Our latest collection of insightful thought pieces covering our industry's hottest topics.

Our latest collection of insightful thought pieces covering our industry's hottest topics.


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THINK<br />

Our latest collection of insightful thought pieces<br />

covering our industry’s hottest topics


Initials CX is a total customer<br />

experience agency created for<br />

today’s world.<br />

Yet for this to remain true, it’s crucial we both think<br />

in the now and anticipate the future. That’s why our<br />

team are always putting their minds to fresh, relevant<br />

topics that can help our clients thrive, as life around<br />

us continues to challenge and change.<br />

Here you’ll find a collection of insightful thought<br />

pieces and snackable published content spanning<br />

the last year’s hottest industry subjects – where we<br />

cover everything from the importance of accessible<br />

design, to the emergence of social commerce, from<br />

automotive to FMCG, from strategic standpoints<br />

to creative ones. We hope you enjoy our musings.<br />

Something we haven’t touched on yet that you’d like<br />

to see? Drop us a line and we’ll gladly get stuck in.<br />

Abby Hartley,<br />

Head of Marketing<br />


01<br />

Hacking the<br />

new complex<br />

consumer journey<br />

06<br />

How much digital<br />

is too much?<br />

Daniela Barletta<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategist<br />

Strategy Director<br />

> page 28<br />

02<br />

> page 9<br />

The EVP advantage<br />

Richard Barrett<br />

07<br />

Brand purpose<br />

might not be for<br />

you – here’s why<br />

Managing Director<br />

> page 13<br />

Simon Callender<br />

Chief Strategy Officer<br />

03<br />

Social commerce:<br />

The building blocks<br />

for success<br />

08<br />

> page 31<br />

Accessibility<br />

in design<br />

Dominic Murray<br />

Chris Perowne<br />

Director of Digital<br />

Head of Design<br />

> page 17<br />

> page 37<br />

04<br />

The era of social<br />

commerce<br />

has arrived<br />

Annie Little<br />

09<br />

Putting wearable<br />

tech at the heart<br />

of healthcare<br />

strategies<br />

Strategy Director<br />

> page 21<br />

Rachel Grigg<br />

Client Partnerships Director<br />

05<br />

Why we must spell<br />

out the creative<br />

difference dyslexics<br />

can make<br />

10<br />

> page 41<br />

The rise of D2C<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

Amelia Boyce<br />

> page 44<br />

Senior Account Manager<br />

> page 25<br />


Fad or future?<br />

11 15<br />

12<br />

13<br />

14<br />

Demystifying today’s<br />

emerging channels<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

> page 49<br />

Stepping into<br />

the metaverse<br />

Imogen Venn<br />

Group Account Director<br />

> page 53<br />

How challenger<br />

brands can disrupt<br />

crowded categories<br />

Imogen Venn<br />

Group Account Director<br />

> page 57<br />

Will FMCG<br />

restrictions mean<br />

an uptick for<br />

prize promotions?<br />

James Willoughby<br />

Client Services Director & Partner<br />

> page 61<br />

16<br />

17<br />

18<br />

Sustainability:<br />

Bridging the gap<br />

between intention<br />

and action<br />

Mirella Mokbel<br />

Head of Shopper Strategy<br />

> page 64<br />

Online<br />

marketplaces<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

> page 70<br />

Why today’s car<br />

brands are losing<br />

their shine<br />

Simon Callender<br />

Chief Strategy Officer<br />

> page 73<br />

Navigating the<br />

cost of living crisis<br />

Daniela Barletta<br />

Strategist<br />

> page 77<br />



Hacking the<br />

new complex<br />

consumer journey<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

With the COVID-19 pandemic transforming<br />

shopping habits, journey orchestration matters<br />

more now than ever before.<br />

Digital commerce has totally shifted the journey<br />

stage balance – now, there is no such thing as<br />

“the” consumer journey for any given category.<br />

Instead, there exists a complex maze of<br />

touchpoints that must be carefully navigated<br />

if brands wish to emerge successful.<br />

Simply put, the stakes have never been higher.<br />

Brands need to get a firm grip on how the<br />

consumer journey has evolved and update<br />

traditional linear purchase funnels from their<br />

marketing agenda as a strategic priority.<br />

In this article, we’ll look at the evolution of the<br />

purchasing journey and the impact this has on<br />

consumer behaviour.<br />

With these insights in hand, we’ll offer valuable<br />

guidance on how to ensure that – in a sea of<br />

endless consumer choice – your brand gets<br />

chosen first.<br />



The emergence of decision paralysis<br />

The availability and ease with which consumers<br />

can access product information has changed the<br />

landscape forever.<br />

Gone are the days of a linear purchase journey.<br />

With more options and far greater accessibility<br />

than ever before, consumers today are quite<br />

literally spoiled for choice.<br />

And while this new world offers countless benefits<br />

for brands and retailers, it also adds a new layer<br />

of complexity to consumer decision-making.<br />

When this complexity reaches a tipping point, it can<br />

spiral into “decision paralysis”: too much choice, too<br />

many options, too hard to decide.<br />

Such an overwhelming wealth of information for<br />

consumers to wade through, has done the opposite<br />

of streamlining the consumer journey. In many ways,<br />

these extra touchpoints and decision-factors have<br />

created a more complex and cumbersome path<br />

to purchase.<br />

A new model for the<br />

consumer journey<br />

To date, some of the savviest brands and<br />

retailers have quickly pivoted their consumer<br />

engagement strategies, adopting prevailing<br />

shoppable touchpoints to remove any<br />

immediate friction or pain points for their<br />

target audience.<br />

However, creating a high-converting<br />

omnichannel purchase journey can’t be a<br />

checkbox exercise. A more holistic and strategic<br />

approach is required that spans the entire<br />

consumer journey and incorporates reciprocal<br />

actions at every experience encounter.<br />

This requires a) an understanding of how the<br />

consumer journey has evolved and b) insight<br />

into how consumers are navigating their way<br />

through it.<br />

Let’s start by addressing the former.<br />

This ‘messy middle’, coined by Google, is<br />

a space of abundant choice and unlimited<br />

content. Here, consumers explore and evaluate<br />

product information, research brands and weigh<br />

up their options. This is happening across an<br />

ever-expanding digital ecosystem – from online<br />

channels to social media to search engines,<br />

aggregators, review websites and much more.<br />

This exposure is not a stage or step in the<br />

buying process, but rather an “always-on”<br />

experience.<br />

This means that consumers will traverse<br />

the loop between exploration and evaluation<br />

many times before a purchasing decision<br />

is made.<br />

So, how can brands show up at the right<br />

moment and win consumer preference?<br />


How to address cognitive biases<br />

and win consumer preference<br />

While the initial trigger and purchasing<br />

moments still stand in today’s journey,<br />

the middle area between the trigger and<br />

purchase has become messy and complex.<br />

Due to the constant<br />

bombardment that<br />

consumers now face,<br />

they are turning to<br />

a range of coping<br />

mechanisms (cognitive<br />

bias) to shortcut<br />

indecision and make<br />

purchase conclusions.<br />

Cognitive biases are often a<br />

result of the brain’s attempt<br />

to simplify information<br />

processing. In this case,<br />

they help consumers make<br />

sense of the world and reach<br />

decisions with relative speed.<br />

These cognitive biases shape shopping<br />

behaviours and influence why we choose<br />

one product over another.<br />

By responding to the cognitive biases at play<br />

intelligently, responsibly and at the right moment<br />

in the consumer journey, brands can effectively<br />

shorten the gap between trigger and purchase<br />

and emerge victorious at the point of conversion.<br />

But how do brands pinpoint which biases are<br />

at play during a typical purchase journey within<br />

their respective category?<br />

Understanding<br />

behavioural biases<br />

encourages a deeper<br />

psychological<br />

understanding<br />

of consumers.”<br />

At Initials CX, we have developed our own<br />

strategic model to help brands hack the<br />

consumer journey and win the moments that<br />

matter. Since the path to purchase is no longer<br />

linear, we can’t afford to think in linear terms.<br />

Our Consumer Journey Hacker is a data-driven<br />

and behavioural-sciencebased<br />

strategy that helps<br />

brands plan for the right<br />

stimuli that will impact<br />

buyers in key moments.<br />

Understanding behavioural<br />

biases does more than<br />

just increase advertising<br />

effectiveness; it can<br />

encourage a deeper<br />

psychological understanding<br />

of consumers, their cultural<br />

norms and nuances and<br />

ultimately inspire new<br />

business strategies<br />

and products.<br />

These behavioural science principles (and the<br />

behavioural and informational needs they align<br />

with) are powerful tools for winning and defending<br />

consumer preference in the new complex<br />

consumer journey.<br />

Here, the goal is to close the gap between trigger<br />

and purchase. This means consumers spend less<br />

time exposed to competitor brands and transition<br />

to your basket faster and with greater confidence.<br />

In a sea of overwhelming choice, this is how your<br />

brand can emerge victorious.<br />

As published by The Drum.<br />




The EVP<br />

advantage<br />

Richard Barrett<br />

Managing Director<br />

The world has undergone a series of profound<br />

shifts since March 2020.<br />

Increased competition for talent, rising staff<br />

costs and employee retention are all key issues<br />

on the minds of today’s business leaders. As<br />

such, being an employer of choice has never<br />

been more important.<br />

To navigate these uncharted waters, companies<br />

are beginning to realise the benefits of a strong<br />

Employee Value Proposition, or EVP.<br />

A study by Aon found that 41% of employers in<br />

the UK intended to review their EVP in the light<br />

of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 43% of<br />

those without an existing EVP planned<br />

to develop one.<br />

When done correctly, an EVP will keep<br />

a business evolving. It can build deeper<br />

connections, flex to meet different aspects<br />

of work, inspire personal growth, contribute<br />

towards holistic wellbeing and rally people<br />

around a shared purpose.<br />

This means that if your company has a strong<br />

EVP, and you’re living by it, then by default your<br />

company is evolving, modernising and keeping<br />

on the front foot.<br />



In fact, new research has shown 75% of<br />

jobseekers are more likely to apply for a job if<br />

the employer actively manages its employer<br />

brand and EVP.<br />

The good news is your EVP already exists –<br />

you just need to find the magic.<br />

Let’s explore how.<br />

Breaking the EVP stereotype<br />

Many people think of an EVP as a “thing” –<br />

but it’s actually a living experience.<br />

Yes, it absolutely ticks the box in terms of<br />

attracting top talent, but it also tackles retention<br />

and provides validity for every stage of the<br />

employee lifecycle – from initial attraction all<br />

the way through to the exit interview.<br />

An EVP exists to ensure a constant betterment<br />

for both the employer and employee during<br />

this lifecycle. It contributes to the betterment<br />

of every individual in the company and, as a<br />

result, the wider success of the organisation.<br />

In other words, it’s the link that sets common<br />

expectations, embodies workplace culture and<br />

delivers a higher purpose that all parties can<br />

strive towards.<br />

Contrary to popular stereotypes, an EVP is not<br />

a one-way broadcast of strengths, benefits and<br />

opportunities. It’s a mutual value exchange that<br />

defines, captures and communicates what an<br />

organisation will give to its employees and what<br />

the employer will get back in return.<br />

This mutual value exchange becomes an<br />

ongoing ecosystem that sets the framework for<br />

how senior leaders and employees at all levels<br />

of the business can rally behind a shared vision.<br />

How to find the magic of your EVP<br />

At Initials CX, we walk clients through a four-step<br />

process to arrive at the essence of what your<br />

EVP truly stands for. The net result should be<br />

clear, simple and flexible – which will allow the<br />

EVP to be relevant to any individual at any time.<br />

Let’s explore how this process works.<br />


STEP<br />

Audit<br />

To kick off an EVP project, an<br />

organisation must start with a<br />

no-holds-barred assessment of<br />

its existing culture and workplace.<br />

This means auditing the real,<br />

lived experiences – not just<br />

the “sunshine” aspects of your<br />

employer brand or why it’s nice<br />

to work for you.<br />

STEP<br />

Territories<br />

Next, businesses need to look at what<br />

these insights reveal. What does the<br />

company profile look like? Where does<br />

this fit into archetypal representations<br />

of an organisation?<br />

STEP<br />

Creative Ideas<br />

Once all this information has been<br />

gathered and analysed, companies<br />

can start to determine how the<br />

unique characteristics of their<br />

employer brand can be translated<br />

into creative ideas that drive<br />

purpose, impact and emotion.<br />

STEP<br />

Manifestation<br />

Finally, the EVP can be manifested into real-world campaign<br />

execution – looking across all touchpoints and experiences<br />

in and out of the business, such as the candidate experience,<br />

training initiatives, cultural experiences and more.<br />

By taking steps to proactively design an EVP, organisations can take ownership over their<br />

employee experience and align this with the company vision to create a more positive<br />

