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Without doubt, 2017 has been one of the most turbulent years in our industry. What are we expecting from 2018? Some of the AYS team have put their thoughts together...
We’ve seen tectonic changes in agency models, how brands communicate with their customers, and will absolutely see these continued changes throughout 2018.
We’re predicting the continued investment into content marketing with a core focus on video, a continuation of brands building new marketing operational engines, and connecting the data, buying and making altogether under one roof.
At AYS, we’re also hopeful there’s a continued drive from innovative and thoughtful marketers to use their power to do good and help us protect society and the environment.
Chris Gorell Barnes, Founder / CEO
Influencer marketing will continue to grow in 2018. After the past few years of testing the power of the influencer with smaller budgets and smaller campaigns, it’s clear that with strategically driven campaigns and content, influencers and collaborations have vast amounts of pulling power. However, authentic partnerships have the greatest impact, but there will be a lot of “ironing” out to do before the full force of influencers is harnessed. Just as audiences become more refined in detecting “bullshit”, these collaborations and partnerships need to be built in an authentic way with an audience first mindset.
Matthew Neale, Content Strategist
2018 is the year of the audience. When the most progressive brands finally start treating people with the respect to give them something interesting to be engaged with… Rather than simply serving them up repurposed TVCs or forcing them to watch unskippable ads to get at the things they like. As part of our ongoing development work with some of the leading brands in the content sphere, I’m looking forward to entertainment formats that break the mould on how we communicate with audiences in culture.
Doug Hurcombe, Creative Director
Consumption habits have changed, so how we use content needs to change. We will see an increased understanding and use of content that is tailored to fit whilst being a vital part of the overall campaign - both bitesized and strong enough to stand on its own feet will be key. This is exciting, because if this is a consideration from the outset of a campaign, there is a lot of room for creativity.
Two areas to consider:
Temporal fragmentation- instead of a 30 second video, how can a set of 4 x 7 second videos be part of an overarching narrative? Cutting up or reshuffling a storyline creates opportunity for intrigue and hence engagement.
Spatial fragmentation - when the eye can take in a lot of detail when an ad plays on the cinema screen, the impact can get lost when viewed on a mobile screen. How can we break up the visuals in a compelling way and focussing in on one of those details at a time.
Susanne Aichele, Associate Creative Director
In 2018 I really don’t see any specific trend taking hierarchy. Without sounding cliché, I hate to deliver the line of “what is design?”, but today what really is design? We are surrounded today with so many different pieces of software (be that traditional and modern) that the production of anything, really, is possible. The need for a specific set of skills is slowly becoming ephemeral, and instead, a generation of multidisciplinary creatives is produced. A project or idea can be visualised in a 1000 different ways, but at the end of it, it will always come down to the imagination of the individual.
Let’s hope social trends don’t ruin it.
Ethan Roberts, Designer
2018 will see publishers explore real-time audience engagement, with interactive social and VR content moulded by the individual. Storyteller’s will become story-facilitators with content czar's like Buzzfeed partnering with Facebook Watch recently to launch interactive dating show RelationShipped. Inviting viewers to shape the show, and as such combining the interactivity of social media with the storytelling of traditional TV. Likewise big broadcasters like HBO and Hulu will start to experiment with audience agency, letting them become a character in their own right. Steven Soderbergh’s murder-mystery Mosaic, produced for HBO and distributed via an interactive video app will give viewers the power to choose, just like in real life, which narrative path to take. Whilst traditional, linear narratives and audience-as-character content will be further tested by Hulu’s new VR show, Door No.1 (which, if you’re interested, will see Snoop Dogg make a cameo).
Charlotte Morrin, Content Creative
We will see a rise in the creative use of Social Media marketing, specifically within Instagram stories. Content creators will use the marketing tool to sculpt a narrative within single 10 second blocks, creating a story within Instagram stories. Companies will begin to engage with their audience through Instagram Stories. Whilst the introduction of Polls has introduced this, creators will develop this into engaging the audience through various messaging; “Tap to see the edit” / “Tap twice to see your choice”. Instagram Stories will become a power-house for brands/publishers. There will be a significant decrease in the “day-to-day” story, with more focus to professionalism. Platforms such as Facebook will see organic reach die, whist Instagram Stories will organically thrive. Finally, WhatsApp and Facebook will remove their “stories” feature.
Mitch Peryer, Videographer
There’s been a consistent shift away from content churn over the past few years. The brands who are successful with their content marketing aren’t just pushing content towards their audience, they’ve taken a publishing approach. The result? A team of writers isn’t enough anymore. 2018 will be the year of inside teams.
The team is just as important as the content itself!
Miriam Faber, Managing Partner
This Christmas, we're supporting a brilliant cause #BacktheBlueBelt. Join us and get involved...
This year, instead of sending Christmas cards or presents, we want to back a great cause and we hope you’ll agree. We’re supporting the brilliant campaign #BacktheBlueBelt
We can help protect 4 million km2 of ocean if our MPs Back the Blue Belt now.
