Ten Practical Neuromarketing Insights You Can Use Right Now

In 1999, researchers did a simple wine purchase experiment inside a supermarket.


Near a display of French wines and German wines, the researchers played French music one day, and German music on the alternate days. They did this for two weeks. Guess what happened?

You’re right! On the days French music was played, the store sold three times more French wine than German. On the days German music was played, the store sold three times more German wine.

No surprises there, I guess. Except that—

They also asked every shopper who bought a bottle of French or German wine this survey question:

“What factors influenced you to buy the French / German wine?”

Only one person in 44 chose the music as having any effect!

The study just goes to show two things.

Key Learning 1: Obviously, music can influence purchase decisions and mood, so you should start using it in your servicescape. I don’t mean tune the room into commercial radio or some garbage, be selective and set the tone. Good music can vivify and enhance purchase spend, but bad music can make you feel angry or annoyed. In fact, every time Fleetwood Mac comes on the radio station of my local Vinnies, it’s time to leave. Likewise, my favourite cafe at the moment (Esca in Glebe Point Rd) often plays St Germain in the mornings when I grab my takeaway soy flat white. It’s music I play at home and it makes me feel relaxed and happy. Want a cookie with that? Sure.

Key Learning 2: There is a big difference between people’s behaviour and their understanding of that behaviour. From this, we can even postulate that asking people questions, even in depth interviews, will give you flawed data every time. There is a whole world that exists in the brain that is below our awareness levels. Talking about why we do things just doesn’t cut it. People cannot tell you what they think. Not that they don’t want to, they can’t. So with that in mind, if you think something could work, try it. Forget asking customers. Just introduce it and judge from the results.

Happy Faces

Although subliminal advertising is not legal in Australia, research has shown that flashes of happy faces can generate up to triple the price for a mystery drink. The real-world self-service vending machine study also showed that people changed their consumption behaviour after the happy flashes (drinking more). Those who saw the unhappy faces, even though they could not consciously detect them, drank less.

Key Learning 3: Positive, genuinely happy staff is gold dust. Happy staff equals happy customers equals higher profits.

Key Learning 4: Both the music study and the subliminal faces study both go to show that a positive environment and positive feelings, no matter how small, have an impact on consumers sense of value. Want to be perceived as offering more value? Be more positive. Smile and set a happy scene.

Eye Tracking

Although big businesses spend big money on eye tracking, we can learn from their research.

Eye movements are a reliable indicator of attention. If you have the budget, it’s a useful measure for things like:

  • advertising design
  • web design
  • store design
  • packaging design

Some companies seek permission to get into your webcam so they can track your eyes on a beta website, for example.

Observe Closely

Key Learning 5: Watch people. Watch what they look at. Observe. Did you notice that customers often find trouble locating the pasta sauce? Move it. You can quite easily and inexpensively do observational research to see if your store design is working well, or simply use (and watch) people testing your website or looking at mockups of different window, poster, or newspaper ad designs. Do your A/B split tests.

Logo Positions

By the way, eye tracking reveals that if a logo is used on the bottom of the ad, many people won’t see it. You may want to watermark it right through the centre instead, or incorporate the branding more creatively within the body of the ad. If there’s a big Helena Christensen flashing cleavage in the centre of the ad, people will remember the model, but they won’t necessarily connect her with the brand name at the bottom right hand corner. Same can be said for calls to action. Why do they have to be at the bottom?

Use Faces

Key Learning 6: The most compelling thing a human being can look at is the face of another human being. Especially the eyes. Both genders will also look at things like cleavage, however. People are curious. Use people in your marketing material wherever you can. Faces capture attention.

Arousal Methods

When people are emotionally aroused (in whatever capacity), changes in the sympathetic nervous system are automatic.

This can include pupil dilation, increased heart rate, breath, sweat glands.

The emotional arousal is primitive. We are either attracted or want to withdraw from the stimulus.

Physiological tests of pupils, sweat glands, heart rate, and breathing can indicate arousal, but can’t indicate whether the arousal is positive or negative.

