Tag Archives: unordinary

The price of a doodle and squeak

A dark dark night and a screaming baby. It is 3am. You know the little one needs a dose of Calpol but you have just dropped it on the floor. How much would you pay for another bottle at that precise moment?

Or, perhaps, how much for a flatbed on an overnight flight before the most important interview of your life? Is a £1m bonus for someone who has built a new management team, given the business positive PR and added £15m to the bottom line worth it? A short term, Wonga loan to pay for car repairs after the bank has refused an increased overdraft may be cheap if your car is integral to your life.

As a buyer, value depends on what is important to you-generally and also at that specific moment.

As a seller, the key thing is to think deeply about these buyer motivations and incorporate them into your price conversation.

But one thing is always true: if the seller makes the primary focus the number (price), it means the buyer will not be encouraged see what really matters (value).

Two people and two stories with two different, unordinary ways to highlight the value of their product…

Picasso, in the autumn of his life, was enjoying a glass of wine at his favourite bistro in Paris. At this point he was approached by an elegant, middle aged Parisian woman who recognised the artist. She flattered the ladies’ man and asked that he should draw a portrait of her, to which he reluctantly agreed.Picasso Lady

Taking a napkin and pen, he started sketching. A short time afterwards he was finished and handed his work to the lady. She was thrilled and asked him what she should pay him. Picasso answered 50 francs-an enormous sum at the time. ‘But that is outrageous’, replied the woman, ‘it has barely taken you five minutes’. ‘No mademoiselle,’ he replied, ‘it has taken me a lifetime’.

A gentleman owned a large Victorian house in Manchester. With period features, it also had the original flooring throughout with one annoying, squeaky floorboard in the master bedroom. Despite engaging several reputable builders, they had all failed to fix the offending plank. However, he had had a recommendation from his local greengrocer who insisted the carpenter in question would fix things.

A grey haired chap arrived in a clapped out van, overalls which had seen better days, and a bag of tools which looked the oldest of all. A man of few words, he enquired about the problem and made his way up to the first floor bedroom. The homeowner pressed his foot down to demonstrate the offending noise. With a short nod, the carpenter went over to the window and looked up and down the street. He looked around the room. He then walked back, lay face down on the floorboard and breathed in deeply. Finally, he walked up to the second floor and sat and listened quietly on the steps.

NailAt this point the homeowner was seriously wondering why he was wasting his time. Before he could say anything, the carpenter rose and walked back into the bedroom. He took a large nail and hammer from his bag and knocked it straight into the floorboard. Bang. He then pressed down. Squeak. The homeowner was not surprised-the others had tried exactly the same thing. The next moment the carpenter walked right across to the other side of the room, far away from the squeaky board. ‘Now what is he doing?’, he thought. Taking another long nail, he knocked it into the floor with a single large tap. He walked back to the floorboard and pressed down. No squeak, no noise.

As he put his hammer back in his bag the owner thanked him and asked the carpenter what he owed. The old man replied that it would be £100. “But you have only hammered in two nails! How can it cost so much?” The carpenter took a dog eared pad, wrote an invoice and handed it over:

Cost of materials: £1
Knowing where to hit them: £99

I bet we all wish we could describe our own products and services in such a way.

It is not easy but our chances can be improved: we have to ensure our energy is focused less on the price we want to charge, and more on the value our product gives.

Which means it should be as easy as hammering a nail into a piece of wood. Or sketching a doodle on a napkin.

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | 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 (0) 7968 216548You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook,  and Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No. 43 – Going deep with Iron Maiden

I will confess I am no heavy metal nut.  Hair past my shoulder, black eye liner, tattoos and very very loud music has never been my scene.   I have obviously heard of icons such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Megadeath but have never bought one of their albums.  And I have never, previously, thought of such bands as being particularly innovative or commercial savvy.  I realised my prejudice and error last week when I heard this super story about Iron Maiden.

iron maiden t-shirtIron Maiden is like any business.  They have a product (their music), revenue streams (records/downloads/merchandise/live performances), assets (their skill), customers (fans), finite resources (time, money) and costs (booze, girls and drugs etc).  They face competitive challenges from other bands.  They have to navigate a tricky industry landscape which, since their formation, has altered beyond recognition encompassing changing laws, new technologies and evolving consumer tastes.

