good marketing strategy defines what not to do

There’s a line in 1993’s Jurassic Park that deserves more credit.

Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr Ian Malcolm, responds to the creation of the park during lunch with the park’s creator, John Hammond.

He highlights the lack of accountability among the scientists who have genetically engineered the dinosaurs. The park’s creator then argues that the scientists have done something that ‘nobody has ever done before’.

Goldblum’s character responds with the powerful line:

(They) were so pre-occupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

It’s a sentiment that would benefit from being applied more in marketing. Particularly at a strategic level.

There’s a growing tendency among agencies and marketing departments to try and cover all the bases, particularly when it comes to media touchpoints. The problem is the number of bases continue to grow. Traditional mediums such as TV, radio, print, and outdoor haven’t gone away; yet they’ve been joined by search, display, a host of social platforms, and now there’s the hype bandwagon behind influencers, VR, AR, AI Bots…etc. etc.

Spanning this whole spectrum is a mistake, not an achievement.

Yet this behaviour can be seen in agency pitches. The ones that keep on going further and further into executions – ‘this is how the idea works on the underside of a manhole’.

This highlights the next issue of a ‘could’ approach, rather than ‘should’: audiences.

The breadth of data points now available allows for a vast array of audience segmentation. Yet it is rare to see a confident approach where this information is used to properly define target audience segments, and with that, audiences who are not the priority for the activity. Instead ‘target’ audiences now often span the full breadth of viable customers and beyond.

With more options, the choice has become overwhelming, to the level that choices stop being made.

‘We could do…’ has become an issue in most agency and marketing department meetings. Adding more requirements to the activity, rather than refining them.

The list of audiences and activity grows, and consequently, the brand, product or campaign idea becomes over-stretched and diluted.

There’s too much to try and do everything.

A response that covers ‘all the bases’ is one that lacks a strategy. It spreads resources too thin and leaves a good percentage of the best opportunities untapped.

Here’s where the true value of good strategy lies: deciding what not to do.

Strategy should not be a shopping list.

It should be sharp and pointy. Defined and refined.

It involves making hard decisions because it means removing opportunities.

So next time you sit down to develop your marketing strategy, be sure to ask the question:

Are we doing this because we could, or because we should?

the five p’s of personalisation

Here at Pretty Pragmatic we are in favour of people using our names when communicating to us. In fact, sometimes we get referred to simply as ‘Pretty’ in personalised messaging, which makes us feel flattered. However, it does highlight the errors that can occur in this friendly pursuit.

Personalised marketing is the process of sourcing customer information and using this to create individually personalised messaging as well as specific product offers. Whilst using data in this way can have ‘big brother’ connotations, it can also connect with people on a personal level and short-cut our decision-making process by making things feel more relevant.

The importance of every campaign is not only the quality of the execution, but the accuracy and appropriateness of data which is gathered beforehand. The data can, of course, vary as to what product you’re looking to personalise.

For example, if like Spotify, you were to personalise a playlist for one of your customers, you use the data on what music they commonly listen to. Assuming the customer consents to this as part of the conditions, this should be straightforward and clearly connected to the experience.

Personalisation can be as simple as your first name on an email, recommendations for new movies and TV shows, suggested products based on things you’ve bought before, and not to mention the loyalty-based rewards and discounts on your favourite brands.

We consider the 5 Ps of personalisation in the following sections of this blog namely; Power, Psychology, Purchasing, Pitfalls, and Potential.

1. Power

First up, what is the power of personalisation and who cares?

Giving your customers the feeling that they are valued by your brand and recognising their contribution can help them feel included and valued. Everybody appreciates a personal touch; being treating and acknowledged as an individual rather than a number or transaction. And as such personalisation is increasing in importance for marketers, with 42% of marketers stating personalisation was their top priority for the coming year.

So why would marketers prioritise personalisation? The simple answer is because it works.

