Standing out from the crowd: a Saatchi Masius Masterclass

Businesses must stand out from the crowd, but this is hard when great products and service are standard in your market? At the latest Masterclass, ten companies learnt from Saatchi Masius experts how emotional connectivity is the key to unique appeal

At the London office of Saatchi Masius, there is a genuine sense of excitement in the air. Saatchi Masius is, of course, one of the iconic names in global advertising and marketing; for the next two days, the agency will be hosting a special, Santander-sponsored Masterclass. Ten fast-growing companies, guided by Saatchi’s expert team, will have a unique opportunity to rethink the way they market themselves and position their brands. 
It's clear that they're a very diverse group. There are, for instance, consumer-facing companies with nationally recognised brands, such as Hampshire-based zoo park and conservation organisation Marwell Wildlife and party foods manufacturer Abergavenny Foods. There are also niche or regionally focused retail sector companies, including high-performance wetsuit supplier Huub, brewer Bath Ales, pharmacist group Allcures and lighting company TP24. The business-to-business market is well represented too, with delegates including packaging firm Mailway, web hosting company Aimes and graduate recruiter Enternships. Completing the delegate group is Chillipeeps, a startup business born from an idea to make life easier for mothers feeding babies. 
The common factors
Although these are very different companies, there are common factors. For instance, while they have all achieved success in their chosen markets, all are aware of the importance of differentiating themselves from their competitors. Several are also actively rethinking their messaging, positioning and strategy.  

"Promote those aspects of your company that your customers do not simply appreciate or respect but love. As the Saatchi Masius team put it, ““Lovemarks” enjoy both the respect and love of customers, which is why customers come to you and not your competitors.” 

Claire Mitchell, founder of Chillipeeps, is a case in point. “At the moment I’m in the process of rebranding,” she says. “So this was an ideal opportunity to come to Saatchi and learn from the experts.”  
James Cretney, CEO of Marwell Zoo, sees the Masterclass in similar terms. “We are at a strategic milestone. Though decisions for the future have been made, we couldn’t turn down a chance to come here and get Saatchi’s perspective on the challenges we face,” he says.   
Reframing the business
After a round of presentations in which the delegates introduce themselves and outline the challenges they face within their respective sectors, the Saatchi Masius team begin to explore one of the key themes of the event: the importance of establishing a relationship with customers that goes beyond the quality of the product or customer service offering.  
The logic is persuasive. In the modern world there are few poor products and every successful company has an unrelenting focus on customer service. The challenge, then, is differentiation. How do you stand out when all your competitors are offering products of comparable quality? 
The answer is to promote those aspects of your company that your customers do not simply appreciate or respect but love. As the Saatchi Masius team put it, “”Lovemarks” enjoy both the respect and love of customers, which is why customers come to you and not your competitors.”
The emotional connection
It’s a theme that leads the delegates into the defining exercise of the two-day event. Working in groups, delegates are encouraged to rethink and ultimately redefine their business to maximise the emotional connection with customers.  
It’s an approach that can pay huge dividends. As the Saatchi Masius team pointed out, the AA (Automobile Association) would once have been defined purely and simply as a specialist insurance provider, until it positioned itself as the “Fourth Emergency Service”. It’s a reframing of its statement of intent that not only has much more resonance with the public; it also genuinely defines the appeal of the AA to its customers. 
With that in mind, delegates spend the rest of the session analysing their businesses in terms of how they are seen by customers. It’s an interactive process with members of the Saatchi Masius team and their peers from other companies adding their insights.   
Day two: remake, remodel
The key to the event is in the perceptible result of the previous day's reframing exercise, as delegates described how their thinking had changed in terms of defining the "emotional connection" between business and customer. While no ideas were set in stone, they've generated fresh ways of thinking. Bath Ales, for instance, moved beyond the definition of its business as "brewing and pubs" to one of providing "quality time" for "people who value their leisure".
For its part, Abergavenny Foods redefined the business from the descriptive supplier “of cheese party foods” to one that delivers “a social experience.”  
A new perspective
As he prepares to return to Marwell Zoo, James Cretney says the Masterclass is likely to feed directly into a rebuild of the company’s website. “We have been thinking more about the importance of making an emotional connection with our customers and that will certainly affect our approach to redesigning the website.”
Arguably the biggest benefit of the Masterclass lies in enabling businesses to step outside day-to-day operations and take the time to think creatively about strategic and marketing options. As Shaun Davis, of lighting firm TP24, puts it, “These exercises have really helped us to focus on what needs to be done.”
The delegates left the event with a new perspective on how to move their businesses forward and the inspiration to put some of the ideas into action.

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