Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The perils of loyalty schemes

July 24, 2015

If I had £1 for every time a client had said to me ‘We’re thinking about launching a loyalty scheme …’ I would be a rich woman. Companies get very excited by the potential sales increase if they could only get customers to buy once more per year, or feel they need to reward and hence retain their heaviest buyers since they represent a big proportion of revenue.

But I have many reservations about loyalty schemes, the marketing archives are littered with examples of programmes that launched then disappeared, and there is very little published evidence that they are financially effective. Yet here we go again … this time with a scheme from a brand I buy regularly, Yeo Valley.

range shot

I eat plain yogurt with fruit for breakfast most days and recently started buying Yeo Valley plain yogurt (or ‘yeogurt’ as they insist on calling it) every week because I discovered it was delicious when my usual brand was out of stock. I was happy to make the move because Yeo Valley seems like a well-managed British brand with a strong sense of identity and good products.

Eventually I noticed that there was some kind of promotional programme involving collecting ‘Yeokens’ (which you have to admit is quite a good name) via a code under the pack lid.


So (partly in the interests of professional research but also because I thought a good brand like this might offer something half-decent) I saved 5 lids and just went onto the website to see what you get.


I reckon what most people are thinking, if they’ve bothered to get this far, is: ‘what do you actually get, is it worth bothering with this?’. So what’s the answer here?


Well you can apparently get ‘Yeo Valley goodies, offers from our friends and great days out’ … but the detail of this (and how much you have to save to get anything) is not available unless you sign up to an account!  What on earth can the rationale for that be? It’s just asking for people to drop out.

So I created an account – not too onerous a process, but the fact that they say ‘we’ve made the form simpler’ implies it was worse in the past.

log in

(And what is the logic for including that apologetic message? Account users don’t see this page, they are logged straight in if they are returning on the same device, so anyone who has found the process tedious in the past won’t see the apology.)

So I set up an account and then entered my five codes – each 14 letters long, is that really necessary? Another ‘pain point’ at which people might drop out. Then I discovered that despite having bothered to save as much as 5 packs, the only thing I’m close to earning is a crappy trolley token keyring thing.


And the next item up from that requires me to save another 100 tokens – so I’d have to keep saving for another 10 weeks unless I buy a larger pack or other Yeo Valley products. Which frankly I’m not going to if the incentive is a branded yoyo (sorry ‘yeoyeo’) which looks like it would cost 50p to buy.

Surely they should be offering a better range of lower point items to keep people engaged early on? I imagine that the vast majority of Yeo Valley users don’t buy enough to qualify for any item in the foreseeable future, which limits the relevance of the scheme to a real minority of brand fans who must really like the products already and don’t need incentivising to buy again.

And worse, this is a risk that even brand enthusiasts might get annoyed by a poor scheme and become less inclined to buy. I must admit to feeling rather irritated by Yeo Valley now and as soon as you Google ‘Yeokens’ you see things like this:

fb2YV facebook

These seem to be referring to an earlier incarnation of the scheme but demonstrate the risk of disappointing your customers in any way.

As Byron Sharp (‘How Brands Grow’) and others have demonstrated with lots of examples, brands get big because of penetration not frequency or loyalty. There is not that much variation in frequency or loyalty within a category, because there are only so many times a week anyone is going to eat yogurt, and most of any brand’s buyers buy very infrequently. Hence any loyalty scheme or similar promotion is only likely to be cost-effective if it is able to influence lighter/lapsed/non buyers and is really cheap/easy to run. This scheme doesn’t look to be either of those things.

The only loyalty schemes which seem to ‘work’ are the ones for brands that people use very regularly (e.g. supermarkets, Boots) since you can build up points quickly … but even those schemes have understood the need to provide good rewards quickly. And part of the great value of those schemes to the brand owner is the purchase data at customer level acquired, which can then be used for personalised targeting of offers or sold on to other organisations. But to do personalised CRM is pretty sophisticated and expensive stuff and only very big, savvy companies can make it pay.

The power of introverts

March 12, 2013











This is a GREAT book. In my humble opinion – as an introvert. There it is, out in the open … and this book helps me feel good about it, whereas for years, I’ve felt a bit ‘wrong’, strange and nerdy.

Now those of you who know me may be thinking ‘no way is she an introvert’. I am not paralysingly shy, I can speak in public with relative ease, I get along with people just fine. But shyness is not the true definition of introversion. Yes shyness and introversion are often correlated but the way psychologists define introversion is much more about the extent to which someone recharges and gets their energy from being alone versus recharges and gets their energy from being with others.

And I am very much in the former camp. A major part of my decision to work independently is because I crave time alone and love to spend at least part of my working day thinking and writing quietly – that’s how I best do my job of solving problems and having ideas, rather than being constantly in the company of others, debating things noisily – the default mode of ad agencies and many other companies largely populated by extroverts.

