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The Power of Quid Pro Quo

May 13, 2013 1 comment

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Confucius was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived about two and a half thousand years ago. His teachings on subjects like respect, honesty, education and the importance of strong family bonds are as relevant today as they were in his day.

On one occasion, he was challenged as to whether there was ‘One word, which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?’ Confucius responded, ‘Reciprocity’.

His answer captures a fundamental human truth, which is not restricted to eastern philosophy. In the New Testament, Matthew reports Jesus giving similar advice during the Sermon on the Mount – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Whatever you believe, thousands of years of wisdom boils down to the fact that a bit of ‘give and take’ makes the world go round.

Reciprocity and Persuasion

At Dialogue, we ‘persuade people to buy’, and reciprocity is a key principle of persuasion. After all, people are more likely to do something if there is something in it for them too. You have to meet them halfway.

Quite how reciprocity manifests itself, very much depends on the relationship between the two parties.

You’ll happily do a favour for a friend, just for the intangible sense of being a good mate and knowledge that they’ll be there for you, should you ever need them. Whereas when the relationship is less personal, you’ll expect something back much sooner for your efforts. Just today I was asked to give a restaurant some feedback in exchange for a free coffee.

Sometimes, we don’t have time to agree what we are going to do in exchange for a product or service.  That’s where money comes in handy. Everything has a price and shoppers can choose to pay it or not.

With cold hard cash having a consistent value (between merchants, if not over time) and many branded grocery products being stocked by multiple retailers, it ought to be easy for shoppers to identify where they get the best value. However, as we know, it’s rarely that simple. Prices fluctuate and aren’t available until you go in-store. Shoppers are rewarded for their patronage in other ways too, from loyalty cards to multi-buy offers. Add in the intangible value of convenience and the comparisons go from black and white to a shade of grey.

But sometimes, brands don’t just want your money. Like the place that offered me a coffee, they want you to do something else. With disposable income shrinking, it makes sense to offer shoppers another way to get access to the things they want.

It also plays on another basic human trait; valuing something more if you’ve had to work for it.

Sampling with a difference

One way brands can encourage consumers to try their products is to give them a free sample. The trouble is, when something is free, we often take it because there is no cost to us, even if we don’t particularly want it. If you put a barrier in place, however small, you can discourage those who don’t really want your product and ensure that those who do take it value it.

For example, last year Kellogg’s set up the ‘Tweet Shop‘. They wanted exposure for their new Special K Cracker Crisps. In exchange for a tweet, visitors to the store were given a free sample. They could have picked up a packet for under £1 at Boots, so the gift didn’t have a huge monetary value. But because it wasn’t simply shoved into their hands as they walked past a train station like so many samples, they valued it more.

There’s a great case study that highlights just how much what something costs frames how much we value it. A photo-editing app called GroupShot is normally priced at 99p. However, for twenty four hours, it was free to download. As you’d expect, download rates shot up. After all, the main barrier to owning the app had been removed. However, the developers noticed that over half of the people who downloaded the app for free failed to ever open it. They’d got a free sample and that’s where their relationship with the brand ended.

We don’t know whether the Tweet Shop achieved the level of exposure that Kellogg’s hoped, but those who did interact with it would have enjoyed their Cracker Crisps all the more for having to earn them.

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Another brand to innovate in their demands on shoppers is Weetabix.

They recently partnered with Boots to run the first ‘Pay with a Picture‘ campaign. In order to get their hands on a free sample, shoppers had to photograph a TV advert and then use that photo as a voucher in-store. It sounds like a lot of effort and this review suggests the experience could have been friendlier to shoppers. However, in exchange for a free product, Weetabix made people engage with them and complete one shopper journey.

Away from the ‘breakfast brand extending itself into a light snack’ category, Amex have used their Card Sync technology to integrate sales into Twitter. To participate, cardholders have to tweet a special purchase hashtag, for example ‘#BuyXbox360Bundle‘. They then receive a confirmation tweet from Amex with a discounted price. The cardholder then has to retweet that message within 15 minutes of receiving it and the item is then sent to their billing address.

This not only ensures that cardholders follow Amex on Twitter, giving them a low cost media channel, but also that their cardholders act as ambassadors, broadcasting their savings to their followers.

