McSence and Noble Ox Marketing

12 months with McSence

When McSence was looking to boost brand awareness and develop marketing expertise, they approached Noble Ox. 

We were delighted with the opportunity to help this award-winning organisation define itself effectively, then review and align its services accordingly.

McSence is widely acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading social enterprises. It started in 1988 as a response to the deprivation caused by the miners’ strike and Mayfield pit closures. A weekly collection from local traders was set up to support grassroots employment and regeneration.

Today, the McSence Group is an internationally renowned, award-winning social enterprise that creates long-term employment by establishing profitable businesses in the community including:

  • Conference centre with training facilities
  • Training delivery and consultancy
  • Catering including The Coppertree Café
  • Adult Care at home
  • Handyperson services
  • Property development, management and maintenance
  • Workspace rental
  • Economic development consultancy

McSence recognises that making a profit is an essential means to an end; an end still driven and defined by local need. In recent years, the group has extended its influence and good practice to like-minded organisations across the world. The McSence ethos, however, remains rooted in the shared pride of a community that believes you inherit the past but create the future by helping people to help themselves.

McSence and Noble Ox – defining the brief

If you know Noble Ox, you’ll understand our delight in the opportunity to work with an organisation like McSence.  To help define a useful and hard-working brief, we worked with the McSence management team to establish the following objectives:

  • McSence brand definition – to define a confident and shared direction
  • McSence service review – in relation to overall brand and explore potential product development
  • Marketing action planning – training to support future development of each McSence service

As the antidote to marketing consultants, Noble Ox was determined not to follow the predictable consultant route of ‘parachuting in.’  We worked hard to develop a process to optimise training and mentoring at every stage.  This approach helped each McSence service gain ownership, confidence and knowledge of the brand and marketing processes.  Importantly, we opened up the conversation, giving space for the teams to explore their future direction whilst remaining connected to the overall McSence brand.


Brand definition – resilient, responsive and dependable

Following a company-wide brand workshop and follow-up in late 2014, Noble Ox drafted, refined and signed off the McSence Brand DNA.  The DNA gave us a shared definition and tone of voice for McSence origins, ethos, credentials and approach, identifying target audiences, the relationship with them and overall impact.  The process also defined the vision, mission and market position and identified three key words to encompass the McSence approach.  This essential ground work helped us frame then connect the rest of the project back to the McSence brand.

Product review

Service review and product development – in and out of the box

In early 2015, Noble Ox facilitated a series of group sessions and follow ups with each service.  This enabled us to look at the way the various businesses were defined and presented within the group.  These relatively informal discussions really helped open up the process, as we started to explore SWOT analysis and potential product development.  Importantly, the notes from these sessions and recommendations gave us a useful and accessible starting point for the forthcoming marketing planning project.

Marketing action plans

Marketing action plan training actions speak louder

Following a summer pilot with the McSence Training and Conference Centre, then a company-wide session to introduce this next stage, Noble Ox rolled out a comprehensive marketing planning process with each service.

This involved an autumn/winter programme of facilitated sessions to discuss and support the decision-making required to inform each marketing plan, with time in between for the teams to develop their own drafts.

Throughout, we were able to revisit and test the strength of the McSence brand definition, in particular the keywords: resilient – responsive – dependable.  It was great to see how this groundwork definition was already working to good effect across the organisation despite the diversity of the service provision.

Proof of the pudding

The proof of the pudding was the way in which the teams produced ‘joined-up’ useful marketing plans that they could put into action and are already showing a return.   We were also chuffed to get the following comments from the people we’ve been working with over the last year or so.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect but was very quickly on board, as it was clear this project was going to be useful.  The sessions with Noble Ox were enlightening and helped me and my team focus on the ‘homework’ in between.  I run two McSence services and find the brand DNA and marketing plans are making life easier.  What’s more, I’m already getting more business through the door.”
Steven Quinn – McSence Training and Conference Centre Manager

“This was a significant project and brought McSence together with a re-defined and shared purpose. The Noble Ox approach has been practical, effective and specifically designed to fit in with our operational requirements. It also represented value for money as we are already seeing a return on our investment.
“The professional but practical, down-to-earth process has given us the time and insight to explore how to fulfil our potential from the boardroom to frontline. Each area of the business is now equipped with the tools and confidence to be proactive in its marketing so we can effectively present, position and differentiate McSence in the market place.”
David Maxwell – McSence Chief Executive Officer

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