MATT HAYES | March 08, 2021
In advance of the already highly controversial interview between Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex surprised us all with an interview on The Late Late Show with James Corden just over a week ago now.
In his first interview since stepping back from his duties within the Royal Family, the Prince took part in a seemingly relaxed, natural, and spontaneous interview with TV host and friend, James Corden.
And whilst it appeared to be off-the-cuff and completely un-staged, it would have in fact, been quite the opposite.
This interview highlighted the true power of sensationalism within communications, provoking public interest, telling Harry’s side of the story, and defining his position as a brand.
Matthew Hayes, Managing Director of Midlands-based brand agency Champions (UK) plc, explains why he thinks the interview proves that Harry, the Duke of Sussex understands his brand power, allowing him to reposition himself within the industry.
“The interview was completely unexpected and caught everybody off guard. We were all so eagerly anticipating his and Meghan’s upcoming interview with Oprah that we hadn’t even considered he would perhaps look at other options,” he said.
The Late Late Show almost goes against his previous branding as a member of the Royal Family.
Matthew said, “It was great to see Harry doing Harry.
“Throughout the entire interview, Harry displayed his true personality and owned it. And in terms of branding and positioning, he knocked it out of the park.
“I believe that Harry achieved what he had set out to do, which was to change the narrative by telling his side of the story and ultimately change the public’s opinion of him.”
And in doing so, the interview amassed more than 15 million views on YouTube in under a week, proving that anticipation doesn’t always equate to more impact.
More than just a Prince
Providing a glimpse into family Zoom calls with his grandparents, Harry used this interview as a way to demonstrate he is more than just a Prince, but a father, husband, son, and grandson, too.
"Harry managed to find his own brand identity whilst remaining all of those things, as well as continuing to work in public service. He owned and delivered it in a way that I can only describe as genius.”
By changing the narrative and telling his story, Harry proved that he is much more than everybody has perceived him as.
The Duke of Sussex isn’t the only person within this industry to change and reposition his brand.
Snoop Dogg is renowned for having more than one persona and this has become a part of his brand identity. From gangster to rapper, actor and more recently, the star of Just Eat’s latest marketing campaign, Snoop is recognised for exactly that – proving the power of branding.
Clever and controversial marketing
After watching the Prince’s interview with James Corden ahead of his sit-down chat with Oprah Winfrey, many of us have been left wondering which really came first – or was this a part of the plan all along?
Matthew explains why he thinks it was a clever marketing ploy:
“I believe that this interview came first as a deliberate way for Harry to define his brand and lay down the law prior to appearing on Oprah.
“Many of us, myself included, assumed that Oprah would be his first (and possibly last) exclusive interview, but what this has done is create a buzz and even more anticipation ahead of its airing.
“Before watching Harry with James, I may not have even considered sitting down to watch his appearance on Oprah, and I expect this to be the case for many others, too.”
It was recently announced that ITV have bought the rights to Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah for £1M, with it set to air at 9pm on March 8.
While some may call this controversial, and it may be, Matthew believes it to be clever and tactful marketing.
He said, “Harry’s appearance on The Late Late Show will no doubt boost viewing figures for his interview with Oprah, making it somewhat of a teaser.
“Mystery and anticipation are remarkable ways to tell a story, which is exactly what both Harry and Meghan have done here.”
Digital storytelling expert and founder of Play Human, Matthew Scott also explains the benefits of controversial marketing and why it is so impactful.
He explains, “Simply, controversy appeals to consumers and it grabs their attention. But more importantly, it raises a point and sparks debate, which is key when it comes to storytelling, particularly within branding.
“Telling a story with an edge of controversy or challenge is a good thing and is what leads to change.”
The future of sensationalism
Matthew Hayes predicts that following this seemingly controversial yet clever act of sensationalism and storytelling, many brands will begin to follow suit.
“Already, Prince Harry has gained such tremendous traction from one short interview, so just imagine the publicity after Monday evenings show.
“Brands will see the benefits of working in this manner, albeit slightly controversially, but that it really does work and will garner seriously impressive results.
“I am one of those people who perhaps frowned upon Harry’s decision to officially leave the Royal Family.
However, after watching his interview with James Corden, my perception of the whole matter has completely changed, which I guess was the aim of the game, right? Well, it worked – for me, anyway.” Read More
MATT HAYES | February 17, 2021
In today’s world, brand marketing goes much further than marketing campaigns and advertising.
When it comes to brand advocates, we typically think of social media influencers and the more traditional brand ambassador. However, what better brand advocate than your very own employees?
Matthew Hayes, managing director of brand agency Champions (UK) plc, explains the importance of using employees as brand advocates and the benefits to both the brand or business and its staff.
What is a brand advocate?
A brand advocate is somebody that shares the same values and ethos as a brand, representing them in a positive light, often helping to increase brand awareness and even sales.