This campaign will help Overseas Territory Governments to get the support they need to create a Blue Belt – a series of large protected areas of ocean around 7 of the 14 British Overseas Territories. Combined with the UK waters, this could become the largest network of marine reserves in the world!
Learn how you can get involved here
Authenticity is the true currency with which to win our audience’s trust and loyalty.
With the launch of the Unstereotype Alliance at this year’s Cannes Lions and ASA’s recent publication of guidelines to eliminate out-dated stereotypical portrayals from brand led content, the concept of ‘unstereotyping’ is no longer a buzzword but the commitment to a sustained and industry-wide effort.
A growing awareness of the psychological impact of restrictive stereotypes portrayal is coinciding with the move to on-demand and ‘culture-first’ media consumption and the dusk of interruptive advertising, which has us rethinking our entire approach to marketing. And sometimes it takes these seismic shifts to shake up old habits.
In the words of Unilever’s global executive vice-president of marketing, Aline Santos, who’s been championing this agenda and implementing trendsetting campaigns like Dove’s "Real Beauty", Axe/Lynx’s "Find your Magic" (pictured above) and Persil’s "Dirt is Good": "Unstereotyping is as much a business imperative as it is a societal responsibility, underlined by the fact that progressive adverts have been found to be 25% more effective and deliver better branded impact."
So it’s all hands on deck. And while I’m sure this rethink is welcomed across the board, it’s not easy to overcome our habit of using clichés when developing the stories we tell and the characters that inhabit them.
Firstly, for years, marketers themselves have been fed images of women as selfless domestic goddesses or style-obsessed vixens; men as either greedy for power or utterly incapable when faced with emotions or washing machines; and one-dimensional portrayals of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and just about every age group. With these narratives deeply ingrained in the industry’s unconscious, it’s no wonder many of us think as we do, and it will take all our efforts to break this bias spiral.
Secondly, the market research we base our creative on tends to provide consumer data that itself has been boiled down into types. When appealing to the elusive "lifestyle junkie", the "30+ style-conscious woman" or (gulp) "millennial", it’s easy to conclude we must re-appropriate existing type portrayals to speak to all of them at once and avoid alienating even one of their members. But it’s worth remembering that these consumer groups are made up of highly complex individuals who didn’t choose to be given a label.
Last but not least, the narrative restrictions of 30-second ads make it tempting to dig into the stereotype toolbox so that viewers will instantly recognise and hopefully identify with them. But we have to give our audience more credit. There’s a reason well-scripted serials are on the rise: people have a sophisticated sense of subtle story reading, and character depth encourages engagement.
Authenticity is the true currency with which to win our audience’s trust and loyalty. Luckily, with a wider range of branded content formats (short-to-medium, fictional or factual, serialised and multi-platform), we now have the luxury of added time to build relatable and intriguing personalities.
So, borrowing ideas from the film industry, which itself is increasingly advocating diverse characters, here are three thought-starters to get us going:
1) Think 3D
A two-dimensional character might read something like, "he's young and ambitious", or "she's calm and caring". See what happens when you add a third dimension: "he's young, ambitious and has a weakness for rescuing stray animals", or "she's calm, caring and technically gifted". Not only does adding a non-typical characteristic start building a more complex personality (a person, rather than a "type"), it also increases potential for more original storylines.
Personality contradictions (yes, we all have them) are good starting points for conflict or humorous situations, if that’s where your creative is heading. None of this means you can’t write a stay-at-home mum or a male engineer, but don’t make that their only defining characteristics.
2) Create a friend
When thinking about our friends, it’s often the quirks that form the foundations of our bonds, the things we’ve come to love over time. So write a character as complex and quirky as one of closest friend; someone whose shortcomings you forgive in a heartbeat. If you care about them, there's a good chance others will too.
3) Have a chat
Types are people we don't (yet) know well enough. When stuck for realistic actions and reactions, ask characters questions: "What’s the best that could happen in this situation? What’s the worst? What do you think the other character(s) want?"
This helps explore characters’ desires, fears and secrets; steering clear of stereotypical actions or making them passive (posing pouting lady alert) because they lack individual motivations.
If they don’t answer back, spend more time fleshing them out. Look a their backgrounds, ambitions, conflicts, strengths, wants and needs.
A lot needs to happen to get to a truly unstereotyped narrative tradition. On an industry level, it will take a greater variety of individuals in creative and executive roles to really diversify the stories we tell.
It’s a change that will rely on more role models, inspiring the next generation. It all starts with an attitude shift in both the real and the fictional worlds we create. Sounds like fun to me!
Meet Pete Wells - Post-Production producer and in-house comedy guru
Who is he?
Our Post-production Producer and in-house comedy guru.
And what does he do?
By day he co-ordinates our entire post-production facility, managing budgets, schedules, hardware and software and making sure every film and animation that leaves the agency is in tip-top. But at the weekend…
He fights crime?
No. Well, not that we know of. But we did start hearing strange reports from building security about an unhinged Australian stalking the halls with a camera. Turns out Pete has a secret life as an online comedian.
Wow, where did he learn that?
