The Business of Colour: I-AM Sessions #1

Our first I-AM Session, The Business of Colour, looked into how colour affects our experiences from the perspectives of three disciplines: trend forecasting, neuroscience and food retail.

A major influence in how we make sense of the world around us is through our understanding of colour.

Colour has the ability to powerfully control our perceptions, change our minds, actions and emotional state. By recognizing how colour physiologically and psychologically influences us, we are better able to create desirable atmospheres in our work, home and social environments.

“The power of colour forecasting is not hocus-pocus and crystal balls, it is about looking at the world around you.”

Stylus Colour Forecaster, Catherine Bedford opened up the evening by talking about how the power of colour forecasting is not hocus-pocus and crystal balls, it is about looking at the world around you. It is not about telling you to use lime green or pink for your catwalk shows in 18 months. Colour forecasting for designers is about informing about what the big colour themes are going to be for the next 2-5 years.

Catherine told us that it isn’t always about looking forward; you must also consider your past. Industry develops through digital and 3D printing with the introduction of even more tactical materials has meant designers can utlise colours in a more explosive way. Work by artists such as Eyal Gever and Mark Mawson are making their way onto designer mood boards.

“Imagine a Colourless World”

Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University has worked with chefs from a range of backgrounds including the ‘experiential chef’ himself, Heston Blumenthal.

As a neuroscientist, Charles looks at how the brain works and communicates, how the brain informs us about the direction to design foods, products and the environments in which we socialise.

What would the experience of eating be like if you lost your sense of colour? When Charles asked us, it was difficult to imagine; but he showed us images by colour-blind artist Charles Jones who created pictures bleached of colour to reflect the way he viewed the world. The food depicted in the images appeared wholly unappealing ad demonstrated the importance of colour in the allure of foods. Would a green steak taste as good?

With the help of our I-AM session chefs we were treated to some spectacular food as Charles explained how certain colours such as red can make us think something is sweet and green, sour. Our plate of sweet black rice might not have looked at all appetising but it definitely challenged our senses.

For pudding, we were treated to bowls of delicious chocolates. Some bowls had lots of different coloured chocolates while others were bowls of only pink, blue and white… little did we know that this experiment demonstrated how we eat more when presented with a wider variety of colours! Ah, the secret as to why you keep tucking into those M&M’s!

Professor Spence’s talk taught us how we attribute so much meaning to colour…the colour ultimately determines the experience.

A Vibrancy Outbreak at Chilango

“We think Colour, or as we like to call it, Vibrancy, is at the very centre of everything we do!The charismatic Founder of Chilango Eric Partaker, explained that colour, or as they call it vibrancy, is the centre of everything they do.

Eric pointed out that passionate fans offer some pretty exciting benefits, they spend 20% more on average, they won’t search for alternatives but most importantly; they go out of their way to tell others about you

Eric explained that by redesigning and creating a new brand that amplified freshness, fun, and vibrancy, they achieved 100% uplift in sales in 4 months. Vibrancy was attracting far more people through the door… But it didn’t stop there…

Vibrancy became an epidemic. Everyone at Chilango knows the ‘food, people, place’ mantra. These are the three things any guest comes into contact with… the three things that combine to create the best customer experience.

Eric concluded that the result of the ‘Vibrant Outbreak’ has meant they have received over 30,000 pieces of positive feedback and Chilango is often referred to one of the most widely talked about and reviewed restaurant groups in the space.


I-AM Sessions #1

For those of you who kindly came along to our first ‘i-am’ session, it was a pleasure to have you!

We hosted our first ‘i-am‘ event here at The Old School House attended by specialists from the world of food, colour and trend analysis for us all to explore ‘The Business of Colour’.

By understanding how colour trends are predicted, how colour affects the customer experience and importantly how colour can make you money it was an evening of wonderful insight.

More treats and tricks will be shared on our next newsletter so sign up on the website to receive the full information.

If you want to come along to future ‘i-am’ sessions please send your email address to [email protected]

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The Category-Killer Murdered by its Own Sector – Tim Jeffrey

It was a good idea at the time, the U.S. giant Best Buy landed in the UK two years ago and scared the living daylights out of the competition, although they denied it at the time.

Best Buy launched in a cloud of press frenzy, hype and performance expectation, in cahoots with those shrewd operators, Charles Dunstone’s, Carphone Warehouse.

The Best Buy brand has been a category-killing success in the US accounting for 19% of the market and gained a reputation for approachable and knowledgeable staff, with a twist of ‘nerdiness’ to give it a point of difference. The stores themselves had a few rough edges, not afraid to employ the odd pallet display here and there. But this added to the no frills approach and won strong customer loyalty from its target audience.

When the brand finally arrived here much was reported about it, especially the recruitment and team building methods based on their US model, prior to their Thurrock opening and subsequent rollout. ‘Happy Clappy’ to some sceptics, admittedly the opposite of the British reserved approach or full on ‘Alright mate?’ hard sell style, all grist for the mill of service expectation.

The store itself promised a relaxed ordered atmosphere and having worked for C.W. in the past, early discussions with them about the new format, indicated an honest determined commitment to make the customer journey a truly positive one.

When the store opened, much fanfare was made of its wide range of sharply priced goods, electric car and bike offers, customer service and convenience. I used the store on one of our client ‘store tours’ and was impressed by the level of service, especially when having stopped a member of staff to grill them about a product, found him fall on the final fence of delivery time. However when he told me he was security and whilst everyone in the store must have some product knowledge, he needed to call a member of the sales team.

