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How creative automation can supercharge your business

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Jamie Kenny
Jamie Kenny
Global SVP Creative
Date
21 November 2022

Technology has been reshaping the future of the creative marketing and advertising industries even before the pandemic accelerated the need for new approaches. But now, as organisations plan their futures in a transformed world against the backdrop of economic turmoil, many are choosing to take the next leap forward and explore the opportunities presented by automation.

The pandemic upended the marketer’s playbook, challenging the existing rules about how to develop customer relationships and build a brand. In just a short time, we have seen the enormous potential of automation to drive brand engagement, boost creativity and improve customer engagement. The foundations have been laid to tackle the next challenge we all face: global economic uncertainty. 

From its contribution to revenue to the productivity opportunities it can generate, automation can play a transformative role in every business journey. Applied intelligently, automation can realise the ambitions of marketing and creative leaders by delivering greater personalisation, conserving more time for human creativity, and unlocking new opportunities to grow and scale.

Creative automation combines creativity and technology to streamline production and augment the creative process so that the best ideas take shape faster. It enables the delivery of creative assets at scale, dynamic advertising, and conversational marketing, helping brands to supercharge their creative output through technology.

DEPT® has been pioneering creative automation for over ten years. Here, marketing leaders from Just Eat, eBay and Opendoor clients share what creative automation helps them to achieve.

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Just Eat: global scale, local relationships

Matt Bushby, UK Marketing Director at Just Eat

“Automation enables companies to use critical information to target key audiences at scale with the right messages. This is particularly valuable for a global business like Just Eat whose relationship with its customers and partners is a local one.

 “Working with DEPT®, we have used tools such as YouTube Director Mix to create more localised experiences for our customers. Our partnership has enabled us to deliver to a mass audience but also focus on the areas where we need to drive success. And that’s incredibly exciting because it means we’re able to engage more customers in more relevant ways and tell them about the incredible choice on the app.

“Automation also enables us to produce assets at scale. Whether it is through our CRM workstreams or our external channels, automation helps us to discover new ways to drive efficiency and produce large volumes of advertising assets that increase our reach. From email and push notifications to social media advertising and video platforms, automation has empowered us to create at scale and optimise our creative output to deliver the best results for our customers.

“The introduction of automation has enabled our teams to focus on higher level tasks and the big challenges, such as how we strategically build our business, come up with new creative ideas and identify smarter ways to engage our customers. With automation we can test multiple ads across thousands of creatives – a process that could take people days, weeks or even months to deliver. By using automation, we can not only get quicker results but free up our teams to use their creativity in more productive ways.”

eBay: loyalty & engagement

Eve Williams, Chief Marketing Officer, eBay

“At eBay, we use automation across multiple points of the customer journey. From the ads on our website to the emails we send our customers, automation enables us to not only personalise our messages based on our customers’ browsing histories and purchases but also share other promotions they might be interested in. Ultimately, automation has enabled us to better engage with our customers and justify their loyalty to us by creating marketing assets that they find interesting, engaging and relevant. 

“Automation can also have a positive impact on people in the workplace too. Machine learning has the potential to reduce the number of repetitive manual tasks that employees have to do and gives them more freedom to think creatively in their roles. For example, instead of manually uploading hundreds of differently sized versions of a single asset, we can automate the resizing process and designers can produce more assets that are more relevant to our customers.

“Throughout our automation journey, DEPT® has been an important partner for us. Their experience in understanding the full end-to-end customer journey has helped us to automate and personalise a wide range of campaigns, from emails to product pages. Their combination of technical understanding and their ability to create content has been powerful because it has enabled us to automate processes and seamlessly create content at the same time.”

Opendoor: driving the best outcomes

Marty Ellis, Head of Lifecycle Marketing, Opendoor

“This type of automation offers two primary benefits. Its ability to generate lots of assets enables businesses to do rapid testing at a scale that was previously impossible. This improves engagement and, ultimately, conversion rates.

“The second benefit we see is the potential for creative asset automation and artificial intelligence to work together to apply intelligent feedback to the marketing process. AI and automation together can assemble the jigsaw puzzle of a creative asset, deciding on the best copy, imagery and layout based on the variations that drive the best outcomes for a given customer. In this way, companies can create personalised campaigns that are incredibly effective at scale. In the future, the most intelligent software will be able to learn what works and design and deploy campaigns with minimal human input.” 

Delivering transformational growth

At DEPT®, we believe in the power of automation and its potential to propel organisations into a faster, better and more productive future. We are committed to creative automation because we have seen what it can achieve for our clients. From delivering personalised content at scale to giving us back more time to develop creative strategies, we know that automation technology can deliver truly transformational growth for both our business and our clients, especially in times of uncertainty.

Drop us a line today to discuss how creative automation can supercharge your business.

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Production Trends: Virtual Production

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Lidia Weinstein
Lidia Weinstein
Producer
Date
26 July 2022

Virtual Production

Video production is changing rapidly. A plethora of formats which can be played back on a variety of devices dominate today’s digital space. In addition, the implementation of extended reality technologies (augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality) has made immersive content accessible to users via smartphone or tablet, opening up a space for almost infinite creative applications.

For some years now, the topic of immersion has also been increasingly explored in the production processes of film and video – virtual production.

The combination of state-of-the-art game technology and film has already made it possible to produce films in immersive studios for several years. Now this technology is mature and ready for use, experts report. What virtual production is and what impact it will have on film and video production in the future – and accordingly on brands and their marketing measures – is the subject of this insight.

What is virtual production?