Well, Pete has a graduate diploma in visual effects and also had his own production facility and rental house in Australia, and he ran the technical end of several large TV series, before moving to the UK.
I meant the comedy.
Oh. Well, lots of those TV shows were comedies, and that’s where Pete developed his secret passion. Aside from wanting to produce great content, part of Pete’s reason for moving to London was to tap into its rich comedy scene. On any night of the week you’ll find him at one of the many underground comedy clubs, soaking in the freshest new acts or, as of last year, on the stage himself.
A moonlight comedian, hey? What about his day job?
Pete’s cleverly managed to merge his two passions by producing a series of sketches, which he’s been trickling out through his ‘& Wells’ Facebook page. It’s called ‘& Wells’ because each sketch is a collaboration with a different comedian or actor, with Wells being the one constant. A regular collaborator is Julia Harari, an actor and fellow Aussie who has co-written a number of sketches with Pete.
So, the big question – what’s his stuff like?
Well, it usually has an absurdist bent, and he has a keen eye for politics - one of his ongoing series is a radio-play set in the ‘Department for Exiting the EU’. He says he draws inspiration from local heroes like Fry & Laurie, Mitchell & Webb and Rowan Atkinson, plus Aussie talents Shaun Micellef and Lano & Woodley. His favourite sketch of all time? “That’s a silly question,” he says, “There’s a different sketch for every occasion!”
In that case, let’s finish with his most recent video, which suggests a new approach to workplace equality. Filmed in the Adjust Your Set offices and featuring a number of staff as ‘background talent’, it was also directed by our in-house Senior Creative Robin Geradts-Gill and graded by our colourist Gabi Mascarenhas. Ah, the perks of working for a cutting-edge creative agency!
Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/andpetewells/videos/946939198742173/
Two brand behemoths recently suffered epic YouTube fails. If they can't get their content strategies right, what hope is there for the rest? Hannah Smith, Head of Publishing at Adjust Your Set, examines the failure of big brands' YouTube campaigns.
Coca Cola’s announcement in March that it was ditching its weekly UK YouTube shows was horribly reminiscent of September’s news of McDonald’s closing its ‘Channel Us’ YouTube initiative.
For those with a less charitable bent, the fact that two brand behemoths suffered epic YouTube fails will probably elicit a spot of schadenfreude that places them one dangerous, out-of-touch step away from the Kendall Jenner Pepsi fiasco. For others, it leaves them thinking: if two of the world’s most recognisable brands can’t get their YouTube content strategies right, what hope is there for the rest of us?
It would be easy to see these failures as a sign that YouTube simply isn’t an effective content marketing channel. But the weakness here is less about YouTube and more about wider misconceptions in the world of content marketing.
By committing to a new video being produced every week, Coca Cola didn’t give itself enough breathing space to speak only when it had something interesting to say. Yes, it makes sense to establish content output guidelines and schedules. But adhering to these too rigidly risks losing cultural relevance. Saying nothing is often better than saying something irrelevant.
But perhaps Coca Cola’s biggest mistake with CokeTV was being too singular in its outlook. By dedicating itself to YouTube, the brand focused too much on one platform. For brands to truly become publishers, they need a smarter publishing plan than using a lone platform as a one-stop-shop.
Interestingly, after the axe fell on CokeTV, the brand soon announced a Facebook video series for Diet Coke in which new brand ambassador, Holly Willoughby, interviews vloggers about fashion, friendship and travel. It’s no doubt a valiant new attempt at transforming the brand’s marketing into a ‘millennial magnet’, but with another narrow focus – albeit this time on Facebook – let’s hope history doesn’t have an excuse to repeat itself.
Using vloggers as the face of branded content can be an incredibly savvy and effective strategy. But the borrowed authenticity that comes from influencers is washed away if content is too heavy-handed with the branding.
CokeTV, alas, fell prey to this all-too-common mistake by placing a logo on screen for the entire duration of the content. The perma-logo is a shorthand way to say: “Hey guys, this series has been made by the marketing department over at Coke HQ!” It’s the kiss of death that instantly turns content into a one-dimensional marketing campaign.
And this is the root of the problem. Brands that are heavily dependent on millennial spending power, just like McDonalds and Coca Cola are, have to work even harder than others to bypass this generation’s highly sophisticated “bullshit detector” (to use the now famously colourful words of Vice’s Matt Elek).
So although McDonalds and Coca-Cola should be praised for recognising that content is the smart way to engage millennials and realise the marketer’s ultimate dream of turning entertainment into a marketing platform, we have to be permanently mindful of the pervasive and finely-tuned bullshit detector.
Let this awareness slip, even for a second, and your carefully-crafted content gets swiftly consigned to the overflowing dustbin of interruptive advertising.
Where exactly do Nando’s infamous PERi-PERi chillies come from?
That’s the question we answered in our latest content drive for the nation’s favourite restaurant. Tasked with creating original ways to celebrate the brand’s heritage, we took to the streets of Southern Africa to capture the unique essence of PERi-PERi.