Identify your goals and understand your audience

Remember the restaurant that offered me a free coffee in exchange for feedback? I don’t drink coffee, so they won’t be getting a response. However, let’s imagine that they had offered me a free cup of tea while I was in there, and asked me whether I would mind spending a couple of minutes answering their questions.

Social norms would have obliged me to do so because they had already given me something, and therefore I owed them.

In reality, one reason they didn’t adopt this approach is that the offer of a free coffee wasn’t a free gift at all.

It was also a trick meant to drive me back to their establishment and buy something else to go with the coffee. It’s not a bad tactic, but in this instance, having two goals means that neither is realised.

The challenge for brands is to find something to give back to their consumers that their consumers will value. They also need to identify what they want them to do in exchange, be it act as a brand ambassador, try a new product or simply feel more affection for them.

Identifying imbalances

It’s important to understand what each party brings to the relationship. Ensuring it is fair can help strengthen the bond between them. Occasionally, one party is already unwittingly giving something away without getting anything back, which leads to a deterioration of the relationship and a lack of loyalty.

For example, every year I pay a hefty amount to London Midland and in exchange they help me get to and from work. However sometimes, trains are delayed, meaning my fellow passengers and I give up our precious time and get nothing in exchange.

Trainscancelled

Sometimes, this frustration results in the brand being badmouthed. Worse still, it can result in staff being abused. This, in turn, reduces their job satisfaction and motivation to represent the company positively, increases staff turnover and costs the company money in the long term.

But let’s imagine that those wasted minutes were converted into loyalty points that gave commuters something back – free upgrades, discounts with partner brands, etc. Then, the delays might be tolerated with better grace.

And as commuters’ time was no longer a free commodity, London Midland would come to value it more and consequently have a greater incentive to get trains to run on time.

Because as Confucius and Jesus identified all those years ago, when we appreciate each other and are fair in our actions, everyone wins.

Why identifying the problem is half the challenge

April 22, 2013 1 comment

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Over the last few weeks, two very different types of establishment, from different parts of the world, have hit the headlines thanks to their unorthodox approaches in dealing with frustrating patrons.

In the process they gave the old adage about the ‘customer always being right’ a bit of a kicking, but that’s not what’s bothered me.

You can’t solve a problem that you haven’t identified

The madness started when a store in Australia imposed a $5 ‘browsing’ fee to combat ‘showrooming’. Then, a Californian restaurateur went one step further by naming and shaming the people who hadn’t turned up for their reservations on Twitter.

As we all know, when we want to encourage a behaviour, we reward it and seek to remove any barriers that might be impeding it. Conversely, when we want to stop a behaviour, we punish it and insert barriers.

Neither establishment is the first to seek ways to overcome these particular business challenges. Both caused plenty of debate with their novel approaches with many commentators critical of the decision to take the latter ‘punitive’ method, accusing them of being heavy-handed and ‘demonising’ their patrons.

However, my issue with what both businesses have done is that neither policy will solve the problem facing the business. And that’s because neither business has really identified the problem they are trying to solve.

From Showrooming in Australia

Let’s look at the Australian store first – ‘Celiac Supplies‘ in Brisbane. As its name suggests, it caters to people with a very particular need.

Their gripe is that these people come to the store for advice, and then leave without purchasing, in the (mistaken, according to the store) belief that the products will be available cheaper elsewhere.

Their frustration is understandable but by charging people to browse, they are likely to reduce footfall, when their challenge was all about increasing conversion. Their solution doesn’t really match their problem.

So, could they have approached the problem from another angle?

Many articles suggesting ways to deal with ‘showrooming‘ recommend investing in staff education and offering price-matching as key ways to increase the likelihood of closing a sale in-store.

In the case of Celiac Supplies, their staff knowledge is one of the main footfall drivers in the first place. And in their explanatory note, they highlight their competitive pricing. On the face of it, they seem to be well placed to overcome the dangers of showrooming.

celiacstores

The barrier to converting their footfall was simply the perception that they were more expensive. All they needed to do is find a way to overcome this.

It’s something that could easily be achieved by providing internet access in-store so that shoppers could check competitor prices before they left the store, or by listing the prices of nearby stores. By facilitating price comparison, the store would empower shoppers and reassure them that they are getting a good deal in-store. Better still, being a physical store means that they can immediately fulfil a shopper’s needs, eliminating the need to wait for an online order to be delivered.

