By Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

The pharmacy was an old, calcified institution when Eric Kinariwala developed a digital, delivery-based business model. Then he needed to give it a personality.

Your mom.

That’s whom Eric Kinariwala wants his online pharmacy, Capsule, to feel like.

“Everybody needs some looking after sometimes,” Kinariwala says on Inc.’s What I Know podcast. “That’s what we’ve really built the whole business around.”

He says if your mother were a pharmacist, and you were her only patient, she would make sure you knew how to take your medication. You could text her with questions. She’d make sure you got the best price. She’d make sure you never ran out. And of course, she’d bring it right to your door. “Digitizing that idea has always been the driving force of the consumer experience and the brand and what we set out to do in the early days,” Kinariwala says.

A former analyst at Bain Capital and Perry Capital, Kinariwala launched Capsule in 2016, after he had had trouble picking up sinus medication from his local pharmacy. He imagined simplifying the pharmacy interaction for consumers and doctors simultaneously by building a tech platform and prescription-delivery infrastructure. When he dug in, he found an industry that hadn’t budged much in 50 years in the United States.

In his research, Kinariwala found consumers weren’t the only ones with obvious pain points: Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and drug companies all had difficulties in communicating with pharmacies. He set out to rebuild the system from the ground up. But he didn’t forget about his initial inspiration, the consumer experience.

A brand can look and feel friendly–have the right fonts, say–but that’s really a small part of your customers’ perception of your brand, Kinariwala says. You cannot forget the human interactions. He adds: “Every interaction that we have with our customers, whether that’s in person with the messenger dropping off their medications, whether that’s how someone responds to your text message, whether that’s how someone answers your question on the phone, whether that’s what the app feels like–you should feel looked after and cared for and loved.”

Listen to the full episode in the player below, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Feature Image Credit: Illustration by Grey Thornberry

By Christine Lagorio-Chafkin


Sourced from Inc.


Google and Facebook colluded to undermine competition in advertising, according to documents uncovered by the New York Times. Obtained during an antitrust lawsuit in Texas, the documents lift the lid on ‘Jedi Blue’ – a cloak and dagger sweetheart deal between two tech giants that monopolize online advertising.

So what’s the deal?

  • Google and Facebook are accused of abusing their market position to strike a backroom deal to further their business interests.
  • The agreement is said to have seen Facebook win more favorable terms when bidding for advertising in return for its support for Google’s Open Bidding platform for selling adverts over header bidding – where advertising space is auctioned across multiple ad exchanges.
  • Google has long agitated against this method of buying advertising, maintaining that it slows down web pages and causes batteries to drain faster, as well as elevating the risk for fraud and billing errors.
  • As a result, Facebook gained more time to bid for adverts and was able to strike direct billing deals with sites hosting the ads. The underhand arrangement is also said to have seen Google furnish its rival with its data to enable Facebook to better target audiences.
  • In a quid pro quo, Facebook consented to bid on a minimum of 90% of ad auctions when it could identify users, with a pledge to spend at least $500m a year.
  • Such terms handed Facebook an unfair advantage over Google’s other advertising partners according to the New York Times, which spoke with six of these to help build its case. This meant Facebook was almost guaranteed to win a consistent number of adverts.
  • Evidence of collusion was first obtained from documents filed as part of an antitrust complaint lodged by the Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, amid suspicion the tech pair were getting too cozy.
  • This relationship even included a clause that committed both companies to ’cooperate and assist’ in the event of any investigation into their business practices.

Why it matters

  • Should apparent collusion be corroborated it would further undermine confidence in digital advertising – particularly if a guaranteed win rate is confirmed.
  • In response to the allegations, Google contends that its agreement has been misrepresented, while Facebook maintains that such deals serve to enhance competition.
  • Irrespective of the truth of the matter, the lack of transparency shown by both parties will do little to instill confidence in competitors or legislators.
  • Addressing the claims directly, Google director of economic policy Adam Cohen wrote: “Our agreement with Facebook Audience Network (FAN) simply enables them (and the advertisers they represent) to participate in Open Bidding.
  • “Of course we want FAN to participate because the whole goal of Open Bidding is to work with a range of ad networks and exchanges to increase demand for publishers’ ad space, which helps those publishers earn more revenue.
  • “AG Paxton inaccurately claims that we manipulate the Open Bidding auction in FAN’s favor. We absolutely don’t. FAN must make the highest bid to win a given impression. If another eligible network or exchange bids higher, they win the auction.
  • “FAN’s participation in Open Bidding doesn’t prevent Facebook from participating in header bidding or any other similar system. In fact, FAN participates in several similar auctions on rival platforms.”
  • Both Google and Facebook have been in the eye of an antitrust storm, with Google fending off multiple lawsuits from the Department of Justice and three dozen states centered on its near-monopoly of search and search advertising, as well non-search advertising.
  • Facebook, meanwhile, has been embroiled in lawsuits filed by the Federal Trade Commission as well as attorney generals from dozens of states that accuse the company of abusing its command of the digital marketplace and engaging in anti-competitive behavior.


