All roads to improvement start at insight


Whether it is Sky looking for differentiation, or More Than setting out to improve customer service, the mantra from all brands at our 1-2-1 Research Summit was ’insight’.

Customer insight is an important tool for marketers when devising the right brand strategy to take the business to the next level. From streamlining a disparate insight process, to delving deeper into data to reassess a core customer profile, big brands at the Marketing Week 1-2-1 Research and Insight Summit last month demonstrated how acquiring and making sense of useful facts and figures helped their business grow.

Former Citi/Egg head of insight and planning Andrew Jones conveyed the process of embedding planning and insight into the organisation following Citi’s acquisition of Egg in 2007, which involved the integration of five business units and marketing departments.

The process began with identifying key people who needed to agree with how the business would be integrated, he explained. Once support was agreed and committed to Jones needed to communicate what was happening, how and why. A greater emphasis on insight has made the company more customer focused, he said, which has resulted in insight driving more action through clear briefs, metrics and recommendations.

Insurance firm RSA, parent company of More Than, underwent a complete streamlining of its insight process after the appointment of head of insight Caroline Van den Bos in 2009. She consolidated 26 internal performance surveys into several key metrics that were more robust and provided more substance for the company’s overhaul of its customer service platform.

“The challenge was to get clear, insight-led direction, and consensus and action around brilliant service,” she told the summit. “Now we have fewer metrics that matter, and service is now on the executive agenda.”

Having the right insight even went as far as correcting the misconception that stationery distributor Viking Direct, a subsidiary of Office Depot, had of its core customer. Tony Dobbs, head of CRM and insight for Office Depot, explained how Viking embarked on a new insight initiative after facing increasing competition from online retailers.

Viking had previously operated on a presumption that its key customer was a 35-year-old female secretary because the board was convinced this demographic was the primary purchaser, and its marketing was focused on its catalogue.

The company had lots of data on who was buying and the products they were interested in, but not why. New survey data revealed that there were more middle-aged men in its target market than they realised, thanks to a recession-fuelled surge in people leaving the corporate world to start their own business. And not only was the age profile older, but the employee base was smaller often fewer than five people.

Dobbs developed a ’loyalty ladder’ of five key motivational drivers for purchasing: relevance of product range, brand image, ease of ordering and delivery, price and order fulfilment.

These form part of a monthly tracker that involves emailing 10,000 customers to monitor performance of those measures. Dobbs said the consistency and frequency would make it easier to make operational decisions based on trends over time. The relationship between drivers and performance would also enable more effective predictions of future activity, and build an ongoing picture of a representative customer base.


Behavioural insight provided the core focus for Sky’s latest ’Fairytale’ campaign, which advertises a package of Sky TV, calls and broadband for £20 a month. BSkyB director of insights Paolo Panizzo told the summit how Sky Broadband sales began to plateau in 2010, after an influx of new customers in 2007 following its ’See Speak Surf’ campaign.

Brand messaging from 2007 to 2010 had evolved from being price dominated to more lifestyle focused. But Sky gained insight that revealed customers continue to seek value, but fear the hassle associated with switching providers, and this fear outweighed the benefits of value.

Panizzo identified the need to communicate the ease of switching with a fun, light-hearted and emotional message. An extensive qualitative and quantitative research project was done to understand the barriers and triggers for switching broadband providers, perceptions of Sky as a provider, as well as satisfaction drivers for Sky TV customers who had BT and O2 Broadband. This led to the Fairytale campaign, with its slogans such as ’ding dong, the wicked switch is dead’.

The Fairytale campaign resulted in a significant uplift in spontaneous awareness of Sky Broadband and sales escalating 50% above target.

Some brands are moving beyond more traditional surveying and data collection to the environment of a closed online community. Sarah Ramanauskas, who was most recently group head of customer insight for William Hill, was instrumental in her previous role at Betfair at developing the brand’s community insight strategy.