More than just a hashtag, #THISISPERIPERI is the story of Nando’s electrifying spirit. From our hero film underpinning everything the brand is: a place where everyone is welcome, a place that celebrates its heritage, a place embedded in youth culture. To our four separate publishing stories, including First Heat: a 3-part series which saw us take ‘People Just Do Nothing’ star Allan ‘Seapa’ Mustafa and radio and TV presenter Maya Jama around Southern Africa on the trail of PERi-PERi. The digital campaign marks the beginning of Nando’s journey into the world of creative content with AYS.
If you haven’t yet, check out the content here: https://www.nandos.co.uk/explore/this-is-peri-peri
What was once healthy competition between agencies working for the same brand has, in these pressurised times, become destructive one-upmanship.
What was once healthy competition between agencies working for the same brand has, in these pressurised times, become destructive one-upmanship.
How many of us can tell stories about meetings stuffed with a glut of people from different agencies vying for the client’s attention while surreptitiously undermining rivals? Hardly a ringing endorsement for the nimble, agile, collaborative industry we are supposed to have become, this antiquated approach benefits neither agency nor brand.
It’s ironic we’re stuck in this pattern of behaviour at a time when agencies are desperate to tell anyone who’ll listen that a core part of their expertise is helping brands with digital transformation.
While agencies preach to clients about rebuilding business infrastructure and culture to meet today’s needs, most aren’t applying the concept of transformation to themselves. So perhaps it’s time for a dose of our own medicine.
Let’s take a leaf out the digital transformation handbook by embracing marketing transformation – taking lessons from Formula 1’s obsession with analytics, insight, responsiveness and process to rebuild marketing’s structure and culture. Only then will we become the well-oiled, lightening-fast machine that’s needed to reach pole position in the contemporary marketing race.
Long gone are the halcyon days when marketing and advertising were fluffy arts driven by pontification and gut instinct. For better or worse, the new breed of CMO is now process-based, data-fuelled and stringently operational. From tracking ROI in real-time to monitising content, the modern marketer is under constant pressure to commercialise the discipline.
So it’s no wonder new ISBA research reveals two-thirds (68%) of marketers are frustrated with the time it takes external agencies to make decisions or turn around briefs. With real-time social and content becoming an ever more critical strategy, the traditional six-month lag between brief and delivery is a luxury we can no longer afford.
It’s no wonder new ISBA research reveals two-thirds (68%) of marketers are frustrated with the time it takes external agencies to make decisions or turn around briefs.
To keep apace with consumer expectations, we have to be uber relevant. And that means creating campaigns – whether it’s a 140-character tweet or a branded content video – with a level of speed and efficiency that’s not been witnessed within the industry before now.
In the same way that pro sport, aviation and healthcare have benefited from the concept of marginal gains, we desperately need to find opportunities for speeding-up the making, doing, distributing and measuring.
Identifying small but significant wastages and weaknesses in bureaucracy, budget and resource is a sure-fire way to perfect an already-efficient machine But for those willing to take a bolder step, transformation may lie in adopting a new operational model.
By embedding agency teams within marketing departments, greater authenticity, collaboration, transparency and accountability are nurtured through geographical and metaphorical proximity.
This more seismic approach to transformation doesn’t merely deliver the tightened-up processes that we’re all crying out for. It can also be the catalyst that marketers need to help them shape the wider business by aligning company culture with the more public face of its purpose-driven marketing. But it doesn’t really matter which side of the fence you sit on: marginal gains or seismic reconfiguration. Either way, we have no choice but to transform into a slick discipline that makes decisions based on real-time data. It’s the only option for swiftly delivering relevant communications with operational rigour.
Chris Gorell Barnes, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Adjust Your Set.
Brands taking a stance is a trend that’s quietly been finding its feet for a while now. From climate crisis to equal rights, 2016 saw several brand behemoths come out on controversial issues. Now - more than ever - is the time for brands to find their political voice.
This year’s Super Bowl was the most political ever. We saw Budweiser celebrate immigrants, Coca-Cola replay an ad hailing diversity and Airbnb say it’s on everyone’s side. But gong for the most talked about spot came from the lesser-known 84 Lumber. Its offering, "The Journey", was a not-so-subtle nod to Trump’s ‘big beautiful wall’ that sees a mother and daughter migrate from Mexico only to find a huge wall.
With a Super Bowl spot costing $5-million for 30-seconds, these brands are definitely putting their money where their mouth is. And in the current frenzied political climate, who can blame them? But it would be naïve dismiss the year’s politically-charged Super Bowl as a one-off knee-jerk reaction to Trumpism.
Brands taking a stance is a trend that’s quietly been finding its feet for a while now. From climate crisis to equal rights, 2016 saw several brand behemoths come out on controversial issues.
Lush caused a stir by selling soap to raise money for refugees. A number of A-lister brands, from Apple to Uber, came out against North Carolina’s transgender discrimination. And when Trump started signing those executive orders quicker than you can say “#MuslimBan”, it felt like brands such as Nike, Starbucks and Kickstarter had really begun to find their political voice.
