Consumer and Shopper habits have changed. We hear the economic news and how this affects retailers, the dissections of spending and purchase behaviour and all know personally that we are evolving our habits to suit a faster paced and economically savvy way of life. What is becoming more apparent is that Consumer and Shopper behaviour will continue to evolve, at a greater pace. As a foundation for a customer centric strategy, is your business ready to face a fast changing consumer.
2014 is expected to be a year of strong growth for the UK economy, poised to grow faster than other European economics and this positivity is reflected in a more optimistic outlook from UK Shoppers (Michael Freedman, IGD). This all should spell good news for UK retailers and brands; more people willing to part ways with their money. However, grocery retailers are still reporting a difficult trading climate and other retailers and brands must still be feeling the pinch too.
What is causing this disconnect? I would argue two points:
- A less predictable shopper
- An incomplete picture of the consumer
The most disruptive change purchasing behaviour has been the Internet and the plethora of associate media that now keeps the world informed. Information is instant. Opinion is conveyed across social and political borders and an individual’s influence has a wider reach than ever before. As a society, we are becoming accustomed to things happening more quickly. An aspect of this wealth of information affects our knowledge about brands – being able to compare prices, find a bargain, read about other people’s experiences and make a decision on how quickly we can get our hands on something, all weave together during the shopper journey. Also, the rise in popularity of online shopping, combined with the rise in apps and tablets mean more decisions are being made away from store and away from traditional areas of influence.
Shopping habits, driven by an evolution in both financial and ethical thinking has become more focussed around value (James Russo, Nielsen). Does this product represent value to me and my beliefs? Consumers are concerned with both quality and price of products and trust is a key factor in this decision. When this trust is broken or compromised, consumers are more willing to try new products or brands to find a better alternative – and are often spoilt for choice. This has lead to some suggesting that brand loyalty, in its traditional form, has died.
A recent article, discussing the Twilight of Brands (James Surowiecki) concludes that brands are now only as good as their last product. The innovation and quality of new products counts more than brand heritage and product success is driven by giving the consumer a better product to suit their lifestyle and values and one that delivers tangible value.
For brands that are established and have relied upon shared values and past performance to create loyal customers, this should be a cause for concern. A balance in communicating a consistent brand message (at every level) and giving the consumer new innovations that appeal so much that they will have to buy it is difficult to achieve.
Instead, establishing a dialogue with customers, creating a story and an experience that they can feel a part of is a strategy that creates a loyal following and emphasises the values of the brand. There is also a wider expectation to be able to have dialogue with brands in a way that has not previously existed, due to our hyper-connected lives – their voice is important and they expect to be listened to. As such, engaging with them in the correct way and using the correct forum is important for establishing the dialogue that you want to have with your target customer, as moving in conflict with these customer expectations can quickly alienate a brand and product and dissolve the trust that has been created.
How can a brand decide on the best way to engage with their target customer? The first step (and most important) is the research you conduct. This allows you to establish a base line of understanding about your consumer and subsequently pick up on the smaller, but not inconsequential, changes in perception and behaviour attitudes towards your brands and products. In turn this enables brands to react quickly and in the right way, and to direct thinking and communications with the audience in the right manner. Just as important as the message you want to send, is to construct the mechanisms to enable an adaptive strategy that can mould to a dynamic consumer environment.
This might seem an obvious statement – I know that many businesses spend a lot of money on research and uncovering insight. Why am I taking the time to reiterate it? I speak to a lot of Research and Insight, Strategy and Category Management professionals who share a frustration in the lack of buy in to customer understanding being central to all of the key commercial decisions of a business.
A lot of businesses claim to be customer centric, but does yours have the framework and desire to truly utilise the knowledge you gain about consumers effectively? How do you make best use of all the data sources that you purchase and are all the stakeholders involved in key customer making decisions familiar with the data and research at the disposal? In a fast evolving commercial environment the insight and understanding of the consumer must be clear enough across the business so that it can be central to the commercial strategy, thus allowing sales, marketing and digital teams to act in harmony to achieve a clear, unified and timely message.
