Is a ‘loyal’ customer’ still a thing?

I choose to buy Heinz tomato ketchup even though my local shop sometimes runs out of it, and it’s more expensive than the supermarket’s own brand. By consistently buying that product, regardless of price or convenience, I’m showing brand loyalty. But with so much consumer choice, we’re becoming more and more fickle. How can brands – whether big, global corporations or small, local businesses – convince people to buy goods or services only from them over others?

The picture has changed. We’re no longer exposed just to big-budget advertising from the brands with the most money. We have the option of googling to find the best prices. We can tell companies what we think of them over social media. We can find out what other people think before we get anywhere near to buying, by reading reviews.

Some customers will always buy on price alone, so as soon as that 50% off deal comes along from your competitor, you’re on a losing streak. But alongside this, more than ever, consumers want to love and feel a personal connection to the brands they buy, and this is something that every business can and should capitalise on.

We want brands to share our values. In 2017 consumers have a social conscience. Companies have taken this on, funnelling money into Corporate Social Responsibility and showing that they’re ‘doing good’. The Gap, notorious once upon a time for its sweat shops, has very publicly changed direction by improving factory working conditions, and also pledges that 100% of its cotton will come from more sustainable sources by 2021.

We want to have a good experience. We won’t put up with second-class service, and we know we don’t have to. With the threat of social media looming over every company who gives their customers a bad experience, brands have to become more responsive to criticism. One restaurant in the USA famously put themselves out of business by arguing with customers on Facebook.

We want to have a conversation. Again, the dynamic of marketing has changed so much that we are able to have a two-way dialogue rather than be ‘talked at’ through advertising. We can help to change and shape brands in this way. You may remember the three year old child who wrote to Sainsbury’s pointing out that their tiger bread looked more like giraffe bread.

We want brands to tackle the issues of the day. As well as aligning with our values, brands also have to become more flexible and adaptable in responding to what’s happening in the world. The huge issue of sugar consumption could very well have been the death of a brand like Coca-Cola but, instead, they’re using it apparently successfully to showcase their array of sugar-free and lower-sugar products.

We listen to other people. Word of mouth is key. If your friends like a brand and tell you about it, you’re more likely to think positively about it – and vice versa if they hate it. This is true even for people you don’t know – most of us will have made a decision about a hotel by reading reviews on TripAdvisor, or chosen between two restaurants by looking at opinions on a forum like OpenTable.

The factor connecting all of these is continually listening to and talking with your customers, taking on board their feedback. Understanding what they need, what they want and what they care about could be the difference between a one-off purchase based on price, and a customer who’s loyal for life.

Five questions for effective marketing

When a new client approaches me, it’s often to ask for help with things like ‘some social media’, ‘an idea for a strapline’ or ‘a good leaflet’. Of course, every business or organisation needs a few bits and pieces for marketing – a website, a Facebook page perhaps, some information to give to customers. But how can you make sure that everything you’re doing comes together coherently, instead of just remaining as ‘bits and pieces’?

Rather than marketing, I tend to think about communication; because it goes much wider than marketing alone.  It’s about everything you do and everything you say. Whether you’re going to a meeting, having a telephone conversation, presenting to an audience or running an ad on TV, you’re projecting messages about yourself wherever you go. So, you have to be sure these messages are the right ones….before you worry about where to put them. Planning first and executing later will create much more effective communication, and in turn much more effective use of your time and budget. Here are five questions to ask yourself:


What’s your vision?

Knowing where you want to get to as an organisation is critical to making sure that your messages check back to your purpose. If you want to achieve world peace but you talk about promoting an IT service, then it might look like a bit of a muddle.


What are your goals?

What are your objectives, what’s the timing on these, and how will you measure them? Unless you can measure your outcomes, it’s hard to know whether your marketing is as effective as you need it to be.


Who do you want to talk to?

Are you communicating with the right audiences, or should you be going for someone different?  While you might want to target ‘everyone’, this in fact just means that your messages will end up being wishy-washy and reaching no one. By focusing instead on more tightly defined groups you can make sure you’re reaching them properly and not wasting your resources.


What will you say?

You might know who you want to target, but understanding what they think about you and about the issues at hand will help you to develop messages that tackle these views. Then you’ll be telling them something that they want to hear and that they’ll respond to.


Where are they?

Once you have your messages, gaining a good idea of where your audiences go and what they do will help you work out where to reach them. Rather than concentrating just on channels that you know about already, thinking through whether your audiences will actually be in those places to hear or see your messages should come first.


In summary, the most important aspect to communications and marketing is making sure that you’re reaching the right people, in the right way, so that you work towards the goals you’ve defined.  It doesn’t have to be rocket science – just a little bit of planning!  

Kickstart Consultations – new for 2017

In your hour-long Kickstart Consultation, we will challenge you to think around the important questions and issues for your organisation’s marketing. We’ll suggest practical solutions and give you advice that you can take away to get you started for success. Get in touch by phone or email, or fill in our contact form to book your Kickstart Consultation now.