Some brands have even gone beyond paying lip service by taking tangible action. It’s partly thanks to Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft’s involvement in a lawsuit that Judge James Robart overturned Trump’s ‘travel ban’. For these brands, as employers of many talented immigrants, their stance was largely practical.
But what about the others? The ones that weren’t frightened to use advertising’s most high-profile and expensive platform to convey their point-of-view. What’s in it for them?
These brands must’ve been utterly convinced of the commercial and ethical effectiveness of taking a stand if they were prepared to blow $5-million for the privilege. And the evidence backs them up.
In November 2016, JWT research claimed consumers are getting more political and expecting brands to take sides. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by Edelman’s January release of the annual Trust Barometer, which recommended brands play a more positive role in society to help assuage the global trust crisis.
With the digital revolution came mass transparency. Social media has left businesses with nowhere to hide, and people are now more interested in how a brand acts and thinks. Which is why the marketing industry is finally getting its head around ‘purpose’.
For those of us who’ve recognised the moral and business importance of purpose for some time already, getting brands to take a stand on controversial issues is the next step in developing positive societal roles.
Of course, not every person will sympathise with the views aired during the Super Bowl. For every brand that stands up for LGBT rights, there’s a bakery refusing to make a ‘gay cake’. So it might be tempting for more ‘vanilla’ sectors – like FMCG, say – to play safe by sitting on the fence. But it is, ironically, the ultimate global giant of FMCG – Unilever – that has led the way in the politicisation of brands. As everyone knows, Unilever is now synonymous with sustainability. What better way to voice an opinion on the state of the environment than by taking positive action to rectify it?
The big fear around coming out on political issues is that a brand might alienate part of its customer base. But now that we are living in such highly polarised times, the old orthodoxy of keeping schtum simply doesn’t work any more. If you don’t stand up for something meaningful, you won’t stand for anything at all and will rapidly become an irrelevance.
Or, as Aaron Sherinian, CMO at United Nations Foundation, points out: "Silence on social issues could be the kiss of death for brands. Especially the way that young customers are engaging them right now. They’re going to vote at the cash register."
Profitability, however, is only part of the story. In these days of mass division, there’s clearly a convincing commercial argument to ‘come out’ because, as aptly demonstrated by 84 Lumber, it helps a brand drive conversations and stand out from competitors. But if the commercial argument is not enough to persuade brands to stand up for what they believe in, then the moral imperative should be.
At a time of great global upheaval, brands now more than ever have a duty to respect and protect their customers by seeing them not as mere consumers, but as citizens; citizens that can be helped to use their buying power to protect the world against environmental and political recklessness. When environmental authority is being handed to oil executives and climate change deniers, it’s vital that brands use their newfound political influence to speak out.
Chris Gorell Barnes, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Adjust your Set
The AYS world is an interesting place. Full of witty musings and shocking links. Here are a few things that kept us chatting this past year..
2016 was a year, which you could say, seemed at odds with itself, riddled with surprises and significance. Looking ahead into 2017, brands will need to prepare and listen to their audiences and the culture that surrounds them to remain relevant and succeed quicker. Proximity and speed will allow brands to connect and join in on the conversation, new ways of working are key to achieving this. Here are our seven content marketing predictions for 2017 to help you do just that:
2016 was the year that content marketing was fully embraced by brands with everybody wanting to dabble in content. It was a year with an abundance of absolutely terrible content, from the extremity of fake news, algorithmic echo chambers and AI journalism to poor branded content, which lacked in any authentic editorial value. 2017 will be the year that quality editorial content, that has been smartly crafted by editors and writers will be king. Audiences will see branded content differently once we see brands bringing relevant, entertaining and useful content to their audiences with transparency around where this content has been originated.
Hannah Smith, Head of Publishing
2017 will be the year of personalised interactivity. As brands collect more and more data the breakthrough for branded content will focus on relevant content combined with entertainment formats. Westworld meets AI. People will be able to create their own stories based on their own data, habits and experiences or be served interactive content based on their interests - all with a brand narrative at its core. Exciting times.
Will Barnett, Executive Creative Director
We will see brands really start to invest more in content through messaging apps, they will tell stories using the language of these apps, stickers, emojis, vertical video & gifs. Brands will start to look at how they can use messaging for more personal conversations with their customers. They will reach the new hyper connected young mobile audience’s through Tango, Kick, Line and WeChat.
Chris Gorell Barnes, CEO and Founder
Edits and sound mixes are increasingly shifting over to production rather than post. As applications like Adobe Voco come into play, post-production will become a playground to create from scratch rather than polish what’s already been recorded. Technology is keeping us on our toes too - a new camera has just been released called Graava which uses data from its accelerometer, gyroscope and GPS to make it’s own edit of the exciting moments caught on camera. We may feel safe that this technology is in it’s infancy, and perhaps it will even support us when we we're out of time.
Jake Mobbs, Colourist + Editor
Proximity is key to building lasting relationships and these relationships are the cornerstone of a good client services team. To be most helpful to clients, one must be near to them in both space and time. By working ‘inside’ our clients worlds, we gain a clear understanding of their needs and we build a partnership fuelled by true collaboration. As a trusted partner we deliver great work, which drives real results.