Key Learning 7: A simple skin conductor test on the palm of a hand can reveal any arousal to a stimulus such as a picture of a food product, or an advertisement, but it won’t tell you if they like it or not. So is that information in itself something you can act on? All marketing research needs to yield information upon which you can base a decision. In my opinion, physiological tests of heart, pupils, sweat, and breath are unlikely to be of benefit most of the time.

Facial Recognition

There is software that detects whether a person, even with a somewhat neutral expression, is happy or sad.

Companies have used this in doing user experience (UX) tests for websites.

Key Learning 8: What the face reveals can be accurately decoded by software, but it can also be understood by any curious and perceptive human being. Look at the expressions on their faces. Sure you can video record your store, but why would you. Plus, it’s a privacy thing. Just get in there and mingle. Try looking at clients and customers when you are explaining that technical process or the different packages you offer.  Do they fade away in boredom at certain points? Do there eyes go into deep focus? Do they look scared when you start talking fees and charges and scales of member benefits? Do they outright tell you they didn’t understand? Dumb it down then, folks. If you can’t explain something in simple terms, then you don’t understand it well enough.Or, if your customers don’t understand it easily, it’s too complicated.

Confusion is death. It’s a copywriting mantra, but same goes for a web design. If the user can’t get to what they’re seeking quickly, they will usually leave your website within a matter of seconds. Forever.

Do your customers look happy? Do they express delight? If you have a physical presence, there are so many ways you can setup people to have a positive emotion. Christmas tree with donated presents? A train set? Mood lighting? Classic TV programming? Scent? Comfortable chairs?

Online – increase the size of your web font. Make it easy to read, not gimmicky. Follow my mantra; if in doubt, Open Sans. Make buttons bigger and colourful. Make a change and watch your customers faces before and after. You might want to check out the Designing Servicescapes article for good ideas.

Brain Signals

The marketing concept of value lives in the brain. When people make decisions, brand memories serve as neural connections. Strong connections are better for the brand. An unknown brand will have few memories and be able to generate only the weakest neural connections.

Based on brand memories, value signals will be sent to the front of the brain where decisions are made. The strongest value signal wins.

Electroencephalography (EEG) scans have been able to reveal a more accurate price point for university students’ on-campus cups of latte macchiato than questionnaire results found.

Key Learning 9: If you can’t afford EEG to set a price point for maximum demand and profitability, consider using a real world test of different price points and look at the elasticity of your demand. Then use regression techniques with Excel or similar software to make forecasts.

A study that used functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) has revealed that the brain activity processing value signals can often be different to what a person says, even when they aren’t lying. Brain chemistry doesn’t lie. Read about this classic neuromarketing experiment that used MRI and the startling power of brand effects.

Key Learning 10: The cultural power of a strong brand is not contested. Brands insinuate into the nervous system. Cultural information and memories impact our perceived value and our decision-making. Only the ignorant would say that a brand has no value because it’s intangible.

So the last key learning is this: make good memories. It doesn’t matter what your budget is, provide clear branding images that are consistent with style, typeface and colour schemes. Good brands tell a good story. They create good experiences. It’s all pretty common sense, I guess. But common sense is not common practice. Make every customer experience a good new memory and you’re on your way to building some good cultural capital. If it’s an emotional experience, like the arts can deliver, that memory may just may serve you well in someone’s decision-making process twenty years from now.


Phil Harris, “Neuromarketing” Presentation at Australian Marketing Institute, Sydney, April 2014. Check out Nurobrand’s website if you are looking to introduce neuromarketing metrics into your organistion.
North, Adrian C.; Hargreaves, David J.; McKendrick, Jennifer “The influence of in-store music on wine selections.”Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 84(2), Apr 1999, 271-276
Neuropricing http://www.neuromarketing-labs.com/services/neuropricing/the-latte-macchiato-experiment/

May 26, 2005Face Value: Hidden Smiles Influence Consumption And Judgment: Psychology Studies Confirm Unfelt Emotion Can Alter Consequential Behavior”




Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits and Charities

Thanks to a gentle side of the giant, nonprofit organisations and charities across many countries, including Australia, are able to apply for a Google Grant.

