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News & Views

Let's Play in the Grey
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I remember the first time I was taught about communism while at school and it blew my mind, it just seemed so simple and obvious. Everyone has an equal share of everything and we all just get on with each other. I ran home from school (more metaphorically than literally) excited about being able to tell my Dad about this great plan I’d learnt in a half hour class. In a slightly resigned manner he indulged my childhood politics and then explained some of the complexities I maybe hadn’t thought about. As part of this conversation my Dad said something that has always stuck with me; that the vast majority of politicians on all sides are good people that go into politics genuinely believing they can improve things. But when confronted with the reality of the system realise it’s way more complex than they thought.

I’ve been thinking of this conversation a lot recently as we seem to be living in a time where the imperfections, complexity and give-and-take of life are becoming intolerable to an increasing number of people. Not just in politics but more broadly. Society is completely polarised, everything is yes or no, good or bad, all or nothing. What happened to the reality that life is played in the grey, not everything is black and white. Many people have described it as the football-isation of society- we’re operating like tribal football fans in relation to major issues. I agree.

Even the thing that surely everyone can unite around- the threat to the planet we all live on has become tribalised. Just witness the abuse directed at Greta Thunberg online. Yes, the root cause of climate change is complicated, and yes, different countries have different responsibilities but isn’t it simpler to just accept all of this and work on what we can do about it all? Increasingly, it seems that society feels the need to take a side. To be for or against something completely. If you disagree with David Lammy's description of the ERG as Nazis that doesn't mean you have to disagree with his whole life's work, if you are on one side of the Brexit debate you can still be open and understanding of the thoughts of the other side. Sorry, I tried so hard to avoid the "B" word.

We’re living in a time where social media algorithms are ensuring that we only hear views that echo ours unless we work hard to subvert them by actively seeking people that present differing views. This is leading to a polarised view of the world. If everyone you are exposed to agree with your world view then surely everyone does? And you can double down on it all.

I work in marketing, my day-to-day job is to advise brands on the best way to prove themselves to their customers, so naturally I look at this whole issue with an eye on what it means for this job. The reaction to the Gillette campaign earlier this year showed this whole issue in a microcosm; you couldn’t move for industry experts queueing up to say it was the worst/best thing in the world ever, when it clearly wasn’t ether of those things. So what can we do?

Three things for a start:

1. Stop measuring brands with daft measures like “brand love”. The idea that people have extreme feelings like “love” towards brands, other than in extreme cases, is nonsense. People love their friends and family. A brand’s aim should be for people to be open to them, a positive familiarity, maybe a bond that encourages repeat purchase. It’s not about love or hate.

2. Embrace imperfection and own your mistakes. Inefficiency and mistakes are what separate us from machines yet increasingly nothing but perfection is acceptable. Let’s shake this. Not everything is great or awful.

3. Seek out views on the world that are different to yours and stop proclaiming “the death of (insert the latest buzzword here)”. If you are a dedicated influencer marketing advocate force yourself to learn about the benefits of TV advertising, if you work for a big publisher embrace disruptive new media companies, read articles by journalists you instinctively disagree with.

This isn’t a piece about political philosophies. This is a call for us to revel in the grey, to accept that things are rarely polarised issues but something more complex. And isn’t complexity a lot more interesting?

 
Will Worsdell
Youth Marketing Strategy 2019
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The Youth Marketing Strategy conference (YMS) has been going for about nine years now, which, as I learnt this week, would make it part of Gen Alpha. It's worth starting by saying that it's a good conference but I don't think the name of it is 100% accurate unless by "marketing" you mean advertising and communications, and by "strategy" you mean digital-focused tactics. Which I don't. But that's why the key take-outs below are quite skewed to these things. So here are 14 observations from this year:

1. Gender fluidity is mainstream for Under 24s. Only 2% of males in this age bracket identify as 100% masculine. (YouthSight)

2. Easy access to porn is having quite an effect on young people; the amount of under 24s having sex has reduced dramatically over the last couple of decades.

3. There's a big difference between role models and "influencers" and young people are aware, and ok, with that. And role models are more likely to be friends than celebrities. 

4. The word "authenticity" was used a lot. A lot a lot.

5. Bit of a move away from digital towards physical experiences. One youth panel talked about how strange they find it that shops are trying to recreate e-commerce (in-store iPad ordering etc.) when the whole reason you go to a store is for physical interaction.

6. Some "influencers" are adding fake #ad and #spon tags to their posts to make it look like they've been paid to post, with the aim of encouraging brands to get in touch. That made my head hurt a bit.

