Friday, 5 October 2012

Dave Trott - Advertising God.

One of my many heroes is Dave Trott who plies his trade as CST The Gate. He's the nearest person we have to John Webster in today's advertising and his weekly blog in Campaign is free to anyone who needs reminding why we do what we do. This one's a corker...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Folkestone Creative Quarter. Generating Impetus...

As a new resident to the Folkestone Creative Quarter, I thought it might be worth writing down some first impressions. Roger de Haan's money is battling to do good work but needs some help. A community is more than just renovated buildings. It needs a spirit. At the moment, it's the spirit that needs to grow in the CQ. There is an interesting mix of businesses and people in the area. But there's a feeling of defeat rather than energy. There's also a lot of debris, broken bottles in the back streets and drug paraphenalia. The council who are paid to clean up the mess should be holding up their end of the bargain. Drugs and dealers aren't pretty but they add a degree of edginess that makes the place more interesting. Obviously, business owners are worried about crime - that the inevitable consequence of drugs isn't it? It might be. It might not. Let's not create a problem that doesn't exist yet. The problem that does exist is apathy. There are some genuinely ambitious businesses trying to make a go of it. It behoves us all in the region to support our neighbours. Get a coffee from the Polish cafe. Go for a drink after work in the local bar. If we don't support each other, how can we expect those from farther afield to? It feels like the Creative Quarter is on the cusp of something positive. This could be a real success - but that will only happen with our energy. If we want to get something out of this project. We need to put something in.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Why Tesco had a terrible Christmas and why they're just the first to feel the pain.

The multi-buy scam highlighted by the BBC a few months ago is just one of the reasons why shoppers are wary of putting too much loyalty in Tesco. Assuming their customers are too dumb to work out that bottles of fruity water priced at 31p each are cheaper than the 'Special Offer' of 3 for £1, is just one of the ways Tesco has managed to alienate previously loyal customers. When pulled up on these practices (it was highlighted on numerous products throughout the store) that old chestnut the 'system error' was blamed. To which at least one viewer was forced to shout from his armchair 'go on, pull this one, it's got bells on it'.

It's not so much the fact that Tesco (and other stores are equally culpable) are trying to screw a few extra pence out of their clients that irks me. It's the assumption that normal shoppers are somehow too stupid to see through the marketing ploys. When you charge a fair price for a fair product, I'll meet you halfway. Try and pick my pockets and I'm out of here.

Now Which Magazine has highlighted that Tesco has been sending its online grocery shoppers products that are smaller than advertised - The Mail highlights a 1 litre tub of Carte d'Or ice cream that was actually 900 ml when it arrived - to add weight to the argument that the stores no longer have the customers' best interests at heart.

And that is precisely the problem, not just at Tesco but with many high street brands. This arrogant assumption that the customer is some dimwitted cash receptacle to be milked for or tricked out of every penny and then discarded in endemic in much of British retail.

Cutting the numbers of store staff to save money (remember Tesco's promise to 'always open another till if there's someone in front of you until all the tills are open?' That got quietly sidelined), cramming the aisles with two for one offers where the price of one is twice as much as you've ever paid before, promoting special deals that only last a day or two just to get you through the doors - it all stinks of what's wrong with retail in the UK. But more accurately, it highlights what's wrong with the mentality of the new generation of marketers who are blind to the idea of respect for the customer, dazzled by the size of company profits, and purely focussed on their own cut of the bonus pool.

Honestly, it's time to stop now guys. You've been doing it for too long and even the most gullible of customers is now wise to, cynical of and jaded by these dodgy practices. How about getting back to good service, honest value and simple convenience? That doesn't sound like a lot to ask for does it?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Jobs for the dead

A newspaper report that the termnally ill are being given advice on how to get back into work has surfaced this week. The government spokesperson said, "we believe the terminally ill should be offered the same employment opportunities as everyone else."

But why stop there…

Dear Mr Cowthorpe

I was sorry to hear of your recent death, but thought you would be interested to learn about the latest employment opportunities available to the lately deceased. As you may know, it is government policy to offer the same work opportunities to the dead as to the living, and a number of exciting openings for the 'life-challenged' have become available this week.

