Category Archives: Brand

Launching energy theft reporting service on behalf of Crimestoppers

Launching energy theft reporting service on behalf of Crimestoppers

We’ve worked with the national charity, Crimestoppers, to launch the ground-breaking new service to reduce energy crime in the UK.


stayenergysafe-videoThe stayenergysafe service is a first of its kind and allows the public to come forward and anonymously report any suspicions or evidence of energy theft, either through the website or the dedicated number, 0800 023 2777.

An integrated campaign

We’ve worked with Crimestoppers throughout the project, offering a fully integrated creative service to launch the new stayenergysafe identity. We’ve created executions to target consumer and professional audiences, built a responsive website with its own secure portal, created a campaign launch video, a shortened launch video, implemented a multi-channel and contextual advertising campaign, and provided results based data analysis.

There are currently 150,000 cases of energy theft investigated every year. The charity aims to encourage more people to report cases of energy theft, a crime which has been known to have devastating effects following fires and explosions. There are horrific stories about energy theft on the website (link).

The launch

The public launch on Monday 19th September 2016 – which highlighted the real harm to individuals, property and lives due to energy theft – gained impressive media attention with publications in The Times, The Telegraph, The Sun, and a BBC Radio 2 interview, amongst others.

The new service received over 20 new reports of energy theft through its anonymous phone line and online reporting form within the first day, and we’re confident that the service will continue to encourage the public to report any concerns that they have about energy crime.

The website that we created for the campaign on energy theft can be seen at

Why does a lot of small business marketing not work quite the way you’d like it to?

Why does a lot of small business marketing not work quite the way you’d like it to?

And how can you change it?

(First presented to Reading’s RG1 group at Artigiano Reading on Thursday 24th September 2015)
RG1 meeting at Artigiano Reading

RG1 meeting at Artigiano Reading

To answer these questions, we need to go back to the start of a business. When the business owner – let’s call him Nick – sets up the business, he has a number of things, but the two that I want to focus on here are that he has a really clever, unique idea, and a “little black book” of contacts. When the business starts, it is likely to go through a period of rapid growth, as Nick really works his metaphorical “little black book” (and these days, with the power of LinkedIn, this can be a pretty big black book).

It’s worth adding an aside – this is relevant for most people that want to grow their business, but particularly pertinent for anyone that is working in professional services, or that has an intangible, hard-to-articulate, very clever or niche business proposition.

Scaling the business

At some point, the business owner (Nick) will start to think about how to scale that business beyond his or her own network. This may be within that first four years or so, whilst there is still some leverage in Nick’s own network. Or it may be that the growth in turnover starts to slow, plateau or even drop.

So this is the point at which the business is likely to invest – perhaps in a sales director, who brings his own little black book, in a CRM system, or perhaps in working with a new marketing agency. And in some instances that can fill a gap, but often the initiative ends up disappointing for everyone. It doesn’t create growth – in turnover or GP. In fact there may be such an increase in costs that the business starts losing money.

Here’s why. When you start up the business, everyone you are talking to knows you – or thinks that they do. The trust is in the business owner themselves as an individual. And that’s great. That’s why I called my agency Becky Holland & Partners (we’re still in the first growth phase).

But as you grow, the people you are talking to are not presold. Until you engage with them, they don’t really know you as a person. And so they don’t trust you. So the number of real leads that come in to the business will be proportionately less. And your conversion rate is likely to not be quite as good.

I’ve spent the past few years working with businesses that want to reverse that trend. To pre-sell the business as a whole to a specific audience of people.

Scaling a business requires not just trust but, critically, reaching a point where that the trust is not just in the business owner and partners, but in something tangible that the business stands for in its own right. Something unique that prospects will build an emotional connection with, and which they will remember. Something that is greater than the sum of the parts.

There’s a name for this thing. Brand.

Armed with this understanding, you are then ready to scale the business.

Small business owners can get really bogged down with the sheer scale of what they think they are “supposed” to do – social media, writing blogs, making video, generating all sorts of content. And none of these in its own right is a bad thing. They just take a lot of time sometimes, and it can be hard to see how it will get the business to where you wanted to go. Fundamentally, without a strong proposition and brand, all this does is to create a level playing field with everyone else that is competing for the same customers. This stuff is practical, and tactical – but in today’s world, I’d hesitate to call it marketing. Effective marketing is all about the message, and articulating it in clever ways. It’s not about the mechanic.

