Practicing what you preach

2018 was the right time for BEAR to put itself under the microscope: it was time for a new look. We’d spent the past 18 years adding real value to other businesses, through branding and identity. Yet, in that time we’d rarely taken a step back to explore whether our own brand was representative of who we are.



Starting from scratch

Analysing yourself is no mean feat: we had to separate ourselves from what we’ve known for the past 18 years. Were we successfully representing everything we now stand for? Did our identity portray us as a forward-thinking brand communications agency?

Looking at ourselves with fresh eyes was liberating. We began the exact process we recommend to our clients, to find the real heart of our business, the reason we all get out of bed. Find this, and the rest always falls into place.

Our new branding is built upon the core concept of getting to the heart of businesses and affecting real positive difference. We experienced – as always, a few too many iterations but once we’d nailed it, well, that was it – the new BEAR was well underway.

 

Cutting to the chase

A popular phrase within the BEAR team, ‘cut to the chase’ has now been taken from the studio floor to stand centre-stage on our new homepage. Cutting to the chase represents exactly what we do as an agency, what we’ve got tons of experience doing.

It does not mean cutting corners; in fact, it’s the very opposite. We deep-dive into your business and discover exactly what you and your customers need without any delay or fluff. We unearth your businesses’ key drivers and differentiators and execute them through quality branding and communications to drive commercial success.


Taking it to the next level

Our logo links back to ‘cut to the chase’. After many tweaks, we flipped the ‘A’ of BEAR by 90 degrees to represent a moving arrow, nodding to our constant forward-thinking nature and keeping with the repetition of arrows across our site that demonstrate business growth through design.

Take our Music Licence case study: by amplifying simplicity for customers and injecting a much-needed personality there’s an immediate credibility from the get go. A few months ago, there was nothing for customers to connect with and now there is a product with a clear identity, tone of voice and offering… it’s speaking to hundreds of thousands of businesses.


Giving the green blue light

Even our brand colour was a carefully considered affair. It’s no longer acceptable to choose red, or perhaps green? With retina display devices becoming more and more available, brand colour can more expressive. We didn’t just want to produce the blank canvas sight so many agencies adopt. We wanted to stick our necks out with a colour that cuts through and, moving forwards, it’s about design for device over print.

We are really proud of what we have achieved, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. There will be regular updates with our content and in particular new project case studies, watch this space!

Author: Roberto D’Andria. Owner | Strategic Creative Director

Wish you Could Create the Best Social Media Campaign in the World?

The Topline

 

Tasked with creating the retail giant’s 2017 Christmas social activation campaign, we set about making dreams come true, capturing people’s hearts and minds in the process.

 

Leveraging the tremendously successful #YouShall TVC, our digital fairytales were showcased on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube and reached 6 million people.

 

Creating and managing all aspects, from strategy to creative concepts and their implementation, Magnafi delivered real stories for real people with just the right amount of magic.

 

The campaign went to win the Best Social Media Campaign accolade at the World Retail Summit 2018.

 

The Mission.

 

Debenhams knew that they needed to go beyond the hard-sell with their Christmas strategy and required an inspirational content strategy that would roll out at crucial points during the festive build-up.

The “You Shall” campaign takes a modern twist on the classic fairytale Cinderella, with magic and discovery at its core. Debenhams needed a campaign strategy that would capture this concept, evoking an emotional response from customers as well as subtly showcasing their breadth of gifts and products in the process.

 

Wish you Could Create the Best Social Media Campaign in the World. Debenhams - You Shall Campaign - Magnafi

Magnafication.

 

We planned a multi-layered campaign encompassing Hero film to deliver against wide-ranging marketing goals. With the “You Shall” concept, Debenhams granted wishes and treated nominees to a fairytale Christmas surprise, all captured through the medium of film and impactive stills.

 

Debenhams - You Shall Campaign

 

After a call for nominations, there were 4 selected nominees, each with a clear message that tied back to Debenhams marketing objectives.

 

‘Deck the Halls’, focused on festive decorations, ‘Steal the Spotlight’, looked at beauty makeovers, ’Find the Perfect Gift’, explored people’s best and worst ever gifts and ‘Make their Christmas’ showcased a community group who received an unforgettable party with toys in abundance.

