Monday, 30 November 2009

Reclaims4U Press Announcement

We issued the following press release on Thursday for our client, Reclaims4U, following a mystery shopping exercise. It's very timely, given the fact that the Supreme Court upheld the Banks' appeal regarding unfair charges.

NEWS RELEASE: Reclaims4U Ltd urge caution where firms offer to “write off”, “wipe out” or “clear” your debts

LANCASHIRE financial reclaims business, Reclaims4U Ltd is warning consumers to be cautious when looking to pursue a claim against their credit card or loan agreement for ‘unenforceability’.

In the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in favour of the banks over ‘unfair charges’, many hard-up consumers may be looking at other means of pursuing the banks for unfair charges.

As such, Reclaims4U has expressed concern for consumers who may now be considering looking at unenforceable credit agreements, such as credit cards. A mystery shopping exercise conducted by the business revealed some startling discrepancies - such as wide variations in upfront, irredeemable charges and unsubstantiated claims about the potential for a successful outcome. For example, of those businesses questioned, nearly 40 per cent said there was a greater than 80 per cent chance of success with 12 per cent of businesses claiming that that there was a “100 per cent” likelihood of a successful outcome.

It has become clear that a proportion of credit card or loan agreements may not be fully compliant with prescribed terms as required under the Consumer Credit Act of 1974 – and some of these credit agreements could be deemed unenforceable, which means consumers may be paying Credit Cards or Loans which are not enforceable. A large number of businesses have emerged offering to work on behalf of consumers to “Write off”, “Wipe out” or “Clear” their debts, phrases which are not compliant with Claims Management Regulations.

Reclaims4U Ltd – the company that conducted the mystery shopping exercise over the 9th and 10th of November, is urging consumers that whilst credit agreements can be reviewed to assess whether they are enforceable or not, they should be cautious and ask the right questions before instructing a company to get their credit card or loan agreements reviewed.

Reclaims4U’director, Lee Blackshaw commented: “There are a lot of companies trying to cash in on this sector, although not all of them are acting in the best interest of their clients, as whilst they maybe explaining the benefits of unenforceability they are not fully advising consumers of the potential consequences.”

“We found that many of the 39 businesses we spoke to didn’t fully explain the process and its drawbacks. Over 56 per cent said that successful claims wouldn’t affect the consumer’s credit rating, when this is currently not the case.”

“A big concern is that whilst consumers may have credit card or loans deemed unenforceable, at the moment the debt stays on your credit file, which could effect future credit applications such as loans or mortgages.”

“Although Lenders are currently required to register the fact that a debt has been deemed as unenforceable on the credit bureau, there is currently nothing to stop the lenders continuing to register the customer’s payment history. As this is the current Legal position, I’d urge people to proceed with caution.”

“In the current financial climate it is understandable that people will consider this option because they could be struggling to make ends meet. Pursuing credit card or loan unenforceability is an option, but you should be aware of the full facts and also the costs before proceeding with such a claim – over 30 per cent of companies charged an upfront fee between £200 and £300. Over five per cent charged more than £500 and the highest upfront fee we came across was £995!”

“With regards to claiming, there are other options which are worth pursuing such as claiming against mis-sold payment protection insurance on loans or credit cards - most importantly - whatever you do, always talk to a reputable company.”

- ENDS -

Friday, 20 November 2009

Attend our PR Masterclasses

Like many other businesses, BrandSpankin’ has been buffeted by the economic climate over the last year – as you can imagine, Marketing and Public Relations are budgets that are frequently first to be cut. Nevertheless, when we meet people in business in our area they often suggest that they’d be very keen to build more awareness of their business, to generate leads and to be seen to have a higher media profile – whether that’s local & regional, trade and business, online or even national. The sticking point for many is the (perceived) cost of PR – especially when weighed against the measurable benefits.