Virtual production is a collective term that describes many different digital production processes. These include AR, VR, motion capture and volumetric video (more on this shortly). What we have recently become familiar with from productions such as “The Mandalorian” (2020) and what is commonly referred to as virtual production describes the possibility of producing films in an immersive studio. The entire production of a film is made possible by the combination of reality – i.e. actors and actresses, props – and digital backdrops that are generated in real time in game engines.

What does a virtual studio look like?

In principle, a virtual studio consists of an LED surface that runs in a semicircle or elliptical shape around the set and extends over the ceiling. This surface is covered with a digital backdrop, e.g. a mountain landscape with a sky above it. The possibilities for design are, as you might expect, endless. An immersive space is created with which the actors and crew can interact. For example, an actress can look at a mountain in the far distance without just imagining it, as previously on a set with a greenscreen. In addition, it is possible to experiment with the scenery: landscapes can be changed in real time or colour moods can be adjusted.

Auf dem Set von “The Mandalorian”. Filmcrew im immersiven Studio von ILM StageCraft, auch “The Volume” genannt.

On the set of “The Mandalorian”. Film crew in the immersive studio of ILM StageCraft, also called “The Volume”.

Technological developments in the gaming sector make this production process possible in the first place. To achieve a perspective match between the backdrop and the shooting angle, the camera movement in the room is tracked. The room is measured volumetrically beforehand – volumetry refers to a technical measuring procedure in which a room is measured three-dimensionally. The computer can then track all the elements in front of the camera lens and place them in a 3D environment. The game engine then renders the 3D environment in real time – currently, the Unreal Engine is probably the most powerful. The Meta Festival initiated by DEPT® and Journee is also based on the Unreal Engine.

Since the backdrop is already part of the production, the post-production is brought forward and integrated into the pre-production. In some cases, post-production is not necessary at all, since the backdrop exists for every scene and the light emitted by the LED surface already creates the desired colour world. The green screen can still be used to achieve certain effects. It is then simply projected over the LED surface as well. 

A selection of films made on virtual sets: “The Batman” (2022), “The Mandalorian” (2020), “Ripple Effect” (2020), “Lion King” (2019), “First Man” (2018). Another innovation in the field of virtual production is volumetric video.

What is volumetric video?

Volumetric video is produced in a special volumetric studio and refers to a video where pixels have not two but three spatial coordinates – giving it volume. In a volumetric studio, cameras are installed so that the object is recorded from all perspectives. Through this recording process, the object can later be viewed from any perspective, similar to gaming, with the difference that the degree of representation is much more realistic.
 
This technology is particularly interesting for use in the metaverse, e.g. for the creation of photorealistic avatars. A film in which volumetric video was used is, for example, “Matrix Resurrections” (2021). Many shots from the film were created in the Babelsberg studio Volucap

Das Volucap Studio in Babelsberg.

The Volucap Studio in Babelsberg.

Volumetric video has the further advantage that the camera perspective can be changed in post-production and is not limited by the camera movement as before. This is particularly interesting for interactive films in which the viewers can explore the space themselves. 

The possibilities of virtual production grant filmmakers unprecedented control over all elements and brings great flexibility. For example, the film crew is no longer dependent on local weather conditions and can avoid long journeys to locations. Scenes can be replicated afterwards, as lighting conditions and backdrops can be recreated exactly. 

Virtual production has also accelerated production processes tremendously. This is reflected above all in production costs, which means that virtual production is increasingly becoming the focus of producers.

What do these developments mean for future film and video production?

The transition to digital production will change the professional field from the ground up; for example, think of production designers who will no longer build physical sets but digital ones in the future. Art departments will become virtual art departments or hybrids. Virtual set objects will become reusable and monetisable, e.g. in the form of NFTs

There are several arguments in favour of entering virtual production: maximum creative control, flexibility, sustainability – the elimination of building huge sets on locations, transporting film crews and the associated logistics – and correspondingly lower costs.

Will virtual production replace conventional production? Not quite, because it doesn’t make sense in every case. It is therefore worthwhile to subject a project to a proof-of-concept at the beginning to determine which production method is best suited. Nevertheless, one can follow this development with interest.

DEPT® has experts on hand to advise and support you throughout all phases of production. Further information is available on our Production service page. We look forward to working with you!

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Snap’s new AR features help brands improve conversions

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Lauren Chester
Lauren Chester
Head of Technology BYTE/DEPT®
Date
30 May 2022

Imagine being able to spread your brand across the bustling streets of London, down the banks of the Thames, and around historic monuments and buildings.

Or how about being able to take 2D images from your catalog and – through machine learning – have them transformed and transported onto the bodies of Snap users, who want to virtually try on clothes, and even have the opportunity to share the look with friends before clicking through to complete the purchase.

These impressive developments from Snap – one in terms of the canvas, the other in terms of the ability to take large amounts of products direct to the consumer – are becoming a reality that brands should capitalise on. 

AR for retail

Snap’s influence on virtual shopping is undeniable – 250 million people have engaged with shopping lenses over five billion times on the platform.

At the heart of these is the ability to try on clothing and accessories using augmented reality (AR). Using AR can increase conversion rates by up to 94% and decrease returns by 25%.

Snap’s new AR Image Processing technology, developed by Forma, can transform 2D photos (such as e-commerce pictures), and turn them into turnkey AR-ready assets for Snapchat AR try-on Lens experiences. The user is told to take a few steps back, the camera snaps their body and then imposes the clothes onto the static image of the user.

This is a game-changer for consumers and brands. It gives brands the ability to turn their inventory into AR and allows smaller and bespoke operators the same opportunities as bigger brands.

It could also bring in significant operational savings for returns. How often have you gone shopping, tried something on, and sent a picture for a friend’s opinion?

