Content strategy, start to finish.

This week we take on content strategy in all it’s glory.

Always-on social content strategy is a core discipline that is squarely on both brand and agency agendas, and rightly so in our humble opinion. But most of the content marketing conversation we see focuses on the tactical delivery and technology surrounding content, so we thought we’d put forward how we develop a content strategy, or any other strategy for that matter. It’s always a vitally important step but is so often overlooked or fails to align with the wider brand marketing strategy and that’s very risky, whether you’re a start-up or seasoned brand.

We’re staunch advocates of a rigourous approach to everything we do, especially when developing strategy and we want you to be too. Why? Because you’re probably being bombarded everyday with the next tool or simple process that promises little effort and work for massive results and I’m here to tell you that this simply isn’t true. None of the really successful brands, new or old, got where they are by cutting every corner imaginable, that’s not how the world works.

In the post we’ll cover everything, including:

  • Setting objectives
  • Research
  • Uncovering insights to inform your strategy
  • Segmentation of data
  • Persona building
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Strategy
  • Creative and how to think about a long idea for content
  • Co-creation and UGC
  • How this is delivered and structuring a content calendar
  • Media planning to inform distribution
  • Activation, management and refinement

It’s a lot to get through so grab a cuppa and hold on to your hats!

Setting objectives

Before doing anything, it’s really important to have some goals in mind. Building a customer-centric marketing strategy with content at its heart is brilliant and highly effective. It’s going to give you the edge over your competition if they’re not, because connected consumers are more likely to buy things from you if you put the right content in front of them at the right time.

So well done you on reading this as you’re obviously looking to develop your content strategy. If you’re not then read on anyway, we might just convince you to take the plunge.

However, as with all marketing, you need to set aspirational but realistic goals. If you don’t, then how do you know if what you’re doing is working or, sometimes more importantly, not working, so you can fix it. So many times we see brands pumping large budgets into projects with no clear objectives or metrics in place.

Strategy, by definition, is “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.”

So start big, think increasing sales, changing perceptions, building awareness in new markets, increasing market share.

Once you’ve got these aims in mind, you can start to layer performance indicators underneath, that measure individual tactics in the context of the overall aim, commonly called KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). We can’t stress enough how hugely important it is to have these in place, without them you simply have no idea whether your content strategy is working. The KPIs you create will, to some extent, be influenced by what you decide to do within your strategy and could be a variety of things dependent on what you’re looking to achieve.




Everyone goes on about how important research is but I’m yet to read a good post that actually tells you anything constructive to help you get off the ground. There are basically two routes to go down, depending on how well structured your brand is. If you’re well on your way to having a good set of guidelines for how your brand communicates itself, including behaviours, values, personality, tone of voice, in some shape or form, awesome. If you’re not and you just have a logo, some colours and fonts, then it’s worth taking some time to build up your brand’s personality a little. Crystallising the essence of your brand will give you clear guidance on the style and tone of your content.

Our research methodology covers data and qualitative research in four areas:

  • Brand
  • Competitors
  • Landscape
  • Consumer

We dial up and down in each area how much data we have (limited by availability) and the qualitative research we undertake.

Data sources:

  • Internal customer and prospect database
  • Social listening
  • Geo demographic data
  • Website analytics

Qualitative research:

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Good old desk based Internet trawling of research papers
  • Trend libraries, Mintel, Canvas8 for example
  • Our planning teams experience and internal ongoing research

We then scrutinise the research in granular detail. So whether that’s looking for relevant elements, segmenting data to find significance, overlaying datasets, buying behaviour or macro trends and future spotting, it’s all tightly analysed. Insights are then derived through the process. Importantly, we then scrutinise again, as we don’t take anything at face value and delving deeper and deeper often uncovers insights that others have failed to spot. This alone can give you a huge advantage.

Uncovering insights

I could wax lyrical for ages on this but I’ll try and keep it short. Insights are simply unexpected facts that seem to contradict actual assumed perceptions. This sort of thing is very well described in books like “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (Daniel Kahneman, Penguin). Generally, we form opinions on things simply because our brains are a bit lazy. So aim to uncover insights that challenge perceptions because they will reap big rewards.

A good example of this is playing out right now in financial services. Women account for a huge potential market with un-invested funds, control of family budgets and generally more say in family economics and purchasing decisions. This flies in the face of convention that suggests the man who goes out to work controls the money. Rubbish. You can see in loads of financial services advertising and content that it’s squarely aimed at women.

