Listening to stories

Notes on life, by James Welch

The Rental Revolution is Coming: WhyBuy owns 100s of products so you don’t have to

The WhyBuy warehouse is filling up as we get ready to launch the new website

WE have found, at WhyBuy headquarters, that our biggest barrier to market dominance is going to be the presumption that rental companies – unless heavy machinery is involved – will be peer to peer. The perception is that peer-to-peer is inconsistent at best and grubby at worst. We make sure that our products are nicely packaged and as good as new, every time.

ARE we, as a nation, prepared to step out of our habit of buying? Germany has the greatest proportion of home-renters in Europe, and Germans still prefer to rent accommodation rather than own it. Less than 40 per cent of the population own the homes that they live in compared with more than 65% in Britain. We have been a nation of buyers not renters, and the economics of renting are perceived to be expensive. They needn’t be.

NOT only is WhyBuy the only rental business for fun stuff in London, but also we are competing actively in markets that we’re told are saturated. We hire out all the items that customers don’t want to own forever.

PEER research was the foundation of WhyBuy, where all of Jamie Conway’s London-based friends and family banded together to be a sounding board for WhyBuy’s launch in June 2020. That group provided key insights into the need for convenience to make the business work. This is why WhyBuy delivers and collects in a one-hour slot.

TO make sure that all products are working, clean and easy to use, we make sure every product is re-cleaned in the warehouse if it’s left on the shelf for more than a week. Before any item is sent out, it’s re-cleaned and re-checked to make sure all the extra parts are still in the box. What’s more the ‘how-to-use’ one-pager might not replace the manufacturer’s manual, but it’s written to be a quick set up guide.

PEER into the future, and we’ll see that renting will become the norm. WhyBuy is set up to make it easy for people to embrace this future sooner rather than later.

And since you’ve read this far, there’s one message, I’d like to reinforce. Please read the first word of each paragraph.

If you’re in London, please download the WhyBuy app ( and if you see something you’d like for when lockdown is over, please use my surname for a 20% discount code, WELCH.

The Pressure washer drying in the warehouse before it’s next rental having just been cleaned

The Who in WhyBuy

Last week I started looking into audiences for WhyBuy in London. 

The Who. Who is our audience?

I’ve come to understand the product now. The offering is solid: We just need to update the app, amend the pricing as per today’s meeting and to build the e-commerce website and they shall come, right? In droves. Here come The Who. 

Except businesses have tried that before. Many a talented team have spent good money and bought a whole lot of new downloads. And the cost per install turned out to be competitive. Great. But it’s not the install that matters, it turns out.

So, now that we new have the tools at our disposal, let’s use them: TGI, ACORN and in due course, Appsflyer. 

Last week, I totally got to grips with personas that other people have written for other businesses and realized it’s such fun. And I wrote a workshop on the back of it.

Current customers will be useful to profile, I thought. WhyBuy has been open for business since June 2020. And the customer to-date was an early exercise in our workshop. 

But customers to-date have only been limited. This sure makes the data less useful. Especially in these “unprecedented times”.

And then I saw this from Tom Fishburne, aka the Marketoonist:


And I went back to my notes from Ritson (Class of Dec ‘98), (before he jazzed up his slides, I’m told). 

Source: Mark Ritson’s Mini MBA, Opening Seminar, Market Orientation, Oct 2018

And I revised my workshop. We need to identify our London audiences so that we can prioritise our product.

As we all remember from our Ritson mini-MBA in Marketing, all marketing should start with Market Orientation. Dear Reader, you’ve done the Ritson course by now, I hope?

“First, team, let’s paint a picture of your neighbour in London,” I said. A good exercise and got us talking. And as a management team we all have very different neighbours. Nonetheless, we all happened focused on a single mother of young kids. Funny how we have preconditioned ourselves to believe she is our largest audience segment. She’s not the largest, but she’s important to us for sure…

Anyol’how as Una would say, the workshop progressed and we got in to the weeds to understand the audiences that we need to understand for the business to grow.

And now we are sizing up the prize that each audience represents. How big is each of the audience segments we identified. And the top three we will research further through good old fashioned focus groups. 