Having the right balance of understanding the consumer you are targeting and being able to deliver an effective strategy in their area of responsibility is a talent driver for businesses going forward. All functions need to have an affinity for insight and the relevance to their deliverables, as a bottom up influence. If this understanding is widely conveyed across the business and understood, the message being communicated will be clear, using the right platforms and the value of engaging with your brand will be clearly demonstrated.
In this age of austerity and savvy shopping habits the right thinking in the right place has never been more key for businesses to outperform their competition and to effectively engage with consumers. Hiring decisions to reflect this fundamental need and to increase the affinity for insight across the business have never been more important.
With the emergence of big data, the balance of power lies with the well informed consumer and shopper – they will research and plan their purchases and squeeze value from the brands that they decide to engage with. To truly compete in this hyper-informed market, brands and retailers have to do the right research to understand the consumer and appeal to their individual values and needs and importantly, construct an effective strategy around this. Are you confident you know about the consumers with which you are dealing?
You can be sure we are doing our research on you…
By Nick Stratton, Managing Consultant - Market Research, Shopper & Branding Insights and Marketing
Transforming PR through diversity: Hanson Search and Hanover launches new PR and Communications programme “UpSkill”
Hanover Communications and Hanson Search have launched “UpSkill” with the independent charity UpRising. The programme helps ambitious young adults break into the communications industry. It is a tailor-made programme designed to support aspiring individuals interested in a career in PR and/or Public Affairs and will equip them with essential skills to improve their employment prospects in the sector, specifically creating a strong CV, writing skills, interview techniques and how to network.
Alice Weightman founder and MD of Hanson Search “If there is one business sector that should reflect Britain’s society, then the communications industry is surely it and as it stands it doesn’t”. Our vision is that we work in an industry that doesn’t have to try and find diversity, it just comes naturally. We hope this programme will become an important part of championing the need for a long term cultural change across sectors.”
The programme will include four interactive workshops delivered by Hanover and Hanson Search. Hanson Search hosted the official launch party at their offices on Thursday 27th February 2014.
“UpSkill” – supported by the industry body the PRCA – also aims to attract ambitious individuals to PR and Public Affairs who are currently under-represented within the sector. On completion of the programme in the summer the PRCA will offer the “UpSkill” students free membership, access to online training and exclusive networking events. Together with Hanover Communications and Hanson Search they will work with the “UpSkill graduates” to secure internships or apprenticeships in a communications agency.
Charles Lewington, founder and MD of Hanover Communications: “The world of corporate PR and public affairs consultancy is grey, graduate and too middle class. UpRising is an inspirational organisation dedicated to opening doors for talented and passionate young campaigners who might not otherwise make it into a PR job or even onto an internship interview shortlist. Hanover and Hanson Search consultants will be working with UpRising to provide job application training, mock interview support as well as the networking and written skills they need but without diluting our commitment to exacting quality standards in a highly competitive industry.”
UpRising is a UK-wide youth leadership development organisation. Their mission is to open pathways to power and opportunities for a diverse range of talented young people. They equip them with the knowledge, networks, skills, and confidence to reach their potential and transform their communities for the better.
Hanover is an independent consulting firm that specialises in advising global brands, businesses and organisations on reputation, communications and public affairs. Hanover create and deliver integrated programmes that are designed to ensure organisations bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.
If you would like to get involved please do contact Charlotte Church: 0207 632 8804 email@example.com
“I really want to move to a company that offers work life balance and flexibility …..”
If I had a penny for every time I heard this I would have retired a long time ago, but with the economic climate in fluctuation it wasn’t a safe business model, so back to consulting I go.
This however still leaves me with dilemma of finding companies that offer this work-life balance option. While I discuss this with Managing Directors, CEO’s and HR Partners we can talk about core hours and flexi time, we can talk about extra holiday incentives, and training courses for personal development and well being, we can talk about part time roles but in actual fact, is it all down to the companies to change or does the responsibility always lie with the people looking for this work life balance?
Let’s define it. Wikipedia says “Work Life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation.
