Trendhunter Pro – cutting edge trend hunting from around the globe

Last year I recommended the best selling book – Exploiting Chaos – by a friend of mine Jeremy Gutsche.

Jeremy’s website Trend Hunter continues to go from strength to strength. His model is fascinating. He has thousands of “trend hunters” posting interesting content about stuff happening all over the world. But what I really love is the way that they are exploiting and developing insight from this content.

The guys have launched a new service called TrendHunter Pro Trend Reports. These are great syntheses of what is hot from all the content posted on Trend Hunter. If you are in consumer insight or want to know about the real cutting edge trends happening now then they are worth looking at. Trend Hunter is great example of how powerful the democratisation of the creation of content is to delivering insight and value.

Click here to visit Trend Hunter.

[Disclosure: If you buy through the above link then I receive a commission on this sale. This does not affect my recommendation of what I think is a good product. If you prefer not to recognise my recommendation through a commission then you can use this link:]

Have fun exploiting what’s hot and what’s not!


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I’ve been thinking about the new stuff that companies do.

Innovation. Too many projects in businesses are given that title. It devalues the word and what it should really mean. It leads to that sad statistic that 80% of new products launched don’t survive….which given companies are generally very risk adverse is a pretty pathetic hit rate.

Unfortunately most companies believe that implementing anything new is innovation, which is more a reflection of how difficult they make it to get stuff done rather than anything that would make a real person go “wow – that’s neat”.

That’s not to say that a whole range of things can’t build your business but if we are honest with each other most of it isn’t innovation. Try this simple categorisation test for the new stuff you or your company are working on:

CATEGORY 1Stuff your customers think you already do because you are behind the curve or is so obvious that you should do like….

  • An innovation CRM project that allows your company to know when a customer has called (all service companies want this and most don’t have it covered yet)
  • An innovation IT system that allows your company to see a single view of a customer (i.e. you know what products I have from you) (all the big banks want this but most don’t have it)
  • Servicing your account online or opting for e-statements (Barclaycard have been pushing this to their customers in the last year or so as they played catch up)

CATEGORY 2: Stuff your customers think you should do already like…..

CATEGORY 3: Stuff which customers recognise is new but don’t really care that much about like….


and finally if you have any left….

CATEGORY 4: Stuff which customers recognize is new and really want like…

  • A truly easy to use fusion mobile smartphone that moulds to your needs (the iPhone)
  • A drink which is 2 of your 5 day and tastes great (Innocent Smoothies)
  • Off-set mortgages (Virgin One Account – this was a real financial product innovation which gave a real benefit to some)
  • Hybrid cars (Toyota and Honda – true technological innovations)
  • LED lightbulbs (which replace 50W halogens with 4W almost never ending bulbs)
  • Widgets which gave a smooth pour from a can (can’t remember who launched this first Guinness? Boddingtons? – but it was an innovation that delivered a real benefit)
  • Wash and Go 2 in 1 shampoos (yes – even this was a true innovation which solved a customer need that of simplicity)

It’s the last category of course that are real innovations requiring significant investments and creative thinking rather than battling with internal restrictions and bureaucracy.

How much of what you are working on that is called “innovation” could really be placed in the last category? If it’s lots that’s great – I can’t wait for these new breakthroughs to get to market! If it’s lots in the other categories (as I suspect it will be) that’s not necessarily a bad thing but make sure you don’t believe your own “innovation hype”- because it’s your customers that really know whether what you’ve just launched is new, truly different and worthy of lasting.

As ever I would love to hear what you think. Get involved, share your ideas, comment below – every comment wins a personal thank you from me!

Hope “The Teenies” are treating you well!


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Ever considered whether moving your brand’s position is good idea?
Ever thought about whether you could thrive in a cheaper part of the market?
Ever got frustrated that you don’t make much progress against your competitors?

I’ve often looked at these brand positioning questions and recently experienced the repositioning of Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline.