One of the many interesting things about this book is that it reveals the latest research on how the brains of introverts and extroverts differ – i.e. there is a biological basis for introversion. Introverts are what development psychologists call ‘high reactives’: even when tiny babies they react more strongly to stimuli of any kind and are more highly sensitive to their environments. I really identify with this – I find open-plan offices really stressful, I can’t sleep if there’s any noise or light, I pick up on others’ emotions very easily. Whereas extroverts have more ‘low reactive’ brains so require an awful lot more stimulation and novelty to feel excited, take more risks, are less bothered by criticism, etc.

Part of the reason why I’ve always been embarrassed by my tendencies is that the extroverts have taken over the world – at least the business world. Business culture venerates and rewards the overtly charismatic, confident and gregarious – it is those people who become leaders. Business culture LOVES teamwork – indeed it pretty much insists that that’s where innovation and new ideas come from and many workplaces are now organised to maximise interaction.

Whereas there is an awful lot of evidence that very many breakthrough ideas are made by introverts – by people who prefer to work independently and for whom solitude is critical to enable concentration and creativity. Apparently Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Einstein, Van Gogh, …. all introverts. In my experience advertising creatives are often introverts, and have fought hard for the right to retain offices with walls within agencies keen to mix everyone up in open-plan formats. Not always successfully.

There’s so much important stuff in this book. If you’re interested start with Susan Cain’s great TED talk:

Then read the book if you think you might be an introvert, are married to one, need to parent one with care, have to manage one at work, … Honestly, it could change someone’s life.




Will brands be celebrating post Jubilee?

June 6, 2012

OK, bit late on the Jubilee theme here but I’ve been on holiday (and enjoyed watching the rain on TV from my sunbed tee hee). On a trip to the supermarket last night I noticed loads of brands who have done the Jubilee limited edition thing so it got me thinking about the value of doing so.

While they aren’t conventional examples of brand extension (in most cases it’s only the packaging that’s changed, not the product itself, and usually they’re replacing the standard product on shelf rather than requiring additional skus) it will have cost the brand owners money to do them so let’s ask the key brand extension question: Will the new variant pay its way? Will it generate incremental sales via attracting new users, triggering additional purchases from existing users and/or commanding a price premium over the standard version?

In the case of products likely to be purchased for Jubilee parties, the answer is probably yes. There will be lots of incremental purchasing going on for these events and if your product catches shoppers’ eyes as particularly suited to those events you will get bought more than usual. It will work best if the product still demonstrates the theme once it’s actually being served (e.g. Pimms, Tyrrells red white and blue crisps) but even if it’s just your outer packaging promising the desired jollity of the occasion that’s probably enough.


If you can make the Jubilee link fit well with your brand, you can gain something extra in reputation terms and add to the bank of positive brand memories in people’s minds – e.g. Tyrrells have adapted their usual packaging practice of an old photo and substituted the usual line below the brand name ‘Hand cooked English crisps’ with ‘For Queen and Country’.

However Lindt doing limited edition Lindor chocolates just feels all wrong to me: it’s obviously not British and it’s not the typical kind of treat Brits would have at Jubilee parties. I struggle to believe they got a lot of extra sales out of that.


Macallan likewise: not the right product for the weekend, Scottish doesn’t feel quite the same as Britishn or English and would drinkers really like this froufrou Queenie packaging?


When it comes to everyday products that you wouldn’t expect to be purchased in greater quantities for the Jubilee, I find the logic pretty questionable – especially if all the brand has done is whacked a Union Jack on the pack and there’s little strategic fit with the brand idea. McVities biscuits, Mornflake Oats, Kleenex, Andrex, … I’m talking about you. I doubt you’ve gained incremental sales and I doubt anything is retained in terms of brand perceptions.


Soreen: nice pack that really stands out so might gain some extra sales but ‘the Great British Summer of Soreen’/Britain’s no.1 fruity malt loaf (you mean there are other fruity malt loafs?!) feels a weak link.


Tesco English butter becoming more wholeheartedly Union Jack-ish with its pack is perhaps more forgivable because the Englishness is emphasized, it might qualify as a party purchase and in a pretty undifferentiated category the nice pack may be enough to drive some brand switching.


Ditto Plenty, where the product has Jubilee branding (not just the pack as with Andrex) and you can imagine it on the table or in the kitchen at Jubilee parties.


Heinz and Kelloggs have taken the approach of returning to their packaging from the fifties.


This nicely reinforces their longevity but I doubt drives incremental sales. A Kelloggs spokesman is reported as saying they think consumers will want the packs as souvenirs -?!? I don’t think so. And without the Union Jack element it’s actually quite hard to notice the packs have changed, especially for Heinz.

