Monday, 3 December 2012

Tim Youngman - The ITV logo change and brand positioning

Every industry has quirks and things that to them are massively important but seem minute to the rest of society. I have managed to end up in an industry which has more than its fair share. In marketing we spend hours and days worrying and discussing about even the smallest changes to product taglines. It might sound bizarre to you but if you are the head of marketing for Ronseal and you wanted to change “it does exactly what it says on the tin” you would have to jump through more hoops than a seal at Seaworld.

One of the reasons I love my industry so much is this relative importance placed on things that to the causal observer seem so small but in reality do actually matter a lot. For example much as been made of the recent change to the logo of online auction house e-bay. Did you notice it, probably not, but it lead to one of my favourite tweets regarding a change which simply read “surely it’s just been on a diet”.

So here are some quotes regarding an upcoming re-brand “The rebrand is about cementing the relationship in viewers”, “The logo is a form of human handwriting. It’s curvy and warmer than we have been in the past and in comparison with competitors feels distinct and true to us.” That, dear readers, came from ITV group marketing and research director Rufus Radcliffe talking about a re-brand of the ITV logo happening in January.  

January will see the first major rebrand of ITV since 2006 when you will see it drop the “1” and revert back to simply “ITV”. They are also changing the logo, as the quote gives away, to a new curvy style whose colours will change according to the tone of the programme it is promoting. So keeping it current it might be brown and green when promoting IACGMOOH.

But why is this important and what’s the point. Well ITV has been through and come out the other side of a very difficult period in its history. Only a few years ago it was struggling against the growth of satellite and cable television channels, the internet and a reduction in ad rates. Fast forward to today and ITV is in good health. It increased revenues by 4pc to £1.57bn in the nine months to 30 September, thanks to sales from its production arm, ITV Studios, which rose by a fifth to £498m, helped by the success of hit shows such as Downton Abbey.

The re-brand allows ITV to clearly position itself against its rivals, nicely described by Mr Radcliffe as: “Being at the heart of popular culture is the purpose behind the ITV brand. The BBC’s is to educate and entertain; Channel 4’s is a mission with mischief”. I was most pleased to see that they did not spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on consultants to do this but trusted their own internal creative team to come up with the goods, an unfortunately rare decision when these things occur.

So this may not even register with you or you might raise a slight flicker of acknowledgement when the logo changes in January. However to some of us even if we don’t like to new logo we admire the thought and reasoning behind it and hope that it helps to continue the turnaround in a national institution.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 19 November 2012

Tim Youngman – Starbucks, Tax Avoidance and the art of ethics and brand positioning

One of the most interesting recent stories from a brand management point of view is the current furore regarding tax avoidance. Three companies in particular have been singled out for attention, Google, Amazon and Starbucks. Senior management from all three companies last week had to face a very public grilling from the Public Accounts Committee over the amount of tax they paid. To put some numbers behind this Starbucks had UK sales of £398m but paid zero corporation tax. Google had sales of £395m and paid £6m tax and Amazon had sales of £3.3bn paying £1.8m tax.

You may well be shaking your coffee cups right now but all of this is perfectly legal, via the loopholes in our tax system. International companies can move profits around between territory bases. For example Google’s European headquarters is based in the Republic of Ireland with its advertising team based and so it pays its main tax requirements there.

This situation has highlighted a real competitive advantage global companies have. Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis stated in an interview last week regarding Amazon   “There is less money to invest if you are giving 27pc of your profits to the Exchequer,” “Clearly, if you are domiciled in a tax haven you’ve got much more [money]. They [Amazon] will out invest and ultimately out trade us. And that means there will not be a tax base in the UK.” Strong stuff but all true.

I have slightly more sympathy for Starbucks and Amazon on this than I do Google. Amazon does employ over 2,250 people in the UK and uses UK companies its fulfilment chain. Likewise Starbucks employs more than 8,500 people in the UK and plan to grow this by another 5,000 based on outlet launches. Google, with no physical product, employs considerably less. But for me the most interesting side of this once again is the impact on brand positioning.

Compared with Google and Amazon, Starbucks has positioned itself around being a fair community focussed business. Starbucks has responded to all of this by posting defences to its actions to its blog with posts by its UK MD, Its CFO and also Howard Schultz its worldwide chairman, president and CEO.

If you look at the comments against these statements many use the words “responsibility” and “community”, words used in Starbucks own mission statement. It has used these as a core part of its brand positioning and its customers in part have bought into this. Many of the posts are from customers so upset by this perceived change in ethics that they say they will not purchase again.