Now imagine being able to do that without leaving the house and before committing to a purchase, saving you the hassle of returns.

The new product catalog feature – combined with the 3D Asset Manager – means users can swipe through a whole catalog of your products, trying each one on as you go. This feature displays the name and price and links directly to the product page. With a single click to the site, it’s no wonder the conversion stats are so high.

snap sneaker AR filter

Even brands that don’t have a presence or consumers on Snap can take advantage of their camera technology.

Using Camera Kit, an SDK solution, enables brands to embed Snap’s AR platform and technology into their mobile applications.

Consumers can then try on products or see them in situ in AR through their device’s camera via the brand’s app.

DRESSX has seen incredible success and engagement, as 75% of all app users engage with AR Lenses, and users try on AR Looks 22 times per day on average. 

It’s a way of connecting real-life and digital – bringing metaverse opportunities through mobile rather than through a headset or computer screen.

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Connect the physical and digital worlds at scale

Snap also recently introduced city templates for brands. City templates create huge canvases which provide the opportunity to bring urban landscape to life at scales never seen before.

For example, Lego is doing this in London.

This allows brands to create assets and experiences on a scale never seen before. They could literally go on for miles, and be tied to historic sites, areas of high footfall, and points of interest, with a high degree of accuracy. Developers can also anchor their creations to locations and landmarks around the world – perfect for bringing visitor attractions to life.

The introduction of this for brands creating AR experiences cannot be underestimated. It means now that – rather than everything having to be downloaded in advance – remote assets can be used in experiences and only downloaded when necessary.

So if you have an AR trail or interactive map, elements later in the journey will only be downloaded and accessed when required. It also means content can be added and users can start an experience, leave it, and then come back to it. Perfect for treasure hunts, long-term events, and experiences with repeatability at the heart of them. 

And, crucially for brands, improvements in persistent storage mean deeper levels of user data when it comes to analysing how different areas of your experience perform. It’s a way of connecting real life and the digital one at scale – bringing metaverse opportunities through mobile rather than through a headset or computer screen. 

More and more, the line between digital and physical experiences is rapidly diminishing, creating new forms of entertainment and AR experiences.

Snap has been at the forefront of enabling these new experiences, which add a visual layer to reality or transpose IRL behaviours into digital platforms. The future is bright for brands that jump in and engage their audience in these new ways. 

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Why building trust makes business sense

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Alexandra Moorhouse
Alexandra Moorhouse
Senior Marketing Manager
Date
29 June 2021

Consumers now have instant access to pretty much anything, anywhere. The transition towards living the majority of our lives online, making increasing volumes of decisions and purchases with simple swipes and clicks, has been built on trust. Trust that our orders will be delivered on time, our personal data won’t be shared without permission and that the businesses we spend with truly align with our personal values and morals. Trust is central to digital, but it is waning. The pandemic, resulting economic crisis and ongoing outcry over racial injustice put consumer trust to the test throughout the last year; with trust in UK-headquartered companies falling five points to 56%, its lowest position in eight years of tracking, on the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Across the world, the Edelman report shows that trust tumbled almost four points on average across the world’s largest economies last year. Interestingly, of the four institutions analysed (business, government, NGOs and media) the majority of trust shifted from government to business; although its ranking of 61% was only two points above the neutral category. Businesses now have a prime opportunity to advance ahead, but as the significance of trust will continue to intensify they will need to prove that they can evolve with trust trends to succeed in the new reality. 

Authentic accumulation

There are three primary areas that businesses are experimenting within to gain trust: climate; privacy; and corporate citizenship. Although it’s true that the majority of people want to align with brands that have a positive environmental impact, handle personal and sensitive information securely and are on the whole acting with integrity for their customers and internal teams; a focus on these themes has seen companies share their promises en masse, leading it to become expected by consumers, rather than a unique proposition that helps build trust.

As a result, this is no longer enough. Now, companies need to distinguish what is base level best practice, and where the brand can gain an edge and build trust through authentically brand-aligned narratives. 
Brands can learn valuable lessons in authenticity from the BBC. According to the Reuters Digital News Report 2021, it is the most trusted news network in the UK.

Why? Partly because it is strictly regulated and impartial, but largely because it places significant value on accuracy of reporting over speed, unlike many of its distrusted competitors. The BBC recognises that the information overload digital has created reduces trust levels, and leverages this as a driver to be the most trusted news brand, focusing on being reliable rather than being the first. 

Developing a trust narrative

Genuine trust cannot be gained solely through marketing spend. It is a much longer burn strategy that needs to be bought into by the board and CEO, and cemented in the vision and mission in order to effectively trickle through to the wider organisation. 

To be truly authentic, brands need to avoid paying lip service through disingenuous campaigns and buzzwords. With public awareness and tension continually growing around ‘greenwashing’ and ‘rainbow-washing’ in relation to environmental and Pride campaigns, it’s important to find trust narratives that best align with the brand and target groups, and embed them throughout the business all year round rather than an awareness day, week or month.

By aligning with a narrative in an authentic way, brands can build trust through storytelling. Divine Chocolate serves as a great example, which through its ‘Divine Difference’ initiative has grown to become a farmer co-owned company, using the power of chocolate to delight customers while building dignified trading relationships with cocoa farmers who earn a share of the profits they help to create. The brand frequently shares stories about its farmers and innovative projects delivered, including enabling women to secure their land rights and developing forest-friendly farming to help protect the rainforest.

New age appeal

The shift in generational dominance is putting trust even higher on the agenda. Younger, digital-native consumers are significantly more hesitant about pledging loyalty and trust to brands. Therefore, a ‘one and done’ campaign isn’t going to deliver amongst a Gen Z audience. 

