Websites are *so* last century

August 9, 2010

In our recent survey of shoping centres, nearly all shopping centres now have a website, giving details of store listings, opening times and how to get there. Where the industry seems to be lagging behind other sectors is in the use of new social media to promote and grow their brand, as well as other uses such as readily available feedback for research purposes.

4-out-of-10 centres are taking tentative steps in to this brave new world, but many lack the expertise or time to manage an increasingly important media for commuincating with their customer base. Business Blueprint have developed a social media product, Diamonds, which cultivates a group of key target customers and brand advocates who will freely give their opinions on your brand.

I can really recommend Whatsisname.

January 28, 2010

Business Blueprints recently conducted a national survey of respondent’s views and aspirations on buying legal services.

Of those who had taken legal advice from a firm of solicitors in the last 3 years, only two thirds could recall the name of the solicitors that they had used. How scary is this for a brand?

Interestingly only 2 in 5 would definitely recommend the firm that they consulted, which may also be swayed by the fact they couldn’t remember the firm in the first place…

Shopping centres as brands

September 4, 2009

A couple of thoughts for today.  Firstly, can a shopping centre ever be more than the name of a large building?  And if not, what can be done about an existing name should there ever be a need to change? 

In the best traditions of yes, no and maybe I’ll go with ‘maybe’ in the first instance. Yes, there are shopping centre brands but they are quite a rare species.  Much of this is down to sheer scale but its not just about scale it’s also about personality, and daring to be different, but quite frankly again there are only a few centres that have the capacity to be different.  In many cases, however, I would suggest that a shopping centre brand is no more than a trading name, a badge on the front of a large building within which are housed a number of true brands in the form of shops and restaurants.  Whilst the desire to create a brand is not of itself wrong, the reality is that few centres will ever mature into ‘brands’.   Rather an arrogant statement BUT it is not about just an aspirational, clever or connected name.  It is about an experience which starts with a name and becomes synonymous with everything you do – the type of shops, the service style, the people you employ, the way you treat your suppliers and indeed your tenants. It is about every little thing and all the little but extremely clever, thoughtful touches that create a unique and memorable event.

The other issue that is related to this is the one of naming. One of the challenges for shopping centres is that once a particular centre is named it is quite difficult to re-educate shoppers into the use of the new name.  We’ve recently conducted research amongst users of a large urban shopping mall whose name was changed more than 5 years ago.  Even amongst users correct name recall was only around 80%, and that is amongst shoppers using the scheme on average once a week. 

Recent coverage was given to the decision by Wyevale Garden centres to revert to their ‘local’ brand names, on the basis that people have more of an affinity for a local centre.  I feel confident that the new Chief Exec conducted more research than just taking his Mother’s view before making such a big decision. Having driven past my local Wyevale sorry Brighton Garden Centre, the new signage did look very nice and I am sure a signage company (local I hope) is mighty relieved of the order in such hard times!  Whilst I can see the appeal of this “house of brands” approach in terms of playing the local card, which from all the research we have conducted we wholeheartedly support, people would far rather go local than a chain as long as you get better quality in terms of service and products. I wonder about the practicalities of marketing so many different locations, a single national brand would certainly give more bangs for the buck.  Or is the marketing being decentralised and are the Garden Centre Managers becoming marketing as well as Gardening experts?  

I am really excited about visiting my local Brighton Garden Centre to experience the new proposition and become more emotionally connected with all the changes they have implemented to make it feel independent/local beyond the pristine signage.  I will let you know what I find…

Anyone seen the brand manager?

July 3, 2009

According to the now accepted story, the concept of the brand manager was invented in the early 1930s by a young Harvard Graduate by the name of Neil McElroy when at Procter and Gamble. The core of his approach was that clearly focused attention should be given to individual ‘brands’. There should be a nominated person who would take charge of the brand, and to go with this there would be a team of people devoted to thinking about all aspects of the marketing of that brand. This dedicated group should attend to one brand and one brand only. The concern of these managers would be the brand, which would be marketed as if it were a separate business. In this way the qualities of every brand would be distinguished from those of every other brand in the business.
An interesting history lesson certainly, but is there something here to take on board today? In today’s shopping centre world there appear to be a plethora of individuals taking on any number of roles – advertising and promotion, asset management, leasing, development, operations, to name a few as well, as the centre managers themselves. In fact we seem to have a veritable number of people in any number of committees and working groups all ‘working on the shopping centre’. If we assume that the shopping centre is a ‘brand’ and I am sure I can find enough people who will tell me that indeed it is, the logical question is where is the brand manager?

Is it for instance the asset manager, since he or she invariably has a role to play in the product mix? Possibly, but they often have no role in the day-to-day running of the centre itself and in these current times act very much in a business to business sales function rather than getting close to end consumers.

So is it the centre manager? Possibly, but they conversely don’t always have personal responsibility for the marketing of the centre, which is certainly a core function of the brand manager, and that role usually sits quite logically with the marketing manager.

So is it the marketing manager? Possibly, but they are often the junior member of the team and have to defer to either the centre manager or the asset manager on many matters.

We could also argue that the architects and the development team have a brand management role since they are often the ones who design the centre in the first place but who after a successful launch, somewhat like a midwife hands their newborn over to the centre management team.

Now I’m not saying that this is a problem but some of the most successful marketing organisations in the world have used the brand management model to this day, and whilst the brand manager is nearly 80 years old I still think there is life in there for many years to come. So the question for shopping centre owners is ‘could you learn something from the model and would it help your schemes to become real brands if indeed that is what you are really trying to build?’

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.