There is a big difference between a few people upset enough to post comments on a blog to actually loosing customers, and so sales, on a large scale but I suspect its brand image has been tainted, probably more so than Google, because of its choice of brand positioning. This is not a column about the rights and wrongs of this as you are capable of making your own minds up. However if your brand and brand following is based on certain ethics, the lesson is you better make sure your business follows them from top to bottom in all areas. I look forward to seeing Starbuck next brand marketing and PR activities with interest.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twiiter @timyoungman

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Argos Catalogue - Branding opportunity or part of print history

As I child, I remember thoughts at this time of year turn to what you would like at Christmas. For inspiration there was one all encompassing source, the Argos catalogue. Argos first introduced its hefty tome in 1973 and at its peak 20 million copies of the biannual publication were printed. This is now set to change as part of a £300 million modernisation plan announced by its new CEO John Walden.

The announcement covers a five year plan involving spending £100 million in each of the next three years with an aim to increase sales from £3.4 billion to £4.5 billion by 2018. The plan is wide ranging and includes the closure of 50 stores and the relocation of 25 more as leases expire over the next five years. The stores themselves will change as well. The focus will still be on having a strong retail presence but used more as collection hubs and for customer service. Customers will be driven to using mobile devices and in-store wi-fi to order online instead of the laminated catalogues and little pens and paying in store after queuing up.

Argos recently announced that multi-channel sales now account for 51% of its total sales with 7% coming from mobile alone. Considering its sales figures are in the billions that is a tipping point in terms of volume coming from the web rather than the high street. Argos in my opinion is one of the pioneers and leaders of e-commerce in the UK. They were one of the first to allow customer reviews on their own product lines on its website. Its introduction of a click and collect and online reservation system again massively increased it online sales helping it to the position it is today.

So from a sales point of view I completely see why they are doing this and reacting to the change in customer activity. They will no doubt continue to innovate online and invest in digital channels and grow both the revenues and profits because of that strategic belief and investment. However I have a nagging worry from a branding point of view.

The new CEO has said it would be ‘foolish’ to pull the main catalogue now as 85% of customers still use it before buying. But he also admitted that it may decline ‘precipitously’ as sales shift online. Some commentators have said that it helps it move away from the risk of being seen outdated but I think that’s naive. The catalogue is, I’m sure, expensive and a pain to produce. Its place in our homes though is branding most retailers would kill for.

In the next few weeks you will all be inundated with glossy mags from supermarkets and other brands trying to get mindshare and table space. The Argos catalogue sits as a reminder of its place as a warehouse of everything you might need. If they stop the catalogue all together that little, albeit very weighty, reminder in your homes goes and then they have to rely on planned media campaigns and people walking past the stores to get them to use them.  Argos has already proved itself as a digital pioneer and leading e-commerce offering with incredible and growing online sales. I hope it continues though to think of its catalogue as part of its distribution and marketing mix and not part of an outdated history without benefit.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing at Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 22 October 2012

Celebrity endorsement – from Josiah Wedgewood to Lance Armstrong

Here’s some history for your dear readers. Did you know that one of the first people to pioneer celebrity endorsement was Josiah Wedgewood way back in the 1760’s? He actively promoted the fact that his pottery was used by Royalty to add to the perceived value of the products he sold. Once Queen Charlotte started using his wares he immediately called himself “Potter to Her Majesty” and increased his prices for the nobility. He then lowered his prices for the middle class but the Royal stamp of approval on certain ranges meant he could charge a premium.

From that simple but brilliant piece of marketing insight we can fast forward over 250 years to a world where celebrity endorsement is now the norm. Today Hollywood film stars promote luxury goods for millions and often low cost goods in the Far East so long as they are paid enough and also given a guarantee that the ads will not appear in the West to tarnish their reputation. Today a new breed of television “celebrities” such as those from The Only Way Is Essex are paid “low” wages and told they can expect to gain large on photo deals and product endorsements.  I suspect Josiah would probably be caught between pride and shame at how far his initial concept has gone.

However history also teaches us that although we tend to put celebrities on a pedestal they can often fall off and, if closely associated with a product or service, can damage that as well. High profile celebrities can make lots of money from brands wanting to be associated with them. David Beckham has made far more money from his product endorsements than he has ever made from actually kicking a ball. However for every Beckham there is also an OJ Simpson or a Tiger Woods. High profile celebrities with big product endorsements whose sponsors disassociated themselves as quickly as possible when things turned in their private lives.