Sourced from The Drum


Though it got a good start in 2020, 2021 is the year branded content will truly come into its own according to Ottavio Nava, co-founder and chief executive at We Are Social Italy and Spain. To make a success of the medium, he says marketers should glean lessons from the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Lavazza and Circles.Life.

Branded content reached new heights in 2020. Long seen as a valuable add-on to marketing campaigns, and particularly effective when combined with traditional paid-for models, we are at now seeing just how powerful the medium can be as a strategic brand building tool.

With all the smartest marketers paying attention, I feel safe predicting that 2021 is going to be a memorable year for this highly creative marketing technique.

The pandemic has forced more people then ever consume content digitally at home, which has let brand content has come into its own in recent months. This shift can be put down to the crisis accelerating a number of important on-going trends, just as much as it can be attributed to brands having access to a more captive audience.

Pre-2020, consumer habits were already changing as a result of the ubiquity of smartphones with content available to read, watch, listen to and interact with via a great choice of applications and in a wider array of different contexts than ever before. Brands, meanwhile, were seeking ways to engage in the face of declining engagement by many viewers in live TV advertising – just one result of growing fatigue with traditional media.

Both of these drivers have been significantly uplifted by behavioural changes spurred by Covid-19. People’s digital activity increased significantly, resulting in more eyeballs coming into contact with more brands online. In turn, this has cemented the increasingly central role branded content is now playing in the advertising ecosystem – a role which – when you consider how peripheral it once was – has now changed significantly and irreversibly.

Here are three lessons learned from those brands who have used branded content most effectively in recent months point to how branded content can, and will, evolve further.

The first is a mindset shift to creating content from the get-go to thrive in a more organic, long-term way, irrespective of platform or format. Ben & Jerry’s is a great example of this. It recently launched ’Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America’ – a podcast series comprising six 30-minute episodes about white supremacy in America, developed in partnership with Vox Media.

The SuperSimpleStuff app for Pfizer, which uses a series of micro games where players can fight coronavirus while finding out the best ways to prevent the virus spreading, is just another example of creative content execution. It’s also proof impactive brand content doesn’t just mean video. Elsewhere, Australian mobile network Circles.Life recently paraded a 1.2m sculpture of a hand giving 2020 the middle finger around Sydney as part of its ’Unfuck 2020’ campaign; showing how paid-for content can be funny, engaging and generate organic headlines of its own.

The second lesson for brands is to think and create like entertainers by embracing the rules of publishers and media companies, instead of simply working to a marketing playbook.

Publishers understand who their audiences are and create a product for them. To make effective branded content, CMOs must do the same. The best marketers understand what kind of brand they have and what needs to happen for it to grow.

The ambition here is to create campaigns on the same level as the entertainment people consume, as we did for Lavazza with Coffee Defenders: A Path from Coca to Coffee, which tells the story of a Colombian farmer from a region devastated by civil war who turns land formerly used to cultivate cocaine into a coffee plantation.

This 30-minute video documentary blends the sustainability and communities work championed by the Lavazza Foundation with top entertainment production values. And it was distributed through a carefully considered strategy built to extend brand reach beyond TV ad audiences by focusing on long-form content platforms.

The third, and final, lesson for brand content’s further evolution lies in the growing use of the ‘creative newsroom’ – an approach that allows a brand to blend brand marketing needs with what’s happening in the world and in pop culture.

For our film for Barilla, The Roof Top Match with Roger Federer, a creative newsroom approach informed the idea of bringing together Roger Federer with two girls from a Ligurian village whose rooftop tennis matches during lockdown had become a viral phenomenon. It also shaped a creative strategy that allowed what happened next to naturally unfold, rather than attempting to control it.

These last two examples of successful branded content, in particular, obeyed another publishing rule. For as well as helping to generate profits and hitting KPIs, both – like the best brand content – add real and tangible value to their audience.

