As a resident of the West Country, I am accustomed to the fact that cider is a way of life round these ’ere parts. When Blackthorn changed their recipe last year and went for a big relaunch, billboards were defaced, Facebook pages launched and free samples through the local paper were rejected. Believe me, a Bristolian does not reject free cider readily. The resulting public campaign to return to the original recipe won through and the brand conceded defeat.
In Bristol there is a boat that has been converted into a bar that goes by the name of The Apple and sells the juice by the bucket load. There is also a small, tucked-away, gem of a pub in Clifton called The Coronation Tap - or to those more affectionate or slurred of speech, The Corrie Tap. Here they sell a cider known as ‘Exhibition’ and such is its potency they only sell it by the half pint.
Last week’s Budget heaped misery on the West Country, with dear Mr Darling making cider play taxation catch-up. A 10 per cent increase came into effect as of Sunday and in doing so brought cider in line with beer, spirits and wine for relative taxation value. While stories of queues stretching for miles — akin to a petrol price hike — are greatly exaggerated, it is the talk of the town.
Tonight the BBC’s ‘The One Show’ is filming a feature on the popularity of the drink at the fabled Corrie Tap (free samples from 6pm I hear). Will I see you there?
It’s been a great week: fun, exciting and we’ve had the best traffic figures ever on the Marketing Donut. The most popular single item of the week was our case study of the online cupcake community, How we got together online to boost our cupcake business.This produced a fantastic response within the world of cupcake makers, who spent the whole week sharing the article and spreading the word about the Marketing Donut. I’d like one of these, thanks guys:
But probably our biggest draw overall this week was our extensive Budget coverage on Wednesday – and this is what made it such a busy and exciting week. I blogged live as the Chancellor read his speech, the team tweeted like crazy and we published a Budget round-up and the reaction from small businesses before the end of the day.
We were really pleased to be the only news organisation to spot the National Minimum Wage increase on Budget day itself. This wasn’t in the Chancellor’s speech, but buried deeply in the Budget Notes where it was spotted by one of our eagle-eyed editors. We called the Treasury, checked it out and slipped it into our coverage minutes before publication. Result.
The Budget also produced my favourite thing on the Marketing Donut this week – our James’s rapid response analysis of the Budget in words and pictures. Take a look; it made me smile.
Post-Budget, it was an early start on Thursday morning for a trip to our Bristol office where I delivered an editorial training and went to the Bristol Twestival in the evening. This fundraising networking event was kind of a who’s who on the Internet in Bristol, which is a real new media hub. It got a bit raucous and raised in the region of £4,000 for Concern Worldwide, who are no doubt very happy indeed. Good stuff.
Now it’s back to earth and the business of providing good marketing information to small businesses. We’ll be updating our favourite things with more books, videos and websites you should be reading, watching and visiting, Plus, we’ll have information on mobile phone apps, advice on closing a sale and tips for making your business stand out from the crowd.
Another Budget, another wave of promises of ‘support’ and shiny initiatives. This year, as the Wordle shows, the Chancellor talked a lot about the state of the ‘economy’ and focused his initiatives on ‘business’ rather more than families or public services. This is a Budget about ‘people’, ‘jobs’, ‘recovery’, the ‘country’ at large.
‘Tax’ looms largest, though, but not because there’s a lot of it. Quite the opposite: the Chancellor was very keen to stress that he wouldn’t be raising taxes - at least not for those of us on low-to-middle incomes. If you’re a banker or a non-domicile, though, you’d better get ready to dip onto your pockets.
Does this mean this a ‘Robin Hood’ Budget? If it were truly a ‘rob from the rich to fund the poor’ affair, then you might expect the ten per cent duty increase to be on grapes rather than apples. In case you didn’t pick up on it, cider is being ‘redefined’ so that it is subject to the same duty increases as all other alcoholic drinks.
For the small business, the clues are in the words ‘bank, ‘Bank’, banks’, ‘banking’ and ‘credit’. The Chancellor is making an extra £41 billion available as lending to small businesses via Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland. He has also promised a Small Business Credit Adjudicator whose role will be to decide whether small firms have been unfairly turned down for loans.
After all, it is small business in particular that will ‘fuel’ ‘growth’, ‘increase’ ‘jobs’ and ‘pay’ for the ‘future’. But, as the Wordle shows, they may need quite a lot of ‘help’ to do that.
OPINION, OR MAYBE EVEN A FACT!: You must be different from the rest.
FACT: We now live in an ‘experience’ economy
In today’s world, the big budget brands are treated with suspicion. They now need to prove themselves. Old World marketing tried to give different personalities to what were essentially similar products. Think of the weak, wet stuff known as lager in the Eighties. Nowadays, customers are inclined to think that if a product looks, sounds, smells, feels and performs in roughly the same manner, then it probably is roughly the same. So, somehow you must create that difference that separates you from all the other similar products.