In the last week we have seen sponsors finally start to desert Lance Armstrong. Even Nike, whom he has worked with since 1996, cancelled agreements and even using the strongly worded press release stating: “…has misled Nike for over a decade”. This shows the scale of the issue with Armstrong as they stood by Tiger Woods when his personal life exploded in 2009 when other brands left him. Within hours of the Nike announcement the cycle company Trek and brewers Anheuser-Busch also cancelled with more following. To put a sense of value to this Nike alone was worth and estimated £4.6m a year to Armstrong.

Unfortunately there are no hard and fast lessons here. Our fascination with celebrities means that their endorsement will continue to sell products and services. So while that is the case, brand and service owners will continue to pay them in the hope it will help them grow their bottom line.  However even those who once seemed beyond reproach can have hidden issues that can bite those who closely associate with them. Armstrong is not the first example and he will not be the last.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Animee and a beer for women - a lesson in product targeting and gender neutrality

In a week when Adnams was voted into the list of the UK’s coolest brands I thought it only right that I dedicate this week’s column to the subject of beer. This is not a shameful attempt to solicit free samples from those fine local producers Woodfordes, Greene King and Adnams but a genuine interest in the closure of a beer brand.

Before any female readers turn the page, this column is also all about you! A question to start with then. How many of my female readers have heard of the beer brand Animee? Any of you with your hands up I will ask the question did you actually try it? Animee was actually a brand of beer created by Molson Coors designed specifically for women. It was launched last July and backed by a £2 million ad campaign specifically targeting women. Fourteen months later the brand was pulled.

The reasons behind the launch were clear. According to recent research 77% of women say that they ‘never’ or ‘very seldom’ drink beer with only 13% of beer serves in the UK attributed to women. You can compare that to 33% in the Republic of Ireland and 44% in Spain. So in a market that has suffered from falling sales at public houses and the growth of home drinking fuelled by supermarket price promotion sales, any growth opportunity has to be explored.

Of course by saying that this beer is for women you immediately make the statement that it’s not for men who make up the vast proportion of beer consumption in the UK. Likewise, by creating a brand that is particular to the smaller purchasing segment, it has to work very hard to make inroads in that segment and will not attract sales from the bigger consuming segment i.e. men. Suddenly the £2 million marketing budget does not seem that big.

Interestingly it seems that beers that take a non-gender approach to branding and marketing have managed to attract a following. Peroni, for example, reports that it has a strong female following and attributes it to its brand positioning of Italian cool versus lads down the pub. Molson Coors themselves as part of the announcement of closure noted that its own brands Coors Light and Carling Zest attracted a higher proportion of women drinkers without even trying because they were gender neutral in their advertising. In the case of both Peroni and Zest the advertising included both men and women and was more aspirational and inclusive than for example the Carlsburg “Probably….” campaigns which perfectly targets its chosen market demographic.

So will this current failure mean that brewers will stop scratching their heads coming up with beers targeted at women, probably not. I suspect though that the lessons being learnt that creating a beer that is brewed and marketed as being great for both sexes might be.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 24 September 2012

Waitrose and Twitter - A lesson in PR or a lesson in brand management?

One of the more amusing stories in the last week came from the middle class bastion that is Waitrose. On Monday it decided to ask its twitter followers to complete the sentence “I shop at Waitrose because…#WaitroseReasons”. I am sure that some well meaning young marketing exec had been at a conference about social media and sat in workshops about engagement; brought that back and thought this was a great idea. The purist in me would completely agree with him, however the old cynic in me of 20 years hard experience thought light blue paper and stand well back and duly the firework exploded.

This spread quickly giving us another example of why this is the nation that gave the world Monty Python and the Goons. My favourite responses were: “I shop at Waitrose because it makes me feel important and I absolutely detest being surrounded by poor people” and the all time classic “I shop at Waitrose because I was once in the Holloway Road branch and heard a dad say ‘Put the papaya down Orlando!’”

Within the storm of amusing asides there were positive as well as negative comments which would have pleased Waitrose but most of the negative ones were based on the clear perception that Waitrose is expensive and middle class. I suspect the reaction was quite galling to key executives. Particularly to Waitrose managing director Mark Price who announced in May that it was going to spend “tens of millions of pounds” to price match Tesco and back this with a major television campaign in attempt to show its value compared with competitors.

Many have argued that there is no such thing as bad PR, however there is if it reinforces a popular perception that you are trying hard and spending good money to dispel. For me this issue is not about the gags or whether it’s been good or bad publicly. It’s actually about the bigger question of what is wrong with being perceived as middle class and expensive if that is your core audience. 

