Minette Walters

A cover detail from the Spanish edition of ‘Chickenfeed’

The project in summary

The situation

Minette is a well regarded crime fiction writer. She and her publisher, Pan MacMillan, believed her writing merited greater sales. The use of businesses like ours was unusual in publishing at the time. However, an ad agency account director friend of ours was at dinner with their Publishing Director who described the problem and we found ourselves being recommended to help.

The work

A segmentation of crime fiction readers was conducted. Some of the segments were obviously more relevant to her writing than others. We recruited people from the relevant segments who had read her work into qualitative research to establish what they liked about her writing, to define a proposition and values. We also analysed their media consumption to define a media plan. The segmentation identified where the target audience live and shop which drove Salesforce targeting regionally and by outlet.

The outcome

Minette had not been in the top ten in the bestseller lists before.

Her next book went to No 1.

Success we think.

Creech Grange, Dorset, UK, inspiration for Streech Grange in 'The Ice House'

The work in a bit more detail, if you’re interested

It was unusual for a business like ours to work in this sector. An ad agency account director friend of ours was at dinner with the Publishing Director of Pan MacMillan who outlined their problem and we found ourselves being recommended to help. We met the Publishing Director and her colleagues. We met Minette. We started work.


About Minette’s writing

Her writing isn’t about blood and guts and gore. It is about the psychology of crime. It is set in leafy affluent suburbs. There is no serial character: no Poirot or Marple.

Overall approach

Identifying a target audience.
Defining the appeal of the writing amongst that audience.
Creating a brand proposition, values and creative expression.
Defining a communications plan in view of the media consumption of the target audience and the proposition.


We conducted a segmentation of crime fiction readers. Some of them sought blood and guts and gore. We could discount them. Some of them were interested in writing like Minette’s. And so we were interested in them and what they were like.

Qualitative research

We recruited respondents from each of the relevant segments into qualitative research. We made sure we recruited respondents who had read and enjoyed Minette’s work. We investigated what makes Minette’s work appealing (to assist with defining a proposition) and what it is like tonally (to assist with defining some values / a personality)

Brand definition

Based on the research, we developed some proposition and values options which were put to readers and non readers from the relevant segments to evaluate appeal in further qualitative research.

The research provided direction for finalising the proposition and values for Minette’s writing.

Communications planning

Launch communications for new books had traditionally followed conventional publishing approaches such as tube advertising. Our segmentation and target audience analysis showed that the target audience didn’t travel by tube. Communications plans changed radically, led by the understanding of where the target audience lived, where they shopped and where media was consumed.


Minette’s writing is set in the world of the target audience, which is destabilised by shocking crime. There is no serial character. Anyone could be the villain, anyone could die. This led to the proposition ‘Crime fiction in the real world’, which translated into the creative expression ‘Uncomfortably Close to Home’.

Minette’s writing in her Wikipedia entry is described almost exactly as we defined it.

Pan MacMillan deserve credit for the commitment they showed to implementing our recommendations without diluting them, which is so often the case. And they got the results they deserved: for her first book following our work, sales targets were exceeded by 80% and the book went to No 1 in the best seller list.

Work we are proud of, for a client who was a pleasure to deal with.

Houns-tout Cliff, featured in 'The Breaker'

More examples of our work

Click on the image to find out more

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Stella Artois has long been one of Britain’s most successful beer brands. But it hasn’t always been plane sailing. It has gone through several periods of decline.

We got involved during the last one. A repositioning was planned. The ad agency wasn’t sure that was right. They suggested we have a look.


Big initiatives hadn’t resulted in big growth in visitor numbers.

We were appointed to find out why and propose actions.


Nestle impress us. Of the multinational FMCG businessesit is the most flexible and adaptable, maybe along with Pernod-Ricard.

We were appointed to identifyportfolio priorities and define key brand propositions.