Tag Archives: family

Is being ‘So Money Supermarket’ always a good thing?

I was at my brother’s 40th birthday celebrations at the weekend. As the evening drew in and the beers were flowing, as happens at important milestones in life, you begin discussing what really makes the world go round and what is important in life.

Of course the first point that came up was happiness. About being happy in the moment and leaving those you meet happier than when before they met you and giving back more to the society than you take from it. Money was not mentioned and nor was keeping up with the Jones’s next door which often comes up in research focus groups. I was surprised the money point was not mentioned so raised it. My brothers’ friend Dave laughed. Apparently he has a neighbour they call ‘Money-Super-Moron’, this is his story;

msmMoney Super Moron (MSM) spends weekend after weekend searching online for the best deals on anything he is looking at purchasing. My brother’s friend knows this because their raised garden means they can easily see into the neighbour’s conservatory where the computer is and because the MSMs kids are always round his house because their Dad never ‘has time’ to play with them.

Dave said that recently MSM was looking for travel insurance deals. He apparently spent all morning shopping around for the best deal while Dave, his kids, MSM kids and other neighbours went to the park to play cricket. Everyone returned from cricket for lunch and an afternoon of den building. Everyone except MSM. In the afternoon they heard him ranting on the phone. The insurance he’d bought, whilst cheap, didn’t cover what he needed so he was trying to get it sorted.

So Dave spent time in his garden. Dave put smiles on his own children’s faces and made his neighbour’s children smile too. Dave returned to work on Monday feeling like he’d had a decent fulfilling weekend. MSM bought travel insurance he didn’t want, albeit a few pounds cheaper, and drove the wedge of resentment between him and his children even deeper.

So whose so moneysupermarket now?

There are many causes which have created this warped sense of what’s most important in life. And to blame a comparison site or Martin Lewis alone is unfair.

Everyone has a different register of what’s valuable to them. If for MSM, and his type, saving a few beans is more important than quality time with his family, so be it. This is largely influenced by where you come from, where you have got to, where you want to get to and your surrounding influences. To the uber rich, truth is the most valued commodity. But to the poorest in society hope is a valuable commodity.  There’s no fixed answer.

nationwide curr accWhen I said to my wife recently that we’d need to consider travel insurance for our forthcoming family holiday to Turkey my wife reminded me we are covered under the package with her Nationwide bank account. And that’s as long as our search took. Two things raced through our minds (without us aware they did) in those few seconds:

  1. We trust it will be good enough cover for us because it’s from Nationwide, a brand who have always done right by us
  2. If there is a like for like cheaper policy out there from a brand we equally trust, why would we waste time to find it and set it up when we could be doing more meaningful things in life

Time is our most precious asset so ‘bundled accounts’ work for us.

MSM types might think they are smart and savvy. Marketing departments may label them as such too. But I think given the MSM experience, I suggest knowing where to invest time to get the most meaningful fulfilment is the true definition of smart and savvy.

With that in mind, I’m returning to the garden!

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Strategy & Director at Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Consultancy | Putting your customers at the heart of the decision.
We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to our monthly ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter. Or for a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on  M: +44 7968 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter.

Best of ‘A Marketer’s Diary’ (January 2012)

The Marketer’s Diary looks to find and capture one memorable marketing communication each day from the hundreds we supposedly consume.

And 2012 starts with a bang in the marketing communication stakes. Less reliance on ‘new years resolution’ than normal and even less future planning (summer holidays) than previous years too.

I found some great communication executions and placements this month with work from the four contenders featured below and worthy mentions for Tesco Bank, Lurpak and enjoyEngland. 


Tuesday 10th Jan – The Science Museum

Great poster – very striking. And because it’s an exhibition on small every day objects that have been so important in our lives, it’s very smart to achieve the same effect through the design. Where ever I’ve been in London recently, as soon as I’ve seen this shape, I knew what it was promoting.


