Better products vs better persuasion?

creating better pensions productsI have been spending some time with pensions professionals who are grappling with how to make pensions work better for the whole population. There is clearly a problem for many of us.  Many people will not have adequate provision for income in their old age.  This kind of customer problem presents an opportunity for the industry to do some better persuasion and better marketing.  But it also offers an opportunity to create better products.

I have noticed that the debate about better pensions highlights two different ways you can approach trying to solve a problem for your customers.

The first is to try and persuade people to behave differently

The focus here is how to get people to buy what you provide or sell.  This is what many business leaders are trying to do in different industries.  It is an important activity to get growth.  This seems to be the main focus in pensions.

Much of the pensions industry discussion is about getting people to take pensions more seriously. It is about getting people to save in a responsible manner.  This is manifest through the government’s auto enrolment scheme; by advocating the provision of independent advice via IFA’s; via the development of training and financial education for people.

The implication of this approach is that people are behaving irrationally.  We just need to change our ways.  We are not looking after ourselves and need educating and coercing into investing so we have a pension.  Then we need advice to take income from a pension fund in a responsible way rather than blowing it all away on holidays. Then we will have a better retirement.  This financial education and advice sounds very worthy and well intentioned.

Now I can see that much of this analysis and the need for different behaviours is true. Many people are headed for a poor retirement as a result of their inaction. But I would argue it is blinkered to concentrate only on trying to persuade people to behave differently.  Most of my experience says that trying to educate people to behave differently is very hard, it is an uphill slog with few rewards.

Alternatively, it can be much easier to create something that people actually want, that they see as solving a real problem for them.  That way they will be attracted to the solution rather than feeling badgered into it. So …

The second way is to create better products

Is the pensions problem just that people are behaving badly?  Or maybe the products on offer could be better?  Maybe the problem is not just that people are behaving stupidly, but that the products and services that are available just do not meet the real needs of ordinary people all that well and that the industry could also help people by developing better products?  It is clear from the National Association of Pension Funds’ Workplace Pensions Survey October 2013 that there is a perception amongst many ordinary people that pensions cannot provide for their future.  There is a lack of trust.

In my experience, when there is a lack of trust then educating or marketing alone will be very hard work and may not be effective.  We need better products.

What are better products?

Better productsWell “better” usually means things like

  • easy to understand – so you know what you are buying
  • easy to access – online often does this, or being in the right shops
  • deal direct with the customer, no intermediaries – intermediaries often add cost and slow things down, they need paying and do not have the same priorities as the customer (think of travel agents)
  • better value for money –
  • solves a real problem for a customer – (Tesco click and collect service)
  • does not exploit the laziness or ignorance of the customer (utilities often do exploit this)
  • takes care of the customer (First Direct)

Online solutions often deliver a lot of these elements which is why there is so much growth in online products and services.

An good example of an industry transformed by better products is to try and remember the short haul airline industry before Easyjet, Southwest Air and Ryan Air. The airline industry has been transformed by these game changers. Look at how much better it is for customers today. Easyjet and RyanAir were Game Changers.

An easy mistake to make is to think your industry is more complex and more difficult than the industries where game changers have created change and that better simpler products are not possible.

The pensions industry knows it has unique challenges and is more complex than the airline industry was. That may well be true. But the top executives of traditional national airline carriers British Airways, Lufthansa, American Airlines all thought their business was complex and did not really innovate until the low cost carriers arrived with better products.

Come to our event on 29th May

Game-Changers-2-wordsWe are running an event next week that looks at how the most successful leaders have created better products and services to deliver real real game changers in different industries. The event is called Game Changers and is on 29th May at 1400 at Campus London in Bonhill St Shoreditch (see details here)

One of our headline speakers is Mike Harris who is the original financial services game changer. Mike created First Direct and the Egg card internet banking business.  Mike will talk about what it takes to be a game changer.  Mike will share some insights on how to do this.

Another speaker is John Scriven from South Bank University, Marketing Science and the Ehrenberg Institute.  John has some surprising and ground breaking insights under the title How brands grow – what marketers don’t know?  John will share insights that are used by many of the worlds top companies on how to present better products to customers.

More information about the event is here Tickets are free.  It is just 3 hours during the afternoon.  there will be some debate around the case studies and examples.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this please add them to this article which is posted in the GameChangersUK linkedin group.  This is an online group that will continue the debate.

Game Changers Event 29th May


Game Changers event 29th May

This post is to tell you about our next event which is all about turning your products and services into things people love to buy. This is how to transform your industry as well as your business. I really hope you can come.
We have got great speakers, brand new content and an group of like minds where you can discuss insights, ideas and your experiences.  We are calling the event Game Changers because this is what Game Changers do.

Click on the logo to get more information about the event.

Why should you come?

This Game Changers event is for business leaders who are not content with the status quo and want their business to make a difference. If you are on this email list, it is highly likely this describes you.

The Game Changers event is a chance to explore and discuss how you can do this. You will have the chance to learn from the experience of others in driving for exceptional growth. This is about turning a business from ordinary into game changing. We will explore the characteristics of high growth businesses and draw out a number of critical lessons.

Game Changers turn their products and services into something customers love to buy. This needs not just game changing insights about customers, but also the ability to develop products and services that go beyond what customers want and deliver something they could not imagine today.

Speaker highlights

Mike Harris

The Original Game Changer

Mike Harris

Mike Harris

Mike’s first big play was to transform current account banking when he created First Direct: a bank without branches dedicated to making sure customers felt totally taken care of.

Mike went on to challenge the BT monopoly on fixed line telecoms and turned Mercury Telecoms into a profitable player.
Then he created Egg Internet banking, the first online only banking service. Mike now works with entrepreneurs to help them understand what it takes to be a Game Changer. Mike will tell us the most important things he learned and what makes the difference between business as usual and being a game changer.

click here for Game Changers event details

John Scriven

Game Changing Insights on Customer Behaviour


John Scriven

John Scriven worked at South Bank University with a cutting edge research and insight team founded by Andrew Ehrenberg and later developed with Byron Sharp. The team’s latest book is called

How Brands Grow – what marketers don’t know.

Andrew Ehrenberg pursued empirical and behavioural studies to establish how consumers behave and uncovered a number of findings that blow away a lot of conventional thinking about customer loyalty and how brands actually get growth. His work is used today by many top global brands like Coca-Cola, Mars, Unilever & P&G. John will come and share the team’s top five insights.

These insights have been uncovered over 40 years of painstaking study and research about how customers actually behave and how markets evolve in response to consumer behaviour.

John will show how this applies to your business whether large medium or small, whether B2B, consumer or services and how you can use these insights to make decisions that will attract more customers and help you get more growth.

When Bruce McColl the global CMO at Mars discovered the Ehrenberg analysis, he described it as “an epiphany”

Here is Byron Sharp discussing some of the insights that John will share with us in a Tedx Talk. It may be 15 minutes, but it is worth it.

Click here for Game Changers event details

I hope you can come. Events are a great chance to catch up and meet some other interesting people. I already know that we have some great people coming, I hope you can join us.

We also managed to get a great venue in Shoreditch. We will be at Campus London. All events at Campus are free, so that makes it even better.