So, rather than start from a position of mistrust, wouldn’t it have been better for Celiac Supplies to welcome potential shoppers, confront the problem of price perception, thereby overcoming their fears of overpaying and turn them into loyal customers?

To No-Shows in California

While showrooming is a relatively modern problem for retailers, restaurants have been dealing with ‘no-shows’ for years. What’s changed is that social media has given restaurants the platform to ‘name and shame’ the people who cost them money by not keeping their reservations.

Frustrated at having to turn away guests because empty tables were being kept for people who had didn’t turn up as anticipated, Noah Ellis, the owner of Vietnamese fusion restaurant Red Medicine took full advantage of this opportunity. He took to Twitter, and under the guise of explaining why restaurants often overbook, proceeded to name all of the people who had recently no-showed at his establishment.

redmedicine

His annoyance is understandable, but there are a number of reasons why this is a bad idea.

Primarily, because like Celiac Supplies charging people for entry to their shop, it won’t solve the problem plaguing the business.

On one hand, people may not care about being named, which completely negates the impact of his actions. Worse still, potential diners may be so worried at being called out if they can’t make their appointment that they decide to book elsewhere to reduce the risk of embarrassment.

People are pretty quick at finding solutions to challenges, and Ellis’ approach could be easily circumvented by booking under a false name.

It could also backfire. What if perversely, being named and shamed became a ‘badge of honour’? Or Red Medicine found itself targeted by pranksters who reserve tables under a friend’s name? Both of which would exacerbate, rather than solve, the problem of no-shows.

And if a regular visitor fails to turn up, do you risk alienating them too with an angry Tweet?

Adopting such a confrontational approach is fraught with danger. Red Medicine isn’t alone in suffering from no-shows, and as this Wall Street Journal article demonstrates, many different solutions have been implemented to deal with them. The number of hoops a prospective diner is prepared to jump through in order to make a reservation will depend on how desirable the restaurant is.

It may be that no-shows are something that can’t be eliminated, and so the challenge becomes to minimise the consequences that they have on business. Looking at the problem this way, we can see why Ellis’s approach won’t solve the problem. He’s engaging with people AFTER they’ve cost him business.

If Red Medicine is so popular with walk-in trade, then limiting the number of tables available for reservations, particularly to new people or those with a history of no-shows would help reduce the impact on business. Similarly, releasing tables that aren’t taken within 15 minutes of their reservation time would allow them to be given to people turning up without a booking.

Sometimes the human touch works too. Rather than ranting after the event or imposing a system or barriers, simply ringing people on the day to confirm their reservation could help identify whether or not they were going to turn up on time.

Perversely, the publicity generated by both businesses could see a short term increase in interest. Their challenge now is to adopt policies that will remove any barriers that could prevent these new shoppers becoming loyal customers.

Let’s hope they identify it.

Why brands need to get to the point on YouTube

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment

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There are a couple of things that bother me about YouTube. Leaving aside the angst about the future of the human race that reading more than a couple of comments naturally brings, the first is as a user.

When I’m trying to get my daily dose of Gangnam Style or watch yet another hilarious Harlem Shake video, I don’t yearn to watch an advert first. Nevertheless, it’s a free service and they have to make some money somehow.

The second is as a marketer. Although they are a bit of a pain, when these adverts pop up you can choose to skip them after a few seconds.

Yet because the ads are at least 30 seconds long, they’ve barely started setting the scene before they are bypassed. YouTube themselves say that between 70% to 80% of ads are skipped.

So in the end, rather than enhance the experience and engage a wide audience, the adverts become a frustration for the user and provide no real benefit to the brand. Nobody wins.

Tailoring the message for the medium

For some reason, brands aren’t designing for and exploiting the medium they are using. But as basic as this sounds, it’s not unusual. Early TV ads were essentially radio ads with a still image. Fifteen years ago, many websites were just glorified company brochures. It takes marketers a while to figure out how to get maximum impact from their new toy.

Parallels with Shopper

The same is occasionally true for Shopper Marketing.

Increasingly, brands are wising up to the importance of focusing on the shopper and the lead up to the purchase decision. They’re starting to invest accordingly, seek out specialist counsel and are rewarded with increased sales. However, there are still many brands who still think that a shot of their TV ad on a bit of cardboard is all that is needed to clear the shelves.