These new age customers expect transparency but won’t necessarily ask for it, so they respect businesses that hold themselves accountable so that they don’t have to. A recent study found that 75% of Gen Z felt that being politically or socially engaged was very important to their identity. Being significantly more activism led than older generations, to effectively engage with and build trust amongst this group, brands need to live and breathe their chosen trust narrative to ensure that every brand engagement is mutually valuable.

Exponential, fundamental change is happening in the digital world. With the cookie quickly crumbling and demands for positive impact increasing, brands are scrambling to future-ready themselves. But a belief that doing good is good business will help brands navigate the changing landscape and establish a strong value exchange that will be essential to succeed in this new reality.

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Creating brand preference in a crowded e-commerce market

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Alexandra Moorhouse
Alexandra Moorhouse
Senior Marketing Manager
Date
22 April 2021
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The e-commerce industry has largely been in survival mode for the last year. Despite the exponential growth stats that continue to be shared, the reality for many has been a rushed process to either get online or optimise digital services in order to compete for the attention of consumers. In such a saturated and increasingly altruistic market, creating brand preference is an opportune approach to ensuring business longevity as we edge closer to the, hopeful, end of the pandemic.

The internet has made it easy for customers to browse millions of products, but it’s not as easy to find the right product. Previously, the seller offering the highest quality product for the most affordable cost would most likely have secured the purchase, but with products and prices duplicated from site to site, the winning companies are now those that excel in service. But longer term, brand preference is what will keep those customers coming back, and spending more. 

The value of brand

Brand is one of the most valuable assets an e-commerce company has, but unlike other more tangible assets, it is often lesser recognised as it’s hard to quantify its true value. Despite the lack of availability of everyday tools and metrics to help marketing teams demonstrate their full brand impact and influence, academic research has proven how superior brand preference positively impacts the bottom line. 

A study by the Marketing Accountability Standards Board showed a direct correlation between brand preference and market share across 120 brands in 12 categories, and a study by the Marketing Science Institute found that superior brand preference commanded an average of 26% higher price premiums, even when brand equity is the same. 

This logic is obvious when you think of the super-brands that are often put on a pedestal when branding is discussed, like Apple, Nike and Tesla. What these brands have in common is that they’re all experts and communicating their why: 

  • “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” – Nike
  • “Bring the best user experience to its customers through innovative hardware” – Apple
  • “Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy” – Tesla

These brand ‘whys’ consistently filter into everything the respective companies do, creating deeper consumer connections and allowing them to secure a place of preference in the hearts and minds of their customers. While these examples prove the point that brand preference has a positive financial impact, with all three consistently featuring in most valuable global brand lists, it isn’t as clear cut for the other 99% of companies that don’t have the same super-brand budgets and resources. 

Gain preference with purpose

While not all companies will (or want) to be the next Nike, Apple or Tesla of the world, any e-commerce brand with long term goals should be following suit by defining its purpose. Strong brand purpose creates a more emotional, human connection between company and consumer; a key driver of brand preference. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an economic and emotional toll, making potential customers much more cognisant of brand reactions to the crisis to help guide them in being more mindful of how and where they spend their money in future. In a recent study, Deloitte found that when companies’ crisis responses are driven by a holistic purpose, they garner more attention and consumer interest; with 79% of global consumers taking note of instances when brands reacted positively to help their customers, workforce or community in response to the pandemic. In addition, half of consumers have said they would boycott brands that do not align to their core values and beliefs. 

Today’s consumers want to gain more than just a product when they make a purchase, so brands need to ensure that what they offer is mutually profitable, most likely in financial terms for the brand and in a moral sense for the consumer. Take BrewDog as an example; the brand recently announced it will plant one million trees as part of its plan to remove twice as much carbon from the air than it emits each year, helping its loyal customers morally gain from supporting a company that is doing good for the world. 

Being a purpose-driven company is not without challenges even in a non-pandemic environment, but those that prioritise purpose, have a strong brand strategy and identity, and that know and communicate why they exist regardless of what they sell, are likely to be better positioned to navigate the pandemic, other future crises or major societal changes. 

Importance of trust

The global pandemic, resulting economic crisis and ongoing outcry over racial injustice has put consumer trust to the test throughout the last year. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust fell by almost four points on average across the world’s largest economies, China, the US, Germany and the UK. Despite this, of the four institutions analysed (business, government, NGOs and media), business was the only one to secure an overall position of trust; although its ranking of 61% was only two points above the neutral category. Locally, trust in companies headquartered in the UK fell by five points to 56%, its lowest position in eight years of tracking. 

Trust is a consistent characteristic of preferred brands. Consumers want to be able to trust the companies they purchase from, trust that they can find items at the cheapest price, trust that they will be delivered promptly, and trust that if there is an issue it will be fixed; so UK business has some way to go to provide customers with the certainty they crave. 

The first step to building trust is listening to customers to make sure your company addresses both their immediate and long-term needs, and leveraging these insights to inspire action. Creating more personal, human connections with consumers is a catalyst of brand preference, which in the longer term will help companies influence shoppers’ decisions. 

Standing for something more than the products you sell is the key to gaining brand preference in a crowded online market. The team at DEPT® can help you achieve this in multiple ways, from analysing exactly what your customers want and providing them with a premium user experience to strengthening your brand. Get in touch with our experts to find out more. 

