Gloves on – it’s time for a brand health check.

Gloves on – it's time for a brand health check

But when did you last ring your contact centre and pose as a customer? Or apply for a job and see how your business presents itself? When did you last review your billing interaction with customers or payment interaction with suppliers? What does your car park look like? What state are your customer washrooms in?

Working on the basis that anyone at all can be a prospective customer or advocate, your brand deserves all of these channels to get a decent degree of attention from your marketing team.

Some recent examples that give me shivers:

  • on LinkedIn, an industry influencer posted a photo of a customer toilet in need of attention and asked, ‘does the state of the customer facilities influence your thoughts about the care taken in the kitchen?’ The overwhelming response was ‘YES!’
  • BT taking a month (with countless phone calls, engineer visits and general disruption) to confirm if we can have fibre broadband in our office – we can’t but they billed us for it anyway
  • Walking into a casual dining restaurant in Windsor at 2pm and being refused a table – ‘they’re all reserved’ – even though 75% of the tables were empty

When it goes well, it’s a thing of joy. A contact is currently going through the interview process with M&S – what an organised and encouraging potential employer! At every stage of the process, there has been a thorough briefing of what to expect, with full feedback post-interview. They might be struggling on the high street, but are something to aspire to in terms of living brand values throughout the business.

It’s not always easy to pose as a customer or supplier, but it’s worth considering all human touch points when conducting a brand, comms, marketing and messaging audit. It’s not about starting a witch hunt; it’s about getting the most from the significant investment in your brand.

And if you need help with those audits, feel free to get in touch.

Sunny Spells? It must be Christmas.

Father Christmas on a beach sitting in a deckchair

At last the sun is out and it’s time for salads and ice cream – but that’s not all it’s about for those working in leisure and hospitality marketing, procurement and HR. Now is the time to think turkey and Christmas pudding.

Planning early for calendar events not only helps you think about resourcing early – it gives time to test offers, recipes and designs, get training plans in place and ensure promotions offer a good ROI. Getting prepared early in the year helps you buy materials and ingredients at the best rates, so as you get maximum return on your outlay.

But what’s the one thing that will help you stand out from the crowd? That will make customers choose you to spend their money in, and keep them coming back in the New Year? The secret lies in – well, if I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret …

Whether you’re an owner manager with a single site, or work with a nationwide brand; whether you have an in-house design team, or use a top tier agency for your design and marketing, our experience working on extensive, creative, profitable projects can only be of benefit.

We might even share that secret with you!

Licensed to print.

close up of printed eye

But print marketing?

Would you be surprised to hear it can be all those things and more? Because, in the right hands, it is. That’s why companies continue to invest in quality print to represent their brand.

The Sticks’n’Sushi menu is mesmerising – 20 glorious technicolour pages of dishes. As an aside, tasted as great as it looked in the menu – go and try it!

Audi look to be spending a fortune on their brochures with a range of finishes employed – even though consumers are likely to research prices and specs online and make their buying decision based on a test drive. Audi get a mention here as we’ve got a brochure in the office – but it’s the case for all car manufacturers. High value products clearly warrant a high spend on print finishing.

Charities rely heavily on direct mail to keep donations coming in.

Even our stationery supplier, who are essentially an online business, produce and mail us a promotional catalogue at least monthly.

So why do businesses still invest in print? Printed materials can be a physical representation of your business – a tangible reminder of who you are and what you do.

Design agencies like ours take the time to understand what that is, or what you want your customers to think it is, and advise not only on the design, but on the size and finish of the printed items. We work with a panel of printers to ensure we can offer the perfect solution – from a one-off, highly personalised piece, to a run of millions of leaflets, and everything in between.

Well-executed design and well-executed print will help you stand out from your competition; ensuring customers remember you and what you do. And isn’t that what marketing is all about?

Brexit & burgers!? The next battle ground for casual dining.

Burger and chips

Firstly, the good news.

Staycations are going to rise. 45% of those surveyed would be taking more holidays here in the UK and inbound leisure tourism is set to rise due to the weaker pound. Fantastic I hear all my lovely clients, partners and friends in the casual dining sector, cry.

The bad news.

39% of those surveyed will cut eating out, with 34% cutting ‘going out’ all together. Not so many happy returns and exaltations about that news this festive season.

