John Humpish is the man from Mars who landed a year ago on a rather
grey and dusty planet called Save & Prosper. He swapped Milky Way and
Galaxy for PEPs and Premier Equity Income Funds. Almost as soon as he’d
disembarked from his fmcg spaceship, he began practising some of the
direct marketing rocket science he’d learned while working on brands
like Cesar and Sheba.
Humpish has finally emerged from his laboratory and is proud to reveal
what he claims is the most radical rebranding in S&P’s 64-year history,
backed by a marketing campaign using the slogan, ’How you S&Pend it is
up to you’. The annual marketing budget has been increased from pounds
12.5 million to pounds 20 million, with up to 65 per cent of that going
below the line.
But most significant of all is his decision that in a year’s time, the
S&P brand will bypass its traditional middlemen - the Independent
Financial Advisors (IFAs) - and sell direct to the public. ’Brands are
increasingly providing the reassurance that IFAs once did,’ he explains.
’Basic consumer understanding is far greater than it was two or three
years ago, thanks to things like the internet. I’m convinced that once
we get the direct model up and running, it will run and run.’
This move has potentially huge ramifications for the rest of the
financial services industry, particularly for those less well-defined
players caught in a pincer movement between so-called ’performance’
brands like M&G and Schroder, and the new mass-market brands like Virgin
and Barclays’ b2.
S&P currently manages about pounds 5 billion for 500,000 customers but
until now has suffered from an ill-defined pool of funds - more than 30
in all. Humpish has trimmed this down to just over 20 and says he will
’only actively market about ten’. This is in keeping with the new
strategy which places clarity of consumer message above all else.
S&P is ’determined to get away from the old language of greed and fear,’
says Humpish, ’all that stuff about ’We’re Number One!’ and ’for the
future you don’t yet know’.’ Instead, both the new corporate identity -
heavy use of red, which this sector has traditionally shunned - and the
new ad and direct marketing campaigns will highlight S&P’s ’rare ability
to engage the consumer, to be amusing, intriguing, informative in a
straightforward and relaxed way,’ according to David Stuart, creative
partner at the Partners, which produced the new look.
Still only 33 and recently married, Newcastle-born Humpish lists his
hobbies as Newcastle United, golf, tennis and skiing. He has had a
peripatetic career to date, seeing much of the UK but little of London,
where he is now based, a few yards from Merrill Lynch’s gleaming City
Sponsored through college by Ford, he was all set to pursue a career in
mechanical engineering when he was seduced by the ’maverick marketing
culture’ at Mars, one of the world’s most secretive companies, and soon
found himself in charge of brands such as Twix, Bounty and Topic.
A two-year stint in Germany as head of European direct marketing for
Pedigree Petfoods gave Humpish a taste for direct marketing. ’The
loyalty mailings we ran for Cesar and Sheba generated the most
incredible response rates of up to 50 per cent,’ he recalls. ’It showed
the rejuvenating power of direct marketing in what was a very mature
Although he doesn’t expect to emulate this kind of success in his new
field, Humpish is convinced that the one million or so S&P mailshots
going through the nation’s letterboxes (including about 250,000 to
existing customers) will be well-integrated with the above-the-line
As part of the rebranding strategy, he ensured that S&P’s three key
agencies - Delaney Fletcher Bozell, the Partners, and the direct
marketing agency, Anthem - met up on a regular basis and evolved the new
James Pool, the managing director of Anthem, whose priority is customer
acquisition rather than retention, describes the past three or four
months as ’a really intense period, talking to consumers, the other
agencies and the client about how the brand should be positioned.
I think what John’s brought to S&P, more than anything else, is his
consumer focus, which takes priority over the product.’
Humpish agrees with this assessment. ’My intention is for the new
direct-sell S&P to enter into a dialogue with its customers. It should
seem completely responsive to their needs and eager to solicit their
views and ideas.’ His three million-strong consumer database should, if
properly exploited, prove very helpful in this respect.
Humpish has shaken up the brand image of S&P, introducing a bold use of
red in its marketing. His career includes spells at Mars, then at
Pedigree Petfoods in Germany, where he worked on Cesar and Sheba.