Things you can do to get started

If your business is established, and you want to try to find a way to scale it – I mean properly scale it – so that it has a value in its own right, then I’d recommend two books that would really help.

One is “Tribes” by Seth Godin, which gives you some really great examples and advice about starting a movement. Capturing your passion and the essence of what you do – and in the process building a “tribe” of followers. Preselling your business in a way that will help marketing work harder for you.

And the second is “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries – because so many of the principles in there – particularly those around “failing fast” are directly relevant to what growing organisations need to do to create focus, and make marketing work for them. This is a pretty good article from HBR if you’d like to read more (link)

The impact of brand on business growth and marketing ROI

The impact of brand on business growth and marketing ROI

You could probably write a whole book on the subject of brands. But as it’s a Friday afternoon, I thought I’d keep this short and sweet.

“Brand” means different things to different people. To many, it’s all about logos, colours and typefaces. For others it’s about reputation.

But a great brand is much more than that. After all, how many established market leaders do you know, that don’t have a strong sense of their own identity. Something that people can relate to,  and that they will choose to interact with (and buy from) almost regardless of the product?

Brand: in a nutshell

Here’s our guide to what ‘brand’ means in 2015. This is as relevant for small, growing businesses, as it is for established brands:

  1. Branding can most simply be described as “the relationships that account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”
  2. When a brand is strong and respected, it provides protection for the business during an economic downturn. This can blunt the effect of any crisis, because of the goodwill the company has in reserve
  3. A brand gives people an emotional reason to connect with a company. This leads to them considering new product innovations or offers in a positive light, even when these were not previously in their consideration set
  4. Having a strong brand allows a business to be valued as more than the sum of its parts. This protects the business if a key person or asset is removed from the equation (such as in a professional services firm, particularly in the legal sector, where business is often generated on the basis of an individual’s reputation rather than that of the business)
  5. A strong brand allows businesses to “scale” – to become presold beyond their own direct network, and to enter new and previously untapped markets. A strong brand means that when the company moves into new products or markets, it carries customers with it
  6. Businesses with a strong brand can charge a premium for products and services. Apple provides an extraordinary example of how to do this, with little or no resistance from the market
  7. A strong brand has a tangible value on a balance sheet, attractive to investors and VCs. This can be rather handy when you need to raise funds to support growth, or fancy retiring to the sun.

We have some great examples of how this works in practice for our clients. If you’d like to find out more, just get in touch.


Immediacy, “omnichannel”, creativity and brands

Immediacy, “omnichannel”, creativity and brands

Highlights from the Festival of Marketing #FoM14

Coke mini can campaignLast week, we spent two action-packed days at Tobacco Dock, and my mind is buzzing.

There were some strong themes that came out, and so I thought I’d share some of what we found out.

Theme 1 – Immediacy

I blew it. I admit it. I meant to publish this blog last Thursday, but work got in the way. The only person that’s really bothered about this (if I’m honest) is me. But for brands, the ability to respond quickly and appropriately is never more important than now.

Alastair Campbell (and other speakers, such as Mike Eames from Barclays) talked brilliantly about the impact that social media has had on reputation and “spin”. The ability to respond both honestly and very quickly is paramount. Hopefully the #FoM will post his talk on Youtube as it was brilliant (they haven’t done so at the time of posting).

In the spirit of immediacy, Alastair himself posted his script far more quickly than the Festival of Marketing – you can find the whole text here on his blog. –

Theme 2 – Omnichannel

I don’t know when the word “omnichannel” started to appear, but it was mentioned a lot last week, with the emphasis on providing a seamless experience for customers.

So what’s really changed? Omnichannel is on the face of it not much more than the rebranding of “integrated”. But we are in a world that is changing. A world where “integrated” quite doesn’t get across the idea that messages need to be both engaging and utterly consistent regardless of channel. As we move to a world where all television is in high definition, on demand, this is really exciting for marketing. By 2025 it’s predicted that we will have 48 million TV viewing options at any moment in time. For brands, this will require a fundamental shift, so a new word is probably appropriate. Is “omnichannel” the right word? We’ll see if people are still using it at #FoM15!

Theme 3 – Broken Marketing Paradigms

I attended a brilliant session by Coke’s Javier Sanchez-Lamelas, which I unashamedly steal from here, because it was so good.