Recently the band and their management were figuring out the locations for their next world tour.  Deciding which cities and stadiums they should play to gain maximum exposure to their fan base, perform to sell out crowds and generate revenue from their merchandise sales.

I suppose the ordinary, lazy, conservative option would have been to simply follow the schedule from their previous tour.  It had been successful and nobody would have said that it was a bad choice.  However the band thought it was not the best option and they chose to pursue a more unordinary solution: they decided to base their tour venues according to the localities where their music was being pirated and illegally downloaded the most.

At first this seems a bit strange and even a bit uncomfortable-effectively condone people who have done something illegal and not even paid Iron Maiden for the product?  Instead of prosecuting them, in a way, you are rewarding them. [I can imagine, with a smile, the conversation in most banks, telcos or other large organisation if an analogous situation were to arise.]

But Iron Maiden got beyond this.  They saw these fans not as someone to punish, but as an asset to leverage.  Their view was that, irrespective that they had not paid for the music itself, these were passionate fans who, in fact, may even be more likely to pay for concerts and buy the t-shirts et al. Deep web

To do this, the band had to employ a specialist web agency called Bright Planet who specialise in harvesting data from something called the deep web.  If you do not know what that is you can read about it here.  However, in essence, the deep web (as opposed to the surface web) is where nearly all of the information that is online is actually held and is about 400-500 times bigger (believe it or not, Google can only access something like 0.3% of what is on the web).  It is also anonymous and impossible to trace individuals, which has many legitimate uses but also lends itself  to people wanting to pursue illegal activities such as pirating of music and worse.

So though I still don’t think I will be purchasing The Number of the Beast, I now realise my error:  why wouldn’t Iron Maiden have done such a smart thing?  They have always been trailblazers, doing things few had done before, not fearing failure and consistently making fans happy.  After all, since their first gigs in 1976 in a pub in Stratford they have not exactly pursued an ordinary path have they?


Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing 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 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 (0)7968 316548You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

Unordinary Thinking No. 42 – Cross-selling in the drugs business

I have never quite figured out in my own mind whether I think selling drugs is difficult or easy.  Difficult because of tricky supply side issues such as sourcing, shipping and dealing with unscrupulous characters or easy because of plenty of demand and income which the government chooses not to tax.

Okay, so perhaps I do not mean that sort of narcotic.  I was actually thinking of prescription medication which we all have to buy (hopefully not too often).

I heard a great story from an FMCG seller friend of mine recently.  He told me about the trouble faced by a successful pharmacist client of his when he expanded his store network.

This chap had grown his business from a single shop to four through a combination of hard work, good locations and a forensic understanding of what his customers desired.  With this successful track record behind him, when the opportunity came to acquire a new store location he grasped it.  Why would it not be a success?  After all, he had spent over 12 years running his pharmacies, honing his proposition and working out what worked and what did not.  It was simply a case of taking this expertise and knowledge and applying it at the new location.Pills

Except this time it did not work.  In fact the new pharmacy performed poorly from a sales and profit perspective.  Income from prescriptions was on plan-only to be expected given the new store’s proximity to the town’s general hospital. It was the cross-sales from high margin, impulse purchase areas such as soaps, toothpaste and hair dye which were causing the problem.

The pharmacist could not understand it since he had previously been immensely successful through following the same retail formula in all four of his previous stores.  He was replicating his established model such as store layout, stock selection and staff training.  He looked closely at his customers and confirmed that they were very similar in terms of demographic to those in his other pharmacies a mile away.  But they were simply not buying products in the way he expected or wanted.

So he went back to what had made him successful in the first place.  He went back to his customers and started closely observing and examining what they were doing when they were in the pharmacy.

PharmacyAnd what did he see?  He saw focused, task oriented individuals striding through his front door and to the back of the shop like Usain Bolt striving for the 100m tape.  Because they were coming straight from a hospital appointment, customers were preoccupied with getting their new medication and would march directly to the dispensing counter at the back.  Once they had been served however, their whole demeanour changed as they visibly relaxed and wandered back through the shop, looking at the products on the shelves but not stopping to purchase anything.