Betfair ran a combination of a long-term branded customer community, and ’pop-up’ communities for specific genres, for example, football betting. Pop-up communities are useful when there is a relatively homogenous group of users to access and when there are a lot of unanswered qualitative questions, explained Ramanauskas. Long-term communities are overall more effective at generating robust, actionable insights, she added, while open communities such as Facebook are too random to be good research tools.

Not only do communities generate a wealth of insight, but they require a substantial commitment from the brand running it which is why the task of choosing a specialist research agency should not be underestimated. “Your agency must have staff who can be good community managers and understand your business,” she advised. “They must understand how to keep participants interested and motivated. The customers participating need to feel recognised and rewarded. And as communities generate a huge amount of insight, you need a researcher to bring all the information together.”

Community managers in particular are the “lynchpin” of such a project, she claimed, as they must don the different hats of the different sub-groups they are conversing with. Reward and incentive programmes within a community may vary between agency, but they are essential, Ramanauskas stressed.

“Regular contributors need status and recognition their egos need to be massaged,” she said. “Occasionally you will need financial incentives, such as a £25 prize for the blog of the week, and you can also reward people with exclusive content. But community members will notice if you don’t give feedback. They want to know that they are making a difference.”

Members won’t always understand that some suggestions may take time to implement, so Ramanauskas suggested choosing some initial changes that can be quickly actioned to show community members that changes are being made.


Extending online brand communities to the mobile space is the next step. Not only can surveys be sent directly to and be completed on mobile devices, but community members can upload relevant videos and images from their device to the group, Ramanauskas said.

And bringing the process full circle, back towards the technique of focus groups, is a new trend towards encouraging community members to host their own ’parties’ by rewarding them with a digital camera to record the discussion.

Ramanauskas moved from Betfair to William Hill a year ago, but says the brand is not yet at the stage of setting up an online community. “I have been building awareness of what insight can do,” she explained. “We have been working on getting value from basic data before branching into communities.”

But her challenge does not differ greatly from her counterparts at the summit. She said that when the time was right, she would look to garner support from the right stakeholders and rally “internal enthusiasts”.

These internal enthusiasts can be the stepping stone to convincing finance directors and chief executives that insight is worth investing in and integrating across a business. Insight can be the difference between unveiling a gap in a market and stealing a march on competitors, or a brand remaining stagnant, and consumers moving on without you.


Marketing Week’s 1-2-1 Summits

Marketing Week’s new 1-2-1 Summits this year will take in areas such as e-commerce, data, digital strategy and brand strategy.

The new 1-2-1 format has been redeveloped as an avenue for solution providers to meet face to face and demonstrate their area of expertise to multiple budget holders who are looking to bring their research and insight strategies up to speed.

Hand-selected budget-holders are personally invited by Marketing Week’s events team to attend the summits as guests of the magazine. All invited delegates complete a pre-event questionnaire confirming their personal budget spend from £100,000 to £1m, elaborating on the key challenges they are currently seeking to address.

Attendees benefit by hearing case studies from leading brands and meeting with solution providers to discuss their specific requirements.

For more information visit

brand in the spotlight RSA

When insurance firm RSA’s chief executive Adrian Brown was appointed in 2008, his goal was to make the business known for being ’the best for service’. “We need enough people to get behind that and enough measures to make sure we don’t slip back to old training,” he said at the time.

By the time head of insight Caroline Van den Bos joined in 2009, the company’s insight and measurement systems were not up to the task of guiding a strategy for improving customer service, as she told the Marketing Week 1-2-1 Research and Insight Summit last month.

She described how data was too internally focused, and while there was plenty of information, there just wasn’t enough insight. While each department ran its own surveys, little was done to join the dots and create a consistent approach.

“Insight needed to act as the translator, but the insight team wasn’t strong enough to enable this,” she said. “The team needed repositioning and refocusing. The challenge was to get clear, insight-led direction, and consensus and action around re-establishing the brand around brilliant service.”