Typically speaking, a brand advocate is often a social media influencer, a brand ambassador or there is some sort of mutual, or contractual agreement in place.
However, who are the most powerful spokespeople for a brand or business? The people who work there, of course. These people are often the living embodiment of the brand and front-line representatives that can make or break that brand interaction.
It may not be the most traditional concept or the one we necessarily think of first, but it definitely makes the most sense. Particularly in a time where employee retention and communication are so important.
Brand advocates are a way to drive organic and authentic traffic to a brand or business. Whilst the Internet and social media are incredibly powerful tools for raising brand awareness, nothing quite beats word-of-mouth marketing.
In 2016, a global study found that 50% of employees share something on their own social media channels about their employer. And given that social media has upped the ante over the last few years, I expect this figure to be significantly higher in today’s climate.
So, with that in mind, brands should be working towards improving their internal communications to create a better relationship with employees, promote their vision and mission, and raise brand awareness through organic brand advocacy.
Brand advocacy builds brand love
When done correctly, brand advocacy can build brand love and there are a number of ways to do that.
Whilst many brands focusing their attentions to external communications, however, many neglect or overlook the importance of internal communications and training.
Internal communications are a phenomenal way for brands and businesses to collectively communicate with their employees. Whether this is done via training courses or conferences, internal Intranet or even an email newsletter, this can help improve employees’ knowledge of the business, the brand and the products or services.
Not only that, but internal communications help boost staff morale, providing them with motivation and detailed information ensuring they are involved and up to date with all aspects of the business.
They also provide a sense of togetherness, connecting employees through a series of shared visions, missions, goals and objectives.
Here, is where consumer and employee sentiment is key. Consumer sentiment has always been an important variable in businesses, allowing owners to forecast production, plan ahead or adjust their output depending on popular opinion – and the same goes for employees, too.
And if brands aren’t entirely sure how to turn their attention to employee sentiment, the first step to make is investing in a brand audit or brand value proposition. These can help to educate and ensure stakeholder and employee perceptions are aligned, as well as making sure people are communicating the same messages, vision, mission and values of the brand.
A brand vision is simply intent. The vision should support and reflect the long-term business strategy and help guide the future. And a brand mission, is a statement that communicates the purpose and objectives of a brand.
And with the vision and mission of the brand in mind, it is important for brands and businesses to consider both employees and consumers to ensure values are shared across the board.
Employees are key
Employees are a pivotal part of any business. And quite simply, without them, businesses wouldn’t be able to function. It is the employee’s business just as much as the employers, so it is only right for them to play a part and get involved.
We are beginning to see more well-known brands implementing this strategy and using their employees as a face of the brand, rather than just working their magic behind the scenes. Disney are a great example of this as its employees have been the embodiment of the brand and its ethos for years.
The likes of Sass and Belle, Lindex and Zoella are all putting staff at the forefront of their brands, getting them just as involved as main stakeholders.
Sass and Belle, for example, have a website filled with images of their employees and often share quotes and content from them, too. This in turn, creates a more personal and emotional bond between the brand and the consumer, as the brand is no longer faceless.
Similarly, in 2015, Lindex launched an underwear campaign and instead of tapping into their network of professional models, they used their own employees and have continued to do so. Again, this improves their position in the market by appearing more relatable and creating that all-important emotional connection.
And Zoella often shares content, crediting employees for their ideas, allowing them to take part in social media takeovers and truly getting them involved. By doing so, they are adding personal and humanistic elements to their branding – and it’s paying off, too.
In doing this, the brand achieves an even wider reach as employees share the brand’s content across their personal channels, get to know their online connections and create organic relationships with potential consumers themselves.
Not only that, but this creates reputation, making brands come across as a desirable employer and recruiter, as well as helping to retain current staff and employees.
Listening to new ideas, accepting criticism and being transparent is also paramount. Your employees may well be your consumers too, and as they say, the customer is always right.
After all, employees are the ultimate representative of a brand, and Amelia Neate, Senior Manager at Influencer Matchmaker says, “It’s important to remember we’re living in a social age where employees are becoming micro-influencers in their very own right.
“For example, Emily Rose Moloney started out as an employee for ASOS and now, working as a fashion influencer, is promoting them on her social media channels, with her Instagram account gaining almost 80k followers.”
What employees think of a brand or business they work for speaks volumes. And employees help to drive brand awareness, so empowering them through a plan of brand advocacy is a sure-fire way to achieve great results.
So, next time you are seeking to boost stats and see results, consider the power of your employees and come together to create your very own culture.
Lead by example, work together and invest in your employees. Read More
MATT HAYES | February 10, 2021
It’s common for brands to become stagnant, rooted in their ways and too set on a specific course which restricts their ability to adapt to change. It is the classic example of the “That’s the way we do things around here” mentality.