 

Wish you Could Create the Best Social Media Campaign in the World. Debenhams - You Shall Campaign - Magnafi

 

Each Strand rolled out with a Hero Video campaign across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, followed by organic and paid social posts to drive engagement.

 

The Bottomline.

 

Following from the launch campaign, our community-focused message received an abundance of praise. With an impressive reach just over 6 million, the campaigns amassed 3.6 million views, nearly 500 times more than the forecast figures.

 

The competition element drove thousands of submissions and surpassed forecast reach by 500%. Engagement Rate was triple the benchmark, with clear brand advocacy and conversation among customers.

 

 

Best Social Media Campaign - Debenhams - You Shall

 

 

The campaign recently received recognition at the World Retail Awards 2018 winning Best Social Media Campaign. An incredible accolade, beating, among others, Marks & Spencer (UK), Tommy Hilfiger (USA) and Bobbi Brown (Turkey) to the punch.

The Feedback.

 

We tasked Magnafi with helping us bring our Christmas campaign to life on social and we are delighted with the results. Moving from brief to planning in a matter of weeks, they’ve made the complicated task of surprising competition winners with magical experiences look easy, managing the tight deadlines with professionalism, creativity and humour. It’s been a pleasure working with them to deliver such a fun and festive project that our customers have thoroughly enjoyed.

Sean McGinty, Head of Marketing Operations, Debenhams.

 

Hero Social Media Campaign Activation with Magnafi.

 

 

We work with brands that are hungry for smart, measurable video campaign planning that hooks their audience from the first click.  We combine the talents of a video production agency with the expertise of our straight-talking digital strategists who understand how to craft assets and messages that shine across all platforms.

 

Every decision made in the planning process is backed up with solid reasoning and geared towards getting the right results with a message that captures the heart and mind of your audience. If you’re looking for support activating your brand’s next Hero Social Campaign, look no further than Magnafi. Get in touch today.

The post Wish you Could Create the Best Social Media Campaign in the World? appeared first on Magnafi.

100 Brands, 7 Stories

According to author Chris Booker, every story falls into one of seven basic plots. From Quest, to Tragedy, to Overcoming the Monster, the UK’s biggest brands all have a story – and the potential to be bestsellers. Now in its fifth year, our Brand Storytelling Survey reveals the importance of a compelling narrative.

Voyage and Return

First up is well-loved crisp brand Walkers, with a tale of voyage and return. Starting off in our poll’s top five in 2013, the brand fell steeply, falling 25 places by 2016. However, last year Walkers made a dramatic comeback, and are now competing to reclaim top spot. In uncertain times, we seek comfort in the hands of brands we know and love.

Voyage_Post
Voyage_chart

Tragedy

Sadly, the next brand’s an out-and-out tragedy. After beating 93 other competitors to win 7th place in 2013’s survey, cereal giant Kellogg’s gradually sank to the bottom of the pile by 2017 – going from hero to zero in the space of four years. Like many FMCG brands, they’ve struggled to stay culturally relevant. A storyline that resonates with our increasingly health-conscious society is the way to turn things around.

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Tragedy_Chart

Overcoming the Monster

Ryanair have slowly but surely defeated a monster, and it takes the shape of British Airways. After starting off 29 places below their rival, the budget airline made their killer move in 2016, overtaking BA. A modern-day David and Goliath. The question is whether their brand story proves strong enough to keep the upper hand.

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Overcoming_Chart

Comedy

Sometimes we just fancy a comedy – intentionally or not, McDonald’s fall into this genre. With scores that jump from top to bottom, and back again, customers clearly don’t know what to take seriously. A more singular vision would be useful in coming months, or the public might start laughing at them instead of with them.

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Comedy_Chart

Rags to Riches

Our next story is rags to riches, starring Co-op. Coming from humble beginnings in 2014’s survey, they’ve worked their way up the popularity ranks and achieved huge success. In an era of fake news, when consumers’ marketing radar is more sensitive than ever, authenticity cuts through the noise.

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Rags_Chart

The Quest

Aldi have spent the last few years on a gruelling quest. Going back and forth in ratings several times searching for customer approval, they’ve overcome every obstacle and finally made it to a safe place unscathed. Have they reached their peak, or is there enough of a narrative to continue pushing onwards?

