Work blog post - Behavioural Economics

I've written a blog post for work which is a quick introduction into Behavioural Economics. It touches on how (by understanding how we make choices) making little changes to our planning could have a real big impact on sales. Even down to simply adding or taking a £1 can make a big difference!

You can read the blog at

Cheshire Classic Womens Road Race 2012

Just has confirmation from British Cycling that the Cheshire Classic Womens Road Race will be on Sunday 22nd April 2012. The race promoted by Weaver Valley CC and held in Northwich will be 80km and open to E/1/2/3/4 categories once again. The event will be part of British Cycling's National Series.

This year I'm helping promote the event alongside Terry Veal. I'll publish more details as soon as I have them as we are just finishing the registration process.

World Junior Champion Lucy Garner won the race last year. For details of last year's race click here.

Women's National Series 2012 Dates
Sunday 22nd April - Cheshire Classic
Sunday 27th May - Hillingdon Women’s GP
Sunday 10th June - Capernwray Women’s Road Race
Sunday 1st July - Curlew Cup Women’s Road Race
Sunday 15th July - CDNW Women’s Road Race
Sunday 14th July - Tour of Blackpool
Saturday 4th August - Tywyn Crits
Saturday 11th August - Essex Giro 2-day

What have we learnt from the latest Facebook update?

Last week Facebook updated it's user interface. I was really surprised by the response which I thought was quite negative by many. To me the changes which Facebook implemented were positive and would provide a great user experience. I had my own thoughts to why people were upset however I did some research and asked a few questions to see what the issues were.

In the main it was the "shock" and "surprise" of the updates. As one person put it to me, "considering Facebook is user focussed, better dialogue with it's userbase would have limited the amount of bad press". This was echoed by all people I questioned, without warning their environment, which they had grown used to, had changed.

The second reason for their upset was the amount of changes being made, with pop ups coming up telling them of new features. One person mentioned "you get used to one thing and it changes again the next" and another mentioned that there were "too many changes for infrequent users".

What can we take from this?

Although we are not immune to change, we do hate it. The main reason being is that we don't know what the changes will be and how it will affect us. With X-Factor we were fearful for loosing Simon and Cheryl, that Kelly, Tulisa and Gary wouldn't be the same. It in fact turns out that everything is ok and we still like X-Factor very much.

We can help overcome any barriers to change by communicating clearly. Communication is key: get everyone prepared. Keeping your customers informed at all times is critically important. If there are any delays or any changes we need to communicate this before hand, clearly explain why changes are needed and illustrate the new features, advantages and benefits.

People find constant, drip fed changes frustrating. It may be good advice to slowly introduce new changes to get people slowly used to new incentives however in effect you are pro-longing any negativity. You might as well make the changes in one big hit and get the moaning over with.

So in effect, Facebook did the right thing in releasing their updates all at once however it would have been a good idea to have run a campaign leading up to change over day informing users of exciting new changes and perhaps a glimpse of what was coming up.

Music download website Beatport did this brilliantly when their website (which hadn't changed since it was first launched and became the biggest dance music download website globally) changed from Flash based to HTML 5. Their communication campaign lasted several months, plus BETA previews before going live.

Mark Cavendish & Lucy Garner World Champions


Great Britain has had a ball this weekend in Copenhagen at the Cycling World Championships. In a heart stopping final 10km, Mark Cavendish managed to pick his way through the bunch to become World Champion, the first British rider to wear the rainbow jersey since 1965 when the incredible Tom Simpson won. Lucy Garner was also crowned Junior World Champion.

Lucy also came first at Weaver Valley's Cheshire Classic Road Race back in April. I would like to think our hill sprint finish gave her early season practice for an incredible win where she took metres out of the opposition!

I'm a massive fan of Mark Cavendish. I've followed him since I first saw him with T-Mobile at the Tour of Britain and I loved reading his autobiography. I hope he follows up with a second edition after an incredible year which has seen him pick the Green jersey at the Tour de France and now the rainbow jersey as World Champion. A phenomenal talent by any stretch of the imagination.

Both are an inspiration to us all and have done the country very proud.

