Monthly Comment from Roger Hughes

Why family-owned SMEs should always consider looking outside for the right calibre of directors

June 2023

When I set up my business some 24 years ago and having worked for Argos in marketing for the 20 years before that, my main focus was on contract corporate work. This was typically managing brand strategy, development and identity implementation, with my clients including Whitbread (then owning Costa, Premier Inn, TGI Fridays, Brewers Fayre, […]

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The highly unethical business of Christian marketing on social media and how Meta enables it

August 2022

Back in January of this year, Meta implemented a number of changes to its Facebook and Instagram platforms which removed the option for detailed ad targeting based on, what it saw as, ‘sensitive’ topics such as race, sexual orientation, political allegiance and religious persuasion. Shortly after this in April, Meta then implemented changes to the […]

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The struggles of influencing a customer-centric business culture

July 2022

Over the last few months and motivated by a number of factors which include trying to help clients minimise the negative impact of the current and somewhat dire economic climate, I’ve been on something of a mission to get minds focused on all-things customer-centricity. Before going too much further, let’s be clear on what being […]

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Basic guidelines on how to respond to comments on Facebook ads

December 2021

Using Facebook’s advertising platform can be an incredibly cost-effective and successful marketing tool to deliver certain marketing strategies. I use it extensively for two of my clients, and although the strategies behind that use are very different for each (principally because one trades through an ecommerce offer and the other through physical showrooms), none the […]

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The absolute worst type of celebrity endorsement

August 2021

The idea of a celebrity, be they from TV, sport or whatever, has long been popular with brands to push their products or services. There are some great examples of this strategy being successful, with a standout one for me being Gary Lineker’s long-term relationship with Walkers Crisps. He’s also done rather well out of […]

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Don’t let amazing digital tools and tactics damage your brand through poor execution and not getting the basics right

July 2021

Although I don’t talk that much with non-work friends about how I earn a living, they of course know I work in marketing. So it often comes up in conversation, with a common topic being their amazement around how they see adverts online for products and services they’re actually interested in – and as if […]

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Why Wren Kitchens is wrong in trying to be all things to all people

April 2021

Back in September and October 2018, I wrote a two-part blog which outlined the principles of the STP model – which stands for ‘segmentation, targeting, positioning’. The model is a fairly central tenet of marketing strategy, with the basic idea being that you a) segment your market into relevant groups (e.g. segments might include discerning […]

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Independent retailers need to take ownership to ensure their survival – not just blame Covid, Amazon and government

February 2021

Although I have and continue to work in a very diverse range of business sectors and specific industries, if I had to pick a favourite it would be retail. This passion unquestionably stems from my early career, with my very first job over 45 years ago (essentially in-store marketing) in a department store in south […]

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A much more agile approach is needed to marketing planning in a Covid world, plus it’s essential to have all digital basics in place

January 2021

I’m rather ashamed to admit that this is the first blog I’ve written in some 15 months. My somewhat inadequate excuses would include being massively busy (less so right now), plus ever-moving goal posts in our Covid world at times making me think that my advice might almost immediately become out of date. However and […]

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SMEs operating in B2B markets too often don’t understand inbound marketing and its huge value to them

August 2019

I’ve recently carried out an especially enjoyable piece of marketing consultancy for a transport business. It was especially enjoyable because firstly the management team were a great bunch of people (straightforward, unpretentious, keen to learn) and led by an exceptional MD, and secondly – and very much helped by the first point – we got […]

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Dealing with the charlatans, conmen, timewasters and the less-than-competent which plague the marketing industry

June 2019

The nature of my consultancy offer dictates that not only do I work with a lot of very different clients across a wide range of sectors and industries, but I also work with a very considerable number of other consultants (typically in areas such as business strategy), tactical specialists (e.g. PPC management and social media), […]

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Don’t get caught out by the miss-selling of advertising directed at your SME

May 2019

Although a fair chunk of my work is one-off projects such as reviewing a client’s marketing and leaving them with a strategically-led plan, I also support a few clients on an on-going basis. This sort of relationship typically suits SMEs who aren’t quite big enough to justify a fulltime marketing director or senior marketing manager […]

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Market intelligence can be just as important to SMEs as it is big companies

March 2019

If there’s one thing which underpins my approach to client work, it’s a near-obsession for making it evidence-based. Be it metrics from Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, qualitative customer research or market intelligence, I want to know it in order to shape marketing decision making. From that short and certainly not exhaustive list above, the one […]

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Greggs were right on the money with their vegan sausage roll launch

February 2019

Although the start of any new year tends to see a raft of media attention around eating less, eating better, getting fit and losing weight etc., this year we had the added fizz of veganism becoming trendy. I was going to write ‘mainstream’ but I’m not sure we’re quite at that point yet, with, arguably, […]

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Is Trustpilot now biased towards negative reviews in order to rebuild their own reputation?