1. Everything has changed

Marketers today are obsessed with media and channel, with NPS and social metrics. But that’s not what marketing is all about. Marketing is about engaging with people in new ways, creating emotional connections with brands that changes behaviour, and the subsequent changes in behaviour. He reminded the audience that everything Peter Drucker had to say is still true.

2. We haven’t seen this before

Javier talked about the explosion in channels and in consumer choice, and the impact this has on marketers. He showed us that this is not a new phenomenon, but that it happened before with the invention of the printing press, the radio, and then film and TV.

This change offers brands opportunities to create real connections with their customers (but will also spell the end for those who concentrate on media at the expense of creativity). This spells a move from “creative communism” (where brands pay media owners to air their content) to “creative Darwinism” (where poor marketing, that is not adaptable, will die).

3. Globalisation = Centralisation

As business becomes more global, Javier argued that this is a time to expand your reach, with cultural and local representatives all around the globe communicating and working together. If you try to centralise marketing or operations, or any other part of your business, you fail to recognise the many shades of light and dark, nuances and trends that impact on the success of your organisation.

He shared some of the fantastic global Coca Cola campaigns, pointing out the success of the Share a Coke campaign (from Australia), and the mini can campaign (from Germany).

4. It’s complex to predict the future

It’s not complex to predict the future. We have more metrics, more data, deeper understanding than ever before. We need to predict the future in order to stay ahead.

According to Javier “You must make sure the change inside your company is going faster than the change outside. If a marketer thinks they live in the future then they will not be able to progress their mind. Spend time talking to early adopters and kids if you want to be able to predict the future otherwise that’s a recipe for disaster. Without [external] guidance you’ll most likely be creating content for opportunities that no longer exist.”

5. Innovation is a central department

Javier’s point: “If you appoint someone as the head of innovation, then everyone else in the business thinks they can stop innovating”.

Point made!


This was the second Festival of Marketing – some brilliant content, and great speakers. There were a few organisational issues, particularly with The Digitals award ceremony, but overall we’ve come away with a lot of new ideas.


How to create compelling content:  without bringing fee earners to a standstill

How to create compelling content: without bringing fee earners to a standstill

(this article was first published in PM Forum Magazine, April 2014)

Content-driven marketing is widely recognised as one of the most effective ways to improve the reputation and visibility of a professional services firm. With a content-led strategy, you give your clients and prospects something that they will value, and find immediately useful.

But how can you create compelling content without bringing your top earners to a standstill? And how can you make certain that the content you create is fit-for-purpose?

The trouble is that there is a lot of content out there and 90% of it is mediocre at best, produced for search engines, not real potential clients. Searching for seemingly useful titles like “What the legal services act means for you”“What makes a great leader” or “How to create a measurable, repeatable pipeline of leads” results in a huge number of articles, the vast majority of which don’t tell the reader anything they don’t know already.

What should you do?

  1. Can you create something that feels new? We call this the “man bites dog” angle on a subject. It’s the title that makes people stop and say “That’s different!”. You can sometimes craft this by bringing two themes or statistics together to highlight a gap – for example, “93% of CEOs think that [key industry theme] is critical for them in 2014 but only 3% believe they have the knowledge and skills to take the right action”. And if you can’t be truly new, then be brave and say something that goes against the flow.
  1. Give away knowledge. Knowledge may be power – but giving away knowledge is even more powerful. It positions you as a leader in your field and portrays confidence and a sense of abundance. There are very few “trade secrets” in the professional services world: things that can’t possibly be divulged. The more you share, the more you stand to gain.
  1. Create cut-through  with authenticity: not only does content need to be relevant, current and immediately useful – but it must be real. Move away from gimmicks and storytelling, and speak with a genuine voice. Marketing Week’s trends for 2014 cites provenance as a key issue “People want to know more about the brands they consume, so the importance of authenticity and provenance will continue to play right across the spectrum,” says Charles Gibb, president of Belvedere Vodka. This is as powerful a differentiator in the b2b world as it is for consumer brands.

The role of content

The belief that content-led marketing is the way forward for professional-services marketing is received wisdom now. But most firms would hugely benefit from starting with WHY they want to create content. What does your firm need to achieve? What positioning does the content need to uphold?

“Differentiate between thought-leadership, which helps people to think in new ways, and can open up big long-term opportunities; and opinion-leadership (“how to…?” guides, “top tips” and infographics for example), which helps people to act, and is much more likely to result in business generated today”. Understand the difference in positioning that each creates in the marketplace. Opinion leadership may result in business now and in the immediate future, but it is more associated with expert tactical delivery than strategic, trusted advisor status.