A shout out must also go out to Bradley Wiggins, picking up a very credible second place behind Fabian Cancellera in the Time Trial Championships before going on to pull the whole peloton along to bring back the break for Cav to go on and win today. Incredible.

Sunday's ride feat The Wizard

A lovely ride this Sunday over to Flora Tea Rooms at Henbury which took in Tatton Park, Styal and The Wizard climb in Alderley Edge. It is a beautiful time of year to be out and about on your bike, crisp mornings with the hazy sun peaking through golden leaves on the trees, the greens of the grass already looking darker.

It was the last club run for a couple of weeks as next week we have the Hill Climb and the Autumn Road Race the week after which closes off the season. It only seems like 5 minutes since it started!

Tour of Britain - Gun Hill

I went to watch the Stoke stage of the Tour of Britain yesterday. The route travels North from Stoke across the Staffordshire moorlands and hits Gun Hill on the outskirts of Congleton. Gun Hill is a 1st category climb so I couldn't resist in taking a day off to go and watch.

I've never watched a major pro road race before, I've only been to town centre crits. As I arrived an hour before they were due it was already busy on the climb with hundreds of people turning out to watch. A couple of lads from the club had ridden out however struck with a bad head cold I decided to drive up.

There was a good atmosphere on the climb with lots of banter, ITV were filming an introduction the hill for later on and Motorpoint took our photo for their website. There was an air of anticipation forming. 15 minutes before the riders arrived it all went very quiet, an eery hush decended over the climb as people stood focussed down the hill: waiting.

Your heartbeat starts getting faster with each police motorcycle that past. The commentator car then pulls up. Over a loud speaker he lets everyone know what is going on. Who is in the break, the time gap and who is chasing. As he finishes you can just make out the helicopter in the distance following the riders. They are coming. You're now fired up but it's still quiet.

You stare down the hill. Every honk and siren could be the leaders coming up. But it's not. The helicopter is now overhead. More police motorbikes shoot by and then suddenly a massive airhorn screams. They are here. The crowd below roars. You then see the first rider bound round the corner and pounce over the top of the climb.

The chase group then turns the corner. You lunge down. Clench your first and tell them to keep going. They are so close to you. You scan as fast as possible trying to make out riders. You grab eye contact with Geraint Thomas and David Millar. Scream at Roger Hammond sliding off the back and within a minute they are gone.

It happens so fast but it is such a thrill. The build up and anticipation is amazing. I just keep imagining how amazing waiting for The Tour must be, sleeping all night, waiting all day for the riders to arrive. If you ever get the chance I would definitely recommend it.

When Fiction Becomes Non-Fiction

I came across after seeing an article on MEN online this morning. I don't watch Coronation Street myself however it seems as though Rosie Webster on the soap is launching a modelling career. To help promote herself she has set up her own website. Coronation Street has published this website live and viewers can interact directly.

I really like the idea and adds real depth to the soap. The website has been nicely executed, looking suitably amateurish as if Rosie had done it herself however it includes some nice features which will help the soap develop it's viewer database with email data capture and Facebook page following tools.

It also provides a platform for advertisers with banner ads all round and ads before the video footage too.

Product placement will become ever more prominent, we have seen a very good example of it's use on Celebrity Big Brother recently with "Fright Night".

Much like product marketing, if TV programmes are to increase viewers they need to engage innovatively on an emotional level.

Marks & Spencer

Before we start Christmas trading, Marks & Spencer are starting a push which will see the brand looking to discover new audiences and develop existing brands such as the successful Per Una, Autograph & Blue Harbour.

In a bid to appeal to a younger audience the move has already seen "M&S" used more in press releases and marketing materials while the brand has also taken out sponsorship of X-Factor ticket giveaways, replacing Very.

The TV ad was created by Rainey Kelly Campbell/Y&R and directed by Jordon Scott, daughter of Ridley. I think the new TV ad is a good execution. It has a nice middle class, middle age touch to it which won't upset traditional M&S customers however it has a youthful, playful edge to it.

Meanwhile to capture younger fans the brand has announced Ryan Reynolds and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as the new faces of their Autograph collection. While I like the use of Burberry model Rosie I'm dubious on the use of Hollywood actor Reynolds. I appreciate the 34 year old X-Man actor is a big pull but surely there was British talent they could have tapped into?

