Category Archives: blog


Do’s and Don’ts for 2019 Hospitality Marketing

If you have a Hospitality business, chances are you will be recovering from a busy Christmas and New Year and now focused on marketing for your 2019 bookings. Below are some simple hints and tips to help to maximize the value of the business on your books (BOB) for the coming year.  January is one of the busiest months for bookings, so you really want to nail your marketing in this period.

Don’t discount your peak summer months or half terms in a January Sale!  You know that you can sell these weeks out at your top rates so why would you discount in this period?  If you do you are basically throwing money away,  just a 10% discount on 10 cottages/rooms would cost you £12,000  of lost revenue over the summer months based on £2000 per unit/per week.

Do know what you booking window looks like for different periods, so you can offer discounts and deals appropriately. Smarter marketing will deliver results, See above!

Don’t try to compete for business by running expensive PPC campaigns to market without trying to stimulate business through cheaper and more effective routes.  If you do decide to run PPC or similar campaigns manage them closely to measure their effectiveness.

Do ensure that your website is UpToDate and fit for purpose. Do check to see what any updates looks like on a Mobile as well as a Tablet and Desktop.

Don’t forget about advocates and regular customers. Find ways of incentivizing them to recommend you to others and ways to encourage them to book themselves.

Do make sure your 2020 rates are in the marketplace. Some of your customers will want to book that far ahead so make sure you have these agreed and loaded into your PMS.

Don’t compromise design in your communications, think about how your email communications look to the recipient, follow brand guidelines (use of the logo, fonts, pictures) always check the look at the communication on mobile before sending it. Sending badly designed communications is one sure way to get people to unsubscribe or not take the action you seek.

Do Check that your social media posts are,  on message, look professional, follow your brand guidelines, are grammatically correct (yes, really) and that the offer or incentive to book/take action is clear.  You have the attention of a potential customer for just a few seconds.

Do put yourself in your customer’s shoes, think about what the buying experience look like for them. Is your website easy to navigate?  does it tell stories about the experience of staying with you ? does the booking engine itself make buying easy – can buyers see multiple buy options with good photography (if one room/unit is full is the customer offered an alternative?)  Are your after-purchase comms thoughtful, timely and targeted?  Do you offer packages/ options they seek such as flexible arrival days, short stays, family together discounts?


Next month we look in more detail in what makes a great Hospitality website, the key components and the nice-to-haves.

Susie Hudson.

Hospitality Marketing – motivated by analysis, not guesswork.


category strategy

Revising your Category Management Playbook

One of the great opportunities in Category Management is the way we can use a well-constructed category strategy, which is thoughtful, insightful, well-founded and socialised across our stakeholders, to understand what might happen if there are changes in the fundamentals on which the strategy is based.


 This gives us the ability to pre-plan for particular situations – or in sporting terms, to create a playbook which allows for different scenarios. We are living in interesting times, and this does give the opportunity to establish what might happen over the next year or so and to contemplate the impact on our category strategies.


It is useful to have an example which has been well considered in terms of impact to see if the approach can be useful. This months news has been filled with the impact of increasing tariffs on a range of goods and how that might change over time. It feels like much of the reporting is speculation, but a dive into the US Congressional Research Service gives access to some interesting thought on what might unfold as things move forward.


 Of particular interest is a paper from 2013 which looks at the amount of US debt which is held by China, and the implications of that for any trade based debate between the two nations, and the effect of that on the USD and RMB.


 (see )


 In essence, as China holds in excess $3 trillion of US debt, there is a degree of interdependence between the two sides which can both act as a stabilising mechanism under some situations, and a destabilising mechanism in others. The paper suggests that the point at which China’s risk from holding a high volume of debt turns into action to unload that debt is when the value of that debt decreases, driven by external factors. The consequence of that trigger is an increase in US interest rates and a devaluation of USD and RMB.


 With that as a potential impact, it is possible to test existing strategies to see what that change would do. This also gives a sense of the sort of the depth that category strategies should contain; if they are written with placeholders showing areas to look at when significant changes happen, then changes to playbooks are relatively easy.