Sitting amongst Business Directors, I see the frequent battles they face as well-meaning partner agencies from other disciplines liberally suggest how shopper focused executions ought to look, but don’t want to take any feedback on their own work.

That every media opportunity comes with its own pros and cons, and plays a unique role in communicating brand messages and pushing shoppers closer to purchase, seems like something you would learn on your first day at Marketing School.

While forward thinking agencies can offer ‘integration’ and ‘joined up thinking’, individuals will inevitably show a bias towards their own particular field.

Seconds to Sell

Just like in-store comms, YouTube ads have to get their message across quickly.

So why don’t they?

Well, YouTube’s TrueView system doesn’t charge advertisers unless the ad is watched in its entirety, or at least 30 seconds are shown. To some, this means an ad should be at least 30 seconds long, because otherwise you are paying for something you could have got for free. It might make economic sense, but doesn’t consider the viewer, who should be the primary concern. Just as importantly, it doesn’t consider the purpose of the communication.

Sometimes brands get it right. This environmental campaign from Chile incorporates the ‘Skip Video’ option to encourage users to stop wasteful behaviour. But it is an exception, not the rule.

The challenge to brands using YouTube is clear.

Either sell me your product in the first five seconds, or at the very least, use them to sell me the rest of your ad.

Otherwise, I’m skipping.

Horses for main courses

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

zgst-horsemeat

The last couple of weeks have been far from slow for news.

The Pope’s resigned, Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder after shooting his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day and then a meteor crashed into rural Russia. However, one story threatens to keep them all off the front page – ‘The Great Horsemeat Scandal of 2013’.

The Guardian provides a chronology of events so far, but in short, horsemeat has been found in a number of dishes that claimed to contain only beef.

Reaction has been suitably mixed, from horror to apathy. Some see the deceit as part of a larger criminal activity that conned consumers, failed to adhere to religious doctrines and risked public health and so must be punished, while others take the view that the meals tasted nice, and therefore think, ‘So what?’.

Either way, our trust in those who put their names to the compromised products has been eroded. So far, all the major retailers have withdrawn products, and Findus are the biggest brand name to be affected after their lasagne was found to contain 100% horsemeat.

Our historical relationship with meat is quite complex. In the past, how you saw it depended on your social status. If you were a peasant, you saw the animals when they were alive. So you called them, cows, sheep, pigs and deer. If you were from a higher social status, you saw the animals on a plate. So you knew them as beef, mutton, pork and venison. Note that the latter come from the French, a land of unrepentant horse eaters. But in English, the meat of the horse is simply ‘horsemeat’. We don’t have a fancy name for it, because it’s never really been on the menu.

But for all the gnashing of teeth, is this scandal a major surprise?

Everyday Value

Even before the recession hit, retailers were doing their utmost to be seen to be providing value to shoppers. Often that was achieved by bringing prices down. This is generally accomplished at the expense of the suppliers, who in turn look to make savings from the companies that provide them with goods and services.  Marketing agencies know only too well that negotiations with procurement departments are rarely painless. The same is almost certainly also true for meat suppliers.

When cost cutting becomes endemic and pressure gets pushed down the line, people look for new ways to deliver. It can be the spark for innovation – necessity being the mother of invention and all that – but it can also lead to corners being cut and standards being lowered. In this instance, the consequences are apparent.  Real damage has been done to the brands caught up in the scandal and they will have to invest to build back their credibility.

For shoppers, it has provided a wake-up call and brought the whole meat processing business into the spotlight. Far from being happy and healthy beasts, we now know that meat is sent from country to country before it finally ends up on our shelves.

Effect on Shoppers

For some, these revelations will change behaviour.  A survey by Consumer Intelligence found that around one in five shoppers will cut back on the amount of meat they’ll buy, while around three in five are more likely to buy meat from independent shops. Inevitably though, the indignation will wear off and in the medium term, the convenience of supermarkets will win back many of those who ever managed to find a local butcher.

The irony for those who do stop buying processed meat is that, just as someone who is burgled tends to react by improving their security arrangements, new regulations will soon be implemented to improve standards in the meat supply chain. These ought to mean that the standard of meat we buy will soon be higher than ever.