Miriam Faber, Client Services Director
As expected, over the last few years, more and more data has been made available to brands. The challenge has now become managing that data and making the best use of it and this is a challenge where the majority of brands are failing. Aside from the technicalities of accessing, storing and processing these large sets of data, the key question which seems to go unanswered is "What do we want to achieve with this data?". Big data can provide incredible insights and competitive advantage to brands if they can harness it properly. However, until brands can clearly articulate their data management requirements, the wealth of data will stall and become a burden to the business. 2017 must be the year where brands clearly define a data policy and use it to supercharge their business.
Jim Holmes, Chief Technology Officer
Successful brands will start to personalise their digital and social content as well as their products. Branded content will become ever more personalised by dynamically embedding relevant user data to engage and reward targeted social audiences with bespoke video content in minutes. Fans receive a piece of content that feels personal to them rather than generic.
John Spinks, Planner
Brands can profit by taking a stand on issues such as climate change, writes Adjust Your Set's chief executive Chris Gorell Barnes.
Another day, another Trump-ism. Last week’s most depressing Trump-ism was the news that the president elect will pull funding from Nasa’s Earth Science Division. Proof, if proof were needed, that The Orange One intends to roll back years of progress on the climate crisis.
According to experts like George Monbiot, this is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. And it’s yet another sign that we’re living in a new world order where power is being handed to people with short-termist, self-interested views. In short, governments can no longer be trusted to protect the planet.
To be fair, as Brexit showed, we were already living in an era of burgeoning public distrust in the establishment. This societal shift leaves people increasingly feeling they can no longer rely on governments to solve global issues like climate crisis.
This means that now more than ever is the time for businesses – and brands in particular – to step up to the plate. With growing worldwide evidence that "the people" want to give the political system a damned good kicking, you could argue that brands now have more loyalty, trust and power than politicians.
Brands should take positive action
As the Trump-supporting PayPal founder Peter Thiel and New Balance can attest, people who once voted passionately for politicians but now feel there is no one to represent them can redirect that passion by voting with their wallets instead. So the customer base has become a new form of voter base. And brands should start using this privilege to fill the emerging void of political inertia by both giving a voice to the issues and taking positive action to create change.
At Cannes this year, we saw a blurring of the divide between politics and marketing when UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, took to the stage with marcom’s "big six" to discuss industry support for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It’s encouraging to see advertising is waking up to the issues. But to effect real change, we need to do more than talk.
Action is something Marks & Spencer boldly embraced when it helped develop the Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme and the Reserve Seafood label. From the boardroom, to the supply chain, to the shop floor; this is a masterclass in using brand power to protect the environment and – mercifully – it’s something that other big brands, like Coca-Cola, are also trying to embrace.
More than box ticking
The moral imperative is clear. What’s perhaps less obvious, but equally as compelling, is the business imperative. Thanks to Unilever’s impressive results regarding its brands with purpose outperforming those without, it’s becoming well-established that social purpose is now much more than a CSR box ticking exercise.
Sustainability is part of the zeitgeist and it’s something that people want to play a part in. So if a brand can offer an opportunity to buy in a way that doesn’t contribute to climate crisis, it can make it easier for people to feel they’re doing their bit. Unilever’s strong stock market performance must be at least partly down to the fact they are giving consumers an option to buy ethically.
Unilever is, of course, widely recognised as a global leader when it comes to progressive policy in support of last year’s COP21 Paris agreement. But Unilever is not alone, because chief executive Paul Polman is part of The B Team, an initiative calling for net-zero emissions by 2050 that also features Virgin’s Richard Branson and Tata’s Ratan Tata.
You could be forgiven for thinking these titans of global commerce are in the enviable position of using their immense revenues to offset emissions. But you’d be wrong. The B Team also features a Chinese construction company, an African telecommunications group and a Brazilian cosmetics manufacturer.
These lesser-known players could have opted for the Trump-style, short-term, quick buck view of make ‘em cheap and stack ‘em high. But they seem to have taken the wiser, longer-term view by hitting upon a crucial truth: not only does purpose give consumers an extra reason to engage with a brand, it also helps future-proof the business. Why? Because there will be no consumers to engage with unless we curb the climate crisis. It’s a simple but stark case of ‘no planet, no profit’.
As part of our ongoing AYS Insider series and following the launch of our research study Youth State, we met up with KENZO's CMO Sophie Metzker, to find out how they became the fastest growing fashion brand in the youth market, what their 3 million daily social media engagements mean to them and how as a fashion brand, they reach a generation who are more interested in being judged on their personality than what they wear.
Four years ago 80% of KENZO customers were over 55. Today 60% are below 30. Was it an active decision to shift the demographic? If so, how did you go about it?
