Media: Strategy Analysis - Which? re-engages with consumers

Brand: Which? magazine
Client: Which?
Brief: Empower consumers
Target audience: All adults
Budget: Undisclosed

AGENCIES
Media: MC&C
Creative: Watson Phillips Norman

STRATEGY

In 2007, Which?, the UK's leading consumer charity, will celebrate 50 years of championing people's consumer rights and lobbying government and industry on behalf of consumers.

The organisation is funded by its members, subscribers to its magazines - including its flagship Which? magazine - and its website.

This year, it has undertaken a major project to improve its understanding of consumers and develop its marketing strategies. To ensure that it continues to meet consumers' needs, the organisation has been working with the direct response media agency MC&C to acquire an in-depth understanding of consumers all over the UK - including its members, potential new members and the people on whose behalf it campaigns.

One of Which?'s key aims is to empower people by providing them with information - to make them as powerful as the companies they deal with every day. It needed to get to know today's consumers better, communicate with them in the best possible way and tailor its services for their maximum benefit.

EXECUTION

The first step was to create a bespoke segmentation of the UK population.

Based on behaviour and attitudes, the qualitative insights gained from this were shared across the whole organisation, from customer services to subscriber recruitment.

The second stage was to replace the prize draw - hugely popular and successful in its time - with a consumer proposition that focused more on Which?'s core brand values.

At the heart of Which?'s brand is the provision of information that empowers the consumer. The new proposition revolved around offering free "how to" information, particularly in areas of mass consumer confusion such as PCs.

A series of free guides were created, advising consumers how best to approach a particular product or service area, select the best products and avoid pitfalls.

The third part of the strategy was to move from direct mail to broadcast media. When mailing consumers, Which? effectively dictated when they could respond. By adopting a low-cost per-contact continuous trawling strategy, Which? enabled the consumer to choose when they would initiate contact. - Press MC&C, the creative agency Watson Phillips Norman and Which? developed a range of guides, covering areas such as the internet, broadband and digital cameras, which met both consumer needs and the needs of the organisation.

Consumers requested the free guides when they were researching a purchase in a product or service area. Which? was therefore in an immediate position from which to engage people by helping them and, in doing so, demonstrate the benefit of the information it provides - its core offering.- TV Watson Phillips Norman created a range of executions demonstrating the breadth of information available from Which?. The organisation's lead medium is now direct response television, but press, inserts, door-drops and direct mail are integrated together in support.

Which? also began speaking more directly to consumers, with new marketing activity guiding the majority of respondents to the telephone, where call handlers could engage with them and gain an understanding of their needs and interests.

RESULTS

In the past 12 months, 750,000 adults have responded to Which?, requesting a consumer guide. Revenues are up and subscriber numbers have grown year on year for the first time in seven years. Return on investment has more than tripled, compared with results from just a year ago.

THE VERDICT - CHARLIE VARLEY, PLANNING DIRECTOR, MEDIAVEST MANCHESTER

Twenty years ago, Great Aunt Babs gave my wife and I, as a newly wed couple, the gift of Which? as a wedding present.

I was delighted, as it was the one magazine freebie that I couldn't get my hands on through my professional media interests, and for a number of subsequent years it fed my huge interest and desire to acquire masses of "kit" and "stuff". It also guaranteed that our friends turned to me first when it came to making decisions about which this, or, which that, was best to buy.

Twenty years on, buying "kit" and "stuff" couldn't be more complicated. First, the internet has seen to it that consumers can research and get what they want, when they want, and how they want it. Second, new technology today is becoming old technology tomorrow at an ever-quickening pace. And third, there's a lot of rubbish and bad advice out there on the internet. The consequence of all of this is a minefield of potential wrong turns and buyer-paralysis when selecting what to buy and where best to buy it.

It follows that true independent and impartial advice provided in a straightforward manner should resonate hugely with today's shopper.

Modernising Which?'s approach to selling subscriptions seems to me long overdue. Free guides are a sure-fire winner, and 750,000 requests confirms consumers' need for help to resolve the complexities of shopping for and using "kit" and "stuff" today. Backed up by other media support, I can only guess their bespoke segmentation of the UK population was utilised in tailor-making the most motivating offers by daypart or by medium.

Nielsen records a media spend of £5.9 million for January to September 2006, suggesting a ballpark acquisition cost in mid-single pounds figures. Suffice it to say, they've captured enough data by which they can set about sweating the initial acquisition costs in a southerly direction.

I do wonder why so much advertising still talks down to consumers and treats them like morons - perhaps this was the real insight discovered in their segmentation analysis. Hey, I used to know more about "kit"and "stuff" than anyone thanks to Which?. At some point, Aunt Babs decided not to renew my subscription. We must have neglected to visit her one year.

SCORE: 4 OUT OF 5.

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