Why you need a brand review before you even start thinking about rebranding (and how to do one)

I often find myself being invited to assess a brand identity; the meeting we have might go something like this: The client knows they have a problem and sometimes they’re able to articulate, at least in part, why that is. But, having already gone through an extensive branding process, maybe as recently as within the previous three years, they’re cautious about what should happen next.

There’s understandable anxiety around throwing good money after supposedly bad. After all, something hasn’t worked out with the not-so-long-ago completed branding. There’s also an awareness that they might not want to scrap everything and start again – throwing away what’s valuable (their brand baby) out with the bath water.

Under scrutiny

And it’s not as if I haven’t been at the sharp end of this myself…

As well as being the brand consultant brought in to assess a supposedly faltering brand identity, I’ve also found myself on the receiving end. I was recently told that a rebrand we’d completed no more than six months earlier, following months of research and discovery, and an extensive design process, was being scrutinised by an agency owner invited in by the company group.

Confident that this was a definite case where the client would have done better to steady their nerves and give the rebrand more time and support, I thought the experience presented an opportunity to write about the subject of how you can achieve a level of certainty about determining what the problem actually is, and the solution that’s called for.

The question is, do you actually need that full-scale rebrand or something altogether more nuanced?

Give it time

First of all, it’s important to remember that the sort of changes a successful rebrand can yield don’t happen overnight. Chopping and changing things only causes confusion and damages your brand equity. Branding is never a case of ‘done and forgotten’ because you shouldn’t leave your brand to fend for itself out in the wild.

A brand not only takes time to bed in, it also requires you to actively check in on it. Checking-in might include a number of elements such as examining whether the intentions set at the outset are being realised and assessing how the rebrand is landing with audiences. It’s an important exercise because all sorts of outside influences, from the wider economic and cultural, to the sector-specific, will be having an impact on the fortunes of your brand.

But of course, when doubts remain and the checking-in exercise yields more questions than answers, it’s probably time for a brand review. ­

What is a brand review?

A brand review is a comprehensive, 360° audit of the state of your brand. It asks a whole range of questions, from those that are external-facing (Has the world shifted? Do you need to evolve with the changing cultural landscape?), to those that concentrate on looking at what’s going on inside your organisation (Have you developed a new service? Has your business strategy or positioning, i.e. where you stand in the market, changed?).

A brand review will help you find out if there really is a problem and will articulate any issues precisely. This means that you’ll discover if a full rebrand is on the cards or whether something more nuanced is called for – a minor adaptation perhaps, or maybe just more time for your brand to become known in its new guise. And, if there is a fundamental problem, it’ll help you determine the direction your rebrand should take you in.

So, if you’re being plagued by doubts about how your brand is doing, particularly if it’s not that long since you last rebranded, or if you’re worried that you seem to head for the drawing board at the first sign of trouble, read on to find out how taking stock and conducting a brand review worked out for one of our clients.

Getting to the heart of the matter

Recent months saw us working with a charity client that had fundamentally changed their way of working, from focusing solely on end-user beneficiaries, to expanding their focus to take in both end-users and service commissioners and partners. Their existing brand identity wasn’t able to accommodate or resonate with these two distinct audience groups.

In addition, the client was experiencing issues with brand application – brand rules were being broken and they didn’t know why. We were tasked with finding out how the changes that were necessary (i.e. evolving existing branding so it was meaningful to both its distinct audiences) could be introduced as smoothly as possible, ensuring the sort of consistency that would build the brand awareness they were after.

Read on…

Dream clients – not just a ‘nice to have’

Having dream clients is not just pie in the sky. Giving you and your team permission to define your dream client is a crucial element of nailing your brand positioning. When you take that leap into niching, you not only build your proposition around the value you add to specific clients but you give yourself a razor sharp new business strategy.

Saying who you’re for (and so, by definition, who you’re not for) gets you halfway there. Once you’ve established that, everything else starts to fall into place. Not just in how you market your brand but also in how you work. You’re able to hone your expertise because your processes, ideas and solutions flow from a deeper focus and you can take advantage of, and build on the patterns and themes you encounter time and again.

Of course positioning isn’t just about what you do and who you do it for, but these are an essential part of the wider equation that encompasses the thoughts and feelings people associate with your brand. These other positions are ‘softer’ (but still essential) associations around brand personality, story, values and promise. For the purposes of this post however, I want to focus on the what and in particular, the who.

Feel the fear but do it anyway

When I discuss this with my clients there’s often a reticence, a fear of so tightly (and even loosely, in some cases) defining the ‘who’. This can take the form of, “Surely if we say we work with X we’ll miss out on working with Y (and all the other letters in the alphabet)’. But defining a strategy is all about making choices – it’s the reason I share this Michael Porter quote in every workshop I do:

“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”

By allowing yourself to become selective, you become sought after. You become known for a specific and readily identifiable value proposition expressed with a clarity that’s integral to attractive positioning.

Where the F do you start?

Once you’ve defined your perfect client you can qualify opportunities as they arise – YOU can choose as well as be chosen.

Sadly it isn’t as simple as simply qualifying a prospect by the 3 Fs: Fun (your team will enjoy the work), Fame (they’ll make a great case study or PR) and Fortune (they’ll pay the bills, and then some). These are definitely worth considering but a highly prescriptive client definition, and being clear on your non-negotiables, will give you far more, including being able to justify whether a prospect is the right fit for your organisation.