Hold onto these insights they’re important for the later stages and they will give your content strategy a competitive edge.

Data segmentation

It’s time to chop up your data into more manageable, useful chunks. Your aim is to group together people who have similar characteristics, whether you choose a simple path such as age gender, location or a more sophisticated route such as behaviours, product choices and lifetime value. Or a combination of both perhaps.

Customer personas

Once you’ve got some segments you can start to build some personas for each one. Don’t go mad, you only need a few.

A persona should look something like this example we created for work in the property sector:

This helps inform your creative, your timings and your distribution choices.

Consumer journey mapping

Once you’ve established personas that either look like your customer segments or the result of your research, if you haven’t got a large customer database, then it’s time to think about journeys. Mapping the consumer journey is one of the single most important things you will down creating a content strategy, or any marketing strategy for that matter. It puts the consumer at the heart of your organisation and allows you to build your entire experience around them.

Generally we take a 5 stage approach, covering:

Creation of customer stages

These are the behavioural stages a customer and potential customer go through to ultimately buy your product or service. Depending on your sector these can happen quickly or over a long period of time, regardless, they will go through different stages. Some of these include; discovery, research, consideration, purchase, advocate.

Understanding goals and needs

It’s important to keep in mind that the journey map is about the consumers goals not yours. We identify what it is that the consumer needs that’s going to help them achieve their goal at any given stage. This helps us identify the touch points where we can meet these needs. If we can achieve the consumers goal we can move them to the next stage of the journey.

Identifying the touch points

Through the process you should now be building a picture of where you can interact with your consumer. This could be online, offline, in person there are now many places to interact and in many different ways. What you’re looking to identify are the important ones, the places where you can interact that will have the desired affect.

Leveraging data

The basis for any good consumer journey map is data, whether that’s data explicitly derived from your own database, via third parties or through anecdotal research. The challenge faced by most brands however is that their channel ecosystem wasn’t created based on a specific journey, it’s just sprung up because the brand felt they should. We’ve met many brands operating across multiple channels with little actual understanding of their customer. Very often most of the data is from outside sources in this scenario and a certain amount of testing is required to find a balance across the customer journey before thinking about optimising it.

Identifying gaps

The customer journey map very quickly shows us how siloed organisations are, identifying where gaps exist and where needs aren’t being met. This is a great exercise that helps multiple teams align around the customer, but it’s not without it’s pain points.

The journey map should be viewed as a living document that can change as we learn more about our customers for this very reason. The gaps highlight where you are weak and where you should focus efforts.


We always aim to craft a simple strategy into something you can articulate in one sentence. This sounds simple but is actually pretty difficult, but it is worth it. With the strategy in mind, you can shape all your activity in the same direction. Your strategy is designed to give you the tools to hit your goals and it will bring into line everything else you do.

There are all sorts of different frameworks you can use but the fundamentals are virtually always the same.

Some of the frameworks include:

SOSTAC, situation analysis, objectives, strategy, tactics, actions, control.

This is what we follow at DVO and we’ve laid this article out following the stages in SOSTAC.

You can read more about SOSTAC
and a host of models that have stood the test of time, here.

Creative and how to think about a long idea for content

You may already have your brand creative and a big idea that forms the basis of your communications. If so, awesome. Your job is going to be quite a bit easier as your task is now more about adapting that story and communicating it through always-on channels, such as your blog and social media.

If you don’t, it’s time to think about an idea or a story that you can tell.

At this stage it’s great discipline to think about developing a creative brief. This is where the fruits of your planning and strategy can guide the creative process, putting in place the boundaries and framework within which thoughtful ideas can flow. We wrote a post recently on the agency briefing process so we won’t go into that again here, but it’s worth reading.

Agency briefing process

This is where we as agencies should excel. The planning and strategic process is designed to ensure that the ideas, technology and activation have the best chance to succeed providing the insights that create a real competitive advantage when telling brand stories.

In traditional advertising the narrative is often the starting point to pick out key messages that then manifest as a visual or copy in adverts. With content marketing, it’s the other way around. What are the messages you want to communicate and how can these be turned into a narrative? How can that then form the themes and elements within your content to give you enough room to talk around the subject over the long term.

There are many ways to achieve this. We’re big advocates of the golden circle method, especially given the attitudes of connected consumers.