He immediately understood.  Once the customers had received their prescriptions they mentally ‘checked out’ of the pharmacy as their mission had been accomplished.  They also physically put their wallets and purses away and, hence, their likelihood to purchase became less.  It was clear to him that he needed to reimagine a new environment, more in tune with this particular customer scenario.

The answer, in common with many unordinary solutions, was simple and obvious in hindsight.  Through the experience of his established stores, he knew how to maximise cross-sales by presenting the right types of product as the customer walked through the door (in a similar way to how supermarkets always have the fruit and vegetables in the first aisle).

So he shut the pharmacy for two days and turned the shop around-both physically and financially.  By mentally envisaging the dispensing counter as the front door, he reconfigured the shop as if a customer had just entered it once they had received their medication.  He placed the products he knew would appeal to customers right in their eye line once they had their prescriptions-or while they were waiting.  Hence he provided a solution more congruent and in tune with how his customers were feeling as they came into this particular pharmacy, with a corresponding increase in cross-sales.

Going back to the customer, applying some creativity, and using the available resources (prior insight about his customers) to help solve the commercial problem.

So perhaps selling the drugs is always the easy bit.  It’s the cross-sell that the drug dealers might want to think about.


Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing 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 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 (0)7968 316548  You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

Unordinary Thinking No. 40 – Your game, your rules

If the game has always been football, the opposition would like you to play football, and they assume you will play football, is it sensible to play football?  Or, if you want to win, does it make more sense to play a different game?

Last month I read the obituary of a gentleman I had previously learned about whilst travelling in Vietnam who did just that.

General Vo Nguyen Giap died last month at the age of 102.  Looking back on his life and what he did, you would surely have received long odds on him surviving to this grand old age.  Giap was a military commander in the Vietnamese army from the 1940s through to the 1970s and was a key architect in his long game of kicking both the French and Americans out of his homeland.

So how did the son of a farmer, with a law degree and no formal military training, drive out two Goliath colonial powers with overwhelming advantages in terms of military apparatus and firepower from his poor and undeveloped country?Giap

Well perhaps it was precisely because of this lack of a conventional military education.  Such schooling would have meant a propagation of status quos, an emphasis on might and (over) confidence in the omnipotence of having the latest military technology.  By not being clouded and directed by the solutions to someone else’s previous problem, it leaves that person free to apply their own thinking and creativity to solving their own, current problem in its own, current context.

The above was coupled with Giap’s innate confidence and clarity in the strengths of his fellow countrymen and what they would be prepared to suffer to take back their occupied motherland.  It was a powerful and fertile cocktail for generating the type of unordinary thinking which gave birth to his unconventional strategies and surprising tactics.

Two examples.  The first a huge, war defining battle with the French and the second, an example of the myriad of clever tactical activities which inexorably sapped the strength and will of the Americans until they, effectively, gave up.

The French defeat at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, in the north west of Vietnam and close to the border with Laos, has been described as one of the worst and most humiliating in their history.  Dien Bien Phu was a remote outpost, surrounded by mountains, which the French had identified as being strategically important in their occupation of Vietnam.  They had strongly fortified the valley by initially flying in experienced paratroopers to establish seven armoured positions-each named, in rather Gallic style, after the French commander’s seven mistresses.  The French were very confident about the fortress they had constructed with its superior artillery, 13,000 troops and because it was surrounded on all sides with hills which were densely forested, steep and with an inhospitable and foggy climate rendering them, they believed, impassable.  It was against this backdrop that General Giap sensed his opportunity to take back Dien Bien Phu.

Firstly he recalled the words of one of his heroes-ironically enough, Napoleon.  “If a goat can get through, so can a man; if a man can get through, so can a battalion.”  Over a period of two months, Giap commenced slowly bringing 55,000 men, 20,000 bicycles and hundreds of pieces of heavy artillery including anti aircraft guns, physically carried up piece by piece.  By the time they were ready to engage with their enemy there was so much Vietnamese artillery, heavily camouflaged in the mountains, that it outnumbered the French by about four to one.  The second part of Giap’s assault was to then, unbelievably, painstakingly and silently dig hundreds of tunnels down from the tops of the mountains surrounding the French on all sides.  They came so near to the French it is said they could hear them talking.

