As well as the daily headline news about one retailer or another capitulating to the Covid-19 stranglehold on the consumer I picked up the recent 'Trading & Finance' update from Home Shopping company 'N Brown plc'. (link below)

N Brown plc is a UK based traditional direct home shopping online and mail order company, back in the day it was the bellwether for the UK home shopping industry.

In its share listing it's described as;

"N Brown offers a range of products, predominantly clothing, footwear and homewares with a focus on underserved customer groups".

The N Brown business model is/was predicated upon all it's customers operating a credit account. Which in turn has meant that the key drivers of the business are as a result of it's financial products, and not so much its sale of physical products to consumers.

It seems that customers are still shopping with them for various household items, but as with other businesses in the fashion sector they too are having similar problems.

From what I can tell from the update the bean counters that form most of the leadership team seem to have a firm fiscal grasp on the business as follows;

The Group has taken decisive action to maximise operating efficiency, preserve liquidity and has successfully achieved the following:

  • Continued operation of our distribution centres, though at lower levels of capacity than normal;
  • An 80% reduction in marketing expenditure;
  • A significant reduction in capital expenditure;
  • The furloughing of 30% of colleagues across the business;
  • Recruitment and salary freezes;
The above includes voluntary pay reductions from April to June for PLC Board, Management Board and senior leadership team; and

Agreement with HMRC to defer certain tax and duty payments associated with our normal operating activities as well as certain legacy tax payments which were expected to be paid in H1 FY21.

All in all it seems protecting cash is the number one priority.

As a business that relies on recruiting new customers at the lowest level of cost, whilst encouraging existing customers to shop more I totally get the hold on the advertising budget. In fact this crisis could be an opportunity for them and the marketing leaders to rethink the whole advertising strategy for when they come out the other side.

I think that now is the time for them to think about how they might remain 'front of mind' during this crisis and when the TV ad budget is no more, the online ad tech is no longer affordable, and the marketing resource has been reduced even further because being furloughed isn't a long term strategy.

Let’s look at how they could/should use ‘Social Media' as a highly effective program to drive brand attribution, at the lowest cost, creating the biggest reach, and the most potent and authentic ‘influencer’ campaign EVER.

It’s called an internally aligned ‘Social Strategy' and its cost don't increase as your reach and engagement aspirations do on 'paid media'.

How can this be you might ask, what do you mean I don't have to pay for this?

Go with me, this is for example only.

Company has an average of 50 employees (know they have more) , includes ALL areas of the company, and I mean everyone.

Each employee has an average of 500 connections on LinkedIn.

You encourage them how to write (subject matter) content, stories & conversations that reflect your company & brand (all in their own style) including all relevant keywords that are important to ‘why’ you do what you do.

Make sure they are NOT selling - influencers don't sell - they INFLUENCE!

Get them (including you and your board) to do that (consistently) twice a week each month for 6 months.

Your bit - {leadership required}

1st level influencer reach = 600,000

Imagine if they then interacted with comments, conversations & made new connections which grew that network even bigger?

Finally, make sure you have enough people to answer all the pre-qualified ‘inbound sales enquiries’.

The biggest ‘influencers’ of your brand should be it’s leadership team - FACT.