How to define your perfect client

Get clear on WHAT you do (best)

People came to my last agency wanting a range of services. We offered brand identity, web design and development, retained graphic design, illustrated books, pretty much anything other than packaging. Over time, I realised that I wasn’t enjoying the work as much as I should have been, and that I wanted to focus on brand identity and strategy more. I had to make some tough choices, one of which was to drop a whole revenue stream of web development work. When I came to reposition my agency I started with what we did or rather, what we wanted to do more of. And that meant dropping a few things. By going ‘niche’ you can go deep, extend your knowledge, build a specialism and develop expertise that is appealing as well as effective. It also changes who might be looking for those services.

Get clear on your WHY

Work is a big chunk of your day. It’s said that the average person spends 90,000 hours at work, so knowing what gets you up in the morning and understanding why you’re driven to help a certain group of people is hugely important. The Co-Foundry’s ‘why’ or purpose is to help organisations that strive, to build brands that thrive. Knowing that, means knowing who I want to help – the strivers, the purpose-led people.

Get clear on WHO you work best with

One of the most powerful and immediate ways of defining a position is by picking a sector. This isn’t always easy. It might even mean dropping an area you’ve done a fair bit of work in, something that can feel risky. However, the benefits of niching down to a particular sector are many. Not only will you gain a deeper understanding of the problems and desires that run through the sector but you’ll build marketplace intelligence and become known by, for example, attending specialist conferences and being active on industry-specific media. Your new business strategy may benefit too, as people moving organisations will take you with them.

Another way of selecting a client type is by focusing on their issues, needs or traits. I took the decision to focus on creative and tech founder-led brands as I already had a lot of experience and knowledge in that space. As well as working with these clients, I’d personally experienced a lot of the pains and gains of creative and tech founders for myself so had a natural affinity with them. As time has gone on I have extended that criteria to encompass chief execs of charities. These two areas of focus have so much in common – namely, a genuine desire to make an impact and while the latter may not have skin in the game financially, they do, emotionally. Both groups care about their people, something that works well with another fundamental aspect of my proposition – co-creation which sees teams involved in decisions throughout the process.

Follow the energy

It sounds so obvious when you read it but, and this is fundamental – find people who energise you.

The late great Milton Glaser (in his talk entitled ‘Ten things I have Learned’) put it perfectly, exhorting us to avoid the people we find toxic:

“You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energized or less energized. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy, you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.”

Read on…

The human touch has returned as a top prospecting priority due to digital lead generation marketing automation overload, a major new survey of UK new business and agency leaders has revealed.

The seventh annual UK New Business Barometer by specialist new business consultancy jfdi and strategic insight agency Opinium found that 88% of respondents used management connections to prospect, with 44% citing this a top strategy.

Another 68% said they asked clients for referrals and 67% formed alliances and partnerships. The report said the change is likely driven by email overload and an explosion of pushed content in an over-supplied agency market.

Camilla Honey, CEO at jfdi, said:

“In our challenging new business market, competitive edge is everything and it’s interesting to see the human touch is overriding overwhelming digitally-based automated approaches. AI watch out!”

Winning and losing pitches

The survey, which included responses by several Bristol Creative Industries members, also found that ideas that deliver, are practical and affordable are winning pitches. Ir revealed that in the current difficult economic environment, the proportion of respondents saying they commonly win projects because of ideas that are deliverable, practical and affordable rose eight points to 33%.

Another trend highlighted by the study was that only around 50% of the ideas and recommendations presented in pitches are executed, which jfdi said confirmed winning pitches requires more than answering the brief.

When asked about the reasons for winning pitches, 73% said relevant and expertise was important, a figure that was 6% up on last year. Another 69% said it was due to good chemistry.

For unsuccessful pitches, more than two fifths (43%) of respondents reported client withdrawal of budget as the most common reason for not winning a pitch. This was up up 10% on the 2023 study despite having been broadly stable for the past six years.

Other reasons include “rarely given a reason” (41%), “economic uncertainty”, (33%); “ideas not deemed affordable” (20%), and “agencies failed to demonstrate relevant expertise/capability” (18%).

The cost of losing pitches escalates exponentially by size of agency, the study revealed, with every agency spends more annually on losing pitches than they do on winning ones.

The report showed small agencies are spending on average £86,000, medium agencies spending £350,000, and large agencies are spending £1.4m on losing pitches.

“This shows how a marginal gain in conversion can feed down to the bottom line with more budget available to spend elsewhere in the business,” the study said.

‘Ticking stress time bomb’

The study warned of a “ticking stress bomb”, with 70% of new business practitioners reporting their role becoming more stressful over the last 12 months. The report said “this worrying trend signals the need to ensure mental health welfare and wellbeing in this space”.

Josh Glendinning, research director and partner at Opinium, said:

“The New Business Barometer’s unparalleled insight shows how the pressures of a tough economic environment are cascading through the marketing industry. Clients are demanding more than ever during the pitch process but finding it more difficult to provide concrete assurances to agencies that work will be commissioned.”

Other findings

Additional findings in the report included:

For a full summary of the report, email [email protected]

Advice related to the report’s findings

Don’t lose sight of your new business pipeline

10 top tips for getting the pitch over the line

How to prospect for new business without losing your soul

How creative businesses can write the perfect positioning statement

Mental health in the workplace: Why we need a culture change

Podcast: Wellbeing tips for small agency owners

Mental health for agency owners

Grow your own online presence ­– a comprehensive guide to digital marketing strategy

Business customers do the majority of their decision-making online. Gartner research shows that in 2019 27% of buying groups’ time was spent researching independently online.

This figure has now increased, with Hubspot’s research suggesting that “58% of consumers say they’ve discovered at least one new product by searching the internet in 2022, and 44% say they’ve done so in the past three months.”