The French could not countenance being outnumbered in terms of motivated and dedicated troops.  But they were.  They did not believe their enemy would have any ability to outgun them.  But they could.  And they thought it impossible for a military force to be able to surround them in this most unforgiving terrain.  But it was not.  After nearly two months of siege and fierce fighting, the French were overrun and defeated-not just in this battle but also the war.

Less than ten years later, the second example pitted Giap against a new invader.  He asked his best soldiers to infiltrate the American bases on the outskirts of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh).  Using stealth and audacity, together with American complacency of feeling safe within their southern stronghold, they repeatedly broke into the barracks of the US Army.  And what did Giap ask his soldiers to do?  Gain immediate benefit by killing as many GIs as possible and destroying their sophisticated weapons?  No.  He told them to steal their soap.  And then, by ensuring his own soldiers used this soap to wash, the Vietnamese were able to put the American dogs used to track the Viet Minh off their scent.US Embassy Saigon

Thus they deliberately laid false trails deeper into the jungle. They set booby traps and continually led the US soldiers through water, knowing that their boots were wholly unsuitable to the humid, tropical climate and would cause them to develop Trench foot-a horrible, debilitating and morale sapping condition.

Two examples showcasing Giap’s unordinary thinking:  Playing a game with rules that suit you rather than your opponent.  Innately understanding and utilising an adversary’s weaknesses to your benefit.  Maximising the assets you have, rather than wasting time on those you don’t.  And always playing with a clear vision of winning the real war whilst simultaneously executing congruent tactics dedicated to this end.

I wonder how General Giap would have used these philosophies if he were to design strategies for the challenges we face in today’s commercial world?  I suspect he would have rather liked observing others playing football.  But out on the field, he himself would have played an altogether different game.


Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing 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 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 (0) 7968 316548 You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris

Unordinary Thinking No. 36 – Gestating elephants, mice and Kindles

I found out about gestation periods today. Did you know it takes 19 months for a baby elephant to develop from mummy and daddy elephants doing the business to birth (try not to linger on that image)? Or that it takes a mouse a mere six weeks from sperm and egg making acquaintance to lots of little mice arriving?

Amazon’s Kindle, or more specifically the technology to read on an electronic device, was conceived, in its basic form, in 1973 in Xerox’s Research Centre in Palo Alto, California (incidentally also where the computer mouse was first developed). If we define ‘birth’ as mass adoption and seeing people everywhere with Kindles in their hand, then that occurred in and around 2007. Which means the Kindle was born after a pregnancy of nearly 35 years.

Elephant and babyWhen I first found this out, I was surprised. After all, if the initial technology was available in the 70s, what has taken so long?  But it was not the technology that caused the delay. It was the translation of a cool, clever bit of tech into a proposition that consumers decided they wanted and would buy which has taken the time.

And, where numerous others had tried and failed, it took a clever and charismatic visionary, deploying what we at Lexden would call unordinary thinking, to bring an electronic reading device into all of our lives. That visionary was Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos.

If you think about it, an electronic reader was a counter intuitive thing for Bezos to pursue. With an inordinately successful online business based on shipping paper books, a more conventional thinker might well have persuaded himself that people would continue hundreds of years of habit and never switch to electronic books. That analysis would certainly have suited him. Except Bezos did not look at it that way. All he could see was something which could destroy his business. He might have thought “if my customers love getting books delivered in 2 days, what happens if someone can get them the same books in 2 hours?  Or two minutes?” It was a brave call but, if anyone was going to destroy his business, it was going to be him.

There is a secondary element which is at the core of Jeff Bezos and his ethos. He has an obsessive, overwhelming and intrinsic focus on the customer. It is how he built Amazon and is summarised best by the man himself: “Whenever we are facing one of those too-hard problems, where we get into an infinite loop and can’t decide what to do, we try to convert it into a straightforward problem by saying, ‘well, what’s better for the customer?’”. There is a big clue for all of us here and is why so many people love their Kindles.

Finally he knew the limitations of Amazon as an organisation and what would get in the way of launching a successful product. After all, what did they really know about developing a technological product? So he empowered a completely separate and new business unit-Lab 126 in California – hundreds of miles from Head Office in Seattle. By doing this, he knew that the Kindle project team could get on with developing their product without the distractions, potential negativity, office politics and budget pressures that are a feature of all corporates – even one as new as Amazon.