While much of 2020 is best left behind us, this revitalised approach to branded content is something that marketers should embrace longer term.

Feature Image Credit: Australian mobile network Circles. Life recently paraded a 1.2m sculpture of a hand giving 2020 the middle finger around Sydney 


Sourced from The Drum

By Sean Peek

Today, it’s more important than ever to create an authentic brand that resonates with your target customers. These tips and tools will help you build a strong brand from scratch.

Your brand is essentiall your business’s identity, including factors like your logo, company colours, voice and “personality.” Having distinct branding helps customers recognize you and makes you stand out among your competition. However, it can be difficult to zero in on an identity, then implement it into a visual style and written tone. Here’s how to build your brand from scratch.

Steps to building a solid business brand

Developing a brand that resonates with your target customer is more important than ever before. In fact, 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they will support. These six steps will help you identify your audience, develop your brand and, most importantly, develop authenticity.

Research your target audience

In order to establish a brand, you need to know who you’re trying to connect with. While your goal may be to reach out to “everyone,” your company should have a dedicated audience as your customer base. Once you have that customer base in mind, research them and their preferences. Read product reviews and subreddits to learn how they feel about similar products and competitors, as well as what they look for in businesses.

Research your competitors

Identify your direct competitors and analyse their established brands. Pay attention to their logo and colour palette, what language they use and how they engage with their customers. Don’t copy what you like and ignore what you don’t; rather, consider what motivates their choices and how you can use that data to inform your own decisions as a business.

Define your company’s purpose and values

Your company’s purpose may be to sell products or provide a service, but it should be based on what motivates you and your employees. Think about the impression you want to leave on your customers and your community and make those values front and centre of your brand.

[Read: CO— Blueprint: Rebuilding Your Brand]

In order to establish a brand, you need to know who you’re trying to connect with.

Establish a voice

It’s important that your brand has a distinct yet authentic voice. Do you write your materials in a formal tone or a more casual one? How do you speak to your customers during pitches and on support calls? Choose words, phrases and a distinct tone that matches your brand.

Create your visuals

Visual representation is one of the most distinct and immediate ways to establish your brand’s uniqueness. Choose a colour palette that conveys the way you want your customers to feel about your services. Design a logo that is easy to read, visually simple and recognizable in any size, be it a website header or Instagram avatar photo.

Build a strong digital presence

With so much business done online and through e-commerce today, it’s important that your brand extends to social media. Ensure that your brand, including its visuals, voice and messaging, is consistent throughout your social media channels and other digital platforms. Through these platforms, engage with customers in a personal sense, answering their inquiries and responding to positive and negative comments.

Tools for building a brand

Creating a distinct look and voice is easier said than done. Here are some tools to help you build your brand.

  • Canva: Canva is a website and mobile app that turns anyone into a professional graphic designer. Canva’s tools and templates are easy to use no matter your artistic abilities, letting you create graphics for social media, presentations or any other type of visual material.
  • Designhill: If you need a logo but don’t know any graphic designers, Designhill is a great resource. Simply submit your ideas and logo inspirations and they’ll pair you with their fleet of freelance designers. Or, if you’d rather choose yourself, browse through their list of designers and hire one whose style speaks to you.
  • Hootsuite: Managing multiple social media accounts can be overwhelming, especially if you have a small team. Hootsuite allows you and your team to plan, create and schedule your social media posts across various platforms all through one easy-to-use hub.
  • MailChimp: MailChimp is an all-in-one email marketing tool to let you import your contacts, create email campaigns and send them to various contacts. You can even create a landing page that lets people sign up for your marketing services.
  • HARO: Help a Reporter Out, or HARO, Is a resource that connects journalists and media outlets with professionals who have experience to be used as sources. It’s an easy-to-use and great way to find an expert versus doing hours of search engine research.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Feature Image Credit: Now, more than ever, it’s important to intentionally build your brand. — Getty Images/VioletaStoimenova 

By Sean Peek

Sourced from CO U.S. Chamber of Commerce


This week we reveal the Future 50 for 2020, our list of the best new brand-side talent from across the industry. But while celebrating the milestones our phenomenal 50 have already achieved in their careers, we also wanted to pick the brains of these marketing leaders of tomorrow.

And so, as the industry moves forward after a tumultuous year, the first question we put to our Future 50 is…

What qualities does the marketer of the future need to possess?