But a buyer’s time is precious and it’s important you aren’t cold calling or interrupting their workday, you want to meet them at a time that is convenient for them.

Digital marketing meets prospects where they are, whether that’s via their browser, their favourite sites or on social media channels such as LinkedIn. It can put your product or services in front of the right people, at the right time.

“86% of marketers increased brand awareness using one or more digital marketing channel” – Hubspot

While it presents great opportunities, the digital landscape is unique and ever-changing. It’s constantly evolving and updating to offer new ways of reaching your target audience.

So, with that in mind, we’ve put this guide together to help you efficiently create, optimise and maintain your all-important digital marketing strategy in just a few easy steps.

Building a bespoke strategy

When it comes to digital marketing strategy, one size really doesn’t fit all. So, before you get started, it’s important to tailor your approach for your audience.

1.     Use existing data to enhance your digital strategy

Using an analytics platform, you can answer the crucial questions that will inform your marketing strategy and ensure you’re targeting the right people. With platforms like GA4 (previously Google Analytics) you can learn who your target audience is and how current website visitors are engaging with your content.

2.     Build your buyer personas

Using the information you’ve gathered from your analytics platform, you can enhance your strategy with detailed buyer personas. Getting to the heart of your audience and their needs is vital. You need to work out where they are most likely to spend their time and how they prefer to digest digital content. This will give you a benchmark on how to create yours.

3.     Evaluate your existing digital channels and assets

You will need to review your existing digital marketing channels. We recommend using the paid-earned-owned media framework.

This will ensure you can maximise value from existing assets and fill in the gaps where needed.

4.     Audit and identify gaps in your content

Review and rank all your existing content according to what has previously performed well. The idea here is to figure out what’s working and what isn’t, so you can set yourself up for success when planning new content. You’ll then need to identify the gaps and build out a new content plan.

“Worldwide ad spending in the digital market is projected to reach 679.80 billion USD in 2023″ – Statista

Curating an enviable digital marketing toolkit

Once all the planning is out of the way, it’s time to define your digital marketing toolkit. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a go-to selection to get the wheels of change in motion (and by change, we mean growth).

1.    A well-optimised, user-friendly website

The first thing you’ll want to get right is your website. How is it ranking in organic search results? What keywords are your competitors ranking for that you’re not? Is the user journey working well? Are your CTAs converting? Does your website meet accessibility standards and user experience (UX) best practices? These are all questions you’ll want to ask yourself before working to get more traffic to your site. 

2.    Blog posts

A great, well-written blog that solves a customer problem is a great way to attract new audiences with a genuine interest in your products and services. And because you’ve crafted your personas and drilled down into the pain points of your target audience, you’re fully prepped to write or commission highly targeted content that’s helpful for your reader.

3.     Social media advertising

Social media advertising can drive leads, boost revenue, increase brand awareness and more. It’s where your customers feel most at home, and where they prefer to spend their free time. This creates an opportunity to engage more authentically and have more meaningful interactions.

Did you know according to Hubspot research there are over 2.38 billion monthly active users on Facebook? And 500 million daily Instagram users?

Social media has an impressive reach and great effectiveness, it allows you to nurture leads in real time. With social ads, you can set your budget and easily adjust it within the platform you’re using.

4.     PPC via Google Ads

PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is a highly favoured part of the digital marketer’s toolkit. This is because it can have a big impact in the short-term and show clear results. But it’s worth noting that it’s most effective in combination with always-on brand activity and well-optimised organic content.‍

What is PPC advertising?

PPC (pay-per click) is a form of advertising that allows you to pay a fee each time a user clicks through to your website from another platform.

Typically, when we talk about PPC, we mean advertising on the search engine results page (SERP). PPC advertising is commonly seen on Google results, showing up like this:

View image in blog here.

“63% of people have clicked on a Google ad” – Statista. How can PPC boost your digital presence? PPC advertising increases the number of leads and customers you’re reaching, unlocking otherwise untapped potential.

Google Ads is one of the most recommended tools for lead generation. If your campaigns are set up properly with a clear user journey, it has the potential to send extremely targeted leads to your website, opt-in form or other online property.

Google Ads allows you to focus on the people who are searching for the exact services your business offers, it’s also flexible. You can easily customise campaigns to focus on specific demographics of online users. For example, you can target people by location, the type of device they’re using, and the Google-owned websites they’re accessing (e.g. Google search, Google Maps, YouTube).

You can even set your own budget for specific parts of a campaign. For example, you can set daily budgets, or limits on the amount you’re willing to spend on clicks for specific keywords.

“The average cost per click on google ads is £0.75-£1.50″ – Demandsage

But you won’t get far on spending alone.

To get a clearer picture of what will give you the best results, you must continually test, track and optimise your campaigns.

“The average conversion rate on Google Ads is 4.40%” – Consolidata

So, now you know how to prepare a digital marketing strategy. And all the key components that will help you grow your online presence.

But as every marketer knows, the proof is in the pudding. By which we mean, growth relies on constant trial and error, A/B testing, research, analytics, and a constant stream of top-quality content that brings all your goals to fruition.

And that’s a hell of a lot to implement – even for a whole team of marketers.

That’s why we’re offering a free, no obligations consultation on your digital marketing strategy and marketing automation potential.

In uncertain economies, it’s understandable that businesses review their budgets. Often, marketing spend is one of the first costs to be slashed – part of a defensive, cost-cutting strategy.

This ‘batten down the hatches’ approach is an instinctive reaction. Why keep spending when every penny counts? But the data speaks for itself. This is a time for marketers to be proactive, not reactive.