Selfridges have a number of vacancies for the slimmer corpse, especially if you passed away whilst striking a fashionable pose. (Limited) expressions of interest are invited for those under 8 stone who pegged it whilst pouting, leaning forwards with one hand on a hip or indulging in a superman style 'legs apart, fists on hips' position to act as mannequins in our haute couture dept. May suit the longer term deceased given the weight requirements.

Arsenal FC
This well respected football organisation invite CVs from all cadavers regardless of race or sexuality - we are an equal opportunity corpse employer. The role is to join our largely silent and unanimated team of supporters to stand impassively behind the goal with a glazed expression. If that's you, please contact Joyce Fremlin, head of supporter recruitment (Bodies Division).

Note from UK.Gov. A similar position is also available in the back four of Wolverhampton Wanderers first team.

Government Departments - Highways Division.
The UK Highways Ministry have a range of national vacancies for Activity Observation Operatives to join our road maintenance department. Duties include; standing idly in groups whilst a loan digger driver moves earth in a laconic fashion; remaining immovable whilst a 13 mile queue of traffic backs up behind a row of cones on the A21; and standing in a hole staring into the distance whilst waiting for the 'right pipes to turn up'. Please apply to Fred Watts, highways recruitment.

If you or any of your recently deceased acquaintances would be interested in these positions, please contact our office by knocking three times on the table or throwing a glass ornament across the room before 1st March 2012.

Yours sincerely

Eileen Biggs. (Ms)

Monday, 6 February 2012

view from the fence...

I'm not really a marketeer, or marketer as I believe they prefer to be called nowadays. I'm more of a writer. Which means I observe and comment rather than steer. I find you often get the best view from sitting on the fence.

Like today. I received an email broadcast from two of the people I admire. One is Seth Godin who seems to have captured the zeitgeist of what's happening in this new model of business that the internet and social media have been the catalysts for. And the other is Drayton Bird, an old school marketer and writer who has a lot of pithy wisdom to divulge.

Today's missives were interesting. Seth was talking about how businesses are getting better at targeting their customer. His message was that the customer isn't necessarily the end user. Nike targets athletes and celebrates them because they don't really have a clue who actually buys their gear. Similarly Apple only ever had one customer. It was Steve Jobs because he was the voice, soul and vision of every apple customer. In short, Seth was saying, as he often does, focus on your real customer and build your business around them.

Drayton was talking about the Pareto principle and how businesses demand to get more sales often means they ignore the bottom of the barrel. The long tail I believe it's called in SEO terms. It's easy to keep targeting the top 20% who make up 80% of your income - but when you look at the figures sometimes those loyal customers cost a lot to keep loyal. Whereas the 80% who don't buy so often can be much cheaper to get an order from. In a nutshell he was saying don't let the stats drive your business.

What I thought was interesting, was, that although these views might seem a little contradictory, actually they both point to the same thing. The old model of looking at the numbers and going after the easiest return is no longer viable. For businesses to stay in businesses, they have to work harder. Harder at getting to know their customers better, harder at finding out what motivates people, not just what socio-economic group they're in. And harder at thinking ahead to what all these diverse customers will mean to their product line, their service proposition and their brand.

It also shows you can admire two schools of thought - even if they oppose each other. Time to get on my fence again.

Monday, 23 January 2012

8 questions to ask before agreeing your website build

Start-up businesses are at the mercy of web companies. Often, they don't know what they should get for their budget and what's good value. I've seen web design companies offering what should be the basics of a good site build as premium, additional extras. So here's a checklist of what you should get in your £295 microsite budget:

1. Ask how many hours design the price includes.
I recently saw a local website company offering '2 hours design' in their website package. Quite simply, that's not enough for a well designed website that actually takes your requirements into account. Ask how many 'style setters' the design includes. We always provide at least 3 professionally designed page style setters produced by designers with decades of experience in website, magazine and advertising layout. You need that kind of experience to ensure you have a site that is unique to your business - and gives you the opportunity to fine tune and change the design untill you're totally satisfied with the look and feel.

2. Ask if uploads are included in the price.
They should be. There's no extra cost involved in uploading images to a host server. It's usually an automated process that a piece of software takes care of.