Let me give you an example from America of the fast food chain Chick-fil-A. You might not have heard of it but last year it had sales in excess of £2.5bn. This year it also caused a major storm in the US when its president told a North Carolina Baptist website that the company supported the “biblical definition of marriage”. Cue massive debate about its anti-gay marriage stance. To help understand why he said this, the company was stared by the Presidents father to run on “biblically based principles”, donates millions to Christian charities and closes all stores on a Sunday. Although this stance made it universally unpopular with a vast majority of the US population it gained massive support from its core audience of Southern Right Wing Christian Republicans so much so that its restaurants struggled to cope with demand for the following month.

There lies the example of one of the most important principles of brand management. It does not matter if you are not universally well liked by everyone, or if people have a different perception to reality. It’s about making sure that you drive patronage and loyalty from your chosen target market and that might mean allowing certain perceptions to stay if the end result is keeping your profitable customer base happy in their choice of supermarket.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant, follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Thursday, 13 September 2012

How to engage your customers? Social Media, UX, Content Markerting - all of the above please!

From time to time I am asked to present at conferences on topics on anything from the newspaper industry to digital to marketing and media. I like to think that I am asked because of the high quality of content and presentation style that enthrals my audiences, at least that’s what I tell myself. Next week I am hosting an event for the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce entitled “Engaging Customers - Using technology and social media to grow your business through content marketing and customer care”. Under this expansive title will see speakers from local agencies to national brands such as Dell and King of Shaves share experiences of how they have used social media and technology to grow their businesses and businesses they work for.

As I was creating my introduction presentation it struck me how different customer engagement is from 10 years ago and even 3 years ago and how much of that is down to speed of change. If you are eating at a national chain restaurant and have an issue how many people have not just complained to the local staff but also tweeted the chain to complain at the same time? How many people now use the airlines twitter feeds at airports as a more reliable source of information about delays and issues than the information boards?

Customer engagement however is much more than dealing with complaints. Engaging with your customers to create and build customer loyalty is far more important to brands in the longer term. Understanding that consumers now have more complicated needs that include the desire to be recognised, share opinions and form groups around those opinions and interest all facilitated and grown by the rise of social media brings new challenges to businesses both big and small.

Some businesses have reacted to this by engaging with customers via social media, others by making their online presence more user friendly and others offering value add in the form of useful content for their target consumers. The really clever businesses of course do all of these things within an integrated strategy targeted at delivering growth through customer engagement and retention.

Many companies are already doing this and some are going further by rewarding customers who actively engage with them. Tesco for example have recently run a trial where users could get double clubcard points when they liked, shared or bought products on its facebook page.  Likewise online retailer is looking at how it can reward customers who promote it and its offers on social networks.

Of course to any business there is a difference in value between simply sharing or consuming some of your content related to your product offering or following or liking you compared with actually parting with hard cash. The effect though is the same, that customers can and want to engage with brands and now can do so in more complex and instant ways that businesses need to understand and react to.

That pace of change is not going to slow down and will increase as customers push harder and businesses look to exploit new ways to engage and build loyalty and ultimately growth. Sharing experiences on how to exploit these new trends will become even more important so I suspect next week will be busy!

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Brand GB – capitalising on the Olympics and TeamGB

A strange thing has happened to me over the last two weeks. My eyes on repeated occasions have had grit magically appear in them and cause tears. This complaint started during the Olympic opening ceremony and was at its worse on Super Saturday but re-occurred often while watching all manner of sports. I of course am not alone and the whole country has been taken along on a journey that I don’t think anyone outside of Boris and Lord Coe imagined.

Now the flame is close to being extinguished, big questions will be asked of who has made the most of the games and how brand Great Britain can capitalise on the success of the games and a positive worldwide reaction.

The biggest winners are of course the athletes, in particular the medallists. Even those who didn’t win a medal will have increased visibility which will help in the search for sponsorship. For the big names though, big numbers are possible.

Jessica Ennis’ current earnings have been estimated at £1m from sponsorship from brands such as Aviva, P&G and Addidas. Her gold medal and increased media presence could see this rise to £2m over the next 2 years according to sponsorship experts.

If you just look at cycling, Victoria Pendleton already has various beauty deals and also a range of leisure bikes with Halfords. The other big name cyclists from Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and the upcoming Laura Trott, will be targeted as potential sponsorship opportunities. From Mo Farah, to the Brownlee brothers all could, and probably need to, seriously capitalise on their success to help support future efforts.

