Brand naming: What’s in name? It’s a Hullabaloo. #HCAFC

Posted in Brand positioning with tags , , on January 27, 2014 by Guy Tomlinson

Hull City Association Football Club was founded in 1904. In August 2013, Chairman Assem Allam (1) submitted a request to the Football Association to change the club name to Hull Tigers Ltd. And all hell has broken loose. Dr. Allam says that the name change will be shorter and snappier, and more marketable. Lobbying Group ‘City ‘Til We Die’ say ‘no’; it has almost 6000 members and is growing. The FA will make a decision at the end of the season. So what’s in a name – a brand name?

There is no record of the first person to shout ‘Up the Tigers!’ but the first reference in print to ‘The Tigers’ appeared in the Hull Daily Mail in March 1905. In the season that Hull City first wore a black and amber strip. The first ‘Tiger’ badge appeared on the strip in 1947, and over the years it has taken many forms (2).

Brand naming

The first appearance of a tiger on the Hull City kit

As a marketer, my experience is that the most successful businesses and brands are customer driven. All marketing activities should be designed to meet customer needs, improve stand-out and increase appeal. And the proposed changes are patently unappealing to a sizeable proportion of the fans. Many say they will boycott matches and refuse to renew their season passes.

As a marketer and Hull City supporter, I’m curious about the business case. If there is evidence that a name change will benefit the Club, Dr. Allam seems reluctant to share it.

Dr. Allam has lived in the City of Hull since the 1960s. He’s a successful businessman and his investment in Hull City has helped it reach the Premiership. He says the word ‘City’ is lousy and common and if he doesn’t get his way he’ll leave (3). This is a very emotional response. His words don’t sound like those of a Hull or Hull City supporter to me.

On the plus side, the hullabaloo surrounding the name change has given Hull a bit of publicity. Not bad for a team, only in its third year in the Premiership. And high brand awareness is an important characteristic of a strong brand.  Fortunately, there is much more to a football brand than a name. Product performance has thus far held up, thanks to Mr. Bruce and the team. The Club has built huge equity in entertaining and bringing generations together. Through highs and lows. Not just the roller coaster ride in winning and losing, but through going to matches and putting money in a bucket to pay the team’s wages. And that says a lot when folk don’t have much money. Bonds don’t get much stronger.

There are many examples of brands repositioning to attract wider audiences and improve performance. Hull City AFC, as all clubs, has evolved over generations. Inspired, almost entirely, by ownership, management and team changes. There are also examples of brands undergoing complete makeovers without changing name. Witness for example, Lucozade. There are football clubs that have changed name, and lost their fan bases (Wimbledon FC), yet were born again with a new fan base (MK Dons). And original brands that rose again (AFC Wimbledon, the Dons). Hull City is the Tigers. The words “City” and “the Tigers” are used interchangeably on the terraces. In overseas countries, the Club can be positioned in a myriad of ways to drive local demand.

On the down side, Dr. Allam has alienated lots of supporters. I’m unsure whether he has attracted any overseas. Football clubs belong to supporters, largely local communities, as well as owners. The supporters and owners are also part of the brand – not the brand itself. Dr. Allam’s investment is welcomed but his tone is not. What the fans are really rejecting is Dr. Allam’s arrogance and implied transience.

The change in the East Yorkshire county name should be remembered. In 1974, East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire were forcibly changed to Humberside. For the next 22 years those who moved away sent letters home to the old address. In 1996, Humberside was abolished and the original county names restored.

What’s odd is that no commercial evidence has been forthcoming to support a change. Though there are now a few who are putting their heads above the parapet expressing support for the change. Though their claims appear subjective, which suggests they may be PR inspired (4). Without hard-nosed evidence this compounds my belief that the case for change is flimsy.

I wonder whether Dr. Allam has been seduced into announcing a name change by a new design idea. Taking a look at the present badge, it is easy to imagine the streamlining possibilities in dropping the AFC. This is how designers think. Presently, there may be a small Google ranking benefit, and page view increase, by funneling Hull City and the Tigers searches into a single Hull City Tigers url. But this may be undermined if it changes again.

Brand naming

Hull City AFC badge 2014

Some say the name change is a sublime masterplan to build awareness? Whatever the answer, success in the home market will require a change of tone and a credible message. It is not too late to ‘fess up’.