outlook for both the business and its employees.<br />


The benefits of a powerful and<br />

authentic EVP<br />

Once an EVP has been investigated, unearthed and<br />

formulated, it can start to benefit multiple aspects of<br />

the business.<br />

Since this is a mutual value proposition, it sets the stage for<br />

the reciprocal employee/employer relationship to follow. This<br />

makes the entire recruitment process much more attractive,<br />

streamlined and effective, which in turn drives the attraction<br />

of talent that is better suited to the organisation.<br />

Not only does this help attract top talent, but it can lower<br />

recruitment costs, since companies begin to organically grow<br />

their talent funnels and can rely less on agency support.<br />

LinkedIn has shown that an effective employer brand and EVP can:<br />

Reduce<br />

turnover by<br />

Reduce<br />

cost-per-hire<br />

by<br />

Attract<br />

50% more<br />

qualified<br />

applicants<br />

Make time<br />

to hire<br />

faster<br />

But the beauty of an EVP is that it doesn’t stop at the talent<br />

attraction phase. It benefits existing employees by creating<br />

clear parameters for progress, learning and development<br />

and how to succeed within the organisation.<br />

If your business has yet to invest in an EVP, then now is the<br />

time to seriously consider how it can propel your business<br />

forward during a time of marked change.<br />

As published by The Drum.<br />


Social commerce:<br />

The building blocks<br />

for success<br />

Dominic Murray<br />

Director of Digital<br />

Up until recently, shopper behaviours were limited<br />

to discovery and consideration, with purchase<br />

taking place off-platform, on a brand or retailer<br />

website. But all that has changed. Today’s social<br />

platforms are poised to ‘close the loop’, with users<br />

able to browse and shop seamlessly within one<br />

connected social media experience. A development<br />

that, undoubtedly, has the potential to transform<br />

the way people buy online forever.<br />

Once upon a time, social media was seen as<br />

a hard-to-quantify awareness channel. Now,<br />

it has the potential to deliver a direct impact to<br />

your bottom line. In order to help you get there<br />

I’m going to give a quick snapshot of the ten key<br />

components needed to launch a successful<br />

social commerce campaign – as outlined fully<br />

in our Microguide to Social Commerce.<br />



1. Audit first<br />

In our experience, the first step starts with a<br />

digital audit of your existing tech stack, so that<br />

current capabilities can be assessed before<br />

any upgrades or add-ons are initiated.<br />

2. Establishing campaign<br />

objectives<br />

This includes things like promoting business<br />

values, alongside the ultimate goal of sales and<br />

profit. Understanding the target demographic<br />

is key to knowing which social media platform<br />

would be best suited to deliver this.<br />

3. Investing in social ads<br />

It’s worthwhile targeting ads at former<br />

customers, or those who have engaged with<br />

your content previously. Ensure that hashtag<br />

usage is consistent across all posts and ads,<br />

so that followers know exactly which tags to<br />

use when talking about a product.<br />

4. Awareness-driven<br />

social commerce<br />

Brands must also look ahead to the social<br />

platforms that will embrace social commerce<br />

in the future, such as Twitch, Reddit and<br />

Clubhouse. They are useful platforms for<br />

connecting with the consumer now, and enable<br />

you to gain further insight into how to optimise<br />

future sales models in preparation for when<br />

they launch social commerce further down<br />

the line.<br />

5. Countdown posts<br />

and promotions<br />

To build anticipation amongst your current<br />

follower and contact bases, choose posts and<br />

stories that encourage interest and discussion.<br />

These can also be followed by ‘countdowns’<br />

to build added hype.<br />

6. Audience engagement<br />

Asking relevant or open-ended questions<br />

is a sure-fire way to get greater interaction.<br />

Making sure that any questions from<br />

customers are addressed promptly,<br />

personally, and informatively will help<br />

build engagement further.<br />

7. Nano influencers<br />

Since the pandemic, the rise of nano<br />

influencers has helped create more<br />

intimate environments to showcase<br />

products. They have lower numbers of<br />

followers than mainstream counterparts,<br />

but far greater influence over them.<br />

8. Content remains king,<br />

but context is queen<br />

Brands must understand when to entertain<br />

and when to sell, relative to the state of<br />

engagement in the customer journey. Setting<br />

out a clear brand purpose and well thought<br />

out social strategy that does both at the<br />

right time is vital to both grab and retain<br />

customer attention.<br />

9. Performance and data<br />

for ROI<br />

Every available metric should be systematically<br />

reviewed to see how campaigns have<br />

performed and tied back to performance<br />

and conversion KPIs and objectives.<br />

10. The right tech<br />

Ultimately, automation through good use of<br />

technology will save time, which can therefore<br />

be used elsewhere to generate more value.<br />

There are many products that can automate<br />

content, some even track performance.<br />


Since the pandemic, brands able to offer direct-to-consumer (D2C) commerce have<br />

capitalised on the immediate benefits of social commerce, while those that weren’t ready<br />

have been missing out. With the number of social media users globally predicted to grow<br />

from 4.48 billion in July 2020 to over 5.3 billion by 2025, no one can afford to ignore these<br />

communities. Taking a structured approach, as outlined above, is key to ensuring social<br />

commerce success for your brand.<br />

As published by Performance Marketing World.<br />

Social media users<br />

predicted to grow to over<br />

by 2025<br />




The era of<br />

social commerce<br />

has arrived<br />

Is your brand ready to capitalise?<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