Quest_Post
Quest_Chart

Rebirth

2017 marks the year of Fairy’s rebirth. After years of steady decline – hitting rock bottom in 2016 – the brand have emerged with a new lease of life. This sudden twist of fortune should be taken advantage of, with investment in new ideas that’ll change the story from traditional to progressive.

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Re-Birth_Chart

So now it’s all over, this year’s Storytelling Survey showed some brands to have happier endings than others. With eight months to re-write, we look forward to seeing our leading characters take on 2018.

 

Research by Alfie Kingsley-Smith

Oops, Jack did it again!

Don’t mind us. We’re just rocking it in the awards category this year…and the season isn’t even over! Last week, at the ANA’s 35th Reggie Awards, we scooped up a total of FIVE wins.

Congrats to all of our teams that created some truly outstanding work for our beloved clients.

Here’s a recap of the winners:

CoverGirl‘s Rantin’ & Raven won GOLD for sponsorship and licensed property campaign and took home SILVER in the experiential marketing campaign under $1M category. Our Jack Chicago team partnered with Genuine to bring this one-of-a-kind, first-ever ALL FEMALE football pregame show to life featuring real women fans behind the sports desk discussing the sport they love.

Charmin Van-Go took home a SILVER award in the local/regional campaign category, coming in second to our very own Empire State Development (ESD) I Love NY mobile tour which clinched the GOLD.  Our Jack Chicago and Jack New York teams worked tirelessly to bring these campaigns to life. Charmin’s first-ever on-demand mobile bathroom allowed consumers in NYC to ‘enjoy the go’ and ESD’s I LOVE NY mobile tour experience put the “I” back into the slogan to inspire travel throughout New York State.

Liberty Mutual Insurance also brought home GOLD in the relationship/loyalty program category. Our team at Jack Boston developed a partnership with HowStuffWorks® to deliver MasterThis – a broad suite of products, resources and tools to address Liberty Mutual’s customers’ worries no matter the time of day.

Congrats to everyone that helped bring these awards home. You deserve it. We’re thrilled that our hard work continues to be recognized by the industry.

The post Oops, Jack did it again! appeared first on Jack Morton.

First impressions and the connected experience

My takeaways from a 3 hour class @ BC

 

I stand in front of the class, place an apple, some hand-written notes, and my Adidas shoulder pack on the table.

“Given that you are all working on your personal brands this semester, this exercise will be easy — look at me, and give me your first impressions. What’s my brand?”

This is the BC’s Carroll School of Management’s class for integrated marketing. We are Jack Morton, visiting lecturers professing brand experience.

“Casual. Athletic. Relaxed,” comes back from an evening class of twenty-five.

I laugh when one student adds, “Old-school. Handwritten notes.”

We move quickly to a conversation about brands and the importance of making a lasting first impression.

“When do you think hotels live and die, in terms of the impressions that drive loyalty? What single touch-point determines if you will return?” I ask.

“Front desk?” one student offers.

As it turns out, while working with Holiday Inn we learned that the moment-of-truth isn’t the front desk, but when you open the door to your room. The smell, the bathroom, the overall cleanliness of the room.

We spend the next two hours debating Experience Brands, the conversation covers a range of factors driving brand admiration and scorn, like why Southwest’s humanity crushes Spirit on all levels, and Uber delivers, UBEReats, while Domino’s doesn’t, quality of za. Even Nike and Apple have lost luster they argue, focusing on lifestyle over passion and craft.

We also talk about hype brands like Tesla, and utility brands like Home Depot, offering that Elon Musk could sell ice to Eskimos, but hasn’t manufactured enough to go around.

I love teaching. As an agency, we do, teach, in spirit, professing brand experience as the next era, the Connected Experience ubiquitous to GenNow.

The Connected Experience is a seamless human existence of constant but relevant distraction, just watch any college student navigate human interactions while juggling devices. Look no further than this class we’re teaching. They are here, interacting and talking, but also communicating with others, playing games, texting and otherwise keeping their lives moving forward.

Our class covers a lot of ground, including our principles of an Experience Brand — user first design that adds value, drive participation in ways that inspires sharing.

To bring these principles to life, we feature case work — Charmin’s Van-Go and Covergirl’s Rantin’ & Raven. As well as work we all admire — Fearless Girl, REI’s #OptOutside.

We finish with a short workshop, students brainstorming ways to move brands into experience.