Marketing Inspiration
1. Branding, like marketing is widely misunderstood. Brands are not just logos or names. Marketers must never forget this point and help others understand.
2. Brands live in the hearts and minds of customers – the supporters. They are the summation of all thoughts and feelings – including memories – through tough times and good.
3. Football club brands have symbiotic relationships with communities. Clubs represent communities, communities support clubs. The brand is a shared interest and experience. The community is part of the experience i.e. part of the brand. This is why supporters have strong relationships with clubs; they wear the kit, the colours etc. Everything that the brand stands for runs though supporters like a stick of rock. It signals I’m like you, share your beliefs, hopes, and fears.
4. Changing names for community embedded brands should be undertaken with caution. There is a risk of destroying community engagement. When an owner dictates a course of action it signals, someone or something has different beliefs, personality traits. That I’m not like you and that detracts from the shared brand experience.
5. It is dangerous to make decisions on gut-feel, dangerous to invent spurious logic to support an idea, and dangerous not to be transparent. It is better to use research and evidence to make decisions. This will ensure that all risks and pitfalls are identified and mitigated.
6. The start-point is to think about the perceptions brands wish to create. To build on strengths and refine weaknesses. Perceptions are created by the product – the team and the team performance. Perceptions can be influenced by promotion and without changing names. This is why the advertising industry is a multi-billion business.
7. If you need a business partner, remember brands are more than logos.
8. If you seek free publicity, stir up a storm in a teacup.

(1) Dr. Assem Allam is a successful entrepreneur. Born in Egypt, he studied at Hull University in the 1960s and decided to stay in the City of Hull. His business Allam Marine supplies and sells generators. At number 214 in the Sunday Times Rich List, and a philanthropist, he has made donations to Hull FC, the University of Hull and Hull Truck Theatre Co. among others.
(4) The work of a public relations company

Guerilla marketing

Posted in Creativity, Marketing communication on June 25, 2013 by Guy Tomlinson

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, one of the world’s most wonderful museums had an idea.

To celebrate the reopening of our museum, let’s bring the art to the people and then, hopefully, they will come to see more – at the art gallery.

They took one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings ‘The Night Watch’ (1), brought to life the characters in it, and placed them in a busy mall in Breda. The rest you can see for yourself!

Marketing Inspiration

Great marketing just requires a great idea (sometimes!)

(1) Painted by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1642 “The Night Watch” is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The painting is renowned for three things: its enormous size (12 ft × 14 ft)), the effective use of light and shadow (chiaroscuro), and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military portrait. The painting may be more accurately titled The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out.

Investing a Brand with Personality

Posted in Brand positioning, Marketing communication with tags , on March 28, 2013 by Guy Tomlinson

Kulula – The Airline That Doesn’t Take Itself Seriously

Having identified a gap in the market for a low-cost airline to bring air travel to the South African masses, launched in July 2001. It operates on major domestic routes out of Tambo International Airport and Lanseria on the outskirts of Johannesburg.  As building a business based on price alone would make it vulnerable to attack from more established airlines, it has hewn a positioning based on ease, inspirational service and safety. This is summed up in its name which means ‘easy’ in Zulu. Though most distinctive are the personality traits of the brand.  Being totally honest, straight-forward and helping people lighten up. is an airline that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its humourous personality is evident in all aspects of the brand experience:


Launching with a budget of just 3m rand (c. £200k) demands cut-through communication. Their super heroes launch campaign with catchy jingle espouses “Now Everyone Can Fly”. Watch the launch trailer and note there isn’t an aircraft to be seen.

Product and service appearance

Similarly to easyjet’s bright orange in the UK, Kulula has adopted a distinctive lime green livery.  The unconventional markings include ‘this way up’ and arrows pointing to parts of the aircraft, for example, rudder, nose cone, sun-roof and where ‘the big cheese’ (‘captain, my captain’) sits.


Public relations

In 2010 South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup and ran a campaign describing itself as the “Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What”, which took place “Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between”. Another advert announced “affordable flights [to] everybody except Sepp Blatter” (the FIFA president), who was offered a free seat “for the duration of that thing that is happening right now”. Obviously, oblique references to the World Cup which FIFA intervened to stop. Thus creating even more publicity for Kulula.