Harriet Lowe, portfolio marketing executive, ITV

They need to be inquisitive and never afraid to ask why. I think it’s really important that marketers of the future recognise they might have a different opinion or point of view to others in the room, and often by sharing this point of view great work can come from it. Although we can all learn a lot from people around us, we should never lose our own curiosity to challenge the status quo and be the most authentic versions of ourselves.

Mazen Mroueh, global digital manager, Friesland Campina

Marketers need to adapt and have an open-minded approach towards new market and technology updates. As a start, they need to be technically proficient, hybrid, agile, flexible to changes, creative, and disruptive. But also, they need to be socially responsible, honest, ethical, fair, transparent and direct with consumers.

Chad West, director, global marketing and communications, Revolut

Technical skills: you need to be able to source your own data, build your own dashboards and set up your own departmental processes. This involves learning to code basic languages and familiarising yourself with all the latest software in the market. Also, business acumen. Simply bringing customers into the funnel is not enough. You need profitable customers, which means you need to build a process to monitor and report on customer engagement and customer lifetime value.

Benson Mensah-Bonsu, sports partner manager, Twitter

Being agile is key in the long run. It’s hard to consider taking risks during the pandemic when many businesses have folded and people are furloughed/unemployed. Prior to Covid-19, I’ve seen marketers bet big on things that led to underwhelming results with minimal pivoting options to reach their target. Being agile with a minimal viable product allows you to continuously build and optimise your marketing strategy in response to the current fragile yet ever-changing state of the economy.

Elena del Boca, brand manager, GHD Italy

A modern, post-Covid marketer should have a strong ability to manage at 360° the engagement with consumers. The omnichannel model is a real challenge for brands and consumers today are used to navigating from online to offline and vice versa through new and different platforms. And their expectations keep increasing. We may call it the ’fusion marketing’ era, where the key is to follow the consumers, stay along with them in whatever space they are. The enormous availability of data is crucial today to execute this 360° strategy – it is mandatory for each marketers today.

Elizabeth Stone, marketing manager, for brand partnerships, John Lewis & Partners

Above all, marketers need curiosity. As customer champions, we should be constantly evaluating our environment and our customers’ evolving needs. We need to examine the wider world so we can identify trends, seek opportunities, spot risks and ask ’why?’ By doing this, we’ll generate better and more original ideas. Second to this is taking (calculated) risks to create bold marketing and obtain an advantage. You’re not going to make your brand famous by playing it safe. The qualities marketers need don’t change, only knowledge and skills. If you stay curious, you’ll pick those up along the way.

Shannon Ross, associate creative director, Spotify

The marketer of the future will need to possess compassion. We are now of an age where superficial ideas are so easily seen through, with the pandemic and social media holding a mirror to brands. The future marketers are people who will set the right tone for the world they wish to live in. The future marketers are those who identify the human truth in their target audience, zeroing in on people first and numbers second. That is how you move the needle on a brand. That is how you mould the future.

Brianna Foster, social editor, Pinterest

The main quality a future marketer possesses is the ability to authentically connect to culture. Marketing is all about connections – connections to a feeling, a friend, an aesthetic or even an avenue to the impossible. It’s not just one thing, but rather an evolving, fluid entity. When you think of marketing in a box, you don’t see the whole picture. A marketer of the future can take any preconceived notion of what marketing is and completely throw it out the window to create new concepts based on their own experiences, ideas and desired outcomes.

Sean Cook, senior social media manager, News UK

Innovation for me is particularly key when tackling marketing. At News UK, we pride ourselves on being first to new industry platforms, and being from a social media background, spotting new tools and trends in the market – and being first to test them within the company – is key for me to market our game in new ways. Over the last year, Dream Team was the first News UK brand to trial TikTok, quickly expanding to over 65,000 followers in a matter of months. This gave us a new, younger audience to push to our product.

Maeve Delahunt, business marketing lead, Snap

I truly believe adaptability will be the most important quality for a marketer, or indeed any professional. Living in such unknown territory, we need to stay flexible and nimble. We learnt so much in the first few weeks of lockdown alone when we were forced to completely reshift and strategize our marketing efforts almost overnight. By remaining adaptable and open to fresh perspectives, marketers can react to unforeseen challenges and capitalize on opportunities, future-proofing themselves and the organisations they work for.