Therefore, we have been looking at ways we can help businesses get consistent, positive media coverage that communicates who they are, what they do and what they stand for – without incurring significant costs. As such, we are proposing to run a two day course in January – and teach a member of your team the tricks of the trade, so instead of having to retain the services of our business (or a similar one), your business will be capable of generating positive headlines using an in-house resource.

Building awareness for your business in this way, will help you to be ‘front of mind’ when your targets are about to make a ‘buying decision’. Recognition of your business and familiarity with your offerings builds trust amongst prospects and customers alike. And you can convert that trust into winning new business and retaining your existing customers.

A member of your staff can join our PR masterclass – this two day course costs only £199 plus VAT, but there are limited places. Not only will your business then be able to make your message more compelling, you’ll be able to target your message appropriately, write effective press releases, get your story published, use social media to give your story much more traction and you’ll significantly increase traffic to your website. What’s more, we’ll be following up with every participant on the course to ensure that they put their skills to good use - to ensure that you generate positive media coverage (that’s worth more than the cost of the course itself!).

The course will be delivered by our MD, Julian Jordan, who has 20 year’s experience as a journalist, media relations expert and marketer. He has been the Managing Editor of The Asian, Production Editor of Unified Communications and Editor-in-Chief of Information Services Monthly. He has also successfully managed Media Relations for brands such as Vivendi-Universal, Onetel, Your Communications, TouchStar Software, Moonfish and

Here’s what a current client has to say about our media relations services:

“BrandSpankin’ have helped us immensely with our media relations. Now, people are blogging about our service and social media activity has significantly increased our website traffic. Most importantly, we’ve generated coverage in trade and business media, regional media and we’ve been in The Daily Telegraph. Building awareness in this way will help us become the first point of reference when people are looking to purchase mobile broadband.” - Andy Gott - Managing Director,

Our media relations course could similarly be the difference that gives your business vital cut-through and differentiation – positive headlines are potentially just a phone call away!

Give us a call on 01282 878 301 - and here are some more details:-

Friday, 13 November 2009

WARNING...WARNING...WARNING....idiots in our midst

You may know somebody who is deeply gullible, intellectually challenged and socially limited. They may be inclined to carelessly spread OFFICIALLY DEBUNKED, RACIST rumours.

A good way to identify such individuals is that they may have sent the following text message to you today.

“Dear All. This is a very serious message that I hope you can pass on to as many people as you can. Last night at the big Asda in Manchester a 3 year old girl went missing. Fortunately their policy when something like this happens is to lock the doors. The little girl was found in the toilets with 2 Romanian women. One shaving her head and the other dressing her in boys clothes. This come from an employee who was there last night. Please pass the message round to as many as you can and remain extra vigilant with your own children.”

Forget Romanian women, Gypsies and migrants - a bigger threat to all of us is posed by fuckwits who collude with racist crap like this.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Top tips for marketing your small business...

Or, how to hold your nerve when all around you are losing theirs

A lot of small businesses we come across are often guilty of ad hoq marketing. Sales are down one particular month, so they decide the following month that they’d better “do some marketing”.

You wouldn’t do your books on an ad hoq basis (I hope!) and you wouldn’t turn up at the office on an ad hoq basis – so why would you leave your business development to chance?

Businesses that prosper are always the ones that plan their marketing and consistently communicate their values, products and services to their targets, prospects AND existing customers.

So here’s a few things to consider:

1. Budget accordingly. Things may take longer and cost more than planned. Look at your business plan – how much growth are you anticipating? Plan your marketing activity to meet that objective. Then ask yourself which areas of marketing have worked for you previously (e.g. a specific publication, direct mail, your website) – then direct your budget to those areas.

2. Your marketing will always require tweaks – and some things that you do won’t work. You need to learn along the way what works best for your business (i.e. gives you a return on your investment). The idea that the savvy businesses don’t cut their marketing budget in a recession is a falsehood – if it isn’t delivering, scrap it and focus your limited budget on something that is!