Been a while since I ran focus groups. Actually no it hasn’t. I ran a bunch for a Tesco Hackathon when I was consulting at the LGBTQ+, Black and Multi Ethnic adnetwork, Brand Advance. But I’d rather use a third party this time (ie someone experienced in this sort of thing!).

So, audience identification is under way. Phew.

Getting beyond barriers to success

We had totally taken for granted a key benefit of our business.

When I rented the carpet cleaner and the giant Jenga set (see last week’s post here), I didn’t think overtly about the fact that the WhyBuy products have to be in excellent condition and perfectly clean, always.

So, as soon as my rentals were returned to our Wandsworth warehouse, every block of the Jenga, every handle was wiped down and the innards of the Rug Doctor were pressure washed, ready for the next rental.

Consistency of the high quality is key. And that’s something that we need to highlight more it turns out.

Despite now exceeding our crowdfunding target last week, my second week in the business, I learned that some investors have jumped to a common conclusion about the biggest problem that WhyBuy faces: yet since we’re not a peer-to-peer business, it’s not our problem after all.

Crowdfunding investment: WhyBuy met its target on Seedrs last week.

Yes, it turns out that our problem is that we don’t highlight up front that we’re not peer-to-peer.

What’s wrong with peer-to-peer rental? Perception is that they don’t have consistency. And that was a major issue for many an investor. So we’d better fix that in our future communications.

So what else should we be communicating to all our WhyBuy audiences, whether investors or customers… or both!? I’ll answer that.

Last week, we took time, together, to work through the key messaging at WhyBuy. Not sure if you’re interested at this stage. But I’m happy to share!

Clean and Green. As part of the circular economy, we need to all recognise that owning too much just is not sustainable. Did you know that in July this year, we passed Earth Overshoot Day – the date on which we’ve burnt through the amount of resources our planet can renew in a year.

Quality. As mentioned above, WhyBuy takes pride in it’s approach to product quality. We only rent out top quality products, in good condition, consistently. The virtue of not being a peer-to-peer model.

Value. The point of rental is that you don’t have the cost of purchase and of storage. And your product doesn’t grow old and obsolete in your cupboard.

Space. We help customers to declutter their home and help declutter the world too. Reclaim your space isn’t our strapline. Not yet. Maybe we should use that one day. You heard it here first!

Convenience. This is a point that people seem to know about if they know WhyBuy. We deliver at times that suit the customer.

Explore. We can now use products we’ve not thought of using before. Like me and giant Jenga. Or products that have been on the to do list. Like me and the Rug Doctor. Or like the outdoor party set that was out this weekend at a home in London. Patio heater, fire pit, beanbags, wine warmer for the mulled wine and a couple of other things. Nice, I don’t think I’d have thought of renting something like that before I knew of WhyBuy. Would you?

So these messages are the key messages that we’ll put across to investors. And customers too. Love to hear your feedback.

Anyway, here comes Week Three. Time to research, define and refine our audiences, don’t you think? 

Week One at WhyBuy: I’ve joined the movement, already

I’m a convert. I’ve joined the movement. The rental movement.

And that’s after “week zero” at WhyBuy. What’ll I be like after “week one” has taken place. I’ll let you know next week!

In this movement, we rent the things that we hesitate to buy.

Renting is a big thing these days.

Have a look around. Even Selfridges is renting clothes.

“Extending the lifespan of clothes that already exist is one of the best things you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe,” says Victoria Prew, Founder of HURR – who has the clothes rental concession in Selfridges.

I’m not ready to rent clothes just yet. I don’t even wear all the ones I have. I know, that’s the whole point…

Yes, this weekend I started my own new habit: renting the things that I’d never buy.

Rentals fall into two categories: the “for fun” category and the “just need to get it done” category.

I rented a giant Jenga set and played with the kids.

They loved it. And we didn’t just play Jenga with the blocks. Open-ended play at its best. And that was fun.

I rented a Carpet Doctor and sucked the grime and gunk from the rugs that have been with us as a family for years.