The big Olympic sponsors themselves will also be evaluating whether the millions spent delivered. Although defining ROI on this activity is difficult, ultimately shareholders expect some form of bottom line return from this level of activity. From McDonalds to Cadbury and BP, all will be reviewing how they performed and what value it delivered.

But what about Brand GB, will we be able to emulate the commercial success of the Sydney games? There have been plenty of stories about the supposed ghost town of central London. This changed and even Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has had to go on record and apologise for doom mongering and happily admit that bookings were up in his theatres. All of this is short term gain; the real money will come from long-term investment from overseas and export of product and expertise.

So while the Olympics have been running, a number of investment drives have also occurred. A British Business Embassy has been set up during the Olympics at Lancaster house to showcase British business with an aim to boost the economy by £1bn. Activities include investment conferences with speakers of the likes of Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, and Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design head. Engineering tours of the Olympic Park have also been popular especially with Chinese representatives.

To our athletes the Olympics is a chance to fulfil a lifetimes dream and years of dedicated hard work. To some, medal success will bring personal wealth from sponsors keen to piggyback their new found adulation. To Great Britain this really has been the chance to put Brand GB in the spotlight and all that we can achieve. The world has been watching. I hope they liked what they saw.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Don’t mess with the Olympic brand police!

By the time you read this the Olympics will have started. Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening will have happened. The world will have joined the 60,000 who witnessed the dress rehearsal mainly in awe according to twitter feedback. Many may have found the 24 dedicated BBC Olympic channels followed by the same again in HD making sure we don’t miss anything even if we want to.

My favourite description of the Olympics is that every four years the world's greatest advertisers get together and compete, and there also happens to be a sporting event at the same time. Now before anyone starts, as an individual I am an Olympic fan. I look forward to witnessing some of the superhuman feats I expect we will see in this country.

My issue is not with the event, it is also not with how it is sponsored. Lets be realistic, this thing costs a lot of money and even King Midas would run out of household furniture to touch to fund a modern Olympics. My issue is with the extensive actions the Olympics “brand police” are taking to protect sponsors exclusivity rights.

The first sight of this was in 2007 when a butcher in Tamworth, where the Olympic sailing will be held, was told to remove a sign showing sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings. That’s right, 5 whole years before the games started. As the games get closer this is getting worse. In Plymouth a cafĂ© was told to remove its “flaming torch breakfast baguette” off the menu. In Stoke on Trent one florist had to remove an Olympic rings window display, made of tissue paper, or risk a £20,000 fine.

Evan Davies interviewing Lord Coe on Radio 4 asked him if he would be allowed to turn up in a Pepsi t-shirt. Lord Coe’s response? "No, you probably wouldn't be walking in with a Pepsi T-shirt because Coca-Cola are our sponsors and they have put millions of pounds into this project but also millions of pounds into grassroots sport. It is important to protect those sponsors” A Locog spokesman later went into PR retreat stating that you could wear one but if there seemed to be an “ambush marketing” activity with lots of people turning up then they would be stopped which is fair enough.

It was an Englishman, Michael Payne, former free style skier and the International Olympic Committee’s first marketing director who created the Olympic Partner programme. It was his savvy dealings and ideas that turned an almost bankrupt movement into the multi million pound operation it is today through long term big money sponsorships and TV deals. Unsurprisingly he now works for Formula One. However even he, in an interview in the Independent Newspaper, accused Locog and the IOC of taking the brand protection too far and that they may even create a backlash from sponsors worried about negative publicity.

However this will all now be forgotten for the next three weeks and the focus will rightly be on the athletes as they chase glory. I hope though that the lessons will be learnt and although the big sponsors are required, the draconian protection of their sponsorship is not.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Barclays, Natwest and the banking confidence crisis – PR disaster or PR opportunity?

I am going to start this column with a quote: “We need to recognise that you’ve got to solve it from the top down. If the leaders have the collective will to recognise that they have a reputational problem to solve, then its more likely to produce the right answer” That was Marcus Agius the then Chairman of Barclays Bank speaking just last October.

Consumer confidence in the banking sector is rock bottom. NatWest’s recent IT meltdown was followed quickly by Barclays £290m fine for fixing the libor rates leading its chairman and CEO to go. Barclays YouGov Brand Index score, a survey which measures the average of how customers rate the brand in terms of impression, quality, value and reputation slumped from -0.8 to -24.2 the day after the fine. Clearly it and other banks have a lot of work to do to repair their collective reputations in the eyes of the general consumer. The question of how to do this is probably high on the lips of the senior management team and especially the marketing heads. So for a professional opinion I asked two leading local PR agencies for their view.

