Embracing Marketing Mistakes

Brand Engagement and Influencer Impact with Chris McKay

April 16, 2024 Prohibition PR Season 1 Episode 29
Brand Engagement and Influencer Impact with Chris McKay
Embracing Marketing Mistakes
More Info
Embracing Marketing Mistakes
Brand Engagement and Influencer Impact with Chris McKay
Apr 16, 2024 Season 1 Episode 29
Prohibition PR

Join Vicki Murphy and me, Chris Norton, as we swap tales from the working life of marketing with Chris McKay, Head of Brand Engagement at Hillary's.  Chris shares his initial steps into the professional world right out of university the thrills of working with iconic brands, and the crucial lessons that only failure and hands-on experience can teach.

Step into the nostalgia-fueled Ministry of Sound era with us as we trip down memory lane, reminiscing over legendary dance DJs and digital marketing mishaps. Hear Chris McKay's unfiltered stories of navigating the complex and often unpredictable world of influencer marketing, where authenticity and humour can turn a partnership into a game-changer. We dissect the strategic intricacies of brand communication, emphasising the importance of knowing your audience, leveraging data analytics, and why sometimes, the best strategy is to lean on your team's collective genius.

Give us a follow, share your own marketing mishaps, and join us for more unscripted insights on Socially Unacceptable, where we keep it real and our marketing stories are anything but ordinary.

Follow Chirs McKay:
X: https://twitter.com/imchrismckay 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/imchrismckay/ 

https://www.hillarys.co.uk/

Would you like to know if your social media and content strategy is perfect for this year? Book a free 15-minute brand discovery call here with Chris, and we will help you grow your brand today. And if you like the show, please leave us a review, or even just a thumbs up. It is very much appreciated - we want your feedback.

Follow Chris Norton:
X
TikTok
LinkedIn

Follow Will Ockenden:
X
LinkedIn

Follow The Show:
X
TikTok
YouTube

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join Vicki Murphy and me, Chris Norton, as we swap tales from the working life of marketing with Chris McKay, Head of Brand Engagement at Hillary's.  Chris shares his initial steps into the professional world right out of university the thrills of working with iconic brands, and the crucial lessons that only failure and hands-on experience can teach.

Step into the nostalgia-fueled Ministry of Sound era with us as we trip down memory lane, reminiscing over legendary dance DJs and digital marketing mishaps. Hear Chris McKay's unfiltered stories of navigating the complex and often unpredictable world of influencer marketing, where authenticity and humour can turn a partnership into a game-changer. We dissect the strategic intricacies of brand communication, emphasising the importance of knowing your audience, leveraging data analytics, and why sometimes, the best strategy is to lean on your team's collective genius.

Give us a follow, share your own marketing mishaps, and join us for more unscripted insights on Socially Unacceptable, where we keep it real and our marketing stories are anything but ordinary.

Follow Chirs McKay:
X: https://twitter.com/imchrismckay 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/imchrismckay/ 

https://www.hillarys.co.uk/

Would you like to know if your social media and content strategy is perfect for this year? Book a free 15-minute brand discovery call here with Chris, and we will help you grow your brand today. And if you like the show, please leave us a review, or even just a thumbs up. It is very much appreciated - we want your feedback.

Follow Chris Norton:
X
TikTok
LinkedIn

Follow Will Ockenden:
X
LinkedIn

Follow The Show:
X
TikTok
YouTube

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Socially Unacceptable. From F***ups to Fame, the marketing podcast that celebrates the professional mishaps, mistakes and misjudgements, while delivering valuable marketing and life lessons. In the time it takes you to eat your lunch, so this must have been a dream job role in theory. I would have loved to do it. How old were you then?

Speaker 2:

22, 23.

Speaker 1:

That's the dream graduate job, isn't it? Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Speaker 3:

Until you stood there at 5am outside Ministry of Sound.

Speaker 2:

Trying to get drunk people to do a cool little Snapchat for you. How do we work with influencers on a long-term partnership? How do we build credibility, authenticity, but also they're content creators, you know so instead of us going.

Speaker 2:

We need you to say this and we need you to write this let's go in. This is the brief we want you to kind of address. You make it in the way that you know is the most engaged and the most authentic, the most credible. It's okay to go? I don't know that. You know I've got people in my team who are way more technical understanding of things like social, of influencer marketing, of, of content creation. You know it's no point me kind of going. No, no, I need to hold on to that. I need to control that. It's kind of going. Let's give more, more autonomy and trust and let people feel empowered to take what they're good at and run with it that's exactly what I have to do here.

Speaker 3:

That's what you, because you start out trying to do everything and then eventually you've just got to let the cleverer people do whatever they've got to do. Isn't that right, vicks? So I'm going to ask you a question have you ever faced resistance internally to using influencer marketing and, if so, how did you address it In this week's episode? Will's sadly not here. So, though, how did you address it In this week's episode? Will's sadly not here.

