Friday, 14 November 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Christmas has begun

Over the last week the UK has seen the official start to Christmas; John Lewis told us so.

John Lewis started this off in 2009, seeing Coca-Cola’s Santa and raising him, in no particular order, a penguin, some snowmen, and unlikely friendships between woodland creatures. Ever since, companies have rushed to get in on the act, pushing ever greater briefs, backed by ever larger budgets. All in the attempt to attract shoppers through their doors. But is this money well spent? Or have these adverts become so removed from what advertising traditionally stands for that they could potentially damage the high street they’re meant to save?

Simply put, the cost of these adverts is enough to make any company's CFO turn ashen faced. With a budget of £7 million, John Lewis tops the charts, and the sheer scale of Sainsbury’s WW1 extravaganza means it can’t be far behind. But one thing was conspicuously missing from both adverts, and that’s a product.

Whilst you may now be able to buy a Monty penguin for the sum of £95, and Sainsbury’s will sell you vintage chocolate for £1, neither make product a focal point during their two or three minutes of air time. Having been placed in the most expensive slots on British TV, the question has to be asked, ‘is this good advertising?’

On the surface, the answer surely is yes. In terms of outreach, these adverts achieve circulation that could never have been expected even a few years ago. In less than 24 hours, Sainsbury’s saw online viewing figures of nearly one million, whilst being shared on Facebook nearly 42,000 times. This pales into insignificance when compared to John Lewis, who in just a week garnered viewing figures of a scarcely believable 13.5 million, with Facebook shares of 154,000.

With not a single product advertised, the effect these adverts have on sales is incredible. John Lewis announced this week that its like for like sales for the first week of November were up 6%.  The retailer has a proud history of defying the credit crunch, posting positive festive figures every year since 2009.

Whilst these lavishly funded, sentimental adverts may be achievable for large companies with large budgets, smaller companies are having to get more creative. The irony of these messages is that whilst they may cost millions of pounds to produce, their greatest success comes from an (almost) completely free source, social media. Every retweet, share, view, comes at no cost to the retailer. Whilst their slots on television may cost the company, their online presence does not. Therefore, this is how smaller companies can succeed.

Ironically, while online shopping has for a long time been described as the end of the high street, online advertising may be what saves it. One of the greatest adverts to come out of last year’s Super Bowl was not the blockbuster Budweiser advert, but a tweet sent by Oreo. Quick thinking led to a simple quip being shared round the world over 20,000 times, garnered 525 million media impressions, even making Adweek’s top five ‘ads’ of the night. From this, the answer appears simple, use digital, save physical.

This week, Abchaps had a brilliant evening at the Nabarro London Wall launch. The evening kicked of with a fantastic cooking demonstration from Michelin Chef Michel Roux Jnr, along with magical entertainment.

Eversheds  appointed Cathryn Vanderspar, formally of Berwin Leighton Paisner, head of their London tax tea, whilst Mark Brown joined Westhouse Securities as executive chairman. Brown was previously chief executive of Collins Stewart Hawkpoint. Meanwhile, Pinsent Masons announced the appointment of Meriam Alrashid as an international arbitration partner in its global construction practice in London. A fluent Arabic speaker, she joins from Crowell & Moring. Finally, Walker Crips appointed Matt Ennion as Investment Director. He joins from Towry.

"Evangelism Marketing" - a form of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM), in which companies established a loyal group of customers with strong belief in their products. These customers willingly and actively convince others to buy their products.

Enjoy some ice-skating in the beautiful splendour of Somerset House’s neoclassical courtyard. Then rest those sore legs (and bums) in the Skate Lounge for a well-deserved apr├Ęs-skate, where you can indulge in a cocktail, fondue or tasty treat (or all three)!

If you’re looking for something different, head along to the Hyper Japan Christmas Market at Olympia open this weekend only where you can immerse yourself in Japanese culture and find some interesting Christmas gifts for family and friends. Also at Olympia this weekend is the BBC Good Food Show which promises to be delicious!

The highly anticipated Regent Street Christmas lights switch-on will be taking place on Sunday. It's an evening of Christmas tunes, celebrity talent and fireworks. A London tradition since 1948, when the Regent Street Association first decorated the street with Christmas trees, the lacing of the street with lights marks the official countdown to Christmas day. The show will begin at 4pm with the switch on moment taking place at approximately 4.45pm.

And finally, for all those rugby enthusiasts, the Autumn Internationals continue on Saturday with the headline game, England vs South Africa kicking off at 2.30pm and Wales taking on Fiji at the same time. Scotland face the almighty New Zealand at 5.30pm and finally, Ireland play Georgia on Sunday at 2.30pm.