We were impressed!

As for the store well interestingly having visited on day one and then returning year 1, the cracks were appearing. Gone were the car and wide range of two-wheeled transport, in were the louder tone of voice, and out were the high staff numbers.

So what happened?

Well I thought it was pretty good, it lacked the buzz and rush I expected to get but it ticked a lot of boxes, which sadly means that with its demise, a lot of babies are going out with the bathwater. It is a good case study in bad timing, landing as they did in the middle of a battlefield with no high ground and attacks on all fronts. They may have had clout but the competition was tough and battle hardened with the likes of Comet, Currys and in particular Argos.

But the true failure was in spotting just how tough it was going to be in what has turned into a messy commodity sector with such a big space strategy.

Again and again we witness the retail sector trying to squeeze the ‘low price’ genie back into the bottle. Sadly the only saving grace is new technologies to pump up the margin again and most retailers do not control those cards.

So we wave goodbye to our American friends, but I for one am grateful for the legacy they left the sector. They helped raise the game of standards both in presentation and service. We have benefited from their challenge to the principles of best practice as consumers and made the remaining players sharper and smarter.

There are more challenges ahead and nothing but clever thinking and five star service will do in such a demanding and difficult sector.

But for now, thanks Best Buy it was good knowing you.


Where is your brand? – Tim Jeffrey

Where is your brand? In the physical or the virtual? Or both?

It’s good at last to see more column inches (in addition of course to gigabytes of bloggage) being devoted to the shift from old branding to new branding.

In-touch marketers are already working away on orchestrating their complete brand experiences, and today’s big challenge is harmonising physical encounters with virtual ones.

This was highlighted in Gideon Spanier’s article ‘At the point of sale is… the last great marketing opportunity’Evening Standard, July 25thGideon discusses the ‘Shopper Journey’ concept (a notion we have our own take on here at I-AM) which, if executed correctly, can help to define the key moments in a great brand experience.

The article describes the commercial benefit of shifting focus, energy and creativity from ‘the promise’ of a brand (advertising, PR etc) to the ‘brand reality’ in the moment of truth when a shopper makes their ‘buy’ decision.  Through this, engaging and innovative point of sale moments can ensure the customer leaves the store with an enhanced attachment to the brand.

Some of our clients we’ve recently helped to create these ‘moments of truth’ whether physical or virtual, include: – this young, innovative & fun fashion store, thanks to us now presents customers with enhanced POS moments including a conveyor, full with music and gadget products just in front of the cash desk; dry-cleaner style moving hangers or the interactive mirrors that allow you to instantly connect to the designers of or Facebook, so that you can ask for some fashion advice.

Itsu – we identified the importance of strategic product placement when working with Julian Metcalf of Itsu. By giving personality to a new range of products, and creating versatile eye-catching packaging, the proposition connects on an emotional level, building the brand in the moment of selection.

Banks – financial retailers, for us, should focus effort on the concept that Gideon highlights of ‘From store back’. With more and more people switching their daily banking needs to online, the high street bank branch would appear to be in decline. However, we don’t agree. It’s role in a multi-channel customer journey just needs re-appraisal as the human face of these brands, a place to discover the benefits of new technology, and a warm, conducive environment to talk to specialists about our complicated financial lives.  Brand building through advertising media no matter how ‘digital’, is no longer enough.


Smile, Seduce, Sharpen – Tim Jeffrey

Whilst working with our client MTI it was my pleasure to be invited to Ukraine to present my ‘Five Star Customer Store Experience’ to the senior managers of their subsidiary brands, Plato, Intertop and Kiditop.

The focus of the presentation was to ask the question, ‘why do we need to create a brand experience in our stores?’ A question that many retailers may ask themselves when considering how to make a difference to their brand.

For me, a well designed experience will not only protect against commoditised selling by creating reasons to buy other than the cheapest but it will generate long-term customer loyalty, encourage return visits leading to consistent footfall with improved average transaction values.

The benefits of a positive customer experience are conversation rate, average transaction value, loyalty with repeat visits and increased footfall and brand advocacy. It is important to create improvements in conversation rate and average transaction value as these will have a positive effect on footfall, loyalty in turn leading to continued brand advocacy.

The ‘Five Star Customer Experience’ theory culminates into a well-designed experience that drives business performance.

From this presentation I want to share with you the importance of people when designing a great customer experience for me these are the 3 S’s; SMILE, SEDUCE, SHARPEN.

Smile – nothing works as well as a smile. Whether it’s nature or nurture a smile says a thousand words and is the shortest distance between two people. When someone greets you with a smile it’s difficult not to smile back. When meeting someone for the first time research has shown that we have 7 seconds to create a positive or negative impression. Smiling is your opportunity to create a positive outcome.

Seduce; don’t sell. If people only bought what they needed shops would quickly go out of business. A compelling product display tempts people to stop, touch, smell and consider for a moment. The seduction process has begun. For the sales staff, how you look, what you know and what you say about the product is an important part that contributes to the success of this principle.

And finally, sharpen – good front of house habits ensure you never pass a mess, retail is about the detail, customers expect the best experience. Dirty, untidy, unattended displays or service points send out the wrong message. Would you buy an item of clothing or boxed product with dust on? Fresh, shiny and new is what is expected. Great retailers can never stand still; there are always jobs to be done, all of which have a direct relationship to selling product. It is rumored that five star retailers cannot fold their arms!