How much of the change that’s been forced on us by the pandemic will stick? What can businesses learn from it? The best way to answer that is to understand what makes people change their habits. Knowing that, businesses can enact change for mutual benefit without waiting for a crisis.

The BBC reported the case of a fish and chip shop which had offered a click and collect service for years to get people to pre-order, Read More

Thought leadership | August 2020

Even great brands make mistakes. A few years ago Waitrose installed hot drink dispensers in their stores. Anyone with a myWaitrose loyalty card could help themselves. Money-saving websites flagged the offer on their freebies lists. MyWaitrose membership grew from 4m in early 2014 to 6.5 million three years later. But not everyone was pleased. Aside from concerns about careless trolley-drivers with a hot drink in one hand and their phone in the other, regulars were troubled by the queues of “irregulars” Read More

Thought leadership | December 2018

Tesco’s launch of Jack’s last week is a long way from the old Tesco mantra, which went something like: if in doubt err on the side of the customer. Tesco could claim it is to meet a consumer need, a grocery store with a much tighter range and consequently lower prices. But this doesn’t stack up, because Tesco’s buying power is much greater than Jack’s could have alone, so it could operate those stores without calling them something different. Read More

Comment | October 2018

Paperchase is in the news for the wrong reasons. They ran a free gift-wrap promo with the Daily Mail last weekend. It’s news because it triggered a campaign against them on Twitter. This in turn prompted them to tweet, “We now know we were wrong to do this – we’re truly sorry and we won’t ever do it again. Thanks for telling us what you really think, and we apologise if we have let you down on this one. Read More

Comment | November 2017

The hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and southern US states in recent weeks created an opportunity, uncomfortable though it is to say so. But businesses that grab the short term revenue opportunities risk long term damage. By contrast, those that put people and their needs ahead of a fast buck can earn approval and support that lasts for years.

A natural disaster presents an obvious business opportunity. Urgency and scarcity remove price sensitivity. Read More

Comment | September 2017

The latest #fakenews is that Waterstones have opened “unbranded bookshops”. Despite what many trustworthy sources are reporting, Waterstones, the last remaining chain of specialist bookshops on the high street, have done nothing of the sort. The real story is that a national retail chain is creating hyper-local brands, one-off retail outlets seemingly tailored to their location. If they deliver on what those brands promise, they’ll be doing us all a favour.

Southwold Books in Suffolk, Read More

Comment | March 2017

John Lewis Opticians have just launched. How will they do? JLP’s mutual ownership model is much loved and admired. It’s working well. The total group’s revenues have grown by 50% in the past six years, through a recession. With profit distribution to all employees, known as partners, John Lewis has become the new Virgin, champion of the customer. I would love to buy a car from them, or have them sell my house. But the world of opticians doesn’t need John Lewis. Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | January 2016

A friend, let’s call him Alan, confessed to me that, through a combination of devotion to Nick Cave and a senior moment, he had pre-ordered a new Nick Cave album on Amazon twice, three months apart. Realising his mistake when two CDs arrived separately, he contacted Amazon to arrange for a return and a refund. Their response: we understand how these things happen. Don’t bother to return it, we’ll credit your account anyway.

Now imagine some other possible responses. Read More

Thought leadership | March 2014

Ever had a boss who habitually seizes on something another business is doing and says: “Should we be doing that?” Social media is causing the same insecurity complex in the digital immigrant generation. It’s a sort of digital Fear Of Missing Out. Questions often asked include: how many Facebook friends does the brand have? Is everyone moving to Instagram? Will being on Pinterest make us cool? Can we do a partnership with Foursquare? Or, more likely: Now that we have our Facebook page/Twitter feeds/app, Read More

Comment | May 2013

It’s hardly the end of capitalism, but the horsemeat scandal is showing large food retailers and manufacturers how it feels to be a banker. Meanwhile consumers – or people, as we might style ourselves – don’t know who we can trust. Marketing is seen as manipulative, and delivering profits is represented in the media as exploitation of customers. Sam Laidlaw of Centrica announced decent but hardly sensational results last week – and had to explain to John Humphreys on the Today programme why they hadn’t forgone profits for the sake of “the squeezed middle”. Read More

Comment | March 2013