Potentially if we take this as a definition it suggests that prioritising is the key to getting balance. So with this is mind, while an employer takes some responsibility for creating a positive working atmosphere, a big part of getting work life balance is down to the individual.
To be fair you could have made that gym class yesterday evening, and you probably could have got home to read that bed time story to the little one if you were more strict with your time, and you probably could have cooked a Jamie Oliver 30 minute meal rather than a curry take away if you had planned and bought the ingredients earlier.
So really one way of trying to get this work-life balance can simply come down to time management. This is always a huge challenge, especially when you have international clients, you can find yourself working around the clock. So how do you find more time? Well there are 24 hours in a day so you can’t add any more hours.
Try and make a list of what you want to achieve that week- it could be walking the dog after dinner, getting yourself to that good old Bikram Yoga class, it could be dropping the kids off to school twice in a week. Whatever it is, aim to achieve it, plan ahead and see how you get on.
I am not suggesting that you will definitely get that utopia that you were looking for, and of course companies need to take responsibility in creating a flexible working culture, but just try and change one thing in your week next week and see if you feel any better for it!
By Amy Hayer, Principal Consultant – PR Division
As the fragile economy starts to show signs of strengthening, the outlook for PRs in 2014 is largely one of opportunity. As PR budgets grow and new business opportunities increase; agencies, corporates and start-ups are clearly growing in confidence and the industry is starting to see light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Couple that with the fact that there are now far more opportunities to demonstrate the business value of PR, resulting in the influence of communications expanding at Boardroom level, we can now start to look forward, instead of lamenting the past.
So, as we start our upward climb, it’s time to take stock of the current PR landscape and the trends that are aiding the green shoots of recovery. Here’s a handful to get us started…
Content and Curation is key. Brands that still see themselves as providers of information, rather than curators or qualifiers, are doomed to fail in this new communications landscape. As Joe Pulizzi stated in his article on the subject, a company’s job is ‘like that of a museum curator, it is to unearth the best content on the planet in your niche, so that your museum doesn’t close down for a lack of visitors.”
Brands are waking up and realising that an audience-centric mindset is what will power their communications efforts, so expect much more brand journalism in the year to come. Companies also need to accept that fans now have the ability to create their own content about their brand. It’s therefore important for them to work with their superfans, providing them with the tools to promote the brand, in a way that reflects positively on the company as a whole. It’s all about trust and giving up a little bit of control.
Measurement continues to be a hot topic within the industry as clients continue to demand return on investment on their PR spend. As a result, analytics are improving to the point where PRs can make fairly good and accurate estimates of ROI. Companies and brands that have silos between different departments, different agencies, and different functions will face ever stiffer challenges from competitors who are smarter with their data and the insights they get from it.
The Internet of Things gets more real. 2013 was a showcase year for the Internet of Things. We saw more evidence of the crossover of digital into real life with developments such as Google Glass to 3D printing. Another example of this is Google’s announcement last month of its acquisition of Nest Labs – one of the first major success stories of the Internet of Things era. 2014 and 2015 will continue to see further adoption of the Internet of Things as accessibility increases and costs decrease. For businesses, this means getting more creative and having tools that enable greater creativity in what you can produce.
And finally…the talent race will be tougher than ever. Creative skills and analytical skills, due to the trends above, will be in greater demand than ever, with a talent pool that’s smaller than ever. The war for talent was a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997 and it is still as prevalent today as it was pre-recession. If not more so. Employers are all too aware that as the market improves, they are at risk of losing their strongest people. Therefore the focus of 2014 and beyond will be on developing, recognizing, rewarding and retaining talent.
By Katie Simpson, Senior Consultant – PR Division
The growth of social media has made it easier for Brands to appeal to consumers en masse. With the popular growth and increased usage of the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, YouTube have made this possible.
Brands can now instantly judge the reaction of an audience in response to a new ad, new product, news story etc.
At events such as The Super Bowl, The Grammys, Fashion Week, The Olympics or the upcoming Academy awards Brands can now utilise this channel and reach millions of consumers, and influence consumers who they may not reach on a regular basis or fall within their target market/segment.