The “active decision” was first and foremost to revamp a beautiful French heritage brand, which used to be highly popular and desirable from the 70’s to the 90’s and make it relevant in today’s world. With the arrival of Carol Lim and Humberto Leon as Creative Directors, the whole company went through a deep transformation to achieve that goal and build a customer-focused organisation able to embrace the new brand positioning and communicate our values to the fashion customer, independently from any age group. From product design to retail experience, the questions were:
• Who are we? • What do we stand for? • What do we bring to the party? • Why would people engage with KENZO? • Why would people wear KENZO? • What would they expect from a fashion brand?
The KENZO design project is about Parisian easy chic meeting Californian laid back spirit. It’s about a lifestyle and a way to seize the world, rather than a question of age, sex or geographic origin.
There is something spontaneous, fun, inclusive and universal in our approach, which is certainly the reason why the younger ones responded so quickly and positively to the project.
Our Youth State data that shows 16-24 year olds see through the superficiality of social media: 64% say that they are sick of people creating the perfect image of their lives online - it's a lie. However KENZO has 3 million engagements daily, the highest in the fashion industry. What do KENZO do differently to achieve this engagement within a landscape that young people are clearly sceptical about?
In everything we do, we try to be consistent and true to ourselves as a brand. KENZO's approach to fashion is quite specific. We love to be very directional in terms of style and at the same time realistically functional and wearable. That’s what we call “design to wear”. Ambiguously challenging!
KENZO is seen on New York and Paris runways and simultaneously worn by real people in the streets. We are a cool fashion brand that people can actually buy from ready-to-wear to accessories, for men and woman, for morning to evening occasions, offering a world of possibilities and without taking ourselves too seriously! Our price positioning is also a demonstration of how respectfully we approach our customer.
Every strategic decision we make goes through the filter of our brand values. We believe in spontaneity, playfulness, sharing, authenticity, disruption and mixing borderless cultures. KENZO is not only about fashion. Every brand-building initiative is a genuine demonstration of this statement. So embracing social media and digital from the very beginning was totally meaningful. These channels fit who we are: a committed community brand with daily interactions and conversations with the all people who love us, bringing an energetic mix of cultural elements into our fashion world from music to sculpture, street art, photography, cinema... Our most recent collaborations with M.I.A., Nicolas Godin, Spiritualized, Jean Paul Goude, Toilet Paper, Greg Araki, David Lynch and so many more eclectic talented friends from all over the world speak for themselves.
This vision has obviously lots of implications in terms of brand content, communication strategy and organisation, which we have integrated from the very beginning. Customer engagement starts with brand engagement. This is probably one of the reasons why KENZO was quickly adopted and now massively supported by young people.
Which social media channel do you get the most engagement on? And why do you think that is?
Every social media channel has its own “code”. KENZO is active on nine of them and we get most engagement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Mostly because we are a very “talkative” and “visual” brand and those platforms are perfectly suited for our communication purposes. Obviously, we address those media singularly and in a very specific way: innovative tools, dedicated imagery, dedicated content and consequently dedicated resources. Engagement also comes from the fact we interact daily bringing lots of variety and cultural points of view, in a very unconventional way. I think followers love our products because they are more than “just” products. They convey a whole universe with its own story telling, which varies and builds up season after season. In the world of fashion, this continuous narrative is kind of specific to KENZO and a source of interest for our fanbase.
Youth State also found that 16 - 24 year olds rate the accuracy of their portrayal as just 4.4 out of 10. They clearly feel woefully misrepresented in the media. What are KENZO doing to try and better understand the youth market?
There is no study or magical recipe! We have lots of young people in our teams, we also observe and listen to them in stores and on social platforms and we try to remain connected to their reality: what they do, like, eat, watch, and get excited about. At the end of the day, I don’t think they are very different from how we were when we were their age: full of dreams, hopes, curiosity, energy, fighting for beliefs, supporting generous causes in a spirit of togetherness and open-mindedness. We just have to remember the way we were; we don’t preach the do’s and the don’ts, we do not judge, we just try to offer new ways to explore fashion and arts. And we try our best to cultivate this proximity in everything we do.
Have you discovered anything that you thought was really surprising about the youth market?
Digital tools have drastically changed the way this generation communicates and consequently the way they interact with products and brands. They are increasingly aware, smart, and quick in assessing performance and sharing opinions. This is very interesting for brands as we get instant live buzz and appreciation from customers in almost everything we do. It helps us consolidate a strategy or make a change if needs be.
The challenge is how to remain permanently relevant to our customers when everything is moving so fast; the proportion of e-shoppers is also an element of surprise and learning and is an exciting additional channel of business for fashion brands. This is all just the beginning. We have a lot of room to grow and improve to better serve our clients.
It was clear from our research that 16-24 year olds want to be judged on their personality, rather than the way they dress: when asked what they most want their first impression to be based on, 71% selected personality. Yet they feel that in reality they are almost as likely to be judged by their appearance or the way they dress - especially girls. One respondent commented: "How can you be friends with an outfit?" How will KENZO tackle a generation who are actively saying they want to be understood by what's on the inside as opposed to what they wear?