But why has the Kindle succeeded where other attempts, notably Sony’s Librie which had launched three years earlier, failed?Kindle

It was not the technology. In fact, the Librie actually had a better screen with eight different shades of grey rather than the four on the Kindle. Instead the difference was in how the Kindle set out to address, one by one, all of the reasons which would get in the way of consumers falling in love with their reader.

For instance:

  • Being able to wirelessly download books instead of having to link to a PC
  • Tens of thousands of books available through Amazon’s relationship with publishers
  • Leveraging the book reviews and recommendations of 65m existing Amazon shoppers
  • Ability to purchase with one click of a mouse
  • Books sold at a significant discount to their physical counterpart

When you look it at it like this, it seems easy doesn’t it? Of course, it was not. It must have been really hard. But it shows that by following the customer, doing all you can for them, and putting absolutely everything into brilliant execution, there is a road map for all of us who are hoping to launch propositions we hope consumers will, one day, love.

So think of it like this: even if the conception of your idea was over in a flash, your baby is gestating nicely. Just figure out everything you have to do to get down to the maternity ward and give birth.


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 sign-up to our ‘Putting Customers First’ Lexden newsletter.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548.  And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris

Unordinary Thinking No.32 – New children’s game: Sweaty Object

Pass the parcel and musical statues are good fun when you are five. However when I was a child my father had us playing a different game at birthday parties. A game which has proved to have far more longer term benefit to me in my life and work than those other games. In fact, I still play it now.

My dad is a retired orthopaedic surgeon so, compared to hip and knee replacements, naming strategies are not up there in his skill set. Hence the game went by the not very punchy “As many different uses of a certain object as possible”. It did not matter how wild or wacky the use, as long as it had at least some rationale. So you were given an object: biro, candle, plant pot, TV ariel and you had to think of as many uses in a minute. I did not realise at the time that this was my introduction to the concepts of (1) always trying to look at things differently and (2) how a single item can have multiple uses or, in the equivalent business and financial terms, the idea of sweating your assets. Hence my new name for the game: Sweaty Object.

childrens partyI recently read an article about the US clothing retailer, American Apparel, which took me back to my childhood birthday parties.

For a clothes store, understanding when you are going to be busy or less busy is clearly an important thing to know for a variety of reasons. Since staff costs are a significant proportion of a retailer’s costs, optimising the timing of having your staff onsite to serve your customers is crucial.

Previously American Apparel was basing their staffing plans using the sales data from their tills. Their rationale was that when they were taking most sales is when they needed most staff. Not unreasonable. Except they were finding that their staffing was still not matching up to when their potential customers were requiring assistance. So what did they do? They played a game of Sweaty Object (sort of).

They speculated that they should perhaps look for a different, more relevant data source. They, like nearly every other shop, had a series of CCTV cameras at their front doors to spot people walking out of their store with goods. But why not use these same cameras to count the number of customers walking into store with money to pay for clothes, rather than shoplifters walking out with clothes they had not?

With a little bit of smart technology to count the number of people coming in by timeline, American Apparel were able to get a very clear idea of when customers were coming in and, hence when they needed to deploy their staff.

American ApparelAnd, I dare say, they have been smart enough to marry this information with their sales data to understand things like how long people spend browsing in store and the proportion of people who come in and don’t spend (who says, online retailers have to have all the advantages of data about their customers?)

It’s the very definition of what we at Lexden term unordinary: looking at a problem differently and using what you already have to find a solution which looks utterly simple in hindsight.

So why not get some of the best people in your business together, buy them some party hats, feed them a chocolate cake and play a game of Sweaty Object? Who knows where it might lead?

So there. A children’s party game with a legitimate application in the business world and beyond. Next time I’ll write about how some of the world’s biggest companies are using ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ to drive their profits. Or maybe I’ll have to think of something else.


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

For more information please contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com , or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548. And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

Who we work with…

clients mar 2013

Should I stay or should I not go now?

Okay, so the lyrics don’t trip off the tongue as well as the original but, then again, when The Clash wrote their song I suspect they were thinking more of booze, girls and other activities rather than customer loyalty, which is what I have been giving some thought to.

