Tag Archives: opinion

Should have been a shoe in

It’s staggering how often we, as human beings and customers, do things and make decisions which do not seem to make sense yet, at a deeper more emotional level, just feel right to us.  Consider what I did yesterday.

At lunchtime I was walking down the road when I passed a well known, reasonably up market shoe shop chain.  I have needed a new pair of shoes for ages now but, being a bit fussy, I had not yet found the style and brand I wanted.  I really like my current pair but they are close to falling apart so it is getting about as urgent as buying shoes can ever be.

It was a bit of a scrum in the shop since they are in the middle of one of their seemingly quite regular sales.  However I saw a pair of Merrells that were pretty much what I have been after, albeit at full price.

When the pleasant, highly competent member of staff returned, however, she informed me that they did not have the size 8 which I required.  Disappointing.  “Not a problem though, sir.  We can order a pair in for you and if you don’t want them, you don’t have to buy them.”  Not ideal but, given how long I had been looking, perfectly acceptable.  She returned with a form to write my details on and said that the shoes should be in store in the following week.  We filled it out.

All good.  But then a surprise- she asked me for £20 as a deposit to make the order.  Her colleague chimed in with “it’s so we know you will come back for them”.

Hmm.  I told her I did not see why I needed to give the £20 at this point.  She said that was the only basis they could order it in and there was no way round it.  Before I knew it, I had smiled and walked out.  Despite the fact that I have been looking for that type of shoe for a couple of months.  Despite the fact that they could have sourced them for me within 7 days.  Despite the fact that I am still without a pair of shoes that I want to buy.  I still walked out.

As Star Trek’s Dr Spock would say to Kirk:  “Illogical, Captain”.

I have been giving it some thought.  What caused me to happily behave in this apparently irrational manner and for the retailer to lose a sale?  Because that is the commercial impact of what happened.  On reflection, I think there are two reasons:

  1. When they asked for £20, it took me completely by surprise.  Because they did not have my size, I had mentally attuned myself to the fact that I would be walking out of the door without a new pair of shoes and without having paid any money.  So when they asked for money, it threw me.  They had put up an obstacle to purchase-the opposite of the type of ‘nudge’ described in Thaler and Sunstein’s book which can influence our behaviours.  It gave me a reason to say no and back out.
  2. When they said ‘it’s so we know you will come back for them’ it annoyed me.   I felt that they had questioned my integrity and I really did not like it at quite a deep level.   I felt (as opposed to thought) offended that they were not taking the fact that I was in store, trying to buy their shoes, as commitment enough that I would come back the next week to buy them.  In myself, I know that paying over £20 would not make me more or less likely to come back later.

I think it is this second point which was the key driver for my behaviour.

Rationally, everything said to pay the £20, go back the following week, pick up the shoes and start using them.  But my own deeper feelings which surfaced via the comment overwhelmingly trumped rationality and I walked out.

And what of the commercial impact?  In amongst the heavy discounting of their sale, the shop lost a full price purchase because of something they did which made me feel not quite right.  I doubt whether the £20 they wanted is in any way material to them in terms of cashflow or paying suppliers.  And even if I did not come back, it feels that having a pair of size 8s in one of their regular product lines is pretty much business as usual for a shoe shop.  It is simply an internal process which has had an impact on one of their potential customers. I am not saying that the assistant could have known how I would react (I am not sure I did), nor that everyone would have reacted as I did.  I am just saying that their process directly contributed to a lost sale which was surely not their intention.

This kind of thing happens all the time.  Businesses put in processes, talk to customers in certain ways and offer products and services which people either do not connect with or, as in this case, actively push them away.  Sadly, it happens mainly because businesses just look at what is best for themselves rather than their customers.  But it also happens when businesses only look at a consumer’s rational motivations.  It happens when they fail to understand what is really driving the customer’s decision making, what it is that makes them tick and what type of activity will drive through into their hearts as opposed to their minds.