“We loved Natty Light’s green pull tab promotion, and wish we’d come up with it.”

“I want SUBWAY as the healthy affordable choice that feeds three over what SweetGreen charges for a single salad.”

I leave them with my twenty year-old son’s suggestion.

“Domino’s should run-up and deliver while I’m walking to class.”

He just might be onto something, a partnership with UBER and the college track team, a seamless experience for the distracted lives we are all living.

The post First impressions and the connected experience appeared first on Jack Morton.

5 Content Tips to Apply to Your Brand’s Digital Strategy

By: Kelsea, Social Media Director

While social media algorithms and trends are always changing, one thing still holds true: content is king. This means that brands must constantly revisit and update their content strategies to remain relevant in the online conversation. Even the smallest adjustments can keep consumers interested, bring in new followers and take advantage of the platforms’ ever changing algorithms.

Below are five ways to make sure your brand’s content is king.

Keep it Moving

Video is a necessity for every brand’s social media calendar – it catches the attention of consumer platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Budgets can hinder brands from investing in video production but it’s not a lost cause. Stop-motion, GIF and cinemagraph content is a great alternative to video production and can be created by an in-house photographer or designer.

Every little movement counts.

Personalize Content

The popularity of bitmoji and Snapchat lenses show that users are drawn to content they can personalize themselves. Augmented reality is going to continue to grow in popularity and brands should invest now to get ahead of the trend. If budget is a concern for your client, there are other ways you can incorporate the consumer into your content.

Creating personalized touchpoints at the point of purchase can increase the likelihood of social sharing. Brands, such as Care/of and Heyday, have seen a direct impact of personalized products. In addition, highlighting consumers by sharing user generated content is a great way to make a personal connection with consumers.

Tailor Your Stories

Every brand should be taking advantage of Instagram Stories. This platform does not need to be reserved for real time or event-based content. There are additional ways to use the platform that can increase visibility on Instagram, drive traffic to web and repurpose content across multiple platforms.

To keep your brand’s Instagram stories populated on a consistent basis, design stories that tell a story crafted from a blog post, highlight user-generated content the brand has been tagged in or use custom designs to highlight a key product feature.

Take Advantage of Trends

Pop culture moments and social media holidays, such as #NationalCoffeeDay, are a great way to insert your brand into a conversation that is already taking place online. Creating trend-driven content gives your brand an opportunity to start a conversation with new consumers and increases visibility across social media platforms. Always keep an eye on the news and make sure your team is ready to create quick-turn content at any moment.

We can thank Oreo for setting the precedent for trend-driven content.

Invest in Influencers

Influencer marketing is continuing to grow in 2018 and now is the time for brands to invest, if they haven’t already. Influencers are great for creating high quality content around a brand’s key products, introducing new consumers to the brand and driving sales. These influencers tend to have highly-engaged audiences who will purchase products they introduce and endorse.

Content created by influencers can also be repurposed through a brand’s social media content calendar, sometimes taking away the need for in-house production. This allows brands to “kill two birds with one stone” by increasing brand awareness and sourcing content through influencer partnerships.

The post 5 Content Tips to Apply to Your Brand’s Digital Strategy appeared first on 5W PR News and Updates, NY Public Relations Agency Blog.

For KAYAK, Confidence is king

Martin Agency Brings Its Signature Zaniness to Kayak After Years of Tomfoolery for GEICO
Confidence is king in the brand’s weird vignettes

It’s been a little more than two years since Kayak decided to shift its creative account from one set of acclaimed weirdos to another, leaving Barton F. Graf for the Martin Agency.

Martin’s first outing with the brand was the “Kind of Like Kayak” campaign,which compared the travel booking aggregator to various other resources, like an army of body doubles to help you try on pants, or a personal style forecaster who’ll tell you when your man bun is past its prime.

The agency’s newest Kayak work is still odd, but this time it’s a bit more in the vein of Martin’s longtime, high-profile client, Geico. Martin has spent decades honing Geico’s ad approach, which typically centers on unexpected situations that fit tightly into a 15- or even 6-second space.

To highlight the idea of being “Kayak confident”—ie, secure in your decisions based on the app’s sprawling amount of travel data—Martin has created a series of short-form spots, including a dentist working on a shark and a snowman hitting the tanning bed.