But over time, competition increases, markets develop and consumer needs shift. Consequently, very few industries have remained static over the past year let alone the last decade, which has created an urgent need for businesses to evolve.
This notion is backed by Matthew Hayes, Managing Director of Champions (UK) plc, a strategy-led growth agency in the brand, digital and communications space. In this piece, he explains how digging up a business’ roots can actually help sow the seeds for a successful future.
Letting go of your roots
Resistance to change is one of the greatest barriers to a business’s long-term success. This resistance is often the result of a business becoming too attached to its roots, which can sometimes be so deep that they begin to act as an anchor, weighing the business down rather than enabling its growth.
These roots can be categorised as values, goals and characteristics of a business that define how it operates, the messages it communicates, the way in which it conveys them, as well as how consumers perceive the brand.
But as times change, it is common for business roots to become outdated and unsuitable for the current commercial climate. And as a result, businesses begin to face difficulties in keeping customers engaged and in turn, achieving a profitable financial return. To see this in practice, we only need to look at the demise of some the biggest named brands in recent times.
For example, the Arcadia Group is one of the latest victims of digital transformation, a trend that has been gradually impacting the retail space in recent years, and that has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The digital shift has been led due to the need to meet changing consumer expectations and behaviours, with online sales are increasing year on year, and even more customers are expected to be shopping with a digital-first perspective following the pandemic and its related disruption.
Instead of responding to the change in the market and embracing online opportunities, businesses operating as part of Arcadia Group continued to do things as they had always done. And it was this lack of focus on their digital offering, particularly when compared to competitors such as PrettyLittleThing, boohoo and Asos, that ultimately resulted in their commercial downturn.
Although not so great for the individuals effected in the process, the case offers other businesses a vital lesson in the importance of letting go of outdated roots and adapting to change.
Taking a risk
But due to the deep-rooted nature of such characteristics, there is a perceived risk involved with letting them go. It’s understandable as it will no doubt involve a significant change to business as usual. But, any risks can be mitigated if businesses take a strategic approach in their decision to make change.
For instance, by undertaking branding exercises, such as a brand audit and the formalisation of a value proposition, stakeholders can gain an in-depth understanding of the business’s current position, its offering and their consumers’ expectations, through the creation of audience personas and its market via detailed industry insights and competitor analysis. From here, there will be a clear view of which aspects are not appropriate for the current commercial landscape, and where there will be opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour once change has been implemented.
Once a new proposition has been established in theory, it then needs a detailed project plan to role it out in a practice, combined with an effective communications strategy. Taking a look at an example from our own experience. We rebranded Delta Global, a packaging provider for luxury retailers that, at the time, was doing great things with regard to innovation, technology and sustainability but was failing from a branding perspective to communicate its capabilities in those areas.
Our branding exercises helped to redefine the business’s values, creating a four pillar model that communicates them much more clearly. Formed of innovation, sustainability, luxury and ecommerce, clients and stakeholders can now, at a glance, understand exactly what the business does and how it does it.
And to ensure the business and its position only benefited from the activity, it was complemented with a robust communications strategy. This gained the brand exposure in industry-leading titles, including Forbes, WWD and The Sunday Times, as well as a greater presence across social media channels.
This helped mitigate the risk of unsuccessful change through use of effective communication targeted at new audiences, existing customers and internal stakeholders, who now understand the new direction but also be on board with it.
Is change always necessary?
In short, no. Change for the sake of change can actually be just as damaging to a brand as staying consistent. This is because sometimes, the deep-rooted characteristics of the business form a vital part of the audience’s understanding of the brand and its offering.
This might include family-run business values or branding elements that are connected to the location a business was founded in, for example. Often, it’s unlikely that these elements will be hindering the business’s growth potential, but are instead, adding value to it by acting as a USP and differentiating it from the competition.
However, in these cases, while the message does not need to change, the way in which it is communicated might, as often, it is the methods of message delivery that become outdated. For example, this might mean making better use of online marketing channels such as social media, content creation, SEO and email promotions to support both online and offline activities.
It’s all about making well thought out changes in order to remain relevant, rather than constantly altering your messages and offerings, which could actually cause confusion and disconnect between the brand and its consumers.
Ultimately, businesses need a solid footing upon which they can build on. But while these foundations are important for business growth, like a tree’s roots, some often go off at a tangent and become stuck in the past, anchoring the brand to where it used to be rather than allowing it to move forward into the future.
Put simply, if you don’t evolve, you die. Read More
MATT HAYES | January 27, 2021
As we enter 2021 with a fresh and positive mindset, we are also entering the New Year with a brand-new set of tactics to help reach new consumers by placing brands, products and services at the forefront of desired audiences.