Friday 27th January – Madagascar 3

When you are half way up the mountain and about to get on a ski lift, you dont expect to see a lion, a giraffe and a hippo. But that’s exactly what did hit me with this brilliantly media placed poster for Madagascar 3. I noted I must take my 5 year old to see this, even though I was away with the chaps. I think I was probably their primary target audience because of that too.


Sunday 1st January – Weightwatchers

This ad proves the execution can live up to the concept. Brilliant production. And with a cast of hundreds of ‘brand demonstrators’ too. Every one of the women (and one man) in the ad have used this platform to demonstrate how confidence returns when you feel good about yourself. And because there are so many people celebrating their achievement, if you are considering Weight Watchers it creates a healthy perception that so many actually achieve, as opposed to one or two as normally portrayed in the weight loss ad genre. It also celebrates the ‘after’ and steers clear of the before comparison – breaking another rule of the category. And finally a new track from Alesha Dixon is an inspired ‘role model’ choice. Buzzy track (not memorable, but very relevant) which adds stature (in an offbeat way) to Weight Watchers brand. Love it. Even though a number of commentators have had a pop at this one, it still works for me.


Sunday 8th Jan – Clarks shoes

Magic moment for me – this is my youngest’s first pair of shoes. And Clarks mark it with a memory pack, which is very sweet. And as my 2nd is now 5 and a half and has (with the exception of a pair of football boots) only ever worn Clarks, it’s more than a little sweet; it’s connected me and my wife’s happiness to their brand.

Running since May 2011, to view the full diary with over 200 marketing communication examples and write ups and over 4,000 views, visit the flickr page at http://bit.ly/mArsPV

Posted by Christopher Brooks http://www.twitter.com/@consultingchris

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

In the red corner, Virgin Money. In the blue corner, the money saving expert

With the announcement of Virgin taking over the Northern Rock retail banking business I, along with many others, have been fizzy with anticipation about what that could mean to the face of banking. Especially as the existing business had landed but arguably not quite yet arrived (although their customer base and product range looks very healthy thank you very much).

So when I saw the ‘promise’ signage up at an old Northern Rock branch in Moorgate last week and heard about the two concept branches in Norwich and Edinburgh, I thought, as a fan of finding better outcomes, I should take a look.

We hear requests for better and different banking, especially in the retail environment. And others have tried before, with coffee seeming to be the common currency. This has taken the form of bolt on stores such as Costa at Abbey, or a pot of filter coffee as I seem to recall in some Alliance & Leicester branches. So I am expecting the coffee, but what else?

I asked Ajai, my fellow Director at Lexden (and former NatWest marketer) what he’d like to see. He simply said, whatever it takes to make the branch a place where he feels comfortable, wants to stay and is conducive to having a dialogue (about money should they want to).

So I drove up to Norwich on Saturday to take a look for myself (always good to walk the walk). I was greeted at the door and shown in, which made me instantly felt comfortable. It reminded me of http://www.chebanca.it/ in Italy in it’s clean modern design. And as I let my eyes explore the rooms in the branch, I spotted cakes, pianos, Playstations, portraits of Sir Richard Branson, snaps of Virgin Balloons and Virgin Coke art, trays of chocolate money, toilets, lounge chairs and dinner tables, more cake, newspapers, iPads, flowers, coat stands and more. Brilliant. The brief must have been, “Create an environment where customers want to come, and want to stay”. And then I spotted something I hadn’t seen for a while in a branch: lots of young families.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I felt very comfortable in the environment and must have been there for ten minutes before it dawned , without seeing any sales literature or posters for products. Now this is a very unordinary approach to retail banking. And one that, I have to say, sat very comfortably with me given that it was my Saturday and I wasn’t looking for a product. It made me think: why can’t my banking be more enjoyable? And like when First Direct arrived I saw a smarter relationship, I am now thinking perhaps Virgin will provide an experience in a way I haven’t seen from other banks.