What is a Google Ad Grant?

This is an opportunity to promote the organisation through Google AdWords up to the tune of $10,000 US every month. In reality, it is unlikely that your ads will generate this amount of clicks, but this is the maximum on offer.

The ad links must be Search network only, so you cannot use banners or images; it is Text Ads only, I’m afraid.

All the links from the ads must also go to ONE website and they cannot be commercial in nature. If you have multiple websites, you will need to consider creating a page for each of those websites on your flagship site, and directing traffic to that page. It means an extra click, but it should be worth it. Keep in mind that this does NOT mean it’s okay to have visitors land on a page full of links to other commercial websites. Google will not be happy if you are trying to work against the spirit of its offering. Nor will anyone else who is misled by your phony philanthropy.

How to Apply

Applying is a three-step process and, like many Google products, can be confusing.  I have created hundreds of  Google Ads, but I have to admit that I failed on my first two attempts.

What you need to succeed is:

• to be a registered nonprofit or charity and be able to prove it with a notification that you are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) with Deductible Gift Recipient status.

• have a clear and compelling mission statement (If you don’t, write one.)

• write an essay (300-500 words) describing how the Google Ad Grant would help your organisation

First things first.

Step One: Set up a brand new Google account. You can’t use an existing one and it is preferable to use your organisation’s email address and domain if you can.

Step Two: Set-up an AdWords Account and create at least one ad Campaign and Ad Group. You can create more later, but one campaign with one or two ad groups if fine.

Step Three: Write down (or copy) the customer AdWords ID number that will be on the top right of the screen. You’ll need it soon.

It’s important that you ensure a couple of things are done precisely or you’ll get a rejection notice.

1. Set your country as United States (even if you are in Australia).

You can limit search to Australia only but don’t fiddle with the US.

2. Make sure to select ‘Search only’ and  UNCHECK the pre-ticked box that says ‘include search partners’ underneath this. Critical!

2. Make sure you choose $2.00 as your default bid per click. This is a mandatory. You cannot set Google to choose. You must enter $2 for each click.

3. You must also enter the daily limit maximum of $329. This works out to be $10,000 if it were to be fulfilled. As I said earlier, this is unlikely.

4. When it comes to Billing, DO NOT ENTER a credit card. You have to choose ‘Save and Finish Later’ or ‘Set up Billing later’. If you do enter card details, you might be liable for any ads that start running and you won’t qualify for the grant.


After you have created your ads, then you make your official application.

Have your ID number ready and your PDF notification of charity status.

Limitations of the Grant

This is a great coup for many nonprofits and has the potential to be a real driver for many if used well. But it does have limitations.

One limitation is that the links do all need to direct traffic to one website. Many organisations have multiple business units, but, fair enough, it’s free.

Secondly, anyone with experience using AdWords knows that $2 per click is not that high. In many cases your keywords will be below first page because the minimum bid will be $2.75 or $3 or more.

Thirdly, very specific keywords often generate such low search volumes that Google won’t bother including them. When you get a low search warning, you need to change it to something less specific and thereby run the risk of being outbid.

The golden zone is harder to reach when you have the $2 limitation, so more keyword phrases may be required than normal.

Lastly, the process seems easy in hindsight but the amount of time I spent trying to get it right was high. It is important that you don’t try to apply for the grant before you have created your ads. It’s also important that you don’t create your ads from an existing AdWords account. Start fresh and follow the order described in this article.

Google also has decent step-by-step procedures for making the application. I would only say ‘decent’ though, I wouldn’t say ‘terrific’ because there a minor bits left out that you need to know. I’ve tried to cover them here.

Good luck!

How to Create A Content Marketing Strategy

‘Content Marketing Strategy’ is a phrase I’m seeing everywhere. Why? Because it represents a shift in collective thinking and marketing planning around social and digital environments.