People simply do not make decisions on a purely rational basis.  In fact, people mostly make their decisions on a subconscious, emotional level.  There is a wealth of scientific evidence, thinking and cutting edge research techniques such as the Harvard originated ZMET, which we have used at Lexden, which helps businesses understand, at a deep level, why we all make the decisions we do.  This is where more of our customer research efforts need to focus if we want to develop products and services which will actually resonate with consumers.

In the meantime, sadly, I’ll be going out this lunchtime to look for those shoes.  But if feels right.


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 call us on T: +44 (0) 9768 316548.  And you can follow us on Facebook LinkedIn, or Twitter @consultingchris.


Faster Horses

For businesses and marketers, in theory, it is easy.

Simply ask customers what they want from your products and services, build solutions around these “needs”, deliver them excellently and communicate them effectively. If only.

The problem with this approach is the first part. You can always find customers who are happy to share their views and opinions on what they say they want. This will typically be in some kind of customer research scenario such as questionnaires, conjoint analysis, focus groups or depth interviews.  Although these will be conducted by excellent, experienced research professionals, the bottom line is that customers find it difficult to express what they really want and marketers are not always very good at interpreting this in the right way.

This is never more so than when you are considering new things.There is still no better expression of this than Henry Ford’s comment when asked about inventing the motor car.  He was questioned as to why he did not ask customers what they wanted. His unforgettable response was that it was because they would have simply said that they wanted a faster horse.  And this sentiment holds today-probably even more so given how fast technology is giving us more and more ways to do things.  Customers find it really difficult to envisage and articulate what they might want in the future, especially in areas where there is a strong market conditioning.

So what does this mean for us as marketers? Should the invention and bringing to market of innovative and inspirational new solutions such as an iPod or Kindle be the sole preserve of the super visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos? Of course not. And there are at least two elements which are consistent with their approach which we can emulate.

Firstly, always start with the customer and keep trying to understand in detail what problems can be solved for them. One way to do this might be via formal research. However it is certainly and definitely not the only thing which should be done since it will not give you the answer.  What it is good for is providing additional data to complement your other efforts in understanding the customer, in order to form your own point of view.

Secondly, keep looking out for what other people are doing, the way things are being done in parallel markets and how technology and progress are making customers’ lives better. These are fertile sources for inspiration.

The above is no silver bullet.  It will not give us a fully formed answer and a business plan for our boss.  However, what it does do is give ourselves a fighting chance of developing great solutions for customers. By thinking widely and deeply about how to fit in with customers’ lives, we considerably increase our chances of spotting and seizing opportunities when they arise.

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which seeks to arrive at cut-through propositions and solutions for our clients.To do this we look beyond the familar towards the unordinary.

To find out more about what we do and if that might be of interest to you please visit our website lexdengroup.com

Or 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.

Best of ‘A Marketers Diary’ (September 2011)

Each day we are bombarded by thousands of advertising messages. But just how many of them do we actually consume? We decided to collect just one example of a communication every day and explain why it had caught our attention. Here are September 2011’s offerings for your consideration taken from ‘A Marketers Diary 2011-2012’.


Tuesday 6th September 2011 – Extra chewing gum

The copy is exquisite. You can hear Ben’s voice when you read it. Yes, it’s that authentic. They’ve really understood the proposition and creatively dramatised it. Lovely ad and a great ambassador in Ben who is seen as Farm stock turned adventurer rather than reality TV star come good(what was the name of that island on BBC’s Castaway again?). Visit http://www.worthchewingover.com to read the copy in full. There are also other executions.


Saturday 17th September 2011 – Wickes

In my market town, you don’t often see much transport media. So when this drove by early Saturday as I walked across town I noticed it. And do you know what – the very next day I found myself in Wickes looking for a storage unit – coincidence?

By the way Wickes is not a place you will find small storage units.


Sun 18th September 2011 – Virgin Airlines

I love the production values and humour in this Bond inspired ad. In fact, I say shhh at home when it comes on. I don’t think I say that for any other TV ad. Just great. And of course it makes me feel that Virgin is a cooler airline for me to consider. Image links to video of ad.

