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Branding and “Place Making”

November 29th, 2012


I went along to the Sheffield Community Network “LunchPlus” event today at the Showroom. The topic was “What’s in a Name? – Building Brands” and we heard presentations from Brendan Moffett (Director of Marketing Sheffield) and Sarah McNulty from the Tramlines Festival. Both were very good, but I want to focus on a few interesting points that Brendan made.

Brendan talked us through the process of establishing a brand for Sheffield – a process which has evolved over the past six years or so and which is continuing. These are the points that stuck in my mind:

  • When you are building a brand for a place, you need to understand that a place is always evolving and the brand must too. (Which made me wonder if the Peak District brand is evolving or if it’s got a bit stuck?)
  • Branding a place must reflect the values and aspirations of stakeholders, including the people who live and work there. This was a difficult process for Sheffield – in the end, two key qualities came to the fore: authenticity and individuality. (I think these are a good summary of what makes Sheffield special – of course, it doesn’t cover everything but it does sum up “Sheffield-ness” for me.)
  • Place making shouldn’t look backwards all the time. Heritage is important, but so is the future. When I talk to clients about how branding applies to their business, I advise them to “tell the story about the company you aspire to be, not just the company you are now”. Brendan talked about how the brand story for Sheffield needs to translate the city’s industrial past into something exciting for the future – stay tuned for news about 2013, the 100th anniversary of the invention of stainless steel.

Lastly, and this is just something I was pleased to learn, the font that forms part of the Sheffield brand imagery was designed specially. It’s called Sheffield (I think) and only certain organisations are licensed to use it. I really like it – does anyone know who designed it?

Cost, price and value

October 29th, 2012


I spent an enjoyable couple of hours at the University of Huddersfield last week, presenting a session on Market Research to students involved in the University’s Enterprise programme. The brief was to give an introduction to why you need to do research and how to do it, in an hour (!). So, it was a bit of whirlwind tour, and I’m grateful to the students for sticking with me and putting a lot of thought and effort into the interactive parts of the workshop.

What I found interesting was the question that came up the most. It revolved around pricing and I think what people were trying to get to was “How do you work out what to charge?”, by way of “How do you find out what people are prepared to pay?”. We didn’t have time to get into the nuts and bolts of how you structure survey questions to uncover what people really think, but I wonder now if we should really have been having a discussion about value rather than price.

Perhaps one of the hardest things when you’re starting up in business is to work out what to charge. If you’ve got experience of your sector, then you have a starting point, but there is always the temptation to charge less because you’re a new business. That’s why I think it’s important to focus on the value you can deliver to your customers and resist the inclination to win business simply by being cheaper. It takes some bravery, but it pays off in the long run.



Hi customer, how are you?

October 3rd, 2012


In my post Why you should learn to love research, I mentioned that you should ‘ask your customers’. I think this is a vital and often overlooked way of gaining real insight into a target market.

Somewhere in your customer base, there is a friend. Recognise that they are an expert source of market intelligence and don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback or for an ‘off-the-record’ chat. What is the market like for them right now? How are your competitors coping? What do we need to do more of to better support you?

Getting the real customer view will not only help you get rid of your assumptions but will also help bring that customer even closer. People love to be asked their opinion, especially if you then act on it – there in an element of enhancing brand loyalty naturally built in to this method.

So, next time you speak to your favourite customer, either face to face or on the phone, why not ask them what’s happening in their world? Test your hunch, make better decisions, improve your service, encourage two-way communication and build a better business. What’s not to like?

Why you should learn to love research

August 29th, 2012


Many (many) years ago, as I embarked on my career in communications, I was taught a magic formula: RACE. It’s a very simple mnemonic for planning any kind of campaign: Research, Analysis, Communication, Evaluation. I’m sure that there are many others like it, in marketing and other industries.

Note where it starts: Research. The boring bit, the hard work bit, the “don’t even know where to start with this” bit. But, also, the crucial bit.

For smaller businesses, finding the time and resources to do your market research can be a challenge in itself. But it’s still important to avoid the temptation to market on a hunch. Business owners are close to their business, close to their products and services. They have to be. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of “just knowing” what your customers are thinking, or what the opportunities are for your new product or service idea.

I’m afraid that when someone tells me “marketing doesn’t work” or “it’s a waste of money” or “it’s not right for my business”, I can usually be pretty sure that they haven’t done their research before splurging precious budget on a bunch of new brochures or a high volume email campaign.

The good news is, market research doesn’t have to be a chore and it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of interesting, creative ways to gather vital intelligence about the ecosystem your business is operating in. And, in my opinion, any information that you can pull together that helps you to test your hunch and make better decisions before you start your marketing activity is worth the time and effort.

