solely on your greatness. Rather, start looking for opportunities to add value and to be useful. Don’t take customer relationships for granted—you need to earn your prospects’ trust, respect and loyalty. While different industries will have different expectations, showing your potential customers that you understand their needs is always a great place to start.

Use the marketing mix effectively

There are many ways to market your business—sadly however, there is no silver bullet and no predetermined secret to success. The idea is not to use every single element of the marketing mix but rather to match your message to your customers and to align both of these with the communication medium you choose. Some elements of the marketing mix will be better at targeting the people you are trying to reach, whilst others will be a complete #fail. Choose wisely and choose a mix that maximises your chances of success.

Allocate resources wisely

You’re likely to have a set budget for your marketing, so the aim is to maximise your bang for the buck. Not all marketing communications are created equal when it comes to return on investment, so make sure your budget is allocated to those elements that will deliver the highest return. And once you’ve allocated your budget, stick to it! Although flexibility is at times needed, becoming too flexible and trigger happy over your latest campaign can scupper your best laid plans for the rest of the year.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

If your organisation is like most businesses, there are usually finite resources when it comes to marketing, both in terms of time and budgets. By creating a marketing plan that cleverly integrates each element, and by reusing and repurposing content across different channels, you can increase the impact of your marketing, whilst reducing the amount of work required. With the new year presenting a perfect opportunity to take stock, you could also look at simplifying your marketing and cutting out those elements that haven’t worked so well in previous years, freeing up valuable resource for other activities.

Measure results and learn

If you don’t measure the effect of your marketing, you are likely to find it difficult to select and prioritise your marketing mix and to effectively allocate resource. By tracking leads and their sources, along with a broader range of key performance indicators, you’ll be able to discern what works and what doesn’t. Whilst you’ll probably find online marketing easier to track, it’s also possible to successfully track offline campaigns, so make sure you put measures in place to do so where you can. Whether online or off, it is also vital to listen to the voice of your consumers, enabling you to understand their reactions and capitalise upon their response.

Plan ahead

It may sound obvious but marketing tends to be time intensive, so don’t underestimate the time it will take to complete necessary design processes, write copy, obtain approvals, establish your social media, and so on. For many businesses, there are specific times of the year that you need to be in touch with your customers—retail businesses live and die by their seasonal campaigns! By planning ahead and getting everything ready in advance, you’ll ensure that you don’t miss out on vital opportunities.

Focus on existing customers too

It’s generally recognised that the cost of acquiring a new customer is far higher than retaining the loyalty of an existing one. Thinking about your customers in terms of total lifetime value can be helpful when deciding how much resource to invest in gaining new prospects versus encouraging loyalty. How can you make your customers—both new and old—feel loved and valued? What can you do to provide such good products and services that they never want to leave? Don’t forget to reward loyalty in your marketing campaigns too—don’t just give all the special offers to the newbies, leaving your trusted, loyal customers feeling unloved and out in the cold.

Not drop the ball

In many cases marketing is only part of the process. Once you’ve generated a lead, you need to turn it into action. This requires great follow-up by your sales team, exceptional delivery of a fantastic product and/or service, and outstanding after-sales care. I’m always surprised by the number of businesses that fail to follow up leads and I’ve had this experience personally with several potential suppliers—suffice to say, they never ended up with my business! Returning a call or following up an enquiry is a simple but crucial step to completing a sale. Ultimately, marketing is the stepping stone to creating an ongoing relationship with your customers and it’s important that they experience a consistent customer journey from start to finish.

Over to you

Download: Marketing Planning & Budgeting Template 2012 (MS Excel file)


Many business situations involve design. Design communicates your brand and is required for even the most basic of business communication. Think about your logo, business card, letterhead, compliments slip, brochure, catalogue, email newsletters, website, banner stands, advertisements, posters, company reports, proposals, invoices, white papers, data sheets, menus, signage, packaging, special offers, social media profiles and more—all of these involve design! Design is also integral to how we interact with a product (think of the design of the computer you’re sitting at now) and is even implicated in other vital interactions such as store design, office design, customer experience design, service design and more.