Differentiating content in this way gives the firm freedom to choose the content – and modality of content – most relevant to your current needs and long-term strategic goals.

Using ‘profitable content space’ to minimise fee earner distraction

Many people in the firm have an interest in the content you release. The risk is that unmanaged opinions at different stages in the process can burn fee earner time, reduce confidence in marketing, stall publishing or result in ‘vanilla’ content that lacks the cut through it was originally created for.

The answer? Have one key individual fee earner that “owns” the output, and create a clear position on your most profitable content space that every stakeholder buys in to.

Firms that do this effectively build an understanding of what cut through looks like from the very beginning. This is most often achieved by asking every stakeholder to give their support to the relevant fee earner in masterminding content that exemplifies a particular combination of factors that will set the agenda. This in turn builds a position of confidence in the agreed outcomes, and leads to an agreement that not everyone in the business can or should comment on detail later on in the process.

The profitable content space is the overlap between three elements:

  1. Your core competence. Where does your firm consistently get “A” grades rather than Bs or Cs? It might be the service you offer, or it might be something different, like speed of response, or quality of training manuals.
  2. The burning issue: Ask your clients and prospects – what is the biggest problem they need to solve right now, and the biggest challenge coming down the track? Help them articulate this in a fresh way – and use this to create a ‘man bites dog’ moment.
  3. The differentiator: What you do or say or share that is fundamentally different from competitors. Be creative. For example, could you create content that is in a particularly easy to scan format and released within three hours of a news story breaking? Or could you be the firm that predicts the future more clearly than anyone else?

When you have done this, you can find your profitable content space. The overlap between these factors will provide you with a very short list of content and format ideas that will really stand out and are authentically yours. And then check these out against the industry buzz. What’s in the news? What content is most commonly downloaded or shared? What are people searching for on Google? What are the most active discussions on LinkedIn? What does this research tell you about how to frame and position your content?

Creating compelling content

To achieve this level and type of content is simply not possible without using the best brains in your firm. The challenge is in using their time effectively so that for the minimum amount of input, you get the best possible outcome.

You may have heard the term “PetchaKutcha”. The idea is that you get the best, most relevant person in the company to compress their thoughts on a key topic to just 12 slides that can each be delivered in 20 seconds (traditionally PetchaKutcha has 20 slides, but my personal experience leads me to believe that for marketing content, 12 is the optimum number). By asking them to do this you are getting the thinking up front, unlocking the story in a way that has clarity and purpose and forcing them to extract from their brain a story that holds weight when it’s delivered out loud.

The alternative – interviewing the fee earner and receiving a complete brain dump which marketing then distills into a piece of content – doesn’t work. Why? Because the fee earner has delegated the responsibility for inking in a credible story for the sake of short term expedience. This will show up later in the content production through hours of fee earner iterations and edits (or worse, content that won’t see the light of day).

Top tip:  video or record the delivery of the “PetchaKutcha” style presentation so that you have available content in three formats – video, audio and transcript. This can be readily sliced and diced into many formats without extensive review cycles. Most firms have junior team members that are active in social media and enjoy blogging and sharing material. With great content as a starting point, this creates a platform for blossoming content creation.

A final thought

Creating content provides many opportunities within a growing firm – not just through the content itself, but also by the very process of its creation. The method of researching, verifying and refining content provides opportunities to open up peer-to-peer conversations with people and prospects who might not otherwise take your call. Invite them to speak at your event, or simply meet up with them for lunch. By recognising and incorporating their opinions, you build long-term relationships that go far beyond the content itself.

And of course you can bask in the reflected glory of their name and brand.

Brand fit with Daniel Eley

Brand fit with Daniel Eley

On Thursday March 27th, I was delighted to be the invited guest at handle’s “Brand fit for recruitment” event.

The venue: Portman Square’s stunning Home House, with guest speakers Daniel Eley from Jamie Oliver, Andrea Pattico from ASOS, and Carrie Bedingfield.

Brand fit at Jamie Oliver

“There are people in the room who are far more qualified than me… but I know more than you about Jamie Oliver, so that’s what I’m going to talk about”

Daniel was keynote speaker, and took the mic like a seasoned pro. One sentiment underpinned 30 mins of witty chat about what employer brand means to him – “be nice”. At Jamie Oliver, the values that prevail are– “keep it simple”, enjoy yourself”, “grow with us”, and “spread the love”.