November 2018

Back in April this year, Trustpilot was hit by a somewhat predictable scandal when a BBC 5 Live investigation revealed that fake 5 star reviews were being traded on eBay – which an investigator was able to purchase. Of course few people – be they working in marketing or just Joe Public – were especially […]

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Why SMEs need to make customer service a central function of their marketing strategy and management

October 2018

There’s been a fair bit written of late in the marketing trade press about a trend towards ‘chief customer officer’ (CCO) replacing ‘chief marketing officer’ in large companies, or more typically having both positions in place. Some in our profession are of the view that if the latter are doing their job, then you don’t […]

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Targeting and positioning – the second two parts of the STP model

September 2018

Last month I outlined the strategic marketing model of segmentation, targeting, positioning (STP), and went on to provide an overview of the principles of market segmentation. So this month I’m going to cover the other two elements of targeting and positioning, albeit only at a fairly top-line level, so if you want more detail then […]

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SMEs need to think about market segmentation as much as the big players do

August 2018

With much of my work these days being for SMEs rather than carrying out project-based contracts for very large companies (a conscience decision driven by a desire to stay sane in the latter part of my career), a fairly consistent pattern I see is a lack of understanding and therefore lack of approach to market […]

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Marketing strategy in a digital world – NOT ‘digital marketing strategy’

July 2018

Anyone who’s read even a few of my blogs in recent years, will probably know that few things irritate me more than the narrative from some supposed marketers that all you now need is digital. What’s worse, they talk about ‘digital marketing strategy’ when, patently, there’s no such thing anymore – there’s just ‘marketing strategy’ […]

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Bursting the social media bubble

June 2018

About 3 years ago when I was carrying out an interim marketing director position for a relatively small FMCG food company, their commercial director gleefully gave me a book entitled ‘social media is bullshit’. His motivation for the gift – and he’d purchased enough copies to furnish all of the board of directors – was […]

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Lessons for all parties on marketing manager recruitment

May 2018

As I have done before in similar circumstances, I took a break from my monthly blog as a result of taking on a four month interim contract as marketing director for a long-standing client. But that four months is now over, so working life is starting to get back to normal – meaning I’m not […]

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The marketing professionals that can’t, apparently, market themselves

January 2018

I’m currently in the process of recruiting a marketing manager for a long-standing client. It’s a task I relish, and in part because it’s an opportunity to meet smart young marketing professionals and discuss the challenges of our chosen industry. And not forgetting of course, I also enjoy the process because, if I get it […]

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Aldi gets my vote for best Christmas campaign

December 2017

Well few would argue that the John Lewis ad was a bit of a flop, though in fairness to the retailer it was a hard act to follow given what we’ve enjoyed them over the last five years or so. In addition, others have jumped on the heart-string-tugging bandwagon (e.g. Sainsbury’s) so the style of […]

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Why Greggs has become a brand to truly admire

November 2017

About 10 years ago I was carrying out a brand strategy project for Sodexo. If you don’t know the company, then essentially their core business is food services and across every sector you could think of. For example, canteens, restaurants and cafés for schools, universities, military sites, hospitals, factories and office blocks. They’re a global […]

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No excuse for marketing plans not to be evidence-based

October 2017

I’ve recently been helping a client knock a marketing plan into shape, and this following the appointment of their first marketing manager at the beginning of the year. The draft plan was, on the face of it, fairly impressive: well structured, detailed, and certainly a lot of effort had gone into it. However, it largely […]

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No more ‘digital marketing’ please

September 2017

A month or so back an email dropped into my inbox with the following opening sentence . . . ‘We are writing to advise that we have a few places left on the brand new Modern Apprenticeship in Digital Marketing. These are for 16 to 19 year old employees and enables them to help to […]

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The local designer versus big London agency

August 2017

There’s long been a perception with business owners and folk in the world of marketing management, that if you want a top job doing on your visual identity, new website, FMCG packaging etc. then you have to go to a big agency based in a big city – and notably London. Indeed, for many decades […]

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Premier Inn’s bizarre market segment targeting on mass-media

May 2017

For what seemed like decades, Lennie Henry was the advertising face of Premier Inn. In a succession of long-running TV campaigns and supported by online, he told us about the virtues of choosing to book a room at the near-ubiquitous hotel chain, and specifically how comfy the beds are – which is true by the […]

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Keep your personal preference out of design for business