I used to despise Aer Lingus. When I was travelling to Dublin every week for work (about 7 years ago) I avoided them like the plague, they were awful. Badly run, never on time and unpleasant. They were a poor imitation of British Airways or bmi. Worse of all they were bad AND expensive.

But in the last few months I’ve flown Aer Lingus four times and they have changed significantly. It seems they have upped their game but the main thing they have done is reposition their brand and that has done wonders for their perceived value.

They have kept the core of their national carrier approach – assigned seats, quite generous baggage allowances, trained and uniformed staff, sober style, normal planes with normal seats. But they have changed their pricing model to be similar to Easyjet – i.e. book early get cheap seats. For all the flights I have taken with them I have been booking up to 8 weeks in advance (so not incredibly early) and got flights for under £50.

Aer Lingus are now competing in my mind with Easyjet and Ryanair for my low cost flights. They aren’t competing with British Airways anymore from where I look at the market. They bring a certain national carrier quality to this low cost competition and this combination has won out for my last 4 flights. They didn’t win when they were competing against British Airways, they do when they compete against Easyjet.

Sometimes you don’t have to change what you do, you just have to move your brand or business model to compete in a different part of the market where you bring value.

Now, as a quick look at their results shows, the challenge for Aer Lingus will be to right size their cost base to the reduction in revenue per seat that low-cost has caused. They need to do this whilst maintaining a half decent customer experience and is currently differentiating them from their low cost competitors. Not an easy task but by focusing on the things that really matter, keeping some of the national carrier experience, and innovating on key dimensions they have a chance.

A good example is their investment in the hub at Gatwick or the very impressive self check baggage approach they have in Dublin. This self check baggage system means you can sticker and drop your bags automatically. Rather than detract from the experience this is a great innovation and almost guarantees no queuing.

We’ll see where the airline story goes. The “pack ’em in like cattle model” will I think become increasingly niche, especially as flying becomes more expensive. I, for one, will be looking for great value.

Thanks for reading, as ever, please comment if you have ideas or thoughts.


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Don’t change what you do, reposition your brand to create value

Just posted a new blog about the repositioning of the Aer Lingus brand.

Please share with others and if you have ideas and thoughts, please comment.



A quick post to share a presentation that I put together for the UK Marketing team for Carlsberg. An old friend of mine (Ian Hannaford @ihannaford) is now a Marketing Manager at Carlsberg and he kindly extended an invitation to talk through some thoughts on brands and marketing with the team.

It was great to meet the team and I really enjoyed the session. Some really interesting ideas surfaced which provoked lots of discussion. I learnt alot about Carlsberg including the fact that it is run as a trust contributing to Danish projects and the top board is scientists and artists. How differentiated is that?

I was impressed that the team was open to hearing ideas and thoughts from other marketers and categories – I wish all teams were as open. Thanks also go to the Director of Brands Paul Davies for allowing me a slot at his meeting.

Do you want me come to your team meeting and provoke some thinking and discussion? Email me – I might just take you up on the offer!

As ever – if you have any thoughts, disagreements, energy and passion to share about brands and marketing then please comment below or drop me an email.

Update on Battle of the Big Thinking (for those that have been following my frustrations on Twitter) – I finally have a stable draft of the presentation. If you are attending see you there and if you aren’t you will be able to take part because I’m going to extend an invitation for you to join the debate!

Hope you are having a great day!


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At last I’ve managed to get enough time to share the presentation that myself and Tom Farrand created for the Financial Services Forum in October 2009.

For those of you that followed the presentation on my Twitter feed and asked for the presentation here are the charts and an audio commentary from me.

In reality the presentation took about 45 mins so I’ve had to rush to crunch it down to 17 mins. You can just click through the slides if you don’t want to listen to me!