Rather that the what > how > why approach, the story is told the other way around why > how > what. This is a successful tactic that companies like Apple use as it builds a much stronger affinity with their target market. We know that people buy into businesses with a strong philosophy and sense of purpose and this tactic aligns brand and consumer much more closely.

The consumer journey map we created earlier is where we blend creative and data. Data helps us to understand where and when we should communicate but it’s the creative that makes the difference. Only the best creative will cut through the noise and give us the competitive edge. It’s this blend that is a real area of competitive advantage for brands willing to push themselves and their agency partners.

Co-creation and UGC

Something that is increasingly important for brands is how they co-create with both the influencers and their wider brand audience. Customers as advocates, UGC, whatever your preferred term one thing is for sure that bringing external voices into your story not only amplifies its reach but enhances its authenticity. Some of the most successful integrated content campaigns weave external content in from the start. Whether they use a simple device to get people to share pictures or stores such as a branded hashtag or employ more sophisticated tools such as Tint to source UGC content and repurpose this on websites, advertising and in social media. All work on the simple fact that people trust other people more than they trust your brand. It’s word of mouth at scale and thinking about how your concept and strategy can incorporate it can help a good campaign become a great campaign.

How this is delivered and structuring a content calendar

A content calendar is an essential and really useful tool. It needn’t be complicated and can help you shape the story and act to bring cohesion across all the elements. Building one is pretty easy and if you need help there are loads of free tools and examples online.

It’s worth thinking about a content framework that would look something like this example from work in the property space we have undertaken which prioritised video and media friendly content:

Media planning to inform distribution

Media planning is one of the most overlooked areas of content, so much so that it’s become a cliché to even say but here goes. Your content can be the most relevant, exciting and engaging content in the world, but if nobody reads it, it is entirely useless.

Depending on what channels you’ve selected, based around the research you’ve done regarding your customer’s journey, you should by this point be starting to categorise your content based on what it’s designed to achieve. For example, is it about awareness and getting people engaged with your brand, is it about consideration, driving home a message with longer more informative content, is it about conversion creating a compelling reason to buy?

Different types of content suit different channels. Putting the wrong content out through an inappropriate channel can render it dead in the water, no matter how brilliant the content actually is.

Activation, management and refinement

Time to put your money where your mouth is. You should now have all the elements in place to successfully implement your content strategy. You should have a clear picture of your consumer, where they are, and what their needs are. You should have content that is structured and a distribution plan to put the right content in the most effective place. Importantly, you should understand what data you want to capture, what you’re going to measure and how this can then be analysed to improve what you are doing.

We hear so many stories that talk about just diving in with a thin scraping of research, especially where start-ups are concerned (seriously, SO MANY TIMES IT’S SCARY). I think this is a huge and potential expensive risk. Unless you really understand what and why you are doing things, it’s the fastest way to see zero results and lose money. Good work and great results take a bit of effort. I’m writing this blog in the full knowledge that, hopefully, some readers will follow this and it will help, but in reality for many it’s not that easy and for good reasons. If it was, then we’d all have traffic, customers and sales coming out of our ears and wouldn’t need to worry.

Now it’s time to think about how you are going to test your content, track your KPIs and bench mark what does and doesn’t work. You can apply a simple a/b test philosophy to your content and also test across the customer journey to see whether your content is moving people to the next natural stage. Be mindful though consumers don’t observe a linear funnel so keep this in mind that people will likely come in and out of your channel ecosystem at points of their choosing. Be flexible and this won’t drive you mad.

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you through the development of a content strategy we’d love to hear from you. It’s complicated and there aren’t any shortcuts. But get it right and you will foster loyal customers and hit the heights that have often seemed out of reach. Pick up the phone, give us a call, we’ve got nice biscuits and we can help.

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Multi-channel marketing problems and opportunities

By popular demand from our recent Twitter poll, this week we dive into multi-channel marketing problems and opportunities.

Multi-channel marketing problems and opportunities seemingly exist in equal measure. We seem to be living through the conclusion of multi-channel with brands bursting at the seams under the weight of all the new channels that technology has created.

So, to help clarify things, in this post we’ll cover:

  • What multi-channel actually means and how it is different to omni-channel?
  • The downside of multi-channel
  • The solution
  • Conclusion

What is multi-channel and how is it different to omni-channel?

