Spend £50, get 1p off your next shop at Sainsburys

Yesterday evening, I spent just over £50 buying groceries at Sainsburys in Lordshill, Southampton. I was therefore astounded to be handed this voucher with my receipt:

Don’t spend it all at once

You read it right; I can use it to redeem a whole penny off my next shop there. More to the point, in this age of smart phones, Big Data and loyalty cards, why are they printing out paper vouchers? I’ve sometimes been handed as many as half a dozen:

  • you’ve saved a few pence on what you’d have spent at Tesco or Asda (I rarely shop at either)
  • here are 100 extra points if you buy this (I don’t think I ever do)
  • here’s 200 extra points if you spend over £30 in your next shop (I’ll probably get to the till and find I’ve spent £29)

…and so on.

It’s therefore no wonder to me that my visits there have become less frequent. Aldi in Romsey stocks nearly everything my wife and I need – and charges less. Getting out of their car park is a lot easier than the horrendous junction you need to negotiate on leaving this branch of Sainsburys.

I have been a loyal customer  of Sainsburys for years and probably giving them far more data about me than they deserve or seem to use via their loyalty card. Tannoy announcements endlessly parrot their strapline live well for less during the day (it must drive their staff nuts). With regret, my current interpretation would read buy elsewhere for better value.

Social media strategy

Even though I have personal profiles on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, I am dubious about the business benefit of devoting disproportionate corporate resources – time, people or money –  on social media simply because everybody else is doing so. Attracting a thousand fickle followers just by running a competition to win a couple of iPads doesn’t necessarily make you a social media expert.

Fundamentally, you are helping to populate somebody else’s website; no sane organisation should be Continue reading →

Skin cancer and sun safety – the book plug

My wife’s third book, Skin Cancer and Sun Safety: the Essential Guide, is published today. It explains in layman’s terms everything you need to know about melanomas, malignant and otherwise. Their incidence is rising more strongly than most other types of tumour, thanks to the fashion for suntans that has prevailed over the past 50 years.

She is a far more prolific and versatile wordsmith than I ever will be; her last book was, of all things, a practical guide to running.  I regularly wonder how she does it. Writing any book is a real achievement and I’d like to record my admiration for what she has achieved and encourage anybody remotely interested in the subject to buy the latest book.

There’s a new website to accompany it, www.skincancerandsunsafety.com, which I had a hand in building. Our thanks go to Mark Porthouse for kindly agreeing to host it.

Golden age of steam

According to last Friday’s Daily Mail, a collection of old railway posters is set to sell for £1 million. It had been amassed by a former British Rail employee who once worked in the publicity department at Paddington station. Some 30,000 similar posters were burned by BR in the 1960s, it seems. What a shame.

I first discovered and fell in love with posters like these in postcard form some 20 years ago. The artwork seeks to evokes excitement in rail travel; the focus is usually much less on the train than its destination: a place where the sun shines and beaches are filled with happy, glamorous people. In the 1930s, of course, holiday entitlement was much less generous and the annual week at the seaside was correspondingly eagerly awaited. The reality – a draughty beach, grey skies and a spartan boarding house presided over by a fierce landlady – was probably rather more prosaic.

Whether they were very effective in marketing terms in their own time is an interesting point: they would have been displayed at stations on a territorial basis. At Paddington, for example you would find posters advertising the delights of Newquay but not Padstow (the latter served by the Southern Railway, not the GWR). They would probably also have been published in magazines of the period. Like hoardings on the Tube nowadays, they would have been seen regularly by a large captive audience of people on their way to and from work, willing to indulge  thoughts of getting away from it all but not necessarily endowed with either the time or money to realise the dream: high reach but low influence.

Having long since been relieved of their need to justify their effectiveness, though they can now be enjoyed as well-executed works of art in their own right.