Category Archives: Online Marketing

A review of Jessops

The Jessop Group went into administration last week.

Sad news for the 1000’s of members of staff who are now, as a result, unemployed or facing unemployment.

Sad news as well because, I have to say it comes as no real surprise.

I heard an interview on the radio this week with a man who runs a camera club in Oxfordshire. He was keen to stress how interest in such clubs has wained in the last few years and people signing up for his club is at an all time low.

Naturally, in the quest for finding blame and angle as the news does so diligently both were assigned in careful measure, the newsreader summarising the interview by accepting the explanation that ‘people just aren’t interested in cameras anymore’.

I am not so sure that this really is the reason why Jessops has found itself in such trouble.

First of all, I don’t think that we can accept declining interest in a camera club as sufficient evidence of a general lack of demand for cameras. I am sure Amazon would agree.

I for one am a big fan of my DSLR camera but you wont find me hanging around with twitchers in the local town hall.

So what did cause the downfall of Jessops?

Many will be quite comfortable handing all blame and responsibility to one culprit; the internet.

It is hard to disagree with this point of view. With the likes of Amazon offering price competitiveness and speed of delivery as standard it is difficult to say that this was not a contributing factor to the downfall of a once high-street giant.

But I feel that there is a much more damaging culprit at play here.

Poor marketing and general lack of care.

Now let’s be clear, I do not have any insight into how Jessops was run or marketed from the inside, but I can certainly see it from the outside and  have to say it was boring, lazy and lacking in competitive edge at every level.

Let’s start in-store.

I went to Jessops only two weeks ago (before they went into administration) to ask a member of staff to help me by checking how much money was on a gift card I had received (I know).

I should be so lucky. There were three members of staff present; the first was chatting to his friend who had taken up residence in a chair infront of the counter. The second was a young lady who was doing a good job of looking busy. The third was the alpha male who was speaking to a potential customer about a camera.

It transpired that none of the members of staff were able to check how much was on the gift card. Even more frustrating was the can’t-do attitude and general void of customer service. The staff were uninterested at best and rude at worst.

The final response from the alpha male when asked how to check how much money was on the gift card was “you can’t”.

That was it.

Conversation finished.


This situation is astounding for two reasons; the first is that you probably can check how much is on the card the second is that the staff were so blunt it left me (the customer) with no place to go except back out of the door.

Needless to say, this is not how you should run a shop.

So, strike one, shame on the people in charge at Jessops for allowing this to happen. If high-street retail is to fight a war with the internet then surely one place it can easily win the battle is in face-to-face customer care.

Jessops comprehensively lost this.

Then there is Jessops’ advertising. Remember those ads that flashed in-front of your eyes during prime time TV?

No, you don’t.

Because they were crap. They were indifferent and they offered nothing special.

I don’t remember them either, that is why I know they are crap. I am their target market; I am interested in cameras and I have disposable income.

As Dave Trott says: 90% of advertising is not remembered.

Jessops did a great job of landing in that 90% as far as I am concerned.

The job of a high-street retailer is to find the gaps that internet retailers cannot fill with a bit of predatory thinking. E-commerce can beat you on price but it can’t quench the thirst of an impulse buyer in season.

The internet can offer articles and videos but it cannot answer your questions face to face.

Instead of reacting to online retail in a positive way and making it a central part of its marketing effort, Jessops continued to be normal, boring and easy to forget.

Jessops even had a website, but as an online marketing expert I feel qualified to say that it wasn’t very good.

It was a competent website but it certainly didn’t do anything special. It didn’t make shopping for a camera enjoyable, it just made it possible. There was no USP that could set it apart from Amazon-et-al.

I think Jessops was lazy.

I think (as a consumer) that the people behind the company lost touch and energy and this showed.

It is about time that retailers accepted that competition from online retailers is strong, but e-commerce is not impossible to survive next to.

Start offering something remarkable before you become an Oxfordshire based camera club.

Go binary

I have recently been working with a creative team and dealing directly with the clients who appoint the creative team.

This has introduced me to the project brief that the team has been using.

The problem with the project brief the team has been using is that it is sporadic. It has lots of good ideas and I am told by the team that it makes the project much more simple for everyone.

I disagree.

They say it is simple because in a long ‘kick-off’ meeting with the client, the project brief is completed (typed up) with all of the client information and good ideas that jump out of the meeting. That’s it. Finished. Simple.

The problem is that it doesn’t make a compelling read.

Instead it is a badly written transcript of an unstructured conversation. Not simple.

This is why simplicity is harder than complexity and therefore more valuable. If the project brief was really simple, someone would have had to spend some real time and effort making it really easy for anyone to read and understand.

I am a believer in the necessity of process. If something you do at work cannot be made into a process it is useless.

Without process you can never confidently say that you have done a good job.

Chances are that you wing it and do a good job, because you are a maverick, but open yourself to scrutiny and without a process you can’t stand up and explain your work in simple terms.