7. 60% of kids will be obese by 2035 and they're being totally forgotten about in the urban planning process, which is a contributing factor. (WHO)

8. For a conference about marketing there weren't many talks from marketers.

9. There is a big big revolution going on in football. Particularly in relation to gender.

10. Gen Alpha is a thing (under 9s onwards). Answers on a postcard as to what B will be used for the next ones.

11. And 40% of Gen A see climate change as their responsibility to fix, not politicans etc. Considering they're 9 I'm not sure if this is inspiring or sad. (Beano Studios)

12. The food was healthy, tasty and abundant. Big thumbs up for that.

13. Jimmy of Jimmy's Iced Coffee and Jamala Osman are inspirational and amazing. Check them out and listen to them wherever you can.

14. Finally, don't buy into the stereotypes of young people (which to be honest, is advice a couple of the speakers could have heeded).

A fun two days. Looking forward to more good stuff in 2020 with hopefully a few more brands speaking, a few less sales pitches, and some talks from a slightly broader representation of the marketing discipline.

 
Will Worsdell
Getting The Balance Right
 


One of the biggest lessons I have learned in the first year of managing The Park is that striving for the right balance is a constant struggle and this is the same in every start up where both sales and delivery are business critical, which is pretty much all of them.

 A harsh lesson was learned early on in our agency journey. When we started there was a huge focus on new business (fairly obviously) to make sure we could keep the lights on. We were out pressing the flesh continuously for the first for the first couple of months and had over forty new business meetings, a number of these meetings resulted in projects which meant we suddenly got really busy delivering the work. Being a new agency and realising the importance of these fledgling client relationships to the future of our business we (the three co-founders) all rolled up our sleeves and got busy making sure that the projects were all being delivered to the highest possible standard.

After two crazy months of work we came up for air and our new business pipeline had dried up resulting in our quietest ever month. We quickly realised what had happened (it doesn’t take a genius) and immediately got back on the new business horse while making sure that all the client work also had the love it deserved.

It was a reality check that when you’re a fledgling business if you’re not doing something then no one is. Coming from an established agency where it was possible to give other team members key responsibilities it meant I now had to approach things differently.

 After that first experience we have now got the balance better but it requires a constant focus to make sure everything is getting the care and attention it deserves. We’re constantly learning and I am sure we will make many more mistakes on the journey ahead but hopefully not the same one more than once.

 
Will Worsdell
Think Secondary Audience First
 


Most marketers understand the power of connecting a consumer with their brand in the real world and providing them with a unique, engaging and memorable experience but experiential marketing is still struggling to shift the perception that it’s a costly, inefficient discipline.

The problem is that it’s often being compared solely on media reach and although we can wax lyrically about the deep connection we’re creating when there are only 1000 people who physically experience our campaign compared to a digital experience that reached 100,000 for the same budget it’s easy to see why those perceptions persist.

Amplification of brand experiences is obviously nothing new but I still feel that this thinking often comes too far downstream, as a discipline we need to start looking at what we do as campaigns, not events.

Things to consider:

What’s the digital strategy?
It’s easier than ever to connect the real world with the digital world but the give a shit factor needs to be considered. Why would someone want to watch other people enjoying a great experience on Facebook live? They probably won’t. Think about what will actually be interesting for people to experience in the digital world and plan accordingly.  

How are we using the attendees to spread the message?  
Two words: Instagrammable moments. People want to share unique experiences with their followers and friends. Work out what is going to be a must share moment and make sure every attendee experiences it.   

How are we going to generate earned media?  
It’s not enough just to invite the media along and hope for the best, think about what you can create that is genuinely newsworthy, what will they want to write about. Target the right people, don’t just invite everyone along. Work with them pre event to help shape their content and think about different content for different publications.

What’s the content we’re seeding afterwards?
The days of creating a hype video with a killer soundtrack are long gone, it’s no longer enough just to point a handycam at the experience and edit something together that gives people who weren’t there a flavour of what happened. It’s just annoying to see something great that you missed out on. Content should be taken seriously, work with proper writers and directors, allow them to shape the experience to create a film with a genuine story that people will want to watch. The same goes for photography, work back from the shots that will resonate.

By thinking about the secondary audience in the planning stage we can make sure we’re reaching and engaging a much larger audience that just those lucky enough to experience it first-hand and delivering a much greater ROI.

 
Natalie Corbett
What Can We Learn From the England Football Team
 


Sadly, it’s not coming home. But what is coming home is an England team, manager, and backroom staff that have totally changed the perception of the England football brand. It is a lesson in rebranding and reconnecting with your target audience, and there is much that marketers and agencies can learn from them. Here are my four key takeaways.