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Maintaining company culture in a virtual world

Maintaining company culture in a virtual world1
Valerie Lalonde
Valerie Lalonde
Head of PR
Date
6 November 2020

Having been in our home offices since March, as we head into Lockdown 2.0 working-from-home feels like the norm. Second time round, it all feels much smoother; productivity remains buoyant and morale is strong. For many, the work/life balance has improved, and employees are enjoying the autonomy of their  flexible working life. We’re all starting to wonder why we ever needed to physically meet with our peers on a daily basis.  As time goes on, we’ve realised that sitting around a table together isn’t necessary to share ideas, data or strategies. Despite this, we should remember that meeting face-to-face was key for other, equally important, reasons.

The real value of face-to-face was unlocked outside of the meeting room. The sense of camaraderie and teamwork when laughs were shared, challenges were tackled together, and innovation was sparked.  Creating a vibrant team culture is grounded in everything outside of those meetings; it’s the exact reason why companies host away days, Pizza Fridays and internal events. Businesses that accept the current climate and seek innovative ways to connect with their employees will keep a shared sense of purpose intact, whereas those that stand still risk seeing motivation diminish.

Our new virtual world

A culture fueled by employee engagement creates a unique community of people working together towards a common goal. It’s about getting people excited to be part of the journey and emotionally committed to the company vision. It’s not about high salaries, benefits or being thanked after a long day; those are now expected alongside a great culture. With so much economic uncertainty, both employers and employees are asking for loyalty and understanding.

Businesses that facilitate ways to socialise in a personal and professional development capacity, enable staff to feel more involved and less isolated in their remote setting. It’s a telltale sign of a positive dynamic when coworkers choose to spend time together outside of work. Fun activities enable departments to intermix, when otherwise they wouldn’t have a reason to. This can help to break silos, which all too easily evolve when teams are working apart. 

How can we virtually unlock the power of bringing people together? Without casual micro-interactions at the coffee machine or beer fridge, people aren’t checking in with each other. Newsletters and intranets keep everyone in the loop, while messaging software keep staff on task –  but how can companies utilise technology to intermix and promote a shared sense of positivity?

DEPT®’s virtual weekender

DEPT® had to rethink its annual flagship event, which usually brings together its 1,500-strong team from 13 countries. The DEPT® Festival takes place in Amsterdam every year and is a full weekend of inspirational talks, team mingling and epic parties. Instead of postponing the event in 2020, DEPT® gave it a digital reinvention.

DEPT® connected existing technologies such as Zoom, Slack and Vimeo, with the build of a custom made, interactive, 3D festival map protected by single sign-on. The design and layout digitally recreated the festival site from the previous four years, squeezing in 15 stages and 35+ short and snappy presentations from staff and industry heroes like world-famous designer Stefan Sagmeister.

For DEPT®, it was important to find the right balance between experience, fun and thought-provoking content. Presentation topics ranged from diversity and inclusion to data intelligence, the future of voice, and coding for a 3D world. The fun was provided by virtual meditation, magicians, karaoke and DJ sets. ‘Easter eggs’ were hidden around the virtual map, leading people to things like the 10 most famous internet cat movies, and a crazy Zoom background contest. The virtual Photo Booth generated a live photo wall, and in all 13 countries, Depsters could have food delivered to their doorsteps after a visit to the digital food truck.

“We have shown that an online event can certainly be as effective as an in-person experience. As long as you can generate connection, interaction and think of the event as a 360-degree experience,” says DEPT®’s Creative Director, Max Pinas. 

Culture can’t be paused

Companies are continuing to reinvent ways of working to offer flexible solutions for staff to achieve a positive work-life balance. Undoubtedly, a modern workplace will look much more dispersed, but that doesn’t mean people have to feel disconnected. However, it does place a new onus on employers to accelerate their employee engagement strategies.

Culture can’t be ignored or put on pause. It will continuously develop regardless if it gets shaped by the company.  When employees feel uninspired or disconnected from their colleagues, they look elsewhere. When done right, virtual events are safe, engaging and a future-proof solution that will help businesses connect. Just like offline editions, they can be completely personalised for team building, product launches or knowledge seminars.

Technology has already changed our lives for the better in so many ways, so why not utilise it in new ways to create memorable experiences with the people you interact with every day?

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Jake Welsh shares brand equity advice

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Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
Head of Marketing, Europe
Date
29 September 2020

DEPT®’s Executive Creative Director, Jake Welsh, will share his expertise on how brands can maintain brand equity when selling on marketplaces in an online webinar for Fresh Business Thinking on 25 September.

Marketplaces offer a great solution to start selling online with a straightforward onboarding process and all e-commerce functionality built-in, but are they the right channel for your brand? Many businesses have turned to selling on marketplaces over the past few months as a quick route to opening up new sales channels. But how can brands retain control over their brand equity when selling through third parties?  

During this webinar Jake will discuss how there is no one size fits all solution for any business, citing examples and differentiating approaches for FMCG and luxury brands. Learn how to regain your businesses footing in the market while preserving your brand equity.

Jake’s webinar is hosted by Fresh Business Thinking, an organisation for entrepreneurs and business decision makers. His webinar forms part of a series of events aimed at helping businesses to navigate and recover from the business disruption caused by Covid-19.

Join Jake at 2:00pm on Friday 25th September. The webinar is free to attend and you can register at Fresh Business Thinking.

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Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke

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How millennials and Gen Z are shifting the essence of branding

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Max Pinas
Max Pinas
Executive Creative Director
Date
29 August 2020

Millennials; for many brands, this word has become all-encompassing, as Millennials are seen as the generation that is shaping society. However, this is not completely accurate. Because apart from Millennials (who are between the age of 22-37), you have another important target audience on the rise that is changing society: Gen Z (currently between 10-22 years old). Combined, these two generations are best typified as Millzy’s. Their mindset and increased social awareness are changing the way companies brand themselves, make products and interact with consumers.