Beyond processed meat, there may be benefits to consumers as food brands in other categories take a closer look at their own processes to ensure they don’t end up making the wrong type of headlines in future.

Indeed, for all the unpleasantness, perhaps we should be grateful that while we have been tricked and there has been serious criminal activity, it was ‘only’ horsemeat that entered the food chain. Had it been something more emotive like dog meat or far less pleasant like rat meat, the damage to the brands and retailers would have been much harder to overcome. In the meantime, the whole episode provides a clear lesson to brands, retailers and shoppers alike.

Cheap often comes at a high price.

HMV: If you don’t fix it, you’ll end up broke…

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

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The name Margaret Anne Lake might not ring too many bells. But if you were in the UK towards the end of the twentieth century, you’ll be familiar with her alter-ego Mystic Meg.

Having made her name as an astrologer in The Sun, Meg was catapulted into the national consciousness when she was given a slot on the fledgling prime time National Lottery draw programme.

In an attempt to build excitement and pad out an event that took two minutes to complete, Meg was brought in to ‘predict’ the winners.

Her predictions were suitably vague.

The norm was something generally along the lines of “the winner would live in a house with a 3 in the number, in a town beginning with L or M and have bought their tickets from a woman.” with a sprinkling of astrological terminology for extra authenticity.

However it would seem that back in the mid-to-late 1990s Meg wasn’t the only one struggling to see what the future held. Far away from the glamour of TV, a number of well-paid businessmen were busy making decisions that would see their organisations squander their dominant positions.

And a couple of weeks ago, after struggling along for years, both HMV and Blockbuster UK, once leaders in their categories, hit the buffers and called in the administrators.

Bad Advice

The wisdom ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it‘ is relatively modern – it dates from 1977 – and was attributed to businessman Bert Lance in the May issue of the magazine Nation’s Business.

The phrase caught on, partly because it made a point in a catchy way. But like many wisdoms, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Just because something works now, doesn’t mean it always will. And those in position of responsibility have an obligation to future proof their organisation.

Back when Mystic Meg was in her pomp, the digital revolution that helped bring about the demise of both retailers was in its infancy. But signs of its potential were there, particularly for HMV.

The first was how people acquired their music.

Software that ripped files from physical storage, coupled with faster web connections, gave birth to peer-to-peer sharing. Programmes like Napster, Kazaa and Limewire removed the need for physical reproduction and distribution.

The whole entertainment industry never really came to terms with illegal downloads, opting to use legal threats and emotional blackmail, rather than adapting their businesses to meet the demand.

In reality, not all pirated content would ever  have been bought legally. Peer-to-peer applications offered users the freedom to sample new artists they would never have paid for and get digital versions of music they already owned physically, easily and without it costing them money.

One of the reasons people wanted their music digitally is the second reason the digital revolution helped bring about the demise of the likes of HMV – the way people consumed and stored music.

The emergence of the digital music player, culminating in the release of the iPod in 2001 meant that people also wanted their music in a new format. They could now store their entire collection on one machine.

When people had upgraded their vinyl to cassette, and then their cassettes to CDs, HMV had been in pole position and reaped the profits. However a digital format didn’t require physical stores and HMV didn’t react. Their model was suddenly ‘broke’, but they didn’t realise in time to fix it.

Avoiding failure

Can such demises be avoided? The future is notoriously hard to predict, but there are some guidelines that can help companies avoid suffering a similar fate to HMV.

1. Be alert to new and niche competitors

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, HMV may have considered their competition to be the likes of Tower Records, Virgin and Woolworths. When they all disappeared, it might have seemed that HMV had won the battle. In reality they were all killed by the same bullet. The game changed as companies diversified.

Back in 1981, following a dispute with Apple Corps, Apple Computing agreed not to enter the music business. Now, iTunes offers over 28,000,000 songs.

Just because someone isn’t a direct competitor now, doesn’t mean they never will be.

2. Keep an eye on the Path to Purchase

HMV didn’t suffer because people suddenly stopped wanting to buy new music or watch films. What changed was how people acquired their material.

Online downloads provided a new way to access digital music. For those who wanted physical media, Amazon et al provided an alternative way to buy CDs and DVDs. Now that nearly 80% of UK households have broadband connections, consumers can stream films at the press of a button or watch a dedicated Movies channel.