Retail networks are expensive to maintain, and sales targets need to be hit to do this. But, without a sale in sight and given the set up of this approach I am thinking the investment is more likely to be amortised across the lifetime value of a customer, rather than being recovered from incremental acquisition sales in 2012. And that different focus of customer value rather than product, enables the business to think more about the importance of experience and engagement than it does about acquisition. I may not be in the market for a new policy for some time but, when I am, Virgin Money has probably crept up my consideration list-especially if supported with products which provide sustainable rates rather than chasing best buy top spots for a week or two in the year. This would be consistent with the customer experience I enjoyed, so let’s hope that’s the direction.

Is it for everyone? Of course not-it’s not designed for everyone. In fact, there are certain customers hell bent on a cheap product from a bank that should stay away. If banking is to move in the direction of improved customer experience then this requires investment, time and customer commitment. These are currency the likes of Martin Lewis would dismiss as unimportant in a commoditised world of BUY CHEAP. It wouldn’t be his cup of tea or slice of rate tart at all.

And that presents the dilemma. Whilst some banking brands are looking to push banking into new directions, there are opposing market influences advising customers to steer clear of anything that isn’t the cheapest thing on the market.

The two just aren’t compatible.

It’s only when you re-frame what customers should be looking for to include an enjoyable customer experience, does it change the field of play. I wouldn’t choose a holiday regardless of location, accomodation or amenities because it was cheap and then suffer the inferior experience, content in the rational knowledge I have saved money! That has got to be counter productive for what’s good for me emotionally. When you bring experience into the equation for banking, you stop obsessing about getting the cheapest deal and start considering how important the engagement is to you in your more significant emotional drivers.

And when you think like that, Virgin Money becomes a very viable option for everyday folk looking for something fulfilling from their banking experience.

The brand is certainly creating a strong positioning quickly. And I loved the launch film held around the corner from us at Senate House http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86I_1bP7OXc . I’m looking forward to seeing how service, innovation and products follow this approach (expectations now set very high).

And maybe Virgin http://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/northern-rock/ will help consumers appreciate it’s okay to enjoy your banking. As their campaign lines states, they intend making it better – and their flavour of better will be quality.

That’s a very different proposition to the comparison sites and money saving experts model of better-buy cheap. Consumers only interested in buying cheap do not need cake (or the warm and enjoyable experience) from Virgin Money. They can afford to buy their own cake with the difference they saved by buying cheap instead.

Is this a better model? It’s certainly unordinary. So let’s watch with interest and see how the new Virgin Money model unfolds.

Posted by Christopher Brooks http://www.twitter.com/@consultingchris

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

Best of ‘A Marketers Diary’ (December 2011)

Each day I capture an image of a piece of MarComms which has impressed me and stayed with me. With so many advertising messages out there, this might seem an easy thing to do. But unless comms ‘connect’ with consumers in their lives with messages relevant to their immediate or more long term motivations, you’d be surprised how many don’t stick. And as someone who has been involved from directing business strategy through to executing TV ads, it’s helped me understand further how to construct ads which make a lasting impact.

These monthly blogs contain three of the marcomms from my monthly diary which have made it to the final podium. There was some great stuff about, seasonal and otherwise. But, with Christmas in the month, it became clear to me from my consumption habits that from 24th to 28th December (when I came to London for a day out with my family) branded ads were not reaching me. The TV’s off, newspapers not read, no websites searched or emails scanned. In fact, beyond Fisher Price and Lego, not much did get through.

Below, is what did connect with me together with explanations why. Congrats to National Express East Anglia and Virgin Airlines.

BEST SEASONAL GREETING – Friday 16th December 

This is a service message about alterations to National Express East Anglia line over Christmas. It didn’t need any festive cheer, but some art worker has popped a little hat and some holly on the text. And what does it do? It puts a smile on your face. It doesn’t take much to turn a very flat flyer into an upbeat production. I’d go as far to say, and I am sure this wasn’t the master plan intention, it softens or even masks, the news about disruption. Christmas has a magical effect on all of us.