Rachael Paddick is from Jungle PR and is Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in East Anglia. Rachael comments:
“Barclays has already bolstered its PR resource (why wait for crisis point before taking the influential power of communications seriously?) and the first job will be to refocus its communications strategy. Serious questions need to be answered - were internal communications to blame? What sort of organisation does it want to be?”

“The bank needs to engage with its customers on an honest and human level; after all, ‘sorry, we’re working on it’ is better than ‘no comment’. Values, ethics and codes of conduct need to be scrutinised, adhered to and then reflected across all communications. Restoring faith and showing a commitment to positive, ongoing change is the key.  And on the upside? If handled correctly this could be an opportunity for Barclays to improve perceptions of the banking industry as a whole, not just for itself.”

Liz Cooper, Head of PR at OneAgency in Norwich agreed adding:
“First and foremost, we’d be advising Barclays to put a revised crisis comms plan in place that considers all the mistakes made. Research into their reputation with their audiences will dictate messaging and tone going forward, both completely misread by the bank first time round.”

“Particular attention should be paid to timings. In a social world, which saw the news in 49 percent of twitter feeds by lunchtime on the day the news leaked, prevarication is not an option. You can’t be too proud to learn from your mistakes and an improved comms plan will provide the basis for better PR – for when a similar situation arises.” 

Public relations is often an undervalued channel, like many other undervalued marketing disciplines such as market research, with many dismissing it as simply writing the odd press release and hoping for a few column inches.  PR expertise though will now be at the forefront of the banks attempts to re-gain consumer confidence. Unfortunately it often takes a crisis for many business owners to recognise the value of such companies and their work.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant - follow him on Twitter @timyoungman   

Monday, 2 July 2012

Socks - check, pants - check, mortgage - check – The M&S bank, a brand extension too far?

You have picked up your new pants, found a nice pair of stripy socks and might even have bought a treat from the food section. Next would be paying your mortgage then. Yes, this is the new world for M&S customers after its announcement that it is launching 50 in-store banking branches over the next two years. So why is M&S, the bastion of the British high street, launching a bank? Well it’s a simple case of brand extension.

A brand extension is as it sounds, when a brand famous for one thing extends into another area, either product or service, to grow. M&S are another in a long list of companies and brands to do this. I can still remember when supermarkets used to just sell food, but my children will grow up thinking that Tesco’s has always sold toys, and spades and televisions and books. They will think nothing of a Tesco branded mobile phone service or credit card.

Brand extensions can be a good way to grow your business. If you are well known for one thing you may be able to take your brand equity, whatever you are known for to your customer base, and apply that to a new market and even take existing customers on that journey with you. Virgin started selling records and then took its reputation for customer service and innovation and moved into everything from air travel to banking. This though does not always work. You may remember Virgin Cola but you will struggle to buy a bottle today.

Brand extensions work best if they are linked to your current product or service. Also if you can take existing customers with you and use your brand equity in that market. Finally it helps if the competition in the market you are looking at are not dominant as Virgin found when they thought it was a good idea to try and take on Coca Cola and Pepsi.

In the case of M&S they know that their competitors are not dominant. A recent YouGov survey showed that 63% of consumers say that they cannot trust any bank and 57% not trusting any building society. M&S also has massive trust and associations with quality and service. It also has a loyal customer base of around 21 million shoppers. They also already have financial products from M&S money (owned by HSBC) such as savings, credit cards and loans but no physical presence for that brand.  So re-branding M&S Money to M&S Bank and extending to current accounts and mortgages with in-store physical counters is not that much of a stretch.

The new offering will be owned by HSBC but will operate as a profit share venture. No doubt both parties will hope that more of M&S loyal customers will use its new service and existing M&S money customers will take other products in its portfolio.  Whatever the result they certainly have followed the golden rules of brand extensions and with the current distrust of the banking system, have a chance of taking a share of a £10 billion market.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 18 June 2012

Email marketing - is it unfairly unfashionable?