Kulula flight crew are encouraged to be friendly and let their natural talent show through. This is evident in the entertaining in-flight “safety lecture” and announcements. Here are some examples that have been heard or reported:

“Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.”

Meet Kay Lula … the hostess with the mostess …..

“Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.”

“Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”

“Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

“We’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.”

Here are some comments heard after a few extremely hard landings ….

“Please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tyre smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal..”

“Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”

The airline has a policy which requires the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exit, smile, and provide a “thanks for flying our airline”. In light of a particularly bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally a little old lady walking with a cane disembarked saying,

“Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no Ma’am,” said the pilot. “What is it?” “Did we land, or were we shot down?” said the little old lady.

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement:

“We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.”

“As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”

“Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.”

“Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Designing brands with personality, i.e. characteristics, beliefs and behaviours enhances stand-out.
  2. In a world awash with corporate grey, a rich and clear personality, injects colour and breathes life into brands. Executed effectively this maximises impact, engages and forges a strong emotional connection with customers.
  3. When problems occur or disasters strike, as are prone happen in the service industry, a self-deprecating or humourous personality can defuse issues and provide a stress release or antidote. 
  4. As Kulula says “smiles and jokes are free” (1). And great ideas make budgets go further.
  5. A humourous brand message and personality is entertaining. In turn this creates a talking point and encourages sharing via social media and email.
  6. And leave readers to question whether this is an April Fool’s joke or not….



Thanks to Joe Flynn for inspiring this article

The Marketing of Christmas with Music

Posted in Marketing communication with tags , on December 10, 2012 by Guy Tomlinson

SFX: Christmas Bells: Ring, ring. Ring, ring!

Music has long been associated with Christmas, and Christmas with music. The first specifically Christmas hymns (carols) for Christians appeared in the fourth century. Music is also a terrific gift; the size of the market increases in the run up to Christmas and record labels battle to win the coveted #1 single and album slots. Marketers are also catching on to the power of music at Christmas.

For the last three years, John Lewis has been top of the pops in using music to market their business. The Gabrielle Aplin cover of ‘The Power of Love’ used in John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas campaign by Adam & Eve/DDB knocked Olly Murs off the top of the official UK singles chart on 10 December. You can watch it here.

John Lewis’s sales for the week ending Saturday 8 December rose 15% year on year to £142m. John Lewis is attributing this to the success of its “omnichannel strategy”. It says sales were driven by customers looking for that special Christmas gift, including gloves, cashmere, lingerie, handbags or jewellery. The strong performance of gloves as a gift coincides with the Christmas ad showing a snowman making a long journey to get a pair of gloves for his snowwoman.

In 2011, John Lewis used the Slow Moving Millie soundtrack, ‘Please, please, please’ to promote its Christmas offer. This has amassed nearly 5m You Tube views.

Ellie Goulding’s haunting cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ was used in its 2010 Christmas ad. But can you recall the ads pre 2009?

Our Christmas card to you!

Since we founded our marketing consultancy in 2005, we’ve included lyrics from Christmas songs in our cards. Finding lyrics that convey the right sentiments is a tough task! Matching words and pictures is equally difficult. This year we’ve selected lyrics from a song written by Leigh Haggerwood called ‘My Favourite Time of Year’. Disappointed at the high-jacking of the Christmas charts by likes of X-Factor, Leigh wrote this song to reflect the true values of Christmas. Funded without the backing of a record label, and promoted only by social media it charted at just 40 in December 2010. You can watch it here. ‘There is goodwill in the air tonight’. We wish you a Merry Christmas and Prosperous 2014!

Marketing Inspiration

1. Music elicits powerful emotional responses and influences behaviour. It’s also powerful in rekindling memories. Thus if used correctly the sound of sleigh bells can have a powerful effect on tills.

2. Remember the narrative. While many John Lewis ads pre 2009 also used music, for example, Taken by the Trees version of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ in 2009, Virginia Labuat’s version of ‘From me To You’ in 2008 and Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet in 2007, none are arguably as emotionally engaging and heart warming as the more recent ads.

3. Ensure consistency in communications (through different channels and over time) to help get the message across, be understood and acted upon.

Marketing Strategy: How to ‘Bottle’ Marketing Success?