 BEST MEDIA PLACEMENT – Wed 28th December

We visited the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. And we also went to Zippo’s circus. It was great. Our 5 year old was in tears of laughter at the clowns, our one year old tapped along to the music and we were amazed by the contortionist and the high wire act. The big top and the unique signage created a strong brand message which rockets across the sky. And yet, when you look at the sign on the right you see a lead message ‘it’s warm inside’ – could that be the world’s biggest undersell? Or just a smart way to sell a few last minute seats motivating a different audience driver; survival in cold climates! Either way it got me chuckling, and that was enough (simple as I am) for me. Also I love the shape of the wording and the font of Zippo – so circus.

BEST PROMOTION – Wednesday 14th December 

Pret getting in on the festive cheer in a way much more impactful than a 50% off voucher and more immediate than a free ticket to Legoland.  saying merry Christmas with a simple satsuma; a traditional ‘luxury’ stocking gift. Not only did it feel nostalgic, but it felt personal too because every gift is individual.  Brilliant. I enjoyed mine and will think of Pret whenever I eat another. They’ve also moved up my preferred list of coffee shops too. So a sweet gesture could have a massive commercial advantage over time. And the sweet gesture also came with a 25p charitable donation from Pret to help the homeless over Christmas.

Posted by Christopher Brooks http://www.twitter.com/@consultingchris

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No. 11 – Pizza Express ‘new’ customer experience

When you take a look at the picture there are three elements which you should notice.

Whilst you can’t argue it’s a change table (element 1), you may argue that the new branding (element 2) of Pizza Express does not give it ownership over black and white lines. Whilst I agree, I do applaud their strength to not overhaul the ID in 2011, and opting for a ‘retouch’ instead. And then applying it throughout their livery (I’ve worked with bigger brands who live in a state of limbo between ID’s for years because they ignore the detail).

It is from Pizza Express’ Ocean Terminal restaurant in Leith, which is where I found myself one evening in December, having finished a workshop for a client, with some time for Christmas shopping. And as a father of a 5 and 1 year old I am pleased to see change tables in more and more Gents these days, reflecting the fact that us dads change plenty of nappies too.

But neither of these elements are what grabbed my attention. As a customer proposition and experience strategist, what impressed me was that someone has acknowledged the ‘change of nappy’ experience involves two people; parent (payer) and baby (guest).

By doing so they’ve been able to take a step back to see how both can have a better experience of dining at Pizza Express and simply added a mobile (element 3) above the change table. When you look at it from a parents perspective the mobile is a useful distraction for them, but look at it from the babies perspective it’s a new stimulating entertainment centre to amuse whilst being changed.

Pizza Express also provide crayons and mats for children at the table. They could be there as ‘things to keep the kids quiet, so the adults can talk and order’, but I believe Pizza Express think more deeply than that they will have thought, ‘it’s entertainment for children because we know they think it’s boring waiting for a routine event such as a meal’.

And by thinking like this Pizza Express demonstrates it recognises that everyone is a customer and has needs which should be catered for within their dining experience.

Commercially, the crayons and the mobile might encourage parents to choose Pizza Express over chains without such facilities. But what it really says to me is that Pizza Express has the capacity to step back and look at the wider vista before making changes, ensuring they are to the betterment of all their customers; whatever their age. From branding to baby changing.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency. We put customers at the start and the heart of the business strategy.

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers. We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read, don’t forget to sign-up to our ‘Putting Customers First’ new Lexden newsletter. June issue out soon. 

For more information about how we can help you take your customer strategy forward please contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on T: +44 (0) 7968 316548. You can follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No.6 – Commercial creativity from Dubai

Whether it is creative or construction, the daily pace of growth in Mirdif City in Dubai outstrips what most Europeans would consider a very busy day. With this rate of growth and relaxed planning laws comes a ‘secure investment, put it up fast, market and move on’ approach to business. Companies which pontificate are likely to be short lived. So service providers to the fast track mindset, such as branding agencies, need to get the brand proposition quickly, create it and move on to the next project at speed too. Creative resources in Dubai have proved this is possible – you just need to be sharper with ideas at the first time of asking.