OPINION, OR MAYBE EVEN A FACT!: Brand preference has always been a function of perception, but now you have to try much harder to create (and maintain) the perceived difference.
The customer’s experience should be made to be unique in tangible, physical ways. A corollary to this is that if your service is intangible then a powerful way of branding yourself is by creating tangible (and ideally memorable) experiences.
HOW DO I DO THAT THEN?: One way to deliver the difference is through the service experience.
‘Doubting Thomas’ consumers demand tangible differences in your product or service.
OPINION: In a world where everyone copies each other, it takes a lot to keep your experience different.
In our novelty culture, it takes even more effort to keep the customer’s experience fresh and surprising. How is this to be done?
As ever, it’s been a very busy week on the Marketing Donut, with lots of fresh material, plenty of chatter on Twitter and plans being laid for the next few weeks and months.
First up, though – the week’s most popular story was our lead, Getting the message across with text marketing. But Mobile apps for small businesses is pushing it close and has been generating some good comments. We’d love to know which mobile apps you find useful, so please have your say at the bottom of the story.
A lot of you also read the case study about Magic Whiteboard and how they built their business on the back of £100,000 investment by Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis following a successful appearance on The Dragon’s Den.
The new Our favourite things page is going from strength to strength. This is where each member of the Marketing Donut team recommends their favourite marketing related videos, books, podcasts, websites – you name it. It’s a real pick’n’mix of marketing goodies and at the moment it’s my favourite page on the site.
Right now, for example, we’ve got an analysis of the Commonwealth Games 2014 logo, Duncan Bannatyne’s Desert Island Discs appearance, news about the forthcoming Expand your Brand conference and advice about dealing with difficult customers. Please send your suggestions for content to me or, if you have an event, just pop it into our calendar and we’ll see if we can squeeze it in.
If I thought this week was busy, next week is going to be even more manic than usual. Apart from new content on successful radio interviews, rewarding loyal customers and how to create a successful cupcake group on Flickr, we’re also going to be providing live coverage of the Budget as it unfolds.
Then on Thursday, I’m off to Bristol for the Twestival, one of 175 parties taking place internationally to raise funds for Concern Worldwide. All the parties have been organised at short notice by volunteers and aim to use “social media for the social good”. If you happen to be in or near Bristol, come along and say hello!
You don't need me to remind you that markets are much more competitive, revenues are being squeezed and many have lost faith in our politicians and our economy. At times like this when budgets are shrinking, it can be tempting to cut your spending on design. After all, design is an area that can be difficult to understand, measure and source. However, could it be possible to design yourself out of a downturn?
The fact is that it is even more important to invest in design when times are hard. Now is the time that your target audience needs to be convinced that you are the right business to spend with. Now is when your potential customers need to be aware of you, your products and services. Now is when you need to connect with your target audience by responding to their needs and providing solutions.
What's more, if you go against the trend of reining in design investment your business could gain an edge over your competition. Let your rivals reduce or completely cut their spend on design, but continue your own investment in design.
Attitudes to design
According to the Design Council, "When times are tough it is change, dynamism and vitality – not hunkering down quietly – which are the keys to success... The decision to innovate – to rethink and regenerate products, operations and image – can be taken by a company of any size and in any area. Design and brand strategy can help elevate a firm or its products from the ordinary, the tired or the predictable, demonstrating that the business is alive, dynamic and responsive. And in a declining market that just might make the difference between growth and collapse."
I strongly believe that attitudes to design need to change, especially in the minds of start-up and small-business owners. I hear small-business owners convince themselves that they can manage with DIY design solutions, because they are not the 'big boys' and can't afford dedicated design departments. But how can you ever become a 'big boy' without investing in design?
Let's take beer, for example. This industry is declining with consumers spending less, and reduced supermarket pricing and the smoking ban causing even bigger challenges. Then there was Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham. Well aware of the weakening beer market, they realised that a stronger brand was a priority. According to the design team that worked on Castle Rock, "Its corporate identity lacked authority, was being used inconsistently and in most cases almost apologetically across its communications. The crafting and attention to detail evident in its award-winning beers was not in any way reflected in its customer-facing image." A clearer focus was brought in, a coherent range of beer badges created and individual beers were given their own personality, whilst clearly remaining part of the Castle Rock range. And the results? Since the rebranding, the company’s barrel sales have doubled (20% year on year), a full year ahead of business projections, in a market which is otherwise in decline.
Is it time to recognise that investing in design (especially in an economic downtown) is not an extravagant luxury but a competitive necessity?