What’s more it was much easier – and much more therapeutic – than I would have imagined. And now that job is done.

A good weekend at the end of Week Zero in the new job.

PS – Yes, I have staff rates when I rent at WhyBuy. You can have ‘staff rates’ too as right now we have discount codes for the month of December. Try HOHOHO – that’s 25% off plus free delivery. Please note we’re only in London.

5am Monday. New Job at WhyBuy

Week Zero.

New Job. Chief Commercial Officer at WhyBuy.

It’s 5am on Monday 23 November 2020 and after writing this I’ll drive to London to meet with the team at WhyBuy, the delivery-tech firm that allows Londoners to rent anything and everything (within reason) rather than buy.

Most people would call this week one. But we’re not born a week old, we are born at zero. Except in Korea where everyone is a year older as they count age differently. Did you know that? It was Jaewoo who taught me that when he was my boss when I ran 247 Media’s Media Innovation Group (WPP) in APAC for him.

So Week Zero and jumping in with both feet into this start up. I called it delivery-tech.

Perhaps that’s because I’ve just come from a project with an adtech, Brand Advance. They make niche audiences available through their diversity media publisher network and are launching some cool new products around audience insights built on adtech. An exciting, fast growing start-up. More on that in a future post, as it frames my start to this business.

Is WhyBuy delivery-tech? Or direct-to-consumer (DTC)? Rental-tech? What do we measure and talk about most?

Mileage, then we are delivery-tech.

Sales in financial terms (£££), then we are DTC.

Sales in terms of numbers of items rented, then we are rental-tech.

That seems simplistic.

Anyol’how, as Una would say… I’ll be in shortly, Jamie Conway & Denis Oyibo.

Glad I bought de-icer yesterday.

Some tips to boost online sales, part one

Here’s the 20 min recording showing how we can all boost online sales. It’s taken from my experience and from all things that are happening right here, right now:

By way of introduction, if you don’t want to listen to the article above, let me explain: when online sales happen through your partners, ie third parties, the best thing to do is to up-skill those third parties.

Excerpt from the presentation, 10 mins into the video link

In this example, Edx Education sells amazing toys to schools and to parents, to promote learning through play.

Yes, now their distributor-partners are selling to parents who want their children to play with smarter, longer-lasting toys.

Amazon is a key sales partner for these distributors.

This is a quick overview of the digital platforms that we might think will help online sales today…

“Aim High” said Ken Robinson… saying the education industry should help children strive to do better. And that’s what I’m suggesting that we can do too when looking at digital communications. Let’s have a purpose, an objective and let’s aim high.

Content is key across these platforms. We address that in part two…

The film above is almost 20 mins long and full of links on the actual slides. If you’d like the pdf of the slides, you’re welcome to it. Please get in touch with me.

Also, if you’re keen to know about Edx Educations’ product range in your market & where to buy, have a look here:

PS – if you want to know more about where to learn about the digital marketing world, do subscribe to Addictive/FIX regular emails. One is called ‘MERCHANT’ and follows all digital retail news & trends:

Time Flies on the best Zoom calls

When Gemma Greaves, the former CEO of the Marketing Society, says she’s going to introduce us to a friend of hers, we all know by now, we will be in for a delight.

So when Gemma opened this event, “Keep Calm and Innovate with Orit Wolf ( Ph.D)” this is was no exception.

Keep calm and innovate,
with Orit Wolf, June 2020

Keep calm and innovate, with Orit Wolf

Orit Wolf is a talented pianist. She is an accomplished business consultant. A TED-level speaker. And it shows when you realise that you’ve been sitting at your desk for an hour and it feels like a quarter of that. Tempus fugit.

Orit has mastered the webinar format which is a tough platform for a pianist. Should the static camera catch her face or her hands? Should we as the audience switch from laptop speakers to the noise cancelling headphones normally reserved for public transport? As a famous pianist, now on Zoom, Orit explains you’ve got to make sure you have the right kit, and she shows off her new microphone kit to show she’s projecting the best sound possible.

