Monthly Archives: June 2014

Nicola Peaty

Do customers care about brands anymore?

By Nicola Peaty

brand loyaltyAs a brand marketer I obviously understand the value of great brands. But then as a consumer, I feel I betray the marketer in me, with my frivolous flitting between companies across a number of markets. And there lies the dichotomy and reality between today’s marketing and society’s purchasing behaviour.

Of course, there are so many ways in which we as marketers can boost the brand and reach out to our audiences. See my blog We must still engage and nurture relationships. We must ensure we are accessible and open to our customers. We must make their whole buying experience easy and hassle-free. We need to keep front-of-mind and ahead of the competition. All this, having ticked all the good brand values and service attributes, we do in the vain hope that our consumers will come back to us and stay loyal.

But will they? So many surveys are now showing the decline of customer loyalty and the 20%/80% rule of customers accounting for turnover is fast becoming 50%/50%. Brand switching is on the increase and costing companies a small fortune.

Below shows an infographic by Marketing Week of consumer behaviour in switching brands based on customer service. Note the £116 billion brands are losing from people switching each year!

consumer behaviour trends
A recent Readers Digest survey shows the results of a European Survey for prompts in switching brands and once again poor service ranks as one of the highest reasons:

An increase in price is more likely than anything to prompt consumers to switch brands. People are more likely to react negatively to poor service than a reduction in the quality of a product.


Average agreement Very often / often Sometimes / Never The price increases 52% 40% Poor service 48% 43% Product quality reduces 41% 51% Unable to communicate with anyone who can help me 37% 54% Want to try something new 36% 57%

All the stated ‘prompts’ resonate with me as a consumer. Once I’ve experienced poor service, I find it very hard to give that company a second chance. And when it comes to something like car insurance for example, it becomes all about the best price and a quick and easy decision. And then for other purchases such as holidays and household goods, I go and look at online reviews from people I’ve never met, instead of researching what the company says and does!

So if I as a marketer can ignore a company’s marketing details and messages, we have to think that this is probably how a lot of today’s society are thinking and acting. We are all too busy and hectic to spend too long about certain purchases. We also have to accept that we live in a commoditised market where price comparison sites have a huge influence.

Consumers are using mobile devices to research prices in shops, home or even in the office.
The emphasis and power has shifted over to the customer and their high expectations. Not only do they/we want value for money at the best prices, but there is also the demand for real added value where companies deliver over and above what they used to. If you ask a customer to ‘like’ your facebook page, they will expect something in return.

And of course, social media itself has added a whole world of comment and influence from peers and previous customers who share their opinions and experiences, which can override any marketing communications you may have spent ages planning. Add to this, the manic, high pressured, fast pace of life and customers want all the above, plus the ability to make quick purchasing decisions without any stress.

Having said all the above, in terms of customer loyalty, when I think of my own consumer behaviour, I do have a few brands I stick with and go back to on a regular basis. Why? Because I trust them, enjoy the experience and they seem to be on my wavelength which suits me and my life.

So what can brands do to strive for the all important engagement and affinity which shows that their customers actually care about their brand? Well, first, you have to be realistic about what your company provides and how much people can genuinely care about your brand. How much impact does it have on a consumer’s life and to what degree can your company offer a true ‘brand experience’?

This is where I think marketing has to pull together the whole company and realise that the successful top brands these days are those who can:
a. relate to their audience
b. be totally relevant to people and culture
c. have an impact on their life.

This means understanding what is most important to the target audience and their life right now. Do you know what really makes them tick and what their looking for? Is it a bargain, some added value, or a completely new proposition which somehow makes their life just that little bit better? It may not just about making the best product, but the product that has real positive impact on people’s life.

And whatever your product or service, make sure you know how to capture attention. Where are your customers consuming information about your market and who is influencing them? Mobiles cannot be ignored. Important details should be placed in the right channels. List all the good and maybe not-so-good reviews about your company on your website. Push out useful and unique content via social media with key hooks to pull in the leads. Consider the need to reinvent your positioning so that you stand out from the crowd, are more current or even ahead of the curve.

It’s taking marketing and the company vision, to another level. People will still care about brands, but we have to put brands into today’s life context and culture to make the most of how we plan our marketing and communications.

I’ll leave you with a recent article by Marketing Week about a study on the ‘happiest brands’, which explains:
The study clearly suggests that both emotional and rational attributes are valid ways to leave an imprint with a consumer and brands that have a measure of both prove popular with consumers.
According to the research, the way to jump up the happy rankings is not in ‘poisoning the world with message-driven advertising’ but through employing good old-fashioned charm: using a carefully tailored tone of voice and showing that the brand owner is ‘human’.

happy brands


Nicola Peaty

The Top 2013 Global Brands.