Essentially, the concept is not new, but the setting is increasingly online. The worldwide web has given birth to concepts such as ‘keyword strategy’, search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM; usually meaning ‘paid search’).

‘Content’ tends to refer to things like blogs, infographics, videos, articles, games, photos, and so on, that are shared from a website through social networks and to email lists. The point is to drive people through the sales funnel and decision-making process towards a conversion of some kind.

Here, I will take a more holistic approach and include offline as well as online communications under the umbrella term ‘content’.

Content is King

Now there’s a phrase that’s been bandied around to near death. But it’s true. Content is king because search engines like Google like fresh content and they like it to be original (no ‘curated’ content scraped from other places). That means you have to produce new material regularly and it should be packed (but not stuffed) with keywords relating to your business or industry.

We usually start with text (as in a blog or article) because this is the opportunity to explain a point using words, which are searchable and indexable by search engine robots, as opposed to images and artwork, which generally are not indexable (except the metadata e.g. alt text for images). A base, say 500-word, blog post or article can and should be repurposed and reinvented into an infographic, a media release, video, photos, etc, in order to communicate the single message in multiple ways.  All of these seemingly random and disparate pieces of creative can be orchestrated into a strategic and effective drive to a pre-determined outcome.

But first things first.

What is a Content Marketing?

Content can be anything that helps you inform, entertain, engage, remind, alleviate confusion, solve a problem, redress myths, educate, and otherwise enhance trust, credibility and salience of your offering in the mind of your target audiences.

It sounds like it applies to consumer goods, but in fact, the same concept also applies to services and nonprofit organisations.

The whole idea of Content Marketing Strategy is simply a different way of formulating an Integrated Marketing Communications plan that addresses each of your target markets (or stakeholders in the case of a charity or nonprofit) and each of their predictable stages of awareness, understanding, interest, trial, post-trial evaluation and loyalty.

If our aim is to get a group up the ladder to loyalty, we need to step them up through awareness, understanding, interest, before we can encourage them to try our offering and entreat their loyalty.

Like any good Integrated Marketing Communications campaign, we need to start with the end in mind. Here is a roadmap for creating a Content Marketing Strategy.

1. What are your Corporate Objectives?

Here you can’t be vague. We are not talking lofty, unmeasurable vision statements. We need clear hard SMART objectives.

Think Dollars. Units. Numbers. Percentages. With Deadlines. Achieve or Fail measurable black and white stuff. What’s the use of having a goal if you don’t know whether or not you’ve achieved it. Keep in mind that we are not only talking about customer and profitability goals but that of the organisation as a whole. I subscribe to the philosophy that your organisation actually has six markets.

Six Markets

In the examples above, you will notice that the corporate objectives related to more than just Customers.

It is useful to keep in mind that an organisation never has just one market, they have around six. There are six important stakeholders that need to be serviced at any time.

This is not exactly the same as the original ‘six markets’ model created by Christopher, Payne and Ballantyne (1991), but I think my version is simpler and easier to use. (Referrers and Influencers get subsumed into Partners and Suppliers).

  • Existing customers
  • New customers
  • Internal (Staff and Boards)
  • Partners & Suppliers
  • Media
  • Government

SMART Objectives


  • “To sell 1,000 Harley Davidson motorcycles by June 30, 2014.”
  • “To achieve dealer satisfaction of 80% or greater by December 31, 2013.”
  • “To achieve staff satisfaction levels of 90% by 31 December 2013.”
  • “To buy two new parts suppliers for  cost reduction before June 30 2014.”

These objectives Specific, Measurable, Aligned (with the corporate objective), Realistic, Targeted, Time-bound.It looks easy, but it’s not and it’s surprising how many organisations don’t have SMART goals.

Common Mistakes:

“To become an opinion leader in our industry” (How do you know when you’ve become an opinion leader? Instead: “To write one article about the industry for our website every week” (SMART)

I say again, Visions Statements can and should be lofty, emotive and inspiring. Objectives need to be SMART. It’s best not to have too many. Ideally, you won’t have more than five.