The new normal

We are currently experiencing a digital revolution, one that is embedding technology into humans and society as a whole. Whilst experiencing this shift, aesthetics are becoming increasingly important. As shown by the one billion people who use Instagram every month. More and more it’s about short social copy with an attractive visual to truly captive people online. This makes sense, we are visual beings and process images 60,000 times faster than text. Because of this, products can no longer be solely functional, they also have to be visually appealing to be popular. Think about today’s most popular brands such as JBL or Nike, their products are not only high quality but also sleek in design. People flock to those brands because their attractiveness elicits pleasant emotions in the buyer.

A different message

Aesthetics are not everything though, your brand message and attitude counts just as much. In fact, many Millennials have indicated that brand purpose is important to them in their decision to associate and/or buy from a brand. This generation is driving change via their shift in mindset and they are putting their money where their hearts are. Gone are the days where you could produce an item, buy a billboard on a highway, and hope publicity and a catchy slogan would be enough to get your name out there. You now have to sell the “why” of your company.

Now, implementing and conveying the purpose of your brand story, however, is easier said than done. And there are numerous examples of brands that don’t get it right, even though they have the best intentions. This is because simply adding meaning in an ad or two isn’t enough anymore. You need to embody your “why” and practice what you preach. Especially in this digital day and age, the last thing you want is to go viral for the wrong reasons. So, live and breathe your company identity. It should be recognisable in all that you do. Keep in mind that it should make sense and align with your values and the products you offer. Not every company can just add ‘purpose’. But if you do, make it visible throughout your entire brand story. After all, brand consistency builds trust with the consumer.

An example of a brand that does this well is Patagonia who makes conserving the environment part of its corporate mission and proves that a business can turn a profit whilst standing for a social cause. Lastly, be transparent about your company and business practices. Don’t hesitate to admit to your mistakes and be willing to learn and make a change when needed. Consumers will, in turn, reward companies who do “good”, who use their power for the better and who are socially responsible by not only buying their products but also by recommending and sharing said product online with others.

Social media strategy

So you have your strong brand purpose and/or mission, but how do you go about spreading this message? Social media is a logical place to start since that is an easy place to connect with consumers. However, Millzy’s, nowadays, see straight through your ads. You’re no longer competing with other brands on social media, you’re competing against cute cat videos and funny memes. Thus, you need to capture people’s attention and for that you need content. But, content does not equal ads, it means genuine posts people want to see on their timelines next to their favourite cat video. Content elicits a response and can make people fall in love with your brand, it’s a powerful tool you can use to convince prospects to become customers.

Now, your social media content must fit your brand and your purpose. To accomplish this, find a mood or sentiment and style that represents you and fits your audience and channel that in every one of your posts across all platforms. Also, create engaging content which will evoke a positive response within the consumer. You can do so by starting conversations, being diverse with your content, finding a balance between using popular keywords but also niche keywords that target a specific audience and creating a story around each post. If you successfully generate interesting content on social media this can lead to higher brand awareness, a positive attitude towards your brand and a higher buying intent. However, remember to carry that same message internationally. Tailoring your business proposition for each market is common but your essence should never change.

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Millzy’s and your brand

Ultimately, Millzy’s are not hard to understand, many times we paint them as a different species with whom it is difficult to interact with. That is not the case. They are simply a digital-savvy generation who enjoy both functional but also cool looking products. They are socially responsible and thus are more likely to buy from brands that have a strong purpose and identity. Social media plays a large role in their decision to purchase from a brand as the message you send reflects your brand identity. But since they dislike ads, your content needs to be more tailored. But if you understand and implement these principles, it will be easy for your brand to communicate with the next generation.

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How to unlock & communicate the ‘why’ of your brand

HOW TO UNLOCK1
Jake Welsh
Jake Welsh
Executive Creative Director
Date
19 July 2020

When you woke up this morning and took a hot shower, brushed your teeth, poured a fresh coffee, checked the news on your mobile, and drove to work, did you, at any point, pause to think about the brands behind these daily interactions? The answer for many of you is probably ‘no’ – or ‘hardly ever at all’. Yet, how astonishing is it that the brands supporting our everyday lives are chosen for our own individual and personal reasons. Not by chance, not by force, but by choice.

There are hundreds of highly-rated brands of coffee, so why did you pick the one you drank this morning and, importantly, why do you continue to buy it? The motivational reasons behind consumer choice may seem like a paradox with theories and facts colliding, but it all boils down to one thing. Trust. Trust in its quality. Trust that it will deliver. Trust that it is right for you, personally. 

In a 2019 consumer research study, surveying 16,000 consumers across 8 global markets, 81% of respondents said that trusting a brand to “do what is right” is a deciding factor in a purchase decision. And, if consumers trust a brand, they also exhibit behaviours that demonstrate loyalty; three-quarters of the respondents said: “they will continue to buy a brand they trust, even if another brand suddenly becomes hot and trendy.” They’ll also advocate on the brand’s behalf, with 76% saying they always recommend the brand if someone asks.

Research into the field of decision-making is expansive; tapping into the chemistry of the human brain and uncovering strategies to release endorphins when shopping. The book ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek explores the concept of the ‘Golden Circle’; an ability to focus on the ‘why’ of the business rather than the ‘what’, with the ‘how’ being the gel that brings it together. In short, communicating ‘why’ you are in business, not directly ‘what’ you are offering or ‘how’ you do it.