In 2021, brands turned to social commerce for<br />

timely answers to marketing challenges. The<br />

integration of ‘shops’ and ‘buy now’ buttons into<br />

social feeds drove traffic to ecommerce sites<br />

and married commercial and social agendas.<br />

This year, all eyes are fixed on the next evolution.<br />

From Instagram’s Checkout feature, which closes<br />

the loop and allows users to purchase products<br />

in-app, to Spotify’s in-stream retail features, brands<br />

will need to move quickly to take advantage.<br />

Data from Hootsuite shows 81% of shoppers<br />

research products via Instagram and Facebook,<br />

while half of Pinterest users say shopping is<br />

a top priority for them.<br />

This comes at a time when 72% of millennials say<br />

they are more likely to become a loyal customer<br />

if a brand engages with them on social media.<br />

As social communities and not-so-distant<br />

metaverse worlds redefine how we connect,<br />

share and interact, it’s clear that the future of<br />

ecommerce is one with social commerce fixed<br />

firmly at its core.<br />

Whether you’re a seasoned social commerce<br />

veteran or testing out the waters, here’s how your<br />

brand can thrive in the crucial months ahead.<br />

81%<br />

of shoppers research products<br />

via Instagram and Facebook.<br />

72%<br />

of millennials say they are more likely<br />

to become a loyal customer if a brand<br />

engages with them on social media.<br />

Social commerce is a lucrative<br />

revenue source for ALL brands –<br />

not just the big players<br />

Want the short truth? There is no “best” social<br />

network to target.<br />

Consumers use different platforms for different<br />

purposes, and this will vary significantly based<br />

on your brand’s products, services and role<br />

in culture.<br />



In 2020, YouTube pioneered shopping ads in<br />

video, Snapchat introduced Shoppable AR<br />

formats and Instagram checkouts launched<br />

in the US. And in 2021 with the launch of<br />

Facebook Pay, TikTok’s partnership with Shopify<br />

and Pinterest’s “Idea Pins” launch, the memo is<br />

clear: social commerce is well and truly here.<br />

Social media platforms have democratised the<br />

playing field between small and big businesses.<br />

One meme can send you viral. A clever post can<br />

spin heads.<br />

Today, the currency we’re all playing with is<br />

attention and engagement. Sure, a big budget<br />

can help draw views, but the right content and<br />

messages can have a disproportionate impact<br />

on a brand’s social commerce success.<br />

This is what makes social commerce so<br />

powerful; success is predicated as much<br />

on relevance as it is on budget. By taking<br />

advantage of existing features and getting into<br />

the game early, forward-thinking brands can<br />

carve out a niche as innovators in the space.<br />

“How can my brand flourish?” Start by<br />

cultivating an obsession with customer data<br />

To create fertile ground for social commerce to flourish, brands<br />

need to obsess over their customer data. This means identifying<br />

your audience’s unique behaviours, preferences and needs, which<br />

starts by asking the right questions.<br />

When does demand<br />

fluctuate for certain<br />

products?<br />

What platforms<br />

do our audience<br />

use to research<br />

and explore?<br />

What type of content<br />

drives conversion?<br />


Understanding the nuances of customer behaviour can<br />

help brands seed categories and products at the right<br />

time, whether that’s in the run up to sales peaks or<br />

nurturing relationships during low demand periods.<br />

The confluence of social media,<br />

content and commerce is an<br />

exciting area for 2022<br />

The creator economy, social shopping and<br />

peer-to-peer/influencer shopping is predicted<br />

to boom in the Western world.<br />

New platforms such as Patreon, Substack,<br />

Cameo and TipJar are enabling creators to<br />

bypass the traditional branded influencer<br />

partnership. This means an entirely new<br />

ecosystem is emerging where creators can<br />

build relationships directly with their followers.<br />

This concept of fandom is becoming an<br />

increasingly powerful force, one that is already<br />

evident in the rise of gaming. Gaming creators<br />

and esports exploded in 2021, with an 80%<br />

increase in livestream gaming content.<br />

The most popular platforms such as YouTube,<br />

Facebook and Instagram are adapting their<br />

services to meet these new demands and offer<br />

revenue sharing tools to creators. It’s needed,<br />

as 71% of brands plan to increase spending<br />

and leverage the power of creators to sell via<br />

livestreams and shoppable media. TikTok has<br />

seen the most growth, with 84% of marketers<br />

planning to increase spend on the app in 2022.<br />

As live streaming, digital entertainment and<br />

social commerce collide, brands will need to<br />

seriously consider how they can create organic<br />

communities for loyal fans and followers.<br />

Gaming creators and esports exploded in<br />

2021, with an 80% increase in livestream<br />

gaming content.<br />

84% of marketers are planning to<br />

increase spend on TikTok in 2022.<br />



Social commerce is the new<br />

real estate<br />

Today’s web of hyper-connectivity has created<br />

new pockets of online communities.<br />

We work, learn, communicate, play and shop<br />

online. While in decades gone by the price of<br />

consumer attention was determined by the size<br />

and location of your store on the high street,<br />

the rise of social media means that anyone,<br />

anywhere can create a virtual shop front.<br />

This is the crux of social commerce. To not<br />

simply meet buyers where they are, but to<br />

make these spaces places where people want<br />

to get their products and connect with others.<br />

The short-term advantage will be recognised<br />

by go-to brands who future proof themselves<br />

by being first to market with social commerce<br />

integration. It has shifted from a perpetual<br />

priority to a desperately needed lifeline to thrive<br />

in a post-pandemic world.<br />

Is your social storefront ready to meet the<br />

expectations of a new generation of consumers?<br />

With a new era upon us, patience is not a virtue.<br />

Now is the time to get involved.<br />

As published by Advertising Week.<br />


Why we must spell<br />

out the creative<br />

difference dyslexics<br />

can make<br />

Amelia Boyce<br />

Senior Account Manager<br />

Can you keep a secret? Dyslexia isn’t something<br />

to be hidden away. It’s not a taboo. In fact, it<br />

could make all the difference at your agency.<br />

When I first started working in advertising,<br />

I conformed to the perceived norm. I kept my<br />

dyslexia under wraps, fearful that revealing it<br />

would embarrass me and hold me back from<br />

the things I wanted to achieve.<br />

I’m not alone. In a recent interview, Sir Richard<br />

Branson revealed he suffered “cruelty and<br />

humiliation” for poor reading and spelling skills<br />

due to his severe dyslexia when he was starting<br />

out. Now, looking back, he feels the condition is<br />

a “superpower” that has always propelled him<br />

forward in business.<br />

The moment when I finally felt accepted as<br />

a dyslexic was quite comical. Our CEO Jamie<br />

leaned over to ask a colleague if she could help<br />

him spell a word. She replied: “Don’t ask me –<br />

I’m dyslexic.”<br />

Jamie sought help from a second, then a third,<br />

then a fourth person, only to be told they were<br />

all dyslexic, too. Far from being exasperated,<br />

he replied: “So am I, that’s why I’m asking!”<br />

We all laughed: the “secret” was out.<br />

It inspired us to think more closely about the<br />

many unique attributes people with dyslexia<br />

bring to our industry.<br />



Eight unique talents dyslexic<br />

employees bring<br />

The UK Government estimates 10% of our<br />

population is dyslexic. While no such statistic<br />

is readily available relating specifically to the<br />

creative sector, Creative Equals figures it’ll be<br />

about double the national proportion. As it<br />

happens, a quarter of Initials CX employees<br />

are dyslexic.<br />

In addition, as part of an article about workplace<br />

diversity, the Data & Marketing Association<br />

(DMA) referenced survey data revealing that<br />

of the 6% of employees with a diagnosed<br />

neurodevelopmental condition, well over<br />

a third (37%) stated they are dyslexic.<br />

It was surprising and heartening to read<br />

these statistics.<br />

It’s even more exciting to discover the untapped<br />

talent dyslexics can bring to our industry.<br />

According to Ronald Davis in his groundbreaking<br />

book The Gift of Dyslexia, dyslexics can bring<br />

to the table eight traits that neurotypicals don’t<br />

always possess.<br />

We...<br />

1. Have vivid imaginations – assisting with<br />

conceptual ideas.<br />

2. Use our brain’s ability to alter and create<br />

perceptions – meaning we can put<br />

ourselves firmly in the shoes of the<br />

target audience.<br />

3. Are highly aware of the environment we<br />

and others inhabit – great when trying<br />

to understand and communicate with<br />

a target market.<br />

4. Tend to be more curious than average –<br />

we can dig deeper into why people<br />

behave like they do and choose the<br />

products they buy.<br />

5. <strong>Think</strong> mainly in pictures, not words<br />

(useful for at least one half of the<br />

traditional creative team!).<br />

6. Can be highly intuitive and insightful –<br />

creative advertising is all about using<br />

insights to drive effective work.<br />

7. <strong>Think</strong> and perceive multi-dimensionally,<br />

using all our senses – we can immediately<br />

envision how flat design concepts can<br />

come to life in physical environments,<br />

across different formats.<br />

8. Often experience thought as reality –<br />

especially useful when creating events.<br />

Imagining conceptual ideas in the real<br />

world allows us to predict how consumers<br />

will view them.<br />


Having written that list, it’s clear there’s great<br />

creative power in dyslexia. It also explains why<br />

many of us are drawn to advertising and other<br />

parts of the creativity industry.<br />

Strategic, innovative, creative potential in one<br />

brain. You might normally need a whole group<br />

of people to put all of that into action. But despite<br />

this being the case too many dyslexics still see<br />

a diagnosis as a negative and decide to hide it.<br />

That needs to change.<br />

The driving force behind<br />

creative agencies<br />

Aside from Richard Branson, other famous<br />

dyslexics have enjoyed huge success in a range<br />

of industries: Jamie Oliver and Keira Knightly,<br />

for example; and The Dots founder Pip Jamieson<br />

and Hugh Robertson of RPM from our sector.<br />

Those at the top table must recognise the<br />

requirement for dyslexics to feel comfortable<br />

in their role; and the need for agencies to round<br />

out their skill sets with the talent on offer.<br />

In its useful Dyslexia Employer Guide, the DMA<br />

says: “Dyslexic people have an uneven cognitive<br />

profile with contrasting abilities. Often, they<br />

have strengths in creative, problem solving<br />

and communication skills, but challenges with<br />

spelling, reading, and with holding onto or<br />

retrieving information quickly and accurately.”<br />

The industry can’t allow those stated problems<br />

to preclude the abilities that are also there to be<br />

used. Instead, we must support and celebrate<br />

dyslexia as part of the wider diversity that makes<br />

creativity the wonderful, inventive, extraordinary<br />

calling that it is. Some great initiatives are under<br />

way, such as e-reader Leo making creative<br />

education available in dyslexia-friendly formats,<br />

to encourage more people with the condition<br />

into the industry.<br />

Meanwhile, global charity Made By Dyslexia<br />

published its study The Value of Dyslexia<br />

“to prepare dyslexic individuals for a changing<br />

world and enable them to flourish”. (In fact, as<br />

this article in Forbes explains, there’s a growing<br />

belief dyslexics are the key to harnessing the<br />

full power of a digital future.)<br />

Collectively, we can all do so much more to<br />

make the creative industry a second home<br />

for dyslexic people.<br />

Dyslexics can use their powers to propel<br />

creativity. There’s even a strong case for<br />

someone with dyslexia to add the condition<br />

to the skills section of their CV as a key<br />

personal strength.<br />

So – what will your organisation do to celebrate<br />

this talent, and write a new chapter in the<br />

diversity handbook?<br />

As published on shots.net.<br />



How much digital is<br />

too much digital?<br />

Daniela Barletta<br />

Strategist<br />

Today, the average consumer spends more<br />

than 40% of their waking life online. It’s now<br />

abundantly clear that the social dynamics<br />

brought about by the pandemic have served<br />

as a catalyst for even greater digital adoption.<br />

As the world grows accustomed to the benefits<br />

of digital life – namely convenience, experience<br />

and speed – we might expect that consumers<br />

want even more digital in their lives. After all,<br />

this is what agencies, social media companies<br />

and tech platforms are telling us.<br />

And yet, while more digital seems like the logical<br />

solution, our research shows this is simply not<br />

true. What consumers really want are more<br />

engaging experiences, where physical and digital<br />

are used to complement each other and offer<br />

more interactive moments.<br />


As brands seek to design and implement compelling strategies,<br />

this nuance must be accounted for to avoid digital overload and<br />

a growing sense of “sameness” in the digital space.<br />

In this article, we’ll explore how brands can facilitate a more<br />

hybrid experience that caters to consumers’ expectations – and<br />

reveal the surprising truth about what people are really after.<br />

What do consumers really want<br />

from brands?<br />

The days of the linear customer journey are gone.<br />

Today there are an endless number of devices, platforms and<br />

channels on which brands and consumers can interact. And<br />

though the benefits (targeted advertising, enhanced browsing,<br />

faster checkout, quicker delivery, etc.) are palpable, the sheer<br />

size and scope of these digital interactions can be draining.<br />

At least that’s what consumers seem to be suggesting. In the<br />

wake of the UK government’s announcement that all COVID-19<br />

restrictions will end, we polled a nationally representative<br />

audience of consumers to uncover how satisfied people are with<br />

the digital experiences they receive from brands in the ‘health<br />

and beauty’ and ‘alcohol’ sectors.<br />

Interestingly, the results point to widespread digital fatigue.<br />

Health and Beauty findings<br />

When asked about attitudes towards brand experiences, nearly 1 in 3<br />

consumers (32%) said they would “prefer less digital experiences”<br />

while 36% would “prefer more physical experiences”.<br />

Alcohol findings<br />

A similar trend emerged in the alcohol sector, as 31% of consumers<br />

indicated a desire for “less digital experiences”, whereas 37% would<br />

“prefer more physical experiences”.<br />



These results jar with what mainstream opinion<br />

tells us – that digital experiences in isolation<br />

are what consumers want to experience more<br />

of. While there’s no doubt that digital is here<br />

to stay, these findings suggest that brands<br />

should at least be asking, “How much digital<br />

is too much?”<br />

To remain relevant and cater to the consumer’s<br />

ever-evolving needs, a hybrid approach will be<br />

essential. Brands need to understand, facilitate<br />

and even predict what consumers will want at<br />

certain parts of their journey.<br />

For example, when people are shopping<br />

in-store, experiential theatre and digital<br />

is an aspect that would cater to the need<br />

for exploration and sampling, while postpurchase<br />

rewards and loyalty schemes are<br />

better suited to the digital realm via email,<br />

app or push notifications.<br />

Our evidence supports this, as well over a third<br />

of respondents say they want “more physical<br />

experiences” from brands in the future. To<br />

put this into context, less than a quarter of<br />

consumers indicated an appetite for “more<br />

digital experiences”, which suggests that digital<br />

ennui has indeed set in. This opens the door for<br />

brands to deliver total customer experiences<br />

that meet new expectations.<br />

Delivering the total customer<br />

experience to meet expectations<br />

In an age where headlines are dominated by<br />

tech giants, ecommerce brands and a not-sodistant<br />

metaverse, it’s important to remember<br />

that audiences exist in a hybrid world beyond<br />

the purely digital space.<br />

As our research suggests, consumers realise<br />

that digital doesn’t solve all their problems and<br />

doesn’t hold all the answers. After all, when the<br />

whole world is lived through a screen, some<br />

brand experiences online can start to look and<br />

feel the same.<br />

However, the real magic happens when the<br />

physical and digital worlds collide to create true<br />

blended experiences. This opportunity to exist<br />

in more than one dimension enables brands<br />

to be present for their audiences in ways that<br />

reinforce overall brand messaging, values<br />

and relevance.<br />

Given the consumer expectation of more<br />

physical experiences, it’s never been more<br />

crucial for brands to prioritise customercentricity<br />

when integrating online and offline<br />

strategies. This is how brands can deliver a<br />

total customer experience – one that explicitly<br />

delivers on new expectations.<br />

With the resurgence of the experience<br />

economy, for example, brands can bring<br />

thought-out tech advancements into the<br />

physical space. It’s by facilitating a total<br />

customer experience that brands can create<br />

a real point of difference and better resonate<br />

with a culture that is longing for more realworld<br />

moments.<br />

Clearly, there’s no going back from digital, but<br />

this should serve as part of a 3-dimensional<br />

brand world. As our research shows, the<br />

brands that can combine physical and digital<br />

experiences will deliver on the sum of what<br />

audiences really want: seamless, enriching and<br />

inspiring moments that weave across the total<br />

customer experience.<br />

As published by New Digital Age.<br />


Brand purpose<br />

might not be for<br />

you – here’s why<br />

Simon Callender<br />

Chief Strategy Officer<br />

Brand purpose has become one of the hottest<br />

topics in today’s marketing world, but is all this<br />

focus and hype justified?<br />

Today’s consumers are more ethically and<br />

socially conscious than ever before. From our<br />

own research, we found that nearly half of<br />

shoppers (46%) “only shop with brands that have<br />

a wider societal purpose” or are “always seeking<br />

ethical alternatives to existing brands”.<br />

It’s within the context of these social shifts<br />

that brands have tried to mirror changes in<br />

consumer attitude and behaviour. While early<br />

pioneers such as Patagonia and Nike helped<br />

establish the contemporary brand purpose<br />

mantle, you’d be hard pressed to find any<br />

company today that hasn’t experimented<br />

with the concept, often under the illusion<br />

that it can be the cure for many brand ills.<br />



46% seek out<br />

brands with a wider<br />

societal purpose or<br />

ethical alternatives<br />

to existing brands...<br />

but only 9% of<br />

consumers trust<br />

a brand when<br />

it says it has a<br />

deeper purpose<br />

But consumers are growing weary. Shoppers<br />

increasingly faced with the à la mode ubiquity<br />

of purpose related campaigns have started<br />

to question whether brands are really being<br />

genuine with their sentiments or not.<br />