Van den Bos sought to “stop the noise around surveys” and focus on measuring the top six to eight issues in each business unit rather than up to 40. She introduced a system of monthly reporting, so a consistent story was being told about the brand’s journey towards delivering first-class customer service and how it was being achieved.

Insight became key for understanding customer needs, the business’s current performance, and the impact of raising the profile of service on profitability. Four flagship projects have been initiated to drive service, and insight is recognised as the trusted voice on measuring service delivery and performance.

But as Van den Bos charged ahead critiquing the status quo and revitalising the role of insight in guiding strategy, she said members of other departments felt isolated from the developments.

“People felt we had done it to them, not with them, and some departments felt exposed,” she explained. “So the next evolution was taking people across the business on our journey.”

Van den Bos then spent time talking to people at all levels of the business, using a variety of tools such as the company intranet, conferences, workshops and cross-departmental meetings to help embed the value of insight across the organisation. “Everyone now feels accountable for the customer,” she said.

While this period of internal relationship building was a learning curve, Van den Bos said it was essential for the new insight strategy to be fleshed out before this could happen.

“You may need to tread on toes in the beginning and build the relationships later, because the insight processes should build the conclusions to drive strategic change,” she said. “If you want to be movers and shakers, you need to get off the fence and create big, compelling pictures.”

fact focus

•Assessment of Sky’s new Fairytale campaign revealed that 71% of consumers surveyed agree that it is easy to switch service providers to Sky, following previous insight showing that consumers feared the hassle with switching providers. During the Fairytale campaign, total Sky Broadband sales exceeded targets by 50%.

•Viking Direct’s insight project led to the realisation that more customers were middle-aged men than had been assumed. Previously it was thought the core customer was a 35-year-old female secretary.

•Citi research showed that 15% of its customers said they had had problems trying to deposit money into their account and 10% said they had had problems applying for the account. Citi revised the customer journey and its signposting, resulting in a significant reduction in customers not depositing into their accounts.

top tips you need to know

Sarah Ramanauskas, former group head of customer insight at William Hill, gives her top tips for running an online brand community:

•Be prepared for information leaks when running an online community. You should remind users of the terms and conditions they agreed to regarding confidentiality, but don’t discuss things in the community that could get you fired.

•Members in a community get more from interacting with other members than they do from answering your questions, so work out how to maximise insight from these conversations.

•Choose your agency carefully. Work with one that has a wide range of skills, gets your customer mindset and is prepared to participate actively with members. Also make sure it uses robust software with a good search function so you can pinpoint specific content.

top trends 2011 predictions

Sarah Ramanauskas

Former group head of customer insight, William Hill

Vibrant research communities are extending to mobile devices. Fifty-seven per cent of 18to 24-year-old Facebook users access it on a mobile. Members of a community can upload video and images from their own device to a community, with no extra training required.

Caroline Van den Bos

Head of insight, RSA

The next step is engaging and aligning the business to create a customer-focused culture. Creating a common language around service, introducing a single strategic customer metric, measuring the right things, linking customer metrics to financial outcomes, working together and shouting about it.

Paolo Panizzo
Director of insights, BSkyB

We have embarked on a regular health check to understand what our competitors are doing, as well as aligning our core business teams in workshops to define our strategy to increase our broadband subscriber base.

Tony Dobbs
Head of CRM and insight, Office Depot

The rise of entrepreneurial Britain has seen a surge in people departing corporate life to set up their own businesses. This has resulted in a new kind of customer for us. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, there are 4.8 million small businesses in Britain, 500,000 people start a business each year, and 95% of businesses employ fewer than five people. But we are not necessarily selling to businesses, but people who happen to run a business.

Andrew Jones

Former head of insight and planning, Citi/Egg

We are focusing on achieving better engagement internally, gaining more insights from less measures, putting more focus on the application and action, and transforming research and analysis into real insights.


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