April 2017

About 20 years ago and around the time I became corporate design manager at Argos (I had a 20 year stint at Argos in the marketing dept. and had numerous roles over that time but left to set up my consultancy business over 16 years ago), I was given the challenge of producing a promotional […]

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The unhealthy mind-set of marketing tactics without a strategy

March 2017

I’ve been fortunate to work with clients in an exceptionally broad field of sectors and industries since becoming a consultant more than 15 years ago, and that’s very much a theme which continues today. Such is this level of diversity – and working in both B2B and B2C markets further adds to it – there […]

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It’s no wonder so many small businesses fail

February 2017

There are a wealth of stats available online for the level of small businesses that fail in the first year and subsequent years, and they all represent depressing reading. Although there’s some inconsistency in the stats, it seems to be the case that around 20% don’t survive one year and around 50% don’t make it […]

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Nothing should be for free in marketing services – so please don’t ask

January 2017

During the first year of having my own business about 15 years back, I was approached by an old friend who, like me, had left Argos to set up on his own. He’d made the break about two years before me, though his profession was management development. The reason for him coming to me was […]

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2016 marketing wash-up with SMEs in mind

December 2016

Given the enormity of events in 2016 and specifically the BREXIT vote and Trump’s election, talking about marketing seems a tad trivial and irrelevant. However and as I stated in last month’s blog, the nightmare of both Brexit and Trump becoming the most powerful man in the world owed much to marketing – albeit not […]

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The worst type of marketing imaginable and with consequences to match

November 2016

Unless you voted for Brexit and also read the Mail, Express or Sun, then chances are that you’ll have been as horrified as me when the news broke about Trump winning the US presidency. And come January, the reality of the situation will really sink in as the ignorant, vile, science-denying, right-wing bigot takes his […]

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Verbal identity and how NOT to do it

October 2016

Let me start with a brief explanation of what verbal identity is. We often think of brand identity as being a visual thing – so a logo, a certain colour palette, specific typefaces etc. – but actually there are at least two other elements for our senses to latch on to: sonic identity and verbal […]

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LinkedIn is now an essential tool for B2B marketing and sales – and can also help B2C

September 2016

I’ve been pressing two of my clients to invest in training on how to get the most from the LinkedIn social network platform for their sales teams. One of these clients operates in purely B2B markets, with the other both B2B and B2C. But in both cases the clients are seriously underusing LinkedIn, and instead […]

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Google shows apparent contempt to SMEs

August 2016

Up until very recently, I’d always seen Google as a champion for the SME. For one, both organic and paid search were a relatively level playing field against a corporate giant – provided of course that your website was optimised to the maximum for the former and you had the money to compete on the […]

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In praise of the Polish employee brand

July 2016

If you know me or indeed read my last month’s blog, then you’ll be aware that I was none too happy about the Brexit vote. And I’m still not, albeit I am a tad less grumpy than I was for the days immediately after the tragic event. Reflecting on those heady days when the reality […]

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It’s still possible to market lies to the masses and get away with it

June 2016

It’s often said that the digital age has left businesses and institutions with nowhere to hide if they tell lies and don’t do a good job. In part that’s certainly true, and there’s no better example than the way TripAdvisor has raised the standards in the hotel and restaurant industry. But ‘nowhere to hide’ is […]

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Why the Co-op’s rebrand might not be the waste of money it first looks like

May 2016

My first reaction to the news that the Co-operative Group was reverting to its original visual identity and Co-op name for its grocery chain (and funeral business) was one of near disbelief. Like most people, my usual exposure to the brand is in the shape of a local store to buy various food items during […]

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Why cultural fit is key when appointing the right design and other marketing-related agencies

April 2016

I’m not sure quite how many design, branding, marketing, web, PR and advertising agencies I’ve worked with in my career, but if it was less than 500 then I’d be surprised. Some, and ahead of setting up my own business, I’ve had forced upon me, some I’ve inherited when I’ve taken on a new client, […]

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Why brand identity guidelines are even more important in the digital age – and that includes for SMEs

March 2016

Back last autumn I had an annual planning meeting with one of my longest standing clients, with her marketing manager also in attendance – someone I’d helped recruit earlier the same year. The client’s business is very successful, an SME, largely B2C, with garden and wildlife related products sold through an ecommerce offer and via […]

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The ever-increasing necessity of a customer-centric business culture

February 2016

I recently read an excellent article in Marketing Week about Anthony Thomson and his new venture of setting up mobile-only Atom Bank (he previously founded Metro Bank). So not only will there be no physical branches, but account access will purely be through mobile devices. To some, and certainly those that have grown up in […]

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Consumer insight, customer insight and market intelligence is the foundation for strategic decision making and planning