This suspicion is cemented by compelling<br />

evidence. Our research shows just 9% of<br />

shoppers trust a brand when it says it has<br />

a deeper purpose.<br />

So we need to take a step back and look at<br />

the situation objectively. In doing so, we may<br />

just find that brand purpose isn’t the miracle<br />

panacea for brands that lack consumer<br />

connection – here’s why.<br />

Kresse Wesling, Co-Founder at sustainable<br />

luxury brand, Elvis & Kresse, comments, “Brand<br />

purpose means nothing to me because it’s<br />

just a term – the actions are what is important.<br />

We’re an action-oriented company, and I’m very<br />

worried about purpose becoming a catch-all<br />

term that loses all value.”<br />

A true brand purpose shouldn’t be another<br />

messaging coat that can be slipped over the<br />

existing brand architecture – it’s an actionoriented<br />

strategy that can only be achieved and<br />

have true credibility when it creates real change<br />

that people value.<br />

What does ‘brand purpose’<br />

really mean?<br />

The term “brand purpose” carries with it a string<br />

of preconceptions, ideas and judgments.<br />

For many, brand purpose has become<br />

synonymous with “doing good”, which, like<br />

sustainability, is now a catch-all phrase<br />

that loosely categorises any humanitarian,<br />

philanthropic or charitable business objective<br />

under the same banner. However, at its most<br />

basic, brand purpose is a promise to actively<br />

pursue change in the wider world – how brands<br />

choose to purpose that pledge is up to them.<br />

That call for change needs to be meaningful<br />

and relevant to a chosen target market and<br />

vitally needs to be backed up by doing.<br />

Brand purpose means<br />

nothing to me because it’s<br />

just a term – the actions are<br />

what is important. We’re an<br />

action-orientated company,<br />

and I’m very worried about<br />

purpose becoming a catchall<br />

term that loses all value.”<br />

Kresse Wesling, Elvis & Kresse<br />


Dee Bulsara, Managing Director at OceanSaver<br />

the Eco Cleaning brand, comments on this idea,<br />

saying, “For us it’s very simple. If we don’t live<br />

by our purpose, then we don’t have a brand.<br />

Our purpose is to leave the planet a better<br />

place than we found it, which [we bring to life]<br />

through sustainability initiatives measured by<br />

our ecological and carbon footprint.”<br />

It’s through action and impact that brand<br />

purpose moves from a boardroom strategy<br />

to something that lives in the real world and<br />

which can create a measurable and meaningful<br />

effect in people’s lives. It’s the end result<br />

that consumers need to witness, not just the<br />

sentiment. If a brand lacks the commitment<br />

and resources to create this change then brand<br />

purpose becomes an unfulfilled, hollow wish<br />

that will fade into marketing noise, generating<br />

more of the consumer disillusionment that our<br />

research points to.<br />

For us it’s very simple. If we<br />

don’t live by our purpose,<br />

then we don’t have a brand.”<br />

Dee Bulsara, OceanSaver<br />

The majority of consumers agree that brand<br />

purpose is something that should have a real<br />

tangible impact on people and communities<br />

(not just something a brand feels they can add<br />

a ‘like’ to). Furthermore, 55% of consumers say<br />

buying purpose brands “inspires me to work<br />

harder for that cause” and “encourages me to<br />

find out what I can do to help.”<br />

55% of<br />

consumers say<br />

that buying<br />

purpose brands<br />

inspires me to<br />

work harder for<br />

that cause…<br />

But 1/3 say<br />

that buying<br />

from purpose<br />

brands makes<br />

me feel I have<br />

“done my bit”<br />

Worryingly however, a third of shoppers say that<br />

buying from a purpose brand “makes me feel<br />

I’ve done my bit for that cause”, which highlights<br />

why brands must deliver on their promises if we<br />

want to avoid a net negative impact on the issue<br />

at hand<br />

Finding an authentic purpose that brands can<br />

service in the real world is not something every<br />

organisation can or should do. As we’ll see,<br />

there must be room for permission and space<br />

to drive impact.<br />

Why brand purpose isn’t a tool<br />

for everyone<br />

Purpose is the ultimate proof point of a brand’s<br />

commitment to its own values and beliefs. As<br />

such, a brand purpose campaign should only<br />

reflect the values that already underpin that<br />

brand. If these values lack relevance, then<br />

a brand purpose campaign will only amplify<br />

this disconnect.<br />



This dissonance is partly to explain why issues<br />

like greenwashing have become so prevalent<br />

in the consumer psyche. An Accenture study of<br />

more than 30,000 consumers worldwide found<br />

that more than half (53%) of consumers who are<br />

disappointed with a brand’s words or actions<br />

on social issues complain about it. Even more<br />

troubling, 47% now walk away from a brand in<br />

frustration and 17% never come back.<br />

There’s so much<br />

disingenuous eco talk out<br />

there from brands that don’t<br />

have a sense of purpose.<br />

Going forward, consumers<br />

will have a really tough job<br />

trying to figure out what is<br />

eco and what isn’t.”<br />

As Kresse Wesling notes, “If all of your actions<br />

don’t match all of your intentions, then I think<br />

you have a problem.”<br />

If all of your actions don’t<br />

match all of your intentions,<br />

then I think you have<br />

a problem.”<br />

Kresse Wesling, Elvis & Kresse<br />

At Initials CX, we walk our clients through a<br />

three-step process to evaluate brand purpose<br />

and determine whether it fits authentically with<br />

a brand’s values.<br />

Dee Bulsara, OceanSaver<br />

With access to more information than ever<br />

before, consumers have become particularly<br />

adept at spotting false attempts to retroactively<br />

assign “purpose” to a brand. This is especially<br />

true when a brand has not invested its time,<br />

energy or money into living its purpose in the<br />

real world.<br />

STEP<br />

Ambition<br />

OceanSaver’s Dee Bulsara, says, “There’s so<br />

much disingenuous eco talk out there from<br />

brands that don’t have a sense of purpose.<br />

Going forward, consumers will have a real<br />

tough job trying to figure out what is eco and<br />

what isn’t.”<br />

In order to make purpose work, brands need to<br />

have the values and permission to back it up. It<br />

requires ambition and dedication to see these<br />

values through – both in the business and in the<br />

world at large.<br />

First, we assess what a brand’s real<br />

ambition is by analysing commercial<br />

objectives vs brand perception. What is<br />

the time frame being discussed? Is the<br />

brand committed to addressing an issue<br />

for the long term? Are the objectives<br />

aligned with the means?<br />


STEP<br />

Permission<br />

STEP<br />

Resource<br />

Next, we need to determine whether or<br />

not a brand has permission to speak on<br />

a particular subject. What values does<br />

the brand have or seek that it wants to<br />

activate? How do these values connect<br />

with consumers? Are they distinctive?<br />

Do consumers care? Does a brand<br />

purpose programme fit with the brand’s<br />

archetypes and personality?<br />

Finally, brands need to take an objective<br />

look at their own commitment to a purpose<br />

– both from a resourcing and financing<br />

point of view. Do the human and financial<br />

resources available allow you to address<br />

this purpose in a meaningful way? Can you<br />

deliver against consumer expectations?<br />

A long-term vision, not a shortterm<br />

solution<br />

Too often, brands see purpose as a fix for shortterm<br />

commercial performance. This is where<br />

companies get themselves into trouble.<br />

Brand purpose demands consistency, as<br />

it elevates a brand’s beliefs into the public<br />

realm. Unlike other activations, it needs to be<br />

managed for the long-term, not the short-term.<br />

Our research shows that 89% of consumers<br />

would pay a premium for a brand that has an<br />

authentic purpose. In fact, 1 in 3 consumers<br />

would pay a premium of 35% or more for a<br />

brand that demonstrates a genuine purpose.<br />

This direct link between brand purpose and<br />

increased expenditure perhaps explains why<br />

so many brands are desperate to leverage the<br />

power of purpose. But as we’ve seen, there’s<br />

an incredible amount of distrust and scepticism<br />

in the market, given that less than 1 in 10<br />

shoppers trust a brand when it says it has<br />

a deeper purpose.<br />

So, how can we make sense of all this?<br />

Well, a short-term attempt to leverage brand<br />

purpose is likely to do more harm than good.<br />

Consumers will see straight through this and<br />

question a brand’s motives and intentions.<br />

As OceanSaver’s Dee Bulsara says, “We still<br />

believe that what we’re doing is for the longterm<br />

health of the planet and the oceans – it’s<br />

not a choice, it’s a “must”. People are starting<br />

to switch on, but it’s going to take time.”<br />

Purpose is a long-term solution. It’s a north-star<br />

by which values can be applied to culture in<br />

a socially relevant context over the course of<br />

decades – not months.<br />

As Kresse Wesling concludes, “Our purpose is<br />

about a future where we don’t have extractive<br />

or exploitative businesses. In this future, every<br />

business should have purpose as part of<br />

its DNA.”<br />

When authenticity and impact are placed<br />

before profit and perception, then true<br />

brand purpose has a real chance to shine.<br />

As published by The Drum.<br />



Accessibility<br />

in design<br />

Why digital design for your<br />

whole market matters<br />

Chris Perowne<br />

Head of Design<br />

It’s almost a decade since the London 2012<br />

Paralympic Games heralded a generation<br />

of “superhuman” athletes. Since then, the<br />

visibility of disabled people in everything from<br />

advertising to TV programmes has increased<br />

considerably. Alongside this focus on visibility,<br />

accessibility issues are also increasingly<br />

under the spotlight. Which is why giving<br />

due consideration to accessibility in design<br />

is long overdue.<br />

Looking at this from a digital design standpoint,<br />

a cursory glance at most brands’ websites<br />

reveals a glaring level of inequality in online<br />

accessibility. Accessibility in design refers<br />

to the extent to which a product or service<br />

can be used universally, specifically taking<br />

into account the needs of users living with<br />

disabilities. Traditionally the assumption has<br />

been this relates predominantly to making<br />

websites accessible to visually impaired users.<br />

In reality it’s about much more than that…<br />

The commercial cost of<br />

overlooking accessibility<br />

in design<br />

brands prioritise speed to market ahead of<br />

most other strategic considerations, not least<br />

accessibility in design. But in the rush to build<br />

sites to launch the latest product or service<br />

it’s easy to forget users who need more help<br />

to navigate the web – even though doing so<br />

could spell commercial disaster.<br />

Consider this: according to a Scope/Family<br />

Resources Survey there are 14.1 million disabled<br />

people in the UK, including almost a fifth<br />

(19%) of working-age adults. Moreover, plenty<br />

of disabilities that cause online accessibility<br />

problems aren’t obvious. Did you know, for<br />

instance, that one in every dozen men across<br />

the globe is colour blind? That’s just one<br />

example. There are a host of other issues,<br />

from motion sickness to epilepsy, that can<br />

affect consumers’ ability to engage with poorly<br />

designed sites.<br />

There is a huge part of the population we<br />

need to work harder for so that their purchase<br />

journeys are easier. If brands don’t make it easy<br />

for their entire consumer base to engage and<br />

buy then, over time, the consequence could<br />

be tangible financial loss.<br />

Ecommerce has made sales more competitive<br />

than ever before so it’s no surprise that many<br />



Making the consumer journey more<br />

accessible for all<br />

It’s harder to retrofit accessibility to a website than to build it<br />

in from the beginning. So, the trick is to treat it as a strategic<br />

imperative from the start, not just a box-ticking exercise.<br />

There will almost always be a section of a brand’s target<br />

market that need more support so it’s important to pose<br />

the question upfront.<br />

Historically, and despite the 2010 Equalities Act writing<br />

the requirement into law, only third sector and government<br />

service providers seem to have made this a priority. It is time<br />

commercial organisations caught up. You wouldn’t have a<br />

shop wheelchair users can’t access, so why have a website<br />

that doesn’t work for large swathes of the population?<br />

The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility<br />

Initiative (WAI) has guidelines that offer a good starting point.<br />

They split accessibility into three standards:<br />

Basic accessibility, but still serviceable<br />

‘Middle ground’ accessibility; most<br />

government service websites conform<br />

to this standard as a minimum<br />

‘Hyper-accessible’ site design,<br />

but anything ‘flashy’ has to go<br />

Choosing the standard suitable for a brand’s audience is<br />

challenging because there are often multiple different<br />

business objectives at play that require balancing out. Luckily<br />

technology and rigorous techniques now present solutions<br />

that mean you can avoid needing to decide between having<br />

an eye-catching site and an accessible one.<br />


Good design and accessibility can go<br />

hand-in-hand, with a practical approach<br />

to UX that considers aspects such as:<br />

Layout<br />

Balanced, logical, and straightforward to navigate<br />

Motion<br />

Awareness that animation can be destabilising<br />

or disorienting for some users<br />

Size and Space<br />

Should be proportionate, particularly relevant<br />

to buttons and interactive elements<br />

Typography<br />

Clear hierarchy of legible fonts at appropriate sizes<br />

Language<br />

Simple, well written, without jargon or acronyms<br />

Colour<br />

Harmonious use of colour with strong contrast<br />

for typography<br />

Success relies on close collaboration between<br />

agencies, clients and the extended design team;<br />

a more holistic understanding between project<br />

partners to align solutions to the audience’s<br />

often diverse accessibility needs.<br />

The process of understanding and implementing<br />

accessibility in design takes time. It’s important<br />

that everyone concerned doesn’t rush such vital<br />

requirements. Our own website is a case in point:<br />

it needs work from an accessibility point of view,<br />

which is something we’re reviewing currently as<br />

a priority.<br />

Traditionally cost and complexity have been<br />

viewed as two key barriers to better accessibility<br />

in design. In reality, as long as the correct<br />

approach is taken, there is nothing to be scared<br />

of. Accessible design is good design, and the<br />

idea that creativity, visual aesthetics, or dynamic<br />

tech will inevitably be hindered is misguided<br />

and out of date. Technical rigour is required but<br />

it’s not rocket science, and the visual toolbox<br />

remains the same.<br />

In an era when brands are throwing focus on<br />

the diversity of their own teams as well as their<br />

audiences, accessibility in design is the next<br />

step towards a truly inclusive experience for all.<br />

Brands need to be considering it, and agencies<br />

shouldn’t wait to be asked about it. We all need<br />

to be addressing these issues head on. There is<br />

an opportunity to get ahead of the curve here,<br />

solving a problem before consumer demand<br />

forces change, which it inevitably will.<br />

As published by Shots.<br />




Putting wearable<br />

tech at the heart<br />

of healthcare<br />

strategies<br />

Rachel Grigg<br />

Client Partnerships Director<br />

Healthcare is shrinking.<br />

Don’t worry, this isn’t an attack on the<br />

NHS, government policy or UK patient<br />

care generally. What we mean by that<br />

is wearable technology now presents<br />

an opportunity to make diagnosis and<br />

treatment more efficient and effective<br />

than ever.<br />

A proliferation of portable and wearable<br />

devices – from palm-sized ultrasound units<br />

used by paramedics, to data-sharing smart<br />

watches – has the potential to revolutionise<br />

all of the ways in which healthcare is<br />

planned and delivered.<br />

We believe tech innovation can – and<br />

must – be the beating heart of healthcare<br />

delivery. Organisations will be inspired by<br />

the way private-sector firms have used<br />

technology to pivot, with entire industries<br />

adapting to meet changing consumer<br />

demands.<br />

Look how smarter use of customer data<br />

has shaken up the energy market, allowing<br />

consumers to take control by switching to<br />

a more suitable option in a few short clicks.<br />

Then consider the wider advertising<br />

industry, which has evolved from mass<br />

TV marketing to one-to-one, personalised<br />

messaging, drawing on data and<br />

technology as its fuel.<br />

It’s in this context that we should view<br />

the future of healthcare provision in the<br />

UK. Technology and the data it delivers in<br />

droves can surely make a dent in painful<br />

waiting lists; even take a scalpel to the<br />

current two-week maximum wait to see<br />

your GP.<br />



Driving adoption of<br />

wearable tech<br />

Wearables are not new. Around the turn of the<br />

21st century, however, devices from Bluetooth<br />

headsets to smart watches were rolled out.<br />

They came with a promise to reach critical<br />

mass in short order and revolutionise everyday<br />

life in the process.<br />

That hasn’t quite happened – but it doesn’t<br />

mean the myriad benefits of wearables don’t<br />

exist. In fact, investors still believe wearables<br />

are the future. Biospace estimates the market<br />

for this type of tech will grow from today’s<br />

$21.3bn to $196.5bn by the end of the decade.<br />

We think adoption has been slow due to two<br />

main factors.<br />

First, cost. As any headset-wearing driver or<br />

smartwatch-toting runner will tell you, most<br />

devices aren’t cheap. Nor are many subscription<br />

services affordable for the masses during a<br />

cost-of-living crisis.<br />

Second, set-up. Many organisations – not least<br />

the NHS – just aren’t structured in a way that<br />

supports the effective capture and use of huge<br />

volumes of data. Silos get in the way and too<br />

much information falls through the cracks.<br />

How healthcare can<br />

be transformed<br />

Your organisation doesn’t need to commit huge<br />

budgets to explore wearable healthcare. Small<br />

initial steps – focusing on a specific area of your<br />

business or embryonic product idea – can reap<br />

big rewards.<br />

That’s the way we think the wearable health<br />

tech market will grow. Proving patient demand<br />

for new forms of diagnosis and treatment is<br />

paramount. Investment in – and from – the<br />

private sector will be crucial to drive mass<br />

adoption of the technology in the public sector.<br />

If the cost of ownership can be made more<br />

palatable for organisations interest in selfmanagement<br />

of patient health will grow.<br />

So, how might this work – and what are<br />

the benefits?<br />

In effect, the possibilities are endless. We<br />

already have access to devices that monitor<br />

our heart rate and alert first responders if<br />

sensors detect a health crisis like a stroke<br />

or heart attack. Similar technology could be<br />

rolled out across society, accelerating critical<br />

treatment times.<br />

These are both significant issues. But we<br />

believe the secret to successfully harnessing<br />

wearables is quite simple: start small.<br />

We believe the secret<br />

