Team Spirit Team Spirit

we love blogging

Friday, 26 June 2009

Hello. Where’s the customer in CP 09/18?

So I’m reading this thing, no real surprises (no commission right, clear independent labelling check, no grandfathering makes sense, factoring of fees hmm nightmare etc etc) and I have to keep reminding myself this is for investment/pension business only.

Is it me? But are we giving labels to advisers for one set of products and not for all? Yes I know investment products are the most complex and risky. But as a consumer, most would say getting unbiased mortgage advice is pretty damn important too (most of us think of it as our biggest investment you know). And if commission is still available on other products, then consumers will still think that all advisers get commission won’t they?

And when I decide to have investment/pensions advice, I will get to choose to pay a fee or offset it against my investment (but if a provider thinks this is against my best interest, I may hear back from them)…

Oh and there is moneyguidance, basic advice, restricted advice and independent advice (possibly simplified advice tbc). Hmm…

So why doesn’t the FSA decide to regulate advice or products, why does it have to be a bit of both? I know there are lots of good reasons why it is the way it is, really I do and yet…

Is it me?

Jo Parker

(Ps: By the way I think it is great for independent advisers and that is great news!)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Happynomics: What makes people happy?

As anyone who knows me will tell you, this is absolutely my favourite topic, so I’ve read a lot of stuff that relates to it. And I have to say, much of it’s bollocks and doesn’t really help. So I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter if you are a tea shop in Harrogate or a large financial institution – happiness can be achieved simply by giving great service.

Happiness is mainly an attitude of gratitude and acceptance. (Think dog). It’s definitely not about money. All the research says, once you’ve reached a salary of £35,000, most people won’t become any happier with more money. (Bollocks!) And just in case you really want to know…happy people are open to change and have a positive outlook on life. They engage in purposeful activities that test their abilities, and develop relationships of respect and closeness. (I read that in a book somewhere).

According to Juliet Schor, Professor of sociology at Boston College, there are huge opportunities in helping people achieve higher levels of happiness. (Look at the growth rate of mentors, life coaches and psychologists in the UK). But most current products and services promise happiness and only deliver short-term satisfaction. Successful brands understand the ‘happiness trend’. They know they can’t sell happiness because true happiness is something people create for themselves. Smart brands choose to be facilitators so people can create their own happiness.

And savvy consumers know the difference between brands that want to sell happiness and brands that want to facilitate happiness. And they will endorse those brands that help them find and create happiness in themselves. As the majority of blogs will show, most are focused on bad customer service experience.

So who is getting it right? Which brands are helping people create happiness, well the obvious one’s are Apple and Innocent, they have a positive outlook and are looking to make the world a better place. But even brands that have got it wrong can start to put things right. Remember Dell Hell? Jeff Jarvis used the BuzzMachine to slam Dell for his horrific customer experience buying a laptop four years ago. This series of posts epitomized growing dissent against the company, and served as a channel to punish the Texas computer maker for bad products and customer service experiences. By listening to their customers and responding to what made them unhappy they have begun to turn it around and now have an incredibly loyal community across the web. At the start of this 49% of blog posts were negative. Today, overall tonality is only 22% negative.

So next time the client provides a brief, try asking this simple question: How is this product or service going to make the audience happy? A damn good service always works for me.

Kirsty Maxey
Managing Director

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The changing nature of news aggregation

If you've been watching the situation unravelling in Iran you'll probably be aware of the almost complete silencing of journalists in the mainstream media. This has seen the mainstream channels turning to the social channels to aggregate and report the news. Both the BBC and Sky are streaming, Youtube, Twitter and Flickr straight onto their site as well as offering opportunities for individuals to upload their videos directly to their sites.

Twitter has been such an essential part of the information flow out of the country that they and their IT vendor NTT took the unprecedented step on Monday of putting off essential site maintenance for a day to ensure that the channel remained open for Iranians reporting on the ground as their blog outlined. Interestingly it emerged today that it was the US state department's intervention that led to the suspension.

What this starts to reveal is the maturing role of citizen journalism and the mainstream media's willingness to use it as a major contributory source within their own reporting. It may lack quality, it may need far greater verification, but in terms of speed and it's ability to reveal the true picture there has yet to be a more effective medium for information flow.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Monday, 15 June 2009

At last! The best thing I’ve read about the pensions debate for years…

Just read this and thought it was the best thing I have read about restoring faith in pensions in the UK for ages. Read more here!

Jo Parker

Friday, 12 June 2009

It’s the future Jim, and some of it we know

The debate around the impact of the social web on communications continues, and continues, and continues. As a lifelong PR its hard not to feel a little dispirited as those in PR, a bit like lemmings, continue to jump into an abyss of self doubt about whether the sector can rise to meet the digital challenge. Witness the cyclone of print and online comment around the implications of the first new business pitch to be advertised only on twitter.

We need to evolve, no mistake. But, we need to recognise that the good, strong, traditional, PR skills have never been more important than in the age of the social web. As a sector, we know how to generate interesting, engaging, relevant content that people take and make their own. A PR professional should know the right people, who are in the right place at the right time and then be able to mobilise these influencers. This is underpinned by our core skill, identifying and then mitigating reputational risk.

There are of course fundamental differences in how we have to work, not least of which is equipping our team with the skills to distil a vast amount of information on a continuous basis. But, as an industry, the social web presents a massive opportunity to prove the value of PR. The lemmings just need to step away from the edge.

Natalie Orringe
Associate Director - Teamspirit PR

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Both sides of the paper

My mum wasn’t allowed to pursue a career in art. Her father, whose name was Billy Elliott, didn’t think commercial art was a ‘proper’ job. Surprising considering he ran an upmarket grocers in Carlisle and was one of the first people I came across who understood the importance of brands. His meticulous windows proudly showcased point-of-sales for ‘superior’ names like Epicure, Baxter’s and Cross & Blackwell.

The upshot was that my mum went to work in an office until she married and my brother, sister and I came along. Her artistic frustration then expressed itself, helping me express myself; in paint, in pencil and plasticine.

One of my earliest sources of inspiration came from her war-time school art book. Two things struck me about it. The paper was coarse with bits of wood in it, and she’d used both sides of each page. Even pre-pubescent schoolgirls did their bit fighting the Hun by conserving precious materials.

The reason I reminisce was brought about by something our head of digital told me. During 2009, more information will be created and ‘put out there’ to consumers than all the messages created since the dawn of time: which is quite simply mindboggling.

It’s wonderful that today we have so many mediums and opportunities to talk to each other and to consumers. As a communicator it’s great that we no longer have to be held back by a lack of resources or materials. Metaphorically, we no longer have to use ‘both sides of the paper’. And fathers have generally become less restrictive too.

However have we lost something with the ease in which we create messages in the 21st century?

I’m not advocating a return to pre-Guttenberg days, with the only sections of society able to communicate being the wealthy institutions or privileged intelligencia. However, how on earth are our messages going to stand out in such an ocean of information?

I believe the answer lies in imagination, craft and ingenuity, and in taking the time and consideration to apply them properly. One of the greatest gifts digital messaging has given us is time. Yet how often is it squandered? Why change things at the last minute just because we can? Have we lost the ability to commit to a message and design before the night before the presentation?

Like most creative people of my generation Bill Bernbach is a hero. This is one of his many insights to the creative person: “…every idea, every word he puts down, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.”

In other words every detail is a precious commodity. Let’s use them wisely, just like they did with paper in 1939.

Geoff Turner
Executive Creative Director