Simple ideas make work repeatable and valuable.

So back to the brief, if it is just a semi-structured transcript how can it follow a process?

It can’t, the brief doesn’t require the team to make any decisions about the project at all and therefore provides no value as a project brief.

A good brief should simply set out what the aim of the project is so that the project leader (me) can assess the effectiveness of the project when it is completed.

Whilst pondering how to improve the project brief I was also absorbing all information that I could find coming out of Dave Trott.

Trott has presented an idea about using a “binary brief“.

Binary is about yes or no, on or off, 0 or 1.

Market growth or Brand share?

Current users or Trialists?

Brand or Product?

Binary makes the project brief easy to read and forces it to answer tricky questions head on.

It is all about taking the hard decision early, not leaving it to the creative team to decide. Otherwise decisions get passed on from one person to the next until they are forgotten.

It doesn’t have to use Trott’s 6 things, it can be your own, but it is taking complicated things and making them simple.

I learned this when Chris Horrie taught me Journalism. Teachers at school teach us to write long essays. Horrie taught me that the best writing is concise.

Complexity is the hiding place of a bad idea

Occam’s razor says an idea that makes the fewest assumptions is probably the best one to go with.

This means that if you have a simple explanation and a complicated one you are much better off going with the simple one.

Never is this more noticeable than when looking at the use of language.

Dave Trott said that “people disguise bad thinking with long words”.

George Orwell wrote an essay on the subject; Politics and the English Language.

“Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement”

The process of dressing up a simple statement makes it complex and yet in my experience people take pride in the effort of dressing up a simple statement.

It is something I am forced to contend with in my job every day.

Clients and colleagues don’t always want the simple answer because it doesn’t sound like enough work has gone into it.

Instead they want the answer to be dressed up and short words replaced by long ones.

Time and again I have seen pieces of writing worked through, the editor carefully replacing simple words with longer, less-common words.

Even worse, whilst working in Guernsey a rival company launched itself into the market with an elaborate ‘manifesto’.

The ‘manifesto’ proceeded to break all of the rules set out by Orwell in his 1946 essay.

Not a problem in itself however the essay finished with a quotation:

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

The quotation comes from Orwell, who’s image is now emblazoned on the office wall of said company.

Complexity hiding a bad idea in action.

Dave Trott - CST

Beating Your Competitors

I was lucky enough to be able to attend Brighton SEO on Friday. If you are not familiar, Brighton SEO is a free SEO conference that is based in, you guessed it, Brighton. The conference is a one day affair and is jam packed with speakers from around the SEO world and related fields.

The first presentation of the day came from the impressive Dave Trott. I had not heard of Trott before but was so impressed with what he had to say that for me, he outshone all of the other presentations on the day, and there were some very good presentations let me tell you!

Trott’s message was simple, you don’t have to make the most successful advertising (or creative) project ever, every time you start working, you simply have to beat the competition. He explains how this is a simple truth and that if you beat your competition you win the customers. He started with an old story, one you may have heard before:

“Two men are walking through the jungle when they hear the approaching footsteps of a tiger. Realising they are in danger, one of the men whips out some running shoes and proceeds to lace them up. ‘You wont outrun a tiger’ proclaims the other man, with that, his sneaker sporting companion explains, ‘I don’t need to outrun the tiger, I just need to outrun you'”

If it was me, I wouldn’t even bother with the running shoes, I’d just run, but that’s not the point. The point here is that this clever jungle explorer realises that he doesn’t need to set the 200m record, he just has to beat his friend in a sprint for life. If his friend loses, the tiger eats and he wins.

With this in mind, Trott explains that in order to be successful in your creative ventures you simply need to beat your competition and in order to do this you need to turn a problem you can’t solve into one you can.

He went on to give an example of changing a problem you can’t solve into one you can. The example surrounded and advertising job he had to work on. The client was the fire service who were keen to stop people having problems with chip pan fires. Trott explained that year in, year out, advertising campaigns went out to explain the dangers of chip pan fires and how throwing water onto them can cause more problems. Trott explained how this type of advertising joined the majority 90% of advertising that is either missed or ignored and that people already knew the dangers.

The problem was this; Trott needed to reduce the number of chip pan fires. Trott explained how this was a problem he couldn’t solve and so in order to make a success of the campaign his team needed to solve a different problem. It was here that he identified the cause of the fire service’s issues; calls from chip pan fire sufferers. This gave them a new problem that they could solve; reduce the number of calls to the fire service because of chip pan fires. With this new problem in mind, Trott and his team were able to come up with an advertising campaign that told people how to safely put out the fire, thus reducing the number of calls people needed to make to the fire service. A new problem that could be solved.

All in all an inspirational talk and an introduction to a man who clearly can teach me a lot. I will be ordering his book, Creative Mischief and would certainly recommend you take any opportunity to hear him speak.