Posted in Strategic marketing, Successful marketing with tags on October 29, 2012 by Guy Tomlinson

What enables some businesses to weather the changing economic climate and the cold wind of market forces, while others wither? The most successful businesses grow income and budgets steadily, while the weakest are left with diminishing income and budgets or none at all.  Just as Darwin observed, the fittest survive or thrive, and the weak are acquired by others or become extinct.

Popping the cork to celebrate marketing success

Popping the cork to celebrate marketing success

There have been many studies over the years. Some such as Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (1) have revealed some of the business success factors such as having an ambitious and engaging business goal, but the role of marketing has received less attention.The pre-eminent role of marketing is understood and acknowledged by leading consumer goods companies. It is most influential in the most successful ones, such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. However, the discipline remains less influential or plays second or third fiddle in companies operating in sectors such as business-to-business (b2b) and utilities.

The effects of marketing communication campaigns are well documented, some showing positive results, some negative. Though it is harder to find empirical evidence to demonstrate what aspects of marketing drive business success, and inform what businesses should do strategically. This article draws on a number of studies published in the last few years and attempts to unearth ‘hard’ evidence and ‘lift the lid’ on what really works.

Booz & Company (2) have surveyed over 30,000 businesses and in 2006 identified that businesses with ‘healthy marketing DNA’ were almost 60% more profitable than their competitors, and that those with ‘super DNA’, some 9% of the sample, were 20% more likely to exhibit superior growth. But what is ‘healthy marketing DNA’ and how can it be ‘bottled’?

Decoding Superior Marketing DNA

Here’s a summary of the three marketing functional characteristics that correlate with businesses outperformance:

1.      Ability to measure contribution to business growth

While a challenge, successful business development requires sophisticated measurement and modeling to correlate marketing activities to sales. As long ago as 1955, Peter Drucker famously wrote ‘what gets measured gets managed’ (3). Yet still in 2005, a CMO Council study of US CMOs (4) revealed that more than 80% of organisations had not developed meaningful, comprehensive measures or metrics for their organisations. Conversely, the 20% of organisations that had instituted useful measures substantially outperformed their competitors in terms of revenue growth, market share and profitability. The importance of measuring ROI remains high on CMO’s agendas. According to IBM’s Global CMO Study (2011), nearly two-thirds (63%) believe that measuring marketing ROI will be the most important measure of success in the next 3-5 years (5).

It is disappointing therefore that many organisations continue to hire marketers with lots of experience in a business sector and then just rely on them to make judgment calls on what to do and where to invest. This is a false economy and contributes to the perception that marketers are ‘fluffy bunnies’. It also compounds the perception that marketers are unworthy of a place at the board-room table.

2.      Broad capabilities, scope of operation and ability to influence senior decision makers

In some organisations marketing operates solely as a communications or promotion department. In others, as a management ‘gopher’, responsible for tactical initiatives, and reactive to management demands.  Organisations with marketing functions that work closely with the CEO, operate across the organisation, and assume broader strategic responsibility, are more successful. Their roles include, for example, business analysis and development, product innovation, and approving large investments. This allows them to grasp customer insights quickly, communicate and make decisions based on those insights across organisation boundaries, and implement its marketing model. Looking at this another way, marketing functions in outperforming organisations are also better at engaging management and employees.

 3.      Deep customer understanding, adding value proactively

Successful business development requires deep business and customer understanding, and strategic know-how to design, promote and deliver experiences that customers want.  Outperforming organisations invest significantly more effort in capturing and using customer information to drive decision making and foster customer relationship. IBM’s CMO study confirms that market research is the single most important source of information to influence strategy decisions (cited as important by 82% CMOs). Reassuringly, 63% of CMOs believe they can grow their influence by being the voice of the consumer (5). Research by The Chartered Institute of Marketing adds that the marketers’ influence is also greater when competition is intense and the market turbulent (6).

Marketing Inspiration

Unlike the DNA of living organisms, organisational DNA can be changed. This starts with understanding where the business and marketing capability is now, needs to be and should be. From The Marketing Directors’ research (7), there are just 14 executive marketing directors on the main boards of the UK FTSE 100 companies. At one level this might suggest that marketing is relatively unimportant in 86 of those companies.  Yet the role and ability of marketing to drive business growth is widely misunderstood. All marketers should embrace and address the challenge to explain what marketing is, can and should do to drive business growth.

