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Is Geek Chic still on trend?

Is Geek Chic still on trend?
2014 Effectiveness Awards judge Sara Marshall looks at brands that show a direct line from customer understanding through to campaigns.

Is Geek Chic still on trend?

I hope so because, after reading the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards submissions, I’ve decided geekism is the way forward.

As judges we had a terrific task to tackle. Who out of the shortlisted greats would make it through?

With such a variety of campaigns to assess, I for one needed a simple way to work out if effectiveness was good luck or good strategic planning.

The one thing that seemed to shout simplicity to me was insight.

Geekism ruled.

Effective campaigns showed a clear line of sight between the work and a detailed understanding of the audience being targeted.

We knew we had something special when we could clearly see the link from analysis of customer drivers, through competitive positioning through customer strategies and finally to campaigns.

It’s difficult to give examples without treading on the toes of entrants. Analysis of supermarkets has been done to death, so let’s look at the interesting world of loans.

Bear with me.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with lots of clients in the FS sector; banks, challengers, credit unions, a well known mutual currently having a few problems and some left-field organisations who hope to use their existing customer relationships to leverage trust.

If one took a simplistic view of the world, ‘rate’ would be the only thing of importance when choosing a loan product. So how has Wonga done so well?

Whatever you think about the organisation, one thing that can’t be questioned is its unerring geekism when it comes to customer understanding.

In a lovely example of needs based segmentation, Wonga found that there was a group of people who needed a relatively small amount of money, quickly and for a short period of time.

They didn’t need to take on the establishment whose loans took days to approve and longer to receive the funds: they could carve out their own market, targeting a highly specific group of people who were prepared to pay for speed of access rather than purely rate.

And by understanding market dynamics and competitor participation strategies, they knew that, for a short time at least, the proposition wasn’t easily replicable: credit Unions could offer lower rates, but it would take weeks for approval.

Banks weren’t interested in small amounts and didn’t have the appetite for seemingly higher risk customers. New entrants didn’t necessarily have the funds to lend at such scale.

And customer understanding showed that, whilst the rate might be sky high, by talking in a more accessible way about the amount to be repaid rather than the interest to be charged, consumers could rationalise away the high fees.

Even though loan rates were somewhere around 6000%, when borrowing (the average) £180 for a couple of weeks, £36 interest didn’t seem too bad.

A direct line between understanding customer drivers through to building the proposition and delivering campaigns that were accessible, delivered massive revenue growth in a short period of time.

If we want less controversial examples, think about EasyJet introducing allocated seating; it identified that business travellers would stomach higher charges if certain product features, such as avoiding the scramble for seats, were there.

Or the Alzheimer's Association current campaign; a clear line of sight targeting the middle-aged children of potential Alzheimer's sufferers with emotionally crippling messages about parents forgetting their childrens’ names.

Or EAT. Who doesn’t love their Jerk Chicken Soup? By understanding that their customers actually wait for the day a particular soup is served, EAT has created an entire campaign around days of the week and menu planning. Pretty smart.

I’m not joining the Wonga fan club (is there one?) but I’m just showing that, even in the seemingly most tricky of markets, having a direct line from customer understanding through to campaigns is ultimately a business' best shot at commercial effectiveness.

Sara Marshall is MD of Deeks Consulting.

Check out the 35 campaigns shortlisted for the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards.

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Last updated 02/10/2014

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