Sometimes people will still want physical media immediately, but just not often enough to sustain a business as big as HMV.

3. Understand the next generation

Many years ago, I worked in Woolworths. A large proportion of the music we sold was to youngsters spending their pocket money on their latest idol. While online might have been niche in the mid-to-late-90s, the youngsters of today have grown up with it. As a result, consumers under 35 won’t have had the opportunity to develop an engrained habit of buying their music in physical stores like HMV. Buying entertainment online is no longer an alternative, but the norm.

4. Play to your strengths

While online retailers can offer lower prices and a wider catalogue, physical retailers offer immediacy and have the opportunity to provide enhanced in-store engagement.

Shoppers want convenience, value and experience.

Browsing for and buying music, film and computer games ought to be a fun, pleasurable act. Online shopping will continue to grow across pretty much every category. Physical retailers need to understand their role in fulfilling shoppers’ needs. Sometimes it will be about delivering the product quickly and easily, but sometimes it will be making the act of shopping an enjoyable experience that merits a slight price premium.

5. Be prepared to change

Taking all of the above into account, it might be easier to spot how a business structure that is dominant now might not be so successful in the future. It is often said that defending a title is harder than winning it in the first place.

However, it can be done.

McDonalds have long dominated the fast food industry. Just over a decade ago, their restaurants were tacky red and yellow places with plastic seats.

Yet they saw that their competition was no longer just the likes of Burger King, but also other food outlets and increasingly the likes of Starbucks et al who offered a more pleasant in-store experience.

Now their outlets have all been refurbished with designer furniture and offer free wifi.

McDonald's sneak preview of world-first sustainable restaurant

They also observed other trends that would impact them. From obesity to ethical sourcing of produce and packaging, they adapted their business to stay one step ahead.

Their menu still offers the old favourites, but also includes lighter options. Their burgers come from British and Irish farms and much of their packaging is made predominantly from recycled materials.

As a result, they are still thriving on the high street.

Was Sky Bet’s offer of free money an act of genius or madness?

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

As many sages have noted, there is a thin line between genius and insanity.

This is particularly true in marketing. And like so many things in our industry, which side of the line you fall on is often post-rationalised.

If your campaign was a success you are a hero and a creative pioneer. If it bombs you are a bumbling fool who simply doesn’t understand consumers.

Credibility is important when proposing ideas. So is rank. Many great ideas will not leave an agency simply because of who did or didn’t propose them.

One example of the guys at the top making a decision and putting their names to it is the New Coke episode of the 1980′s.

It is generally considered a case study in not really understanding the importance of the emotional attachment consumers can have to a brand and giving them something they didn’t ask for.

Nevertheless, to this day there are conspiracies that it was in fact a deliberate act of genius. Despite the main protagonists holding their hands up and admiting they got it wrong.

Given they remain dominant in the soft drinks market and are one of the biggest, most identifiable brands in the world, any damage was temporary.

Money For Nothing

On a smaller scale, late last night Zeitgeist was alerted to an opportunity to make free money.

Somehow, the fact that activating a couple of bonus codes on SkyVegas would allow a player to make a guaranteed £27 in five minutes, began doing the rounds on social media.

In the name of research, Zeitgeist gave it a go and sure enough my balance was £27 better off at the end of the exercise and the funds were withdrawn.

The question is, was this a huge error that is likely to see someone hauled over the coals or a great way to get new signups, as in the long run, the bookie always wins.

In all probability it was the former. The money has yet to appear in my bank account and if it doesn’t it will be proof that it was a mistake.

The ‘trick’ doesn’t work anymore, it was deactivated earlier this morning.

However, Skybet will know the value of a new customer. Perhaps they have identified that one who is online at close to midnight is particularly profitable in the long run.

And so, instead of spending their money on advertising, media and giving all players a standard £10 introductory bet, it is possible that Skybet decided to invest their budget in giving a more active type of customer a bigger incentive to sign up, just before the weekend, confident that they will get their money back with interest.

And if that is the case, then maybe it was an act of genius after all.

IKEA show that shoppers and retailers can be friends

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Working with clients who haven’t developed their brands and don’t really know what they stand for is a big frustration. They are condemned to sticking to a repetitive, predetermined timetable of activities that deliver temporary sales peaks but do little to change long term consumer behaviour and drive brand love.