And for those that don’t even want to view the presentation or listen to the audio here are the key conclusions:

1. There is a brand bubble being created between valuation and consumer value
2. Consumers are increasingly getting frustrated with brands and business
3. There are disruptive changes which are causing this:
4. Consumption based economic growth is now compromising our well being
5. Consumption based economic growth is unsustainable
6. Connectivity and access to information can help facilitate change
7. Social and power structures are changing

The opportunity for brands and their businesses is:

1. Engage in the debate
2. Adopt a point of view and foster conversation
3. Be points of consistency in a changing world
4. Become the ideas around which businesses can adopt a more balanced approach to delivering not just for shareholders but for the common good
5. These social imperatives are a powerful way to deliver a brand’s commercial imperative – and this will constitute brand leadership going forward.

There are lots of big themes and trends here – get involved – please comment on this blog.

What do you think the future of brands is? Comment and share your ideas.

Justin (and Tom Farrand)

P.S. Apologies for the silence from my blog over the past couple of weeks – I’ve been working on various ideas which took my focus away from the blog.

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Using Social Media to create communities around your brand

[This is the first in an occasional series of guest blogs that I am sharing from experts in different fields – if you want to guest on my blog send me a mail]

Social media has become almost a necessity when it comes to communicating with your audience, fans and customers. As more and more people turn to social media for entertainment and to follow their favourite companies, brands and celebrities it’s critical that you don’t get left behind. Not participating in social media will be like almost not having a website in the near future. Almost unthinkable!

Many a SEO Company are offering to integrate your business socially, some are good and some have simply no idea. I would suggest looking at your company’s own strategy before choosing any provider should you go down this route.

Social media is all about connecting and communicating with your audience, it’s not enough to create a Twitter account and then think that doing a few tweets will be enough. Your fans want to hear from you regularly, possibly once a day or more. People that are part of your network are generally interested in what you have to say or offer and want to hear more. We’re talking about real fans now, not a million pointless people who only followed you, because you followed them.

By constantly keeping in touch with your audience, you create a “momentum” and a loyal following who will support you and give you valuable feedback. Should you connect with them in the right way they will become the most powerful PR machine you could ever imagine which could make your business explode with sales or enquires or implode should there be a lot of criticism.

The trick to successful social media is effort in creating and maintaining your network and offering things that are of interest. Do not try to “market the hell” out of your network and fans, as all you’ll succeed in doing is losing them.

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool which can help you connect with your customers and fans on a personal level, almost never before possible. This tight communication reaps huge rewards in terms of customer loyalty, brand awareness and building. Social media should be embraced to grow your business as not participating can actually do more harm than good.

This article was written by Christopher Angus – An award winning Internet Marketer. You can get in touch with Christopher Angus here or read his blog here.

As always – do you have a view? Do you like guest blogs? Are you creating communities of trust around your brand? Share a comment below!


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5 rules for marketers as we move away from Greed to Fear

I was at a seminar last week organised by the Financial Services Forum where I was lucky enough to hear Lucian Camp talk about his take on the current crisis and how it challenges advertising and commuication. I agree with him that something fundamental has changed and we are moving away from a predominant focus on “Greed” to needs around “fear”.

However I don’t particularly like the concept of Greed and Fear since I have rarely heard consumers talk about these words directly. I prefer to think of it as “gain” and “protect”. Over the past 20 years the prevailing mood has been “gain” – gaining goods, houses, wealth, quality of life, happiness, health. This doesn’t mean we have achieved any of these things but we have experienced the advertising of aspiration.

We have now been shocked into a different mode – that of “protection”. We have all been given pause for thought on whether our jobs, our homes, our families, even the system we rely on, are secure and around for the long term. Products and messages that talk about protecting and sustaining what one has now are more in the current zeitgeist. These messages are also more in tune with the global sustainability issues that we are all facing.

Here are 5 rules for marketers to think of as we ride this trend:

1. Invest more time in understanding consumers worries, frustrations and concerns. I’ve often seen research spend too much time focusing on what people want, with almost an embarrassment to talk about problems that are more negative. Spend time wallowing in these fears with your consumer. From this new insights will come which might not be positive but will resonate strongly in today’s market.

