If you’ve got a minute, let me tell you a story…

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Image a Burt's Bees Tin
Recognise this beard? It’s the famous Burt Shavitz

As a savvy marketer I’m sure you already know that brands have been using the art of storytelling for years.

Marketing teams have become experts at using stories – and the characters within them – to build their brands and create emotional connections with their audiences.

Some famous faces

Some of the most successful character stories are in the food sector, where Ben & Jerry’s, Papa John’s Pizza and good old Colonel Sanders rely heavily on their stories to wrestle our hard earned money from us.

And the stories don’t even have to be true. For instance, do you remember Levi Roots? He’s the now millionaire food entrepreneur who secured £50k on the TV show Dragons Den. The money he secured was to build his ‘secret’ Reggae Reggae BBQ Sauce brand which, according to Roots, had been handed down to him from his Jamaican Grandmother. To add to the authenticity of his story, Roots also explained how he had been selling it at London’s Notting Hill Carnival for 15 years.

But later during a legal battle with his ex-business partner, Roots admitted his brand story was simply “a marketing ploy”. Nonetheless his ‘ploy’ worked brilliantly. In its first week on national sale, Roots shifted over 50,000 bottles. Since then Reggae Reggae Sauce has had tie-ins with brands such as JD Wetherspoon, Birds Eye, Morrisons, Domino’s Pizza and KFC to name just a few.

Anyway, if you like stories about interesting people that sometimes develop interest brands, have a read of this. It’s about Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt’s Bees, who died on July 5th, aged 80.

It is the fascinating story about how one very humble guy, with help from his girlfriend, built a business valued at almost $1 billion. And who’s face and story are at the heart of the brand.



This is a good example of one of the things advertising does.

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I was walking through Bristol Temple Meads train station recently where I saw a real life example of how advertising works. I don’t mean direct response advertising.

I mean advertising that is developed to change our perception of a product. And to usually add some kind of perceived value so we pay more for it and want more of it.

But, and this is the killer, this is achieved without really changing the product itself. Or making it significantly better than its competitors either.

The product I’m talking about is coffee. And the brand benefiting from its advertising was Starbucks. It was illustrated like this:

There is a Starbucks coffee shop positioned only about 5 meters away from an AMT coffee booth in Temple Meads train station. I’m no retail expert but I think the AMT booth is actually better placed to catch your attention.

Anyway, both sell very similar products. And to my knowledge neither product has any meaningful differentiation or competitive advantage.

However, Starbucks was packed with people buying their overpriced coffee. But the AMT booth was empty. Yet they charge less for coffee.


Because the Starbucks brand and the advertising that support it communicates a perceived value. It tells you their coffee is premium (whatever that means), that they source their ingredients from Fairtrade suppliers and that they generally love the planet.

This is very emotional. Starbucks understand that emotion plays a massive part in peoples buying decisions. If it didn’t, and it was practicality that drove purchasing decisions, most people would buy from the AMT booth.

After all, you have the same product, at a lower price and available in a more visible / convenient location. In fact, you have to walk around the AMT booth to get to Starbucks!

And there you have it. Starbucks’ advertising communicates a perceived added value which means they can charge you more money for an undifferentiated product.

There are 1000s of other examples of this of course. For example, the Stella Artois lager brand used to use the positioning line “Reassuringly Expensive” in its advertising. Yet Stella Artois is not much different to most other lager that contains similar alcohol content. And just how different, apart from being lower in price, is Red Rooster compared to Red Bull?

Rory Sutherland explains how advertising changes perception of value far better than I could dare to even dream of. To watch him doing this with hilarious examples just click here:

A great feedback tool and a helpful FREE infographic on the impact of colour.

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If you’ve never used Kiss Insights on your website – I suggest you should. It’s a tool that surveys users whilst they are on your site and, it goes without saying, your customer and prospects give you the most valuable feedback.

In the words of Kiss Insights themselves, their tool stops product managers and marketers saying

“I wonder why…”

To be fair I’ve only just started using it, but intend to use it a lot more on some new websites I am launching.

Anyway, aside the feedback tool, those learned people at Kiss Insights have recently investigated how colour impacts our actions and decisions too. And what’s even better, they have communicated their results a helpful infographic which I have pasted below.

Click the below marketing infographic and it will open in another window. Then just zoom in. I hope you find this useful.

Marketing. How colours affect purchases
Infographic. Marketing. How colours affect purchases

So tell me, are you proficient in Crayola?

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I have worked in marketing now for over 15 years; 7 of which have been dedicated to professional services marketing. During this time I have had the privilege of working with some of the wittiest, intelligent and forthright people one could possibly wish to meet.

Unfortunately, my work has also meant that I have had the displeasure of meeting a flood of pompous individuals who, professional knowledge aside, are pretty thick.

At a recent professional services marketing event held in London, I overheard two middle men aged talking about the marketing departments in their respective accountancy firms (it was fairly obvious that these guys were accountants) when one quipped to the other “Marketing in my firm is commonly referred to as the paper and crayons department!”

I have a couple of issues with this comment. First, if they have such a disdain for marketing why bother attending a marketing event in the first place (aside from free refreshments and a temporary escape from their own boring jobs) and secondly, this attitude highlights a rife misunderstanding in professional services firms that marketing is only about designing communications – which of course, it isn’t.

I wonder what reaction I would get from these two professionals if I announced that I was swapping my marketing job for a lifetime of accounting – after all, it’s only adding-up and taking-away – and I have a calculator that can do that!