First off, let’s clear something up because these terms seem to be very similar but, as you’ll see, the strategies are very different and the terms seem to cause endless confusion. So, what is the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel?

Multi-channel marketing

The multi-channel approach aims to get the word out using as many channels as possible, usually more than 2. Rarely are the channels connected and working together in an integrated way. Organisations invariably find themselves operating a multi-channel model, having added new channels as and when they become available. Lots of work for lower quality output and poorer results.

Omni-channel marketing

The Omni-channel approach integrates every channel to engage with customers as a holistic whole, rather than treating the channels as discreet siloes. An omni-channel approach taps directly into the cornerstones of integrated marketing; coherence, consistency, continuity and complimentary. Omni-channel prioritises the overall experience as the sum of interactions with the brand through each and every channel aiming to ensure these are overwhelmingly positive. Omni-channel is a truly customer-first approach, building stronger relationships between consumers and brands by better meeting needs at every stage.

Check out our recent blog on integrated marketing here, discussing the fundamentals of an integrated campaign which would be delivered within an omni-channel strategy.

Brands with a defined omni-channel marketing strategy achieve on average a 91% higher year-on-year increase in acquisition and importantly, customer retention.

So, what’s wrong with multi-channel?

It’s not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with multi-channel it’s just not an approach that optimises either the activity or the individual channels themselves. As marketers, we should always be collectively striving to improve what we do and how we are doing it. As the consumer has matured with technology, we now understand more than ever the connected nature of marketing channels. The immediacy culture that technology has created and the huge change in customer behaviour resulted in many brands struggling to keep up. Multi-channel seems like a place we have arrived at at the end of a race to add as many channels as possible, testing, learning as we go (sometimes!). Smart brands in this place are now looking to see how they can connect the channels and offer a better, more connected, experience for the customer. Why? Because it results in improvements from awareness to acquisition through to retention.

I promised myself I wouldn’t bang on about siloes again so all I will say is that the pinacle of multi-channel is usually a whole host of siloes in marketing, at worst working against each other with arbitrarily assigned KPIs that bear little relation to the whole. Which is not a place anyone wants to be in. We see our role as a full service digital agency to integrate these around a holistic view of the customer, to get a better return on investment for our clients and a better experience for their customers.

The real danger of multi-channel is an unwillingness to connect the channels, that comes down to organisation and culture. But to be honest without the appetite to change innovation is unlikely.

barrier to innovation & change

Image Gartner financial services innovation survey.

So, what’s the solution?

Shift from multi-channel to omni-channel, simple eh?

Ok so perhaps not that simple. We’ve found the best way to connect all the dots requires some sort of catalyst, a simple way to shift tac from one strategy to another. It starts with the brand. Very often traditional brand strategies haven’t been updated to incorporate digital and very often don’t consider 2-way, always-on channels. This means starting from a bad place that will never get your where you need to be.

From a communications perspective, we’ve found that developing a content platform or digital experience, driven by an updated brand strategy, is a great place to start. It connects the traditional above-the-line channels with digital and it’s then reasonably straightforward to re-align the channels around this. Importantly, it gives the disparate teams something to rally around.

The components:

Research and data

We look at trends, qualitative research and data covering four areas; brand, customers, competitors and landscape. This gives a complete overview enabling us to understand what the challenge is, where the opportunities lie and a deeper understanding of the customer.

Segment to build personas

However you slice up your customer research and data, your aim is to segment, creating smaller affinity groups. Once you have these you can develop personas, defining a picture of the person beyond the data. Adding substance like media choices, needs, passions and goals helps build up a fuller picture.

Customer journeys

Mapping these is vital. Data is an essential component, aim to understand which channels are relevant to each given persona. Importantly, the goal is to understand where the barriers exist, blocking the customer’s movement towards purchase and removing these. You can’t do this unless you know firstly what they are and secondly at what stage of the customers journey they come into play.

If you do this, you can confidently market holistically to the customer with tailored activity at each channel to move the customer towards purchase.

Again, an integrated content marketing approach is the perfect solution as it prioritises putting the right content in the right place to make this happen.

Creativity and technology

It’s hard to separate these now so maybe let’s talk about the idea. In an omni-channel world the idea that drives what you produce and what the consumer sees is channel agnostic. In an omni-channel world the digital experience is at the heart, with consistent messaging adapted for the nuances of each channel and relevant to the journey stage. Consistency is key. Think of a story, a big one, where you tell only the most relevant bits at a given time and place to satisfy the audience, motivating them to move onto the next chunk.