There’s also a set of ads showing how the app helps you change your scenery, from the drudgery of workaday life and home improvement fails to floating fountain-side at a resort or watching hula dancers on the beach.

Read full article here.

Why We Signed TimesUp Advertising

The Martin Agency’s New CCO and Other Female Leaders on Why They Signed Time’s Up Advertising

Karen Costello, Denise Wong and Renetta McCann got personal at 4A’s Accelerate

During one of the last panels at the 4A’s Accelerate conference in Miami yesterday, The Martin Agency chief creative officer Karen Costello gave insight into her shop’s culture, highlighting the changes made since the high-profile ouster of predecessor Joe Alexander over harassment claims made against him.

Costello admitted that “creative departments often represent the worst behavior in agencies.” However, she continued, they can also be “ground zero” for where the most innovative people can be found … and innovation makes way for change.

“My experience at The Martin Agency has been a unique one because that agency was a bit of grassroots for the #MeToo movement in advertising,” Costello said. She added that the agency was “built on people that have raised their families in this community; who have stayed there a very long time. When this happened, so many of the men were horrified and didn’t know how to act.”

She said she was most encouraged by the responses she received from her male colleagues, adding, “They wanted to do something.”

Costello spoke alongside Denise Wong, president of Midnight Oil, and Renetta McCann, chief inclusion experiences officer of Publicis Groupe, on a panel exploring the importance of diverse leadership in the agency world. The panel was moderated by Keesha Jean-Baptiste, senior vice president of talent engagement and inclusion at the 4A’s. Baptiste and McCann were both featured in Adweek’s #MeToo issue cover story.

McCann noted that it’s important when discussing inclusion that men are just as involved in the conversation as women.

As an example, she pointed to a task force at Leo Burnett, where she also serves as chief talent officer. The task force was originally started by a group of Leo Burnett’s female executives to discuss behaviors they want to promote at the agency, as well as problematic issues they want to target. However, McCann said that at a certain point, these women decided, “we need to go get some men.”

“They were invited, and they contribute, and they are the signal that this is important to the broad audience in media agencies,” McCann said. “Part of it is realizing that there are men who want the same things we want.”

McCann added she knows all too well the feeling of being excluded, given that she’s a black woman who was born in 1956 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. “That gave me the motivation to include others,” she said.

The new face of inclusion will be an important consideration on May 14, when the signees of Time’s Up Advertising’s pledge meet for the first time to discuss goals and action strategy.

Wong and Costello, who both signed the pledge, agreed that this movement in particular is about action. Wong said Time’s Up Advertising was born out of a “crisis” and that the organization needs to be “focused on doing something now,” whether it’s through “task forces or operational teams.”

“Sometimes, it was messy; there was a lot of back and forth, email chains, phone calls,” Costello said when recalling the earliest days of Time’s Up Advertising. “We would share stories and talk about how we can solve things together.”

She added that it was “really invigorating” to witness competing agencies “coming together to solve a much bigger problem” in the industry. “I found that very inspiring to be a part of, and I am very optimistic of what we can do together,” she added.

Costello herself has already started taking action at The Martin Agency. Since Alexander and former CEO Matt Williams were let go following the allegations of sexual misconduct at the shop, Costello said the agency has tried fostering an environment where “everyone feels like they can speak up,” no matter how big or small the issue.

“We have a fun, lightweight word we say if someone feels uncomfortable but doesn’t necessarily want to be a buzz-kill,” Costello said. “We just say ‘ouch.’ And it’s a way for people to say ‘I don’t know what to say anymore.’”

How to develop a brand strategic proposition

Every company has a brand – the company itself is a brand, and it is the brand that has value on the balance sheet – it is the difference accounted for by the term “goodwill” between what a business is worth and what someone is prepared to pay for it. But not every company has a very clear idea of what their brand stands for. In fact, we would go so far as to suggest that one reason why so many businesses fail in their early years is because they haven’t thought through their brand strategic proposition to really clarify both internally and externally what makes them different and special in a crowded marketplace.

