Wednesday, 28 September 2016

why do functional products use emotional advertising?

If you think about the buy things every day you'll realise that most of them are functional products that you have no emotional connection with - milk, cheese, bread, petrol etc.

Likewise, the services you use are functional - gas, electric, internet, TV, banking etc. So why do the brands of so many functional products and services insist on advertising to us in a way that doesn't fit with what they are selling?

Let's look at what you want from a bank. For most, I imagine it's the basics done well; not to lose your money (very important!), to be helpful when you have a problem, offer you a half decent rate of interest, for the app to work well, among others no doubt. It's not an emotional 'engagement'. You need a bank account and they pretty much all do the same thing, so you pays your money and takes your choice.

With that in mind, this is the latest ad from NatWest.

Apart from the fact you could stick any logo on the end of the ad and it could be for one of 1000 companies, let alone any other UK bank, it's 95% emotional guff. When banks are all so similar, where's the real tangible messages to encourage someone to put their cash with NatWest over the likes of Barclays or HSBC?

Some types of products sit well with emotional advertising, as they are emotional purchases - the likes of perfume, car and clothes brands will all use a certain 'lifestyle' approach to make an impression. Brands know that you might buy one of these products with your heart more than your head because they say something about you as a person. But banking isn't one of them. A bank should be there when called upon, being in and out of your life as quick as possible with minimal fuss. Akin to a builder.

Before hiring a builder for your extension you need to establish a number of things; they have the experience to do the job, they can offer a price you believe is reasonable, they will adhere to all the legal regulations, they'll turn up on time every day etc. Yes, you will have a gut feeling about a certain company but there is no emotion involved in the purchase of their services.

And as most building companies don't tend to employ brand managers, their advertising will reflect the way their services are bought by customers. Past projects and references will be available, guarantees offered, all with the objective of reassurance.

So why are the likes of banks trying to use emotion to sell function? Is it bank marketing directors behaving like sheep and following the herd, or their agencies just being lazy and taking the money?

If you ask the man on the street, they'll say take a leaf taken out of the book of their local builder.

Monday, 26 September 2016

never be afraid to have a strong opinion on people's work

When you have a strong opinion on something, you put yourself in a position where someone, somewhere is likely to disagree with you - and those people have every right think differently to you. 

We sometimes criticise pieces of work on this very blog (hopefully constructively) and there have been times where that particular marketing manager has come back and tried to justify their strategy/idea/execution.

All healthy debate. Everyone thinks they are right and no-one thinks they are wrong.

If we believe a piece of work is worthy of praise then that's what it will get - irrespective of what the general consensus is. Likewise, if we believe something is poor, it will get criticised - even if 'the industry' doesn't share our view.

We've got opinions and we're happy to share them with one and all. We expect, and welcome, people to disagree with us, and that makes it all the more interesting.

Some come on transport people, get off that fence and starting voicing some opinions, safe in the knowledge that someone, somewhere will disagree with you!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

we rebrand buses in Cambridge

As a recognisable brand, Cambus lasted little more than 11 years and was absorbed into Stagecoach nearly 21 years ago, but we have focused on how the company could come back to life as a forward thinking organisation geared to the needs of this economically vibrant part of the east of England.
Cambus was a creation of the 1980s when the National Bus Company split most of the companies in its southern region into smaller, more locally managed businesses.

One of the huge myths of the past 30 years is that this was a preparation for privatisation. It was not. Otherwise, the northern companies would also have been divided into smaller businesses at the same time. But a byproduct was that it was easier to sell these smaller companies to their managers and seven of the first 12 NBC subsidiaries sold in 1986 were split up southern ones.

The 12th of these was Cambus, sold to its management for £1.5million, half the book value of its assets. It was created in September 1984 when Eastern Counties was divided in three. The original company retained the bus operations in Norfolk and Suffolk, while all the coaches passed to newly created Ambassador Travel. Cambus, with head office in Cambridge, took over bus operations from garages in Cambridge, Newmarket, Ely, Peterborough and March.

In place of NBC corporate poppy red and white, buses were painted Cambridge blue and cream, a light blue shade more eye-catching than practical. When the management team bought the business in December 1986 and created Cambus Holdings Ltd (CHL), the livery was modified with the addition of dark blue lower panels and more cream.

In September 1989, the Peterborough and March operations transferred to CHL’s new Viscount Bus & Coach Company with a livery of yellow and white with blue and grey stripes. Stagecoach acquired CHL in December 1995, triggering the end of the Cambus and Viscount identities, but for this latest ‘what if?’ scenario we imagine that Cambus had remained independent and give it an identity for the late 2010s.

The evolution of this Cambus branding pays homage to its incumbent in style but has developed its own refreshing attitude. Just the colour itself makes the product exciting. Gone is the two-tone blue, replaced with a vibrant, modern single flat colour.

Despite the transition from uppercase to title case, the updated logo retains a real link to a bygone era with the simple cut-through line. Although a subtle visual representation of the River Cam, it adds real gravitas to the execution and draws the eye accordingly.