Jack Mackie, social media manager, News UK

Adaptability. Markets and audiences are constantly developing, with new, innovative ways to communicate springing up almost every day. It’s essential to stay on top of trends and find out exactly what works for both you and your audience. While it’s always worth trying out new methods and strategies, don’t be afraid to move on when something isn’t working. Equally, never allow yourself to become too comfortable – just because something is working, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

Franny Goldberg, associate director, content growth strategy and analytics, SiriusXM

A willingness to fail. As the digital landscape continues to grow, with new platforms popping up daily and algorithms changing constantly, we have to be willing to sometimes fail first, before we find true success. I believe testing is more important than ever, whether it be creative, targeting, messaging etc, and in order to gain significant insight, we must be comfortable with the idea that we may not hit our goals on the first try. Often you learn more from why something didn’t work versus knowing why it did.

Chris Lu, regional head of communications and marketing, AnyMind Group

There is an increasingly blurred line between PR and marketing, and the future marketer will need to play on both sides of the equation by finding a balance. Effective PR can become effective marketing for a business, while effective marketing can also become effective PR for a business – for example, the content marketing push were doing for influencer marketing in Asia (since June 2020) has not just driven customer interest, but also greater product branding, clarity and audience perception.

Amanda Walker, senior campaign advisor, Sydney Water

Be brave. My biggest challenge is getting people to see value in challenging ideas and doing things differently. I don’t believe in doing things just because it’s the way they’ve always been done. I’m not saying throw everything out, but having a brave mindset and the courage to look at things in a different way. To test and learn, have an ear to the ground, try new things – this is what inspires me. It definitely requires passion and a strong gut-level instinct but sometimes we need to set aside just examining the data and take a leap.

Rachel Flynn, brand awareness executive, Worldwide Cancer Research

Emotional intelligence. We treat everyone like we would ourselves. Since March 2020, we’ve checked in with our friends, assured them that their money’s well looked after and that there’s a light at the end of this dark tunnel, helping them imagine a world free of the ’two Cs’. But to do this successfully, we had to put ourselves in their shoes and put our fears aside so we could serve our friends better. We cared, and it worked; empathy and sensitivity will cure our friends’ anxiety and uncertainty.

Laura Scott, brand customer strategy manager, Lloyds Banking Group

I started my journey with the group in customer-facing roles and every job I have gone into since I have been told the strength I bring to the team is my ability to truly put myself in the customer’s shoes and champion on the customer’s behalf. It is important now more than ever to truly understand and empathise with our customers, building on our experience and understanding to get as close to the customer as possible. The skill to truly understand and cater to customers’ changing needs is the core quality any marketer will need going forward.

You can see the full list of our fantastic Future 50 and read about just why we think they’re the future of the industry here.


Sourced from The Drum


Advertising is an expression of consumer capitalism. Yet to succeed in today’s marketplace, brands need to become more anti-capitalist, believes Innocean’s global head of innovation and partnerships, Mordecai.

Consumers want a better deal, and they deserve it, too. Not just better products and better services, but better advertising. To deliver on this, brands must break free from established tropes that define how they do business. Or to put it another way, they need to start thinking anti-capitalist to be more pro-consumer.

This might sound contradictory, but as a long-standing anti-capitalist and activist who works in advertising – the communications of capitalism – let me explain. By anti-capitalism I mean not believing you must participate in the capitalist structure in which you were raised. Instead, it about is believing there is an alternative.

I fell into advertising rather than entering by a conventional route. I was already a storyteller, though back then I was working in digital TV production. But the budgets were small, so I went to brands to get funding. Then those brands asked me to start telling their stories too, and things grew from there.

As a storyteller, people have always been my focus. To be pro-consumer is to be in support of consumers getting a better deal. And in advertising, that can only happen when humans are at the centre of what we do – especially storytelling.

Yet how many brands today communicate in a human-centric way? How often can you see people at their heart of their strategies. How many demonstrate they believe in their consumers as nuanced individuals capable of making their own choices? Far too few, in my opinion.

To be more anti-capitalist, a brand must think and act differently, and it can start to do so by challenging business and marketing’s pervasive tropes – of which let me give you three examples.

The first is the winner-takes-all approach to doing business that leads many companies to let competition shape their strategies. I’m not saying a brand owner’s rivals’ competing strategies should not be analysed and unpicked, far from it. My point is, brands’ competition should not be used as a template for what they do, how they do business or their point of view.

You can look to Away, a luggage brand that set out to turn a relatively boring necessity into an enviable statement at an affordable price without structuring itself around a mission to compete with Samsonite.

Or the brands that rewrote the purchase and delivery rule book, such as subscription toothbrush Quip. Meat alternatives are also leading the way, like the once-scrappy start-ups Beyond Meat and Impossible. Crypto-currencies are also not out to compete with cash, but provide an alternative to it.