Some of the world’s most inspiring brands (think Nike and Apple), have adopted this concept to build followers and establish themselves as a brand. It’s never been easier to start a company, but because of this, it’s also never been harder to build a brand. A brand won’t wash away easily when the tide comes in because it’s anchored by meaning. How does your business approach rank on the trust barometer? If you’re not sure if you’re leading with a brand or a transactional message, answer these 5 questions to help evaluate your positioning. 

How does your business communicate with customers?

a) Using a direct, product-centric tone of voice. 

b) By focusing on our core values and creating conversation.

What sales tactics does your business use the most?

a) Flash sales, 2-4-1 offers and lowest- price guarantees; utilising the fast release of products with marketing strategies to encourage a high volume of sales.

b) Building a relationship with customers and creating rapport with target markets. Inviting people to browse products with no pressure to buy. 

Which of these businesses have a similar marketing strategy to yours?

a) Boohoo, Love Holiday, PC World 

b) Huel, Nespresso, Rapha 

How loyal are your customers?

a) Shoppers will jump around trying to find the best bargain before making a purchase. 

b) Customers follow our updates through the news and our social channels, they’re part of our community and await new releases. 

5.Why is data important?

a) It helps us boost transactions; showcasing product specs and incentivising customers during the purchasing journey with add-ons and facilitating dynamic price reductions. 

b) Data helps us better connect with our customers by understanding their feelings, habits, values and desires. 

Are you a why or a what?

If you’ve answered B to the majority of the questions, you’re clearly focused on establishing your business as a brand. You’ve defined your mission statement in a way that resonates with consumers by focusing on the ‘why’ behind what your brand is aiming to achieve, which may stem from why your business was set up in the first place, or why it is different from the market you go up against. 

If you have a mixed scorecard or found your business didn’t exactly fall into one answer or the other, you’re most likely operating as a brand but haven’t fully fine-tuned your value proposition. Most businesses will fall into this middle-layer and feel most comfortable triggering the ‘how’, explaining how they do what they do. This may relate to manufacturing, your culture, or your teams. In many ways, the how combines what you do with why you do it. 

If A was your primary choice throughout, you’re focused on positioning yourself as a ‘transactional’ company rather than a brand. You take a sales-heavy approach to marketing by linking all of your announcements to your product, its specifications and price. There is no right or wrong approach; companies that only have transactional relationships can still be highly successful, but they often have to work much harder to secure consumer loyalty in a crowded marketplace. They will also find it harder to weather storms, such as the recent disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis.  

To demonstrate the above concepts, here’s an example of how a bed retailer could take three different approaches to advertising a new range of mattresses:

  • WHY – the focus is on wellbeing and achieving a good night’s sleep, with visuals of people feeling rested and energised, ready to conquer the day ahead.
  • HOW – specifying the mechanics of the mattress with product images detailing what makes this range top-of-the-line quality or unique in the marketplace. 
  • WHAT – offering next day delivery, combo deals or a percentage off the purchase price for trading in your existing mattress. Images will showcase stockpiles of mattresses in the showroom ready to be rehomed.

Masters of the ‘why’

A similar approach can be adapted to all businesses, ranging from B2B to B2C across all sectors, products or services. If you ask people what their favourite businesses are, they’ll always choose a brand. Often, they won’t know why; they just feel empowered by these brands and associate with their values in a personal way that can’t be explained. 

nike

The following brands accelerate the ‘why’ exceptionally well with a crisp mission statement:

Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” – Nike 

Bring the best user experience to its customers through innovative hardware” – Apple 

Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”- Tesla 

These brands are amongst the most revolutionary to launch within the last two decades. Tesla makes for an excellent case. Not only has Tesla managed to penetrate the automotive market, which many have tried to do, but it has managed to captivate drivers in an unprecedented way. Tesla has taken drivers on its journey; and because of this, there is a remarkable sense of loyalty and patience. Despite their vehicles carrying a high price tag and facing major issues with the quality of manufacturing from parts falling off to self-driving mishaps, Tesla drivers don’t mind. They’re still proud to own a Tesla. This example signifies the value of building a connection with your customers and how it enables brands to focus on the product a little less. One may speculate the backlash competitors Range Rover or Audi would face in the same circumstances. 

Although ‘start with why’ is a great concept, companies like Tesla are not born very often and can be difficult to relate to. Businesses should be realistic with their goals and leverage data to shape their proposition. Start with a database of customers or a CRM if you have one, and then dig deeper to reveal what makes your target audiences tick. With this insight, seek opportunities for your business to empathise with them. 

The ‘human-first creativity, crafted by data’ approach conceptualised by DEPT® sparks new ways of thinking. The newly released ebook entitled the ‘The Secrets Behind Consumer Demand’ enables markets to unlock just that, as we discuss new methods to engage with customers without spending more, build better-converting content and platforms and connect with audiences in more intelligent ways.

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Strike a chord without conforming: using your brand to kickstart recovery

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Jake Welsh
Jake Welsh
Executive Creative Director
Date
7 May 2020

In a recent report,  What Should Ads Look Like in the Time of Recession?, the question was asked, “are people responding to ads differently?” during the coronavirus crisis. The report looked to establish the mood of the nation, whether opinions have pivoted and, if so, how? To understand what kind of ads are connecting with consumers, the report compilers looked at their ad-testing data and found that there has been no reduction in advertising’s ability to connect with audiences, but there are better performing approaches than others. So what approach should your brand take to its current advertising?

Marketing based around fluent, recognisable brand characters and familiar setups are performing well. Obvious examples include long standing campaigns like Compare The Market’s meerkat, and Go Compare’s Gio Compario. Also think about familiar brand devices, like Tesco’s ‘Food love stories’ and the black and cream design in every Guinness ad. These brand devices naturally lend themselves to agile work, as the setup is already well established; a proof-point of a long term, brand building strategy.

