Dissecting milk

I’m an ‘Archers’ fan. I’ve spent 12 minutes in Ambridge almost every day for the past 20-odd years. To me Borsetshire is a real place.

18 months or so ago there were four dairy farms in The Archers; the mixed family farm of David & Ruth, BL’s mega dairy, Pat & Tony’s organic herd and Ed & Mike’s small herd supplying Mike’s own milk round. There are now only two – the mixed family farm and the mega dairy.

I do understand ‘The Archers’ isn’t real life but the storylines are being lived by farmers all over the country and the NFU is campaigning for change. Whether you think they have a point or are commercially naive they’re certainly getting our attention.

Despite the crisis at Calais, the Greek economy, the Labour party going bonkers and the fall of the Chinese Yuan, the price of milk has been all across the media.

It’s worth looking at how they’ve achieved it; adapting their approach could help you push your business up the news agenda.

Their goal is crystal clear: drive up the price of milk to reflect the cost of production.

The message is just as clear. The price of milk has dropped by over 25% in a year and the cost of a pint in supermarkets is less than the cost of production; that’s not sustainable.

Then they came up with some brilliantly creative ways to get the message across.

In an effective display of unity the UK’s farming unions came together as one and agreed an action plan, essentially a manifesto. The plan had a clear call to action for each of the four target groups – the government, the EU, retailers and the public – making it easy for the media to report.

Two cows were led through an Asda store. It’s an incredibly visual stunt, something we haven’t seen before. The pictures went everywhere.

The farmers targeted specific supermarkets, the negative publicity forcing meetings. Morrisons has now created a milk brand for farmers, giving the story yet more life.

Local farmers have been put forward for local radio phone-in shows making the story directly relevant to every region.

It’s a superb campaign; a clear goal, a precise message, calls to action adapted to each audience group and plenty of good stunts and hooks to keep the story going.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next!

Clear messages, great story telling and a sprinkling of humour

I went to the cinema this week for the first time in ages.  We saw Jurassic World.  It was okay but don’t worry if you miss it.

I like to get there early to see the trailers.  I love anticipating what’s coming next, which probably says I never truly appreciate the moment I am in now.

We saw the adverts too and predictably there were quite a few car ones.  I know they spend millions on these ads, some of the best creative brains in the industry continually trying to come up with new, stylish, concept advertisements.

But I honestly couldn’t tell you which cars or manufacturers were advertised.  The ads all seemed the same; cars driving on long roads!  I didn’t get any sense of what the brand stood for, what made that model better than its competitors.

It could be because I’m not really the target audience; I’m not a big car person.  I drive a battered old Skoda I’ve had since new.  It’s done 200,000 miles and I love it because it’s efficient and yet to go wrong (probably tempting fate!).

Even so, those adverts just seem lazy, a little clichéd. So I Googled car adverts to see if I’d got it wrong and found a video on You Tube – Top 10 car adverts.

I think I’m right; the ones we saw at the cinema this week were lazy.  But the ones in the video are brilliant.

The messaging is simple and crystal clear and they’re telling stories, often with humour.

I remember quite a few, particularly ‘Fabia, full of lovely stuff ‘, the ‘Changes’ Volkswagen Golf ad from 1988 and the Peugeot 206 ad.

I particularly love the one for the Volkswagen Up and the Honda Accord one at the end is brilliant.

Click here to waste 12 minutes 30 seconds enjoying some brilliant advertising.

Happy viewing!

Do something different

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 14.45.45Do you remember the ad vans commissioned by the Home Office two years ago that said ‘In the UK Illegally? Go Home or face arrest’?

Last week I went to a conference titled “’Go Home’: Mapping Immigration Controversy” at the University of Warwick. The conference reported on a two-year research project designed to explore this and other related campaigns, their impact on migration and public attitudes.

It was fascinating and, at times, more than a little sobering.   One of their findings was that many people came to the UK because of what they understood to be ‘British values’; democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs. After being here they doubted if these values existed.