The next trope to challenge is established systems that all too often act against inclusivity. One powerful example is Anomaly, which put its own money into the business ventures of clients, such as beauty line Eos.

AdQuick’s advances in the out-of-home market disrupted a narrowly controlled sector and broke the system by offering more opportunity for smaller brands to engage in a system that was previously only for big hitters.

We’re also seeing this with storied industries disrupted by the influx of VCs and collective ownership, with, for example, the likes of Serena Williams, Jessica Chastain and Eva Longoria investing in the US National Women’s Soccer League LA team.

The third trope concerns received wisdom and established practices around building affinity through targeting. This is about celebrating not just one aspect of a person as identified by traditional segmentation, but the whole individual.

We see calls to this through the increased encouragement to honour intersectionality with, for example, the added option of non-binary as distinction and removal of such self-disclosure boxes on job applications altogether. The generational push for acknowledgment of trans women at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement is another illustration of this.

This is about a brand recognising it can’t reach every audience, nor can it appeal to all – not least while audiences are fragmenting at pace and growing increasingly diverse.

And it’s about brands re-thinking how best to build affinity. On-screen inclusivity is essential and should be a given, but more is needed. I’m talking about creative concepts and projects that don’t so much build affinity through direct identification but that are open and welcoming everyone to the table.

Think MediaCom’s ‘Inclusive Planning’ initiative, a self-declared departure from the status quo where diverse audiences are only considered for specialist briefs.

Or Vice Media’s challenge to advertisers over blocklists – in particular, around blocking Black Lives Matter, Muslim, queer and related key lists which Vice has removed from brand blocklists.

To truly build affinity with their brands, the time has come for senior marketers to shift their focus from the more exclusive brand safe to the more inclusive brand suitable.

These are just some of the spaces in which brand owners can act more anti-capitalist.

In today’s world, if brands are to engage more effectively with the people they serve as individuals, the only way to behave is pro-consumer.

Feature Image Credit: The only way to behave is pro-consumer, says Mordecai, and brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are leading the way


Sourced from The Drum


Farrow & Ball’s sales have grown “exponentially” this year thanks to a home improvement boom. The Drum catches up with the 75-year-old posh paint purveyor’s chief exec to find out how it has been fine-tuning its digital capabilities and baking luxury into its online experiences as it looks to appeal to DIYers and professionals alike.

Paint and wallpaper company Farrow & Ball is famous for its muted colour charts, on which you‘ll find shades with names such as ‘Downpipe’, ‘Elephant’s Breath‘ and ‘Hague Blue’. Its intensely pigmented paints have earned it a reputation among interior designers and influencers alike, with the aspirational brand selling not only distinctive tins but a lifestyle that goes with them.

This year, the business has seen the best financial results in its 75-year history, powered by a lockdown decorating boom that has pushed digital sales through the roof as people seek to reinvent the spaces they are spending more time in. In the year to August, sales were up 4.1% for the British brand, reaching £87m. Online sales were up 14% over the same period, representing over 10% of group sales versus 9% in the prior year.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in our digital demand,” explains chief executive officer Anthony Davey, the ex-P&G marketer who also sat in the top spot at GHD. “At one stage, our demand had gone up 15-fold online,” he explains, saying that “almost overnight” the business went from selling 90% of its stock through third parties to a 50:50 split between retail and direct-to-consumer (DTC).

This shift was aided by the brand’s small-batch production methods, which see all of its manufacturing based out of Dorset. “It’s quasi-handcrafted, we go through the process twice to ensure that the quality and consistency of our paint is exceptionally strong. So we were able to ‘pick and pack’ for individual customers. Lots of [bigger] companies that are highly scaled with a mass manufacturing approach weren’t able to offer that individual ordering service.”

Its marketing strategy has shifted too. Farrow & Ball has upped its investment in PPC and Google Shopping to capture the demand from buyers. For people who are in the discovery and exploration stage, the company is investing in social media content for its 2 million followers across the “obvious” channels like Instagram and Pinterest.

Its commitment to quality has been evident not only in the assembly of its products, but also in the way it has shifted the services it offers to customers online.

Bringing the Farrow & Ball experience online

When showrooms shut at the start of March, the paint company brought a live-chat function to its website. It has also started allowing customers to book virtual appointments with its specialist colour consultants – seasoned interior specialists who help people pick out the perfect swatches and themes for their homes.