Effective and superior marketing involves understanding customers, accumulating facts, and influencing and making decisions based on those facts, to advance the growth and profitability of organisations. Marketers should view themselves as the voice of customers and directors of organisation growth. To do this they should invest more in understanding customers and use this information to make strategic decisions. In turn this will advance their case to sit at the boardroom table.


(1)   Porras Jerry and Collins Jim I, Built to Last, 1994. Involved researching and analysing pairs of companies in  18 industries, covering their history, organisation characteristics and financial performance from as early as 1915 to 1990.

(2)   Landry Edward, Tipping Andrew, Dixon Brodie, The DNA of Marketing, Booz & Company and the Association of National Advertisers, 2006. Based on over 30,000 responses to an online survey in 12 languages

(3)   Drucker Peter F, The Practice of Management, 1955

(4)   The CMO Council, Assessing Marketing’s Value and Impact, 2004

(5)   Korsten Peter, Heller Baird Carolyn, et al, From Stretched to Strengthened, Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, IBM, 2011. Based on face-to-face conversations with 1734 CMOs in 64 countries. In this study outperforming organisations are rated 5/5 in terms of performance by their CMOs, though additional tests were undertaken to ensure this correlated with superior financial performance

(6)   Argyriou Dr. Evmorfia, Leeflang Prof. Peter, Saunders Prof. John, Verhoef Prof. Peter, White Paper: The Future of Marketing, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2009

(7)   Arnold Tim, Tomlinson Guy, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, 2008

Read more about our marketing consultancy services here.

The Marketing of Science

Posted in Marketing communication, Media and broadcasting, Strategic marketing with tags , on July 3, 2012 by Guy Tomlinson

It was a typical Manchester day as we drove north to my old University town. But a rainy day tinged with excitement at the invitation to listen to the University’s astrophysics professor, and particle physics researcher at the Large Hadron Collider (1) near Geneva, Switzerland, Brian Cox to speak on the subject of ‘A Scientist in the Media’.

Brian_Cox - A Scientist_in_the_Media

Brian Cox – A Scientist in the Media

Both of his BBC tv series have mesmerised - The Wonders of the Solar System and The Wonders of the Universe. And coming soon, a  physicists take on The Wonders of Life. As Brian explains “It is what hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years”.

The Cockroft_Rutherford_Lecture_2012

Brian Cox delivers The Cockcroft Rutherford Lecture 2012

Astronomer, Carl Sagan was one of the first scientists of the television age. His award-winning 1980s series, Cosmos – A personal voyage, opens with the stirring words. “The cosmos is all it is, or ever was or ever will be. The contemplations of the cosmos stir us. There is a tingling in the spine, that catch in the voice. A faint sensation as if a distant memory of falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries. The size and age of the cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home, the Earth. Our future depends on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float like a speck of dust in the morning sky.” Underlining that science not just about creating a few smells and bangs, but a cultural endeavour to understand and shape our futures.

More recently Jim Al-Khalili’s (Professor of Physics,  University of Surrey) BAFTA nominated series on Chemistry: A Volatile History and Alice Roberts’ (medical doctor, anthropologist and Professor at the University of Birmingham) The Incredible Human Journey have won widespread acclaim. Both series have powerful narratives. As testimony to their abilities, both have been appointed Professors in Public Engagement in Science by their respective Universities.

But the promotion of science predates the television age. The Royal Institution of Science has championed public interest in science for 200 years.  Started by Michael Faraday in 1825, they are most famous for their Christmas Lectures. Situated in Albemarle Street in London, this is the site of the first one-way system – established to marshall gentry in their horse-drawn carriages to and from the Royal Institution.

But what has this all done for interest in science? It has been a difficult year for Universities, with overall applications for 2012 entry down by 7% vs 2011 (180k) to 2.37 million (2). Against the backdrop of up to £9,000 fees introduced this year this is hardly surprising.

Yet what about science specifically? University applications for sciences have held up better than the UK average for all subjects accounting for 33% of 2011 applications compared with 31% in 2010. Biological science applications are 4.4% (9k) lower while physical sciences are just 0.6% (546) lower and medicine and related sciences are 1% (4k) higher (2). Applications to the University of Manchester are 10% (5.3k) lower vs 2010.