That said, one project proved to be a very different case for TMH. The branding agency won the pitch to develop the brand for a ‘first in the world’ concept aqua park for children. The difference is that children don’t need their swimming costumes. The brainchild of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Aquaplay is a park full of water-based rides and attractions rather than slides and pools. Described by Karen Iley of Time Out Dubai as being like “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – only with water flowing all over the place instead of chocolate”.

As requested, TMH developed the brand positioning, livery and visual iden. Regardless, Paul followed his instinct and finally found the answer one evening walking along the beach in downtown Dubai. He created a range of oceanic based characters, each representing a different ride. These friendly creatures had a soft illustrative style and playful personalities too. He revealed the characters to TMH, along with a big idea he’d had which he felt was strong enough to get Aquaplay’s interest again.tity guidelines which the client loved. And that should have been it. But something troubled creative Paul Green. The rides, whilst united by the brand Aquaplay, did not connect together in any other way. He worried that customers might not fully get the ‘completeness’ of the proposition either. However, being a pragmatist as well as a creative, Paul realised that a simple ride naming exercise would probably not be welcomed by Aquaplay who now needed to invest energies in the marketing of the park. They had moved on.

Out of courtesy, Aquaplay agreed to meet. When presented with the characters, they thought it a nice idea but were keen to return to their destination marketing tasks.

That was until Paul explained the bigger purpose of the cute characters: their commercial angle. Paul described a well worked through merchandising opportunity for the characters he had created; 8 soft toys, 8 pen and pencil sets, 8 jigsaws, 8 t-shirts, 8 cups, 8 downloadable games etc. It was then that they absolutely bought it. It has enabled AquaPlay to add a brand new income stream by creating a gift shop into its business model. Now live, the merchandise is extremely popular as children look to take memories home of their favourite experience from the day.

Paul’s instinct was right. By stopping and considering the wider opportunities, Paul had found a brilliant way to enhance the agency’s reputation, generate extra revenue for the park and, importantly, strengthen the Aquaplay proposition. Paul’s unordinary approach has created an exceptional asset, which would never have prevailed had he allowed convention to rule and ‘moved on’. Paul Green can be found at http://www.thisispaulgreen.com/

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No.3 – Dock Dogs

We are inspired by businesses and brands that seek to find sustainable ways to create stand out, cut through the clutter and form emotional engagements with their audiences in ways which others don’t achieve. And in a stagnant economic climate, it is these unordinary propositions which often shine out. And, from the number of hits on the previous two blogs, it’s great to know so many of you are interested in these too.

Adding to Austrian Airlines and Tounge ‘n’ Cheek we bring you Dock Dogs.

Hundreds of dogs jumping off a jetty into a water tank. Bonkers? No, a business.

I first came across this idea last year at a county fair in Suffolk and saw it again recently which reminded me of its popularity. And it’s the popularity of it which is most striking because Dock Dogs have managed to turn a basic exercise for a dog into a spectator sport and a business.

If you’ve ever owned a dog you will know there is nothing more annoying than your beloved pet jumping out from a river bank and into the river. It means a mop up exercise at a minimum. And if you’ve never owned a dog, have you ever stood and been excited enough to stop and watch dogs jump in to river.

It’s not a joy for owners, and it’s not that much fun to watch if you are not an owner. On this basis Dock Dogs shouldn’t work, but it does.

Here’s how. Owners pay to watch their dogs jump from a platform out into a large tank of water. And people, with or without dogs, stand at tank height four or five deep and clap and cheer as dogs leap into the water. Small dogs, tall dogs, gun dogs, toy dogs all take their turn to see who can jump the furthest.

It has taken an unordinary entrepreneur to have the vision to see this one through.

But there it is: very popular and hopefully profitable too.


Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.