to successfully<br />

harnessing<br />

wearables is quite<br />

simple: start small.”<br />


Emergency response is the tip of the iceberg. All<br />

of the data produced by wearables – from blood<br />

sugar levels to monitoring changes in the menstrual<br />

cycle – can automatically be passed to frontline<br />

healthcare organisations, enabling professionals<br />

to read and appropriately respond.<br />

Mums-to-be might soon see the hefty “red book”<br />

of maternity go digital. Wearables could pass data<br />

to community midwives to monitor risk of common<br />

conditions such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia,<br />

and arrange treatment in a more timely<br />

fashion than was previously possible.<br />

Further into the future – thought not too far away, if<br />

reports of a forthcoming patent are true – wearable<br />

glasses that overlay Virtual Reality onto our world<br />

will also be able to correct the vision of anyone with<br />

an optical prescription. Could similar innovation<br />

revolutionise at-home diagnosis with, for instance,<br />

a palm-sized scanner capable of identifying a<br />

cracked bone after a fall?<br />

Horizon scanning is always amusing and informative.<br />

But wearables aren’t pipe dreams. We can already<br />

use them today to make a difference.<br />

Keep your finger on the pulse of<br />

healthcare delivery<br />

We’re not talking about the construction of vast<br />

platforms. More agile formats of all sizes can get<br />

the job done. For instance, a simple app that taps<br />

connected, wearable technology for valuable<br />

healthcare data can change the way patients<br />

access diagnosis and treatment.<br />

LABS takes a tech-agnostic, test-and-learn<br />

approach to healthcare wearables. This is already<br />

taking us down some interesting avenues.<br />

Members of our team were heavily involved in one<br />

of the world’s first European prescription-based<br />

wearable tech services: a hypertension app that<br />

monitored patient health and could be accessed<br />

by their HCP (Health Care Professional) to enable<br />

fast and direct treatment in real time.<br />

When clients engage us we enter an initial<br />

discovery phase. The output is an articulation<br />

of the organisation’s business challenges;<br />

objectives of using wearables in product and<br />

service development, with a focus on security,<br />

confidentiality and GDPR compliance; and a<br />

roadmap with bespoke recommendations to<br />

make the strategy a reality.<br />

We will also advise on the latest data compliance<br />

issues and regulations that we’ll need to account<br />

for as we collaborate.<br />

With health tech investment set to swell,<br />

and patient demand for innovation in diagnosis<br />

and treatment increasing, there has never<br />

been a better time to consider new ways to<br />

deliver smart, efficient healthcare. LABS can<br />

help you keep your finger on the pulse of<br />

these exciting developments.<br />



The rise of D2C<br />

What the modern shopper<br />

really wants<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

In the past few years, a new generation of<br />

disruptive start-ups has emerged, and they<br />

are forcing traditional brands to re-think<br />

how they build, market and sell products.<br />

These Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) players<br />

utilise an innovative marketing strategy<br />

that enables them to enter the market<br />

directly, without relying on middlemen or<br />

third-party suppliers. This eliminates the<br />

barrier between producer and consumer,<br />

giving these businesses greater control<br />

over their brand, reputation, marketing<br />

and sales tactics.<br />


The customer values that<br />

are driving adoption<br />

From Made.com to Patch Plants to Glossier,<br />

D2C players have capitalised on greater<br />

levels of data retention and consumer<br />

insights which in turn allows for smarter<br />

decision-making. Given this success,<br />

the D2C market is projected to grow<br />

by a staggering 19.2% in 2021 alone.<br />

Fuelling these shifts lies a change in<br />

shopper behaviour and psychology. New<br />

research shows that 55% of consumers<br />

prefer to buy from brands directly, while<br />

a further 40% of shoppers say they will<br />

purchase from a D2C brand in the next<br />

five years.<br />

While the direct model has gained<br />

significant traction across sectors, studies<br />

suggest there is still considerable room<br />

for growth. From our own proprietary<br />

research, we discovered that 82% of<br />

consumers currently have between<br />

zero and four D2C relationships. This<br />

finding shows that the market is still<br />

in its relative infancy.<br />

For legacy brands, there is now a massive<br />

opportunity to disrupt the status quo<br />

with a D2C offering that delivers on<br />

the expectations, values and desired<br />

experiences of modern consumers.<br />

As Karen Ehrlich, Marketing & Consumer<br />

Engagement Director, U.K. & Ireland at<br />

Clinique, says, “D2C is clearly a win-win<br />

for brands and consumers.”<br />

Let’s uncover why.<br />

Knock-on effects from the COVID-19<br />

pandemic have accelerated the shift<br />

towards digital platforms. This offers<br />

shoppers an easier and more convenient<br />

customer experience. But this transition<br />

is nothing new; in fact, D2C players have<br />

been capitalising on this new set of<br />

experiences for years.<br />

To understand why D2C brands have been<br />

so successful at customer acquisition,<br />

retention and loyalty, we need to first<br />

ascertain what specific values these<br />

players are delivering on.<br />

According to our research, values such as<br />

‘convenience’ and ‘ease of use’ top the list<br />

of D2C benefits, with a resounding 94% of<br />

shoppers choosing at least one of these as<br />

their reason for shopping with D2C brands.<br />

55% of consumers<br />

prefer to buy from<br />

brands directly.”<br />

These core drivers are pivotal in<br />

motivating shoppers to engage with D2C<br />

brands in the first instance, but teaming<br />

‘convenience’ and ‘ease of use’ with<br />

other key values such as ‘control over my<br />

purchases’ and ‘the ability to customise’<br />

is what truly differentiates D2C from other<br />

ecommerce strategies.<br />



At Initials CX, we use a simple equation<br />

that cements the value of a direct<br />

proposition: convenience + customisation =<br />

D2C conversion.<br />

We believe it’s not enough for a brand to<br />

simply launch a D2C channel; it has to be<br />

relevant too. With increased consumer<br />

preference on values such as convenience,<br />

ease of use, customisation and control,<br />

legacy brands need to build on these<br />

values in ways that feel natural and<br />

relevant to their brand identity.<br />

Clinique’s Karen Ehrlich, agrees with<br />

this, commenting, “It’s about having a<br />

one-to-one dialogue between the brand<br />

and consumer. This means D2C brands<br />

can be in full control over the range of<br />

brand experiences they offer. By tailoring<br />

communications to the consumer, D2C<br />

brands can ensure content is always<br />

relevant and personalised, which leads<br />

to a better customer experience.”<br />

By applying these strategies, brands can<br />

identify the gaps in their offering and<br />

design solutions that are both relevant<br />

and compelling for individual shoppers.<br />

A link between purchasing<br />

intent and category<br />

With the D2C market still undergoing<br />

a period of growth, some categories<br />

have emerged as clear leaders in the<br />

acquisition of market share.<br />

Direct brands have used advanced<br />

customer data metrics to personalise<br />

the entire brand experience, allowing for<br />

marketing campaigns that drive at the<br />

heart of the individual’s wants and needs.<br />

This set of tech solutions has optimised<br />

the relationship with the customer through<br />

automation of processes and sufficient<br />

scalability in volume and sales channels.<br />

Brewgooder’s James Hughes says,<br />

“The best D2C brands tap into customer<br />

behaviours and how people do things.<br />

It’s this personalisation approach that<br />

has really evolved D2C relationships and<br />

processes beyond just direct comms.”<br />

Beauty, for example, is one of the<br />

leading D2C categories, with brands<br />

such as Glossier and Harry’s setting the<br />

standard for customer-first strategies<br />

that are centred around convenience<br />


and customisation. Unlike traditional<br />

competitors, these new players have<br />

experimented with distribution models<br />

and designed a customer experience<br />

that delivers on the values shoppers<br />

care about.<br />

Food is another flourishing category,<br />

with D2C brands like Hello Fresh, Gousto<br />

and Pact Coffee shaking up the sector<br />

and redefining how consumers browse,<br />

shop and buy. In our research, consumers<br />

labelled ‘food’ as the number one<br />

D2C category they were most likely<br />

to purchase from.<br />

While some categories may have had a<br />

head start in adopting and applying the<br />

D2C model, we’re now seeing this become<br />

accepted more used by brands across<br />

a number of different sectors.<br />

Emerging D2C categories<br />

Some categories are now in the early<br />

stages of acquiring an engaged and loyal<br />

customer base. Alcohol, for example, is<br />

beginning to infiltrate the space, with D2C<br />

sales increasing by a marked 27% during<br />

the pandemic.<br />

This shift is driven by the likes of<br />

Brewgooder, which offers a subscriptionbased<br />

service model that makes it easy<br />

for customers to sample small-batch beers<br />

that are delivered straight to their door.<br />

Brewgooder’s James Hughes comments<br />

on the adoption of the D2C model, saying,<br />

“We’re now at a point where everyone<br />

feels they can do D2C. The companies<br />

that really do it best are the ones that<br />

utilise all the strengths of their brand.<br />

Our aim is to interlink all of our services,<br />

so we can unlock the potential of the<br />

online consumer journey and transition<br />

effortlessly from online to offline.”<br />

As we analyse the<br />

D2C space, it’s clear<br />

that direct brands<br />

have succeeded<br />

by delivering on<br />

the values that<br />

matter most to<br />

a new generation<br />

of shoppers.”<br />

Even industry giants such as Diageo<br />

are getting in on the action, launching<br />

a stand-alone website for their Haig<br />

Club scotch whisky brand for example.<br />

For legacy brands, finding these rich<br />

territories for growth will offer a compelling<br />

opportunity to carve out a niche swathe<br />

of the market. Achieving this, however,<br />

will mean developing an offering that<br />

uses D2C as one channel in a wider,<br />

connected experience.<br />

This is where legacy brands have ample<br />

room to leverage the strengths of their<br />

existing customer base and consumer<br />

journey. By providing a D2C offering that<br />

is part of a larger, connected experience,<br />

legacy brands can make their market<br />

positioning more relevant and deliver<br />

products and services in ways that<br />

resonate with today’s shoppers.<br />



Future growth for<br />

D2C brands<br />

As we analyse the D2C<br />

space, it’s clear that direct<br />

brands have succeeded<br />

by delivering on the values<br />

that matter most to a new<br />

generation of shoppers.<br />

This, in combination with<br />

a more structured and indepth<br />

data set, has enabled<br />

a much more personalised<br />

brand experience.<br />

With fewer barriers to<br />

entry, D2C businesses have<br />

been able to deliver higher<br />

margins while maintaining<br />

greater control over their brand,<br />

marketing and sales strategy.<br />

Since more than 50% of shoppers have<br />

less than two D2C relationships, there is<br />

still plenty of room for brands to enter<br />

the space. This is especially true for<br />

heritage brands that may have a more<br />

traditional product offering.<br />

By tapping into new customer values,<br />

building advanced data tracking systems<br />

and leveraging the heritage aspect<br />

of their brand, businesses can evolve<br />

their D2C capabilities and establish<br />

an offering that aligns with modern<br />

consumer needs.<br />

While the number of current<br />

D2C relationships may be fairly low,<br />

brands should expect that increased<br />

competition in the space will make<br />

this a key battleground for customer<br />

acquisition in years to come.<br />

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman at<br />

Ogilvy UK, has discussed the concept<br />

of a “cognitive maximum”, implying there<br />

may well be a limit to the number of D2C<br />

relationships consumers would be willing<br />

to have. This makes sense, given that a high<br />

number of D2C subscriptions could become<br />

a logistical burden for consumers.<br />

In fact, the defining criteria for success in<br />

this space may well be determined by the<br />

product serving a behavioural need. For<br />

example, Gousto have solved a coordination<br />

issue that consumers didn’t even know they<br />

had. By providing people with a menu of<br />

items, rather than having to shop for a long<br />

list of ingredients before cooking, Gousto has<br />

saved people time, money and mental space.<br />

In a world where there will always be<br />

a need for some form of aggregation,<br />

it’s clear D2C will remain selective<br />

and hard-won by brands that will<br />

need to consistently justify their<br />

role in consumers’ lives.<br />

The brands that can build relevant,<br />

personalised and connected experiences<br />

that meet the wants and needs of a new<br />

generation of shoppers will be the true<br />

winners of the D2C space.<br />

As published by The Drum.<br />


Fad or future?<br />

Demystifying today’s<br />

emerging channels<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

The pandemic has permanently altered the retail<br />

landscape. Touchpoints in customer journeys<br />

are converging, with some previously used for<br />

awareness, engagement and education now<br />

becoming shoppable purchase channels.<br />

There are now numerous types of retail<br />

commerce where convergence is evident; from<br />

q-commerce, social commerce and contextual<br />

commerce, to newly emerging livestream<br />

commerce. You name it, there seems to be a<br />

type of commerce for every letter of alphabet.<br />

In this increasingly fragmented world,<br />

omnichannel thinking – in the sense of simply<br />

online versus offline – has become redundant.<br />



So it’s little wonder that brands can be<br />

confused about which options offer the<br />

most effective way to build a presence<br />

that reaches consumers at the right time.<br />

And with such a rapid shift in technologies<br />

and consumer culture, it’s not just about<br />

understanding what’s happening today,<br />

but also horizon scanning to know what’s<br />

coming next.<br />

Marketers, strategists and innovators wish<br />

more than anything for a way to predict the<br />

future of retail and consumer behaviour.<br />

Forewarned is forearmed after all.<br />

Sadly, it’s not possible. If it was, we’d all<br />

be millionaires.<br />

Don’t despair: experience has taught us<br />

there are ways to get a good steer on the<br />

future. There are several strategies we’d<br />

advise your brand to adopt to understand<br />

the road ahead.<br />

Separate fads<br />

from trends<br />

Starting with fads, let’s consider voice<br />

search technology. More than half of all the<br />

searches across the internet were expected<br />

to be voice-based by the end of 2021, but<br />

a December 2021 study by eMarketer found<br />

that only 9% of adults have ever shopped<br />

via voice.<br />

The reason why v-commerce remains<br />

widely untapped is that the user experience<br />

with voice assistants is not optimal. Errors<br />

create an aversion to using an algorithm or<br />

a device, even if it improves with usage.<br />

With the involvement of money in a v-comm<br />

transaction, the aversion is stronger.<br />

Shopping via v-commerce also creates an<br />

‘invisible gap’ between user and basket<br />

which lowers confidence in purchase.<br />

Placing a product in your cart (physical<br />

or virtual) is underpinned by a feeling of<br />

ownership. Shopping with voice lacks this<br />

visual cue and creates distance between<br />

the user and the product.<br />

Replicating the context from ecommerce<br />

in a voice only interface is clearly not<br />

feasible, and consumers are unlikely<br />

to adopt this channel long-term, unless<br />

marked improvements are made to the<br />

user experience.<br />

In contrast to this example, trends solve<br />

problems and get stronger over time. Just<br />

look at Amazon Go. Clearly the format has<br />

cemented the concept of autonomous<br />

shopping in mainstream retail, with Amazon<br />

opening seven stores across the UK – and<br />

unveiling plans for 260-plus stores by 2024.<br />

The concept is based on a real human<br />

need for convenience and Covid safety,<br />

with technology that responds to shoppers’<br />

desire for cashless, touch-free checkouts.<br />

Thus, proving that technology driven<br />

innovation can be disruptive and successful<br />

if it helps enhance people’s lives, offers<br />

a solution (not just data) and provides<br />

confidence in the entire process.<br />

There is a fragile line that separates a trend<br />

from a fad. Knowing the unique needs<br />

of your audience, and whether the<br />

channel truly serves those desires, is key<br />

to working out what’s a fad – and what’s<br />

a growing trend.<br />


Let the<br />

audience decide<br />

Keep on<br />

pushing forward<br />

Another essential factor is the target<br />

market your brand is catering to. Whether<br />

your brand’s message is in sync with<br />

their identity and respects their unique<br />

needs will determine the success of any<br />

marketing activity.<br />

For that reason, consumer needs<br />

should always come first – with channel<br />

a secondary consideration.<br />

That means brands must assess all of<br />

the channels to market that are available<br />

to them through the lens of consumer<br />

expectation, keeping in mind the pain<br />

points each channel solves (or purports<br />

to solve).<br />

Ultimately, a cold calculation is required:<br />

only emerging channels that respond to<br />

people’s needs and behaviours, not their<br />

short-lived desires, are worth investment.<br />

The law of inertia states that something will<br />

remain the same unless acted upon by an<br />

outside force. In this way, trends will only<br />

occur when one of two things happens:<br />

• Legislation persuades people to adopt<br />

new routines<br />

• An influential force releases a concept<br />

to widespread acclaim<br />

Staying abreast of daily news and cultural<br />

developments, and questioning their<br />

impact on your target market, enables<br />

your brand to harness growing trends.<br />

Monitoring change sounds, and is,<br />

fairly simple; it’s what you do with the<br />

information that counts. Our advice is<br />

to always be proactive, spending time<br />

experimenting with new ideas and<br />

technology in ways that anticipate and<br />

offer solutions to consumers’ pain points.<br />

If you don’t do this, your rivals will<br />

It is difficult to identify trends and fads before they happen. Yet understanding the<br />

difference between them is essential for survival. Whereas fads increase top-ofmind<br />

awareness and demonstrate your organisation’s timeliness, trends will help you<br />

expand your business and get ahead of your competition.<br />

The three steps outlined above are the foundations of a successful approach to future<br />

scanning, allowing you to spot and seize emerging trends, choosing the right channels<br />

that will garner the greatest response from your customers.<br />

With this in mind, now is the time to get to grips with the burgeoning range of channels<br />

before the commerce lexicon gets even longer, and your brand gets left behind.<br />