The result.

More competition. None of us needed the nice people at PwC to tell us that. But what they have given us is insight on connecting with those who will be ‘going out’ and ‘eating out’, so we can adapt.

Standing out from the crowd is nothing new but we can all leverage the likes of CRM, our service standards and good promotional design better. We need to design our promotional strategies, plan our offers and execute fulfillment better; all in order to compete for those looking for relief from the Brexit chaos while welcoming those looking for that British experience.

Kodak – Don Draper would be proud.

Kodak logo

It turns out that they did some research and 58% of respondents recognised the K. I’d love to know how that breaks down by demographic. I would gamble there might be a lot of generation X & Y in there, and not so many Millennials.

It’s actually going back to the iterations launched in both 1971 and 1987, using the iconic K. It has taken inspiration from founder George Eastman and his scientific and creative vision and given birth to something new, but still familiar.

As it turns out, this all coincides with the launch of their new Ektra smartphone and the real differentiator is the camera. Genius.

For all of us who know, remember and love Kodak, that’s what we remember it for. Not necessarily cameras, but great photography, quality memories and tangible sharing of experiences.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, checkout the Mad Men scene where Don Draper introduces us to the Kodak Carousel.

So a big thumbs up from us, for using great design already burned into our memories, and making it relevant for a new generation as part of their day-to-day lives. Ektra Smartphone, or the Carousel, Kodak is in the business of making us feel emotion.

Big Bang Data – making digital space useful.

Data stream on computer screen

Whether you embrace data or fear Big Brother, it was fascinating. It showcased the alarming access to ‘semi-private’ data right through to how inspiring the digital age is. We saw the power and importance of archiving, along with how data visualisation is an art form in itself, as well as how it can inform key decisions.

But overall, it has never been more important to know your audience when it comes to design.

The exhibit states that 90% of the world’s data was created in the past 2 years. That’s on a global scale, but every business with a website, social media presence, MES data or just an app, is also exponentially increasing the data they collect. How you use it effectively to drive marketing and design is the next big challenge.

All agencies creating customer and employee touch points for your business can benefit from the data you’re collecting, and do a better job for you when you share it with them (subject to your privacy policy and data protection laws, of course). And that’s from a simple print voucher right through to a complex eCommerce site, data can help to drive and inspire creativity.

So explore Google Analytics, combine it with your market research and try your own hand at data visualisation with Tableau and the like. And please share the outputs with your trusted agency partners – you’ll be astounded at how much more effective it will make your marketing spend.

Talk to me.

Colourful Pop art illustration of a woman

Their data will show them that I shop with them 3 or 4 times a week, mainly between 12 noon and 2pm, and usually buy sandwiches or salads. I don’t think it takes a lot of processing power to work out I’m buying lunch – so why do they keep sending me offers for nightwear?

The offers I get seem intent on making me buy things I have no interest in, rather than buying more of the things I am interested in. Are they just pushing their agenda, rather than understanding mine?

Why aren’t they – and many other retailers – using the data they are collecting in a way that’s relevant to me? Are they still trying to catch up?

Personalisation should be creating a stronger bond with customers. From knowing where I am using wifi, to what I ordered and when, they certainly have the means to communicate with me in a meaningful way. Instead, sending me copious emails asking me to review my purchases isn’t showing an interest in me – sending me a follow up email with an offer on a linked product could be.

I’m assured that brands are using algorithms and neuroscience to create a more intuitive and mindful retail and e-commerce experience. That could easily mean that the home page of the sites I buy from could be personalised to me, from the content and images that are served, to the soundtrack playing.

Am I expecting too much? Am I alone in thinking data about me is valuable and I should be rewarded in a meaningful way for sharing it?

Branding culture at the point of delivery.

coloured pencils arranged to form a light bulb from the negative space

Firstly, I went into a chain-restaurant at lunchtime to book a table for Tuesday night. I asked, “There will only be 3 of us but would it be possible to have a larger table, as we might have laptops out?

The reception I had was frosty to say the least. I understand I was asking to take a table that could make more money, but I’m a regular customer and didn’t expect the abrupt response.

All this was after waiting 5 minutes to be dealt with – although plenty of staff had seen, and ignored me – and no apology for the delay.