A well-known example of a very effective yet simple personalisation campaign is Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’, in which they swapped out their brand name and replaced it with the UK’s most popular names which were printed onto their bottles. The idea that they could share not only a Coke, but also special moments with their breadth of customers turned out to be hugely popular. After printing over 1000 names onto the bottles they received 998 million impressions on Twitter, 235,000 tweets from fans using the #shareacoke hashtag. The campaign created sales of 150 million personalised bottles, impressive considering the decline in demand for fizzy drinks.

2. Psychology

There is a lot more to personalisation than simply wanting a product.

Behind all of this is the psychology and what really makes us feel good about a product with our name on, or why we feel valued when we receive an email that personally greets us. There are many factors as to why we would want a personalised product, such as the sense of ownership or to feel we have something more exclusive and different to everyone else.

According to a study from the University of Texas, we can attribute our preference for personalised experiences down to ‘desire for control’ & ‘information overload’. When you get a product that is tailored to you and your needs it simply makes you feel more in control.

So, as mentioned earlier, presenting pre-thought out options to buy makes life easier for people, but also enhances their feeling of control.

3. Purchasing

How is the success of personalisation reflected in purchasing habits?

Some companies have based their businesses on the ability to personalise products to attract customers. Not On The High Street has used this to their advantage, selling a wide range of products with the option to personalise your goods, making them fantastic ideas for gifts and presents or even to personally tailor your own household items.

Another related example is Oakdene Designs. The founder, Ben Grist, used Amazon and Not On The Highstreet to distribute his personalised designed items, but started whilst at university, growing the business to over £1 million in turnover in just 2 years. This illustrates the effect of the personalisation market within retail – and the success that comes from producing the right products and giving customers the control they want to create something to meet their individual needs.

4. Pitfalls

There are commercial benefits of personalisation. However, what are the potential pitfalls and what implications could there be in getting it wrong?

The question is, is the risk of personalisation worth it? A case where personalisation can go wrong is a misspelt or incorrect first name on an email. Or the assumption that all things you purchase are for your own consumption or use. We’ve all been served with the wrong name and with ‘things we might like’ that we don’t, but these errors are pretty few and far between, so does the greater good outweigh the bad?

A study conducted by Verint found that 40% of customers are willing to forgive mistakes made by brands if they feel the brands know them personally. There is, of course, the question about how do people feel about receiving personalised communications and offers? Some might feel this is a bit intrusive. However, 52% of customers globally say they like being offered a personalised experience, but 51% say that it is important the experience reflects them as a person. Therefore, we need to consider more than just the digital data and start thinking about other personal attributes when creating these offers.

5. Potential

The potential of personalisation is seemingly endless. Technology like Siri can allow us to have a personalised experience using our mobile phone by understanding the tone and sound of our voice, responding to (most of) our questions and queries. Newer products like Alexa for our homes allow us to have our own personal planning system that understands our needs and wants. Amazon’s past purchase solution gives us the opportunity to reorder products at the press of the button, storing our history to ensure the purchase process is even quicker and, arguably, less considered.

Although this may stop you thinking more than twice about re-purchasing a product, it does tap into our ‘tap to pay’ and contactless culture.

Could the potential of personalisation provide predictable revenue for business and predictable spending for consumers? Whilst, the benefits here seem obvious for both parties, we also need to allow for irrational, impulsive, and unpredictable behaviour. Surely, to be truly personal you need to consider the human in people, and predicting that takes more than just data analysis.

We all like to think we’re different and of course, we are. Which is what makes personalisation unique – because each customer is. It’s important to understand the needs of your customers and individuals. With these things in mind, we at Pretty Pragmatic create personas that help identify the differences we each have, promote preferences, and help create the personalisation that customers want and need to feel valued, build trusting relationships, and to create a defining brand.


the strat pack app

We’ve recently launched our marketing strategy app, The Strat Pack, for iPhone and Android.

As the name suggests, it’s a pack of strategic planning cards in digital form. If you want to go ahead and download it, you can do so for free from the App Store or Google Play using the links below:

Download The Strat Pack for free from the Apple App Store.