Whatever you think of immigration, this should give you pause for thought.

One of the other findings was there was no evidence the Home Office communications team based on the campaign on any research about ‘what works’ in migration.

Of course it depends what they were trying to achieve. If it was to get migrants in this country illegally to come forward it was a dismal failure; it just filled them with fear and anxiety. But if it was to make a ‘statement’ about being tough on immigration then the results are mixed.

There was also a fascinating workshop on performance politics. Essentially it looked at how core messages can be brought to life through performance. The theatre set we create at our borders with flags and guards; whether its politicians or Border Agency staff who do the interviews.

Everything we do and say and the way we behave creates meaning. We just need to be sure it’s the meaning we intend!

I don’t normally go to conferences like this one but it’s really made me think. I’m still working through it in my mind but it’s certainly given me a new perspective for my communication work.

Doing something different, being open to new inputs is always worthwhile.


Take a look at this short video if you want to find out more about the project.


Innovation comes from diversity

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 08.58.35Today the BBC is reporting a survey by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission that says elite firms (lawyers, accountants, financiers, etc) are recruiting graduates who probably went to selective state or private schools.  Despite decades of talk of social inclusion these firms are still recruiting mirror images of themselves.

It doesn’t surprise me but I don’t understand why.

I am working for an engineering business on a project designed to showcase the female role models in their business. I asked a senior engineer why it mattered and he said there’s no innovation without creativity and no creativity without diversity.

Encouraging women is obvious for such a traditionally male dominated world, but they’re also driving forward social and racial diversity.

But surely professional and financial services firms want to innovate too? Surely they will benefit from the creative tension of diversity?

The focus of a dinner in Birmingham last week was employability. The goal was to find ways to encourage a relationship between Birmingham’s young people and the city’s employers, many of which in the city centre are professional and financial services firms typical of the Commission’s report.

The dinner was constructive and those present shared good practice. But change will be small scale and piecemeal until and unless businesses understand the benefits.

Driving forward this type of culture is not easy. People are often frightened of change and there is a commercial risk, after all the firm has been successful so far.  But be clear about why and how and support the change process with a strong internal communication programme and the results could be significant.

Standing out from the crowd is difficult in sectors where professional qualifications underpin the service; everyone should have the technical expertise and lay people don’t have the knowledge to work it out anyway. An innovative culture built on a diverse cohort of talented individuals could really set the firm apart.

Turn your customers into advocates

shutterstock_258632825If you’ve got the product, price and service right and people know about you, they’ll buy.

But if they feel connected to you, loyal, they’ll be your advocate.

I get my weekly food shopping delivered; I can never find what I want in store and hate the queues and crowds. I switched to Waitrose for a change and now can’t stop singing their praises.

Food at its sell by date is free and the drivers have goodies every day in the van they can give to customers as they choose. I’ve had two boxes of chocolates, a bottle of wine and, importantly, treats for my dogs!

Advocates like me are powerful. Without the vested interests of the business we’re believable and persuasive.

So how can you turn your customers into advocates?

We are all social beings, categorizing ourselves into different groups according to all sorts of criteria from our values and political affiliation to the books we read or films we love.

Our sense of self comes from membership of these groups and we behave accordingly. Even a slight affiliation can have a disproportionate effect. Tell some people they are in the red group and others are in the blue group and they will begin to favour those in their own group.

It’s extraordinary but it’s well evidenced. Look up Henry Tajfel and Social Identity Theory.

Imagine then how powerful it would be if your customers felt part of your social group, better about themselves for buying from you.

As Waitrose has done with me you have to get the product and service right. Then it’s about building the unity of the group.

There are plenty of tools and techniques you can use, for example customer magazines and tailored offers. Initiatives that add value can be particularly effective.

But irrespective of the tactics you use, language is important. Sharpen your messages and express them in the right way and you will soon be creating advocates.

Give me a call to find out how.