The brand has also run live sessions with some of its more high-profile colourists and designers (the same ones who painstakingly curated a fresh colour pallette for the recently redesigned Museum of Modern Art in New York), giving people the chance to ask questions and receive tips.

“In lockdown, we brought our designers into our social media channels to give customers a ‘daily dose of colour’, which in the past is something we haven’t done much of.

“We want to make sure we‘ve got sufficiently engaging and relevant content, and people want to see us as a source of inspiration and advice. That‘s very much a strategy of the whole business. If you were to go into our showrooms or on to any of our channels, you‘ll find people who‘ve got many years’ experience in interior design or fabrics or all different aspects of design. They‘re much more than just someone managing a store. They have passion for the industry and passion for the category.”

Having recently appointed BMB as its lead creative agency, the company isn’t just focusing on digital – in fact, it has just invested in its first series of TV ads, which gently poke fun at Farrow & Ball’s serious image.

Featuring a cast of neurotic decorators doing everything they can to keep their paint pristine and protect their freshly decorated walls and woodwork from the threats of muddy dogs, messy children and careless wine drinkers, the self-aware ‘Modern Emulsion’ campaign will be stacked against a variety of KPIs.

Davey points to two kinds of metrics – growth and brand awareness, but also engagement and attribution on the digital and VOD side.

He says his firm wasn’t inspired to make its TV debut owing to Covid-19. “It is more just about continuing the evolution of the brand.”

Feature Image Credit: Paint and paper company Farrow & Ball is perhaps best known for its muted colour charts


Sourced from The Drum


Avon is honing in on its ability to transform women’s lives, with a global campaign asking people to reconsider the 135-year-old beauty business. Its chief brand and beauty officer explain why now is the right time to “blow the dust off.”

When you think of Avon, you most likely conjure up images a of handbag-sized catalogue filled with scented pages and pictures of Senses bubble bath and Skin So Soft spritz. And possibly a neighbour armed with a bag full of miniature lipsticks and nail polishes who would regularly ding the doorbell.

However, over the past 12 months the brand has been looking to carve out its own place in the global $532bn beauty and personal care market, heavily investing in digital tools for its army of direct sellers. It now allows its five million representatives in 50 markets to run a business from their phone, create and share marketing content and personalise recommendations for regular customers.

Since the pandemic kicked off, the beauty brand has seen a 200% uptick to digital transactions. In the first half of this year, the number of Avon reps has also grown twofold as social selling becomes more relevant to people looking to embrace a more remote and flexible way of working.

Avon sells three lipsticks every second, seven bottles of fragrance every second (which it claims is more than any other brand) and two bottles of its Anew skincare products every second.

In a world of Glossiers, Beauty Pies and Drunk Elephants, however, Avon has an image problem. It’s failing to keep up with these ‘cool-girl’ brands and engage a younger generation of women. Even its chief brand and beauty officer, James Thompson, concedes that over the past few years Avon has been “underestimated” from a brand perspective.

As a result, its launching ’Watch Me Now’ a significant global campaign that will run in more than 70 markets globally calling on people to reconsider their views of the company.

The premise behind the push is that Avon has been transforming women’s lives by “doing beauty differently” for 135 years. The ads – which will run across OOH, digital and press – nod at Avon’s heritage as a purpose-driven business that gave women the power to make an independent income in the US before they even had the right to vote.

‘Watch Me Now’ underscores the power of beauty to create opportunities for people to earn on their own terms, and highlight’s Avon’s own support for causes including domestic abuse and breast cancer – with the business fundraising £20m for charities relating to the latter cause and teaming up with Coppafeel to encourage women to check their breasts regularly.

The hero ad celebrates the success of the underdog and highlights the unexpected and underestimated aspects of the Avon brand, its people, activism, and products – for which Avon has been granted more than 750 patents and 300 awards.

For Thompson, it’s less a campaign and more a “fundamental repositioning”.

“There’s a parallel with how Avon as a brand has been underestimated over the past few years,” he says pointing to the fact that the brand has 98% awareness but a “much lower” consideration among customers.

“We need to blow the dust off and reinvent ourselves for another generation.”

‘Watch Me Now’ was created in collaboration with Wunderman Thompson but restrictions from the pandemic mean the work itself was produced in-house. The ads are also being supported by an extensive identity refresh.

Avon’s network of reps will also be central to spreading the message. Influencers in their own right, Thompson says the brand’s sellers are its “first media channel”.

“We’ve equipped them with much better technology,” he explains, pointing to the Avon On app which allows them to do everything from invoice customers to built assets for Facebook or Instagram from their phone.