Recession-proof marketing strategy

A Harvard Business School study of 4,700 businesses during past recessions found that those who reduced costs selectively were 37% more likely to come out of the period in a stronger position than their competitors. By focusing more on operational efficiency, while investing in marketing, R&D, and new assets, these businesses could stay ahead of the competition and hit the ground running when the economy bounced back.

“…those who reduced costs selectively were 37% more likely to come out of the period in a stronger position than their competitors…”

To many, this may feel counter-intuitive. But brand growth is driven by an investment in long-lasting commercial impact. And, as any professional investor will tell you, success lies in buying low and selling high. In times of recession, media is cheaper, and the landscape is quieter as your competitors begin to retreat. So, the longer-term impact – as we come out of recession – should be greater.

That’s the theory anyway.

Luckily, there’s robust data to support this theory. The WPP Centre for Research and Development provides us with important insights from the past into the performance of brands through a downturn. It bases its analysis on data from the Profit Impact of Market Strategy (PIMS) database.

The PIMS database is the only source from the past that contains both marketing data and financial information for the same brands throughout the period of the study.

Cutting advertising in a recession doesn’t increase short-term profits

It’s tempting for businesses to show bottom-line results by cutting advertising spend in a downturn, especially when under pressure to report short-term quarterly results to investors.

However, the PIMS data shows that cutting advertising spend in a downturn doesn’t increase your short-term profits.

The WPP paper concludes: “Those that cut their advertising expenditure in a recession lose no less in terms of profitability than those who actually increase spending by an average of 10%. In other words, cutting advertising spend to increase short-term profits doesn’t seem to work.”

Increasing spend in a downturn grows market share

Whilst it might seem risky to increase spend in a challenging economy, the data from the PIMS database shows that it’s easier to gain market share in a downturn than it is in better market conditions.

“businesses in the PIMS database enjoy a higher rate of share growth during downturns, and a lower rate of share increase during stable periods and periods of growth.”

View image 1 in blog here.

View image 2 in blog here.

Increasing market share increases marketing ROI in the long run.

Increasing marketing spend in a downturn will naturally show a short-term fall in ROI for most businesses, depending on their sector. Figure 3 shows, on average a reduction of 1.9%.

However, there’s only a 0.1% difference between those cutting their spend by an average of 11%, and those increasing spend by an average of 10%.

View image 3 in blog here.

‍As we’ve seen from the data in Figure 1, even a moderate increase in spend resulted, on average, in an increased market share during a downturn.

For larger increases in investment, the WPP paper comments: “Brands increasing their spending by an average of 48% during a recession win virtually double the share gains of those who increase their expenditures more modestly. While this aggressive increase in advertising is associated with a drop in return on investment of 2.7% in the short term, it may nevertheless be acceptable to the marketer looking ahead to post-recession growth.”

Further, as demonstrated in figure 4, there’s a substantial body of evidence to show that a larger share of the market generally leads to a higher return on marketing investment in the longer term.

View image 4 in blog here.

So, we know there’s a case for being especially intentional about marketing during a downturn. But what should that look like?

A proactive approach to marketing during a recession should focus on maintaining a consistent and confident presence. This means keeping up with brand awareness campaigns and ensuring your identity, messaging and value proposition stay true, relevant and strong. It’s the wrong time to shy away from stand-out, brand-led marketing.

As The Drum puts it: “All these brand DNA pieces need to be considered and are valuable in building strong, long-lasting relationships with customers – especially during tough economic times where they are more cautious with where and how they are spending their money.”

So even scaling back on advertising could be a mistake if you want to gain market share and a competitive advantage. And while investing in SEO, PPC and lead generation might seem more pressing than brand and awareness, a strong, visible presence might just be the key to long-term success.‍

Case study – Proctor & Gamble

Don’t dismiss this case study because P&G is a large consumer brand. Studies by Binet & Field show that the principles of B2C brand building apply equally to B2B brands.

Without a doubt, the decisions we make today will affect the health of our businesses substantially for the longer term. So now, more than ever, we should ground our strategies in empirical data to avoid strategies based on fear and emotion.

So, while we’re all under considerable pressure to revisit our marketing strategies, remember the evidence from the past:

Need help building your brand?

Whether you need advice or support with positioning, visual identity, a digital refresh, or all of the above, we’re here to help. Get in touch and book a free consultation today.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +44 (0)117 923 2282

Is copy the unsung hero of brand marketing?

Love your brand? Thank the copywriter.

At Proctor + Stevenson we celebrate all creative work, and it’s all about the collaboration. Each successful campaign is a brilliant balancing act of copy, design, digital ingenuity, expert project management and the client’s goals. But we’ve noticed, outside of our creative bubble, that copy’s involvement is often sadly underestimated.

Now, before you get your tiny violin out for our copywriters, they’re doing fine. In fact, we’ve got a thriving team here at P+S that takes care of everything from UX, SEO and content creation to brand positioning, ad concepts and video scripts.

But there often seems to be a misconception that copywriters are, first and foremost, content creators, blog writers or comms specialists. Our clients are often surprised (and hopefully delighted) by how heavily involved our copywriters are – in everything from information architecture and UX design to brand strategy and campaign concepting.

So why is copy so important when it comes to branding?

We often think of brand as a congregation of visual elements – logos, fonts, colour palettes etc. And these are critical components. But good branding is more than just a pretty face – it’s strategic, carefully considered messaging.

It’s your company’s personality – bridging the gap between head and heart. Which is why it can have such an impact on your performance and position within the market.