Download The Strat Pack for free from Google Play.In this blog post we wanted to share the reason behind The Strat Pack, and the benefits we hope it brings.


The Strat Pack is something we’ve developed over the last 12 months.

Having worked with a broad range of marketers over the past decade or so, we know there’s always an appetite to encourage marketing teams to think differently about their brand.

But scaling strategic thinking can be hard. Even when people want to do things differently, they can often defer back to approaches they’ve used in the past – therefore repeating what has gone before rather than inspiring change or driving differentiation.

We wanted to create something that allowed marketers to have access to small prompts that helped them consider the broader range of strategic opportunities at their disposal, with recognisable examples.

Hence, the idea behind The Strat Pack was born.


The Strat Pack is a deck of 30 cards. Each card prompts a different way to think about your brand and business, allowing you to see all the opportunities available and bring a fresh twist to your marketing.

At the base of each card is an example of a leading brand that used the approach successfully in their own marketing.

We originally created the deck as a pack of physical cards, sending a few packs to senior marketers to get their feedback and open up a conversation about what we do here at Pretty Pragmatic.

They got a great response. The Head of Marketing at a leading financial services brand replied to say it was the best direct mail piece they had ever received.

We consequently felt there was a need to build it into something that was easier to distribute and would allow us to put it into the hands of more marketers.

Download The Strat Pack app

And that brings us to the app itself.

After a little refinement, we’re now ready to let everyone know about it.

The app experience is simple. You see a card on screen, swipe right to see the next one, and swipe left to go back one.

By pressing the ‘View the deck’ button you can see the whole deck and jump to any specific card of your choosing.

As we say, it’s simple. And we think that’s its strength.

And as an app, it gives a whole host of marketers access to strategic prompts and ideas in the palm of their hand.

You can download the app here from the App Store and Google Play.

Apple App Store                   Google Play

The Strat Pack Workshop

We’ve also developed a workshop that uses The Strat Pack.

It’s for marketing teams who want to discover the strongest opportunities for their brand. It provides a great way for a team to take a fresh look at their marketing using a range of different exercises.

The workshop enhances brand understanding for all marketers in the team, whilst also allowing an opportunity to step outside of day-to-day activity and take a strategic view across the entire business.

If you’re interested in discussing The Strat Pack workshop, you can contact us at, using the subject line ‘The Strat Pack workshop’.

I’m interested in The Strat Pack workshop.

getting closer to clients


“Agencies should break up current operating models where account teams are gatekeepers to planning and creative.”

“They don’t understand the numbers and can’t build business cases, particularly creative agencies.”

“They think, wrongly, that a marketing director is all-out creative when, in fact, less and less of their time is spent on that.”

All the quotes above are taken from a 2015 survey carried out by the IPA and The Marketing Society to understand client opinions of marketing and advertising agencies.

The findings clearly signify that the traditional agency models are grasping to stay relevant to the real world of a client-side marketer.

The obstruction created by account management ‘gatekeeping’ the relationship.

The desire to keep creativity on a pedestal whilst the remit of the marketing department expands into new territories such as marketing technology and customer experience.

The lack of understanding that ‘big ideas’ for creative campaigns are now a piece of a much bigger puzzle that requires a business case to justify any significant investment.

Agencies so often come to the table with an agenda. They have the answer before a client has even asked the question.

It’s this element of distance from the real business strategy of clients that led to the development of Pretty Pragmatic.

We felt there was a need for greater access. Both ways. The gap between agency and client had gotten bigger rather than smaller, and we felt that needed to change.

Agencies should feel like an extension of the team, but with the remit of providing outside perspective. Stopping the potential tunnel vision that can be inflicted upon marketing teams via the day-to-day processes and pressures within the business.

They should also listen to the problem and answer it in the best way possible, rather than the most profitable or confined to what they are able to deliver in-house.

So it’s a small thing we do here, you can pick up the phone and speak directly to the strategist. Not an account manager who will get them on a conference call with you 48 hours later.

