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Cunning Plan: Bluffing your way in Planning

Why spend years learning about planning when you can read ten books and become an expert overnight?

Why We Buy,

by Paco Underhill

Based on the US market, Underhill examines the signals that encourage people to make purchases in department stores, drive-ins and even banks. While full of quantitative research, some of his observations are gloriously simple: if you want to sell more prescription drugs, make the typeface bigger on the back of packages because old people struggle to read the small type created by young designers; and what do men do in changing rooms that women don’t? They buy. On average, a man is about 40 percent more likely to buy something he’s taking into a changing room than a woman – the critical thing is to get them into the changing room.

Katrina says: “I used it recently in a pitch for Co-op Financial Services. We were asked to do branch merchandising and having read that book I realised that if you really think about the journey a customer takes through a bank, when they enter they’re not their most responsive because they’re desperately task orientated: they’re rushing to do what they want to do – get to the desk, fill out a form, whatever. So actually, if you want to sell them new products, pick up leaflets take up is increased by putting them next to the exit rather than the entrance. By the time they’ve stood in the queue and seen your point of sale they’re more likely to think, ‘Yeah, I’ll pick up a leaflet about that’.”


by Mark Penn

Penn is famous for two things: As Bill Clinton’s pollster he identified small but influential groups of voters, the most famous of which being the ‘Soccer Mom’, to help Clinton win two presidential elections; and he was also Hillary Clinton’s pollster, which didn’t work out so well. Among the small groups he identifies in this book are the kind of people you definitely wouldn’t want sitting next to you at a dinner party, including xxxmen, who are heavy internet porn users. But hey, if you’re an internet porn retailer, this is your market. He goes on to identify other small tribes which offer niche marketing opportunities.

Katrina says: “This book has had a lot of flak so I feel a bit dodgy recommending it, but it’s a great read on a long train journey. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s full of amazing insights into very small target audiences that can actually prove very profitable little businesses. If you’re wondering about the lives of others – what’s really going on out there – then have a look at this.”

The Green Marketing Manifesto,

by John Grant

If ever you’ve got to do a green project, this book should give you some ideas about how to segment your market to deal with consumers’ and clients’ changing outlooks on green issues. It includes the ‘Green Marketing Grid’, where you find your client’s business sector or type of product, check it against whether your client is ‘green, greener or greenest’ and Grant gives you two appropriate strategies and around 10 examples of how they can work.

Katrina says: “I had to do a huge environmental project for Volvo and this was extremely helpful. It’s a really great book because it says green is far too important to be left to the old greens, because the old greens are hopeless, aren’t they? They can’t even win a seat in Parliament.”

The Culture Code,

by Clotaire Rapaille

Rapaille’s code identifies how consumers’ associations differ depending on their culture. He talks about working with Chrysler which wanted to launch its Jeep into America’s already crowded SUV market. Through research, the marketing team found that to Americans, driving off road stirred the old ‘cowboy’ spirit, and so came to the conclusion that the Jeep could be the modern day horse. Chrysler had planned to put high quality leather seats in their Jeeps, but instead used saddle leather to make it feel like the driver was sitting on a horse. In Europe however, the positioning was different: people said the Jeep reminded them of the liberation after the war when the American soldiers came over.

Katrina says: “This book polarises opinion a lot. If you get this out, some people will say, ‘Not that stupid old weirdo’, while others will tell you it’s the most fascinating book they’ve ever read. It’s probably the easiest book to read about semiotics, the science of the meaning of words.”

Eating the Big Fish,

by Adam Morg

Always find your brands in the slipstream of the market leaders? Well this could be the book for you. Morg outlines eight key strategies to try to outwit the major players. Among them, he suggests sacrifice – the idea of putting all your media spend in one media basket and dominating it rather than trying to compete on the same levels as rivals with deeper pockets. Good luck getting a client to take that advice though...