Here’s a few TigerNash Top Tips on how to inject some enthusiasm into your market research:

  1. Draw pictures – thinking about your business in a visual way can give you a whole new perspective. Try mind-mapping the environment you operate in, or the problems that your customers have.
  2. Get online – the internet opens doors to places it was hard to go before. Have a good look at your competitors, especially the ones you think are really good. (And, believe me, every business has competitors – if you think you don’t, ask yourself “what else do my customers spend money on?”)
  3. Recognition – who’s winning awards in your field? How and what for?
  4. Stay fresh – involve everyone in the business (even if there’s only two of you). You never know where insight or a fresh approach to gathering information might come from.
  5. Ask your customers – after all, you want more people like them, right? (More on this in my next post.)


When putting this post together, we did some digging into the “Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research” myth.  It turns out that it’s not that he didn’t believe in market research, it’s that he just didn’t do it. Why? Because he didn’t need to. Apple’s team consists of the world’s best designers, developers, marketers and more, all with a passion for the product. The steps they follow to innovation ensure as near product perfection as possible. And you can be absolutely sure they know their market. For more on this, read this fascinating article by Alain Breillatt.

Reflections on pride and passion

August 15th, 2012


Even though we’re in the lull after the Olympics (and before the Paralympics begin), the Games are still a huge talking point. Everyone has stories about which sports they discovered, who their new sporting heroes are, what they thought about the opening and closing ceremonies. So I’ve been reflecting a little too.

Among many amazing experiences, the opening ceremony still stands out for me.  I felt it tapped into our British culture in a superbly visual story: green fields and industry; humour and drama; silence and music. I read many blog posts and comments in the following days, but one stood out for me. Mary Hamilton, blogger and journalist, ended her comment “Britain: This is for everyone” with this statement: “It made people proud. It gave the Olympics a different meaning. This is why culture matters, and why storytelling is important: it makes meaning. Without it, we’re just a collection of people. With it, we get to be British.”

“Culture and storytelling make meaning”. When you’re talking about your business, what story are you telling? What makes it compelling and what will make people (employees, suppliers, customers) want to be part of it? In marketing jargon, we talk about target audiences, key messages, tone of voice – these are all just ways of thinking about the process of telling the story.

Now is the perfect time to take inspiration from the Games and grow your story. My advice to any business is to communicate as the company you aspire to be, not just the company you are today. Believe in your own story and be realistic, optimistic and proud. When the glow from the Games has faded away, the story will remain.


Trade Shows – are they worth it?

August 7th, 2012


Trade shows are very often set in stone in the marketing calendar and an established business is likely to attend without fail every year just to show competitors and attendees that they’re still alive and kicking. It’s easy to fall into the habit of attending and lose sight of whether you’re really getting business benefit from being there.

However, with budgets tighter than ever, trade shows need to demonstrate ROI. After all, it’s not just the cost of the exhibition space and your stand, it’s the time and effort as well.

Here’s a few TigerNash Top Tips for making the most of Trade Shows:

1. Events should not sit in isolation. They are part of your overall marketing strategy. If they’re not, why are you attending? Think how your event sits alongside other ongoing promotions, customer engagement activity and your brand values.

2. Preparation is key. Allow long lead times and use every form of marketing, including social networking, to create a buzz about your attendance to your target audiences. Don’t forget the journalists, the show press office and your press packs!

3. Know what you’re promoting. A stand that gives a clear message about a benefit that’s relevant to the visitors attending the event is going to attract more interest than something generic.

4. Size doesn’t matter; creativity does. Larger stands do not equate to more custom. Shrinking your stand size will free up budget to be spent on a fresh approach. Make any stand friendly and inviting; create talking points and avoid physical barriers.

5. Make the most of your time there. Set up some meetings, do some networking, maybe hold a fringe event aimed at the people you want to do business with. Don’t forget to explore opportunities to speak as well.

6. The personal touch. Make sure you have the right people staffing your stand and make sure they are well prepared and have the confidence to approach visitors.

7. Evaluate and follow up. Make event follow up part of your attendance plan; perhaps stay away an extra night or keep out of the office for a day and follow up contacts, prioritise leads and action tasks. Track and review the success of the show for the next 12 months.

Marketing Donut has some great advice, especially about wearing comfortable shoes! We’d recommend having bottles of water on hand too – all that talking is thirsty work.

It’s alive!

May 28th, 2012


TigerNash Ltd officially starts trading on 1st July 2012. Meanwhile, here is our lovely website, over which we have sweated, agonised and learned to love WordPress.

We’d like to say “thank you” to a few people who helped us get this far:

  • Dan Moat of Tahninial for answering our WordPress dummy questions.
  • Camilla Umar of Cut Out and Keep for helping bring the TigerNash logo to life.
  • All the cool dudes at The Theme Foundry, who created the theme we’ve used and who answered our questions as quickly as they could, given that they are thousands of miles away.
  • And whoever created and, for the tiger photos.

Lastly, the gorgeous tiger above is the work of Hannah Tomlinson, although she’d probably be embarrassed that I’ve used it because she drew it when she was a lot younger.