Was I wrong to be asking for a little more? Was I wrong to expect a little better customer experience?

Today, I went into an independent sandwich shop where I was acknowledged immediately with a smile and a bright hello, even though both staff were serving others. When it was my turn it was a friendly yet prompt exchange – I was in and out quickly with exactly what I wanted.

I have no doubt that the big retail chains invest heavily in staff training, and they certainly spend big on design to draw customers in. But, in contrast, the sandwich shop has invested in – you’ve guessed it – a simple sandwich board. Is this design thinking that reflects their brand?

Or is the difference training, or even the wider question of culture and employee engagement?

I’ve looked at the numbers on investment in training and subsequent returns. HR Magazine in the US has research that shows investment above $1,500 per employee can increase profits by 24%. Staggering!

You might argue the restaurant was simply following training that focuses them on the value of each cover. I would then argue the case for customer loyalty and life-time value, but that’s not my point today.

I personally think it’s the latter – culture and employee engagement – and it’s not a project or programme that will ever stop.

Of course it’s much harder to control a national workforce and you can’t account for someone simply having a bad day. But as more and more businesses invest in technology to speed up the customer transaction time, it should free up time for better employee engagement, brand culture development and even simply, the person serving.

Provocative or Thought Provoking?

the era of broadcast media is DEAD

A recent blog by Lucy Mann, a DBA Expert Advisor, got me thinking. It talks about making friends with your inner sales person, which as she rightly explains, fills most people with dread.

What she ultimately talks about is staying in contact with people, considering everyone as interesting and how even small businesses can be thought leaders with authentic content. In the office, we’ve used the term “thought provoking”.

All this is good advice but the thing that struck me most is the term “thought provoking”.

We’re about to launch a new website, showing some of what we think is our best work. You may find this interesting, you may not, but what we’re really trying to do is stay in contact with our network by sharing what we like to call Dunk’s Brain. This is all the thought provoking content we generate, curate or simply see.

Sure, there’s LinkedIn, email and the good old telephone. But you don’t want to pester people with waffle or even what they might consider “crap”.

So with our own marketing plans including email, events, networking etc – timed to perfection we hope – we’ve decided the website platform is as good as any for all our clients, friends, partners and prospects to decide exactly what is “thought provoking” for them, at their pace.

And it’s not all about us. We’re just looking to share what we think is “thought provoking”, whether that’s an opinion, good work, or our own experiences.

So yes, we’re looking to grow our business with “thought provoking” work. And we’d love to talk to you about what we think is provocative, but we’re also interested in what you find authentic content.

Maybe even asking yourself what’s “thought provoking” for your brand is food for thought in itself?

Watch out for our new site launch later this month. We hope you’ll find it…..?

Touch me, feel me…

Merlin Entertainment discount tickets

I was on holiday on the other side of the world and having a drink in a local bar. The waiter asked where we came from and it’s always easier to say ‘Windsor’ – we’re close to it and most people know who the Queen is and where she lives. I was surprised to hear our young Sri Lankan waiter say that he had visited Windsor the year before when staying in a tiny Berkshire village.

But then something really amazing happened. He opened his wallet and showed me the tickets he kept to remind him of his trip.

I was overwhelmed, as one of the tickets was one that we had designed for Merlin Entertainments – a minimum charge job, designed in our office in Windsor, sent to the US for a huge print run and presented back to me in a bar in Sri Lanka. It was a ticket that was for whether you wanted to see a fish, a waxwork or some famous building blocks; kept as a souvenir of a fabulous day at Madame Tussuads.

He was keeping one of the smallest design jobs we did as something to show people what he did on his holiday. An e-ticket wouldn’t have evoked the same emotional attachment.

Digital marketing has revolutionised how frequently, accurately and cost-effectively marketers are able to communicate with prospects, customers, stakeholders and suppliers. No one can argue with the range of options it has opened up – how easy it is to test creative, how quickly you can turn on or off any offer. Our clients love it and we really love the dynamism of creating digital campaigns.

But does it provide the longevity in emotional connection your print can?

So in a week when we’re printing over 1 million vouchers for a client, and recent reports indicate that the popularity of ebooks is stagnant as people want to hold real books, let’s hear it for the print!