Looking at another measure of public interest, the book best-seller lists; the hardback of Brian Cox’s The Wonders of The Universe sold over 100k copies in 2011. This was one of only two ‘science related books in the non-fiction hardback top 20, along with David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet (3). In addition, Amazon reported sales of telescopes were up 500% following the airing of Stargazing Live.

So what’s the report card on the marketing of science? Shows much promise; has successfully increased appeal to more than just spotty geeks.

Marketing Inspiration

The media, and television specifically, are powerful means to promote all subject-matter, products and services. And win hearts and minds. Use them if you can!

Universities can and should think like media brands to drive awareness, interest, and demand for their services. Their offerings comprise more than courses, but principles, beliefs and sheer force of personality to inspire and empower. Thus far overall 2011 University of Manchester application figures suggest ‘could do better’ but the 2012 Cockcroft Rutherford lecture is an example of the University at its best. Watch the lecture, be inspired by the answer to life the universe and everything – and the small blue dot that we call home.  I hope that this blog-post makes a small contribution to the University’s aims!


(1) Built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It allows physicists to reproduce the conditions just after the ‘big-bang’ and advance understanding of the deepest laws of nature.

(2) UCAS 2011

(3) Nielsen BookScan 2011

10 Winning Digital Marketing Strategies: Why It Helps To Be A Gamekeeper!

Posted in Digital Marketing, Marketing communication, Marketing planning, Strategic marketing with tags on May 25, 2012 by Guy Tomlinson
An English Gamekeeper

An English Gamekeeper by Richard Ansdell

In 1970 US market research firm Yankelovich estimated that the average New Yorker saw 3000 advertisements per day. Today that figure is estimated to exceed 5000. And this figure is growing through the increase in digital communications such as email and online advertising. Unsurprisingly, of 4000 people interviewed by Yankelovich, 50% thought marketing and advertising were out of control (1)! As evidence of digital’s growth, expenditure on digital communications exceeded that on television in 2009 in the UK. This trend is likely to be mirrored in other countries, at least until online advertising auction prices become unbearable.

Let’s assume you’ve developed a great product, service or brand and determined your target market and brand positioning strategy. You now want to get your message to your prospects and turn them into customers. So where and how do you start? What’s the mix of offline and online activity, and how do they work together to command attention and persuade?

First, determine your promotion objective and strategy.

Five promotion strategies

There are five broad types of promotion strategy to consider:

1. Change image/perceptions; by increasing awareness or changing attitudes to brand. Building awareness is a vital precursor to selling any brand, as is changing perceptions, for those with flat or declining sales.

2. Trial; by creating (or increasing) new or renewed brand experience (retrial), perhaps through switching from a competitor. Most useful for new or low penetration brands.

3. Loyalty; by increasing brand buying frequency or usage. Also important for brands with flat or declining sales.

4. Relationship building; by understanding, acquiring, servicing, retaining and encouraging customer advocacy. Most common in business-to-business (B2B) markets, but increasingly so in business-to-consumer (B2C).

5. Stocking or display; by selling-in and encouraging display of an above average amount of product. Most useful for brands who promote or sell via intermediaries, such as distributors, wholesalers or retailers.

Five media strategies

To meet your promotion objective and maximise sales, your next challenge is to get your message across at the lowest possible cost. Whether via offline or online media, or a combination of both, there are five broad types of media strategy you can use. This is where it helps being a game-keeper!

1. Push

Probably the most common type of media strategy or the type you’ll be most familiar with. Involves promoting (pushing) a message to customers via some form of media, for example, mass channels like tv or radio, more niche channels such as magazines, or direct channels such as direct mail. In the digital world, main vehicles include email marketing (electronic direct mail to customers), online advertising via banners or pay-per-click (PPC) adverts (also called search engine marketing (SEM)).  It can also be argued that PPC advertising is a form of ‘pull’ marketing given the customer is in an active search mode, i.e.  searching using keywords.