A brand is to a business what a personality or character is to a human being, and just as important. In the same way that people choose their friends on the basis of liking and trusting them, so too do they often choose the brands that they buy because they like and trust them. Some of the world’s largest blue-chip organisations have achieved their success due in large part to brand strength. For example, Apple phones are a long way from being the cheapest, and plenty of Android users would put up arguments against them being the best, but there is a huge ‘Apple tribe’ for whom only an iPhone will do. Surprising numbers of fans are even prepared to queue up overnight to be one of the first to secure the latest new model. The huge loyalty Apple commands is a clear reflection of the strength of its brand: Interbrand’s annual assessment of the value of global brands put Apple’s at the top of the pile (yet again) in 2017, with a value of $184 billion. Other companies with a strong brand proposition that spring easily to mind include Virgin, Google, eBay, Amazon and Coca Cola.

Whilst very few companies will reach Apple’s size, success on any scale relies on developing strong, liked and trusted brands. Through observation and analysis of what makes a successful brand, and helping Abacus clients to develop theirs, we believe the essentials of effective branding boil down to the following five factors, which we describe collectively as V5, and which we equate to what we call the ‘Voice’ of the brand. Create a strong strategic proposition, and your brand voice will speak with great authority…

• Vision – what legacy does the brand want to deliver?
• Values – what ethics and morals are important?
• Views – what beliefs and opinions does the brand hold?
• Virtues – what skills and knowledge does it have?
• Vows – what pledges are they prepared to make?

We would like to clarify at this point that a brand strategic proposition is different from a brand creative proposition, which is perhaps what most people think of when talking about branding. The two elements are synergistic, but they are entirely different – a bit like yin and yang. Yes, you do need a company logo and brand guidelines that deliver a design style that can be applied to all of your sales and marketing collateral to make you look professional to potential customers, but this is the visual representation of your business. It is perhaps the body or mind of your business. The strategic brand proposition can be thought of as your company’s spirit or soul…

Brand Vision

Note the way the question about the vision has been couched: “what legacy does the brand want to deliver?” Although a vision statement should set out aspirations for the future, taking it further to thinking about a company or brand’s legacy invites consideration of why it exists at all. A thoughtfully crafted vision statement will inspire employees and provide an aspirational purpose that they all wish to work towards. It will also make a brand instantly recognisable to its customers – even if they are unaware of the vision statement itself – because they will get a clear sense of what the company is about in their dealings with it. Conversely, a poorly thought-out vision statement (or none at all) can result in underperformance, because even if employees are individually all working well, they can all be pulling in different directions. Customers will get mixed messages about what the essence of the brand is.

While vision statements should be revisited from time to time as the business environment changes, the best statements set out the essential DNA of a company’s brand and shouldn’t need changing very much or very often at all. Think back to the idea of brands equating to personalities: although people change throughout their lives, they still retain an identity that is unique to them, and that makes them clearly recognisable. A vision statement should encapsulate the equivalent identity of a brand.

Brand-vision-1024x540 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

Although a vision statement should be simple, it still takes time and careful thought to get it exactly right. As well as being aspirational and inspirational, it must be authentic. You could come up with the most brilliant statement of all time, but it will be worth nothing if your company pays mere lip service to it. It has to be lived and breathed and ultimately believed by all stakeholders.

A quick note about what is often referred to as a “mission” or “mission statement”. This combines the brand voice and the objectives outlined in the business plan to make it quite clear what the middle-distance purpose and direction of the organisation is to be. It should be something that is once again understood, believed and admired by all stakeholders, both internally and externally.

Brand Values

Just as a company’s vision should be clear, so too should the code of ethics it operates by (and we mean that it really operates by). This might sound a bit high-flown for small companies but it really does matter, whatever the size or your organisation. We would argue that it can be the difference between success and failure amongst ambitious start-ups and growth SMEs. Even someone operating on their own ought to have a framework that identifies the standards and principles that they work within. Whether they turn up to appointments on time, keep to budget, are easy to get hold of, have excellent processes in place, are polite and professional at all times, and so on, all play a part in how they – and therefore their brand – will be perceived by customers, suppliers, partners, staff, freelancers, etc.