Consequently, Zeitgeist loves brands that are so sure of themselves and their place in the lives of consumers that they can respond confidently to unique or unexpected opportunities that come their way.

Increasing IKEA are showing themselves to be such a brand.

Turning a nightmare into an opportunity

It is said that alongside death and divorce, moving house is one of the most stressful experiences we can face. Indeed one might wonder whether the relatively stagnant property market has developed benignly to give us one less thing to worry about.

However, if packing a few rooms worth of possessions can be so traumatic one can only recoil in horror at the thought of having to move an entire furniture superstore.

This daunting task is precisely what recently faced IKEA in Bergen, Norway as they transferred to a larger, more modern property.

Luckily the goodwill they had built up and confidence in their brand allowed them to turn a huge logistical nightmare into a fantastically engaging event.

Making it happen

Identifying that when you move having friends muck in with small tasks can make a big difference, they invited the whole town to turn up and play their part.

A multimedia campaign called for volunteers to come along and complete tasks ranging from planting the first tree to helping the mayor at the opening ceremony.

Great ideas are contagious and soon people started volunteering for tasks that weren’t even on the list.

Top selling Norwegian rapper Lars Vaular offered to perform a live concert and skydivers parachuted in to celebrate the opening.

Looking back, it would have been easy to reject the idea, fearful that it would backfire and no one would turn up. Other brands would certainly have taken that route, preferring to invest in safe, proven activities.

Fortune, it is said, favours the brave.

And so, an activity that could have been as unpleasant as death was turned into a fantastic brand experience. Around 20% of the town turned up to mark the event as it became IKEA‘s most successful store opening ever, breaking all sales records.

Let’s not forget that the whole event was only possible because IKEA were bold enough to try something new. Their confidence stemmed from the knowledge that they had developed their brand and understood their place in consumers lives. There was no risk that the party would fall flat.

Fortune it would seem, also favours the prepared. 

Could sponsors hold the key to stopping racism on the terraces?

October 22, 2012 Leave a comment

So Lance Armstrong (under)stated recently that he’d had a ‘difficult couple of weeks’.

Just to recap. In the last fortnight or so (and despite his protestations of innocence), Armstrong has gone from being a much lauded athlete who overcame serious illness to dominate one of the world’s toughest sporting competitions to a discredited drugs cheat and stripped of all his titles.

A ‘difficult couple of weeks’ by anyone’s standards.

Since the evidence against him grew and former team-mates spoke out about his role in the doping culture in the US Postal team, the position of sponsors such as Nike has shifted. Where initially they stood by their man, they ultimately decided to cut the relationship, citing that he had “participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade“.

It’s one of the inherent dangers of sponsorship.

While your endorsee is sweeping all before them you are associated with success and glory. But as Tiger Woods sponsors found out a few years ago, if that star misbehaves your brand is associated with someone getting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The news that cycling has/had a doping problem is both unsurprising and depressing.

Unfortunately, the same can also be said for the experiences of the England U21 side in their recent play-off in Serbia.

Racism in football

Having been subjected to racist chants throughout the game, things came to a head at the final whistle when Danny Rose was sent off for kicking the ball into the abusing crowd and punches were thrown as players and coaching staff jostled their way towards the dressing rooms.

Racism is a blight on society. It exists in the UK and while it is not tolerated in public arenas, the economic downturn hasn’t helped our natural tendency to tribalism when things are tough.

For nations that haven’t experienced the levels of immigration of other ‘races’ that the UK has, attitudes to people with different colour skin are not as liberal. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t all plain sailing and painless for us to get to where we are.

Terminology that was common just a couple of generations ago is now taboo. TV shows of the 1970’s wouldn’t even be considered now. And footballers in the UK used to have to run the gauntlet due to their skin colour as recently as the 80’s and indeed, incidents are still being reported in 2012.

None of this excuses what happened in Kruševac and nor does it excuse the lenient approach footballing authorities have taken with racist incidents in the past. In a multi-billion pound industry, fines of tens of thousands of pounds have little impact.

FIFA and UEFA are keen to cite the power of football to change society when awarding tournaments to countries like Ukraine and Qatar but plead impotence when it comes to topics like racism.

The natural indignation in England has lead some to suggest that we should pull out of international tournaments to make a point. Such an action would most likely be met with champagne corks popping in Nyon and Zurich, and would only serve to further dilute our voice in the global game.