January 2016

I’ve never kidded myself that my monthly blog has a massive following, but I do know that it has a limited one plus, appropriately enough, my Google Analytics metrics show that the content delivers traffic to my website for searches relevant to individual blogs. But, in any event, my motivation for writing it has always […]

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Why excellent management of PPC campaigns is essential for SMEs

February 2015

For many businesses, PPC (pay per click) has become a necessary evil. And it’s viewed as an evil because, and in particular in very competitive markets and where online search is important for customer acquisition and immediate sales, without it there would be a sole reliance on organic clicks which are unlikely to be sufficient […]

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The ideal marketing manager for an SME in 2015

January 2015

I was recently reading two conflicting articles in Marketing Week, with one advocating that marketing roles should all now be specialist – e.g. PPC management, SEO and social media etc. – with another suggesting that there was more value in employing generalists. This might be a worthy discussion for large businesses, but for most SMEs […]

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2014 marketing year wash-up

December 2014

As most folk working in marketing no doubt always knew it would, the past year has seen a further shift towards sophisticated digital marketing tools, with programmatic and specifically real-time bidding (RTB) for online ads being a notable candidate for the one making the biggest impact. And if that terminology is new to you, then […]

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Aligning the right social media platforms with your business

November 2014

The ubiquitous Facebook symbol is now so much so on business websites, that it almost becomes conspicuous when absent. But yet, when it is absent it often means that someone has actually thought about whether or not this particular social media platform is appropriate to its target customer, and rightly concluded that it isn’t. But […]

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Objective, strategy, plan, implement – in that order

October 2014

The last 6 months or has seen me working on an especially diverse mix of marketing projects, with these including products such as smoked salmon, industrial sliding gates, street furniture, beef jerky, kitchens, bathrooms, bird food, holiday cottage rentals and industrial supplies. I’ve also worked on an especially interesting project which has essentially been to […]

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A marketing lesson from the Scottish referendum

September 2014

Some of you reading this will already know that I live in the north of Scotland, and anyone reading this from anywhere in the world will know that this month has seen a momentous day in the history of Scotland: a referendum to determine if the country should remain part of the United Kingdom or […]

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Picking your social media platforms

August 2014

A modern day myth which seems to prevail across far too many businesses is that you absolutely must have a Facebook page. You don’t. Or at least you don’t if your customer base won’t be interested in it, and therefore you’ll end up with five followers and zero engagement for the posts you put on […]

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40 years in marketing and an early landmark moment

July 2014

This month marks a fairly significant anniversary in my life: I’ve been working in marketing for 40 years. Such a length of time is a truly sobering thought, and one which has inevitably made me reflect on the highs and lows of my career to date. But more than that, it’s made me think about […]

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SMEs must embrace data for marketing decision making

June 2014

This is something I’ve written about before, but I’ve been prompted to revisit the subject because I still experience an almost constant reluctance by some SME owners to access, analyse and use readily-accessible data as a foundation for marketing decision making. And this despite the fact that, without it, marketing spend is often wasted because […]

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The importance of customer reviews in local marketing strategy

May 2014

As ever, my monthly blog isn’t here to tell you all the technical stuff you need to know about a certain digital discipline – in this case local SEO (search engine optimisation). What it is here to do, amongst other things (including a platform for me to let off steam now and again), is to […]

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A stark reminder of digital marketing dependence

April 2014

One of my real personal success stories in recent years has been to help turn around a previously failing holiday property business here in the Highlands of Scotland. Being part of a larger business which owns and runs three Highland estates which the properties are located on, the nine holiday properties were not always the […]

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A timely lesson in brand longevity

March 2014

I recently made a trip back to the high street where I got my very first job nearly 40 years ago. It was Sutton High Street in Surrey, and I was there because I was staying in a hotel in the town having travelled down from my home in the north of Scotland to meet […]

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No excuse for a non responsive website

February 2014

Chances are that you’ll already know exactly what a ‘responsive’ website is. But just in case you don’t and anyway for absolute clarity, a responsive website is one which responds to the device it’s being opened on and resizes and reformats content so it’s easily readable and functionality remains easy. If that still isn’t quite […]

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The perils of non-marketing folk doing a marketing job

January 2014

Come July of this year, I’d have been in the marketing game for 40 years – a figure which perhaps exceeds your years on this planet. It is a long time. In fact a very long time, and one which, I don’t mind telling you, is a tad scary to fully come to terms with. […]

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The best marketing stunt ever

December 2013

For my last blog post of 2013, I’m going to give you a link to another site which contains a short video. All I’ll say ahead of you watching it is this: As we enter another year where brands will have to work harder than ever just to stay on the pace of advances in […]