For DVO, this kind of conceptual creative is found at the intersection of traditional communications, editorial and technology-led thinking.


Activation in an omni-channel world requires meticulous planning and organisation. We’ve experimented with various formats, arriving at a universal content plan as the most simple and effective, layering this above the channels to manage implementation. In practice, we’ve ended up doing some of the channel work where the brand in question doesn’t have resource, but we’ve always found a big picture view keeps everyone involved engaged.


Assigning the right objectives and channel KPIs is vital when moving away from multi-channel to omni. Channel KPIs move from being arbitrary to laddering up directly to marketing and business objectives within the omni-channel strategy. It’s vital you do this so you can measure the effectiveness of the whole. This represents another great opportunity to align teams, it gives them purpose outside of their daily activity, demonstrating how their input impacts on the wider objectives. It’s important they know this of course.


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So 2017 has been tagged as the year that brands start to optimise multi-channel, better integrating individual experiences around the whole. So, omni-channel then? In our opinion this change needs a catalyst, something real, that demands an omni-channel approach and integrated content marketing fits the bill.

We’ve thought long and hard to create simple road maps for our clients to get them on a path to realigning their marketing around the customer expereince. If you’re looking to transition from multi- to omni-channel and want the gap between your brand and customer to stop widening then contact us here, or give us a call, 020 3771 2641. You can also sign-up for our newsletter at the top of this post on the right hand side.

Wrapping a brand round your start-up.

This week we’re discussing start-up branding. It’s essential but, in so many cases, it gets overlooked, certainly beyond the logo and colour scheme. But a brand is so much more. It’s the beating heart of the business and the basis of any marketing and communications. A good brand can make the difference between success and failure.

We started by talking to two different start-ups about the challenges they faced and we finish with what we believe is important when taking your business to market and truly selling it. Why? Well nowadays there are so many new businesses launching, thanks to technology, that unfortunately it’s becoming more and more obvious which ones have put time and thought into their brand. After all, all businesses need customers, period.

Vanessa Butz and Giovanni Roberto, were our two victims. We wanted to understand how they dealt with brand and why they felt it important.

Vanessa moved to London in 2015 to set-up Interchange, one of London’s coolest co-working environments, which was taken from conception to launch in a little over 3 months. Although Interchange sits under the umbrella of a larger public company, Vanessa experienced all the challenges you would expect from a start-up.

Giovanni is the founder of Yndica, an innovative, multi-channel retail solution with a hand picked selection of products, displayed in pods, which can be placed almost anywhere. The proposition seamlessly integrates a mobile ecommerce solution, allowing purchase and delivery at the swipe of a phone.

The consensus is refreshing and something the start-ups of this world should take on-board, as a strongly differentiated brand is what will give them an edge as markets start to get more competitive. Both felt strongly that culture is what drives start-up branding. It all starts with the founders establishing a strong sense of culture in the business (we’d probably call this values and personality) and this should be reflected in the experience a customer has regardless of where they are in their journey. The deeper understanding of how a consumer forms relationships with a brand was something they both inherently understood and both felt that brand needed to be policed, especially as the businesses evolved. What we often see missing, that both really understood, was that brands evolve. Many start-ups forget this bit, still forging ahead with the first iteration, conceived over the kitchen table, at a point in their lifespan where it’s no longer fit for purpose.


So we’d thought we’d hand out some start-up branding advice. Free. Because we’re nice like that.


You’ve come up with a great idea, you’ve asked a lot of questions, you’ve put in the time and effort to formalise your idea into a business. Now what?

Never before has there been so much support, funding and information available for start-ups. But, from our experience (and this goes back to year dot!) most people don’t put enough time or budget into planning their start-up branding and marketing strategy. And your start-up will need both if you want to start making money in the not too distant future. Which we’re assuming you do.