“In the first months of this campaign we’ll be sending them content on a regular basis that they’ll be encouraged to share with customers. Over time, we’ll be giving them tools and education on how to make their own content too within the framework of this campaign. It’s effectively the world’s most democratic marketing programme ever.”

All that said, the brand isn’t planning to ‘do an Argos’ any time soon and ditch its hallmark physical brochure.

“It’s still a really important part of our business. It’ll be updated to reflect our new positioning and we’ll be improving the quality but we’re an omni-channel business – we have stores in some countries, we’re online elsewhere. We need to be where our customers can find us.”


Sourced from The Drum


Cleanup in aisle five! Has there ever been a more disruptive time in retail? To get a better handle on what businesses should be doing to fix this messy situation, The Drum called up long-admired retail trends spotter and PSFK founder Piers Fawkes. Here are the three top actions he recommends:

1. Own the experience. Customers are anxious to return to their everyday retail and lifestyle routines, but stores and physical marketplaces are having difficulty offering any creature comforts as they reopen with limited services. Consumers are looking for brands to step in and streamline the purchase path or even reduce the frustrations of today’s in-store visits ‑ all to make the total shopping experience feel just a little bit more manageable. At Best Buy for example, after scheduling an in-store appointment, customers preparing for a visit receive a call from a store employee ahead of their visit to review store procedures and offer more information about their shopping purpose.

2. Reenergize the relationship. Regular store visits were an anchor for customer/brand relationships. As customers are forced to spend more time on apps, websites, and digital spaces, use this moment to re-establish and reenergize relationships with shoppers by focusing social engagements around community building and amplifying the voices of your most loyal customers. For example, Vans has done wonderful job celebrating, supporting and promoting the subculture of LBGTQ+ skaters called The Skate Witches with a series of online photo, video, and writing workshops. Vans have found the right way to say welcome to this culture in a way that is authentic.

3. Redesign the infrastructure. The retail industry as a whole is realizing a new level of nimbleness and flexibility necessary to survive constant consumer trends, marketplace evolutions, and global economic shifts. In doing so, retailers and brands are learning to navigate and thrive in environments that are less certain and consistent. Part of this evolution involves brands allowing customers to shape your brand’s long-term operational strategy and product direction. Enact this change by inviting customers into the design process, while reconfiguring retail infrastructure to respond to their real-time trends and behaviors. For example. makeup and skincare company Arfa promises 5% of its profit to the customers who participate in creating, testing, and marketing the products.

Piers Fawkes is founder of PSFK. Fawkes has inspiring leading brands, retailers and their partners on trends and innovation since 2004.

Feature Image Credit: PSFK founder Fawkes. / Randee St. Nicholas


Sourced from The Drum

By .

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has interviewed 344 of its members to discover their priorities as lockdown eases. Brands treaded carefully during the pandemic and, it appears will continue to do so, with brand reputation being the priority for most.

The survey ran between July and August. With brand equity the focus over recent months, sales figures are a side-concern for the majority of marketers.

The Drum explores the research here.


  • Brand reputation remained the number one priority for six in 10 respondents, while sales-based activities were sidelined.
  • The communication of employee and public safety messages came in at number two.
  • Online sales were the highest-ranked of sales promotional strategies, emerging as a top priority for 15% of marketers.
  • Discounts and promotions to increase product sales and footfall was a “very low priority“ for the vast majority of marketers (73%). Only 2% said it was their top priority. Generating in store footfall was only a top priority for 3% of marketers.
  • Things have been tough. One in 10 (9%) of the respondents said that they had been made redundant; a fifth took a pay cut (20%) and that they had (17.5%) taken an enforced holiday. One in six (17%) said they had been placed on furlough during the period of the pandemic.


  • Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said it is reassuring to see reputation ranked first despite the very clear commercial difficulties right now.
  • “It is clear that the UK marketing community is not prepared to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term pain,“ he added.
  • He was concerned at a lack of confidence in promotional activity however: “Marketers have worked hard to maintain customer engagement during lockdown. As restrictions now ease it is key they make the most of this opportunity to help drive the recovery we are all hoping for.”
  • What state will the industry be in once the furlough period ends? The survey included estimates of the size of the UK marketing industry. It is estimated to employ 415,000 staff, 37,000 redundancies are expected and 83,000 are taking pay cuts.
  • However, good news may be around the corner. 87% of marketers felt confident or very confident that the marketing sector would bounce back after Covid-19.


Sourced from The Drum