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Argos looks to have finally turned the corner

November 2013

As some readers will know, I spent nearly twenty years of my working life with Argos’ Marketing division, and left just over twelve years ago to set up on my own. In many ways my time with this somewhat quirky retailer now seems like a distant memory, but in other ways it doesn’t and certainly […]

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Passion, vision and delivery are key for independent retailers who get it right

October 2013

Back in January 2010 I wrote about a truly outstanding local retailer, Lindsay’s of Golspie, which is close to where I live. Nearly four years on and after countless successful and rewarding shopping trips since, I can report that my view is now even stronger. This is a local retail brand which gets it right […]

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The need for higher quality board members in the third sector

September 2013

(Third sector definition: the part of an economy or society comprising non-governmental and non-profit-making organizations or associations, including charities, voluntary and community groups, cooperatives, etc.) Our regional press carried a story a few weeks back about a local charity, involved with recycling household goods and waste, which was forced to close down and make its […]

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Red Bull should have known better – and now they do

August 2013

By something of a coincidence, I already had in my mind that I was going to write about Red Bull this month. The thought that I would stemmed from an article in Marketing Week which discussed the brand’s unusual, but highly successful, strategy of shunning normal advertising and, instead, largely putting their marketing spend into […]

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Please… no more ‘sales and marketing’

July 2013

A few days back I was completing some forms for a business which, effectively, is the new middleman between government money and potential contracts for me. They’re replacing another firm who I’ve been allocated work from over the last few years, and, certainly so far, I’ve been very impressed with the new broom. So I’ve […]

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Newspaper and magazine advertising versus online search

June 2013

I generally resist making direct comparisons between two specific marketing tools, and this because any decent marketing strategy and plan should seek to align the most appropriate tool(s) to a specific objective. In other words, it can be an apples and pears comparison because two different marketing tools can be there to deliver two different […]

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BIRA confirms my worst fears

May 2013

In last month’s comment I asserted that the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) were out of touch and doing little or nothing to help secure a viable and long-term future for their members. I quoted their CEO and highlighted the utter naivety of his comment that independent retailers should “Embrace new ideas such as internet […]

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Why independent retailers may need a new voice to survive

April 2013

During the last week I’ve enjoyed presenting to a group of business people at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast event. My topic was ‘Why having a marketing strategy has never been more important’, and the reason I ultimately gave was that there is now such an overwhelming choice of marketing tools to use, that if […]

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Big data? Any sort of data would be good

March 2013

You may have seen the recent BBC2 Horizon documentary ‘The age of big data’ but, if no, then perhaps you’re anyway familiar with the term. No to both? Well ‘big data’ is, as the term suggests, about a whole lot of data, but it’s more than that because it becomes ‘big’ when you combine data […]

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The strapline

February 2013

I guess we all have a specific aspect or element of our jobs that we are especially interested in and like, and for me that would have to be straplines. So that short string of words that normally sits below a brand’s logo and is the embodiment, or at least should be the embodiment, of […]

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The perils of PR with no strategy behind it

January 2013

Back in November 2011 a long-established client I had informed me that they were appointing a PR firm on a one year contract for 2012. This was a bit of a surprise, because it was hard to see what value any PR firm – even a really good one – could add to the core […]

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The country’s hardest re-brand job

December 2012

There are few things I like more in my work than a real challenge. And although I’ve had many in my time, I often think about different potential clients and the sort of outlandish strategic challenges I could tackle for them. But in the last few weeks I got to thinking about what could be […]

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Nobody likes a cheat and how NOT to manage your PR crisis on Facebook

November 2012

It won’t need me to tell you that in the social media age we live in, there’s nowhere to hide for a brand when it screws-up. But of course, there’s the relatively small screw-up when something upsets a few customers and the negative publicity gets a bit out of hand on Twitter, Facebook and perhaps […]

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The north-south skills delusion

October 2012

It never fails to entertain me when business folk in the south of the UK think that the further north you live the less clue you have. We’ve all heard of the ‘north-south divide’ – which Wikipedia sums-up as ‘refers to the perceived economic and cultural differences between Southern England and the rest of Great […]

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My friends demonstrating why Facebook will never make investors a heap of money

September 2012

Way before the furore which marked the flotation of Facebook on the Nasdaq back in May, many in the world of marketing were saying that this social media platform, and despite its mind-blowing stats on users, was not one where investors were going to make their millions. In very crude terms and when compared to […]

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Only the Virgin brand could lose a rail contract and still smell of roses

August 2012

If Virgin does end up losing the West Coast rail franchise – which seems the likely outcome and despite the current legal attempts by Richard and his team – then you might conclude that this will be highly damaging for the Virgin brand. But the Virgin brand is not like most other brands, and indeed […]

