Catholic Church – a great business case study


Given that the ‘Global Festival of Families’ is happening this week, I couldn’t help but reflect with my business brain on what a mess the Catholic Church is in. In purely business terms it is classic case study material, with every aspect of business being affected from revenue, to consumer base, leadership, culture, management, HR policies, and much more.

So, if you gave the following facts to any business or marketing student as an assignment, with the task of developing a business or marketing strategy to address key issues, what do you think they would recommend?

  • Declining consumer base for the past 20 years, and with an accelerated decline in the past 10
  • 50% of the consumer base feeling ignored, or at best not wanted (women)
  • And other significant consumer cohorts not even acknowledged, e.g. LGBTQ
  • Revenue from weekly sales (collections) has declines radically, reflecting the decimated consumer base
  • Talent attraction a critical issue, especially in the more mature and developed markets. So much so, that the business is forced to run a skeleton staff rota and reduce substantially their offering (masses, etc.)and bring in contract staff (lay people) to help with the basic operations (communion)
  • Governance is poor, with scandal after scandal rocking the entire organisation, leading to huge numbers of court cases and developing into major global PR stories, from sex scandals to child abuse to financial scandals
  • HR policies are poor with dismissable on-the-spot behaviour being hidden and the offenders being promoted and/or transferred to another office or region
  • The top jobs and the senior management team are exclusively male with no gender or diversity policies in place
  • The board is exclusively male
  • Consumer understanding is poor as none of the staff can identify with the target market and their circumstances, e.g. married. in relationships, children, grandchildren etc. so it is difficult
  • Market research and consumer views are ignored
  • Some advisors that have been brought in to help address some of the issues above have resigned their roles, some very high profile people e.g. Marie Collins
  • And there are many, many more problems….but at the risk of boring you…

So what recommendations would the students propose? A root and branch overhaul of the organisation? Replacement of the top man (with a woman?) and his senior staff with fresh blood, reflective of the consumer base (men and woman, allowed to marry, have relationships, kids , LGBTQ, etc.)? A new Mission, Vision and Values? A new statement of strategy? A cultural overhaul, driven from the top? Gender balance and diversity embraced? A brand relaunch, involving an aggressive marketing campaign online and offline, to attract back defectors, lapsed consumers and new consumers? A root and branch review of all HR systems and policies? A positive communications and PR campaign. The list goes on?

And how long would it all take to implement and to start seeing immediate results. Obvious isn’t it?



Congrats Ireland Womens Hockey & what a sponsorship SoftCo!

NINTCHDBPICT000424579085As I screamed and danced around my living room yesterday as the Irish Womens Hockey  Team scored that winning goal, in the Sudden Death shootout in the Hockey World Cup Semi Final’s yesterday,  securing a place in today’s final, I couldn’t help but congratulate SoftCo for their sponsorship support! Earlier in the tournament I had to consult that online encyclopaedia, Google, as I had never even heard of SoftCo. Sorry SoftCo!

SoftCo, an Irish software company and is a provider of financial process automation solutions such as invoice automation. Not a small business as last year they won a $20 million (€17.2 million) deal with the Finnish government. And overall, it has more than one million business users worldwide with big name clients such as Volkswagen, Primark/Penneys, PWC and Renault among them.

SoftCo took over sponsorship of the Women Irish Hockey team in early June and has easily recouped the money it put forward to help the team out. Industry sources estimate the company stumped up €20,000 to have its name displayed on the team’s shirts, a small sum given how many viewers tuned in to watch the game on RTE or read about its exploits the following day.

Given there were many more eyes watching Ireland take on Spain in the semi-finals yesterday and  even more as they take on the Netherland in the final itself today, it looks to have been a good result for the Dublin-based company.

Players on the Irish international women’s squad are asked to pay a levy of €550 a year to supplement their funding, so they have to pay to play for their country. By contrast many of the other international teams are full time professional athletes. So fantastically well done Ireland and well done SoftCo, you shelled out €20,000 when no-one else would. And what a great decision it was!