As published by ECommerce Age.<br />



Stepping into<br />

the metaverse<br />

How brands can create new experiences<br />

and build loyal communities<br />

Imogen Venn<br />

Group Account Director<br />

The next big technology platform isn’t a<br />

distant, dystopian world. It’s here, now. And the<br />

metaverse is primed for unprecedented growth.<br />

According to Bloomberg, the metaverse will<br />

capture $800 billion in market share by 2024,<br />

as it explodes at the intersection of ecommerce,<br />

social commerce, gaming, web 3.0, the creator<br />

economy and new digital communities.<br />

This isn’t just a passing fad, either. All the<br />

major players are getting involved.<br />

Meta’s Reality Labs department has invested<br />

a cool $10 billion into the metaverse already,<br />

Nvidia has introduced Omniverse technology<br />

to be used by industries for digitally designing<br />

real-world simulations, and Sony has invested<br />

$200 million to secure the rights to music and<br />

sounds that will be part of the metaverse.<br />

All this hype and fervour has brands and<br />

consumers wondering what this future world<br />

will look like and how these experiences will<br />

unfold and interact.<br />

But the reality is even more exciting:<br />

we’re already in the metaverse.<br />



In this article, we’ll explore how brands can<br />

leverage today’s digital world to plan metaverse<br />

experiences that will redefine the way people<br />

search, browse and shop.<br />

The metaverse is already here<br />

Today, more than two-thirds of the world uses<br />

mobile phones – a staggering 5.31 billion<br />

people. On top of that, nearly 5 billion people<br />

now have internet access and more than<br />

4.6 billion are active social media users.<br />

Brands don’t need to wait – the metaverse<br />

is very much here.<br />

In this new digital ecosystem, work is<br />

conducted remotely via Zoom or Teams,<br />

shopping is done online via Amazon or D2C<br />

websites, and consumers engage, share and<br />

interact via unique digital communities.<br />

As emerging technologies such as AR and VR<br />

have matured, brands and consumers alike<br />

now have access to new modes of shopping<br />

that weren’t feasible before.<br />

Ikea Studio, for<br />

example, has<br />

been using AR<br />

technologies to<br />

allow customers<br />

to use their<br />

smartphone or<br />

tablet to visualise<br />

what furniture<br />

and other home<br />

décor will look<br />

like in their own<br />

space since 2018.<br />

Amazon’s ‘View In<br />

Your Room’ tool<br />

has also enabled<br />

consumers to see<br />

how products fit<br />

before you bring<br />

them home.<br />

Forward-thinking<br />

brands will<br />

need to merge<br />

commerce with<br />

new technologies,<br />

behaviours and<br />

expectations.”<br />

This isn’t unique to retailers, either. Beauty<br />

brands like Rimmel have been using the same<br />

tech to allow consumers to try on products<br />

virtually from the comfort of their own home.<br />

The most recent brand tech experience that<br />

made quite the splash was Nike’s acquisition<br />

of RTFKT, which will enable the global fashion<br />

giant to produce digital collectibles and NFTs<br />

(including digital sneakers).<br />

While this future digital world has been in<br />

the making for several years, the stakes have<br />

now changed.<br />

The merging of social<br />

commerce, ecommerce<br />

and community building<br />

The first step in the journey towards true<br />

innovation is to accept that our perspective<br />

needs to shift. As we’ve seen, the metaverse<br />

is very much here and thriving.<br />

So, what is the metaverse? Or, at the very least,<br />

what will it look like?<br />

The metaverse is a broad term<br />

used to describe a virtualreality<br />

space in which users<br />

can interact with a computergenerated<br />

environment and<br />

other users. Visions of the<br />

metaverse differ, but most<br />

agree it will combine the best<br />

elements of ecommerce,<br />

social commerce and<br />

blockchain technology to<br />

power new communities<br />

of shoppers.<br />

To capitalise on this and<br />

reimagine the customer<br />

experience, forwardthinking<br />

brands will need<br />

to merge commerce with<br />

new technologies, behaviours<br />

and expectations.<br />


In this new world, brands<br />

can create truly bespoke<br />

digital experiences. Imagine<br />

a 3D environment where<br />

shoppers can meet to browse,<br />

discover and explore online<br />

collections. Brands can create<br />

truly immersive experiences,<br />

powered by ecommerce,<br />

social commerce and<br />

cryptocurrencies, to enable<br />

a richer, more seamless<br />

user purchasing journey.<br />

Here, integrated shopping<br />

capabilities can include<br />

physical products, digital<br />

products or NFTs.<br />

These virtual stores will<br />

create a highly personalised digital shopping<br />

experience for consumers where product<br />

discovery will also accelerate. Through the<br />

integration of AI technologies, brands can<br />

track a customer’s behaviour, purchase history,<br />

individual style and demographic profile,<br />

harnessing this data to provide bespoke and<br />

imaginative experiences simply not possible<br />

in physical stores or today’s web 2.0.<br />

It’s a complete reimagination of the shopping<br />

experience – and something brands can (and<br />

should) make plans for today.<br />

What steps can brands take<br />

to plan for the future?<br />

At a time of exponential possibilities, the<br />

question we should really be asking ourselves<br />

is: “What is the future of the metaverse and<br />

how can my brand interact with it?”<br />

At Initials CX, we believe the most conservative<br />

place to start is to look within Oculus and build<br />

a brand presence there, as it comes with a<br />

ready set consumer base that only looks set<br />

to grow.<br />

This way, brands that are new to the space can<br />

start with a small budget to hold a metaverse<br />

brand discovery session, which will give you<br />

the insights and data needed to go on and<br />

create a 360-purchase store.<br />

Drawing on shopper insights in the metaverse,<br />

brands can develop a strategic offering specific<br />

to the metaverse and establish where and<br />

how to show up. This approach makes sense<br />

for brands that want to gain exposure to the<br />

metaverse without jumping in feet first.<br />

Alternatively, if a brand wanted to push the<br />

boundaries even further, it could partner with<br />

relevant influencers in the space, such as<br />

Snoop Dogg and Deadmau5, who are already<br />

building virtual brands that will host exclusive,<br />

members-only parties within the metaverse.<br />

The biggest investment, however, is overcoming<br />

the mental hurdle of understanding what the<br />

metaverse is and the potential it holds.<br />

While it may sound like some distant, fantastic<br />

future, the metaverse is already here in a big<br />

way. Now is the time to test the waters and<br />

start embracing the metaverse, as it looks set<br />

to revolutionise the way brands and consumers<br />

interact for years to come.<br />

As published by Advertising Week.<br />




How challenger<br />

brands can<br />

disrupt crowded<br />

categories<br />

Imogen Venn<br />

Group Account Director<br />

Going head-to-head with iconic brands as a<br />

challenger in your category is hard enough.<br />

Throw in stiff competition from a raft of small<br />

rivals and getting your product into shoppers’<br />

hands can seem like a mountain to climb.<br />

But believe it or not, it’s the perfect time<br />

to be a challenger brand. Supply chain and<br />

logistics issues continue to dog some of the<br />

major players as they strive to get volume<br />

into stores to fulfil big retail deals.<br />

More agile players have already been riding<br />

to the rescue of the grocers, filling the gaps<br />

left by temporarily struggling big brands.<br />

So, if challengers’ dreams are still very much<br />

alive, what do they need to do to stand out<br />

in-store and make themselves heard in the<br />

din of cluttered categories?<br />

Two core truths<br />

Challengers generally succeed or fail<br />

depending on their ability to tackle two<br />

core challenges: building awareness<br />

and educating consumers.<br />

Awareness is key in a saturated market.<br />

This can mean taking a broad approach to<br />

showcasing your new product to as many<br />

shoppers as possible – or honing in on specific<br />

segments, such as consumers who have<br />

dabbled in, but previously rejected a category.<br />

Education can differentiate a challenger brand<br />

from big and small competitors. Messaging<br />

around product innovation is important here:<br />

what does the consumer need to know, and<br />

what makes your item the one they put in their<br />

basket rather than a category rival?<br />

With a track-record in helping disruptors<br />

emerge from the shadow of big brands,<br />

we’ve boiled down the essence of success<br />

into several aspects you should consider.<br />



Following a seven-step strategy to successful shopper marketing<br />

campaigns builds both awareness and education:<br />

1. Creative disruption<br />

It’s exciting to work with challenger brands that<br />

like their creative to be different and disruptive.<br />

They can be adventurous in a way established<br />

brands, which often conform to creative<br />

conventions, can’t. In fact, challengers need<br />

standout creative to capture attention at shelf.<br />

In our experience, though, emerging brands<br />

need help teasing out their ethos to explain<br />

with impact what they do and rise above rivals<br />

in the crowded aisle.<br />

2. Media strategy<br />

With a killer idea to promote, the support of a<br />

media budget can bring the brand story to life<br />

and drive a significant amount of organic reach.<br />

The strongest ideas live and breathe across<br />

many different channels – and also in tandem.<br />

An outdoor campaign can be hammered home<br />

by memorable (and sharable) social media, and<br />

well-executed in-store comms, for instance.<br />

3. Concentrated firepower<br />

Without the big bucks of major brands to draw<br />

on, many challenger brands must cut their<br />

marketing initiatives according to their cloth.<br />

That means investing wisely, with the support of<br />

a partner that isn’t just out to spend everything<br />

upfront – or waste it across too many channels.<br />

It’s about planning for the long haul, raising<br />

awareness and educating consumers with<br />

an initial splash, but also finding ways to be<br />

creative so that the budget stretches as far<br />

and as effectively as possible. “Doing less<br />

better” is a good mantra.<br />

4. Tracking matters<br />

Make sure your marketing and retail partners<br />

know what you’re hoping to achieve from the<br />

campaign. Then draw a line between your<br />

goals and the KPIs you’ll use to measure<br />

performance. That means assessing how<br />

well you’re driving shoppers through the<br />

funnel from out-of-store media to point-of-sale<br />

creative. Brand and sales tracking isn’t cheap,<br />

but it’s crucial.<br />

5. Personality’s key<br />

It’s vital to present a challenger brand’s<br />

personality as the shopper’s eyes sweep<br />

across the shelves. This is aligned to creative<br />

strategy, but really a separate job. It means<br />

getting under the skin of the brand to infuse<br />

its reason for being into communications at<br />

every level; whether that’s building awareness<br />

with a rational approach away from store,<br />

or hard-hitting POS marketing to educate<br />

the consumer.<br />

6. Authentic difference<br />

Whether you’re considering creative or brand<br />

personality, building consumer trust through<br />

authenticity is critical. Everything your brand<br />

says must be true to who you are as a business.<br />

If you can hit upon brand positioning and<br />

a creative campaign that’s authentic and<br />

different, shoppers will notice.<br />

7. Targeted content<br />

Where possible – although it will require<br />

investment in technology – think about serving<br />

digital content around geo-targeted locations.<br />

This is key for boosting sales in-store, in<br />

an era when people prefer to buy many<br />

products online.<br />


How we’ve grown potato milk<br />

brand DUG<br />

Our work for start-up potato milk brand DUG<br />

is the seven-step strategy pressed into action.<br />

Dairy alternatives has become a hugely<br />

crowded category in recent years – from<br />

oats to soy to almonds – driven by consumers’<br />

desire for better diets. But that leaves little<br />

room for a new product to squeeze itself<br />

onto supermarket shelves.<br />

With DUG wanting to enter UK grocers on<br />

a short timescale the brand needed a new<br />

positioning and creative identity to turn<br />

the heads of buyers and shoppers alike.<br />

We realised one of DUG’s great virtues is<br />

its point of difference.<br />

Built around a daring, urban personality the<br />

solution is ‘Dare to DUG’. The positioning and<br />

creative are designed to inspire audiences to<br />

challenge their perceptions and existing brand<br />

preferences, compelling them to step away<br />

from the norm.<br />

The campaign’s bold typography and daring<br />

copy entice consumers across static and<br />

animated POS assets, driving people to pick<br />

up DUG products.<br />

Hopefully this article has given you a flavour<br />

of the ingredients that go into a successful<br />

shopper marketing campaign if your brand<br />

is starting out, on a small budget, or both.<br />

Many consumers will seek out products that<br />

look, say or do something a bit different – and<br />

with the right approach to disruption in the<br />

shopper marketing space, your brand can<br />

succeed too.<br />

As published by Internet Retailing.<br />



Will FMCG restrictions<br />

mean an uptick for<br />

prize promotions?<br />

James Willoughby<br />

Client Service Director & Partner<br />

FMCG brands have been hyper-focused<br />

on building new, exciting digital experiences.<br />

But is there a resurgent opportunity for<br />

prize promotions to play a part in the wider<br />

connected experience?<br />

As is well documented, the UK Department<br />

of Health and Social Care has confirmed<br />

plans to introduce promotional and location<br />

restrictions on high fat, salt and sugar<br />

(HFSS) products in stores.<br />

This means it will be harder for brands to<br />

advertise products in-store and severely limit<br />

flexibility around discounts and sales. Product<br />

innovation through the creation of healthier<br />

products is one option, but clearly new strategies<br />

will be required to drive sales and inspire loyalty.<br />

On top of this, new privacy restrictions regarding<br />

third-party cookies mean FMCG brands will<br />

no longer have such oversight of customer<br />

behaviour online.<br />

Severing this rich source of data has serious<br />

ramifications for FMCG brands that rely heavily<br />

on external retailers to sell their products, since<br />

many of these brands lack robust first-party data.<br />

Both measures, which are set to be introduced<br />

in 2022, will have serious knock-on effects for<br />

FMCG brands that are looking to drive loyalty<br />

and achieve cut through at the point of purchase.<br />

Let’s explore why 2022 could be the year prize<br />

promotions bring new energy and reinvention<br />

to the table.<br />

How can prize promotions solve<br />

these challenges?<br />

From cereal box inserts to exotic holidays, the<br />

idea of a brand driving sales and engagement<br />

through prizes and rewards has been around<br />

for decades.<br />

In today’s digital climate, however, prize<br />

promotions can be seen as somewhat “boring”<br />

and “old-fashioned”. Part of the problem is<br />

that lazy prize promotions have tainted the<br />

perception of all prize promotions.<br />

When done well, prize promotions not only<br />

have a short-term sales effect but can have<br />

long-term benefits for the brand, too.<br />



Some of these benefits include:<br />

• Showcasing a brand’s proposition<br />

• Providing a way to stand out from the competition<br />

• Aiding the negotiation of incremental in-store<br />

display at retail<br />

• Encouraging trial<br />

• Driving sales<br />

• Rewarding loyalty<br />

Research has shown that 33% of prize<br />

promotion participants are open to receiving<br />

information about a brand.<br />

What’s more, contests have an extremely<br />

high conversion rate of almost 34%, which is<br />

significant when compared to other sources<br />

such as PPC which typically has substantially<br />

lower conversion rates.<br />

At a time when price promotions for HFSS<br />

products will be banned, prize promotions<br />

could serve as an incredibly effective way to<br />

drive sales, encourage loyalty and capture<br />

badly needed first-party data.<br />

The art and the science of<br />

prize promotions<br />

That all sounds logical, but isn’t it expensive<br />

to present an aspirational mechanic and<br />

prize fund?<br />

We’re glad you asked. At Initials CX, we’ve<br />

spent over a decade crafting the perfect prize<br />

promotions for a variety of household brands.<br />

We recently conducted a study that surveyed<br />

respondents who had been persuaded to buy<br />

products based on promotions where they<br />

can win or get something.<br />

The aim of the research was to reveal<br />