The Serbian FA could have offered UEFA a get out of jail card. A statement recognising the monkey chants, apologising to the FA and footballing family and a clear plan of action to ensure it never happens again would have enabled the games rulers to give them a slap on the wrist.

Yet the Serbian FA refuted clear evidence of racist chants and stated that any claims to the contrary were malicious.

FA of Serbia absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Kruševac. Making connection between the seen incident – a fight between members of the two teams – and racism has absolutely no ground and we consider it to be a total malevolence.

Had they sent a letter saying ‘Fuck you! We did nothing wrong and we’re not changing!’ their attitude couldn’t be any clearer.

And in doing so they batted the ball firmly into UEFA’s court making the question very clear.

Do UEFA believe there was racism at the game and if so, do they consider it acceptable?

Driving behaviour change

Behaviour change and persuasion are all about understanding what motivates of the people you are trying to influence. This means putting your own motives to one side for a moment.

In other words, if we want UEFA and FIFA to impose stronger penalties for incidents of racism we need to understand what influences them.

And let’s be honest, British indignation has never kept them awake at night.

Much higher on the list of priorities are the many sponsors who provide a huge chunk of the money that powers the multi-billion pound football industry.

Just like Nike and Lance Armstrong’s sponsors, FIFA and UEFA’s backers (which include brands like Coca-ColaMcDonalds and Adidas) have a rare opportunity to make their opinion on an unsavoury topic clear.

No brand wants to be associated with racism and upsetting the sponsors is something the footballing authorities do not tolerate. Just ask Niklas Bendtner who was fined £80,000 for showing his Paddy Power lucky pants during EURO2012.

Compared to the fines given to national associations for incidents of racism, it seems rather excessive.

Let’s face it, for all the anger,  griping and T-Shirt protests in England we simply don’t have the clout to demand action.

The sponsors are the ones with real power to influence, and maybe only a rebuke from the people who line their pockets will make finally FIFA and UEFA start taking racism in football seriously.

Turning two negatives into something positive

October 2, 2012 Leave a comment

We all know that catching cancer early can improve our chances of survival. For some charities, such as Coppafeel, the primary aim is to encourage people to know their body and get checked out as soon as they suspect there may be something wrong. Yet our inherent behaviour means we often put off seeing our doctor.

The reasons for stalling are varied, from wanting to ignore reality, a dislike of doctors and hospitals to simply putting it off until tomorrow.

One of the barriers is that you can’t get to see a doctor immediately. You have to book an appointment and then organise your life around it.

All of which makes the Get to Know Cancer pop-up clinic initiative in the Centrale Shopping Centre in Croydon such a great idea. Shoppers can pop in and ask questions to specialists and nurses from the Royal Marsden and Cancer Research UK (for whom Zeitgeist recently did a half marathon – sponsorships still kindly accepted).

Why we like it

It’s obvious to anyone strolling through a UK town that the economic downturn has lead to a depressing number of empty properties along the high street.

The most recent high profile closure was JJB Sports who went into administration last week with the loss of thousands of jobs. The retailer followed a number of famous names, including Clinton Cards, Blacks, Peacocks and Game to either disappear or be sold off to new owners.

For some, the traditional high street is beyond salvation.

In his new book, Sold Out, the former Iceland and Focus DIY CEO  Bill Grimsey, writes that the high street is “as good as dead already“.

He believes that repeated failures by government, online shopping and the recession have created a perfect storm and lambasted the review of sector by the retail expert Mary Portas as “all a waste of money and resources”.

As for cancer, the consequences of this terrible disease are known to us all, lives taken and lives destroyed.

Saving lives and money

Recognising our natural inertia and the need to get illnesses diagnosed as soon as possible the shop interrupts people and overcomes many barriers. And like all great ideas, it’s simple. Now that it exists, it’s strange to think that it has taken so long for such an idea to be implemented.

Aside from the human cost, cancer costs the state around £11bn a year. So quite apart from the emotional benefit of saving lives, the clinic could save us all money.

Bill Grimsey might be right. The traditional high street may well be gone forever. If it has, our challenge is to find new ways to use the empty spaces left by defunct retailers.

Let’s hope that the Croydon trial is a success and the start of the renaissance.

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