Katrina says: “It’s the ultimate challenger brand manual. His strategies are all the things you suggest to clients that they never do. It’s about being brave. Leave the top brands to be in every other media, because you’re not going to beat them across the board with their wealth, and really get on top of one particular corner. When you’ve read this, take a look at David Akers’ Brand Leader which is all about staying at the top – it’s the complete opposite so you’ll get very confused.”

Positioning: The battle for your mind,

by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Taking the view that consumers’ headspace is limited and congested, Ries and Trout examine ways to position everything from a bank to Belgium in order to make them memorable to their target audience. They stress that positioning is about ‘simplicity and clarity’ as well as corresponding with what the consumer already believes. It’ll even leave you with food for thought about how to position yourself.

Katrina says: “This is a very old book, but it’s the absolute seminal work on positioning. It’s about how to get a place in someone’s head for your brand. You have to get a simple hook for people to remember you.”

Problem Solved

by Michael Johnson

Finding yourself stuck trying to visualise a message? Written by Michael Johnson of London-based agency Johnson Banks, this is a training manual in solving 18 of the most common communications problems from a designer’s perspective. Each chapter deals with a specific brief and ends with Johnson solving it through a design-based solution.

Katrina says: “I think one of the things about being a great planner is that you have to nick ways of thinking from other disciplines and not just always think in typical marketing terms. Johnson is ideal for this because he thinks very visually. It’s an absolutely beautiful book, the layout and the typography are gorgeous. It’s fascinating too, you don’t know what’s coming up on every page and he uses a fantastic array of examples to solve issues. You might even find he solves the problem you’ve got – whether it be how to talk to children or how to talk about tragedy.

Primal Branding

by Patrick Hanlon

The Primal Code explained here is about concocting the story of a new or just plain bland brand – with the odd pinch of embellishment thrown in – and growing a community of ‘believers’, ie. consumers. It plays on a religious theme, from coming up with the brand’s ‘creation story’, to identifying its ‘sacred words’ and ‘rituals’. It all sounds rather dramatic, but in simple terms it’s about techniques you can employ to make consumers associate with brands that might otherwise pass them by.

Katrina says: “This is a great book if a client comes to you with a brand that looks half formed. When a brand doesn’t have any standout attributes and looks bland, and you’re thinking, ‘Bloody hell, what am I going to do with this?’ this is great because it’s a method for positioning a belief system around a brand. The Rituals section is particularly interesting. Take a brand like Magners for instance, which might have gone under the radar. Now they’ve created this whole positioning around pouring it over ice and it’s become hugely successful.”


by Jean-Marie Dru

Dru’s premise is that doing the same as everyone else, or the same as you’ve always done, will not deliver a step change in performance. It’s a theory, outlined here, and a method: you hunt down product or advertising conventions and find relevant ways of disrupting or destroying them. The impact this work has had on the industry is visible everywhere from Cadbury’s drumming gorilla to the ad network TBWA\ having a whole ‘disruption’ strategy.

Katrina says: “It’s a wonderful theory. It’s a great way when you’re really stuck, and out of good ideas, to think of something new. I keep the image of the high jump in my mind: for years everyone did it the same way and then, the modern Fosbury Flop method comes along and the record height is smashed.”

Perfect Pitch

by Jon Steel

Whether a flawed system or not, pitching is a necessary evil and here Steel dispenses his wisdom on how to come through the other side of the oft-derided process smiling. Described as a professional ‘pitching coach’ for a large marketing conglomerate, he outlines his whole thinking process from writing the pitch to how best to present. An involving story is the best way to win a client’s heart, he tell us.

Katrina says: “He contrasts Winston Churchill’s famous “We’ll fight them...” speech, and its compassion, with the pragmatism of how it would appear as a power point presentation, which is a lovely way of thinking about how to put yourself across in pitches. Little things can make the difference. Clients have told me in the past that if you’ve got six agencies pitching, three of them will make a complete hash of it, but three of them will get most of it right. So there’s only about 20% to really play with between winner and number two, so sometimes it comes down to how well you told the story and how much you engaged them.”