“…good branding is more than just a pretty face – it’s strategic, carefully considered messaging…”

Think of your brand as a 3D reflection of your business with many different faces – like a Rubik’s cube. Along with the logo, colour palette, fonts and marks, your brand is represented by your mission, vision, purpose and your voice – the elements our copywriters craft with care behind the scenes. And all things that should shine through consistently across every touchpoint.

“…a copywriter builds the foundation for your brand, without which it wouldn’t even stand up, never mind standing out…”

With the visual elements of your brand – you attract, entice and captivate. But with your voice, you engage, persuade and compel. And engagement is what humanises, builds trust and – ultimately – makes the sale. If branding is about connecting with your audience, the way you communicate, or your tone of voice, is just as important as your visual identity. A copywriter builds the foundation for your brand, without which it wouldn’t even stand up, never mind standing out.‍

What do we mean by tone of voice?

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Your tone of voice (ToV) is the way your brand speaks to its audience – the unique characteristics that set your communications apart.

Are you bold and confident like Apple? Motivational and inspiring like Nike? Are you adventurous and rebellious like RedBull?‍

Why you need an outstanding ToV

Just like when you meet a person for the first time, the way a business communicates can seriously impact a consumer’s first impression. It can also become the foundation for your ongoing relationship. In both B2C and B2B marketing, ToV is what keeps your company communications authentic, trustworthy and engaging.

“…a first-class ToV guide is what keeps your brand feeling, and sounding, real. It’s the basis of all the conversations you have with your customers going forward…”

A first-rate ToV guide is what keeps your brand feeling, and sounding, real. It’s the basis of all the conversations you have with your customers going forward. When putting your tone of voice guidelines together, the copywriter will ensure your business can consistently represent itself in a way that gives the right first impression, builds trust, and nurtures relationships. It will also help you stand out in your market for the right reasons – whether that’s because you’re more disruptive, more reliable or more knowledgeable than competitors, for example.

When it comes to building trust with your audience, consistency is key. And unfortunately, visual consistency just won’t cut it. So we pack our guidelines with clear and useful information, making sure anyone who speaks on behalf of your brand can talk the talk.

But why a copywriter?

You might have studied English at university. You’re probably well read. You’re certainly intelligent. Maybe you’ve worked in marketing for many years, writing a vast proportion of the comms and content. So why would you trust a copywriter to do it better than you?

It’s simple really – because copywriters are the experts. They know what sells. They know what compels. They know what converts. That’s what they’re trained to do.

“…from your USPs to your KPIs, we’ve always got your best interests at heart – and we know what interests your target audience…”

In the same way that anyone can create a Squarespace website or an AI-generated image, anyone can write copy. But if you want a site that’s tailored to your needs and built with your business in mind, you need a great digital designer or UX expert. If you need a unique graphic language to set your brand apart, you need a graphic designer. Your brand’s story and tone of voice are no different – you need a copywriter.

Some of the best brand campaigns are copy-led

Imagine Nike without ‘Just do it.’ Remember Specsavers before ‘should’ve gone to…’?

And what if L’Oreal hadn’t told you ‘you’re worth it.’ Sure, these brands would all still exist, but there’s no doubt their success, memorability and share of market is, in part, down to clever copywriting and brilliant brand-led campaigns.

And here’s one from the history books. In 1911, Morton began adding an anti-caking agent to their salt, making it what the brand called the ‘first free-flowing salt.’ Presumably what came before was prone to clumping, shortening its useful shelf life.

Three years later, the brand came out with the slogan: ‘When it rains, it pours’ and introduced the Morton Salt Girl.

On its website, Morton notes that many branding enthusiasts and authorities called this combination ‘one of the greatest branding triumphs of all time’.‍

Any copywriter worth their salt…

Very often, it’s the copywriter who writes your mission, vision and purpose statements. They often write your values, capture your personality – which will later be visualised by our designers – and craft your tone of voice.

Without all of this, your brand would be a hollow shell – beautiful on the outside, but with no signs of life or pearls of wisdom to offer. And your audience will see right through it.

“Copywriters at Proctor + Stevenson wear many hats. We write marketing material, of course –ads, brochures, e-books, newsletters, video scripts. If there are words, we’ve written them. But we also strategise, plan content, craft creative concepts for ad campaigns, and we play a pivotal role in branding projects.”

Our team gets involved from the outset of a branding campaign, gathering insight on your company’s (current and aspirational) personality, values, mission and modus operandi. From your USPs to your KPIs, they get to know your business inside-out.‍

Need help building your brand?

Whether you need advice or support with positioning, visual identity, a digital refresh, or all of the above, we’re here to help. Get in touch and book a free consultation today.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +44 (0)117 923 2282

Embedding culture, engaging employees and increasing productivity with internal branding and communication

Internal branding and communication are a critical part of the marketing mix for any company. Your business needs to be a place people want to work. And that goes beyond simply listing the benefits and occasionally posting something on the intranet.

Your employees need to understand your purpose and ambition, and why it should matter to them. They need to consistently feel engaged and be kept in the loop. Engaged employees become advocates for the brand, which can have a tangible impact.

What are internal brand ambassadors?

And why do you need them?

Engaging ‘brand ambassadors’ within an organisation can ensure your brand is communicated effectively and consistently between employees, leadership and the business itself. Whether it’s through workshop events, campaigns, or organically through your culture, it’s important to educate employees on your brand, its values and what’s expected of them.