The brand has also announced plans for a new store strategy which will use 14 pilot stores to test new concepts such as developing the M&S brands in their own right, adding wooden shelves to the food department & introducing an in-house fresh pasta maker to become more of a "specialist". The push will also see new food packaging.

All this is a big, big investment by the brand and it will be interesting to see the developments. The sponsorship of X-Factor is an interesting move. The target age for the show is 16-34 which would see M&S hitting the lucrative 30-34 bracket. They could get a small percentage of late 20s if they are lucky.

These younger consumers are still very brand conscious. If I was M&S (and from previous buying experience) I would remove the M&S element from the clothing and concentrate on solely promoting Autograph and Collezione as brands. They have real, real potential.

Update: 14th September:
Just an update on this blog. I've today read that Marks and Spencer will be dropping "Marks & Spencer" from all clothing labels and rebranding as simply "M&S Woman" and "M&S Man". More info here but could be interesting!

Cheshire Cat 2012

One for your diaries, the date for the Cheshire Cat 2012 sportive is Sunday 25th March 2012.

Entries open 1st November at 12pm at Kilotogo

In 2012 riders will not only take on Mow Cop but also Gun Hill too! Details are still being finalised but I would expect the start to be from Crewe Alexandra Football Club again (with the queuing issues resolved from last year). Expect the route to head to Mow Cop before heading into the hills around Congleton, Macclesfield, Winkle and then Gun Hill. Whether the final half of the route will see you on the flat back home through Siddington, Swettenham, Holmes Chapel and the back end of Nantwich again I'm not sure.

You can read my review from last year here and another blog which previews the Cheshire Cat sportive course.

86% of companies don't chase up on 'abandoned baskets'

I read an interesting piece of research from Behavioural Email experts RedEye which shows a huge percentage of online retailers don't chase up on abandoned baskets. Only 14% of companies are chasing up (up 7% from November 2010).

I first blogged about this back in June 2010. It is such an important area, the internet's very own hot lead, but as the research shows only a minority of companies actively chase up on why you haven't bought those items. We need to consider how we overcome these barriers to sale.

My blog back in June commented that the main reason for abandoned baskets was due to hidden costs such as postage or consumers not being ready. If we use Behavioural Economics we can look at solving these barriers. My article in June goes into this in more detail.

NFS - Stuttering Outdoor Media

Y&R get a lot of coverage on this blog, and yet again their Amsterdam colleagues have come up trumps with this brilliant piece of outdoor media to promote awareness of stuttering. Great thinking and use of media.

Diners Club International - TV Ad

Came across this TV ad produced by TBWA in Israel. It illustrates what the added benefits of having a Diners card could bring. Very funny.

Ariel Washing Powder Fashion Shoot

I love this idea from Saatchi's in Sweden. Washing powder is a product with very low consumer engagement, mainly due to us having too many negative connotations through doing our washing. During one week Saatchi's built a glass box Stockholm Central Station, inside there was a robot loaded with ketchup, name it and a rotating washing line with designer clothing.

People were invited to visit Ariel's Facebook page where they could win clothes by controlling the robot in real time online. The designer garments were used as targets and the challenge was to hit them with the robot. The stained garment was then sent in the post after being washed on-site with regular Ariel Actilift.


WVCC Autumn Road Race - 2nd October 2011

Weaver Valley CC Autumn Road Race
Sunday 2nd October 2011
Wincham Circuit
Start 10am. Regional B, Band 4, 3rd & 4th cats.
Distance 50miles.
Entry: £12. On the day: £15.

It doesn't seem like 5 minutes since we were hosting our women's road race in April! We round off the season and return to the Wincham circuit for a race aimed at 3rd/4th cats.

Unlike the Acton Bridge circuit with the cliff climb, the Wincham/Pickmere/Antrobus circuit is pretty flat with just a couple of drags to contend with which shouldn't cause too many problems in a group. The circuit should encourage fast racing, with a couple of sharp turns at junctions to contend with, riders will be wanting to keep an eye on a breakaway.