When it comes to brand marketing, storytelling is pivotal when trying to create relationships with consumers. By utilising emotion and taking a humanistic approach in this, brands are able to provide consumers with reasons as to why they should buy into their products, without a pushy, non-emotive hard-sell.
And with that in mind, Matthew Hayes, Managing Director at brand agency Champions (UK) plc, explains why storytelling is a must-have tactic for the year ahead.
The art of storytelling
Now more than ever before, resonating with the audience on a personal level is key, and what better way to do that than through storytelling.
Marketing doesn’t always have to be about a direct sales pitch, but rather a connection and relationship that has been built up over time. And with that, comes brand loyalty and customer retention.
When done effectively, storytelling is truly an art within itself. Sales should equate to product education rather than direct instruction. And it is this, that makes people subconsciously realise their need or want for a product or service.
Storytelling takes the customer on an educational journey, allowing them to understand the brand, what it stands for, what the benefits are to them and why its products are good value for money. This then leads customers to build strong feelings of want and desire, rather than just need.
This is all part of creating a brand. Customers begin to feel something about it, which is want warrants a business or product the status of a brand. And it’s this emotional connection that differentiates you from being just a commodity seller based on price, and positions you as a recognisable ‘brand’ that people engage with on a deeper level.
And research demonstrates that messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable and effective than facts, which is why brand storytelling is a must-have tactic for 2021.
How to tell a story
Creating a compelling narrative requires a carefully devised long-term strategy. But, while this is an important element, what is perhaps the defining factor in commercial success is its ability to resonate with us, as humans.
Storytelling should be powerful and filled with emotion, in whatever capacity that may be. From laughter and happiness to sadness and grief, emotion can come in a plethora of varieties.
Emotion is what captures the consumer and when a story is both personable and relatable, it builds brand love and deepens the connection between the brand and the consumer.
Not only that, but emotion also impacts the purchasing decisions of consumers and without it, businesses are much less likely to make that all-important sale.
And if brands combine emotion with consumer needs, then they have the recipe for success.
With the rapid onset of digitisation across all industry sectors fuelled by the COVID-19 crisis, the way in which a brand tells their story is having to change in order to keep up with the times and meet the newfound needs of consumers and channels.
With the plethora of channels and shortening attention span of the consumers, video content is the best way to evoke emotion. Put simply, videos are more engaging and because of that, will continue to play an increasingly important role in the marketing mix throughout 2021.
They are easy to understand, digest and share and typically create a deeper connection between the brand and consumer, meaning that people will resonate with it much more.
Storytelling done right
No one is better at brand storytelling and investing in emotions than the world-famous Disney. From its theme parks and hotels to its films, merchandise and staff, the entire brand has been built from the ability to tell a story, and consistency of delivery.
For consumers to truly connect with a brand, they must implement consistency across their strategy, messaging and storytelling. And while there may be creativity in the way these messages are conveyed, the underlying messages and ethos must remain to be consistent.
The Disney experience plays a pivotal role in the brand’s story. It’s narrative and essence completely come to life when consumers interact with its offerings, taking on a role within the storyline. In doing so, deeper emotional bonds are created, bringing the brand to the forefront of both people’s minds and memories.
Similarly, gym-wear brand Sweaty Betty have also become well recognised thanks to its ability to tell a story. What began as a normal brand selling high-quality gym-wear that sat outside of the norm, became known worldwide for changing its narrative by becoming so much more than just a provider of gym-wear.
Sweaty Betty is not only a brand for women, created by women, but a brand that listens to its consumers. It’s messaging such as ‘respect your sweat’ and ‘empowering women through fitness and beyond’ is reflective of inclusivity, body positivity and raises awareness of diversity, using its brand, products and people to continue to tell that very story.
A must-have tactic for 2021
In order to keep up and remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds, brands need to focus their strategies on telling a story.
Storytelling is as old as mankind, dating back to cave paintings and the bible. And modern-day storytelling allows brands to use the full extent of multi-channel media, applying to all of the five senses. It allows the brand to educate, taking the consumer on an educational journey rather than advertising, which can only convey one message at a time.
It can build in sub plots, ethos, ethics and values, bringing the full personality of the brand as well as the people behind these brands to life, while also highlighting how these ‘personality traits’ mirror those of the consumer.
It is through this 'bonding' that the consumer can feel for the brand, rather than simply seeing or knowing about it. Feeling is a pivotal part of branding, and without it, the brand and its products, are just a commodity, based on nothing more than consumer needs and cost.
Brands are consumed based on a want or desire, with price being far less prevalent. Therefore, brands offer businesses far greater profit margins and a more loyal consumer base - the holy grail.
And when executed effectively, the story helps build brand love through evoking a deeper, more authentic connection with its consumers.
As a result, brand storytelling is priceless, and quite simply a must-have tactic for 2021 and beyond. Read More