2. Don’t be afraid to link your brand to these concerns in communication. One of the challenges that many of us will need to battle with is that if your career is less thn 15 years old then you’ve only ever worked in the good times. My generation of marketers have only been used to dealing with positive messaging – I think we are a bit afraid of the brand equity we build by talking about negative situations. The best brands will go with the consumer, build equity of “understanding” and “on your side” by reflecting consumer needs hence Rule#1.

3. Move your product development to focus on protection and design products which are sustainable and thrifty. I blogged a while ago about my adventures trying to fix my toaster. Products which help consumers protect what they have whilst having features which are thrifty and sustainable will better meet these needs. Products such as LCD TVs with “eco settings”, Ariel and its turn down to 30 campaign, or printers from HP which have much lower running costs are all examples.

4. Big brands have a great opportunity to gain market share. Small brands need to be faster and closer to their niche. In this environment there will be a natural move to bigger, less risky brands. The big brands that invest through this period will prosper. Those that don’t run the risk that consumers write them off as having failed during the downturn (even if they haven’t). Small brands need to be faster with new concepts and products and more focused than ever on their niches. Luckily more and more niches are appearing and new channels allow greater ability to connect with these groups.

5. (Small) Moments of pleasure matter more than ever. The protection agenda, and the recent crisis, for all the media’s efforts to persaude us otherwise, doesn’t mean a return to mud huts and sack cloth and ashes. However I suspect the embullience of the past cycle will be more muted for a long time. And that means that moments of pleasure and escape will mean even more to people. We are seeing this with consumer spending moving into cinema tickets, chocolate, staycations, and eating well at home, small moments of often thrifty pleasure.

As always please feel free to comment and share your views. I will try and reply to all comments so please leave one if you have a thought.

Also please feel free to share this blog with anyone you might feel is interested. I really appreciate your support as I build this blog.



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What future for the Orange and T-Mobile brands in the UK?

I was asked this morning about whether I had a view on the future of the Orange and T-Mobile brands in the UK now that Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom have announced that they will be merging their UK operations. It’s a fascinating brand problem that they are apparently going to take up to 18 months to decide and that the issue is of “vital importance”.

The UK mobile phone market is a really interesting brand landscape. The chart below maps the market a couple of dimensions which split out the top 5 players. Vodafone plays the Incumbent position (the safe, big choice), despite not being the market leader, and is still product, product, product. O2, the market leader, has used design and customer focus brilliantly to differentiate focused on a fresher, younger demographic. VirginMobile, as a virtual mobile network operator (MVNO) partner to T-Mobile, has carved out its now well trodden youth customer focused challenger position.

T-Mobile has always fallen between two stools: not big enough to be an incumbent but with an incumbent like attitude (from Deutsche Telekom ownership I suspect) which has tried to move from product to customer but has been erratic. Orange is the real brand disappointment of the category moving from its original high quality, customer focused, cool, challenger position into a middle ground between an incumbent and a challenger.

The brand and marketing challenges for T-Mobile and Orange will be to decide where the future of the market will be, which customer group they want to use as a focus, what customers want, and then to understand whether the Orange brand, the T-Mobile brand or both gives them the best solution.

The most obvious choice is to bin the T-Mobile brand whilst using the merger to re-invigorate the Orange brand. T-Mobile has always suffered from a patchy (at best) brand heritage (remember Mercury and then One-to-One?) and a down-market feel. Orange is a brand just waiting to be given the kiss of life.

However a more interesting solution might be to keep both brands. T-Mobile to target the more pay-as-you-go, value based customer, perhaps younger. Whilst the Orange brand becomes again the customer-focused, cool challenger to Vodafone and O2. Tactically this solution allows the T-Mobile brand to go to places that the Orange brand wouldn’t necessarily want to be seen in such as corner shops, or targeting the super value end of the market with hard hitting direct response marketing. This allows Orange to then be much more aspirational and regain the zeitgeist with a return to their cool, slightly arrogant, brand values.