That said, Content Marketing Strategy starts with our SMART Goals.

2. Communication Objectives

Next, we need to attach Communication Objectives to each of our Corporate Objectives.


  • Corporate Objective: “To sell 1,000 Harley Davidson motorcycles to riders aged 22-35 by June 30, 2014.”

In order to reach this goal, we need to accomplish a few things.

  1. We need to create AWARENESS. We need to communicate that the motorcycles exist to our target market.
  2. We need to position the motorcycle brand so that it is INTERESTING to the market. The communications need to appeal and engage the sub-cultural sensibilities and drives of our market and be coded to activate recognition as ‘one of them’. We need to communicate the safety, stylishness, fuel-efficiency, or self-image appeal to our target – whichever is the key discriminating feature for our market.
  3. We need to encourage the market to TRY (e.g. test ride) the motorcycle. We need to communicate where, how and why they will love the experience.
  4. We then need to be given incentives to PURCHASE the motorcycle. We also need to remind them they have made an excellent decision and to enhance LOYALTY.  Ideally, this loyalty will be expressed through REPEAT PURCHASE and RECOMMENDATION.

Each of these communications objectives needs to be expressed in SMART terms.

You can probably think of a number of techniques to achieve these communication objectives. Posters in urban areas? Postcards in selected cool venues? Stylish, counter-cultural imagery? The Harley Davidson Club? The Harley tattoo peeking out from the corporate woman’s chest? Yuck, but you get the picture. These ideas should now be brainstormed.

3. Brainstorm your Strategies

For each of your Communication Objectives, we now need to brainstorm our tactics. We won’t be able to do all of them, we just want to start with a healthy list. Then we select just the ones that will be the most effective and efficient.



  • Facebook Advertising
  • Motorcycle shops
  • Motorcycle mechanics
  • Media Release


  • Video
  • Postcards
  • Hot images


  • Direct Mail offer
  • Advertisement


  • Extended guarantees and warranties
  • Testimonial from users
  • Sales incentive (10% discount)


  • Fuel vouchers
  • Harley Club ‘The Subversives’ Online community forum
  • Free servicing for a year
  • Magazine subscription

4. Selecting Channels and Tools

When we talk about Communications, we are talking about the promotional mix. Remember, that communications can be two-way and many of your tools can be used to get input from your markets and their feedback. Talk to them, not at them. These days, there are so many tools and channels you can use for every element of the promotional mix, many of them online. Choose which tools you think will most effectively and efficiently engage your target audience.This mix consists of ADSPP:

  • Advertising (e.g. Google AdWords, AdRoll, social media ads like Facebook, LinkedIn sponsored Inmail, Twitter Ads, other social network ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads, journal ads)
  • Direct mail (e.g. email, postcards, letters to past customers)
  • Sales promotion (e.g. discounts, incentives and offers)
  • Public Relations (e.g. media releases, articles, blogs, fact sheets, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube)
  • Publicity (e.g. stunts, public contests, fundraising rides, Pinterest, influencer marketing)
  • Personal Selling (e.g. salespeople, field staff, testimonials, peer-to-peer endorsements)

A social network can traverse the gamut of the promotional mix. You just need to marry a network with an objective. For example, creating a YouTube video will create awareness as a quasi-form of advertising, but it also can be a form of publicity.

We may need to be working on concurrent communication objectives. For example, we’ll be monitoring and supporting our Loyals at the same time we groom our prospects into their first Harley purchase.

Mapping out the Schedule

When we have decided our shortlist, we have our strategy that fulfils our communications objectives.

We have used a very simple example. For an Organisation’s Content Marketing Strategy, this would include not just sales but other markets and the communication objectives of each.