the psychological tipping points of prize<br />

promotions, and we used a conjoint research<br />

methodology to ensure no two people were<br />

given obviously favourable options (i.e. would<br />

you rather win £100 or £1,000). We found two<br />

surprising insights:<br />

• Consumers react as favourably to smaller<br />

cash-value prizes as they do to larger<br />

cash-value prizes<br />

• Consumers react as favourably to<br />

a lower odds chance of winning<br />

as they do higher odds<br />

Let’s consider an example. A brand creates<br />

a promotion where the prize is valued at £5.<br />

The odds presented are that 1 in 4 consumers<br />

will win that £5 prize. Our research shows that<br />

this offer will motivate 84% of consumers to<br />

take part.<br />

So, what happens if we keep the cash-value<br />

prize the same (i.e. £5) but increase the odds<br />

to a 1 in 10 chance of winning?<br />

Surprisingly, the proportion of consumers<br />

who would take part hardly changes at all,<br />

dropping by just 5% to 79%. This swing<br />

in user participation is quite negligible<br />

when considering the amount of money<br />

a brand would save by lowering the odds<br />

so substantially.<br />


Here’s what brands need to be aware of when<br />

conducting prize promotions:<br />

1<br />

2<br />

Lower odds don’t always mean<br />

better take up – cost savings<br />

can be comfortably considered<br />

Higher-value prizes don’t always<br />

equate to higher participation<br />

The number of prizes is not<br />

a hugely determining factor<br />

4 3 5<br />

Frequency of winning is not<br />

that powerful<br />

Method of entry is best kept<br />

simple but depends on the<br />

objectives of the campaign<br />

By marrying science with creativity, FMCG brands<br />

can more accurately plan spend and investment<br />

to ensure that their prize promotions drive the<br />

highest percentage of consumer uptake.<br />

As new challenges force brands to think outside<br />

the box, could it be the right moment to make<br />

prize promotions cool again?<br />

As published by The Drum.<br />


Sustainability:<br />

Bridging the gap<br />

between intention<br />

and action<br />

Mirella Mokbel<br />

Head of Shopper Strategy<br />

According to new research, 73% of<br />

consumers have a desire to be more<br />

sustainable in the next 12 months.<br />

But while many consumers want to make<br />

more sustainable choices, they often revert<br />

back to price or product performance in the<br />

moment of purchase. The onus then, is on<br />

brands to help make sustainable choices<br />

easier, simpler and more accessible.<br />

As Olivia Sinclair, Marketing Manager at<br />

Doisy & Dam, says, “I believe it’s our job as a<br />

brand to make it as easy as possible for the<br />

consumer to make sustainable choices.”<br />

While most consumers are aware of how<br />

shopping decisions impact the environment,<br />

the path to purchase throws up numerous<br />

barriers that can sway shoppers away from<br />

making more sustainable choices.<br />

To overcome this, brands need a robust<br />

understanding of when to speak to<br />

customers’ hearts and heads and what<br />

messages to share.<br />

In this article, we’ll explore how brands<br />

can bridge the gap between intention<br />

and action, flex messages across the<br />

path to purchase and further a more<br />

sustainable future.<br />


What is sustainability,<br />

anyway?<br />

Sustainability has become a ‘catch-all’<br />

phrase in recent times, so it will be useful<br />

to explore how leading brands in the space<br />

are defining it.<br />

Dragan Oudshoorn, Global Channel<br />

Marketing Manager B2C at Hansgrohe<br />

Group, says, “We are not only committed to<br />

create high quality products and solutions<br />

that directly save water and energy,<br />

hansgrohe is also dedicated to think and<br />

operate sustainability across all production<br />

processes, factories, employees and<br />

resources. Our work focuses on three<br />

sustainable and responsible elements:<br />

economy, environment and society.”<br />

For Ferry Kamp, Global CMO at Meatless<br />

Farm, sustainability is about more than<br />

just reducing environmental impact –<br />

it’s actually about restoring the planet.<br />

“We’ve taken the decision to move beyond<br />

sustainability and become a regenerative<br />

business. We want to go beyond reducing<br />

negative impact and actually work to have<br />

a positive impact on restoring the planet.”<br />

From ethical supply chain practices to<br />

sustainable ingredients to recyclable<br />

packaging, sustainability encompasses<br />

a host of different activities that are<br />

pertinent to brands.<br />

A recent Deloitte study found that “waste<br />

reduction”, “reducing our carbon footprint”,<br />

“sustainable packaging”, “ethical working”<br />

and “human rights” were the top 5<br />

sustainable practices that consumers<br />

want brands to deliver on.<br />

Doisy & Dam have made this a nonnegotiable<br />

business priority. Olivia Sinclair<br />

says, “Whether it’s our promise to never<br />

use palm oil or to only use ethically<br />

sourced cocoa, we think our commitment<br />

to sustainability is what keeps our<br />

customers loyal.”<br />



In today’s world, consumers believe<br />

brands should play a significant role in<br />

shaping the direction of sustainability.<br />

in which time preference and high vs<br />

low consideration categories can impact<br />

decision-making.<br />

When asked “how can brands can help<br />

consumers adopt a more sustainable<br />

lifestyle”, respondents cited “better<br />

schemes to remove plastics and<br />

packaging” (64%), “greater clarity on how<br />

to dispose/recycle old products” (50%)<br />

and “better information around origins<br />

and sourcing” (46%) as the top three<br />

answers, respectively.<br />

As Britvic’s Sarah Webster notes, “It can<br />

be hard for consumers to do the right<br />

thing. For example, which bin do you<br />

put the recycling in? Do you leave the<br />

cap on or off? Do you leave the sleeve<br />

on? If you put any friction in the way,<br />

you create barriers to purchase.”<br />

The role of time preference<br />

in high and low<br />

consideration categories<br />

To bridge the gap between intention and<br />

action, brands need to recognise the ways<br />

To flex sustainability<br />

messages across the<br />

path to purchase, brands<br />

need to consider when<br />

to speak to the heart<br />

and when to the head.”<br />

Let’s consider an example. Jane<br />

wants to buy a new car, but she’s<br />

making a concerted effort to be more<br />

environmentally conscious. Since<br />

purchasing a car is a high consideration<br />

category, sustainability will be a key<br />

issue for Jane much earlier in the path<br />

to purchase.<br />

As Jane is on the way to the dealership,<br />

she stops in a local supermarket to<br />

purchase a drink. While Jane wants<br />

to make more sustainable choices,<br />

she doesn’t consciously consider the<br />

environmental impact of the drink until<br />

she’s physically at the point of purchase.<br />

In the end, she decides to buy a familiar<br />

soda on sale, rather than opt for a more<br />

expensive drink with stronger<br />

sustainability credentials.<br />

In this example, it’s clear that time<br />

preference (whether a purchase is for the<br />

long-term or more disposable) influences<br />

how and when consumers think<br />

about sustainability. Higher<br />

consideration categories need<br />

to emphasise sustainability upfront,<br />

whereas more spontaneous<br />

categories need to focus on<br />

highlighting sustainability at the<br />

point of purchase.<br />

Doisy & Dam’s Olivia Sinclair<br />

agrees, adding, “Bridging the gap<br />

between intention and action is<br />

a tricky one. Closing conversions<br />

online or in-store comes down<br />

to building consumer confidence<br />

and trust. This means making sure<br />

our sustainability wording speaks<br />

to people as people and making<br />

sure our packaging stands out.”<br />


How to flex sustainability<br />

messages across the path<br />

to purchase<br />

Since sustainability messaging varies<br />

depending on the brand, product and<br />

category, it’s vital that companies<br />

think strategically about how to flex<br />

sustainability messages across the<br />

path to purchase.<br />

As Britvic’s Sarah Webster rightly notes,<br />

sustainability “needs to be matched with<br />

a clear hierarchy of messaging. You can<br />

afford to have a lot more detail on your<br />

website, whereas labels are quite small,<br />

so you must be very clear and link into<br />

your consumer insights – what’s the<br />

shopper occasion? What’s the purpose<br />

of that purchase? What are the<br />

regulatory requirements?”<br />

Nailing this journey can have a sizable<br />

impact on the decisions shoppers make.<br />

hansgrohe, for example, has designed<br />

a water savings calculator that puts the<br />

power of sustainability directly into the<br />

hands of consumers, and shows the direct<br />

impact one can make. Users enter their<br />

information such as the number of<br />

people living in their home and the<br />

type of energy used. Based on this<br />

information, the calculator will then<br />

determine how much water and energy<br />

consumers could save by switching<br />

to a hansgrohe EcoSmart product.<br />

This calculator demonstrates both the<br />

functional and emotional benefits of<br />

hansgrohe’s products, appealing to<br />

consumers’ hearts and minds.<br />

Hansgrohe Group’s Dragan Oudshoorn<br />

says, “For our products, the first trigger is<br />

all about creating awareness and further<br />

educating consumers how they can make<br />

an impact and contribute to a better planet<br />

through our products and solutions. We<br />

do this through different touchpoints and<br />

campaigns that attract and explain our<br />

sustainability initiatives. It’s relevant to<br />

communicate this throughout the journey,<br />

whether that’s packaging, website or point<br />

of purchase.”<br />

To flex sustainability messages across<br />

the path to purchase, brands need to<br />

consider when to speak to the heart<br />

and when to the head.<br />



Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help brands<br />

communicate sustainability initiatives in a way<br />

that gets products in shoppers’ baskets:<br />

Make sustainability<br />

approachable<br />

and relatable<br />

There are two main pain points that stop<br />

consumers from making sustainable<br />

choices: they feel hopeless based on<br />

the scope of the problem and/or they<br />

are unclear on how purchasing from<br />

a brand will contribute to change.<br />

To solve this, brands should focus on<br />

topics that their customers know and<br />

define individual actions to create<br />

authentic impact and encourage<br />

participation. It has to feel incremental,<br />

not revolutionary. Next, the contribution<br />

should be easy to understand and<br />

comparable. Use layman’s terms<br />

and focus on everyday choices.<br />

Be<br />

transparent<br />

Brands need to be honest about their<br />

credentials and open about where they<br />

are in the sustainability journey. This<br />

authenticity will help brands connect<br />

with people; often, the journey yet to<br />

be realised can inspire action.<br />

Show<br />

don’t tell<br />

Don’t make hollow promises. Brands can<br />

drive authenticity by walking the walk and<br />

consistently supporting the effort. This<br />

means demonstrating how purchasing<br />

from a brand will positively impact the<br />

environment, such as showcasing small<br />

wins that are accomplished together<br />

with consumers. Messages that contain<br />

evidence are more believable, and<br />

measurable statements or claims are<br />

usually preferable to messages of intent.<br />


Be concise in<br />

brand and product<br />

storytelling<br />

Today’s consumers digest information in small<br />

bites. How a brand delivers its messages<br />

is key; this needs to feel accessible, clear<br />

and engaging. Avoid over-intellectualising<br />

sustainability narrative and don’t overcomplicate<br />

a product’s sustainable benefits.<br />

Be clear<br />

about objectives<br />

When developing a sustainability<br />

campaign, brands need to be clear from<br />

the beginning about their objectives. Is<br />

the campaign meant to increase brand<br />

awareness and preference? Or should<br />

it also convert and increase revenue?<br />

Different objectives may require different<br />

tactics and various types of storytelling.<br />

Moving towards a<br />

sustainable future<br />

According to IBM, nearly 6 in 10 consumers<br />

are willing to change their shopping habits<br />

to reduce environmental impact. What’s<br />

more, nearly 8 in 10 indicated sustainability<br />

is important to them.<br />

Clearly, sustainability is no longer just a<br />

‘nice to have’. It’s an absolute must for any<br />

brand that wants to stay relevant, win new<br />

customers and drive loyalty.<br />

Brands must help facilitate sustainable<br />

purchasing decisions – by making products<br />

that meet sustainable standards and by<br />

designing these products to be easy,<br />

efficient and desirable to purchase.<br />

Britvic’s Sarah Webster poignantly concludes,<br />

“No one has all of the answers. But that’s not<br />

an excuse for no action. We’re learning along<br />

the way, which is something we all need<br />

to embrace. Because we all want to move<br />

forward and make progress.”<br />

By recognising nuances in the path to<br />

purchase and flexing messages according<br />

to different shopper experiences and<br />

expectations, brands can do what’s right<br />

for the planet, increase sales and play their<br />

part in building a more sustainable future.<br />

As published by The Drum.<br />



Online<br />

marketplaces<br />

A retailer opportunity<br />

Annie Little<br />

Strategy Director<br />

It’s no secret that marketplaces attract<br />

significant traffic and have high visitor<br />

engagement, thanks to their fast delivery<br />

propositions, broad choice of products available<br />

and competitive prices. Amazon has become<br />

a starting point for most shopping journeys,<br />

with most consumers using the platform as<br />

a shopping search engine to discover a vast<br />

array of new products and repeat purchase<br />

favourite items.<br />

But as the marketplace model evolves beyond<br />

the traditional horizontal ecommerce business<br />

archetype (one stop shop that attracts a mass<br />

market), individual mainstream retailers have<br />

the opportunity to create niche marketplace<br />

solutions, that offer more localised<br />

and specialised products to their<br />

target consumers.<br />

Rise of the vertical<br />

The vertical marketplace concept, aimed<br />

at a single market sector to serve a specific<br />

category of products to a targeted consumer,<br />

allows individual retailers to better differentiate<br />

on the basis of quality, knowledge and<br />

expertise, and the variety of products offered<br />

within their niche. This narrow focus also gives<br />

retailers the opportunity to highlight their<br />

expertise in the form of specialised knowledge<br />

or years of experience in the industry.<br />

A rich example of this is Etsy, the Brooklynbased<br />

online marketplace has become one<br />

of the leading destinations for handcrafts and<br />

vintage items. Multiple high street retailers<br />

are following their lead to launch curated<br />

digital marketplaces in 2022, including<br />

Superdrug, Mr Porter, Nike and B&Q. With<br />

white label marketplace software and plugins,<br />

such as Marketcube, making it possible for<br />

such businesses to set up a plug-and-play<br />

marketplace platform, it appears to be a<br />

low-risk strategy for growing product sales.<br />


The recipe to marketplace<br />

popularity<br />

Even before the pandemic, shoppers were<br />

turning to online marketplaces in droves.<br />

Beyond convenience, access to the best deals,<br />

seamless checkout and quick deliveries,<br />

marketplaces exceed consumer expectations<br />

for an intuitive one-stop shopping experience.<br />

Couple these tangible benefits with the<br />

increased feeling of trust that comes from<br />

access to impartial peer-to-peer reviews and<br />

greater visibility of product availability, prices<br />

and stock levels, the gamble of buying new<br />

products is somewhat de-risked.<br />

But the rising appeal of marketplaces isn’t<br />

solely down to improved purchasing efficiencies<br />

and brand transparency. Yes, consumers may<br />

come for products, but they are staying for the<br />

experience. Marketplaces have become hubs<br />

for likeminded communities of consumers to<br />

share information and vlog about product and<br />

service experiences.<br />

This circulation of information that is tangential<br />

to the virtual ecommerce marketplace platform<br />

itself, enables strangers to feel like locals,<br />

as they are able to connect through shared<br />

passions and circumstance.<br />

The benefit of marketplaces<br />

to retailers<br />

The reach that marketplaces provide offers<br />

ample opportunities for retailers to not only<br />

connect with new customers – via access to<br />

customer data – but also glean insights into<br />

what potential and existing buyers are thinking.<br />

Most marketplace platforms give sellers<br />

access to data and analytics tools that<br />

provide in-depth insights into the shopping<br />

behaviours of consumers on the platform.<br />