“…engaged employees become advocates for the brand, and that can have a tangible impact…”

According to Deloitte, 73% of employees are more engaged when they believe they work for a purpose-driven company. And, as the Hinge Research Institute states:

“A formal employee advocacy program helps shorten the sales cycle. Nearly 64% of advocates in a formal program credited employee advocacy with attracting and developing new business, and nearly 45% attribute new revenue streams to employee advocacy.”

Internal communications

Prysmian Group is a global manufacturing giant, with over 28,000 employees worldwide. Sometimes that means that, when an opportunity comes up, the best person for the job already works for the company. But they might be on the other side of the world.

Prysmian’s HR and internal communications team needed a way to let the whole company know about these vacancies. It had to be distinct from other internal communications and stand out on the intranet.

“…a tried and tested model, all wrapped up with an eye-catching, stand-out brand campaign across various digital touchpoints…”

So we took the idea of ‘Internal Job Posting’ and made the IJP brand and campaign. By including real Prysmian people and sharing their internal recruitment story with the rest of the company, we were able to paint those who had already successfully used the service as champions, advocates and advisors.

Knowing that people you know or recognise have already been through the process builds trust. We were able to take away the ‘leap of faith’ feeling – delivering a tried and tested model, all wrapped up with an eye-catching, stand-out brand campaign across various digital touchpoints.

Internal awareness campaigns

View video in blog here.

Prysmian Group also has a programme called YES, which stands for Your Employee Shares, which gives a discounted rate to employees wanting to invest in the company, plus some free additional shares that can be sold for the full rate 36 months later. The aim is simple – reward and encourage loyalty.

In 2018, Prysmian Group acquired its American competitor, General Cable. There was some resistance to this from the new American team, as there often is when competitors merge. So Prysmian wanted the newly expanded group of companies to get off on the right foot, and to welcome the new General Cable employees in with open arms (and a new perk).

We updated the YES brand to make new and existing shareholders the spokespeople for the programme, with their ‘signatures’ all over the campaign. This meant we needed lots of original footage of those enrolled in the programme emphatically showing their support.

“…the results exceeded all expectations, doubling the number of employee shareholders in just 12 months…”

There are only small windows where people have the chance to buy into the scheme, so we had to get our timings, impact and delivery methods spot on. Lots of Prysmian’s workers don’t regularly need to use a computer for work, so the approach needed to be hybrid – on and offline – and cohesive throughout.

The results exceeded all expectations, doubling the number of employee shareholders in just 12 months.

Internal brand guidelines

The Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD) was in desperate need of a brand that reflected the ambitious and aspirational aims of the fund – to reduce poverty in member countries.

The brand needed to be something the internal team understood and could rally behind and be proud of. And it needed to be more clearly in line with the rest of the IsDB Group, which holds a lot of political capital.

As part of the discovery process, which is critical to the success of any branding and change-communication piece, we gathered inputs from a cross-section of the organisation, as well as some of the external bodies they work with in the NGO and not-for-profit sector. This meant we could accurately address the needs of the wider team.

So one of the core deliverables of our branding process was a simplified strategy document, an employee handbook, a poster with the key themes of the new brand, and a simplified version of the brand guidelines, which will all be used at ISFD’s ‘launch’ day.

This would give the whole team the understanding and the knowledge to apply and represent the brand in the best and most accurate way possible, and articulate why it is so important.

The impact of great internal comms and inside-out branding

The success of each of the projects we’ve highlighted relied on getting the right information to the right people, at the right time. This is the core principle of all good marketing.

You need to bang the drum. Communicate your values and your mission – share the reason your team should be as passionate as you are.

Internal marketing has impact from the top down. Deloitte finds that “82 percent of leaders who say their companies have a strong sense of purpose expect to grow […] compared to just 67 percent of leaders who didn’t feel that sense.”

“…you need to bang the drum. Communicate your values and your mission – share the reason your team should be as passionate as you are…”

If your colleagues are singing from the same hymn sheet, they will feel more engaged, more included, and more supportive of your common goals. And the way they speak to external partners, suppliers and customers will align seamlessly with your outbound marketing and brand messaging.‍

Need help building your brand?

Whether you need advice or support with positioning, visual identity, a digital refresh, or all of the above, we’re here to help. Get in touch and book a free consultation today.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +44 (0)117 923 2282

In summer 2021 we ran an event discussing funding for creative businesses with the south west team at Innovate UK EDGE and a group of Bristol Creative Industries members.

During the discussion, attendees said it would be useful if we could provide regular updates on the finance schemes that are available for creative companies in the south west and beyond. This guide is our response.

The guide is one of Bristol Creative Industries’ most popular ever blog posts. We keep it updated with the latest funding schemes for creative businesses so check it regularly. We also include the post in our monthy email newsletter, BCI Bulletin. To sign up, go here.   

Latest funding for creative businesses:

£200m South West Investment Fund

The British Business Bank, the government-owned business development bank, has launched the £200m South West Investment Fund (SWIF) “to help address market failures by increasing the supply and diversity of early-stage finance for UK smaller businesses, providing funds to firms that might otherwise not receive investment”.

Aimed at businesses in Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, the fund provides:

SWIF is managed by four fund managers:

The region is split as follows:

North of the region:

South of the region:

The funding is split as follows:

Businesses can apply for funding directly to the relevant fund managers here.

Bristol Council vacant commercial property grant scheme

Bristol Council is offering grants of between £2,500 and £10,000 to organisations taking on a new city centre or local high street commercial property.

The funding is open to businesses, charities, CICs, sole traders and arts and culture groups for both long term and temporary/meanwhile use.

Organisations must employ fewer than 50 people, have a turnover of £10.2m or less, and a balance sheet showing £5.1m or less.