For many of us, whilst we appreciate great design when we see it, designing anything for ourselves can prove somewhat of a challenge. Great designers typically have a healthy dose of natural talent and have spent hours and hours practicing their trade. Neither of these factors make DIY design easy!

That is not to say that we mere mortals do not have ideas, opinions and an overall direction that we would like to take the design of our brand, product, customer experience or store. In an ideal world, a designer would be able to read our minds and would have complete insight into our business strategy. They would just know what we wanted. In reality, it just doesn’t work that way. If your other half can’t read your mind, how does your designer have a hope?!

Help is at hand

A design brief is a tool that helps you to clearly communicate your ideas and requirements to your designer ensuring that he/she effectively meets your objectives. A design brief can also be used to obtain accurate quotes and precise pitches from a selection of designers, thereby aiding your decision making process.

What should be included in a design brief?

Item(s) to be designed

First things first, you probably know what item(s) you want designed, whether it’s a brochure, email newsletter, website, office space or a whole new brand identity. Communicate this upfront to give the designer an idea of the scope of your project.

Company profile

In all likelihood, a designer won’t know your business inside out, so a clear description of your organisation provides a solid foundation for your project. It will also ensure that your designer creates designs that are appropriate for your industry. Even if you feel your brand is a household name, don’t assume that a designer will know your side of the story—it’s really helpful for them to hear it in your own words. Aim to answer questions such as:

  • What does your business do?
  • What is its history?
  • How are you different to your competitors?


Good design can help you to meet your business objectives. It will therefore help if your designer understands how this project fits into your wider objectives and what you would consider a successful outcome from this work. Aim to answer questions such as:

  • What are the goals of this design project?
  • What has brought about the need for this work—for example, are you launching a new product, trying to sell more products, raise brand awareness and so on?
  • What do you want the design to communicate?
  • What is your most important take home message?

Target audience

Describe the people who will be interacting with your design, including their unique characteristics. Consider providing demographic details (such as occupation, gender, age range, nationality), details about their seniority within an organisation and their job role, behavioural details (such as loyalty, usage, the benefits they are looking for) and psychographic details (such as values, attitudes, opinions, interests). Alternatively, you could take a more persona based approach: “John is a…”. Aim to answer questions such as:

  • Who are the people you would like to reach with this design?
  • Why do they care about your company/product/service?
  • If you have several target audiences, who is the most/least important?


From a designer’s perspective, it can be difficult for them to know how much creative freedom they have within a project and what your expectations are. Be clear about the results you are hoping for and how the design will fit within the wider brand/marketing context of your business. Answer questions such as:

  • How will this design fit into the wider activities of your business—for example, will you be running multiple promotions, additional events and so on?
  • Does the current design need to conform with/complement existing marketing material and, if so, what?
  • Do you want to update your existing collateral or are you looking for a complete redesign?

Where you have existing collateral available, it can be really helpful to include a few examples of these within your brief.  For example, you could provide a link to your website, a sheet of your letterhead, an existing brochure and so on.


You may have already seen various designs you like and others that you hate, not only within your own industry but even within other industries, your home and in everyday life. By providing your designer with this information, you’ll give them invaluable insights as to what kind of creative approach will work well for you. Answer questions such as:

  • What examples of design do you like?
  • What examples of design do you hate?
  • What do you like about your existing material and is there anything you would like to change?
  • What words or metaphors describe the feel that you would like your new design to have?

Specification, constraints and available materials

It may be that you have a clearly defined specification for this project or there may be elements of it that are still up in the air. Define what you already know and highlight those areas that still need clarification or that you would like support from your designer to answer. Answer questions such as:

  • Are there any constraints to what is being designed—for example, does the design need to conform to a particular size, shape, colour palette and so on?
  • Are you looking only for design services or would you like a full service that includes printing, production, web coding, mailing and so on?
  • What copy/pictures/photographs/diagrams need to be included in the design?
  • Are images available or will these need to be sourced?
  • Will a professional copywriter or photographer be needed?