Last week I had the privilege of sitting as one of a panel of experts at BDRC Continental’s Annual Hotels Insight Forum at the Park Plaza in Waterloo.  The event was attended by about 70 people from the world of hotels and hospitality and included representatives from the likes of Hilton, Radisson and Marriott as well as less mainstream niche players.  The theme for the day was “Sprinkle stardust or deliver vanilla-customer engagement and retention”.

Cris Tarrant, CEO and Founder of BDRC Continental (incidentally, the largest independent research agency in the UK), had asked me to sit on the panel because I am specifically not from the world of conferences, hotel loyalty card schemes and occupancy rates.  He wanted to ensure an external perspective about what is actually going on for customers when hoteliers and hospitality professionals think about loyalty, retention and engagement was also included in the discussion.Hotel Cards

The really interesting and unordinary part of the day for me was a section where a live focus group with actual customers was facilitated on stage in front of the delegates.  What the customers said was then subsequently discussed and debated by the attendees and with the expert panel.

Inevitably much of the discussion around engendering customer loyalty was about the rational side of propositions such as card based loyalty programmes, rather than talking of ways to make more emotional connections with customers.   I think this simply reflects the general balance of thinking, activity and resourcing in marketing departments in most companies (not just hotels) who are trying to make their customers feel loyal to them.  I think this balance is wrong.  From a customer’s perspective, the things that will make them truly loyal in the “I love them” sense are the emotive elements of a proposition rather than the rational.  But businesses typically put most of their effort into the rational elements which have less of an influence.  For customers, when we really delve into what it means to be loyal to a brand or organisation, it is so much deeper, more emotive, than it might first appear.  For customers, loyalty-and its extension love-is more about feeling and emotion, than function and rationality.

And this is where the lyrics from The Clash come in.  When customers are thinking ‘should I stay?’ with a brand, it is not quite the same thing as asking themselves ‘should I not go now?’  The difference is subtle but important and I see the distinction as follows.  The first question is answered by the positive, emotionally led and continually constructed reasons which a brand gives for a customer to love them.  The latter question is answered by human beings’ innate inertia and the rational hygiene factors which brands implement and which customers expect.

The reasons for how customers answer the “Should I stay?” question are distinctive, personal and emotive.  They are about surprise and being treated as an individual.  They are about demonstrations of service which go well beyond their expectations.  They are about tangible and personal representations of valuing their custom.  And it is about brands creating an environment which makes the customer say ‘it just feels right with them’.Clash Stay or Go

On the other hand, the “should I not go?” reasons are typically driven by industry norms against which customers assess the proposition in question.  It is about habit.  It is about feeling comfortable with the familiar and the fact that most of the time customers just cannot be bothered with the hassle of switching somewhere else, even if they are unhappy.  These customers are often silent to the brand and the brand can choose to take this silence as glowing contentment or simmering discontentment; genuine loyalty or stunning apathy.

And events invariably arise which will cause a customer to question their relationship with the brand.  When they get an offer from a competitor which is 10% less than their best price.  When their website is down at the precise moment they want to buy.  When they have a bad experience with the brand and the opportunity is not used to deepen the customer relationship.  When they hear, via their social networks and word of mouth, that another organisation treats its customers really well.  When these types of thing happen, the reasons to ‘not go’ within a proposition become largely irrelevant.  It is the extent and quality of the reasons ‘to stay’ which will define whether that customer is loyal to the brand.

Customers have more choice than ever, find it easier to switch and struggle to differentiate the rational elements within most propositions.  If you don’t give them reasons to stay-emotional hooks and memories that enhance their lives in some way-you are not maximising your chances of deserving their loyalty.  As the Claridge’s General Manager says in the brilliant documentary series currently on BBC2, “You have to create a reason for them to come back”.

To get their customers to love them, talk about them, keep returning and spending more money with them, businesses need to stop focusing so much effort and discussion on the reasons to not go and, instead, spend the time creating as many reasons for their customers to stay as they can.  To finish off the Clash’s lyrics….if they don’t, there will be trouble…….


