Brand is the new battleground, says boss of Leeds-based behavioural research firm SimpleUsability

Businesses need to ensure that they have strong brand values to engage effectively with customers, especially against a backdrop of cost cutting, according to the boss of a behavioral research company.

Guy Redwood, founder of SimpleUsability, with the names of some of the clients the business works with. Picture: Simon Hulme
Guy Redwood, founder of SimpleUsability, with the names of some of the clients the business works with. Picture: Simon Hulme

Guy Redwood founded Leeds-based SimpleUsability in 2001. The behavioural research and user experience consultancy today works with the likes of Coca-Cola, Asda and Morrisons to help them understand their customers better.

Mr Redwood told The Yorkshire Post: “Brand is the new battleground. Brand has always been important but in a world where people are cutting costs and struggling to deliver services, it’s really important to have strong brand values and live up to those brand values.”

Sign up to our Business newsletter

He added that brands need to be authentic. “Firms need to make sure that they behave in the way that they wish to be perceived and then promote that fact.

Guy Redwood, founder of SimpleUsability in Leeds. Picture: Simon Hulme

Mr Redwood said: “If you can stay true to your values and truly live them then you build really strong relationships. It’s important to understand how people are engaging with you emotionally.”

He believes that people “will pay a premium” for brands they feel align with their values. “The race to the bottom is no longer valid,” Mr Redwood added.

SimpleUsability has 18 full-time staff and uses methods such as eye tracking to see how people interact with a client’s website, marketing literature and even interactive voice response (IVR) systems.

“There’s a real resurgence in paper, because you get very little post,” Mr Redwood said, “letters and brochures are very powerful.”

Guy Redwood, founder of SimpleUsability, at the firm's office in Leeds . Picture: Simon Hulme

Organisations are careful about how they spend their marketing budgets, the founder of SimpleUsability says.

Spending on digital marketing enables businesses to track the return on investment. However, companies need to be aware of focusing on a “quick hit”, Mr Redwood warns.

He said: “People are starting to react really badly to overspending or buying stuff that they don’t need. You may have got someone to buy stuff that they don’t want but they’ll remember that. People will associate your brand with that.

“You’ve got to take a long-term view and it’s really hard to measure someone’s value over the long-term, especially in a market where shareholders are demanding short-term returns.”

While businesses are increasingly careful about how they’re spending their marketing budgets, their is still “loads” of money being wasted by firms because they’re not targeting their customers properly, according to Mr Redwood. He says that companies should instead focus on ensuring that their brand is communicating with customers in the way that they want it to.

Language can make a big difference as to whether or not someone chooses to engage with a brand. This is, however, now being exploited by hackers.

Mr Redwood said: “The hackers and phishing people have some amazing copywriters, who are very good at social engineering.

“They’re getting so good at pretending to be someone they’re not. This information is out there, they can easily find stuff out.”

SimpleUsability has spent the past two years working on a software platform that Mr Redwood believes will “revolutionise the way research is used within businesses”.

He said: “What we’ve created is a way of sharing insights and learnings very quickly across the whole business.

“We’ve got five major customers that we’ve launched a beta with on that. We’re doing an official launch later next year.

“We want to be the fastest insight business in the world.

“Gone are the days where businesses want big reports, where you’re paid to do something and two weeks later you present a big report. They want insights within hours, so we’ve created a way of doing that.”

Simple plans for five-year growth

The business is looking to increase its turnover over the next five years.

Guy Redwood said: “People talk to us and say that we’re one of Leeds’ best kept secrets. We’ve got 4,000 sq ft here, working with some of the biggest brands in the world.”

SimpleUsability expects turnover to be around £1.5m next year. However, over the next five years Mr Redwood hopes that turnover will be around the £10m mark.

He said: “We’ve spent this year working really hard putting some structure in the business. We run a very diligent business.”

It also has plans to open another office at some point in the future.