These insights not only help sellers optimise<br />

their marketplace strategy, but also adapt<br />

their entire omnichannel strategy to best<br />

reach their customers.<br />

The future<br />

Overall, online marketplaces strengthen<br />

a brand’s foothold in key categories.<br />

Retailers of all sizes that have launched<br />

their own marketplaces have been able<br />

to expand what they could offer existing<br />

customers well beyond their own inventory,<br />

with low risk and little overhead.<br />

For instance, at the onset of the pandemic,<br />

sensing the shifting customer demand signals,<br />

Etsy quickly ramped up its catalogue of face<br />

masks due to the dynamism of its marketplace<br />

seller base. Behaviour like this also inspired<br />

new partnerships between companies – even<br />

those that may have previously seen one<br />

another as competitors.<br />

Whilst the future looks bright for online<br />

marketplaces in general, only retailers<br />

who can keep up with trends in this way<br />

will be able to make the most of the<br />

opportunities presented.<br />

As published by Charged Retail.<br />




Why today’s<br />

car brands are<br />

losing their shine<br />

Simon Callender<br />

Chief Strategy Officer<br />

The UK automotive industry is having<br />

a torrid time.<br />

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and<br />

Traders recorded a fall in output in year to<br />

September 2021 of nearly 27%, which equates<br />

to over 100,000 fewer new cars joining the<br />

UK’s roads.<br />

Even now as we adapt to living with Covid<br />

and demand starts to return, a global chip<br />

shortage is strangling new car supply dealing<br />

manufacturers yet another body blow.<br />

Prospective new car buyers scarred by the<br />

buy-diesel-don’t-buy-diesel debacle, were<br />

already becoming hesitant about which<br />

new technology to back.<br />

In this article, we’ll explore why car brands<br />

are becoming indistinguishable from one<br />

another and what these brands can do to<br />

stand out from the crowd and drive a deeper<br />

emotional connection with customers.<br />

But the seeds of the industry’s woes run much<br />

deeper. Even before Covid hit the picture was<br />

far from rosy.<br />



An increasing brand fog<br />

It used to be true that certain marques were<br />

known for excelling in model sectors that<br />

offered a distinct flavour of car ownership.<br />

Alfa made spirited sporty cars, Ford made<br />

dependable run-abouts and rep mobiles,<br />

Volvo were boxy and safe, and VW made<br />

small cars that would never let you down.<br />

Today, however, the situation is far more<br />

confusing since most cars are 4- or 5-star<br />

NCAP certified. Serious performance, once<br />

the preserve of uncomfortable two seaters<br />

is now available from nearly every maker<br />

across their entire model range.<br />

Consequently, it’s become increasingly<br />

hard to discern what specific car brands<br />

offer and more importantly how the<br />

ownership experience make you feel<br />

and what it says about you the owner.<br />

Let’s explore why this is occurring.<br />

1. Market convergence<br />

Many car brands have evolved their offerings<br />

beyond their original market roles to follow both<br />

volume and value. Once budget brands are now<br />

firmly part of the bloated mid-market firmament<br />

resulting in a hugely crowded landscape where<br />

model choice is baffling.<br />

2. Platform convergence<br />

As the automotive industry has matured,<br />

we’ve seen constant mergers take-overs and<br />

collaborations all pursuing economies of scale<br />

and the opportunity to split new model R&D<br />

costs over the largest number of unit sales. The<br />

result is often a muting of brand differentiation<br />

and character.<br />

3. Sector convergence<br />

The 60s and 70s were the era of the three-box<br />

sedan, then along came the hatchback followed<br />

swiftly by the one box people carrier of the 90s<br />

and 00s championed by the visionary French<br />

designer Partick Le Quement. Now the SUV<br />

rules the roost and every manufacturer from<br />

Lamborghini to Skoda has at least one model<br />

to serve up to a blinkered public.<br />

4. Design convergence<br />

In the late 90s the NCAP star scramble saw<br />

manufacturers up their game on the safety<br />

front. The knock-on effect of this pursuit of<br />

safety was a set of standards that homogenised<br />

many aspects of car design.<br />


How to build deeper,<br />

emotional connections<br />

If car brands want to reap the rewards of<br />

deeper emotional connection and raise the<br />

fight above the margin eroding functional<br />

spiral, then what’s to be done?<br />

Firstly, there needs to be a recognition that<br />

brand nurturing is a long-term game and<br />

consumers need time to warm to and identify<br />

with a set of values. This flies in the face of<br />

the short termism that pervades modern<br />

marketing departments.<br />

Then, brands must agree a consistent set of<br />

core values built from the marque’s historical<br />

truths and which can be made real through<br />

a simple, enduring, differentiating ethos.<br />

This will involve a search for fresh insight<br />

with an eye on future market development<br />

and bold decision making.<br />

The next stage is the most critical – the will<br />

to live this ethos through consistent and<br />

demonstrable behaviour. What is it that the<br />

brand does to prove its values and beliefs are<br />

relevant and appealing? Brands must convince<br />

consumers to care through actions, not just<br />

words, in every touchpoint from new model<br />

creation to social commentary.<br />

Finally, brands need to be courageous and<br />

single minded. Standing for something<br />

invariably means making choices and being<br />

prepared to do what others won’t. Being<br />

distinctive and meaningful takes nerve.<br />

A ray of hope<br />

The eventual move away from traditional<br />

car ownership will usher in the arrival of<br />

autonomous, on-demand transportation<br />

pods and occasion-based subscription<br />

mobility solutions, which further reduces<br />

the scope for brands to differentiate.<br />

If every vehicle occupant is demoted from<br />

driver to passenger (in a world where speeds<br />

and routes are pre-regulated), then the power<br />

of brand is elevated once more.<br />

Thankfully, there are some rays of hope.<br />

Citroen is starting to return to its brand roots<br />

by issuing a rallying call to ‘battle against<br />

boring’ and looking for owners who ‘want to<br />

stand out’. New EV brands such as Polestar<br />

and Genesis have invested heavily in brand<br />

meaning knowing that an electric proposition<br />

alone isn’t enough to sustain a marque when in<br />

15 years most of the market will be EV anyway.<br />

Here’s hoping that the rest of the market will<br />

heed the wake-up call.<br />

As published by Automotive World.<br />




Navigating the<br />

cost of living crisis<br />

Four ways brands can play their part<br />

Daniela Barletta<br />

Strategist<br />

The cost-of-living crisis affects everyone, but not<br />

every consumer’s response is equal.<br />

Brands are working hard to understand spending<br />

trends as shoppers deal with rising prices, a fall<br />

in wages in real terms, and the spectre of spiking<br />

energy bills.<br />

With the <strong>Bank</strong> of England suggesting inflation<br />

could eventually hit 13% in the UK, more than<br />

three quarters of consumers are already anxious<br />

about the cost of living. This is inevitably leading<br />

to changes in spending patterns.<br />

But where exactly will consumers reduce spend?<br />

And what can brands do to shore up market share?<br />

Gaining an insight into new trends<br />

The way that people in different age brackets will<br />

approach the financial squeeze is fracturing. The<br />

IFS has identified that inflation is disproportionately<br />

affecting older, vulnerable and low-income groups<br />

more than other demographics – largely because<br />

energy cost increases make a bigger dent in their<br />

household budgets.<br />

However, instead of trying to group people by<br />

demographic, age, or class, brands need to<br />

consider how prepared people are to weather<br />

the storm, and therefore how they are planning<br />

on cutting costs.<br />



According to WARC and Mindshare UK, brands<br />

should group consumers by their financial<br />

tolerance. They have segmented the population<br />

into three groups:<br />

“Finance Negative”<br />

This group is hit hardest by the cost-of-living<br />

crisis. Finances are their main concern, so they<br />

will certainly feel the pinch – making cost of<br />

living a guiding factor and primary decisionmaking<br />

influence going forward.<br />

“Finance Neutral”<br />

This group is more financially stable. They have<br />

less financial responsibility because they are<br />

more likely to be retired – so they’re not burdened<br />

with job security, mortgage payments or financial<br />

dependants living at home.<br />

“Finance Positive”<br />

The most affluent and positive segment; this<br />

group of people are enjoying an easier bounce<br />

back from the pandemic and are confident in their<br />

saved money, paid debt and overhauled finances.<br />

Regardless of which pot a consumer falls into,<br />

they are united in their belief that brands should<br />

behave differently in the current climate, showcasing<br />

compelling emotional reasons to buy.<br />

Three behavioural trends<br />

we expect to return<br />

When groups that are traditionally in a more<br />

Finance Positive state – high earners and some<br />

Baby Boomers – get the jitters, marketers must<br />

rethink their targeting strategies.<br />

That doesn’t mean just cutting prices to cater<br />

to the Finance Negative mindset; it’s more<br />

about understanding how audience habits are<br />

switching and reacting accordingly. Using past<br />

recession data there are three behavioural<br />

trends we can be certain shoppers will return to:<br />

Bargain Hunters<br />

Cutting costs where possible by scanning<br />

the market for the best value and price<br />

promotions is an expected behaviour that<br />

people across the spectrum will return to.<br />

‘Denning’<br />

Staying in more, and prioritising products<br />

and services that will enhance their athome<br />

experience. As people largely in<br />

the Finance Neutral and Finance Positive<br />

space spend more time indoors to save<br />

money, they will favour brands offering<br />

products or services that cater to this.<br />

Brands as a ‘safe haven’<br />

Clinging to familiarity in times of anxiety,<br />

this behaviour sees consumers (both in<br />

the Finance Positive and Finance Neutral<br />

segments) stick with what they know,<br />

despite having to pay more. When times<br />

get tough, people lean into the simple<br />

pleasure that comes from buying a brand<br />

they know and love for indulgence<br />

and respite.<br />

What these trends have proved in the<br />

past, and will demonstrate again, is that the<br />

current climate doesn’t mean the majority<br />

of consumers are universally trading down.<br />

There is no one-size-fits-all approach that<br />

brands should take in response to these<br />

changing behaviours.<br />


Four ways brands can refocus<br />

All of this might seem a bit daunting for brands as they look to find a way to cater to consumer<br />

expectations that are more multifaceted than ever. There are four clear roles brands must play<br />

to remain relevant, appear authentic and add value.<br />

1. Dialling up pricedriven<br />

value<br />

Tactical price-based promotions can save<br />

consumers money and are also a way to<br />

increase the value of a product using price,<br />

appealing directly to a bargain-hunting<br />

mindset. For example, Tesco’s Clubcard price<br />

brings price-driven value to life in an overt<br />

way, by lowering prices on specific items<br />

and rewarding loyalty.<br />

2. Enabling practical solutions<br />

Giving consumers real-life, practical solutions<br />

to enhance their day-to-day lives. Consumers<br />

are looking for guidance from brands to steer<br />

them through an uncertain time. Heinz’ Beanz<br />

Mean More campaign is a good example that<br />

highlights the versatility of the product, and<br />

gives consumers new ways of thinking about<br />

and using this pantry staple.<br />

3. Reinforcing the brand value<br />

Showcasing the functional or emotional<br />

attributes of a product, and the value it brings<br />

to consumers’ lives, presents shoppers with<br />

another reason to buy a brand. For instance,<br />

Hansgrohe’s Wallstoris range dials up the<br />

functional value of the product – including<br />

the expert craftsmanship and Germanengineered<br />

design – to convince shoppers<br />

to pay a slight price premium for this range<br />

versus competitors.<br />

4. Building connected purpose<br />

At a time of collective crisis brands must be<br />

prepared to support the societies in which they<br />

operate. Whether it’s charitable giving, local<br />

sponsorships, partnering with wellness brands<br />

in adjacent categories, or using their gravitas to<br />

influence consumers, there’s much they can do.<br />

Caboodle, a surplus food scheme that partners<br />

with brands and grocers to redistribute surplus<br />

food, ultimately mitigating food waste, is a good<br />

example of a brand living their purpose.<br />

This confusing time for consumers adds<br />

complexity for brands battling for spend<br />

that households want to protect.<br />

Brands choosing the obvious option of<br />

price cuts alone may expose themselves to<br />

market share erosion as people shop around.<br />

Audiences should be viewed according to their<br />

financial resilience, both in terms of disposable<br />

income and the extent to which they’re worried<br />

about their circumstances in the immediate<br />

future. Understanding and responding to<br />

nuanced financial circumstances is the only<br />

way to engage with them effectively.<br />

Many consumers want brands for other reasons<br />

beyond just price-driven value, even as they<br />

juggle their budgets. Recognising this will be<br />

key to brands remaining on a strong footing –<br />

both during these turbulent times and once we<br />

eventually leave the cost-of-living crisis behind.<br />

As published by Advertising Week.<br />



Four ways brands can refocus<br />

All of this might seem a bit daunting for brands as they look to find a way to cater to consumer<br />

expectations that are more multifaceted than ever. There are four clear roles brands must play<br />

to remain relevant, appear authentic and add value.<br />

1. Dialling up pricedriven<br />

value<br />

Tactical price-based promotions can save<br />

consumers money and are also a way to<br />

increase the value of a product using price,<br />

appealing directly to a bargain-hunting<br />

mindset. For example, Tesco’s Clubcard price<br />

brings price-driven value to life in an overt<br />

way, by lowering prices on specific items<br />

and rewarding loyalty.<br />

2. Enabling practical solutions<br />

Giving consumers real-life, practical solutions<br />

to enhance their day-to-day lives. Consumers<br />

are looking for guidance from brands to steer<br />

them through an uncertain time. Heinz’ Beanz<br />

Mean More campaign is a good example that<br />

highlights the versatility of the product, and<br />

gives consumers new ways of thinking about<br />

and using this pantry staple.<br />

3. Reinforcing the brand value<br />

Showcasing the functional or emotional<br />

attributes of a product, and the value it brings<br />

to consumers’ lives, presents shoppers with<br />

another reason to buy a brand. For instance,<br />

Hansgrohe’s Wallstoris range dials up the<br />

functional value of the product – including<br />

the expert craftsmanship and Germanengineered<br />

design – to convince shoppers<br />

to pay a slight price premium for this range<br />

versus competitors.<br />

4. Building connected purpose<br />

At a time of collective crisis brands must be<br />

prepared to support the societies in which they<br />

operate. Whether it’s charitable giving, local<br />

sponsorships, partnering with wellness brands<br />

in adjacent categories, or using their gravitas to<br />

influence consumers, there’s much they can do.<br />

Caboodle, a surplus food scheme that partners<br />

with brands and grocers to redistribute surplus<br />

food, ultimately mitigating food waste, is a good<br />

example of a brand living their purpose.<br />

This confusing time for consumers adds<br />

complexity for brands battling for spend<br />

that households want to protect.<br />

Brands choosing the obvious option of<br />

price cuts alone may expose themselves to<br />

market share erosion as people shop around.<br />

Audiences should be viewed according to their<br />

financial resilience, both in terms of disposable<br />

income and the extent to which they’re worried<br />

about their circumstances in the immediate<br />

future. Understanding and responding to<br />

nuanced financial circumstances is the only<br />

way to engage with them effectively.<br />

Many consumers want brands for other reasons<br />

beyond just price-driven value, even as they<br />

juggle their budgets. Recognising this will be<br />

key to brands remaining on a strong footing –<br />

both during these turbulent times and once we<br />

eventually leave the cost-of-living crisis behind.<br />

As published by Advertising Week.<br />



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