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An unexpected lesson in brand authenticity

July 2012

Travelling on a rather long train journey between Inverness and Newark in Nottinghamshire this week, I pondered the topic for this month’s comment as I gazed out the window on a landscape which progressively changed from mountain to flat field. I reached my destination in Newark some 7 hours after leaving Inverness, but with no […]

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Mis-selling advertising to the innocent

June 2012

The on-going support side of my business and for companies which don’t have their own marketing person or team, means I’m often at the pointed end of marketing operations (rather than just the strategic bit behind it). I rather like such a position as it ensures I still have an eye on actual output, plus […]

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Practicing what I preach

May 2012

Regular readers of the Hughes monthly blog will have noted a slight visual update in my website. Actually though, the more significant change is in the ‘back office’, with this allowing for easier updates and for the site to be better optimised for organic search. Like many professionals, I’m great at telling clients and potential […]

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Brand DNA and a slightly off-piste dream project

April 2012

It’s been an especially interesting and enjoyable last month at Hughes Consultancy, with work being dominated by a brand and marketing strategy project for a high-end kitchen manufacturer who sells direct through their own showrooms. And how has such a project contributed to the enjoyment and to a point over and above most other projects I take on? Because, culturally, this is a family business that is not only everything a family business should be, but actually everything any business should be.

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Putting a value on social media

March 2012

If there’s one topic I discuss with clients more than any other, it’s around what they should or shouldn’t be doing with social media. Not surprisingly, social media is also the topic which most features in the weekly marketing press – both print and online.

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Why delivering great customer service should now be a given

February 2012

I had an interesting meeting with someone a few weeks back, who’s both a client of mine and I’m a client of his. I won’t bore you with just how such a relationship came about, but I will say that it’s worked pretty well for both of us. That isn’t to say that we see […]

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The year ahead and accelerated change

January 2012

If there’s been an overriding theme to this blog in the last few years, it’s been around the need for businesses to keep up with the pace of change in all things digital marketing. And in this context I’m talking about things such as SEO, social search, mobile search, email and data collection as just […]

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X Factor is proof that brands also need great products to stay the course

December 2011

(Or if not ‘products’, then services or whatever else it is they’re there to deliver in the first place.) It’s often said that branding is, ultimately, about differentiation. X Factor has built its brand over many years and has differentiated its offer not only against previous and other contemporary talent shows, but also more generally […]

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Working with the third sector is a refreshing and rewarding change – big time

November 2011

If the world of consultancy has taught me one thing, it’s that you never know quite what’s around the next corner. I do have a number of long-term clients, so in that respect I do know pretty much what’s coming up with them, but for new clients – and in particular when it’s a one-off […]

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Ten years in business and 10 key things I’ve learnt

October 2011

Ten years ago this month I left Argos to set up on my own. I must tell you that the ten years has passed at a scary-fast rate, but no doubt anyone reading this and the wrong side of 40 will say just the same about their last ten years. Also scary, as I recall […]

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Embrace change or fail

September 2011

My old dad, who turned 80 earlier this year, has never been one who likes change – in particular if the change is in anyway related to technology. Growing up in our small terraced house in the 60s and 70s was probably more akin to doing so in Victorian times: It was bleak (rarely decorated), […]

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Copywriters in web agencies need to get their act together

August 2011

When I started my business nearly 10 years ago copywriting wasn’t part of the deal. In fact I’d barely given it a thought, even though I knew I was none-too-bad at the written word. However, what was certainly part of my offer was brand strategy and a specific output of that is tone of voice […]

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The consultant as friend AND foe

July 2011

There aren’t many things I dislike about my job, but there is definitely one: being seen and treated as the enemy. So when does this happen? Well it certainly isn’t the person that takes me on, but, and in very large organisations where politics rule, potentially can be almost anyone I encounter. For SMEs this […]

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The pros and cons of being ugly

June 2011

Some months I seem overwhelmed with ideas for what to write about in my monthly rant. When that happens, avid followers of my website (there are a few…) will know this is the case because the piece appears relatively early in the month. If though, like this one, it’s right at the end of the […]

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Your brand’s internal detractors

May 2011

I’ve long held the strong view that employee attitudes, both at senior and the most junior level, are a central component in a brand’s success. Which in many ways is entirely obvious, though clearly isn’t to everyone – or, if it is, then some who could take action against the militant and negative few who […]

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A tale of three consultants

April 2011

Projects I’m involved with often mean working with other consultants and indeed I sometimes initiate this for the benefit of the client. This typically comes about when a project has a strong element of trouble shooting, because if brand and marketing issues need sorting then chances are they won’t be the only ones a business […]