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

For more information please contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com , or call us on M: +44 (0) 7698 316548. And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

Who we work with…

clients mar 2013

It’s official, giving at Christmas is still more rewarding than receiving

Last week I attended the DMA Awards at Old Billingsgate market. I was there as a guest of the DMA and a presenter of one of the awards categories. But more than any awards I’ve attended in the past I felt like the winner on the night. I’ll explain why…

Let me be the judge of that

I’d been asked a few months before to chair the judging for one of the sector categories; financial services. Having worked with over 30 financial brands across Europe, I don’t mind admitting I was flattered. A harmless nod of acknowledgment of my twenty years working in marketing (1), much of that in financial services and some previous judging experience. Following a precise and diligent briefing from the appointed invigilator, along with my fellow judges we settled in to review nearly 30 entries. And under the organised conditions and precise nature of the task I felt 100% in control (2); a rarity in today’s often frantic and demanding marketing environment.

IMG_5602[1]The best of the best 

As we poured through the nominations measuring them equally for strategy, creative and results excellence, it dawned on me why the next 3-4 hours would be a special half day in the working calendar. I would be reading and enjoying what the marketing industry’s finest (FS Finest rather than Tesco Finest) had to offer (3). As I read each entry I was captured by the various magic moments the teams must have been through; the client intention, the creative craft, the planners deliberation, the production finesse, the analysts analysis – all working toward this moment. A moment that now I was enjoying the magic of. The entries were of a high calibre; such is the attraction of the dmas. And when I left The Cumberland (above) for the category judging and then the Lateral Group following the Gala Prize judging, with Wayne Hemingway residing this year, it reaffirmed my belief that there are some brilliant people and ideas in our industry (4).

The gospel according to Stephen

IMG_6066[1]On the night of the awards the compere was Stephen Mangan. I’d seen Stephen run his corporate patter past the Loyalty Awards crowd a few months earlier, so I felt a little short changed at first. But then I recalled that at the Loyalty awards I’d spent much of the time listening to my fellow table guest talk about a new opportunity or something (I forget to be honest) and being a bit too accommodating to say ‘shhhh’, I half listened and nodded politely – which meant I didn’t fully hear Mr Mangan.  So this second chance allowed me to this time give it my full attention. And I am grateful I did. It was very witty and a well polished performance. Stephen proved if you can get your message (and pitch) perfect, you can re-use it again to great effect (5) – as Mr Mangan, delivered with as much conviction and energy as he did the previous time. It proved if you can connect with an audience on an engaging topic such as  ‘savour the moment when you win, it may not come along too often’, you can connect with the emotions of the people on the room rather than their egos (6). I’ll hold back on the content as it really is worth seeing Mr Mangan at work.

All present and correct

IMG_6087[1]When the awards ceremony began and the winners started to arrive  on stage to collect their gongs, I could sense their excitement and appreciate what that meant from afar, having recently read through the entries. And when it was my turn on stage to present an award, I ensured I’d learnt my ‘walk on’ drill to perfection; a new experience quickly conquered (7). I walked on the stage to a small cheer (#unexpected – but it was the 3rd to last award so maybe spirits were a little high). When the winners of Best User Experience came forward I was beaming with a sort of undefined pride for the winning team from LIDA (one agency I haven’t worked with before). I realised that I’d earned my place on the stage, like they had. Winning awards in the past certainly was enjoyable, but not nearly as rewarding as giving one (8).

And the winners is…..me (on the right)

In my opinion, from this encounter I gained as much as anyone else:

1) Recognition of experience

2) Stay in control of the outcome

3) Be surrounded by the best

4) Have Profession pride

5) Recognise the power of a good story

6) Remember emotional engagement is a powerful force

7) Instant learning occurs at age

8) Seeing others succeed is most important

If I can apply the above on any given day in the office, it’s a great day. I very much enjoyed my latest judging expedition, and for the reasons of receiving inner fulfillment explained I hope I get to give again and again. If you get the opportunity, put everything you’ve got into it and see what you get in return.

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 please contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com  or call us on T: +44 (0) 7968 316548. And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

Who we work with…

clients mar 2013

Guest Blog – Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number

We had record numbers of views of a blog we published a few weeks ago: Three cheers for Wonga 

I was really happy to subsequently be asked by Wonga to write a guest post about “anything I wanted”.  Never had that before.

It really feels that the marketing success story of Wonga is being drowned in the hyperbole and groupthink perpetrated by MPs and the like.