For details and to enter visit

WVCC Cat and Fiddle Hill Climb 2011

As Autumn starts to rear it's sleepy head, cyclists start to focus their minds on the hill climb season. Various hill climb competitions are held all over the country on the UK's legendary climbs.

At Weaver Valley CC we promote the infamous Cat and Fiddle Hill Climb Champs, which was last year won by Raleigh's Mike Cuming. The hill climb competition is open to everyone, so if you're mean, lean and fancy yourself as a mountain goat then get involved.

This year the Cat and Fiddle Hill Climb is on Sunday 25th September 2011.

For those of you who don't know about the Cat and Fiddle, it is a 11km climb which starts on the outskirts of Macclesfield and crosses over the Peak District to Buxton (A537). At the top of the climb is the second-highest pub in the UK, the Cat & Fiddle Inn. The average gradient is 3,7%, so not the steepest in the World and in some parts it actually dips and flattens out, however it is the distance which people struggle with.

I'm delighted to say that we've got over 130 entries to this year's event which is a record! Thank you to everyone who has entered, I look forward to cheering you on near Peak View cafe when I'm marshalling.

You can download the start list at

Update: 28th September

2011 Results

Fastest male: Gunnar Gronlund (RST Racing Team)
Fastest female: Lynn Hamel (Herbalife / Wheelbase)
Fastest junior: Jack Bowyer (Team Wallis) (Weaver Valley's Dylan Sharrock came third!)
Fastest team: Buxton CC (Weaver Valley came second!)

You can download full results at

The club run captain

I'd just like to push out a quick blog as an ode to the club run captain. This is someone who is responsible for deciding the destination of each cafe stop every weekend, who looks after new riders out on their first club runs and guides the club run to it's destination.

The club run captain keeps a bunch of up to 20 riders of varying abilities together, safely, on a round trip of up to 60 miles each weekend. In my opinion it is not only an incredibly responsible but important job.

Our club run captain at Weaver Valley CC, Alan Silver, is stepping back from his duties at the end of September. Speak to anyone in the club and they will mention Alan. He is responsible of introducing and developing so many riders, I know that I would be the rider I am now without the support and guidance of Al.

I've lead a club run and know first hand how hard it can be to keep everyone together. Making sure the slower riders are ok at the back while you challenge and set out a sprint for the more developed riders at the front, all the while making sure everyone is going in the right direction and safe. You are constantly going up and down the bunch, sitting on the front and to be honest I was exhausted at the end of it all. Al does this every weekend with such ease.

I have nothing but respect for him. Cheers for everything Al.

We had a great ride to Dunham Massey today, some pics below.

Manchester 100 route

Good luck to everyone doing the Manchester 100 this weekend. I'm still in two minds whether to compete but if you are ready and raring to go you'll be in for a good day on the bike.

Just keep a nice steady cadence, keep it easy until the route split and then lift the pace slightly until the halfway point. After the halfway point the roads are very rolling so get in a group if you can and work together to set a nice pace.

Don't hang on with a group if you can't handle the tempo. There is no point just about hanging on, wou will end up worse off. Keep at your own tempo and you'll come across someone who is your perfect partner.

It's a nice course with pretty flat country lanes all the way round. Leaving Wythenshaw Park you will head through built up Hale before breaking into winding country lanes through Ashley, past Tatton Park to Knutsford.

From Knutsford you will cross the A556 past The Windmill pub into Pickmere, the chocolate box village of Great Budworth (watch a sharp hill at the crossroad junction and later on through near Marbury Park). A decent down into Winnington before a sharp, short hill before the t-junction after you turn right going through the industrial estate.

It is around this point as you head through Hartford that the 2 routes will split. The 100 mile route will continue to Delemere Forest and onward to Beeston Castle (where it gets a bit lumpy) before stopping at Nantwich for lunch.

From Nantwich you will head home via Warmingham (re-uniting you with the shorter route). The route takes you from Middlewich into Wilmslow past Styal (and a sharp hill) and back to Wythenshaw Park.

My top tip would to add on an extra half an hour on what you're thinking to get to Wythenshaw Park. It gets very busy!! Watch out for dodgy riders all over the road, give twice as much room as usual.

Have a good one!