The livery shows a real pride in the area its serves through the Cambridge skyline silhouette, making it instantly recognisable as a bus service that is proud to serve its local community. The real triumph in this particular livery is the way a simple exclamation mark has been used to portray the brand’s new-found confidence. Notice how the main identity on the body sits slightly below where it normally would, ensuring it ties in nicely with the rear wheel to provide the correct punctuation — thus creating the perfect oversized exclamation mark.

It’s the little touches that make all the difference. With all the subtle and not-so-subtle changes, Cambus has come of age where the brand provides ‘buses worth shouting about!’

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

the benefits of knowing very little about the bus industry

We've spent a fair few years working on marketing campaigns for some of Britain's biggest bus operators, yet despite this, we know very little about the technicalities of the industry itself.

We know what we think could benefit us, but as far as types of bus, manufacturers, industry figures etc we're pretty much on a par with your Average Joe. And that's the way we intend to keep it.

Whilst there's nothing wrong with having in-depth knowledge of any given industry, we firmly believe our own naivety is a major plus for potential clients.

We're happy to ask questions that could make us look stupid. Happy in the knowledge that the answers might actually help us create a more effective campaign for our clients.

We believe that if you have a similar knowledge base as your customers then you tend to think like them, and to question like them. You ask why things are done a certain way, looking at it from the perspective of somebody who cares very little, whose attention and custom you are trying to gain.

A client recently told me a little story. At the end of a three hour meeting to discuss campaign research and how to move the project forward, the client told those attending "Remember, we have just spent more time talking about buses than our customers will in their entire lifetime."

Sometimes having the innocence and naivety of customers helps you communicate with them better.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

watch the fascinating process of a destination blind being made

Since 1978, Manchester-based McKenna Brothers have specialised in the supply of “destination blinds,” LED and dot matrix signs to the passenger transport industry. 

This short video explains how the team make bus blinds. Fascinating stuff.

Thanks to for this.

Monday, 12 September 2016

could you benefit from the power of colour?

I was down in Bournemouth over the summer holidays, and whilst driving the kids about only seemed to notice the fleet of one bus operator.

I'm sure there were others flying around the town but they didn't seem to register on my subconscious. All I could see were the yellow buses. And when I'd seen the colour once, it was instantly recognisable from then on.

Yes, I understand they are the dominant operator in the area, but many years ago they were savvy enough to name the company after a colour, and execute their livery accordingly. People use colour as way of remembering/reference all the time - ours is the house with the green door, mine is the red car etc - so the Yellow Bus name makes perfect sense.

There's no question that colour has a major impact on the branding world and done consistently, enables a brand to be immediately recognised without using any words or even showing it's logo.

Name me an orange airline, a purple chocolate bar, a yellow car breakdown service, a red sugared water or pink newspaper and only one brand in each of those crowded market places, immediately springs to mind.

The power comes from the consistency of using a single colour throughout years and years of consumer marketing. So simple yet so effective.

Friday, 9 September 2016

struggling to make travel simple and integrated

I saw a tweet the other day about a PLUSBUS ticket offer, which led me to do a bit more reading on how it benefits the customer.

In all honesty, it seems pretty simple - if you're travelling by train you can get discounted bus travel either to the station before your trip or on from the station after your trip. A pretty simple (and good) way of encouraging some integrated travel I reckon.

Then I saw this section.

click to enlarge

It basically says to the potential user if you live in the nation's capital, its second/third cities or its biggest county, then this particular travel add-on isn't available. All thanks to the way public transport is managed in those particular areas.

A perfect example of how the suits in power do their level best to make people's lives as difficult as possible - when you'd like to think they'd be trying to make them as simple as possible.

As simple getting from A to B in different parts of the country.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Stagecoach v NCT, battle of the Facebook videos

Earlier today I read the latest blog post from Matt Harrison, on his Transport Designed blog.

Matt has recently moved to the much-lauded Transdev operation, where he has taken up a post in the Marketing and Comms team. He talks a lot of sense on his blog but I think he's been a bit extreme with his respective criticism and praise of the two Facebook videos below.

Firstly, exhibit A by Stagecoach, which Matt slates pretty strongly - "Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear."

Secondly, there's exhibit B by NCT, which gets heaps of praise - "This video is a marketer’s dream"

Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

The Stagecoach video is trying to get people to change their travel habits and is a piece of advertising aimed at non-bus users. Whether or not you like the idea and execution is subjective, but the video has been created with a specific objective in mind.

The NCT video is interesting to those who are into statistics and images of buses moving forward and backwards. It doesn't give a reason for the casual viewer to get the bus over any form of transport and is essentially a PR exercise. It's most definitely one for the enthusiasts.

One is selling, one is informing and neither could do the job of the other effectively yet both are part of the traditional marketing mix.

In his critique, Matt falls into the classic marketer's trap of citing views as a gauge of success/effectiveness - "In little over one day (at the time of posting), this video alone had already amassed 32,000 views – compared to Stagecoach’s paltry 3,000 for ‘bus people’, which has already been online for well over a week."

The success depends on what the objectives were in the first place - one video seems to have the brief of selling bus travel to people who don't get the bus, the other a brief of getting people who are interested in buses to tune in and share with their friends.

Neither is worthy of the extreme praise and criticism offered.