“We’ve turned “Jamie” into a verb. People say ‘this needs to be a bit more Jamie’ or ‘we need to Jamify this’.”

Employer Brand

Daniel’s thoughts on employer brand are not uncommon – it is “what people say about you when your back is turned”. A bad experience someone has at work will pivot his or her view of your brand. If they choose to share that, and others share the experience, then that becomes part of your brand, and is very hard to shake off. It’s often about things you can’t control, like a really good (or bad) cup of coffee, or the newly refurbished toilets, or the receptionist’s welcome.

The 40:60 recruitment rule If you have responsibility for hiring the right people within your organisation, then you do have some control over the employer brand. If you recruit, as Daniel does, 40% on skills, and 60% on the person, then you have a much better chance of finding people that will fit in well, be engaged and happy –  and those people will become your employer brand. Daniel has the ultimate tool in his recruitment armoury – the people on his team. This means that candidates are filtered on who they are, and not purely on a list of skills and qualifications. The focus is always on the person. “As our recruitment partner, part of what handle does, is they chase the wrong people away”

The panel discussion: (from left: host Aryn Hurst-Clark from handle, Andrea Pattico – ASOS, Daniel Eley – Jamie Oliver, Carrie Bedingfield – Onefish Twofish)

Question: how do you use social media for recruitment? Ange from ASOS explained how ASOS uses social media a lot for recruitment. “Because almost all ASOS team members are also customers, what this means in reality is that most people that work there were customers first”. In this type of organisation, very visible and growing fast, social media is a critical tool to help find and recruit the right people.

Contrast this with Jamie Oliver. A number of years ago, Jamie himself decided that to recruit a new young designer, they should use Instagram. So Jamie designed an Instagram ad himself, asking for a young, passionate graduate designer to join the team. Now if you know how many social followers Jamie has, you won’t be surprised that the poor person whose email address was on the ad, was having a nervous breakdown by 9.30am, with IT furiously trying to stop the deluge of CVs

Question: What have you done to kick off a referral programme?

Daniel: “We have a real family feeling, and people seem genuinely excited to introduce roles and opportunities to their own network. Although there is no formal referral programme, we use internal job postings, and encourage people to share them, even creating 140 character links that people can copy into their own social media accounts,. That’s where a lot of our new team members come from” Ange: “At ASOS, employees are almost all “Gen Y”. They are very active on social media, and this really helps. There is a formal referral programme, with generous financial rewards for the referrer, and that works for them. We are growing so fast, and recruitment needs to keep up with that”. Carrie: “What if you don’t want (for a whole host of reasons) to pay for referrals? In all our work on engagement, we try to unearth “Urban Myths” – so for example, the urban myth that Ange shared, that the CEO of ASOS shared £2 million of his personal money with staff. Or that handle recruitment sometimes takes the team on holiday at the drop of a hat – once they went to New York.”

The brilliant thing about urban myths is that they perpetuate themselves. They start with a truth, but as it is shared, the story can become exaggerated over time almost to the point of legend. I love the idea that you can give your employer brand enormous value in this way. Not only is there the promise of a tangible reward, but there is this great emotional hook, and as brands get bigger, this emotional hook will be the thing that makes the different between recruiting competent people – and recruiting great people.

Question: What do you think of direct recruitment? Peter Tafler (handle): “If you can do it yourselves, then do it”.

For recruiters, this was one of the key takeaways from the evening: the role of the recruitment agency is changing to something much more consultative, and relevant, especially for brands that want their employer and external brand to fit closely together.

Daniel and Ange echoed this sentiment. “handle works best with the ‘too difficult to source’ roles”.

Question: How do you establish an employer brand in a varied company? Ange: “Be authentic, tell the truth, talk as if you’re their friend, work closely with the marketing team. Work on content, engagement and retention – ensure even leavers tell a good story.” Carrie: “Find something brilliant that everyone buys into, and use this as a hook. If you are a publishing house, with titles ranging from academic, to fiction, children and cookery, then find something that spans all those genres. One thing that works, for example, is a story. Firsts make a great story. So for example, the first publishing house to create an eBook for every single current title, or the first ever carbon-neutral publishing house. “

The final word: quick tips for creating “brand fit” Daniel: “Be kind” Carrie: “Find what you get A grades for in relation to everyone else, and place that at the heart of your brand” Ange: “Put employees at the heart of everything you do. They’ll tell the story for you”

This blog post was first published at