Then some brands have gone even further and changed their names. Ma’amite: genius – funny, it’s a British icon, ‘toasting the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee’ is a nice touch and it’s very consistent with their marketing approach of having some fun and doing limited editions. You can definitely imagine people buying a lot of these to have in the cupboard, just to enjoy the idea in weeks to come.


BritKat: OK but no cigar. While it feels quite a very British brand (albeit not a British company) it feels a bit ordinary to be a product for Jubilee parties, it just falls rather flat for me.



Queensmill: Hmm.


In abstract a fairly clever idea but in execution it’s too subtle for me: without the Union Jack cues I think you miss it completely and it’s just not funny enough to stick in the mind. Apparently they’ve done a TV ad for it, which I haven’t seen, but that massively increases the cost of doing it so you’d have to get a major uplift in sales to break even … I bet they don’t. Am resisting a lame joke about not making enough bread. Or dough. Better stop now.

The value of a Facebook fan – or not?

May 15, 2012

No doubt we’ve all experienced, either as consumers or marketers or both, the tendency for brands these days to be desperate for you to ‘like’ their brand on Facebook, with bribes often offered in return. I guess the motivations are that brands think it demonstrates customer engagement, the friends of the likers will see the endorsement and be somehow positively influenced by it, it allows a brand to get into someone’s newsfeed with its updates and content and thereby increase their involvement, etc. But to what extent does liking a brand actually demonstrate any real interest in or commitment to a brand, rather than just a way to get access to a prize draw or whatever?

In this month’s Admap there’s an interesting piece of analysis about the extent to which fans of a brand on Facebook actually interact with the brand beyond their first ‘like’. It’s from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, where Byron Sharp of ‘How Brands Grow’ works – I’ve posted about him/them before because they bring some much-needed empiricism and clear thinking to the gut-feel-led world of marketing.

They’ve analysed the newish Facebook measure ‘People talking about this’, which counts any direct interaction with a brand page such as initial liking, liking content, posting to a wall, commenting, sharing a post or content, photo tagging, checking in or RSVP-ing to an event.


Over six weeks they calculated the average weekly PTAT versus the average weekly fan numbers (likers) for the top 200 brands by fan numbers on Facebook. In any of these weeks, less than 0.5% of brand fans engaged with the brand on Facebook. So 99.5% of your brand fans in any given week didn’t interact with the brand on Facebook in any measurable way – although they may have read the brand’s posts in their news feeds I guess.

The engagement levels vary only a little by category, with cars and alcohol brands getting the most engagement, but still less than 1% of brand fans interacting per week, and financial services the least. Even the cool brands that we might imagine would have higher than average interaction (Nike, Harley-Davidson, D&G, Jack Daniels, …) don’t get significantly higher engagement.

And the vast majority of growth in the PTAT number is explained by growth in the number of likers – i.e. the bulk of what we see as brand engagement is just the initial liking. Plus what they don’t mention but is pretty clear is that the number of likers is always a tiny fraction of the penetration of a brand – looking at my clients’ brands for which I know the penetration it looks like the number of likers is about 1-2% of total customer numbers.

So should we despair about our inability to drive social media engagement at any scale? Or are we prioritizing the wrong thing, since there is no real evidence that I know of that this kind of engagement correlates with sales? It feels like this is another example of marketers’ tendency to get distracted by a pursuit of brand loyalty rather than brand penetration.

Consumers don’t care about brands that much. They develop habits primarily because it’s convenient to do so, not because they want to be in a relationship with a brand. Yet because we ourselves are in a relationship with the brands we work for or with, we seem to find that so hard to accept.

The full article is published here for free at the moment:

Things that might come in useful in 2011: Part i

January 4, 2011

It has come to my attention that Google now offer a thing called Books Ngram Viewer (not the most self-explanatory of titles, you have to admit) which shows you how often words or phrases have occurred in the world’s books over the decades. Well in the 10% of the world’s books that Google have now scanned. I’m not entirely sure how useful it can be but there’s a certain nerdy pleasure to be had in playing with it for a bit: go to

For instance this is what you get for the incidence of ‘brand’ and ‘consumer’ since 1700 in books published in English in the US and UK.


Someone like me with a poor grasp of history might have thought they would have tracked roughly similarly in recent decades but ‘brand’ only really takes off in the 1990s whereas ‘consumer’ has been used since around 1910. You can click on different time periods and see the topline of the books which mention your phrase; for instance pre 1980 ‘brand’ comes up largely as the surname of the author or in the context of branding animals. Only in the 1990s do you see the kind of thing you would nowadays expect:

You can then click through and read these books on your screen. Which is kind of neat. If you have a lot of time on your hands or were researching a brand with a long history or something. 