We cover the breadth of what a marketing department now has to consider, from the pretty stuff (brand building, product campaigns, experience ideas, core creative ideas) to the pragmatic stuff (technology implementation, data, customer journeys, personas, content mapping, and CRM).

It means we come to the table impartial.

We don’t have an answer ready to ‘sell’ because our product is strategic problem-solving. Without hearing your business objective, we don’t have a leg to stand on.

We then identify the areas that will get the greatest benefit, form the business case, and then realise the solution with the help of our specialist partners and freelancer ecosystem.

It’s a new model that we’re finding works pretty well.

Give us a call and we can chat it through, you’ll get straight through to us!

Social media management

When embarking on a social media strategy, classic planning principles still apply, so having an audience-centric approach will allow you to create the best customer experience.

Setting commercial objectives and relevant measurements in advance will allow you to gauge what success looks like and how that compares with other marketing channels and tactics.

Our ethos is that businesses need to design from purpose through to profit. Therefore, brand and commercial objectives need to be connected via a solid social approach.

Over 90% of marketers state that social media is important to their brand and whether a presence exists, needs to be focussed, re-energised or scaled; our straightforward approach works through from insight to action to ensure maximum effectiveness and consistency.

The Pretty Pragmatic Social System

PP social model

At the core of any sound social approach is a situational analysis which includes foundational research using social media tools. This is essential for assessing the opportunity and determining the best strategy to deliver against business objectives.

Once this is carried out (and it needn’t take long), it then supports:

1. Insights (green section):

Insights form the base of a sound social strategy. Starting with the audience to define personas and behaviour traits, through to category and reviewing competitors, before defining how that transfers into behaviour and trends in social channels.

Relevant reach is key, so care needs to be taken when considering channels and their etiquette for audiences. Whilst Facebook and Twitter top the subscriber volumes, 30% of Millennials state that Instagram is their second social media channel of choice. 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to post content, and sales people frequently state that LinkedIn is best for appointment setting.

2. Framework (yellow section):

Creating a framework that defines the way you engage and why – from tone and behaviour to regularity and topics that deliver the highest impact – is critical for successful interactions. Some of the core components of a comprehensive framework are as follows:

The tone of action can be reflected through a clear social media mission statement where the purpose of interactions in social media (and the respective channels) can be stated.

Communications cadence is required to set the frequency and content ratios.

Editorial calendars should guide topics as well as take into account what’s trending in the industry and within your relevant conversations.

3. Guidance (blue section):

Using public platforms can be daunting for wider teams – what could they suggest and how should they get involved? These elements make it clear and easy to maximise participation and consistency across the business to sustain focus on key business objectives.

Providing messaging examples makes editing and personalising messages easier for teams. These should be built around best practices to maximise effectiveness. For example, tweets containing 110 characters or less receive 17% higher engagement.

Mapped content with clear call to actions (where necessary) helps to feed these content-hungry channels. Buyer journey maps and persona understanding allow more accurate guidance to drive relevant and effective communications.

Leading on from the guidelines; rules of engagement need to be clear in terms of SLAs, crisis management, escalation processes, promotional content, influencer engagement and scheduling posts – all of which need to be well-documented and adhered to.

4. Activation (pink section):

Activation means having the right content created, the right people aligned, and the right channels managed and promoted to deliver success.

Content types for social media vary in term of effectiveness. Again this really depends on the audience and channel. For example, list posts perform well in terms of shares on LinkedIn, gaining 22.45% social media traction. There are also gender nuances with research indicating females are more likely to share content that makes them appear intelligent, compared to men who wanted to appear funny. Frequently content and messaging already exists within the organisation that can be repositioned and reformatted to fuel your social content engine.

Ensuring all the right people are aligned and understand their role in the social system is important for a cohesive, results orientated approach. Bring together brand marketers, service operations, sales teams, executives and PR to ensure everyone understands their role and a consistent approach and presence is in place.

Finally, channel management ensures real-time, daily and ongoing engagement and responsiveness from brands. Posting previews, pre-approved content and ongoing collaboration ensure these channels are on brand and on purpose.