Fashionable is an interesting word. You can have fashionable clothes, fashionable hair, even fashionable food. Anything can be fashionable and if certain influencers or the media tell us so we believe it. By definition therefore when something becomes fashionable something else becomes unfashionable. So for every pair of skinny jeans there is a pair with an elasticated waistband. For every tight haircut there is a mullet and for every locally sourced, organic gastro pub meal there is boil in the bag curry.
This pace of what is shiny and new and what is old and dusty is far worse in the digital world driven by the pace of technology. So your iPad1 is already old and useless compared with the new iPad. Likewise if you compare the column inches and web pages dedicated to the best practice for social media you would think that there is no other way to interact with consumers. In fact as a commentator and professional it often feels that unless you spend your time banging on about the latest trend you too will be viewed as unfashionable and out of date.
So I am going to put my mullet on and stand up for email, a marketing tool that many now view as run of the mill. 10 years ago email marketing was the sexy young thing in a marketeers toolbox. It was shrouded in mystery and some people made a lot of money telling others how to do it. Over time however new things arrive and email marketing moved from being shiny to becoming a stalwart of peoples marketing activities simply because done well it delivers.
A recent report from the Direct Marketing Association showed that half of the respondents stated that email marketing was driving 30% or more of their total revenues. So almost a third of revenues from an activity that is often neglected, and in some firms given to a junior while others try to fathom out how to get a return from their new Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Those companies, from large corporates to local restaurants that do get it, realise the benefits. They know that they can prove the return on investment in both time and money. They understand that compared to other channels it is cheap and you can truly build brand loyalty through regular contact if done well, something that all Social Media tries to do. Compared with Social Media it is also highly targeted, you can personalise your emails to named individuals and send highly tailored messages. Anything from solutions or products you know interest them such as a Friday night offer for a deal on a curry to announcing a new product line.
There are lots of shiny new toys out there and there are good reasons why you should pick them up and play with them to see how they work. However you also shouldn’t be afraid to put on your mullet and not forget those older toys that deliver results time and time again and give them the time, effort and attention they deserve and enjoy the returns that will give you.
Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Thursday, 7 June 2012

What’s in a name? The re-brand dilemma - Yellow Pages, or Hibu?

Nothing causes more comment and amusement than when a business decides to re-brand itself. The announcement by Yellow Pages that it is re-branding all its digital products worldwide to Hibu has achieved just that.

Now there is a clear difference between re-branding and re-positioning. Re-positioning is when a business tries to change what it, or its brands, stands for in the minds of its customers. Re-branding though is a change of position and also identity and is one of the most expensive and difficult things a business can do. Local examples of this are the re-branding of Norwich Union to Aviva versus the re-positioning of Bernard Matthews.

When Norwich Union wanted brand uniformity across the world it re-branded its entire business to Aviva. The universal use of “Aviva”, recognised now as a global group with a common brand, is testament to what Aviva achieved and the tactics it used to get there.

Bernard Matthews is still on the long journey of re-positioning themselves following a range of PR nightmares starting with Jamie Oliver’s Turkey Twizzler outburst in 2005,. Its actions over the years, changing to Bernard Matthews Farms and signing Marco Pierre White show that this is possible but can take time to change public perception back to being known for product quality and a healthier image.

Brands certainly should evolve over time or risk being overtaken by competition. Good brand managers know this but also understand that they are just custodians of brands that often existed before them and will do after them, our newspapers brands have taught me that.

For every Aviva though, with good reasons to take the difficult route, there are many more examples like the Royal Mail. It lasted 16 months being called Consignia before being forced to change back to the old name wasting millions in the process.

Yellow Pages is a big business, big enough to post an annual loss of £1.4billion with debts of £2.2billion. It is not just the yellow book but an international business who grew through acquisition (the massive loss caused by a £1.59 billion write down of businesses in the UK, US, Spain, China and Peru).

The change in Yell’s fortunes has, in the main, been caused by the impact of the internet. It is no longer the go-to place for directory listings and despite extensive investment in its online offerings, competition has hit it hard. It has tried to diversify, for example it now builds websites for its advertisers, building 337,000 for its clients worldwide in 2011 alone, but clearly this is not enough.

So to break with the past and try to revitalise its digital offerings, Yell is re-branding all its digital products across all countries, including in the UK, to “Hibu”, pronounced high boo. Products that have spent money and effort building up brand reputations and awareness are going to be changed. Of course having one brand across all your international markets and the consistency and savings it can bring can make sense, see Aviva for that.

But this is a very treacherous and difficult road to take with few making a successful change. Whether this works, only time will tell, something Yell is short on. Certainly this smacks of last throw of the dice rather than thought out strategy in good times. I hope they learn lessons from those who have done it well as well as those who now regret.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant - follow on twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 21 May 2012

Things to consider when using Facebook and Twitter to build your business brand

Following the recent coverage about the dangers of social media I wanted to write this column about its use in business. Say ‘social media’ and most people also only think of the two behemoths; Facebook and Twitter. This is a shame, as it actually covers a wide range of activities including that unfashionable and highly underrated thing, blogging, however I will concentrate on the first two.