I see no opposition between loving fashion products and wanting to be judged on your personality. The way you dress is also a way to express your inner self and connect with others. The better you feel, the better you engage with others. This is why storytelling is so important. By bringing content and purpose to every product or action, you genuinely raise people’s interest and get invited to be part of their world or their conversations. KENZO is bringing so much more than fashion (fun, culture, ideas, interactive experiences…) in a very approachable and cool way, I guess our customers do feel considered and understood. They can talk about us, not only wear us.
We discovered that today's youth hold their close friends and family in much higher regard than they do any celebrity, with Mum coming out on top as their number one idol. If we are no longer in the age of celebrity, who will KENZO look towards to become brand ambassadors?
Anyone who loves KENZO, from celebrities, fashion models, sports athletes, bloggers, journalists, students, artists, family, friends, to you and me! KENZO is an inclusive brand. Our ambition is to keep growing our community worldwide and everyone is invited to the conversation.
We believe that having a purpose bestows human values into business and should be used to drive everything a brand says and does. What does having a purpose mean to KENZO?
Every action should be driven by a purpose. What is the point otherwise? There is a reason behind every fashion show, every product, every advertising campaign, every photograph, every piece of music. Whether it is a trip, an encounter, a collaboration, a dream… every piece of creativity is an inspired gift. The key is to be able to explain it and translate it into an intelligible and relevant story for our customers and fans. It helps everyone to connect more interestingly, discover new things, bring excitement and last but not least, develop a sense of belonging and pride to be “part of it”.
Tell us about your hugely successful partnership with the Blue Marine Foundation.
Humberto Leon and Carol Lim wanted to use the attention brands like ours generate to start a relevant conversation about issues that concern them. Born and raised in California, they grew up by the ocean and are very sensitive to that environment.
We felt very proud when that fantastic partnership came to life during Paris Fashion Week, staging the Spring Summer '14 collection. The show was a real piece of theatre dedicated to BMF. The beauty and power of the ocean translated into prints and siren silhouettes on our catwalk along with more sporty clothing carrying the “NO FISH NO NOTHING” message. It was a genuine tribute to our engagement towards BMF and its mission to fight overfishing and the destruction of marine life.
We used KENZO as much as we could as a loudspeaker among the fashion community to raise awareness and persuade people to take action. Right after the show, we co-hosted with BMF various screenings of “The End of the Line” documentary which speaks for itself. A few months after, the collection was released in our stores and successfully dramatized in a digital interactive pop-up store in Le Marais in Paris. We received millions of supporting messages from all over the planet and that year KENZO doubled its media coverage. Not only was it quoted for its fashion, but also for its social engagement.
In today’s world, where the future of our planet is such a point of concern, it is socially responsible to share passions and concerns that are not strictly related to us as a brand but to something much bigger.
Delving into core findings from the report such as behaviours lined to *materialism* and *family matters*, Marketing have published our top findings for brands to take away with them.
Youth State is a tracking study, launched on 12th October 2015 that explores youth culture in the UK. It reaches deep inside the heads of 16-24 year olds every six months to find out what this complex demographic is really thinking. The first report focuses on the subject of identity. To read the full report for free Click Here.
Today, Adjust Your Set is delighted to announce the launch of its brand new tracked research project: Youth State.
With a report published once every six months, Youth State explores youth culture in the UK. We recognise the challenge in trying to connect authentically with the complex youth market, so this research delves deep inside the heads of 16-24 year olds to find out what they’re really thinking.
Throughout the project, we will track empowerment, an important and relevant subject for those negotiating the transition into adulthood and encountering greater responsibility and independence. We have questioned young Brits about the influence of, and their influence over, a number of factors including education, relationships, politics and technological advancement.
This first report also investigates the true identity of this age group. We have sought to get to know them on their own terms, to understand how they define themselves and what is really important to them. This research uncovers their values, the people they admire (as well as those they really don’t) and their opinions on how they are represented in the media.
Using a rigorous blended methodology of quantitative and qualitative research bolstered by expert contributions, Youth State sets out to help brands to engage and communicate with young consumers in a meaningful and valuable way.
To find out more, please read the full report for free here.
Will Barnett, our Executive Creative Director speaks to The Drum about why all brands must think about content marketing, warning that "Taking a leap and getting involved in the world of content marketing and branded entertainment is a case of do this or die" .
Will goes on to explain that “...with content, brands can be more human in their communication and talk about what people are interested in, not just about themselves.”
Read Will's complete interview over on The Drum.
Marketers now understand content is a varied beast that offers the best solution for bridging culture and commerce in an age when consumers don’t want to be interrupted by advertising. But the fact remains that we, as an industry, still struggle to work out exactly what content actually means.
Our white paper 'From Culture To Commerce' aims to demystify the confusion.
Arguably the most over-used but misunderstood buzzword in contemporary marketing, ‘content’ has become a catchall term that alludes to anything from video-based campaigns and brand magazines to website comparison tools. So it’s high time we put some solid definitions in place. After all, how can we be expected to understand content’s purpose if we can’t even articulate its meaning?
Our latest white paper ‘From Culture to Commerce’ is designed to demystify content marketing. It aims to help guide through the confusion to a coherent and functionally useful way of thinking about content.
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