- These events are highly televised and popularised events which reach millions of viewers and odds are a high percentage of these will not only be watching, but also keeping an eye on social media simultaneously.
- If you utilise this mass channel, put up the right content, promote in the right way, create the most loved ad this can make a Brands name spread or “liked” or “shared” like wild fire globally. In essence create a phenomenon.
- These are then highly reported on the next day in newspapers, further social media posts, radio stations and blogs (such as this!)
Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII had nearly 50 commercials, watched by up to 110 million viewers worldwide. Budweiser’s advert #bestbuds according to Neil Young writing for The Drum were the true winners of the Super Bowl. Creating more buzz than the game itself. In a mere 24 hours the “Puppy Love” advert has almost reached 40,000,000 views on YouTube .
If you watched The Grammy’s or read any of the BEST or WORST dressed lists in magazines or newspapers the following day you will have almost certainly seen a picture of Pharrell’s outfit which was somewhat dominated by an extraordinarily large hat – almost identical to the American fast food chain Arby’s logo. The Arby’s official site instantly utilised this and tweeted “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs,” the Arby’s official site tweeted. Not only was this shared and quoted, but other brand such as Hyundai and Pepsi congratulated Arby’s in their success. Later on in the evening – so did Pharrell taking it all in his stride and responding “Y’all tryna start a roast beef?”
The answer to all those brands in 2014 who wish to succeed or utilise social media in the best way possible is to either be funny and rely on a celebrity fashion faux pas or use the love between a small puppy and a pony and pull on the world’s heart strings!
By Ashley Tomlinson, Consultant – Branding, Innovation & Strategy
How many times have you found yourself saying “I’m going to have a fresh start on Monday”? For some of us this is a common weekly or, in some cases, daily mantra.
This generally refers to starting afresh with a new diet plan or restarting a fitness program that we abruptly stopped due to work getting in the way, or our social life taking its toll. We even blame a hectic family life for not continuing with a ‘diet’ or workout routine BUT please do not take it out on the kids!
So why do we fall off the healthy lifestyle wagon so easily and find ourselves living the life of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? Normally it’s because the diet or exercise schedule is not designed to complement our regular work/life routine. This makes it difficult to sustain for any prolonged period of time, ultimately ending in those dreaded words “I’m going to have a fresh start on Monday.”
The easiest way to avoid this trap is to make simple lifestyle changes one at a time. By lifestyle changes I mean things that we can introduce into our daily routine to enhance our well-being, without having to take to a retreat and cut ourselves off from civilisation.
This could be simply taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, eating less processed foods, cutting out fizzy drinks, reducing alcohol intake or getting to bed earlier. One change at a time, you are taking a step in the right direction on the path to a better you.
Now you might be thinking what does this have to do with PR? Well as you are all aware we all have busy jobs that are fully loaded with long hours, 101 jobs and stress and sometimes it is even hard to come up for a breath of fresh air till eventually we break and find ourselves brewing another cup of coffee. Well start taking that first step to a better you and your find it will have a positive knock on effect with your work.
Researchers at the University of Bristol found with a study of 200 people that employees who enjoyed a workout before work or at lunch were better equipped to handle whatever the day threw at them. Sounds good? 72% improved time management, 79% said sharper mental and interpersonal performance and 74% said they managed their workload better and if all of that doesn’t swing it for you it also showed that people’s general moods improved…… and no one wants to work alongside an ill-tempered, irritable colleague.
By Luke Smolinski, Head Hunter – PR Division
Image courtesy of @Rem0te
From the once rapid global success and now decline of Facebook use among teens to Twitter’s IPO, we all know that one thing is for sure in social media…… very few trends stick around for long. With this in mind, PR pros and marketeers need to be one step ahead of the game at all times.
According to market research done by industry experts there are some clear thoughts that need to be kept in mind when looking to the near future. Looking at Facebook for example, posts that contain pictures get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs than text-based posts. With this in mind, it is going to become increasing important to produce content in visual form, whether that is images with a text overlay or pretty quote graphics. Using out of the box thinking to turn written content into visual content to make it more shareable on social media.