If you were a brand, what would you be?

This is a question that I’ve been working through with clients on our personal branding programme over the past few months.  The aim is to help individuals who want to get clear on who they are, what they do and what they stand for, by using the principles of commercial branding and applying them to people.  Whilst this might all sound a bit like ‘marketing speak’, the simple action of defining who you are and what you want can help you to get there a bit more easily.

It’s been a very interesting experience – hopefully for them, but also for me, as I get to grips with the many reasons that people genuinely need their own personal brand.

For some, like me, they are the face of their business.  When you’re in this position the way that you are perceived as an individual, and the way that your business is perceived, are inextricably linked.  If you project yourself in the right way, it will reflect positively on your business too.  Some others on the programme are there for more personal reasons – perhaps they are looking to redefine themselves in order to get back into the job market, maybe they’re striving to stay at the top of their game in their current work, or simply just want to build their own confidence.

One of the things I’ve learnt is just how many people are convinced that they’re not unique.  They feel that they haven’t got anything to make them different.  I’ve loved working with each person to discover that this is never true – because, funnily enough, the result for each person has been completely different.  We work together to come up with a statement that puts into a nutshell why that person is unique and why they, as well as everyone else, should believe it.  Add to that agreeing on key time-focused goals and building a practical personal action plan for reaching them, and you’re well on your way…

So, if you had to put your own personal brand into words, what would it be?

The psychology of communication

I studied psychology at university, so a question which people often ask me is how it’s related to the work which I do now. Some see an immediate link, whilst others can’t find an obvious connection. The truth is, I didn’t go into marketing because I thought it was related to psychology, but the reasons why I find it so fascinating are very similar. I’m interested in how people think and behave, and in what makes them tick.

Psychologists have long tried to understand the workings of the brain but, in fact, they understand a lot more about human behaviour than about the mechanics of the brain itself. Why is this important for communications and marketing? Well, most marketing is about behaviour change. Whether it’s trying to stop someone from smoking, or convincing them to buy your product when they walk into a shop, what we want is to influence behaviour….and we have a much better chance of doing that if we understand the root causes – why people do what they do.

Of course it’s a vast and complex area, but there are many branches of psychology which can be related very directly to marketing in practice. As just one example, we’re all affected by what psychologists call ‘social norms’. This is where we look to others for guidance on acceptable social behaviour – is it OK to drink in this particular situation? Should I be laughing at this joke? Tellingly, we behave differently in the company of different people, and differently again when we’re on our own. As marketers, understanding these sorts of interpersonal influences can help us to develop better marketing. If we’re trying to stop people from drinking alcohol, for instance, but we recognise that they’re students facing peer-group pressure, we might tackle the problem in a very different way.

That’s just one example of the links between psychology and communication, but there are many more. When you can understand more about how your audiences feel and behave, and what their trigger points are, you’ll create much more effective marketing, which starts to change behaviour.

Lara Samuels
Director, The Communications Hub

Getting your story in the media

Working with the media isn’t easy, that’s for sure – it’s a tough nut to crack. And in that nutshell, it’s all about building relationships with journalists and making yourself helpful to them. If you do this in the right way, when the time is ripe you might hit the jackpot of a news story or feature article.

We’ve had a very exciting week, as a culmination of all of this for one of our clients. It started very slowly by building up contacts, offering expert comment and making the client available for interview on various topics in which they have great expertise. We’ve been feeding through press releases, meeting with journalists, and keeping on top of who writes what, for many months. Finally, this week, we got coverage in three separate stories published by the Guardian, had a guest piece published in the Financial Times, and had one of our clients on the panel for The Guardian’s live online debate.

The client’s comment? ‘We couldn’t have asked for better coverage’ – praise indeed. For us, that’s when all of the hard work is worth it. If you’d like us to help you to raise your profile, please fill in our contact form and we’ll get in touch to see how we can help.

Transform your business with an integrated marketing strategy – join us on 2nd May

Are you struggling to get results from your current marketing?  Are you finding it difficult to think beyond what you’re already doing?  How will you reach new customers to ensure that your business grows?

Join us at The Village Hotel on Thursday 2nd May for our morning Marketing Essentials workshop, which will enable you to develop and implement an effective marketing strategy and plan.  With a mixture of coaching and discussion, we will take you through the key steps in putting together a plan which works towards your key objectives, using integrated communications channels.  You will gain the practical skills you need to transform your business, and the knowledge to put in place marketing strategies which reach new customers.

Whether you are a marketing manager, a business owner, or simply have marketing as part of your role, this workshop will increase your confidence in marketing, refresh your knowledge, and help you to get the results you need.  Click here to find out what people have said about our previous courses.

Places are just £100 + VAT per person, but are strictly limited.  Please get in touch now via our contact form or email us at to reserve your place, or call us for more information.


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