The fact that 92% of existing customers would recommend Wonga to their friends is, I feel, an important part of the debate.

So that’s what I wrote about-a financial services customer proposition which gives customers what they want and the type of thing which the banks and existing players should be emulating.

Here it is…(sorry about the scary picture)



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

For more information please contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com , or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548. And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

Who we work with…

clients mar 2013

Three cheers for Wonga

A round of applause for Wonga please.  Seriously.  They have bought the concept of borrowing relatively small sums of money for relatively small amounts of time into the mainstream through their brilliant advertising and sponsorship of one of the most popular football clubs in the country.  And with this, they have put the issue of how so many people in this country have to live their (financial) lives on a week to week and sometimes day to day basis onto the football pitch both metaphorically and literally.  That’s not just something which should interest Wonga or Newcastle United-it should interest us all.

From a customer proposition point of view Wonga have used technology effectively, communicated smartly and executed brilliantly.  If someone chooses to use Wonga, they can get money into their account in 15 minutes if they are approved.  Since speed of access to funds is often a key consideration for all customers, including Wonga’s, they have delivered on that promise very effectively.  Financial providers such as our high street banks and insurers could learn plenty.

Errol Damelin and his team provide a needed service which people can choose to use and which forces us to confront an important aspect of living in Britain today: for many people, it is about living their life by cashflow rather than interest rate.

But the whole Wonga debate is boring.  And that’s because it has not been a debate.  All I see and hear is masses of sanctimonious, bandwagon jumping dialogue, tweets and discussion.  I don’t have a problem with people thinking, if they desire, that the product and service Wonga offers is dodgy/wrong/immoral/evil.  Not at all.  It’s just that nearly all the commentary has taken this standpoint and centred around the three letter acronym APR (I’m not going to bother to explain it because, it seems, we all know exactly what it means) which Wonga must quote to comply with existing consumer credit laws.  Even aside from the fact that nobody ever pays the 4000% APR people bandy about, the debate has been depressingly one dimensional.

If people have a problem with Wonga’s (completely legal) product and services, where’s their corresponding discussion about the market failure which means thousands of people are using this, apparently devil inspired, company’s loans?  Why are they choosing to use Wonga instead of going to their thoroughly trustworthy high street bank for a thoroughly reasonably priced overdraft with thoroughly reasonable penalty fees?  Could it be because Wonga provides a realistic (and whisper it) valued alternative for these people?

Where’s the discussion and reasoning about why one of Wonga’s predecessors as sponsor of Newcastle United, Northern Rock, was different to them?  Who is explaining why offering a 120% mortgage (at oh so reasonable APRs of 5 or 6 per cent) to thousands of people who now have homes worth less than they paid and who struggle to make their monthly payments has caused so much less damage to society than a £300 loan will cause?

Where’s the discussion about the fact that hardly anyone (that includes us, Guardian readers) really understands what an APR is, how it is calculated and what compound interest really means?  Where’s the discussion about how we need to come up with different, innovative ways for all lenders to clearly communicate how much a loan is likely to cost in terms that people actually understand rather than percentages which they don’t?

Where’s the discussion about why Newcastle United have to suffer the moral indignation of signing a deal with an organisation who legally lends money whereas it is perfectly fine for Aston Villa to have Genting Casinos on their shirts?  Is it because people going into these gambling establishments only ever walk out having made a tidy sum for themselves?  Or do some lose money they did not have and end up getting into financial difficulties?

The problem of debt and its associated knock on effects is a very serious one for our society, as is evidenced by the work of people such as the MP Stella Creasy.  It’s a serious issue and it requires a serious, measured, rounded debate which goes beyond the groupthink and opproprium of ‘legalised loan sharks’, ‘scum’ and ‘disgraceful APRs of more than 4000%’.  A discussion which does not progress beyond the hanging, drawing and quartering of Wonga and into the related issues and about the availability of realistic, fair options for people who, every single day, have to live a life of constraints (not just financial) is not a worthy one.

So come on Stella et al.  Wonga have kicked the ball to you.  Pass it back and have a proper debate.

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

For more information please contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com , or call us on M: +44 (0)7968 316548. And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris .

Who we work with…

clients mar 2013