3. Taken together, these two points should illustrate that easy choices aren’t necessarily the best choices. Just because “we’ve always done it this way”, doesn’t mean it’s always going to work – especially as your customers have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of “media and marketing” - let’s face it, things have moved on from the days when we had just four terrestrial TV channels and half a dozen national newspapers – some of your competitors may be about to steal a march on you!

4. There’s an irrational person in your office – ignore this individual at all costs. The world is full of nay-sayers – don’t let them de-motivate you! So what if they hate your website/new logo/brochure/eshot/press release? An uninformed, knee-jerk, gut reaction says nothing about whether or not something is fit-for-purpose!

5. Getting butterflies before you hit send is almost certainly a good thing – it’s good to have a few doubts. That in itself should be sufficient to check, double check, ask a colleague (not the irrational one), even ask a customer. Nothing worse than blundering through something, absolutely convinced you are right – when the chances are, you’re wrong.

6. You’ll never please everyone, so why try? Even if you only please one in a hundred – do you realise how big a market that is?

7. Sticking to a conviction or principle is very laudable. Doing what demand in the marketplace dictates is very profitable. Laudable or decide.

8. Marketing is a means to helping your business make more money. Design work conducted for your business should never lose sight of this. Creativity is great, but only if it serves that purpose...I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re unlikely to win an award in Cannes...probably best to focus on generating leads and awareness!

9. Is your marketing measurable? Do you track what effect it’s having? Can you say for every £ you spend, you generate £s? There are lots of ways this can be done – it helps you figure out what works and what you should do more.

10. You will make mistakes, but try not to make expensive mistakes. If you’re going to commit to a marketing project that costs, look at what other businesses like yours have done and assess if it’s worked for them. Are there ways you can mitigate against high costs – there is funding and training available for example (call us and we'll let you know about it) - this could offset your costs and enhance your skills and experience.

So there you go! Food for thought, I hope. If there are any points that provoke your interest or, for that matter, raise your blood pressure...let us know.

And, of course, if there’s anything we can do to help you market your business more successfully – get in touch!

Enterprising Pendle

I chaired a board meeting of Enterprising Pendle - our Community Enterprise Board - on Monday evening. It was very productive - and given our current issues around funding and sustainability, very positive.

Remi Thackrey, our Enterprise Facilitator, reported on activity, in terms of who he's currently supporting and what challenges they face.

It's really encouraging that we now have active clients and that there are benefits being delivered to people who are running businesses, or who are in the process of setting them up.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Pendleside Hospice

As you may know, BrandSpankin’ is trying to make Lancashire’s Longest Doodle. Here’s what the Lancashire Telegraph had to say about it -

Besides the fact that we’re looking to support the regeneration of the area, by illustrating the links between creativity and enterprise, we’re also going to use the doodle as an opportunity to help Pendleside Hospice raise money and awareness (

Currently, they get just 30% of their funding from the Primary Healthcare Trust – approximately £850,000 per year. To operate, the hospice need to raise an additional £2million per year. We’ll be doing all we can in the coming months to support their efforts.

The hospice gets involved in a variety of events in East Lancashire, from fashion shows to beer festivals – it’s all here

They issue updates regarding their activities on a Facebook group – I’d urge all Pendle people to join and to offer your support.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009 using Twitter to assist business travellers

Comparison site offers social media based quality of service index!

MOBILE connectivity specialists, have come up with a unique way of monitoring the levels of service that networks are delivering to business users of mobile broadband.

The dongle comparison site has formulated a way to analyse all tweets within twenty five miles of twelve UK cities. All comments about mobile broadband networks and their performance will be logged in order to give a developing picture of the quality of service consumers are experiencing.

The outcome will enable visitors to the MobileBroadbandSupermarket site to see for themselves just how well each network is performing in their area. The current plan is that MobileBroadbandSupermarket will issue a quarterly statement indicating levels of performance across the following UK conurbations – London, Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle/Sunderland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Sheffield.