Build the connection
Everyone knows that people love to buy, but they hate to be sold to and this is a fundamental point in companies selling strategies. Companies that show good connection to their target audience through discount and a sense of insight and transparency always seem to come out on top. A knock on effect of this is that a lot currently rides on the shoulders of social media marketers and PR pros. They have to be on top of the brand voice and any current company promotions or campaigns. This is also on the rise as the world is taken over by digital social media.
Some say that, now LinkedIn can be connected to both Facebook and Twitter, it will become a premium destination for PR news and that those taking part in that ecosystem are on the right road to future success. Moreover, simple messages and simple questions/discussion point aren’t enough anymore, customers and target audiences want to be connected with on a deeper, more intelligent level, such as videos, quality images or live polls. There is also more of an emphasis on looking after the fans/customers you have rather than the ones you want because if your message is always about the fan/customers you want to reach you will bore the ones you already have (see earlier blog on 2014 predictions). Keep the ones you have happy and they will do the reaching out for you, free of charge!
This year we have already seen the bar raised in the type of content on social media, for example the number of tweets containing images and I think it is safe to say that the bar will be pushed progressively higher during 2014 with content across all social media channels becoming more and more interactive. The advice would be, if you haven’t already started thinking and implementing ways to make your content more interactive, get your skates on……it needs to be a focus!
By Oliver Priestman, Head Hunter – PR Division
The social media savvy of you can’t have failed to notice the latest online craze taking over your screens at the moment, in fact anybody with a phone or computer must also be wondering what this latest hashtag phenomenon is all about. The #100HappyDays challenge is a new international social media experiment set up to see who can share a specific moment of happiness for 100 days in a row.
The website for #100HappyDays explains that most people in the busy, fast and furious ‘real world’ just don’t have the time for happiness every day. In fact their statistic claims that 71% of people who tried to complete the challenge failed for that exact reason. Now I’m not sure if this is due to a lack of time to upload your happiness onto Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or a lack of time to actually find it, however if it is the latter that’s a pretty depressing statistic.
The theory behind the challenge is that by capturing and thinking about capturing the happy moments in your life more actively it will have a positive influence on your mood and how appreciative you are of the small day-to-day things that you may otherwise take for granted. Those who took part in the challenge claimed to feel more positive, optimistic and some even claimed to fall in love during the challenge.
As if finding happiness wasn’t reason enough to take part, the lovely people behind #100HappyDays are offering challenge victors a free book produced from your 100 happy pictures – a token reminder of how great your life is.
Now all I need to do is find a date when I have time to start the challenge, in the meantime here’s a few of my happy ideas for inspiration…
By Laura Kirby, Senior Consultant – Consumer PR, Hanson Seach
I wanted to steer away from Hanson Search’s first blog of 2014 being a cliché ‘New Year, New Job’ post (even though statistically that topic is very relevant for many of us). Whilst laying down the foundations for my own 2014 Annual Plan I was researching different predictions as to what the future holds for PR and Social Media and what trends had been forecast for the year ahead.
One article in particular struck a chord with me as it mirrored recent conversations I had been having with a number of clients and candidates. The article was published by a PR practitioner on the back of attending a number of leading industry thought leadership events so certainly should be topical. I thought I would share some of the predictions and take a closer look at what they mean.
1) Let your brands Superfans help do your marketing for you.
The reasoning behind this is that your brands biggest fans ‘The Superfans‘ are already the people already happy to talk about your brand online and actively recommend new people to use your products / service. As we all know word-of-mouth brand advocacy is an extremely effective marketing tool, therefore the idea is that brands should focus their marketing activity on connecting with and looking after their most loyal fans… arming them with the tools needed to go out and continue to spread the good word about your brand.