Orit opens and closes her 50 minute performance with pieces by Chopin. And we are all in awe. And she explains Chopin’s compositions are the right vehicle to open and close this conversation. Apparently not only for the music, but also to demonstrate that he was born for our Post-Covid19 days: Chopin, the Polish Romantic composer, 1810-1849, refused handshakes and believed in social distancing before it was a thing.

Indeed, we’re treated to Chopin’s Waltzes no. 6 & 7 and the Fantasie Impromptu. Later, a free improvisation by Orit, herself. 

Music, Orit shows us, can be used as a metaphor for how to face the real mess we are faced with in todays tempestuous world. Orit uses her allocated time with her audience as only an accomplished virtuoso can. 

She uses her piano to fill, punctuate and engage.

The Bank of England’s research showed Orit that 40% of Fortune 500 companies will not exist in 10 years. And she knows who will survive: those who have great core values.

She illustrates how we must stop trying to avoid making mistakes but instead, learn how to deal with them. She uses the example of the fear of forgetting the notes or the mind going blank when under pressure. And how to prepare for such an occasion.

Preparation is core theme in her talk, and she references her TED talk where 18 mins gives a strong structure and makes you prepare carefully. When Orit finds a different HOW and a different WHY, we remember Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the same matter. And Orit is proud in her references to other such maestros of the stage. Musical references, of course. Business references too, like the Apple brand and business.

As her framework for her talk covers so much ground, we can imagine how she will structure future inspirational workshops for company boards. Orit explains, “I don’t want to reinvent myself but I do want to change the platform”. In today’s Zoom-friendly world, company boards might be wise to bring Orit into their meetings … and now without having to pay travel expenses, just setting up a conference call. 

Watch the “Keep Calm And Innovate” MarSoc event here:

Subscribe to Orit’s Youtube channel here:

Watch the TedxTelAviv talk, June 2018, here:

This article was edited and first published here

Managing Marketing: podcasting with the greats

Darren Woolley of TrinityP3 is a friend from the days when I lived in Sydney. And he recently had me consulting to his client Uber Middle East on a project, which was an eye-opener.

Darren has posted over 100 podcasts, entitles “Managing Marketing” with some great luminaries, including ‘my’ marketing professor, Mark Ritson. (I studied under him late last year.)

When he was in London we recorded our own podcast.

Darren has a flourishing introduction for each podcast episode. Here’s mine:

James Welch is a New Business Guru who has worked with and for Agencies in London, Singapore, Sydney and Dubai. Here he discusses with Darren the state of New Business and Business development across the multiple markets he has experienced and gives advice on what works and what to avoid when developing and implementing a business growth strategy in your agency.

Click here:

Do have a listen. Let me know your thoughts!

(After recording the podcast one Sunday in January 2019, we went on a merry pub crawl from The Hurlingham Club to Sloane Square. This photo is outside the last pub on that track, The Antelope.)

The Marketing Society: An Evening with Channel 4’s Ant Middleton

The agenda of “bravery” comes to life in different shapes and sizes at the Marketing Society across the globe. It’s interesting to see how different, brave individuals are leading the way to face the future. And how they bring others along too to face their future. 


Putting this in context of the recent event I attended in London – an evening with Channel 4’s Ant Middleton – shows the consistency of message that the Society is putting out across the globe. And the consistency of outstanding global – and local – content that is being generated and curated in each of its hubs.

Here in Dubai, I’ve just come from another inspiring conversation about bravery in the context of mental health in the workplace – in a part of the world that is known for a show-no-weakness office environment. Show-no-weakness was endemic in the military environment that Ant Middleton has come from, he told us.

In London, we saw Ant Middleton as a conflicted character. And he wears this on his sleeve. Middleton is a Channel 4 TV hero, a smiling, muscley, tattooed beast of a bloke, with an enthusiastic, cheerful disposition and a dark, menacing past.

Chronologically, he’s a special forces veteran, an ex convict, a husband, a TV show host and a father. And he’s keen to show the world, through in his new-found media career, how he manages – and how we can manage – the demons of the past. And how to lead others along to face their demons to embrace the future. Continue reading “The Marketing Society: An Evening with Channel 4’s Ant Middleton”

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