Funding can be used for structural works to a property or equipment to be used in the property (capital expenditure). The funding needs to be matched by 20%.

Applications are open until 11.59pm on Monday 30 September 2024.

Successful applicants must start trading from the funded property by Friday 31 January 2025.

More details.

Creative UK Creative Growth Finance II

This £35m Creative UK and Triodos Bank investment fund provides loans of £100,000 to £1m.

Finance is directed to post-revenue creative businesses presenting promising growth potential and who:

More details here.

UK Games Fund Content Fund

Grants of £50,000 – £150,000 are available for UK registered small and medium sized enterprises with PAYE employees engaged in games development work in the UK.

More details.

UK Games Fund Prototype Fund

Established UK-based companies with a game development project at an early stage in the pipeline can apply for grants of up to £30,000.

More details.

Innovate UK smart grants

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £25m for game changing and commercially viable research and development (R&D) innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy.

To lead a project your organisation must:

You must be or involve at least one grant claiming micro, small or medium-sized enterprise.

The scheme is open to single applicants and collaborations.

Applications for the latest round of smart grants close at 11am on 24 April.

More details here.

Supporting Grassroots Music Fund

Applications are open for this government fund which supports rehearsal and recording studios, promoters, festivals, and venues for live and electronic music performance.

Grants of £1,000 and £40,000 are available for projects up to three years in length. The fund runs until March 2025.

More details here.

Developing your Creative Practice

This fund from Arts Council England supports individual cultural and creative practitioners in England thinking of taking their practice to the next stage through things such as: research, time to create new work, travel, training, developing ideas, networking or mentoring.

Grants of up to £12,000 are available.

The rounds of funding are as follows:

Round 20

Opens for applications: 12pm on 14 March 2024
Closes for applications: 12pm on 11 April 2024
Decisions announced: 27 June 2024

Round 21

Opens for applications: 12pm on 25 July 2024
Closes for applications: 12pm on 22 August 2024
Decisions announced: 7 November 2024

Round 22

Opens for applications: 12pm on 14 November 2024
Closes for applications: 12pm on 12 December 2024
Decisions announced: 6 March 2025

More details here.

Create Growth Programme

Run by Watershed and West of England Combined Authority, the Create Growth Programme provides support to creative businesses in the West of England (Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire) including training and a £2,500 grant to spend on mentoring, consultancy and coaching.

The programme’s second cohort begins in May 2024. You can register your interest here.

Travelwest sustainable travel grants

Travelwest provides match-funded grants for initiatives that improve sustainable travel provision in a business.

The aim is to provide financial support and incentives to employers to enable them to encourage sustainable modes of commuting or in-work travel (including site visits and meetings) amongst their staff.

The grants can be used for the implementation of physical measures, promotional events or any other measure that will encourage mode change amongst staff.

Grants are currently availables for businesses in Bristol and North Somerset.

More details.

BridgeAI funding and support programme

Innovate UK’s £100m BridgeAI programme aims “to help businesses in high growth potential sectors such as creative industries, agriculture, construction, and transport to harness the power of AI and unlock their full potential”.

The programme offers funding and support to help innovators assess and implement trusted AI solutions, connect with AI experts, and elevate their AI leadership skills.

More details.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation Arts Fund

This fund supports organisations who work at the intersection of art and social change. It offers grants between £90,000 and £300,000 over three years.

The fund is open for applications from 4 April until 31 May and from 14 August until 14 October.

More details here.

Arts & Culture Impact Fund

This new £23m social impact investment fund is for socially driven arts, culture and heritage organisations registered and operating in the UK. It offers loans between £150,000 and £1m repayable until May 2030.

More details here.

The Elephant Trust

The Elephant Trust says its mission is to “make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when frustrated by lack of funds. It is committed to helping artists and art institutions/galleries that depart from the routine and signal new, distinct and imaginative sets of possibilities.”

Grants of up to £5,000 are available.

More details here.

Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants

Grants of up to £100,000 are available for arts, libraries and museums projects.

The grants support a broad range of creative and cultural projects that benefit people living in England. Projects can range from directly creating and delivering creative and cultural activity to projects which have a longer term positive impact, such as organisational development, research and development, and sector support and development.

More details here.

Start Up Loans

A Start Up Loan is a government-backed unsecured personal loan for individuals looking to start or grow a business in the UK. Successful applicants also receive 12 months of free mentoring and exclusive business offers.

All owners or partners in a business can individually apply for up to £25,000 each, with a maximum of £100,000 per business.

The loans have a fixed interest rate of 6% p.a. and a one to five year repayment term. Entrepreneurs starting a business or running one that has been trading for up to three years can apply. Businesses trading for between three and five years can apply for a second loan.

More details here.

UnLtd funding for social entrepreneurs

If you’re running a creative social enterprise you may be able to access funding from UnLtd.

Finance of up to £5,000 is available for starting a social enterprise and up to £15,000 for growing a social enterprise.

Successful applicants also get up to 12 tailored business support plus access to access to expert mentors and workshops.

More details here.

Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

Businesses can apply for up to £3,500 to cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband.

Check if the scheme is available in your area here.

Know of more funding and support for creative businesses?

If you know of another scheme that we haven’t listed and you’d like to share it with other creative businesses, email Dan to let us know.

2023 was something of a wild ride.  

 Google gave us more core updates than ever before, the AI conversation reached a media fever pitch, all the while businesses continued to navigate economically uncertain times. 

 When it comes to looking ahead to the rest of the year, one thing that we can always be certain of is uncertainty. But embracing change can be a tightrope walk.   

