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Groundhog Day
James King

Multiply’s Insight & Innovation guru James takes us through his early morning commute. Can it give us a priceless insight into consumer marketing?


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I bet the start of my day is pretty much like yours … Groundhog Day.

The alarm goes off. I take a quick glance at my phone to see if I have any messages on social media, or any emails. Then I grab a cheeky quick 15 minutes snooze until I eventually get up. Then the usual shower and dressing before myself and the wife head out the door.

We jump in the car, fire the radio on and drive 15 minutes through the streets passing commuters in their cars and hanging out of bus stops trying to get a heat, we eventually arrive at the train station.

As I get dropped off outside the station, we see the same guy with his bright green jacket walking to his work; we named him Jeff for no other reason than we think it suits him. I walk the 5 minutes through a maze of cars, my iPod blasting out usual tunes of The Verve, Prodigy or Oasis. Then through the car park wishing I was Richard Ashcroft stauntering down the street in Bittersweet Symphony. I move out of the way to let the man with the terrier plodding along on his walkies pass me on the pavement.

I pass the same lady parking her car; she gets out and checks the back passenger door, walks a few steps, turns goes back and checks it again. She repeats this several times, then eventually leaves, her imaginary worries of failing locks and robbers dancing through her mind. Meanwhile, the girl with the nice BMW parks in the same spot and opens her door to see if she’s in the white lines. Walking along the platform I pass the French girl, the man with the earring and another guy I've named 'the world’s most boring man’.

The train arrives and I wait between the two lamp posts on the platform, eagerly waiting for the doors to open so I can squeeze into the warm carriage. I position myself on the right hand side of the door, away from the responsibility of manning the doors for alighting passengers. Behind me the sarcastic office worker complains about her colleagues whilst her friend sympathises with her before trying to focus the conversation on what her kids did last night. Commuters try to not make eye contact with each other as they desperately try to catch up with social media or read yesterday’s news in the Metro.

Leaving the train, I’m first off directly in front of the escalator to the ticket office. Reaching the summit, two young schoolgirls dart past me to the front of the line to be served by Jim or Maciej. I get my ticket and walk through the ticket barrier, checking the time to make sure we’re on schedule and yep - bang on time. On the walk to work I cross the tram tracks, nip in front of buses and hop over zebra crossings as I make my way down West Maitland Street. I pass the homeless man sleeping in the doorway of the bank; the staff at Boots are opening up as I turn the corner and walk up Palmerston Place.

The sound of the city fades as I come into the office and arrive at my desk to begin another day at Multiply HQ.

OK, so by this point, you’ve either stopped reading or you’re wondering what my daily routine has to do with marketing?

Well, I make this daily commute 5 days a week for around 48 weeks of the year. That’s 240 journeys going and 240 journeys coming home and, if my maths are correct, that’s 480 journeys on the same route and in the same timeframe each year. Throughout this daily routine I’m exposed to brand activity from the very first moments of opening my eyes - from the social media posts in my newsfeed to ads on the radio during the drive.

I see the ads in my copy of the Metro and the posters adorning the doors and walls of the train carriage. Ad gates take my ticket while serving me ads. The buses I dodge have advertising, and I pass the posters in the shop windows and bus shelters. Massive glossy 48 sheets costing thousands try to catch my eye like the single guy looking for a lady at last orders.

But can I remember any of the brands that spent hard earned cash trying to reach me today?


Our society is a catwalk of content. Brands try to reach us at every available opportunity by any means possible. However, in many instances they become wallpaper and redundant, unnoticed blocks.

Ah, but it’s about reaching customers subliminally you say … so we remember when they shop.

But what happens when the shopper reaches the aisle and is faced with a mountain of choice and promotional materials? Suddenly that single guy at the bar has 20 other alpha males posturing for attention.

We do the commute and run the routine because it’s a necessity of fulfilling a task; we all wish we had a teleportation machine to take us from A to C and miss out B. But these don’t exist. We yearn for an easy life, or entertainment to break up the mundane.

So how do brands reach customers who are zoned out and going through the motions?

Well, it’s all about disruption, breaking the routine, catching the uninterested eye, getting clever and being innovative. Brands that do it best are the ones engaging with the consumer on their terms.

Innovation is about creating a new or better solution to a need or requirement. But what needs do consumers have? How can your brand make potential customers’ lives better? It’s not about about giving them all £10 million; it’s about entertainment, engagement, making them laugh, making them think, giving them something pretty to look at, being clever, being helpful or being interesting.  Buskers with an interesting message on the underground, experiential activations in the train station concourse, interactive experiences. No matter how you do it, just do it! 

In Multiply’s Insight and Innovation department, we’re always looking at new ways to view the world and those who make it go round. We dive deeper into understanding consumers, we tailor creative solutions to client problems and we always look to innovate through researched insights. These insights are born out of our in-house research and planning tools, designed to help our clients break through the wallpaper and connect with their target audience.

Break the routine. Stand out from the crowd. Make your brand’s impact count. 

© Multiply UK Ltd 2016

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