No doubt the queue of potential sponsors has already formed outside the Irish Women’s Hockey HQ (if they have one?) And what about those sponsors that said no….??? #Regret #BigTime

#GreenArmy #COYGIG The country is behind you today!!! Screenshot 2018-08-05 10.28.16

World Cup Battle of the Brands: Nike vs Adidas

Nike Swoosh World Cup Image

It was  a World Cup that was chock full of upsets!  And in the battle of the World Cup Brands, Nike Inc defeated the other major sports brand, soccer juggernaut and archrival Adidas AG in the closely watched jersey sponsorship battle.

The Nike swoosh decorated the outfits of Brazil, England, Croatia and France , and dominated the World Cup Final.

By contrast, the top German sports brand Adidas had Belgium, Russia and Sweden in the quarter-finals, with the group of eight rounded out by Uruguay, sponsored by Puma.

The combined accomplishments of Nike-sponsored teams in Russia mark a major success for the U.S. sports apparel maker as it pushes to increase global soccer-related sales that reached more than $2 billion in fiscal 2018.

“While Adidas dominates the European leagues and the U.S. professional league, certainly any market share that Nike can pick up in a nontraditional U.S. sport can only bode well for the stock price and brand,” said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Sports brands typically sell the bulk of their fan merchandise ahead of the World Cup, but a team’s success on the field can generate extra demand for gear emblazoned with its emblems and colours, especially if its progress is unexpected.

Nike kitted out more teams than Adidas for the first time in Brazil in 2014. Adidas fought back this year, sponsoring 12 of the 32 participating teams, including strong early contenders Germany and Spain, along with host Russia. Nike supplied shirts for 10 countries this year.

The tournament took a disastrous turn for Adidas last Wednesday, with the unexpected elimination of 2014 champion Germany. Shares of Adidas, Germany’s team sponsor, fell 2.7 percent in the following session.

In 2014, Germany accounted for a third of Adidas’ roughly 9 million team jersey sales, Wedbush analyst Christopher Svezia wrote in a recent client note, with an incremental 10 percent of those sales resulting from Germany’s tournament victory.

Over the weekend, high-profile Adidas-sponsored teams Argentina and Spain were eliminated. Likewise, Mexico lost to Nike-sponsored Brazil on Monday.

Heading into this year’s World Cup, Adidas downplayed the sporting event’s potential effect on sales, pointing to Russia’s tepid economy. But the World Cup remains a major marketing opportunity for Adidas, which is one of seven FIFA partners and the supplier of the World Cup match ball since 1970.

As well as team jerseys, sponsorship of top individual players is critical for the promotion of soccer shoes. Ahead of the World Cup, Nike expected 60 percent of players heading to Russia to use its footwear.

Since the start of the World Cup on June 14, Nike’s stock is up almost 3 percent, helped mostly by a strong quarterly report and sales outlook last Thursday. Adidas has lost about 5 percent.


Top Tips from HBR – Harvard Business Review

Establish an Evening Routine to Put the Workday Behind You



It can be tough to leave work behind when you go home for the day, but having a routine can help. Before you leave the office, make a short phone call, sign a document, or respond to an email. This way you’ll end your day on a positive note of completion, and you’ll have one less thing to do the following morning. Then do a specific action that symbolizes the end of your workday. It might be locking your office door, turning off your computer, or calling home to say you’re leaving work. Each night, treat this action as the equivalent of clocking out with a timesheet, and remind yourself that it’s time to shift your mental state away from work. Having a routine like this helps you create a psychological barrier between work and home.

From “How to Let Go at the End of the Workday,” by Deborah Bright

This insane shoe technology will ensure you never wear the same shoes twice

WOW! Technology wearables done differently. Cool or what?

Shoe technology

Here’s a new shoe technology lighting up the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo and it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before.