If the plan gets overambitious and out-of-control

With six markets and all these different customer segments and different stages of the awareness, understanding and buying cycle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A couple of tricks to help you pull it back together are these:

A. You must make trade-offs.

It’s about effectiveness and efficiency, so less is more. You can’t be everything to everyone, so pick your mark. What are the priorities? Every organisation must make decisions and trade-offs. If you’re trying to target three segments and three stages, just focus on one segment and get the recipe right. Or delegate to different segment managers if you have them. If you don’t, consider the benefits of aligning the organisation with its objectives and restructure work roles and teams if necessary.

B. Set up for Self-service

Your website is the font of all corporate knowledge, so pack as much info here as you can. Just make it engaging and easy to find.

For example, the Media market could be satisfied by putting a Media Kit on your website with Staff Profiles and photos, Fact Sheets about services and values, your organisation’s story, a contact list, and an archive of Media Releases. Then, as part of your ongoing communications, you could @directmessage journalists by Twitter with relevant messages and links.

C. Seed the Vanguard

Even though I compressed these in my own Six Markets model, don’t get me wrong. Your ‘Influencers’ and ‘Referral markets’ are key. An analogy is an infantry to the SAS. The infantry is on-the-ground soldiers who seek out the enemy on foot to kill and capture them. The SAS (Commandos) are also on foot, but they will seek to do maximum disastrous impact with the greatest efficiency. Instead of picking off individual soldiers in a firefight, they’ll ambush and blow-up the truck that is providing food, water and munitions to those soldiers.

Your influencers are the early adopters of your technology or the key groups that your market listens to. If you want to convince GPs to do something, convince the right person at the AMA. If you want to sell millions of custom-designed jewellery, get Cate Blanchette to wear some. This way we don’t need to convince one million, just one.

5. Use a Simple Calendar or Template

The last thing we need to do is use a calendar or template to schedule our activities. It should be clear to understand and accessible to everyone. I like to keep a simple Excel spreadsheet that’s colour-coded. Each activity should be delegated to a person or team. Here is a basic example of a SMART Marketing Calendar

Added 25 April 2018: Another excellent article about how to create a documented content marketing strategy is available at NewsCred.

Remember, the basis of most of your content will always be an article, blog or web page, even if it’s in the form of the FAQ. From here we can repurpose that content into multiple items that will inform, interest, appeal to, engage, build trust and entice trial and purchase of our offering.


The Balanced Score Card

From the pioneering work of French process engineers in the 1950s, who called it the Tableau de Bord or ‘dashboard’, comes Kaplan and Norton’s, Balanced Score Card.

What is great about the balanced score card is that it is designed to give a ‘balanced’ perspective to business performance management. That means not just looking at financial metrics, which can lead to myopic and dysfunctional decision making.

It also works to fundamentally align strategy with operations and initiatives and serves as a communications vehicle to integrate all levels of an organisation, which can be extremely difficult.

Although it was first released in 1996, it’s still highly relevant today. In fact, changes to the way business is emerging makes the BSC more valuable than ever. Today’s business environment is one in which  team need to be cross-functional to be truly market-oriented and deliver solutions to the market place quickly and effectively. Logistics and supply chain partners are extremely important.

We now call the supply chain ‘the value chain’ and it can contain its own sources of competitive advantages. Operations are increasingly global and online, and along with an online marketspace, we see disintermediation (the removal of internediaries) and the addition of new intermediaries ‘ (such as infomediaries e.g. comparison shopping sites, which aim to aid consumers decision making). We are drowning in information and statistics, and live in a knowledge economy in which knowledge workers and knowledge management are key to out success. So how do we measure our performance as an organisation and escape ‘paralysis by analysis’?

What is the Balanced Score Card?

Essentially, it synthesises Strategy into a document that aids in planning, management and control. The score card measures four facets of business performance.

  • Financial Metrics
  • Customer Relationships
  • Business Processes
  • Learning and Growth
Kaplan and Norton are quick to advise that, in order to be successful, the BSC MUST be customised completely to fit the organisation’s strategy and its own unique critical success factors. It is also possible to emphasis one facet over others if this is in keeping with the strategy.

How it can be used

There are vast advantages in using a BSC and various ways that it can be used.