 Using this concept as a foundation, we can see that a number of variables could trigger a different approach in a category playbook. A good strategy will aim to describe the various ways in which a category could be affected, including both internal and external factors. Market conditions and PESTLE analysis give good indicators for external factors, and business requirements point to areas to monitor for internal changes.


 A question often asked is when a strategy should be reviewed, from a perspective of it reaching an age where it needs refreshing. We are in a period when the opportunity to adapt a strategy to changing conditions may be more prevalent.

 We understand how organisations can deliver more value by increasing both the quality of strategies and of stakeholder engagement.

You can talk to us about how we can help you get the most out of your categories. Contact us at

The Plastic Bottle Challenge – Changing Habits


Plastic Bottles in landfill

Recent news reports have been trying to raise awareness of the long-term environmental effect of the use of plastic, and the impact on oceans, the countryside, and wildlife [1]

This reporting and many similar articles over the last few years is slowly changing public perception of the use of plastics in packaging. There has been some change in use as a consequence: laws forcing the reduction in the use of single-use plastic bags have come into effect and the impact of plastic bottles and micro-beads are now in the spotlight with some shoppers rejecting excess packaging growth for self-fill solutions.

Although legal prevention of use is a final step in forcing change, it is interesting to reflect on both the process of evaluation and necessary change in inside large businesses both when introducing new packaging approaches and what needs to happen to change to something else.

Organizations are continually searching for efficiency in their production and distribution processes; improving profitability or competitiveness is a clear driver, but there is also a good level of awareness of other factors, such as social pressures. When plastic packaging was introduced into the soft drinks arena, it was aiming to supplant the use of glass. Glass has many attractive qualities, but it is both heavy and relatively expensive compared to plastic packaging. The weight element should not be underestimated. A 750ml glass bottle weighs about 500g, an equivalent plastic bottle weighs 54g. The net result is that a typical truck can carry 60% of the number of glass wrapped soft drinks, compared to a lorry carrying plastic containers. So, more truck journeys are needed to deliver the same volume of beverage.

Besides the weight issue, there were a couple of other major areas to address: firstly, production line challenges of getting plastic to work on bottling lines. This sounds easy, but the different behavior of glass and plastic bottles on high-speed filling lines was a considerable challenge, overcome with patient re-engineering and testing over time. The other areas were, surprisingly, Marketing, who felt that the iconic messages provided by characteristic bottle shapes and weights ( e.g. Coca-Cola and Ribena glass bottles) were too powerful to cast aside.

This gives some hope in understanding the decision-making process that will be needed to get away from easily disposable plastic bottles. There will need to be a weight of negative marketing impact from being associated with such items to drive behavior. Even better, a positive associated with something different could be seen as a differentiator and a way of gaining market share.

Equally, any alternative will have to face the test of both commercial and operational challenge, to look at how those changes will impact profit and loss, and operational efficiency.

The elephant in the room is consumer behavior – what is it that drives us to throw away so many plastic items in so many different ways, and think that this is acceptable? The challenge of finding alternative uses, disposal routes which are responsible, even areas like education which considers these issues and social habits which makes littering acceptable all impact on the final resting place of these ubiquitous items.

A part of the challenge for businesses, purchasing and marketing is to think more deeply about the lifecycle of products and packaging, and to develop solutions which engage with more than the immediate satiation of a short-term desire, and look more at the holistic impact of consumption. This, surely, is not a short-term change but one which will take many years to work through. Starting today is our best option.

[1] and as examples of plastic bottle issues


Understanding where are we going – getting behind the strategy

What is your Business strategy?

There is a common thread which exists across organisations of all sizes, and poses a real and serious challenge for the creation of value – this is about how well we understand the organisations strategy, direction, and the purpose of the business.

This is an area full of challenge. The very existence of a business or organisation strategy is often opaque for those in the organisation; a statement which doesn’t link to our daily existence, or feels irrelevant to our activities. Often, the stated strategies are at a level which are meaningless, and are hard to translate into any form of practice.

However, we need to go back to the fundamentals of what is needed for the organisation to operate as a coherent whole, working together to achieve the strategic intent.