It’s called ShiftWear, and their IndieGoGo campaign has so far raised over $120,000 of their initial $25,000 with 19 days left.

ShiftWear boasts shoes lined with a high definition e-paper that is capable of displaying virtually any image, moving or static, in broad daylight. The screens on the shoes connect to your phone through an app that lets you control the designs that are being displayed.

Read more at:

Tear jerker – New EXTRA gum commercial

Every so often there’s an advertisement is put out that gives you a whole new perspective on marketing. If Mad Men taught us anything, it was that ads are far more than just selling a product, they are there to evoke feeling, nostalgia, or whatever type of message that’s necessary to help create brand recognition. Now, a brand new commercial from Extra Gum just took the internet by storm, and let’s just say, it’s about far more than gum. Grab your tissues, because this commercial will make you feel all the feels.


Another Brick in the Wall….Consumer Driven Innovation at CRH

Innovation CRH                      Thermal Liteblock

Who would have thought? A cement block is a cement block is a cement block…isn’t it?

No longer. Enter CRH with their innovative new block.

Why do we have two ears and one mouth?…So that we can listen to our customers and put their needs at the heart of our business. And that’s exactly what CRH has done! Congratulations!

As a home owner or renter what eats up your money most here in Ireland? Heating bills?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to significantly reduce your heating bills? Well now there is…Enter CRH, Cement Roadstone Holdings with their new invention the Roadstone Thermal Liteblock. These purple tinged bricks keep in up to three times more heat than standard concrete blocks, a product which has seen little innovation until now.

The brick was invented by the company’s research and development lab based in Dublin. R&D in the construction industry is finally beginning to recover after years of cuts.The bricks can be used to help improve the building energy rating of homes and save consumers money via reduced energy bills. Improvements in energy ratings from A3 to A2 have been calculated for a number of house types using the blocks.The Thermal Liteblocks are designed to be used at key heat-loss points in buildings, called thermal bridging points, such as near ceilings and at floor or basement level.

The energy-efficient bricks do not need to be used everywhere, only at specific points in buildings, minimising costs. About 10 to 15pc of the concrete blocks used to construct buildings need to be replaced by new blocks to achieve the required energy efficiencies. Typically a three bedroom semi detached house would require 4,000 concrete blocks. The bricks are 40pc lighter than a standard concrete block which weighs 20kg. They can be treated and handled just like another block and suits traditional construction methods.

Roadstone’s 46 Irish quarries have been stocked with the Thermal Liteblock, which will also be available in the UK. Like Glen Dimplex and Greencore, CRH has identified carbon-efficient materials as a growth sector and is investing in research and development in this area.

You see….even the cement industry can innovate by putting their consumer at the heart of everything they do. What are you doing to put your consumer or customer at the heart of everything you do? And are you innovating?

Loretta Dignam

Loretta, owner of Loretta Dignam Consulting is a former Marketer of the Year and a customer-centric consultant with 25+ years of experience with major blue chip multinationals, such as Mars Inc, Diageo Plc and Kerry Group

Do you cuddle your customers? 

What a difference a cuddle makes…ask Ryanair. Their new TV ad shows the pre cuddle days, 30 years ago and the post-cuddle days of now. Haven’t Ryanair come a long way?

Ryanair 30 years

Check out their latest TV commercial on

I’ve long been an admirer of Ryanair, the brand and its boss Michael O’Leary, one of life’s great disrupters. What Ryanair and O’Leary have achieved in the airline sector is truly fantastic!

Ryanair, over the past 30 years, have trained us as passengers to pack lightly, to queue mindlessly, to clap hands when the plane lands safely, to struggle with a frustrating website, to pack the contents of our handbag (us ladies primarily) into our pockets and our underwear, to wear multiple outfits to save on suitcase space and to accept abuse from the airline staff. We may not have liked it, but we certainly lumped it! And in doing so changed some of our behaviour forever! If the price was right we would accept landing at a destination 100kms away from where we really wanted to go and to accept poor customer service. In fact if the price was so low we would do almost anything that was asked of us…begrudgingly!