2. Pull

This involves attracting (pulling) customers to your brand; for example, via store merchandising or an exhibition stand. Attracting customers to a website via the Internet is probably the ‘best’ example of ‘pull’ marketing, whereby a website is designed to attract search traffic by optimising it for key search terms (search engine optimisation (SEO)).  This is akin to thinking about your website as bait or a lure to attract customers!

3. Fishing



Fishing is enabled by digital technology and can also be considered a form of ‘push’ strategy. Involves placing adverts, or embedding links to drive clicks to your website, or capture customers. Likened to ‘fishing’ in that ‘nets’ or ‘squeeze’ pages’ (3) are placed in locations where there are large shoals of fish, to attract or catch large numbers of customers. Co-opting affiliates, or establishing price comparison sites or portals can be considered a form of ‘fishing’, whereby other fishermen, either individuals, businesses or high traffic websites are used to capture customers.

4. Nurturing



Involves building or buying a sales database and continuous promotion to attract, engage and build customer relationships. This type of strategy sits between marketing and sales, and is most commonly used by B2B businesses. Nurturing can also be considered a form of ‘push’ strategy. Originally enabled via direct mail, telephone and face-to-face, digital technology has inspired new communication possibilities.

5. Hiving


Beehives in Cheshire. Courtesy and copyright ThePictureDrome 2011

This involves co-opting customers to a shared interest group. Thus building a community and enabling relationship building between community members and the brand. This type of strategy is used by both B2C and B2B businesses and has also been inspired by new digital technologies – the major social media platforms, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as purpose-built community platforms.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Change your view on individual media to see their role as part of the whole.

The questions to ask are .. what channel is the most effective for what message? And what combination will generate most leads and sales at the lowest cost?

It is better to think of media as a collective whole. Consider ways to combine media to increase message impact, drive interest and activate sales. Link offline to online worlds and vice versa. Promote your website url via all forms of advertising and integrate digital media, for example, blogs to website, Twitter and Facebook. Use the same creative across all media and over a series of campaigns. Avoid the temptation to change the creative lead too often as it is a recipe for customer confusion.

2.  Embrace digital for itself

Digital technology can change the role of each element of the marketing mix. It can enhance your product or service as well as inspire a range of new promotion opportunities. Start by considering the extra benefits that digital can add to your product or brand proposition. Potential benefits include, paper-free delivery, paper-free billing, savings on storage and cost, better control or personal management, education, entertainment and social benefits. Through content and stories it provides the ‘sticky stuff’ or ‘scent’, i.e. keywords to attract passing customers.

3. Make the website marketing central and a brand home

Websites are no longer simply a repository for information, acting as shop window per se, but serve a broadening range of functions including promotion, entertainment, customer services as well as a place to shop. Thus your website should be a hub for all marketing communication and relationship building activity, and a home for your brand, housing resources and downloads, under-pinned by content and customer management systems to store and retrieve everything and enable customer interactivity, purchasing and service.

4.  Create cut-through creative ideas

Set high creative standards for all media to command attention and interest. The difficulty with PPC advertising is that communication is dumbed-down to a limited number of characters, the same text font, and colours. This limits the brands ability to gain competitive advantage through creativity. By creating better branded communications and creating demand for your own brands and searched through phrases, it is possible to set up your own route to market. In game keeper parlance, help the dog see the rabbit. As Aleksandr Orlov has shown!

5. Measurement is vital for management

As Peter Drucker said, ‘what gets measured gets managed’ (4). Thus establish comparative measure for media cost per hundred or thousand impressions, and cost per sale. Then and only then will you be able to plan, test and learn where best to invest to maximise your return on media investment.


(1)    Story, Louise; Anywhere the Eye can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad, New York Times, January 2007

(2)    Adapted from Arnold, Tim; Tomlinson, Guy; Chapter 31, Managing Digital Marketing, The Marketing Director’s Handbook (2012). 27 new pages that lift the lid on online trade marketing secrets, and help inspire strategies that give you the edge. Available FREE with purchases of The Marketing Director’s Handbook from The Marketing Directors’ website.

(3)    A squeeze page is a single website landing page designed for a specific promotion purpose and to capture a customer’s contact details. Arnold, John; Lurie, Ian; Dickinson, Marty; Marsten, Elizabeth; Becker, Michael; Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies (2009)

(4)    Drucker, Peter F; The Practice of Management (1955)


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