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Friday, 7 November 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Be "nice" to customers & reward shareholders

This week, the budget airline Ryanair reported unexpectedly positive results, with profits up 32%. These were unexpected as earlier this year the airline was forced to put out two profit warnings.

This round of positive profits were partly attributable to the warm reception of the company’s Business Plus product, as well as the low price of crude oil in recent months. It is also largely due to CEO Michael O’Leary’s vow earlier this year to cease “unnecessarily p****** people off” and be nicer to his customers. Examples of this p****** off included threats to charge passengers up to £5 to use the loos on planes, as well as to introduce “standing tickets” whereby some passengers didn’t get a seat so as to get more people on planes.

As one might have expected, this vow worked well, and Ryanair enjoyed a rise in passenger numbers of 12% in the current quarter, and 20% in the final three months.

The fact that his vow of nicety worked seems to have been a surprise to what some have termed: “the loud mouthed” businessman. Indeed, his new strategy has proven to be so much of a success that he has announced his intention to continue being nice to his customers – thank heavens for that.

Rather than sharing Mr O’Leary's surprise that his nice strategy worked, we're rather surprised that he hadn’t realised the customer centric approach had always been necessary. In any walk of business, whether  capital markets or otherwise, placing the individuals / organisations that you service at the core of everything you do is essential for commercial success, to earn a good reputation, survive the initial years and thrive in the later years. In an age where consumer loyalty has been work thin, corporate competition is at its peak. Companies are accountable for all that they do – social media is the first place a disgruntled customer will share any tales of woe. Companies must value their customers and work their entire business models around them. This will keep them happy and therefore keep them as customers. Supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury are famously battling the same issue as Ryanair, and in response have been working to tailor their customers’ experiences to be second to none.

Similarly, whilst companies can benefit from treating their customers well, publicly listed companies must treat their shareholders so. With more and more companies coming to a market that is slowly but surely recovering, publicly listed companies must reward their shareholders to ensure that they stay the journey. The companies that perform best on the London Stock Exchange are those that place their shareholders at the fore by paying out regular dividends, communicating effectively and only making business decisions that will positively impact their shareholders.

The fact that Ryanair’s results made the news is not notable; they are a large, consumer facing company. The fact that Michael’s statement was featured in most headlines, however, is notable as it shows exactly how important placing customers / shareholders at the fore is.

Businesses should be constantly communicating exactly how they are placing their customers and shareholders at the fore so as to ensure that their good work is not going to waste. As pointed out by Forbes contributor Micah Solomon, visibility is one of the seven most important elements of having a truly customer centric business model. These days customers like and need to be rewarded for their loyalty, and so will be scanning the headlines for the companies that will do that. Stories of customer reward schemes and so on will therefore catch the eye and possibly custom.

There is an old saying that is often bleated by the elders of the world: “manners don’t cost you a penny”. This week’s headlines have never proven this point more effectively, even showing that in the case of Michael O’Leary, good manners can even gain you a lot. We look forward to seeing a bright future for the newly focused Ryanair.

This week Abchaps attended a very interesting event hosted by UK – Israel Business who hosted Avi Hasson, Israel's Chief Scientist, part of Israel's Ministry of the Economy. The event was attended by the UK Ambassador to Israel and the Israeli Ambassador to the UK. The panel discussed the huge trade links between the two countries and Israel’s highly successful tech sector and opportunities for English companies to tap Israeli expertise as well as Israeli companies to take advantage of the UK market, in particular the capital markets in London.

We also enjoyed Sanlam Securities' networking event and the Recombu Awards.

Chris Nicholls, previously an executive previously director at JP Morgan Cazenove, joined Deloitte as a partner of the equity capital markets team. 

KPMG expanded its Cyber Security Business by appointing Rob McElvanney and Steve Bates from IRM, and Lawrence Munro from Nebulas Solutions Group.

Guy Hill joined Sanditon Asset Management as its Senior Investment Director of the European investment team. He was the London head of Swiss equities team at Helvea.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is taking place on Saturday 8 November, with a procession from 11:00 – 14:40. The parade takes the flotilla, dancers, drummers and over 7,000 participants throughout the City of London. The evening is rounded off with a fireworks display over the Thames in the evening.

If you haven’t quite put Guy Fawkes celebrations to bed just yet then let us recommend the Battersea Park Fireworks. Tickets are £10 a pop but definitely worth while, with one of London’s best displays on offer. The bonfire is lit at 7:30 so make sure you leave plenty of time!

If you are a ruby fan, then head to the Famous Three Kings this weekend. 16 screens worth of Autumn International delight as England take on the All Blacks at 1430, Wales face up to the Wallabies, Scotland face Argentina and then finally at 1730 the Irish play South Africa.

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