Over time, however many competitors were forced to introduce low(er) cost fares. And slowly but surely the cost of airline travel came down. So much so, that if given a choice between Ryanair at €19.99 and Are Lingus @ €39.99 many of us would opt for Are Lingus with it’s low(ish) cost fair but excellent customer service.

Then in 2013 four things happened;

  1. O’Leary announced that profits were likely to fall below projections for the year
  2. The airline also received some bad publicity  after Dublin-based surgeon Muhammad Taufiq al Sattar was charged €188 to change his flight to Birmingham after the death of his wife and three children in a house fire
  3. The airline was voted the worst of the 100 biggest brands serving the British market by readers of consumer magazine Which
  4. Shareholders complained to O’Leary and the Ryanair Board about the negative impact that poor customer service was having on sales.

Clearly O’Leary and the team had to start to do things differently, where customers were concerned. They introduced the ‘always getting better programme’ and started to listen to their customers and to take on board was was pissing Ryanair customers off. Ryanair now call passengers ‘customers’, which was a big cultural change. They have moved from a ‘passenger acquisition’ model to a ‘customer retention’ model. Customer service and likability are key to getting repeat business and to transforming a customer to a retained or repeat customer. They have moved from transactions to relationships. The hypothesis is – better experience, better retention, better return to shareholders. Ryanair are modelling themselves on Aldi, H&M and IKEA, ‘Smart Living Brands’

So has this customer-centric move worked for Ryanair? Here are some stats that would indicate that it is a more successful business model. Ryanair has achieved the following in the past year

  • 81m to 90m passengers
  • Load factor up by 6% – most airlines would be happy with 0.5%
  • 12 new customers on each flight
  • Share price continues its upward trajectory

Ryanair Share Price

What’s the moral of this story? – CUDDLE YOUR CUSTOMERS. It’s great for customers and it’s great for business!

If Ryanair can listen to their customers and say Sorry…anyone can!


Loretta Dignam

Loretta, owner of Loretta Dignam Consulting is a customer -centric marketing consultant with 25+ years of experience with major blue chip multinationals, such as Mars Inc, Diageo Plc and Kerry Group

SMARKETING – Do you know what it is?


What is SMARKETING? I’m sure you think that it’s a made up word. In fact Smarketing is the process of integrating the sales and marketing processes of a business. Integrating sales and marketing processes, functions and people, is that really possible, I hear you ask, particularly as 87% of the terms that sales and marketing use to describe one another are negative?  Sales think that marketing sit in their ivory tower with their crayons and draw pretty pictures, whereas marketing believe that sales are slippery fish, bullshitters and evasive. It needn’t be this way.

If you want to increase your annual revenue growth by up to 20%, as The Aberdeen Group found in a 2010 study, aligning your sales and marketing processes around the same goals and same customer personas is imperative. This means having VISIBILITY of each others goals and being REWARDED based on each others performance. Therefore, moving to a Smarketing driven organisation requires a cultural shift and requires doing things differently. How can this be done?

There are 5 key steps to integrating Smarketing:

  1. SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE – more often than not sales and marketing, although two sides of the same coin, are accountable for different measures. Smarketing means aligning sales and marketing around the same goal – REVENUE
  2. SET UP CLOSED LOOP REPORTING – Closed loop intelligence improves the quality of information both ways between sales and marketing
  3. IMPLEMENT A SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT (SLA) – An SLA defines what each team agrees to COMMIT to each other in terms of support
  4. MAINTAIN OPEN COMMUNICATION – weekly Smarketing meetings, monthly management meetings to share and communicate
  5. RELY ON DATA – Facts beat fiction every time. Create and share a common dashboard with the reports aligned around team goals

Is your business up for doing things differently? Or have you already started doing things differently and are already seeing results?  If so, I would love to hear from you and I am sure others would too!