As with a vision statement, writing down the values that your company holds sacrosanct helps to ensure that all employees know what is expected of them – and it can also be hugely helpful in clarifying the type of desirable characteristics in people you wish to employ too. Instilling these values so that they are mirrored by actual behaviour is a vital element in any brand’s success. Whilst it can take time to convince customers that your standards are high, just one instance of bad behaviour can undermine a brand’s carefully constructed reputation – sometimes fatally – especially since the growth of social media. At the time of writing, Facebook’s brand is taking a pummelling (along with its stock value) because many of its subscribers feel betrayed by how their personal data has been used, while Australia is reeling from their cricket team being caught in a ball-tampering scandal that is potentially going to have long-term repercussions for this proud sporting nation.

Brand-values-1024x683 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

As will be seen by these examples, for consumers it’s a matter of trust. If they don’t like your values, or if they feel you are saying one thing but doing another, they will take their business elsewhere.

Brand Views

Another feature of strong brands is that they hold, and are willing to express, clear ideas about the markets they operate in and the positions they take. Having unambiguous views and being able to support them persuasively is particularly important for new entrants trying to win business from long-established market rivals. This has contributed to the success of high-tech start-ups offering online alternatives to traditional models. In many cases, the new arrivals have taken the position that their innovative proposition offers more for consumers than the old way of doing things, and suggested – either overtly or by implication – that the status quo may have existed as much for the benefit of incumbent suppliers as for customers.

Sectors ranging from airlines to banking, and retail to telecoms, have seen new entrants come in with actively challenging brands. In fact, there are usually several aspiring new entrants and the one or two who emerge triumphant are those who have invested care to build their brands.

Brand-views-1024x683 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

A great deal of brand value can be built through setting out well-constructed viewpoints. If a company is recognised for its thought leadership, consumers will be interested to hear what it has to say, especially in the current climate, which sees customers wanting to be informed rather than sold to. Establishing just a few key viewpoints can generate a lot of marketing content to use on blogs, social media, in emails, and so on.

One of the things which makes us all different, is the views that we hold about every aspect of our life. It cannot be stated highly enough how important it is to ensure that your brand has a clear set of views too, for it is these which drive behaviour, innovation and growth.

Brand Virtues

In marketing products and services, we consider aspects that set them above the competition. It is just as valuable to apply the same exercise to brands. What does your brand offer that others don’t, or not as effectively? Perhaps it is tradition, or gravitas – or the complete opposite. One of Britain’s best-known brands, Virgin, manages to operate in industries as diverse as banking, broadband provision, train services and airline operations but still retain a consistently witty, slightly irreverent brand tone that helps to give them a unique identity. It offers a fine example of how brand messaging needs to be consistent in all communications with customers. Even in their onboard train toilets, the signage has a Virgin twist: where most companies offering public toilet facilities will ask users not to flush inappropriate objects, Virgin Rail’s more engaging injunction is not to “…flush nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet”.

Make the most of whatever it is your brand is offering. Brainstorm all the assets it brings to the table, especially including its people. Your team is unique to your brand, and their specific attributes won’t be shared by any of your competitors, so make the most of promoting their knowledge, experience, diligence, patience, humour, artistic talent, etc.

If your brainstorming produces a disappointingly short list, consider the virtues you would like your brand to have, then plan to develop them through training, research or whatever is necessary. A thirst for self-improvement is a virtue in itself, and good people will be attracted to work for brands that display it.

Brand-virtues-1024x683 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

As a nation, and we would argue as a race, we tend to be very coy when it comes to shouting about out virtues. In fact, we tend to spend a lot of time judging others critically and not looking at ourselves at all. This exercise asks us to take a positive, proactive and rational look at ourselves as a business and ask what we are doing well, and where we might need to improve.

Brand Vows

The final ‘V’ invites you to consider what vows your brand is prepared to commit to publicly. Vows need to be specific, significant, credible and relevant to the public if they are to have any value.

For example, with environmental concerns high on the agenda for many, a wide variety of companies have pledged to achieve specific targets to become more ‘green’. For example, BMW has said it will obtain all its energy from green sources by 2020.

The type of vows a brand commits to will obviously depend on the context – the market sector, what matters to its consumers, the scale of its operations, etc. – but should always be ones that everyone in the company commits to fully. Often a company’s pledge to do something in the future has implied within it an acknowledgement that the current position is imperfect (such as supermarkets accepting that they do use too much packaging) but humility is not a bad attribute for a brand, as long as the desire to improve is sincere. Iceland has done some good work in this respect recently, with regards to its commitment to eliminate the use of plastic packaging from all its own-branded products with five years. They have since followed this up with a pledge to stop using palm oil in the same time period too. All other supermarkets, take note…

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Vows can be written up as being service charters – and you can have as many service charters as you like, both internally and externally, to establish a list of promises that your brand, department or divisions wishes to be judged by. Just make sure that they are sensible, achievable and desirable.

