Monday, 7 June 2021


Zig when the others zag was an expression often used in advertising by admen trying to persuade clients to separate themselves from squabbling competitors, all with similar products fighting for consumers’ attention.

As we edge out of lockdown and think about marketing again this approach seems relevant especially for banks.

Banks deservedly get a bad press. They mostly seem to dislike their customers and would much prefer to operate in the headier space of investment banking and stuff like collateral instruments and derivatives. To be fair NatWest, with whom I bank, seem to have their telephone banking act much more together now, maybe because their staff are working at home and not in call centres.

As others close their branches why not open a bunch of micro banks in those high street sites emptied by the impact of Covid? Become the friendly face of banking providing financial advice to the elderly, less well off and to the mystified young. Work with government in helping them talk to those difficult to reach with helpful advice. Be great at customer service. You’d be alone whilst others chase the big-dollar business. 

Not everything inevitably goes in one direction as Justin King, one time CEO of Sainsbury’s discovered when he said in 2012: "the high street is dead, out of town hypermarkets will take over". Think again about those soulless warehouses, Justin.  

The High Street is in a parlous state now for obvious reasons but in a world where we’re trying to reduce the use of the car and where local councils need the income from high street shopping to increase isn’t it time to be more creative? I’m irritated by the view that market forces matter most and by people saying “let the market decide.” The reality is the market (aka consumers/the general public) have little voice before landlords offload prime sites to betting shops, discounters and charity shops.

We need more bookshops like Daunts, more small upmarket cinemas like the Electric Cinema in Portobello – clean, with comfy chairs and no fast food and popcorn – I’ll never go to a filthy old Odeon again. 

We need more exciting pre-loved clothing outlets done well, more wine bars, more stationers, more examples of retail brilliance like Richer Sounds or delicatessens like relaunched Dean and Deluca and Wholefoods. We need more of those wonderful hardware stores which stock everything and specialist shops that sell board games, hats, gloves, shirts and bagels. We need more colour and fun. 

Which brings me to the king of online. Amazon. They’ve reshaped our expectations for speed which is great but maybe now it’s time to zig again. When you’re as good as they are any blemish shows up. Recently a few errors have happened with us. A food supplement normally available overnight isn’t available for two weeks. (We got next day delivery from another supplier.) Deliveries are occasionally abandoned on the doorstep. Amazon is beginning to smell big and lethargic rather like Woolworth did as it reached the crest of its growth.

A delivery service to match Amazon should be easily arranged on a local basis in places like Brighton, Chester, Tunbridge Wells and Marylebone in London where the spirit of enterprise thrives. But overall  has there ever been a better opportunity for all the high streets to come out of the restrictive lives we’ve led with a blaze of colour, a fanfare of excitement and the ability to display and, also, to deliver to your home?

What we most of all need is pizzazz. In the lockdown so many already have cracked logistics brilliantly.

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