Budget and schedule

If you have a budget range in mind, be upfront with your designer. Whilst it can be tempting to think that designers will see your budget as a target, in reality it helps them to understand the scope of your project so they can create a design that fits your needs. If you’re not looking for a full service from your designer, don’t forget to also budget for additional elements such as printing, web coding, mailing and so on.

Similarly, be upfront with your designer about your schedule. Although they may face their own scheduling constraints and good design usually takes time, it is vital that they are aware of deadlines such as an upcoming product launch, trade show, holiday offer and so on. Answer questions such as:

  • How much are you looking to spend on this design?
  • How soon would you like the work to be completed and do you have a specific deadline to meet?
  • Is your schedule flexible in any way?
  • How do you see the timeline of the various phases involved in the design work?

A stitch in time saves nine

Whilst there can be a temptation to believe that your time would be better spent diving straight into the design work instead of taking the time to write a brief, in reality you’ll find that this approach is a false economy (much like building a house without agreeing the plans first). As you start to write the brief, you may find that you don’t yet know all the answers you need—this is just confirmation of the brief’s importance. If you don’t yet know what you are looking for, how can you expect your designer to?

As you collate your ideas, involve your colleagues and don’t be shy about asking for their input. Ensure that you obtain sign-off on the completed brief from both senior management and other relevant parties too—there can be differing views on objectives internally and it’s always best to find this out at the start rather than when everyone complains about the finished design! The bigger the project, the more important collaboration and sign-off become.

All in all, you’ll find that having a good design brief not only ensures that your designer will love you forever but also that you get a better design for less money and with less confusion, hassle and headaches along the way.


Cartoon drawing of a man standing next to two hazard signs. The first sign shows a man teetering on the edge of a steep incline and reads 'Danger! Sudden death'.  The second sign has a picture of a more shallow slope with the words 'Slow decline'. The caption of the cartoon reads, "He wondered what would happen if his business ignored market trends. The options didn't look great!"

Given the recent backtrack by Gap over their new logo, it would seem that Twitter, Facebook and social media have won a victory for the people.

New and old Gap logos

But, is it really a victory or is the feedback from the online community just noisy resistance to change?

Gap obviously felt that the people had a point and promptly withdrew their new branding, apologised and went back to the old logo with immediate effect, “[bringing] it back across all channels”.

On the one hand…

Given that Gap must have invested significantly in designing the new logo, getting feedback and re-branding (all of which has presumably now been binned), why did they not stick to their guns and let the noise pass?

Whilst a wealth of opinion was undoubtedly expressed online with more than 2,000 comments on Gap’s Facebook page, such a figure must reflect only a small proportion of those who actually shop at Gap and it can take time for people to come to terms with anything significantly new.

If Steve Jobs was prone to changing his mind when the crowd gets noisy and had he read posts written about the iPad before it was launched, we may well not have the iPad now.

On the other hand…

Gap’s change of mind may be a closely averted PR disaster and proof that listening to your customers is vital to ensure that customers join you on your journey of brand development.

Had Gap gathered more consumer feedback during the logo design process, it may have become clear that the public strongly associated with the blue square; so strongly in fact that the logo seems to be the square and many expressed opinion that the square shouldn’t be relegated to second place behind the name.

If Gap had pushed ahead and ignored the sentiment of the crowds it is possible that they may have ended up in a scenario similar to that of Coca-Cola and new Coke, with an embarrassing brand re-introduction.

So the answer is…?

That’s a good question! Personally, I can see the intention behind the new logo and understand how Gap is looking to bring a fresh, clean, modern take on their previous logo. However, I can also see that people so strongly associate Gap with the blue square that relegating the square to such an extent was likely to produce strong emotions – Gap not only got a new logo, it lost its ‘Gap-ness’.

At the same time, branding is often very personal and subject to personal taste -  it can be difficult to be impartial or objectively ‘right’. Presumably Gap management know where they want to take the brand and what brand image Gap needs to reflect. Ultimately, the management must decide the brand direction for Gap whilst listening to their customers as best they can. Unfortunately, it is not possible to design a brand by committee and no matter how hard you try, you will never keep everyone 100% happy.