Andy Gott, MobileBroadbandSupermarket’s Managing Director commented:

“Sometimes people’s subjective experience is a very valuable index of business performance and we thought that by using tweets in this way we were providing business users of mobile broadband with an additional level of insight that will enable them to make an informed choice when purchasing a Dongle.”

He added: “Not only can this assist people to make the right choice based on their area, it can also point out the relative merits of a network in another area – so for frequent business travellers, it will prove very useful as they need connectivity in more than one location.”

“We’re very keen to use whatever means are available to help consumers through the maze of a dongle purchase – and Twitter is a perfect platform to use in this context. Not only is it proving extremely popular, but it is a place where there are already many early-adopters where technology is concerned, so it should prove a rich and informative source.”

Mobile connectivity devices, or “dongles” as they are commonly known, are an ideal way for people to stay connected on the move. They are especially useful to business travellers, who may need to get online whilst at the airport or hotel; for students, who need connectivity but may not have a fixed line connection; and also for some people in rural communities, who may not have very good ADSL coverage.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Here comes the Groom!

Oh me jaded and cynical, but I got outvoted by colleagues and our client when I wrote the following piece. We wanted to have a weddings piece to promote the made-to-measure Pal Zileri suit service at Scruples. I think I ended up it's a very toned down version of this piece that's going to appear in the magazine. In any case, hope it gives you a laugh at my expense!

Here comes the groom...

Traditionally weddings have been the domain of the bride. It’s her long as she’s happy... These are commonly held misconceptions – why shouldn’t the groom have some say or influence? And for that matter, why shouldn’t he feel like a million dollars too?

With Bridal gowns routinely costing thousands and only ever being worn once, it does beg the question, why shouldn’t the groom get to wear something in which he looks and feels fantastic – especially, as there’s a half chance he’ll be able to wear his “wedding” suit again!

The history of wedding wear is a depressing tale from a male perspective – traditionally the bride wears white as a colour of purity, whilst some say that the groom wears black to represent the "death of his carefree life".

Now, that’s not exactly a case of getting off on the best footing, is it? How many married men would have taken the vows if you were required to agree more drinks with the lads, no more football, no more messing about with cars, no more fishing? Not many of us!

So, just as the bride will have chosen a dress to make sure she looks her best on the day, the groom should choose an outfit which is a little bit special for HIS big day. So don’t just go for the tried and tested after-thought of a plain black suit - or worse, the truly awful morning suit or tuxedo route.

“Black tie” should be reserved for corporate jollies and award events. And, if you’re considering morning suits - good God man - are you getting married, or putting on the Ritz? Frankly, if you are wearing a top hat and you are not Isambard Kingdom Brunel, something has gone horribly wrong.

When have you ever worn one before? When are you ever likely to wear one again? So, why would you wear something so cumbersome and awkward, on what should be the most memorable day of your life?

My advice would be that in order to savour your wedding day and remember it for all the right reasons, you should feel happy and comfortable – so forego the ludicrously formal approach and consider a made-to-measure two or three piece suit.

The beauty of this approach is that you have one less thing to fret about - so you can focus on not losing the ring, remembering your speech and the fact that all your disparate family and social circles are about to collide to the tune of “Come on, Eileen.”

You can of course also have something made in very lightweight fabric – great if you’re getting married on one of the half dozen decent summer days we get, and even better if you’re considering getting hitching in sunnier climes!

There’s nothing to stop you coordinating with your best man, ushers, page boys – even the father of the bride (good to get him onside early!) – and, for this you should consider matching waistcoats and/or tie.

If you manage to get all this to tie in with the general colour scheme of the wedding...Result! Even better you could get your prospective Mrs to come along to your made-to-measure session with Pal Zileri’s tailors – she could help you choose your linings and the colours could match the bridesmaid’s dresses.

All that AND a married person’s tax allowance – PULL OUT THE STOPPER, LET’S HAVE A WHOPPER, BUT GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME!!