Business Planning

The score card closely takes strategic goals and puts specific goals, targets and measurements in place. In effect, it synthesises strategy into operational items and initiatives, each with their own metric for performance assessment. These are the ‘needle movers’ meaning there is less paralysis by analysis. Information included is reviewed and analysed at the implementation stage and only that which is absolutely pertinent is included.


Getting everyone on board across various initiatives, tctics, departments, markets, supplier relationships and so on is no mean feat for any organisation. The BSC allows every party to see what the strategy is and take ownership for their role in the execution.

Monitoring and Control

The card will highlight areas that are struggling so that resources can be allocated or teams can be supported in other ways.


A very simplified example of what a BSC might include is below. Again, each organisation will need to define its Vision and Mission first, identify its critical success factors, and then use this knowledge to develop the Balanced Score Card. You might use any or none of these.

Financial Metrics

  • Gross Profit Margin
  • Profit on Sales
  • Net Profit Margin
  • Return on Assets
  • Cashflow
  • Quick Assets Ratio
  • Inventory Turnover
  • Debtors Turnover
  • Creditors Turnover
  • Debt to Equity Ratio

Customer Relationships

  • Market Share
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Brand Image
  • Complaints
  • Conversion Rates
  • Staff Turnover
  • Customer Growth Rate

Learning & Growth

  • New Product Development
  • Average Days to Market
  • Staff Development
  • Mentees Program metric

 Business Processes

  • Customer – Supplier evaluation score
  • Quality
  • Efficiency
  • Preparation time

As mentioned above, the specific items will be decided by each individual organisation on the basis of their strategic aims.

Implementing a Balanced Score Card

Kaplan and Norton recommend a four stage implemenattion process:

1. Translating the Vision. You must clarify and crystallise the organisation’s mission and vision and this must be communicated with all staff at all levels.

2. Communicating and Linking. The vision needs to be communicated and linked to the strategy in components that operationalise the strategy and can be measured.

3. Business Planning. From here we are essentially creating a Business Plan (or a Marketing Plan) in which finance, marketing, production, IT, HR all inform their contribution to the strategy.

4. Feedback and Learning. When at first we don’t succeed, try and try again.

Who can use it?

The Balanced Score Card is still widely used across all sorts of organisations, from very small to very large, including Mobil Oil, British Airways Cargo, not-for-profits, schools, and small consulting firms.

One very good thing about the BSC is that it infuses marketing performance across all activities rather than treating it as a standalone function.

Lastly, the balanced score card can be used to integrate the goals of alliance partners. With a prevalence of strategic ventures and partnerships, managing multi-partner affairs is not easy. The BSC can help if implemented well in sharing common goals and metrics that advance both organisations.

Drawbacks and Practicalities

A few writers have criticised aspects of the BSC for various reasons. Certainly there are many instances in which it would be difficult to implement this, however, there are no obvious examples of industries which would not benefit. The issues are more concerned with the time necessary to install the system and the impost it would have on the existing systems and strategy execution.

  • Time
  • Commitment of senior managers and staff
  • Consistent data and compatible information (this could require IT investment or a method of flattening data into ‘norms’)
  • Top-Down

The first two drawbacks are symptomatic of the workplace cultural and communication issues this very tool can work to improve and, therefore, how much credence you give them really depends on you.

The technology and data systems indicate that a resources may need to be allocated to creating an integrated database for suppliers and customers and other stakeholders from which accurate and convenient data can be found.

In terms of the prescriptive top-down nature, Customer Relationships might be better considered as Stakeholder Relationships in which Staff Satisfaction measures are included. There is a large amount of academic literature and research correlaying Staff Satisfaction with Customer Satisfaction, so having good staff who are well trained is critical.

Herein some regular qualitative employee engagement activities can inform some components in the Learning and Growth facet (e.g. time for volunteering, personal projects, innovation etc). As employees are boundary spanning, they are great sources of market sensing data which can also assist with the operational items and initiatives included in business processes as well.


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