1.     Transparency
England set the tone for their World Cup approach with an unprecedented pre-tournament press event with 23 stations giving full access to the entire squad (a move borrowed from the NFL). This access and openness got the media on side and continued through the tournament. The players’ use of social media here was exemplary, particularly the immediate reactions, family access and behind the scenes snippets. When you can set the context that you are judged against you’re on to a winner.

2.    Be reflective of current culture
One of the most powerful acts of the World Cup and a big part of the shifting perceptions of this team was Danny Rose’s incredible honesty about his struggles with depression. This showed a team that had such a bond and togetherness that he felt comfortable talking about it but it also showed that this is a group in touch with modern society. Male mental health is a big issue and they understood that a player like Danny Rose could do much to raise awareness, and normalise discussion, of the issue.

3.    Care about your audience
This has come a long way since Wayne Rooney’s sweary rant down the camera about being booed by his own fans. The England team and management prior to, and during, this World Cup showed an incredible level of gratitude and warmth to their audience, to the people that should care about their brand. They showed that they were fans too through their individual social accounts and a brilliant pre-tournament video on the official England account. They also continually referenced how aware they were of what was happening back home and how much it meant to them.

4.    Actions speak louder than words
England’s approach to this World Cup was a lesson in letting your actions do the talking. There were no grand pre-tournament predictions, there was much talk of the youth and inexperience of the team and they just focused on executing their plans. How many brands have been guilty of focusing on talk, bluster and wallpaper comms as opposed to improving their product and actually proving its worth.

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Natalie Corbett
A World Cup Opportunity Missed?
 


The experience economy is currently one of the most important global trends in marketing. People are craving unique, memorable and shareable moments, especially around things they are passionate about such as the World Cup and I believe there is an opportunity for brands to capitalise on this right now in England. 

As well as discussing the amazing achievements of Gareth Southgate’s squad over in Russia a lot of the conversation among football fans at the moment centres around the best location to cheer on England when they take on Croatia in the Semi Final tonight.  

Most people will settle for the local pub or the comfort of their own sofa but there are many more who are looking for the best possible environment and atmosphere, one that rivals being there. This has been heightened in this World Cup due to the fact that only a small number of dedicated fans have made the difficult trek to Russia. 

We’ve all seen the footage of beer and limbs flying everywhere as England fans celebrate another goal or victory gathered around big screens, they’ve been shared far and wide on social, the national news and even on the official ITV and BBC match coverage. What you won’t see when you’re watching this footage however is a brand. 

Most non-sponsor brands have focused on trying to own a piece of the World Cup pie online and there have been some great examples of this, especially the boarding pass that British Airways posted recently which was brilliant. I believe however that the right brand could capitalise on bringing the game to fans in a unique and interesting way through a live experience and then magnifying it to an even broader audience, the only brand that has really done anything interesting is Budweiser with their boat floating down the Thames. 

Brands may be put off doing anything due to the fact they think they need to do something huge for a massive crowd but with the right idea and amplification plan this isn’t necessarily the case. Mastercard and Heineken both show regularly that if you do something amazing for a small number of people it can still reach the masses through the content it generates. It’s all about the experience. 

With regards to negotiating the notoriously prickly FIFA lawyers as long as a brand doesn’t use any of the FIFA IP it’s possible to host a screening event, and many of the world’s leading brands have successfully created an association with the tournament without needing to use any of the protected assets. 

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to leverage the incredible atmosphere in England at the moment, to bring fans something they are craving and to elevate the right brand but in my opinion no brands have taken advantage of the occasion. 

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Natalie Corbett
We're Off and Running
 
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The Park have had a busy start to summer with three exciting projects for three different brands; ITV, Marriott Hotels and New Balance.  

First up was the launch of the new England One Day and T20 cricket shirts for New Balance working with Mongoose Sport & Entertainment.  The idea centred around street cricket and gave cricket fans the opportunity to play with their heroes including Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Ebony Rainford-Brent at a warehouse in Peckham.  TV, radio, digital, and print press were also in attendance. 

Then it was another launch, this time for ITV and the return of ITV2's youth phenomenon Love Island.  The Park worked on a London based press stunt- Message in a Bottle- building a giant version of one of the show's icons, and also a fan activation event in Manchester helping to build buzz and anticipation ahead of ITV2's best launch figures ever. 

A project with a very different tone was Mindful Miles for Westin Hotels where The Park put on a series of mindful runs for members of the public, press, and influencers around London landmarks.  The Park worked with acclaimed author and mindfulness expert William Pullen to curate the day, create content, and help people achieve improved mental wellbeing through running.

 
 
Natalie Corbett