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Peckish: a brand bound to fail

March 2011

If you’re outside of the garden industry, you could be forgiven for not having heard of a brand which launched last autumn – Peckish. And even if you are in the garden industry, you could also be forgiven for not having heard of the Peckish brand. Why? Because it’s been an almighty flop and always […]

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Four words which strike horror into the mind of the true marketer: Sales and marketing manager

February 2011

My long corporate life never really brought me into contact with the sales person who also masqueraded as a marketer, or at least if I did meet a few they sensibly managed to keep the marketing bit a secret. In my nine and a bit years as a consultant though, I’ve met more than my […]

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Embedding brand and marketing culture into your business

January 2011

One of the truly great things about my job is the broad mix of businesses I end up working with, and these currently include a Highland estate, premium food brand, leading wild bird-care brand, an industrial conglomerate with interests as diverse as security fencing and machine guarding (think something which stops a worker being killed […]

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Anything to learn from 2010? A heap if you’re in marketing

December 2010

Like many, I get a tad reflective as the year draws to a close – both personal and business. The personal stuff I’ll spare you (what goes on in my head might not necessarily be good for enticing new clients) but the business stuff I’ll happily share. Overall, 2010 was the year that new media […]

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Is Argos’ Christmas TV ad a further sign that the retailer has lost its way?

November 2010

I wondered if it was just me who thought the Argos TV Christmas ad, which has Bing Crosby beat boxing (not sure if that’s one word or two…), took Argos to new lows in terms of it scraping around for direction in its lost retail universe. But having spoken to friends and colleagues in the […]

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Brand Chile and a mine-full of marketing opportunities

October 2010

I’d originally intended this month’s comment to be about trade shows and the reasons behind the falling number of people attending them, but all that became quickly irrelevant and somewhat mundane, as the unprecedented rescue scenes unfolded of the miners in Chile. Now if you were anything like me, the whole epic drama of the […]

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Why advertising telesales needs to get smarter

September 2010

In over 35 years of being involved in marketing and with 9 of these in my own business, I’ve had very little to do with advertising in local and regional consumer press. Yes there have been a few things for a few clients, but nothing which brought me regularly into contact with the ever-eager telesales […]

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If nothing else on digital, stay on top of your search strategy

August 2010

My last month has been dominated by one very important digital marketing discipline – search. I’ve had one client who is all over it like a rash, another who hasn’t quite grasped the importance of it and is also being let down by their web agency who aren’t on top of their game, and a […]

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A pint, or two, in a J D Wetherspoon pub

July 2010

Recent months have taken me to a somewhat varied group of towns and cities for business and pleasure, including Glasgow, Llandudno (a little bizarrely the latter for business and the former for pleasure) Birmingham airport, Solihull and Inverness. The only common link is that all had at least one Wetherspoon pub. ‘So what?’ you might […]

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The (brand) disaster which is BP

June 2010

When I started out in business on my own about 9 years ago, I was full of brand talk. Fresh from the success of heading-up Argos’ re-brand, I was keen to tell the world just how much I knew about brands. Actually I know rather more now than I did then, and, with my current […]

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The senior marketer’s ongoing headache: keeping pace with all things digital

May 2010

Marketing, arguably, has never been the easiest of professions to prosper in, but then it certainly hasn’t been the hardest either. However, our digital world has unquestionably made it a whole lot more challenging. Senior marketers working in large businesses and marketing directors working in any size business have something very specific in common with […]

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Big bad Americans and their love of the letter z

April 2010

The most used function on my Microsoft word programme is changing the default language back to UK English. Why do I have to do this at least 10 times a day? Because firstly, Microsoft, being a US company, apparently thinks that their version of our language (guys, the clue’s in the name ‘English’…) is superior […]

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In praise of the John Lewis Partnership

March 2010

It doesn’t seem that many years ago that John Lewis was lumped together with the few other department store chains in the UK and viewed as an ageing dinosaur. These years were when ‘etail’ really started to take a hold on UK shopping habits and the high street showed signs of long-term decline. But anyone […]

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The deserved and undeserved demise of two very different brands

February 2010

The fate of two brands has been much in our news this month: Toyota and Tiger Woods. The media has gone after both with its usual vigour and general lack of balance (certainly for Toyota), but the demise of one seems rather more deserved than the other. I’ll start with the one which seems less […]

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The local retail brand

January 2010

Depending on where you live and also how you choose to shop, the local independent retailer will either figure in your life or it won’t. ‘Where you live’ might actually be the main reason on its own – perhaps you’d love to pop into a traditional fish monger in your local high street, but if […]

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Not just selfish: Unite is killing the BA brand