From ‘The MarComms Diary 2011-2012’. http://bit.ly/tOZ48B

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director Lexden.

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions which motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands. To discuss how our approach can help you with your burning platforms, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123, M: +44 (0)7968 316548. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No.10 – Lena from Copenhagen

Lena Andersson wanted to find a way of combining her love for her home town of Copenhagen with running. So she decided to start jogging tours of the city. It may seen an obvious thing to do, but it’s the ability to turn her two passions into a business which demonstrates unordinary thinking.

It’s a hit and tourists are booking up Lena so they too can combine their loves of ‘off the beaten track sightseeing’ and running. By keeping up with her 6.30min/km pace, customers can head off to unseen areas or join Lena for her different perspectives tour; such as the 7am business run.

And as Lena says, “it keeps me energised for the whole day”, much more than her shipping executive job ever could.


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.7 – Citizen M

The great thing about unordinary thinking is that it rarely is predictable or consistent. So you don’t know when you will encounter genius. However, when you do, you know it.

I stay in a number of hotels each month so am happy to stay in the less conventional business hotels. I find the conventional hotels too automated in their strive for service excellence. I like variety and spontaneity.

So when I was booked in to Citizen M in Glasgow I had no preconceptions.

Although the low £69 a night, including breakfast price tag, did signal a very small alarm bell in my head.

The décor looked modern and attractive. And then I started to observe a few oddities from the normal arrival and settling in experience I go through:

  • There’s no reception,
  • Staff wear black,
  • The building is full of bright Perspex and plastic on the inside but is a black box on the outside.

And when I got to my room it was compact. But when I asked if I could upgrade I was told every room in every hotel is the same. So I returned and hung my clothes in the same space as my bed, my sink, my shower, my TV and my desk. All of which was approximately 2m x 4m x 3m.

But within about 30 minutes of being there I started to get it…

The ‘minimalistic’ approach I had witnessed in the room was reversed in the public space; there were copious numbers of break out lounge areas with Ligne Rosset style furniture, there were shelves of pop art and nude impressionist works, there were eight Macs for business use, blossom trees in the TV area, Earl Grey tea served in silk purses, Café del Mar music and many Alessi practical sculptures scattered across the hotel.

And on taking a closer look at the detail in my room the walk in shower (which was in the room, not off it) had lighting which changed colour, my TV movies were free and there were inspirational messages on all my complimentary toiletries.

And at breakfast not only were Innocent drinks on the menu, but the staff (who also fixed my colleague’s safe, checked us in and helped us set up on the macs earlier) was now the chef and asked us what we thought of her new muffin recipe and should she keep it? We found out everyone is empowered to do everything.

And as I was finding out, their attention to detail was in the areas that really mattered, whilst the places they had compromised (such as big rooms and reception) were actually not important. The only reason I’d decided they were important was because market convention had led me there. Citizen M has decided to change the rules and by doing so has potentially changed the hotel selection criteria.

What they had done here is take a step back from the whole hotel experience and asked ‘what is it that guests really want from a hotel when they are city exploring?’

And they had focussed on making the aspects more important to their clientele the best they can be. Which as the price tag shows, can be more distinctive and more of an experience than the expensive alternative of designing a conventional hotel. Inspirational.

I ended up taking more photographs of this set up than I have of any other hotel I’ve stayed in.

I was so intrigued that I asked a member of staff about the thinking behind it. He explained that empowerment is a key value of the brand.

A brand which they spend a number of days understanding before they are allowed to start in the hotel.

The smart people of Citizen M have applied unordinary thinking too. They’ve achieved so much more by taking a step back and understanding what is really important for a great stay, rather than listening to conventional criteria or attempting to improve on the competition.

By doing so they have designed a hotel which has more of what customers want and less of what they don’t need.

Citizen M contacted me when I first posted this and I am reassured to say my observations and interpretation of their strategy was correct. I did promise them a batch of pics I took (more than I took of the Wynn in Vegas, or the Elms in Worcestershire – personal fav’s), so I will do this.

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.