Thursday, April 19, 2007

Data visualisation - the next step

My old boss was mad keen on making charts look cool - "tell the story" and "get rid of clutter". My old lecturer was mad keen on the writings of Robert Schiller - the excellent economist.

Put the two together and what do you get?


Monday, April 16, 2007

Banks and the Brand Promise

I recently wrote about the gap which sometimes exists between the folks in an organisation who run the numbers and those who manage the brand (Numbers don't make up for the branding). I guess it was inevitable that having praised the folk at HSBC for their "World's local bank" campaign, someone over zealous bean counter would go and ruin the story.

In case you are not aware, HSBC last week decided that one branch in Dorset would now only offer "Full service banking" to premier customers. The reason? Well the quote from the HSBC spokesperson was as follows - "We are trying to treat everyone fairly - not everybody in the world is equal. Some people have higher incomes and need greater services through the bank. These customers demand a better service."

For me, this seems like a case of the branding and finance teams not really understanding each others needs. I sort of understand the logic that this branch is in an affluent area and in one sense this appears to demonstrate the bank acting to meet local needs. However they are forgetting some of the basics which must come before the tag line - namely that they are still a full service bank which means that their first duty to the brand is to maintain all the services which go with the category. If this is some kind of segmentation exercise gone wrong then it's even more surprising given that HSBC managed to segment customers very successfully in the past when they launched First Direct.

If HSBC really wanted to meet local needs then they should have repeated the same steps which they adopt in other areas by set up a premium area within the bank. Banks such as Coutts can afford to put security guards on the doors and turn the majority of the population away in exchange for a higher share of business from the elite - however HSBC probably can't afford to loose the broader populations business in the UK.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Numbers don't make up for the branding

Many analysts like myself get a bit carried away from time to time with the power of the numbers! However we often forget to remind organisations about the benefits of a strong brand proposition. Everyone in marketing knows that to be exceptional, you need a strong brand - that doesn't mean a great logo or fantastic web domain but it means you need a compelling proposition which is well executed. What's amazing is how many poor brands stay above water and even prosper for so long so there's clearly more to it!

There are a thousand presentations out there about "keeping it simple" and "think differently" and almost each presentation uses the same examples - Google, Southwest/Ryanair/Jetblue, Dell, Innocent (next time you see a branding presentation, play brand bingo - the updated version of buzzword bingo). However this one - "The Brand Gap" made an impression on me and i heartily recommend it.

As an aside, i am always impressed when people make strong brands from low interest industries and in recent years, HSBC have taken the lead at doing this in the banking field. They have successfully turned globalisation to their advantage in a manner which Barclay's failed to grasp a few years ago. Their latest "the World's local bank" ad is another good example of this campaign although for me, the cream of the ads are those which appear at every major airport on boarding / departure - genius!

Wannamaker's 50% rule is long gone now

The oldest cliche in advertising is the Wannamaker one about 50% of ad spend being wasted but not knowing which 50%. Indeed this blog is as guilty as any of using this and I'll do something about that this week!

One reason why the 50% rule is no longer appropriate is the variety of measurement tools and techniques which enable marketers to quantify the impact of advertising activities. Qualitative and Quantitative analysis techniques combined with the 1000's of reports available from web2.0 channels means that information which demonstrates advertising effectiveness has never been easier to obtain. If you're organisation doesn't monitor their advertising for ROI purposes then it's probably a good idea to question why not. The only rational reasons for not tracking marketing ROI are the following:
  1. We don't need a higher marketing ROI - we're rich
  2. We've never thought about it
  3. We don't know how to check it
  4. We were told it wasn't possible
My guess is that no organisation is going to claim number 1 (maybe Microsoft and Google) and if you're answering 2 or 3 then it's time to check in with your ad agency and ask some questions. Answer number 4 and it's time to get another agency (e-mail me and I'll give you a list of people to call).

Next time someone quotes Wannamaker at you, ask them to name an organisation who still regard a 50% ROI from their advertising being regarded as acceptable. Please let me have the details and I'll go and help them out because it's no longer rocket science!