This week I watched an hour long BBC documentary on Facebook, including an interview with someone setting up Facebook pages for local businesses.  Interestingly the first thing she said, I agreed with, which was that being on social media means you can listen to what people are saying about your business. Unfortunately the current hype can mean that people think they are missing out on something that will drive massive profits for their business. This has not been proven yet, but clever businesses with the right product or service offering do use social media not just to listen, but to work with the people who pay the wages, their customers, to find out what they want and develop products and services around that. A recent example of this is the Citroen C1 car, due to go into production in July, which was developed and designed in part by users accessing a specially designed app on Citroen’s Facebook page.

Social media - and the clue is in the title - taps into the basic human need to share and engage. Whether it is photos, what people are doing or what they think about a brand or product. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating office said in February “People don’t expect to be talked at anymore they want to be a full part of the conversation”. So let’s go back to the lady selling Facebook pages to local businesses. How many of those businesses are taking her up based on hype rather than careful business decision. How many have thought about RETURN ON INVESTMENT (caps for a reason) and how they will link social media activity to the rest of their brand building and tactical marketing activities.   

I am a massive advocate of social media and the benefits it can bring to businesses when used correctly, but I am the first to say it might not be for everyone. You cannot just create a page and update once a month and think that’s it. Likewise spending all your time and effort on social media and neglecting more traditional forms of marketing is equally wrong. It will not sell a product like a TV, a print or radio ad. It also takes time and effort to do it properly. Done badly with little engagement does more harm than good.

So always first consider your objectives, whatever they are, from product sales, brand building or people through the door. Then look at all the ways to do this and choose those that deliver the best return for the little time and reducing budgets we all have. Facebook and Twitter are modern marketing tools and if you treat them as such, as just another part of the marketing mix, they may become a valuable part of your activities or one that is held until you can do it properly.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him @timyoungman

Monday, 23 April 2012

Data is not just for geeks......seriously

Hello dear readers. You may have noticed that I have recently been missing from the esteemed pages of the Eastern Daily Press. It is because for the last three months I have been ensconced in the editorial departments looking at the web versions of our excellent Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire newspapers. Some of you, I hope, have noticed the changes to the EDP24 and others from the design of the sites to more social engagement to new content sections delivered from new ways of working. Certainly the record growth we have seen seems to back this up.

Driving all this activity was a very simple question, “Who are our customers and what do they want?” Unfortunately the reason many businesses don’t have the level of customer understanding they really should is because to do so means that you have to crunch that scary stuff; data.

Before the Internet, customer data only really came from market research. You might think that market research is just some lady who stops you in the street and asks you if you eat Weetabix but it’s a science in its own right. The internet though was created by geeks so by definition came with a bunch of data. Luckily another bunch of geeks came along to make it easy to understand the data and the art of analytics was born.

From my laptop I can see how many people are looking at any Archant site right now, at what and for how long. By adding another layer of behavioural technology we can analyse the type of content people are reading and deliver similar articles to them. You might think that’s all big brother but ecommerce sites have been doing this for a long time. How do you think when you look at a products on sites like Argos or Amazon it shows you “Other customers also looked at….”

If you have embraced social media you may have started just by listening to what people said about you. Then, over time, graduated to using it as a tool to work with your customers to develop new products and services. You may have a Facebook page and through Facebook Insights know a bit about the people who “like” you and what they do on your page. How many of you though know that now Facebook is selling ads, through its ad booking software, you can see for example how many people on Facebook are cat owners of a certain age live in Norwich. You might not want to buy an ad but a pet shop owner could use it to get an idea of potential market size.   

Like everything in life, understanding all this data and the products that can help you do so range from the very simple to the very complicated and from free to very expensive. However in the current economic climate understanding who your customers are and what they want is more important than ever. So for those of you trying to use the internet to grow your businesses spend some time to understand how your customers are using your sites the lessons you learn may surprise you and will definitely help you.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing at Archant - follow him @timyoungman

Friday, 24 February 2012

Winter Hibernation

Hello anyone reading this. If you are wondering why there have not been any posts since November it is because  I have been busy on secondment to one of Archant newspaper divisions looking at improving the websites, how we get news online and the structure of the newsrooms to deliver this.

However i will be back creating columns for the EDP and also the Ipswich Star so this blog will be updated again come spring.

I am describing this a winter hibernation but my early potatoes are chitting and when they go in this blog will continue to run again.

In the meantime follow me on Twitter @timyoungman for lots of cool things