Imagine for a moment an organisation where strategy is unclear. Any particular decision or project being set up has no anchor to test if it’s overall direction and deliverables are fit for purpose or will help the organisation drive towards its strategic outcomes. Worse than that, it is possible for different divisions or projects to work against others which are already underway. Extending this, it’s also possible to see that it becomes really hard to prioritise different activities if the overall strategy is not clear. 

As any of these issues will cause stress in the organisation as different factions / business units or even individuals, we need to see if we can work in a more structured way. The strategic direction for an organisation needs to be clearly understood by those making suggestions and decisions in order that the direction of travel is maintained.

The next challenge is how clear the strategic direction is. It needs to be written so that the various strands of the strategy being used are both clear and interwoven. As an example, the strategic intent of providing lowest price, highest quality and fastest delivery is unlikely to be achievable as the three elements tend to work against each other at some level. We also need to understand the intent of direction. Highest quality can mean many things and we need to make sure we both understand what that means in our particular marketplace, but also that there is shared understanding inside the business of ‘higher quality’.

The test of the quality of the strategy is that it can be used to distinguish between courses of action: the one progressing strategy more completely is likely to be the right choice.

Of course, this implies that the strategy is correct. Review and update is appropriate, and making sure that it flexes as external conditions demand is good practice. However, it can’t be altered on a whim, or to try to follow a brief fashion. That will just breed confusion.

Our last step is to make sure that the strategy is bought into by those defining new approaches and implementing policies. This is not just a case of publishing the document, but we need to make sure individuals have thought properly about the strategy, and about the ways, they will aim to drive towards that strategy.

None of this happens without intent and action, so picking up your business strategy today, testing your understanding of it and making sure you are aligning with it is the next thing to do.

We’d be happy to discuss how to do this with you and to help you accelerate the delivery of your strategy and the competitive advantage that suggests.

Contact us at

Mark Hubbard

Smart Brown Dog Ltd


Successful Geo-target marketing for SME’s

IKEA have used geo-targeting in their marketing mix since 2014 along with ASDA and Morrison with great results – a 32 % to 60% increase in store footfall and 3 times the industry standard for click conversions.  We wanted to explore how geo-targeting could benefit an SME,  helping them to deepen their relationship with a major stockist who was taking on new lines and grow their market share for new listings with a new stockist.

What did we do?

We reached out to potential purchasers who were geographically centered one mile from a stockist’s store. Our market research, helped us be very specific in our target audience; we settled on females vegans aged 18 to 35.  The media we used was engaging, with an individual targeted message super relevant , we also launched the campaign to run during “Organic September”.

There were three rounds of targeting, the first for product awareness, the second while the products were on offer and the third after a period on offer without geo-targeting.

 What happened?

We launched on Facebook and Instagram, settling on Instagram as the campaign progressed as the CPR was much lower. An investment of less than £16.00 pounds in each round saw reaches of over 1000 with an average engagement of 10%. A 72% uplift in sales was recorded over the period and latent growth continued in sales after the campaigns completed.

This particular brand has recorded an uplift of 40%-60% of sales when their products have been stocked for a period and are then discounted, here were new lines and new stockists, a very different challenge. We know from experience that discounting is often an unsustainable marketing tool which eats into profit and is likely only to see this new buyer repeat a purchase when the product is again discounted.  What geo-targeting does is drive footfall; it advertises a product to a greater proportion of people who want that product and who are near to a point of delivery.

Whats really exciting for us is that this approach is likely to work for a myriad of different businesses. If you think about where your customers are, how far they are likely to travel to purchase your services or goods and what they are interested in then geo-targeting with social media could deliver a significant uplift to your sales.

As advertisements become more and more customer-specific this is a cost-effective way of harnessing the approach and deliver innovation to your category managers, innovation is often one way that their success is measured.


Saving the NHS

The NHS is a centrepiece of the U.K. It is a unique, open access healthcare system, roughly free at the point of use. It is also the fifth largest employer in the world (after the us and Chinese military, Indias railway Continue reading