Clarks win loyal customers for the price of a Poloroid

[Guest blog from David Nichols, brandgym's head of invention]

At the weekend we bought our young son’s first pair of shoes.  Instead of the usual drudge of buying kids' shoes it was a heart-warming moment of pride – thanks to Clarks.

During the week a piece of Clarks direct mail plopped on the mat. It managed to avoid the recycling bin (unlike 95% ofdirect mail in my house) and lingered on the kitchen table, as it perfectly hit us as parents of an ‘about to toddle’ child.
The flyer showed a new way of thinking about babies and walking.  Not just ‘not walking’ or ‘walking’, but three stages: with a new stage in between crawling and walking of ‘cruising’. This ‘about to toddle’ stage is where they begin to need grip so they can learn to use their feet. Intrigued, off we went to our local store on Saturday.

Much to our surprise the in-store experience was a seamless extension of the Direct Mail promise:
•    Clear in-store section, mirroring the DM
•    Same full range of shoes as shown in the ad
•    Smiling, helpful service from knowledgeable staff

We explained what we needed. Little feet were duly measured and ‘cruising’ shoes fitted.  Then they asked us to stand him up and then, the clincher, they took a Polaroid snap of our little Tom in his first shoes. Hearts were melted and a loyal customer was born – all for the cost of a Polaroid.  Simple.
Clarks Tom pic
What did I learn from this?

1.    Make it easy to deliver ‘golden’ service moments
-    Getting staff to embody the brand in a service business is notoriously hard – lengthy training, glossy posters and incentive schemes all do their part. Clarks have gone one better and found a way to make is easy for their staff to over-deliver.  The simple addition of a Polaroid camera gives their people the chance to create golden brand moments for parents time and again.

2.    Targeting, targeting, targeting
-    Making sure your offer is relevant to your core target and then ensuring your messages reaches the right people is obviously paramount for any business, yet so much of what I see in print, on TV or on my doormats is not just wide of the mark but downright irrelevant.  Getting this offer delivered to people with babies at the right age is critical – a month or two too young or old and the opportunity is missed.
-    Clarks have managed to hit us just at the right moment.  I hope that this is due to careful list management, not blind luck!

3.    Use insight to be insightful
-    The new segmentation of toddlers’ walking that has driven Clarks’ new range is very insightful.  It clearly shows that they have actually spent real time watching babies learn to walk and then applied it not only to their product development but also to their marketing and communications.  Too often insight is just data with a fancy name, rather than something that actually helps a business act more insightfully.

4.    Be consistent across media
-    In a busy marketing department with multiple initiatives, re-lauches and communications campaigns going on simultaneously, it is actually very hard to get a piece of Direct Mail to look the same as an in-store display.  They are produced by different teams, using different agencies, and have markedly different development & deployment timescales.  Clarks’ marketing team have coordinated all this to deliver a seamless consistency that seems obvious to the most important people in any marketing department – consumers.

In Summary
Doing the simple things well is easy to say and hard to do, so hat’s off to Clarks for achieving it.  I challenge any marketing director to look at disparate parts of their communications (website, direct mail, in-store etc.) and see if they can pass the Clarks consistency test.  Not that easy.