3. Ask how much margin the web company is adding into the hosting cost.
Let's be honest. Basic hosting is around £30 a year for a microsite (which is all most Start-ups are looking for). Even if they add on a tenner for admin, the hosting shouldn't come to much more that £70 a year with VAT. If you're being charged extra, ask why.

4. Find out the cost price for your domain name.
Some web companies add an extra charge for registering your site name. Let's be clear. Domain registration costs from about £6 for a domain name. Again, ask your web company to break down the cost of site registration between the cost of the domain and their administration fee.

5. Content managed sites (CMS) will cost a little more than basic html sites - but not massively. Check the difference in price.
A lot of web companies charge a fortune for allowing the client to change their own content. Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal templates can add additional cost to your basic web package, but they are based on templates so the developer is saving too. If you want a site you can manage yourself, get quotes from at least 3 different companies.

6. Find out whether basic SEO is included.
Don't pay extra for 'on page optimisation'. Basic SEO should be part of the package as it is with our websites. Making sure the h1, h2, titles, tags and text have the appropriate keywords in the right ratio isn't rocket science. Don't let your web company pretend it is - and don't let them charge you extra for it.

7. Search engine and directory registration SHOULD be free. Check it's included.
...because it doesn't cost the site developer anything more than 20 minutes of their time. OK that might be worth something to you if it saves you doing it yourself, but don't be fooled into thinking they're doing you a big favour. They're not.

8. Check how many pages are included in your microsite package.
If it's less than 5 (as we offer) you're going to struggle to get sufficient content for the reader to understand what you do - and for the search engines to take you seriously. Think about it - Home, Contact, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Site Map - those are just the basics and that's five pages right there. A number of web companies make their costs look low by specifying 3 or 4 pages in the all-in package price. Then they charge you extra for every additional page - your £250 site can end up costing you double. Just make sure your basic 'microsite' package includes everything you need to get your business started online.

It's hard enough for SMEs and Start-ups to survive their first year or two without having to avoid the pitfalls set by web companies who want their money more than their business. There are lots of fair and helpful web developers out there. There are also those that give the industry a bad name. My advice would be to shop around before you place your web design - and as with anything - check the details of what you're getting before you sign the deal.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Duchess and I

I was delighted to see that according to this morning's Sun, the Duchess of Cambridge and I have something in common. We both have five changes of outfit to contend with during the Christmas Day - although I suspect for different reasons....

6.00-9.00 I will be teaming my baggy boxers with a pair of stylish black ankle socks in pure nylon. I am likely to complete the ensemble with a shapeless grey towelling dressing gown, the ideal outfit for a morning fag and cup of tea.

9.00-11.30 A change of pace for the grand present opening as I divest myself of my leisure look and switch to more formal attire in a pair of ancient leggings from the house of adidas, complimented by a fetching fleece jogging top. The button-down style will be lightened with a pair of Homer Simpson novelty slippers.

11.30-5.30 The sartorial highlight of the day as I prepare to wow the household in my daring collection of baggy-arsed denim jeans and shapeless tee-shirt - possibly with a humorous connection. In the past, this silhouette has been most successful complimented by an apron bearing the legend 'screw the cooking, let's get pissed' - and my philosophy is, once you've found a fashion style that works for you stick with it. This classic shape will carry me through the main activities of the day; going to the pub, overcooking the sprouts, drunkenly laughing at the queen and generally entering the spirit of the day.

5.30-8.00 As eventide descends, it will be time for another fast change of outfit. Evening games will be undertaken in a collection of sparkling new knitwear from Her Majesty's Marks & Spencer and possibly Matalan - offset with a sprightly paper hat worn at a jaunty angle.

8.00-12.00 The day will climax in a cornucopia of revelry as the esteemed family and friends get stuck into the Bailey's and Stella. This will require a final slick change of attire as I swap the knitwear for 'that shirt you've been saving from the holidays'. This will be the impulse purchase from the summer, a brilliantly colourful affair complemented by images of parrots and palm trees. As night time turn into the early hours, the look will be completed by sodden socks from the quick 'conga' round the garden and festoons of silly string.

Ahh, how like the homelife of our own dear future queen...