By Nicola Peaty

The best global brands constantly review and update their attributes, especially during a time of constant innovation, technology and customer power. Every year, Interbrand publish a report with the top global brands. Interestingly, there was a switch in the top 3 this year, with Coca Cola falling to third place behind Apple and Google.


The report comments:

Every so often, a company changes our lives, not just with its products, but with its ethos. This is why, following Coca-Cola’s 13-year run at the top of Best Global Brands, Interbrand has a new #1 : Apple.

This clearly demonstrates how fundamental the brand attributes are for any company and the significance it can play in its success or failure.

The report by Interbrand outlines some great tips on how the best global brands are competing in today’s challenging times. It mentions extreme innovation by Google, the need to have a future vision, how design still really matters and the importance to be part of customers’ conversation within social media.

There are also some great quotes which reaffirm the importance of brand attributes and what impact they can have on the customer:

* Striking the right balance between heritage and modernity is key to Cartier’s success. It understands how to not only get the balance right in product, but also in the experience it creates around the brand.
* I wear H&M because I like more gender- neutral clothing. H&M offers smaller sizes and different styles that ?t my body type and make me feel comfortable — both physically and mentally.
* Sony is top-of-the-line. I have many Sony products. I even have a Sony 400-disc changer. As a collector of DVDs, I find this product to be amazing. It keeps my movies safe and saves me lots of storage space.

For a glance at the tops brands for 2013 go to:

To view a short video including some of this year’s top global brands introduced by Jez Frampton, Global CEO, Interbrand go to:

Nicola Peaty

The fundamentals for a great brand.

By Nicola Peaty

You don’t have to aspire to be the next Coca Cola or Apple to have a solid and good brand. brand logosKnowing what’s important when building your brand is fundamental if you are to succeed as a company, no matter how big or small. If all stakeholders are clear on the brand attributes of their company, then there is a much greater chance that the focus and drive of an organisation, will move forward together to achieve its goals.

The aim of any good brand is to make their customers choose them over the other products/services on the market, as a result of deciding that they prefer that brand for a number of key brand attributes. The ultimate goal is to make these customers become loyal ‘fans’ and ‘ambassadors’ and to make the competition recognise their superior brand positioning.

Below are our key fundamentals which you may wish to consider when reviewing or establishing your brand:

1. Raison D’être: A company must be able to define the key purpose as to why it exists and the compelling benefit it is offering to fulfil a determined need within its market. This brand essence is what captures the attention of customers who seek to satisfy their requirement.

2. Differentiation: Be different with good reason. Stand out from the competition as a consequence of understanding what your customers want. The values you represent and the quality you deliver are critical factors in determining the positioning of your brand.

3. Personality: The identity of your brand is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, it is down to you to communicate and act in the way you wish to be perceived. Defining your brand characteristics is so important for you, your customers and your competition. Are you trustworthy, passionate or empathetic? Should you be more authoritative or supportive? What do your customers want you to be and will this help achieve your goals?

4. Equity: What is your company’s approach and how do you deliver your brand essence? Are you seen as professional, transparent and unique? Or have you built a reputation for not being flexible, accessible or willing to listen. These attributes will make or break a company and yet are controllable if all stakeholders agree and support the brand equity of its business.

5. Relevant: So many good brands have fallen by the wayside as they failed to stay in touch with their audience. Sometimes it’s due to arrogance; a company can rest on its laurels when at the top, meanwhile, times move on and brands can get left behind. Therefore, regular two-way communications with your target market will allow you to evolve with them and stay one step ahead of the competition.

6. Live the brand!: A uniform understanding and approach of your brand attributes brandthroughout your organisation will ensure consistency from your marketing messages right through to the conduct of your customer services team. There is no point advertising your professionalism and attention to detail, if the delivery on quality and service is poor.

Nicola Peaty

The key information every business plan should include.

By Nicola Peaty

VG&A have been lucky enough to work with a few start-up companies from tennis for kids to beautiful cakes to luxury travel. All of them knew they had a talent or good idea, but it had to be matched by a thought through business plan which turns the idea into reality.

business-plan-flowerThere are plenty of templates available but a good way to start is to throw down all the thoughts on paper that you’ve probably been collating in your head as you process and mull over the idea of your business. Then you can apply some kind of order to your thoughts and check you have included all the essential points to ensure your business idea has the best chance of success. Plans don’t need to be pages in length as long as they cover the basics of your idea, the market and how to make money.

Section 1

Essentially all good plans should commence by succinctly defining the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of your business:
* What service or product will your business provide?
* How will you provide the service/product to your market?