The report found that three ad topics were connecting more in recent weeks: togetherness, community and place, and nostalgia. The issue is, that this approach is obvious. It’s obvious enough to have spawned an entire genre of advertising during the lockdown period. Nicely compiled in this video and torn apart in Mark Ritson’s most recent column, the combination of a blatant ‘togetherness’ approach and reliance on filmed-at-home content has caused collective amnesia around the importance of ensuring the brand stands out from the crowd.

Togetherness is nothing new

This situation should feel familiar. Since 2016, ‘togetherness’ has been a central plank of hundreds of brand propositions. Most people point to the divisive elections on both sides of the Atlantic, and the explosion of social media bickering, but it was equally spurred on by the world of entertainment. On-demand TV has changed the idea of a collective viewing experience. The biggest summer blockbusters were all part of one superhero narrative. The best selling video games were almost exclusively built around online multiplayer.

Plenty of brands hopped on the trend, HeinekenMcCains and Nike each explored the idea of togetherness in different ways. Brands and products that bring people together around a shared love, experience or place. It’s such a common approach that meta-advertising developed around it, in the form of Oasis’s ‘Refreshing’ campaign.

What’s also important to note, is how central digital marketing was to a number of these campaigns. Too often, marketers see digital as a sales first channel, not equipped to support brand building campaigns. Look back to the examples –  Heineken’s ‘Worlds apart’ video was around 3 minutes (depending on the edition), designed for viewing on YouTube and social media, rather than TV. Nike’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ generated so much buzz through social media shares and by being a high density online video, allowing viewers to rewind and rewatch to spot the different sports and grime star cameos.

What’s not working right now

Before getting into how your brand should can implement the report’s insights, we first need to consider which marketing approaches are not currently working.

Hard sell tactics are underperforming, as are overly product-focused ads and competitive branding. This is a time for brand building, not aggressive selling. Not only are sales activations not landing, well established brands typically recover faster when the economy enters a recovery period.

The brands who focus on transactional relationships will have to work much harder to keep consumers interested.

Fame, feeling and fluency

There are two words that are central to making this brand building period a success: look and feel. While many brands will be approaching the situation from a similar tone, perhaps even a similar execution, the brand’s look and feel is what sets it apart. 

In terms of what a look and feel aims to achieve, the three key metrics are fame, fluency and feeling. Many marketers will already be familiar with the concept:

  • Fame: does the brand easily come to mind?
  • Feeling: do you feel good about buying it?
  • Fluency: are the key assets easily recognisable as being from your brand?

Targeting fame results in brand recall. The brand imagery is remembered, as is the proposition. Everyone wants to be top of mind when the customer gets close to finalising a purchase; great fame campaigns centre on these moments. The most obvious fame devices are brand characters that hammer home a name that pops into the potential customer’s head when they go to Google “insurance”. But there are far more options available here.

This is where fluency is important. Do customers instantly recognise your brand assets the second they see them?

Think of each touchpoint and how your business is involved at that stage. Each of the new challenger banks have designed an easily identifiable card that stands out at any contactless moment. Monzo’s coral pink, Starling’s pastel green, Revolut’s blue and purple gradient. These are images of the brand that non-users start to recognise when they see others paying for products.

Consider every touchpoint

In the online space, look to touchpoints like messaging, online checkouts and shareable content. In the past few years, Sainsbury’s have systematically turned each of their recent campaigns into GIFs that follow their “monochrome plus orange” design. Each GIF is tagged around mealtimes or food-based events, aiming to reach hungry households that are discussing what they should have for tea on WhatsApp. Klarna’s pastel pink digital videos prep the potential customer for recall when they reach the online checkout and look down the overwhelmingly blue and white list of payment options.

Going back to the montage of identikit pandemic ads, there is clearly work to be done on establishing a DIY-footage look. The irony is, that for the past ten years video based social media sites and YouTube users have pretty comprehensively explored this challenge through custom filters, DIY filming techniques and animation. For example, on YouTube, two different history-based videos can end up with this scattershot lo-fi style and this irreverent animation. There are plenty of TikTok and Instagram users putting out dance based videos, but Donté Colley stands out through his unique emoji based look.

Finally, feeling. What about the brand, product or service makes the customer feel good? Safety and reliability are major drivers now, hence the success of advertising that focuses on brand heritage and years of successful service.

Focusing on this emotive side leads consumers to focus on their brand preference, rather than comparing the various product benefits. For anyone looking for deeper insight on branding and consumer demand, check out our new download, The Secrets of Consumer Demand.

As made clear by Mark Ritson in the earlier mentioned article, brands shouldn’t throw out every pre-crisis campaign. While certain campaigns will not work due to their content or the mood of the piece, brands should be looking to use existing work rather than struggle to create new content.

Recycle old campaigns

Seeing as brand consistency is a key aim, think of how older assets can be recycled across new campaigns. Pre-pandemic, BMW created a reseller campaign that only used older campaign footage, retooled around the pre-owned market. Budweiser recently brought back their ‘Whassup’ campaign, rerecording parts of the dialogue to mention the quarantine but keeping the original footage. Not only does this solve the challenge of recording footage on lockdown, it also trades heavily in nostalgia, a trope that is connecting well with consumers.

Rather than throwing out campaigns, look through past brand comms for inspiration, what can be upcycled, and what are the ongoing brand assets that build fame over the coming months. Creating theses memory cues sets up your business for the future, not just for the recovery period, but also for the years that follow.

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