December 2009

Passengers who will, after all, now be able to fly with BA over the Christmas break and therefore see their loved ones, can, ironically, thank the apparent incompetence of Unite for their unexpected good fortune: It seems a daft error in the union’s planning for the action saw them ballot some members who had actually […]

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Go compare the price comparison sites’ marketing campaigns

November 2009

Usage of price comparison sites has risen by nearly two thirds this year – a figure that will surprise few given the nation’s new-found mindset of prudence. But perhaps it isn’t just about our changing priorities in life, but also that one or two of the emerging price comparison brands are doing rather a good […]

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Better the evil we know

October 2009

At a time when the banks are back in the news for making unimaginable profits (or at least unimaginable a year ago) and those that supposedly took the ‘risks’ to make these profits are being paid unimaginable bonuses again that apparently outrage the Jones’ and the Smiths next door, it’s worth reminding ourselves of what […]

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Is BT the worst large brand in the UK?

September 2009

I think I may have found something which the vast majority of SMEs in the UK have in common and regardless of business sector: Most have a horror story to tell about BT. The words from my wife when we sold our house and secured a new one some four months ago, are still ringing […]

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Humility follows authenticity

August 2009

I’m not entirely sure what got me thinking about it quite so much, but of late I’ve given rather a lot of thought to the characteristics I least like in the people I know. Perhaps it was turning 50 last year and, believing I was older and wiser, started to instinctively analyse the years that […]

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Brands and authenticity

July 2009

About 12 years ago I moved to Towcester (pronounced ‘toaster’ not ‘tow-sester’) with my wife and daughter. The move had all sorts of benefits to the family, but one specific one for me was some proper pubs in the high street. And by ‘proper pubs’ I mean ones which served real ale and didn’t have […]

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Don’t lose sight of good old fashioned marketing in our digital age

June 2009

The Hughes’ will, if the shortcomings of the English legal system allow, be shortly moving house and business premises (anyone that’s ever sold a property to buy another will know what I mean about ‘shortcomings’ – you never really know you’re sale is okay until the day you move out). But the uncertainty such a […]

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Social media and what it might mean to your brand

May 2009

In last month’s comment I suggested that social networks ensured that there was now nowhere to hide for brands who try to pull the wool over the eyes of consumers. Make a mistake and don’t come clean, or don’t do what you should be doing and get found out, and just one person now has […]

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Trust takes on a new dimension for brands

April 2009

Anyone with even a very basic understanding of branding will know that trust has always been a key component part in a successful brand’s DNA – i.e. if people trust you they’re more likely to buy your products or services. In fact this is true to the point that many brand owners have simply taken […]

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Why do some brands still have poor customer service during a recession?

March 2009

Or, arguably, at anytime and including in boom years, but in the current economic climate it has to be plain commercial suicide. So for this month’s comment three stories: Two about great customer service and, thankfully, just one about a level which can only be described as rubbish. Which at two-to-one is probably not a […]

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Brands and Celebrity Endorsement

February 2009

I have a mental list of topics I’d rather like to write about in these monthly columns. However, economic events over the last six months or so have largely ensured that topical issues have taken precedence over those on my ‘now that would be nice to write about some day’ list. On that list, is […]

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New Year Resolutions for SMEs

January 2009

The recent monthly comments on this site have been rather more to do with large businesses – though smaller businesses can always learn from what’s happening with the bigger boys of course (and visa-versa for that matter) – so to start the New Year the focus is very much on SMEs. New Year resolutions are […]

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RIP MFI and Woolworths (perhaps)

December 2008

It might have taken the early effects of the recession to push both of these brands over the survival precipice, but few in the business world will have been surprised at their downfalls – it’s been coming. The media though – and with its instinctive trait of simplification for the supposed benefit of Joe Public […]

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Market your way out of the recession

November 2008

It is perhaps the sheer pace that things have changed over even the last month or so which has surprised us all. Yes we’ve been hearing about the ‘credit crunch’ for a year or two, but it’s probably fair to say that both the effects and speed of the effects of this now household term, […]

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It isn’t true brand essence if you don’t fully deliver on it

October 2008

Anyone reading this will probably have at least some knowledge of marketing and branding. That being the case, you’ll know our industry has more than its fair share of terminology and acronyms. Some of these are good and add both value and clarity, and some are rather less useful. One term I especially like though […]

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The risks of covering your brand in ‘greenwash’

September 2008

Without question, the whole sustainability issue – and of course behind it global warming and the very real threat of climate change – has exploded into the lives of us all in recent years. Also without question, is the fact that many brands have simply jumped on a ‘green bandwagon’ and made all sorts of […]

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