Why B2B is good design.

Grapes exhibition stand design 2015

Hats off to our friends at Grapes Design, along with Studio William and Rough Stuff, for the design innovation they showed this year.

I found it interesting that most of the exhibitors approached their stand design as though they were targeting consumers. Sure the attendees of the show have consumers as their customers and, yes, it is important to see how a product or service will improve the customer experience. But, as a business buyer, there is much more to the decision making process.

So often a supplier will take a space at a show, organise a stand, leaflets and some giveaways and think success will come. And, if you’re at the Ideal Home Show, that might just be enough – a sample in a consumer’s hand and a voucher might just tip them over to buy your product.

But B2B shows need a different approach. Your stand needs to be designed to convey business benefits quickly and clearly. Your staff need to qualify prospects, their influence in the decision to purchase, what drives them and what alternatives they are looking at.

But what I mainly experienced was people thrusting freebies in my hand and telling me I should try their products without any of that vital qualification. As soon as I explained I too was a supplier to the sector, they all walked away, without exploring what I know and just who I might be connected to.

For me, B2B is about networking, collaborating, sharing ideas and innovating. Regardless of whether I’m a budget holding decision maker, or simply a marketer with years of experience, everyone has a role to play. A well thought through stand design, and tools to help your staff have a meaningful conversation with a prospect (from a simple form to slick electronic data capture), will go a long way to helping you leave a show with valuable leads, rather than just with empty giveaway boxes.

Get the retail doors open – our top 3 tips for landlord packs.

Map of London and a pin

Research out this week from LDC (Local Data Company) is showing us that vacancy rates are falling by -2.3%.

There was also a surge of bad news stories, where the same numbers were showing long-term vacancies rising by 24% and the accompanying launch of KPMGs regeneration project creating headlines with pictures of un-loved retail space.

So it’s a complex issue and we’re finding it’s not ALL boarded up shop-fronts for some of the brands we work with. Our hospitality and casual dining clients are facing increasingly competitive pressures in finding the right locations.

Only the other day I heard of over 16 companies bidding for a relatively small space on a local High Street, where over half were national chains. This was a space of approximately 800 Sq Ft and not where I would immediately think the retail and leisure economy was booming.

Yet over 16 brands were bidding and 15 were going to fail!

So it got me thinking. How many brands undertake a pitch for space every week? Statistically speaking, if I simply look at my anecdotal evidence, the answer they will get is more often “no”. So how do brands make sure their efforts to secure the right location actually work? Many work with agents, however the work has to start with the brand itself.

Here at Dunk Design, we’ve done our fair share of Landlord Packs over the years and have recently been supporting both a skin care brand and a Scandinavian bakery looking to secure space in London. This work is where we present the brand concept, including appeal, target, interiors, visual merchandising and marketing.

It’s can be an intensive process. We have to present the brand concept in a way that allows the Landlord to see how it will work in the overall mix they want to achieve for their location.

The packs can be over 30 pages long, including technical drawings, or one-pagers telling the compelling brand story. These are all aimed at differentiating the brand in what is invariably a highly competitive market. Granted we do a lot of work in airport concessions and shopping centres, where the F&B sector is most competitive, however the process is one where a clear brand concept is a must to get the landlord’s attention, gain their approval and ultimately throw open the doors.

So Our Top 3 Tips for Landlord-Packs;

  1. Refine your brand concept – be able to clearly bring your concept to life and take them on the journey. Being able to visually demonstrate how it will look and feel is crucial. And work with your suppliers! You’ll need good design, visual merchandising and don’t forget your own people. Everything from rendered images for interiors, to menu development is a crucial investment for the brand concept story.
  2. Know your Landlord’s goals – ask for background on what the Landlord wants the space to be. Understand the current retail traffic, the strategic mix of retail the landlord may be pursuing and your competition – your agent can help with this. All this will give you an understanding of how you can best connect your brand to what the Landlord’s goals are.
  3. Have clear marketing to reach your new customer base – and don’t forget to clearly communicate how you’re going to increase the right kind of retail traffic. You want customers, as does your prospective Landlord of retail space. Don’t forget to tell the story of how you will play your part.

BONUS TIP – all this takes time! Don’t underestimate what’s required to get it right.

Dunk Design white crest

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