Start by thinking about what the actual purpose of your business is and where do you want it to be in the future. What are your ambitions for your business? These can be distilled down into short, snappy phrases, called ‘Vision’ and ‘Mission’ (often the Mission Statement).
Your vision is exactly that, what your ultimate vision is for the future of your company? This is often something kept within the company to inspire your employees, and it should always be written in the future tense. A great and very often quoted vision statement is “A just world without poverty” – Oxfam. Simple, clear and truly visionary.
A mission statement is often shareable and is more about a statement of intent for your business. What is its day to day purpose? These tend to be a little longer than your vision, with a slightly more practical edge. Google’s is pretty good we think, “Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. As you can see, it’s not about giving your ideas or secrets away, just simply telling people what you’re about. A good exercise to do alongside this one is listing out all your brand values and core principles. Having these agreed early on will prove very helpful all along your branding journey.

At DVO we offer a full service digital agency model which places a huge amount of importance on research, and with good reason. We never understand why so many companies, including some long standing, experienced ones, place little or no value on research, some even totally forgoing it! Yes, it is a potential cost, or can be quite labour intensive, especially if you don’t have a big budget. But really, it is essential. Both quantitative (large amounts of data, easily measured and reported) and qualitative (smaller amounts of data, less easily measured, sometimes anecdotal) provide valuable insights into all areas of your business and the landscape within which it sits. Use your research to establish whether your business idea has potential. Look at other players in your sector, what is your potential audience size, what can your target customer afford? Even down to the basics; has your chosen brand name been taken already, are the digital naming rights available? All these things will help you formulate your business model, price your products or service accordingly and realise their full potential going forward.


Very few new businesses are truly unique nowadays. If you’ve come up with an idea that really does not have any competitors, then well done you. But most business ideas will already be out there in one form or another, and you will hopefully have identified these during your research. So what you need to do is establish what about your business is different to them. Once you’ve identified these points of difference, you need to ratify these into your ‘unique proposition’.


Once you have your unique proposition, you need to do some analysis of your audience. Lots of times in the past, when we’ve asked someone who their potential customer is, the reply is often “everybody”. Everybody? Really? So every single man, woman and child in the entire world is going to want and be in a position to buy your product? No, didn’t think so.
Take the time to really understand your target audience. So, for example, if you’re selling feminine hygiene products, then pretty much 50% of the world’s population sits outside of your target audience. If the lowest possible entry price for your product is, say, £500,000, then you’ve narrowed do to a small sector of very wealthy individuals. Selling pens? Yes, you may think that your product IS for everyone, but if you actually think about it, if it’s cheap, high volume units, then maybe your core audience is large offices, and you need to sell via large scale office suppliers. So you’re then looking at a B2B strategy, rather than direct to consumer.


Once you’ve established your audience, you can then look within it to identify any differing segments. Different segments might require different messaging or may favour different channels. Understanding these early on will help you create a brand profile that works will all your audience segments and resonates fully with your potential customers.


A handy exercise we favour is the creation of an ‘Elevator Pitch’. This is really useful for all employees, not just those responsible for sales. It’s your door opener, essentially, if you had those few seconds in an elevator with a stranger and had to explain the ‘who, what and how’ about your brand, what would you say. It is the spirit and function of you brand, articulated in a clear, concise and memorable way. Once you have this defined, put it on stuff. On your website, on business cards, on headed paper, on email signatures. And try and make it as engaging as possible.
Next, you need some reasoning to back up your pitch. A good test of any statement you make in business is to say it, and then add the words “yeah, so what?”. Make sure you’ve got a list of arguments that can support any claims you make. And make them customer-relevant. If you can offer something, prove its integrity and shows how it can only benefit your target customer, the sale is as good as yours.

Tone of voice and content go hand in hand. You’ve already got your brand values from earlier, haven’t you? So your tone of voice is how you ensure that brand profile is expressed throughout all your communications. Doing this ensures consistency, helps alleviate mismatched messaging and ratifies your brand throughout the customer experience.

We have lost count of the amount of times we’ve encountered the old ‘logo as brand’ mentality, even from so-called branding specialist. Visual identity; your logo, chosen colours, fonts, layouts, templates etc. are the visual representation of your brand. Your visual identity needs to aligned itself with your brand values, your messaging and identify with your customers. It needs to be memorable and it needs to work hard for you. All the elements of it need to support the rest of your business.

Understanding your customer journey is key, and often, what at first seemed simple can actually end up much more complicated. So take the time to work through it in great detail. Understanding what you expect your customers to do to buy from you can be a bit of a humbling experience. Once you have got it nailed, ensure that all the above elements are expressed throughout the journey. With so many potential channels, points of contact, entry points, purchase methods and digital assets to manage, a consistent, clear user experience is what will get you loyal, repeat customers. Which would be nice eh?

