What’s in a name?

January 27, 2009

As we at Business Blueprints debate our own possible name change I’m reminded of the current campaign for Norwich Union. One of the things we do is measure awareness, be it specific brand awareness, advertising awareness or individual media recall. So perhaps it is interesting to see a company spending heavily on TV using such cultural icons as Ringo, Bruce Willis, Alice Cooper and Dame Edna to highlight their name change to Aviva.

Interesting perhaps but maybe also a little misplaced. I’m sorry, but didn’t they change the name to Aviva some years ago or as a customer am I imagining it? I’m all for getting a news story across which clearly they feel they are doing but where is the benefit? Where are the brand or product messages? Are they targeting current or new customers? Or is it in fact a very expensive b2b campaign for the city? How many people can you see saying ‘Honey, I must change our insurance cover to those nice Aviva people now they’ve got a new name!’

Which brings us back to research, and I hope they’ve done theirs properly. I worked in a sector a few years back where company and brand changes seemed to come around every three months. The only people who seemed to gain anything from it were the design companies who were paid to re-logo anything that moved and a few things that didn’t. I can’t remember a single change doing anything other than further confuse the very people they should have been considering most – their customers.

One assumes that an established company such as Norwich Union knows what it is doing. That is has weighed up the values in the existing brand name and evaluated the potential benefits of the shift to Aviva. But as we know but for every good name change there is a not so good name change, for every 02 success there is a corresponding Consignia.

Last orders?

January 22, 2009

With reportedly nearly four pubs closing down every day is there now a need for the traditional pub to redefine itself? How can a pub maximise its sales opportunities? Does it even know what they are?

The factors behind the current problems are well documented. Cheap supermarket booze, the smoking ban, an ageing population, drink drive awareness campaigns, all now combined with the current economic environment. In these conditions pub operators probably need to think beyond cost reduction initiatives and explore initiatives that will both keep those customers they already have happy and find ways to tempt others back into their locals. With a raft of restaurant deals out there of which 2-for-1 offers are becoming the norm one local pub has gone even further and introduced the £1 meal. Apparently customers have been queuing up to try the home-cooked pub grub at The Piltdown Man near Uckfield in East Sussex. I hope they have done their sums on this one since it seems like a fantastic offer which I must surely try myself.

There are other ideas around, but not necessarily linked with pubs but that seem to make some sense include a dropping off point for goods bought on the internet or a place to recharge electronic equipment such as laptops, ipods and phones. Whatever the solution might be, the pub along with the post office, and even the church, now more than ever needs to define its place in our lives. According to The Guardian there are now 350 village pubs that are also shops, or post offices, cook school meals, or provide IT training.

It’s the sizes, stupid!

January 16, 2009

We conduct around 50 focus groups each year with British shoppers, and lack of sizes is still one of the top gripes we find. Personally I’ve lost count in the last 12 months of how many times I’ve failed to make a purchase just because the shop does not have the right size, footwear retailers seem to be the worst.

A recent shopping trip looking for a pair of walking boots was again appearing unsuccessful. Things looked up when the assistant offered to phone the warehouse to check out availability of sizes. Unfortunately this led to nothing and we returned home ‘bootless’. A visit to their web site using their postcode look up let me identify the three stores closest to me. A call to the second one on the list revealed a pair in the correct size available only 12 miles away. The boots were put aside for us and we duly drove over to make the purchase that afternoon.

My conclusions are this. Firstly I need to do more of my own research before leaving the house, and second should we not expect that sort of service from my local branch in the first place? How about giving stores the technology to easily contact local stores to make stock checks on behalf of customers? How about stores arranging for deliveries from other branches for customer collection in that store? The opportunity must be for retailers to explore ways to add real value for their customers, making a sale on the day and demonstrating real customer service.

We know the times are tough on the high street, but having at first got people into the stores it seems crazy that an opportunity to make a sale is lost through poor stocking keeping or a lack of understanding of the profile of shoppers. Can this sizing challenge really be that difficult to fix?