It will be interesting to continue to watch what the management decides to do as they move forwards (once they’ve finished licking their wounds!): “There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way” (Marka Hansen, President of Gap Brand, North America).

Posted by Matt Stocker, stored in: Marketing Strategy & Planning  

This marketing email from Tom Tom amused me, primarily because of the choice of image of a skier teetering on the edge of cliff.



Whilst this email is in fact advertising speed camera alerts, if you compare the image of the skier with the image from The Telegraph showing the BMW of a driver who was facing a dangerous driving charge having blindly followed his sat nav to the edge of a cliff in West Yorkshire until it was teetering on the edge, I’m sure you will be able to spot the unfortunate similarities.

The joys of image selection! Always something to bear in mind.



Becoming aware of how areas within your business communicate with your customers is vital if you want to convey a consistent message about your brand/business.

The difficulty is that your customers don’t just read the words you write, or hear what you say about your business. They tend to read a whole lot more into every single interaction with your business. Both consciously and unconsciously. They even read things into the interactions they don’t have, or the things you don’t do.

Some examples…

  • Shabby carpet in a reception area.
    Customer perception: Maybe your business isn’t doing very well if you can’t afford a new carpet.
  • Taking a long time to answer the phone.
    Customer perception: Maybe you don’t actually want my business.
  • Old fashioned branding.
    Customer perception: Maybe you are just an old fashioned company delivering out-of-date solutions.

Becoming aware of what your business is saying about itself can be hard when you’re so close to it, but with some outside help you can train yourself into noticing again. Try interacting with your business as if you were a customer – how does it make you feel? What would you be thinking if you saw or experienced those things in another business? Ask your friends, family, colleagues and customers what they think about your business.  Listen to their honest opinions.  Then aim to change the things you can.

Being confident that your business is communicating what you want to communicate is a great place to be.  Don’t let your business undermine what it is you really want to say!


As cool things go, a flying car is certainly one of them! If you’ve got the cash to splash, then this should certainly be on your list…

Being able to fly and drive certainly opens up your options for commuting! Think of the time saving – that’s got to be worth something!

Church of the Customer picked up the flying car a while back and suggested it was prime material for word-of-mouth marketing: it’s a great idea and if people know about it, they’re likely to talk about it.  People want to talk about cool stuff to their friends, family, colleagues, anyone who will listen. However, people can’t talk about your idea if they don’t know about it and if the channels for communication aren’t easily available, and that’s what Church of the Customer picked up as the problem with the flying car. The company who had the idea (Terrafugia) weren’t making it easy for people to connect and share their excitement about this great product. Ben McConnell (who wrote the original blog) also suggested videos, social media, Twitter etc. to increase participation and help generate word of mouth.

The flying car company now at least have some videos.

In Ben’s most recent post, ‘The flying car flies’ (which includes the first video above) he suggested a multi-media fest, including videos on the front page, to help get people excited and to create a buzz; along with the code to embed the videos to help us bloggers!

However, I’d go one step further.

To create a real buzz you need a real sense of participation. At $194,000 anticipated retail price (when it goes on the market) that’s going to be out of reach for most of us and therefore limit the sense of being involved.

If however Terrafugia were to offer 5 lucky winners the chance to go for a drive/flight in the flying car by entering a special competition, then I’d be excited (especially if they flew me over to America for the prize – I’m based in the UK!).

Then, if they then offered me an extra chance to win for every one of my friends who also entered the competition, I’d happily suggest they entered – for my sake as well as theirs!

At very little cost to them, they could generate huge marketing and PR opportunities.

Within a short space of time you would have generated a buzz and a sense of participation far beyond what could be generated by YouTube and social media assistance alone. Combine the social media, YouTube and an exciting competition and you’d get something that was greater than the sum of its parts!

ps. If  you’re a member of Terrafugia and you’re reading this, you can sign me (and all my friends) up for the competition!