Of course, as I have discussed in this blog before (Why do big companies struggle to get the customer experience right?), buying and using a mobile phone is a service experience, and all the mobile brands have had significant service issues. Creating a compelling brand strategy is the first step, creating a coherent brand reality will be where the really hard work starts.

It’s a great set of brand issues to try to work out and I wish the merger teams the best of luck!



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This is an extract from a blog entry from my internal Capital One blog published in September

One of the things I get asked about alot is “how do brands work?” I know some of our associates remain somewhat sceptical about the role that brands play in the credit card market.

We developed a useful model in the customer experience project that has helped me frame the discussions that I have on brand and the role it plays in our business. I’d like to share this and give a greater feel for why creating a brand-aligned business and organisation is an important part of us winning in the market.

My first request is to banish the word “brand” from your mind for the purpose of the rest of this blog. Forget everything you know of brands and branding. Done that? Good now I’ll carry on.

Let’s look at the business and what we do in Capital One. We only “do” three things in the company: invent products, service customers, and market our products and services (obviously we also do a lot of other activities that “manage” our business, such as Enterprise Risk Management or Finance, but all these activities are consequences of either products, servicing or marketing). (I also include Risk Operations in the servicing category).

The result of all this “doing” is that we create perceptions in peoples’ mind. From a flicker of recognition (we call this “awareness”) because they have seen an ad; to a positive feeling of commitment to our company’s products (we call this “loyalty”) because we have serviced their account well. Of course there huge variation in these perceptions and about 10% of people hold no perception of Capital One (i.e. they haven’t even heard of us). We measure these perceptions every month with around 1000 people and we ask them what they think of us and other credit card companies. These perceptions are important to our business and marketing efforts. And with huge amounts of marketing bombarding our every sense and our complex business its difficult to create these perceptions and even harder to make them positive.

But why are these perceptions important? They are important because they allow all of us to make easier decisions. Consumers can’t rationally analyse the myriad features, benefits, costs that we are presented with. We are all desperately looking for ways to simplify our lives. That’s why websites like are so popular – they simplify. But even when you get to these sites you still have too many choices.

So for example, when a potential customer goes to (as many of them do) and looks at a rate table they are processing the choices that they are presented with through the perceptions they hold in their minds. Let’s imagine for a minute a rate table with offers like a 0% 12 month balance transfer offer from Poundstretcher or the same offer from John Lewis. Which would you choose? Your answer will indicate your perceptions of Poundstretcher and John Lewis, and what you think is important in a credit card.

Was it a hard choice?
What experience do you have of Poundstretcher or John Lewis as a credit card provider?

What are you basing your judgement on?

We all base decisions on the perceptions that we hold in our heads even though we often have no direct experience of the company in that category (in this case credit cards). Where do these perceptions upon which we have just made a purchase decision come from? These perceptions come from the experience that John Lewis and Poundstretcher have delivered to us through what they do: their products, their service and their marketing.

I often get questioned on whether all this perception stuff is nonsense – its all about product/price. There are two aspects to my answer here. Firstly perceptions still rule because what a company is doing by offering great prices is building a price perception that they believe will motivate consumers to turn into customers (and since prices are always assessed in a competitive category context perception is crucial). Secondly, and this is really important given our current business strategy, if we attract customers just on price then they are rarely profitable (because all they do is wait for a better price) and almost never loyal. We don’t want to continue to have to “buy” our way to the top of rate tables – we want to create a set of perceptions where customers choose our great offers not just because of the price but also because of their perception of our service and marketing.

So how should we build a positive set of perceptions for Capital One? By focusing consistently on the things that we “do”: continue to offer great products, give good, reliable service and to market these products and services in a way that engages and pleases the potential customer. If we do this then we will create a positive set of perceptions that will drive marketing efficiency and ultimately the loyalty of our customer base.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on brands, Capital One and our journey by leaving a comment.

Comments welcome as always!