This reminds me to check that you know about Google Insights For Search, which is in a similar vein and allows you to see how many Google searches have been done for particular words or phrases in particular time periods or geographies: For instance, for ‘brand’ and ‘consumer’ again, this time just in the UK:

Here ‘consumer’ is lower and declining, which could be interesting but you have to check that people are searching for what you assume – e.g. here ‘Russell Brand’ is one of the most popular searches involving ‘brand’ and ‘consumer credit’ for ‘consumer’. So you need to be quite specific with your terms and interpret it carefully.

And the numbers are relative not absolute – you can only gauge the level of interest in the context of other terms. So for instance add in ‘x factor’ and get some perspective:

Looking at very short time periods can be useful to understand people’s habits. For instance, looking at searches for ‘pizza express’ (one of my clients) versus ‘dominos’ in the last 30 days you can see how search interest for the former peaks on Wednesdays because they are part of the Orange Wednesdays promotion whereas searches for Domino’s peak on Saturdays when people stay in and treat themselves (plus a smaller peak on Tuesdays when they do a ‘Two for Tuesdays’ deal).

Kind of cool, no?  Use it to impress people before everyone is onto it.

i is all you need

October 27, 2010

Or so says the new newspaper i which launched yesterday: 20p, from the Independent, with quite a lot of the  stuff from the main paper packaged up into shorter articles and presented in a more colourful, youthful design.

independent 'i'

It’s aimed particularly at commuters who don’t have enough time to read a full quality paper but don’t want the insubstantial fluff of the Metro. Leaving aside the rather tricky brand name and the Ali G-esque construct ‘i is …’ that they’ve used in their marketing, I quite enjoyed it – but ultimately felt a bit dissatisfied. There didn’t seem quite enough to it somehow – but I know that’s the point.
In London it faces stiff competition from a resurgent Standard, which has much improved in my view since it was bought by Alexander Lebedev. I know that’s not available in the morning but the i audience in London may not feel the need for a decent newspaper at both ends of the day.
For me the big question is: how readily it can change habitual morning behaviour?  The fact that it costs 20p vs. a free Metro or Standard is not so much the point as the fact that it requires people to deviate from their autopilot routines of getting to work as fast as possible – they have to go into a shop.  Rationally this shouldn’t be a big deal but people aren’t very rational, especially at that time in the morning when routines are very important.
I think the way the free papers are handed to you or can be picked up very easily is a key part of their success at converting new readers.  There was almost no effort required to try them and actually being offered something free is always a wee bit thrilling and gives you a vague sense of status.
The i paper requires you to donate some of your precious time to go into a shop and potentially queue a bit, and requires that you hand over money, which diminishes your status.  I rather like the Independent and hope it can make it work, but I have my doubts.

Mind the Gap … between the corporation and its fans

October 14, 2010


What do we think of Gap launching a new logo and then binning it a week later after a huge outcry of criticism on Facebook and Twitter?  In between they said they were going to crowd-source a new logo …

but after a few days said that wasn’t going to work either so they were just sticking with the old one. What an almighty cock-up.

The proposed new logo is pretty underwhelming: as plenty of people have said, it looks a bit like something created in Powerpoint or from Microsoft Clip Art. Helvetica is a tricky typeface to use for a logo, given it’s typically used for ultra clear informative signage. (Incidentally, if you get the chance, watch  the documentary film Helvetica from a couple of years back, it’s really good).

For me the big surprise is that Gap seem so surprised. Surely they should have known (via research or whatever) that people were going to dislike that particular logo?  I know that changing something long-established is always going to be hard, and some of the critics probably aren’t even Gap customers so might not really matter, but I can’t believe that this was the best they could do.

And assuming they knew it was going to be tricky you would think they would have had a better strategy to launch it and deal with the fallout. They just look like a huge corporation without a backbone.  Which really isn’t a good look for a fashion brand.

Priest recruitment

July 18, 2010

I saw this in a little church in County Kerry last week. Not only probably the media environment with least wastage for the message but also a small attempt to rebuild the tarnished image of Catholic priests?

More Old Spice

July 18, 2010

Good use of social media: the Old Spice guy has his own Twitter account and last week you could tweet him a question, which he answered directly in lots of different videos posted on YouTube. Apparently in four days they got 5.9m views and 22.5k comments, which is more responses than Obama’s victory speech got.  Slightly cheesy that he responded to a comment by Gillette (sister P&G brand) and mentioned its new razor – I’m not sure that taking the piss out of doing it is good enough. But generally a fantastic campaign that keeps giving.

Fake yourself

May 13, 2010

I’m a big fan of things South African, having been there last year, and just came across this cool story of how a cool T-shirt brand in Johannesburg Love Jovi secretly produced a counterfeit version Luv Jovi and sold it in markets, via street sellers and so on to gain access to the people who couldn’t afford designer prices and to create buzz around the original.  They made a fake website and made it look like the knockoffs were made in China when actually the marketing was shot in Jo’burg’s Chinatown. Nicely disruptive and a nice film telling the story.