Brand Voice

Add these five Vs together and you get a brand voice. Do it well, and engage everyone in the process, and you will have an incredibly powerful foundation upon which to grow your business. Behind all five Vs is the need to act with integrity and build trust. Consumers are rightly cynical about promises easily made and just as easily broken, so they want to see a company’s actions matching its words. A strong brand lifts a business above the purely commercial to something that makes a genuine positive difference to its customers and even the wider world.

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V5 Brand Process

While the V5 brand process methodology provides the bones, adding flesh to any brand still takes a lot of thought and expert independent guidance can make all the difference between success and failure. We have worked with many clients to develop successful brand propositions. Please contact Stephen Brown, head of strategy and planning, at stephen.brown@abacusmarketing.co.uk or call him on 020 7795 8175 for an initial chat. We could either discuss your requirements in more detail on the phone or – if you prefer – we are more than happy to meet up for a non-chargeable two-hour consultation at a venue of your choice.

It will take more than an agency all-star team for P&G’s plan to come together

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Agencies can be a conservative lot when it comes to structural innovation. So Procter & Gamble’s marketing chief Marc Pritchard has decided to shake things up a bit and announce not one but three new agency models.

Perhaps the most intriguing is his “People First” amalgamation of talent from roster agencies, brought together to service the FMCG giant’s North American fabric care business.

The notion of competing agencies working together may sound awkward, but it’s something that many agencies will have experienced at one point or another. For as long as I can remember clients have asked trusted agency leads to form an advisory group, or tasked rostered agencies with tackling a business problem together. And in recent years it’s become fashionable for holding companies and mini-groups to form bespoke client teams from across their agencies. “Horizontality”, “brand teams”, “power of one” – different names, similar idea.

Where Pritchard’s approach departs from the status quo is in making the client the point of integration, rather than an agency or holding company. According to his Monday announcement, P&G is cherry-picking talent from across its agency roster and using them as the basis of a brand-new agency directed solely at its needs.

The brand’s ongoing drive for efficiency will be the primary rationale for this approach and, for those reasons, it’s not entirely illogical. But the bigger question is whether this model can produce great work.

If it does, then this is an innovation worth talking more about. If not, it’s little more than a bureaucratic play.

At this stage, as with Pritchard’s declaration on the ideal account-team- to-creative ratio, it leaves a lot unsaid. First and foremost: is it really that simple?

Many a football manager, choreographer, curator or conductor knows that hiring star talent is just the beginning. Making the whole greater than the sum of its parts is a massive cultural, leadership and process challenge. It’s what we are tasked to do as agency leaders and it’s what distinguishes one agency from another. For an in-house team to be more than just a collection of freelancers, there’s real work to be done to foster the ambition, bonds of trust, shared assumptions and ways of working that underpin the best agencies. That takes time.

It also takes a smart commercial underpinning and some clear parameters from the get-go. There is a natural competitive instinct among agencies which is of course crucial for survival in this industry by seizing opportunities to sell and stretch our services. But that attitude can inhibit collaboration among competitors. After all, who wants to give their best if they think the guys across the table are going to benefit rather than your own agency? How will the client incentivise the right behaviours to ensure that business opportunities are maximised not just for the client but for the participating agencies?

In this scenario it’s incumbent on the client lead to lay the ground rules in advance and define the remit of the participating agencies. In so doing, they will create a safer space for collaboration and transparent relationships which should become a defining feature of the culture in the long term.

A final consideration is to remember why agencies work so well in the first place – different perspectives, diverse inputs, dissenting voices, a broader cultural grounding – these are often the basis of the best work out there. An organisation founded by the client should therefore not be dictated by the client, which Pritchard appears to have recognised in appointing Saatchi’s Andrea Diquez to head up his venture.

Diquez’s first challenge will be to define a clear cultural blueprint which fosters the right environment of respect and generosity. For this pilot and any future iterations to work for all parties, they should build a sustainable model for effective collaboration, not just efficiency.

This article first appeared in Campaign.