On one hand, you want to push the envelope, grow, and embrace new things. But on the other, you want to be cautious and only fully adopt those changes that bring you actual benefits and results. 

The only way to be able to manage change is to be open-minded. Be quick to try new things but be even quicker to move on from those that do not serve your needs.  

Our annual Communications Trends and How to Spend report explores what’s on the horizon; looking at everything from AI to ESG and sustainability, how client servicing is shifting and why Google’s next core update, might just be its most impactful to date.  

 

AI on the rise?  

The rise of AI over the last 12 months has been nothing short of sensational. But there have been some high-profile blunders, that we all should learn from. 

A lot of the discourse around AI has been centred around it ‘replacing’ creatives. But we need only look to Google’s launch of Bard to see that this isn’t, or shouldn’t, be the case.   

In being overly reliant on the accuracy of its own AI, Google wiped a huge amount off its share value overnight. This is proof enough that human involvement in the creative process isn’t at risk of being replaced. As Izzy, our content manager explains:  

Despite concerns regarding its impact on creativity, the reception of AI in content creation is largely contingent on how we use it. Creators will have more time to refine their ideas in areas where human ingenuity remains indispensable as AI becomes an ally to tasks.” 

AI is where we should be the most inquisitive. Many platforms are now caveating that their results may not always be accurate. Being over-reliant on its outputs may not be best for business.  

Video: a step change in both content and delivery.  

Video remains king of the hill when it comes to content, that’s not a ground-breaking statement. 

But where businesses can and will find greater success, particularly with their owned content, is recognising that production value is not the marker for success, authenticity is.  

“There is still a place for larger-scale production and video content. Audiences still want to be wowed by content. But that kind of strategy can’t really be maintained.” Says Simon, our Marketing Operations Manager.  

Creating content is no longer about those big, expensive content set pieces. Look at TikTok, we’re now seeing more businesses and corporates taking up the platform. But the big lesson here is not trying to force your will upon the platform.  

Those who are leaning into the platform, keeping it low-key and light-hearted are the ones getting noticed… and will continue to do so. 

In the longer term, as both potential customer bases and workforces become younger and even more digitally native, this kind of authentic content-driven presence will be the difference maker when it comes to brand loyalty from within and without.  

Client Service 2.0 

Whatever product or service you’re delivering, client servicing is now up for scrutiny, like it never has been before. As our client services director, Helen explains:  

 “It’s no longer sufficient to be seen to be helpful, responsive and good to work with. Clients want to better understand the how.” 

This could be anything from clients wanting to understand your ways of working. They’ll want to get under the skin of your processes and your best practices. The agency/client relationship now goes far deeper than just service provision. 

Shared ethos is now crucial and there’s a new level of transparency, particularly around planning and measuring success, that needs to be considered. Particularly for those seeking to build long-term relationships built on mutual success. 

What’s happening at Google?  

It’s a question that’s been asked many times in the last 12 months.  

The search giant usually puts out one core update per year. Last year, they put out four. As our strategy lead, Joe explains:  

A lot of this has been around Google’s ever-impactful E-E-A-T guidelines. Experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are all key things that content needs to showcase to get ranked highly. 

For a lot of businesses, this was a lot of change in a short space of time. These updates had immediate effects on content and web traffic. Many businesses are still clawing back the online reputations they’d built before these core updates.  

But Google is set to roll out perhaps its most impactful ‘hidden gem’ update this year. 

“This update will seek to showcase personal opinions on the SERP (search engine results pages), which means that we could see social media accounts getting airtime on SERPs, blog posts being returned, and even forums such as Reddit could get page one visibility.” 

Read the full report 

At AMBITIOUS we are committed to staying at the cutting edge of our industry,   

With our comprehensive approach that follows our insights, ideas and impact model, we have the structure, expertise and services to ensure resilience to market changes. We also recognise that effective and authentic comms can help businesses stay ahead of the competition, in an increasingly competitive digital and traditional comms landscape.  

To read our Communications Trends and How to Spend report in full visit: https://www.ambitiouspr.co.uk/trends-spends-24/ 

Halo continues to strengthen its strategic offer with the appointment of Matt Crisp.

Matt is a leading creative and strategic thinker, bringing with him brand and commercial management experience from his 9 years at Diageo. He subsequently was MD of Brave, one of the UK’s leading independent creative agencies, growing global brands such as Fever Tree, Adidas, Panasonic and Green & Black’s.

Matt moved from agency life to take on a number of private and public sector advisory roles in smart cities, technology, media and mobility, with a track record in building high growth companies.

Matt will work alongside Halo’s teams and clients to develop insightful strategies and effective creative solutions to improve business performance and audience experience.

Hannah Williams, Halo’s recently appointed MD, says, “we’re thrilled to bring Matt’s level of expertise into Halo at this pivotal point in our agency’s growth. Matt’s appointment will help ignite our 2024 ambitions and build on the excellence of our strategic capabilities”.

Nick Ellis, Creative Partner and Halo co-founder says, “We’ve known Matt for over 10 years and in that time we’ve created significant work for retailer clients and FMCG brands together. Matt joining the team full-time is a natural move for us, and underlines our commitment to further strengthen and grow our strategy practice”.

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About Halo

Halo is a full-service, independent brand agency, partnering with household names evolving and renewing their propositions, challengers disrupting the status quo and start-ups beginning the journey.

We develop strategies to deliver a competitive edge and physical & digital experiences that connect with audiences on-screen and in-person; making sure brands are recognised, remembered and encouraging action.

With joined-up thinking & inspiring, creative energy, we improve audience experience and ultimately business performance.

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