Right, that’s a lot to take in, we know, so here’s a handy little start-up branding checklist:

1. What’s the Vision? – aspirations, always in future tense
2. What’s the Mission? – shareable, what’s the company’s purpose?
3. What are your brand values and core principles?
4. Do your research – quantitative, qualitative, competitors, business name and digital assets availability.
5. What’s your Unique Selling Proposition?
6. Who is your customer? How is your audience segmented? How does your messaging needs to flex to resonate with your segments?
7. What’s your Elevator Pitch?
8. Pillars of reason – create your arguments to back up your claims.
9. Tone of voice and content – how are you going to express your brand?
10. Visual identity – logo, fonts, colours, layouts, templates etc. Do these represent your brand values? Will your audience identify with them?
11. Customer journey – understand it in GREAT detail. Does it work for your audience? Is the user experience consistent with your brand profile?
12. Test your messaging and everything else
13. Give us a call if you get stuck, 020 3771 2461

We hope you’ve found this start-up branding guide useful. If you’d like more information or help then please get in touch, we don’t bite!

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Getting to grips with the customer journey – Stage 1 of Innovation

We’re obsessed with Financial Services (FS) at the moment. It’s a sector rife with change and opportunity. Today we’re discussing what seems to be lacking and despite efforts in innovation, why FS still seems to be missing the point because of an incomplete understanding of the customer journey.

Visa, Barclays, NatWest and Santander amongst others have all launched fintech incubators or some sort of start-up fund over the last few years. On the face of it, it’s a smart move. However integrating this innovation into normal business isn’t happening in any kind of meaningful way.

To us, the real problem is changing consumer behaviour, that has dramatically altered the customer journey. Effective communications and engagements happen across the customer journey in the modern world, but the sector as a whole seems to not have noticed. Something needs to change, fast. The World Economic Forums’ ‘Future of Financial Services’ report highlighted an unprecedented level of change for the industry. You can read the key points here.

I’m sure it’s been said a lot but for big brands, they perceive change as being difficult. For every discussion about innovation there’ll be a discussion about how difficult it is to get anything done within a big brand. It’s the kind of barriers as marketers we’re familiar with. But, it strikes us that aligning around the customer journey is definitely a place to start. Once you understand your customers and their touch points you can start to think about how you interact with them. Surely this then helps to evaluate the innovations you bring into your normal business? Interesting parallels are drawn with digital at large – once upon a time it was thought of as just another media channel, then things started to change and now digital isn’t just about websites and banner ads. It’s something that should be integrated across your whole brand ecosystem. The reality is however, that in most cases it’s not.

So why get involved? There are risky investments in the bigger picture and innovation isn’t being brought into the normal business areas. Yet.

I’d argue that what actually makes these businesses interesting is a fundamental difference in the way that they build their products and services. In an ideal world, what I would like to see is more of a culture transfer based around an approach that really puts the customer at the centre of brand. Look at the collaborative economy, peer to peer businesses have been popping up all over the place in FS with some very successful propositions. Why? Because they are facilitating something that that people want to do in a way they want to do. The “I have, you need” philosophy.

I should qualify this article by saying that whilst it does talk about large institutions I am referencing the whole sector. When you come down a rung or two in times of size and scale, the problems seems to be multiplied. Mid-size organisations don’t have a fintech incubator in Tech city. So what the hell do they do. How can they compete? Simple – understand your customers, understand your landscape and competition and think about how you can slowly begin change.

Have a look at this chart, where do you fit?

How digitization transforms industries

How digitization transforms industries

Taking all of this in context, it still seems to me that no one incumbent has got this cracked. Change has happened and it’s just a matter of time, especially if you’re doing nothing, that things start to go backwards. Let’s end on a positive however – if you can’t innovate your products and services you can definitely innovate your customer contacts. You can become integrated, you can do something about the experience your customers have around your existing products and services.

So I guess the reason why the big institutions are getting involved is to hedge their bets. Hopefully one day, being able to integrate the innovation-led customer-first approach into their core business or when the innovative tech becomes the new norm, they’ll have a slice of the pie.

If you want to give your customer an outstanding experience every step of the way, why not get in touch, we can discuss how we can do it together over a nice cup of tea. Contact us through our form, or call us on 020 3771 2461.