2) Give up control of your brand
This could sound like a strange concept, but as many brands have already experienced to their detriment your brand and reputation really is already partly owned by your fans and community. The idea here again is that you allow your brand Superfans and biggest brand ambassadors to produce their own content, user-generated content, and generate their own conversations about your brand. This is obviously not a new concept as it has been happening for years, more that this is something that should be increasingly factored into your marketing strategy. Allowing user-generated content to play an important role in your marketing strategy requires a great degree of trust, however if you are looking after this group and providing your core group of fans with the right tools (see point 1) this should certainly help influence their own content in the correct way.
3) Think about content more strategically and plan for the long term
Of course it’s important to have a content plan – however the point here is to make sure you have a very organised and very comprehensive content plan. This plan should factor in everything about your content, including the release of larger pieces of original content – and know who’s producing it, all the way down to individual tweets. It’s important to factor in which platforms you will use and who will be responsible for promoting it and definitely to plan for the long term so that you have consistent and regulated messaging.
4) Be smarter about using data
Data has been a hot topic for 2013 and it looks like it will continue to be so for 2014. Data plays a key factor in making importnat business decisions and also effectively helps tailor campaigns. It is important to understand and embrace how useful data can be when planning a campaign and to know the data that is driving the success of organisations. In addition 2013 saw an increase in the use of data to create bespoke tailored campaigns from some of the industry’s biggest brands including Unilever – the success of such campaigns relies completely on accurate and consistent data input.
5) Be useful
With social media allowing brands to become more and more integrated with consumer’s personal lives one of the simplest, yet most effective tips for 2014 is for brands to make themselves useful. The theory is that your customers are far more likely to stay loyal to you and respect what you have to say if you are providing them with useful information and things that they are looking for first and certainly above directly promoting yourself. With data now telling us more and more about our target audience, what they are interested in, what they search for, what they comment on etc. this is something that brands should constantly be looking to improve and deliver on.
Thanks to Jessica Lawlor for sharing the predictions, let’s see what 2014 brings…
By Laura Kirby, Senior Consultant – Consumer PR, Hanson Seach
Last Tuesday saw the glitterati of the PR world gather at The Grosvenor House to celebrate the achievements of the past year at the Annual PR Week Awards 2013. Dubbed the ‘Oscar’s of the PR World’ these awards bring together the big and the small and the good and the great of the communications industry – and this year was no exception.
Arriving at the Great Room in all their glory the nights’ nominees nervously entered the grand venue. Fashion choices ranged from timeless Hollywood elegance to mildly outrageous – and that was just the men. The champagne reception saw many faces of old reunite and offer warm (but sometimes false) wishes of luck to competing nominees – with everybody’s eyes on the coveted prize.
A change of layout at the venue this year mixed things up by arranging tables around the centre-stage, giving all guests a much better view of the night’s entertainment. The night was kicked-off by compere Rob Brydon who, as with all great compere’s, combined successfully insulting the profession and achievements, nationality and appearance of everybody in the room in one foul swoop without actually causing offence. Next up… drum roll… and no that’s not for the awards themselves but for the half time entertainment from JUNK, a Britain’s-Got-Talent-esque band performing a medley of songs, playing on instruments made of, you guessed it, junk. Interesting.
Now for the awards… notable mentions from the night must go to new guys on the block – Dynamo PR who scooped a deserved trio of awards for their work with 3Doodler, winning categories for Technology campaign, Global Campaign and Marketing Communications: Consumer (annual fees less than £100k). Golin Harris secured two trophies for their cabinet, winning the highly coveted Consultancy of the Year and Large Consultancy of the Year, Manifest London secured Small Agency of the Year and M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment walked away with Medium Sized Agency of the Year. Other notable mentions should include Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award and Hope&Glory who, much to the delight of the room, were awarded New Consultancy of the Year – a fantastic accolade for a new agency to secure and no doubt this team will be adding many more awards to their collection over the coming years.
For a full list of the night’s nominees and winners head to PRWeek.com.
Hanson Search would like to pass on huge congratulations to all the night’s nominees, highly commended and of course the winners. It was a fun night, and it made for a tiring Wednesday, but we’ll definitely be back next year to do it all over again.