Sometimes called the ‘Elevator Pitch’, you should be able to describe your business idea clearly and concisely. You can then go the details about your service/product, how you aim to differentiate yourself and the delivery method to your customers.

This is also a good place to consider your brand and positioning which identifies what type of company you are promoting, plus how you will compete against any existing companies in your business sector. The name, logo and strap line will play a huge role in marketing your company.

Section 2

The financials are obviously vital when determining the feasibility of your business. Investment v Income:

* How much initial investment will you need? What are your initial layout costs? What are your ongoing costs?
* What is your pricing strategy? How will you cover your costs and then make profit? What time frame will you start to hit target revenue figures – 1, 2, 3 years?

Consider all the potential resources you may need such as employees, qualifications, certification, premises/venue, equipment etc. This is a perfect time to include sales and marketing costs if applicable such as a website, collateral and advertising for both launch and ongoing promotional campaigns.

Financials aren’t everyone’s core skill, so this is where you may need someone who can help you layout and present the figures in the best way such as balance and forecast sheets.

Section 3

Defining your market and identifying who will buy from you, will really help to sharpen your focus of who you will be targeting. How well do you know this market? Can they be segmented by similar characteristics? Do you have access and existing links with potential customers? Would a focus group help to give some market research and shape your business idea?

What do you already know about your customers’ purchasing habits within your sector and do you have something you can deliver to them which is either something completely new which fills a gap, or improved on what already exists? Either way, you have to be confident that there is a definite demand for your business idea and that you are in a position to deliver it and deliver it well.
Section 4

Unless you have developed a totally innovative idea, chances are, there are already competitors in your market. List them, understand them, and know how they operate and what position in the market they currently hold. This will help with your own positioning and pricing and marketing strategies. A SWOT analysis is a great tool. This will help you to take advantage of any weaknesses and look for the opportunities to create your USP and point of differentiation.
(See our blog:

Section 5

A good marketing strategy will ensure you can launch, build awareness and promote your company in exactly the way you want to communicate your new brand to your targeted audience. With a thought through marketing plan you can confidently control the messages about your business according to your brand positioning.

This is vital in your overall business plan because you need to show that you know how you can finally connect your product/service with your targeted market. You need to have identified which are the most appropriate channels for your customers and that all the necessary business information and product details are accessible to potential customers.

Section 6goals

Finally, you need to state your short and long term goals, both financially and as a business. This will help to shape the vision and growth of your company. It may change over the years, but at least you have a starting point and somewhere to focus.

Nicola Peaty

Top tips…How to build a more productive marketing / sales relationship.

By Nicola Peaty

Why should there be two departments within a business who historically tend to clash, and sales-v-marketingyet are both working towards the same goal? A lot is down to simple misunderstanding and lack of clarity in terms of role definition and process. Some marketing departments will believe that sales are all about pushing their product to purely meet their short term commission, while some sales teams consider marketing are just there to order branded golf balls!

Below are five tips for building a more productive relationship between the two essential functions in any business.

1. The winning partnership: the two teams should have mutual respect and moreover mutual agreement in how they can both meet the company’s objectives. Sales and marketing should understand the company’s strategy and tactics in generating and growing revenue, for both short term and long term targets. This way will they be far more successful in working together for the same goals.

2. Understand the customer lifecycle: from prospect through to warm lead, from to new customer to loyal customer. Both parties must know how they are segmenting their contacts according to the relationship between the company and the contact. Appropriate targeting and messaging is then applied according to the stage of the customer lifecycle. Both sales and marketing should agree a plan of communication for each segment and work together by using the most appropriate method depending on whether an early prospect needs more brand awareness, right through to a long-term customer managed as a key account in sales.

3. Effective campaigns: it is so important that sales and marketing agree on the most effective campaigns for the various market segments and business need. Whether it be lead generation, lead nurturing or a promotional initiative, both functions must be fully aware of communications going out to the market with the agreed messaging and calls to action. This will ensure mutual focus and consistency.

4. Attributing value: the various customer segments will have a potential revenue value to a company, and both sales and marketing should be accountable for their actions in how they optimise the full value. By attributing this value to each department, it will help both parties understand they are contributing to the company’s revenue targets.

5. Accountability: each department must take accountability in measuring ‘successful outcomes’. While it is obvious when sales have financial results from winning business, marketing sometimes struggles to prove how it has contributed to the bottom line. Therefore, all marketing activity must be measured and leads tracked throughout the pipeline. This way ROI can be attributed when a lead which has been generated from marketing, is passed on and converted to business by the sales team.

See also our blog How to create an effective sales proposition:



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