Speaker 3:

So I'm joined by my co-pilot and head of creative at Prohibition, vicki Murphy, and we speak to Chris Mackay, who is the head of brand engagement at Hillary's. Chris is a brilliant marketer and he's got some fascinating and interesting mistakes that he's going to share on the show. He was very, very honest and I think you'll enjoy it, like we did. He's also been the winner of the Best Use of Sponsorship at Thinkbox TV Planning Awards. He was the winner of In-House Social Media Marketer of the Year at the Social Day Awards, and he's even presented at Brighton SEO. For those of you that go down there, I need to get myself down there. I know you're going to enjoy this episode because Chris has been really honest and he shares some fascinating marketing mistakes. So, as always, sit back and relax and let's hear how you can improve your influencer marketing without having to spend hours and hours and hours learning how to do it.

Speaker 3:

Hi, everybody, welcome back to Socially Inacceptable. Thank you for joining us. And today we've got two glamorous people in the studio with us. We've got the lovely Vicki Murphy.

Speaker 1:

Guess who's back. That's going Sorry, hello.

Speaker 3:

That's definitely going in. I love that. And we've also got Chris McKay. Is that right?

Speaker 2:

Yes, that's right and hello, and I haven't got a funny little wink to do to the camera, it's probably best.

Speaker 3:

So you're head of brand engagement at Hillary's right and we've known each other well. You've been coming along to the Prohibition events since they were in the real world before the pandemic. So that was like when did you start? Tell us a bit about why you work there and what you do there. So I've been at.

Speaker 2:

Hillary's now for 11 years. I started off as a social media. Exec kind of came in and I kind of at that point I think social was all about.

Speaker 2:

Well, Google Plus was a thing, so that probably shows how old it was and it was all about fans, competitions, you know all of that stuff. I think over the last kind of 11 years I've basically kind of started adding on more and more media and created, ultimately, a team that was all about engaging with our customers, and I suppose the best way I explain it is my role is to come up with the plan and the strategy around changing the awareness, the perception and the consideration of a brand. So I look after social media influencers all the way through to things like brand tv video on demand, content creation video, etc big role so Hillary's blinds?

Speaker 3:

how many different products have they got? This whistle is throughistle us through what sort of products?

Speaker 2:

Now I'm going to become a sales advisor?

Speaker 3:

What sort of?

Speaker 2:

products do they sell? So Hillary's have basically Clues in the name, right, yeah? Well, technically now it's just Hillary's, so Hillary's Blinds is the old name we had.

Speaker 2:

We transitioned into just Hillary's. We do an in-home made-to-measure window finishing service. So we have 1,100 or so advisors around the country that go into people's homes, measure and fit the products and just make sure that ultimately the product is the right one for the right solution and it's measured and fitted correctly In terms of actual overall products. We have thousands of different fabrics and colours. We do everything from roller blinds, romans, vertical blinds that people might know, all the way through to shutters, awnings. We do smart technology as well, so motorised blinds that you can operate through remotes. And we also have some other multiple brands that sit within our group as well that offer kind of premium offerings of those window furnishings products as well.

Speaker 3:

Okay, and so you started as a social media exec. So what does a head of brand engagement do in 2024 then? What are you doing now?

Speaker 2:

What's your day-to-day. What's my day-to-day? So this feels like it's an appraisal kind of moment now we're going to review your performance.

Speaker 2:

So I am currently kind of looking after our I suppose, next two or three years worth of strategy for our brand activity. We have a number of different challenges across our different brands. I suppose the things that I spend a lot of time doing which people probably don't realize is insight understanding. I think when people think about brand advertising, they think a lot about stuff like I want to sponsor the World Cup or I'm going to put an ad on a massive billboard and tick, I've kind of done some brand, whereas actually you know a lot of it's kind of going back to the why aren't people buying from us? What do people need from us? Which demographics are we trying to grow into? Um? So there's a lot of insight led that come from our amazing insight team that tell us some of this stuff. And then it's kind of my role to work with our agencies to ultimately come up with a plan to to deploy that in the in the right area. So we have a communications team that come up with the. What do we need to say?

Speaker 3:

how many in that team?

Speaker 2:

in the communications team yeah um, so there's around about probably six or seven, and then we work with an agency as well, okay, communications agency, yeah, um, and then I kind of have about 11 or 12 in my team, um, and then we have a media agency as well that we work with okay, so you do, you go the media agency, do they do the media planning and buying and everything yeah, they do, but we work really closely with them.

Speaker 2:

You know, I think it's one of those where we have, you know, weekly calls with them. We're in contact with them pretty much every single day. We're constantly trying to go to their, their, their offices and bring them to ours and, and we share a lot. I think there's a lot of value in actually treating an agency like an extension of the team rather than just an agency.

Speaker 3:

So I mean you're preaching to the convert.

Speaker 2:

That's what I want to um and because we just there's no point just kind of giving them a brief and going come back to us with a plan. You know, we have to give them all the insights and the data and the understanding to help them give us the best plan possible.

Speaker 3:

Okay, okay, right, but this show is all about fuck-ups, right? So we could get into the good stuff that you're doing today. I wanted to go right, take you right back. So we were just talking before we started recording about where you started your career, and you actually started in Leeds, which I didn't know for a start, with Vicki and I were talking about with you, weren't we? And you started a company called CalPR, right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I started, so I trained as a journalist, um, and then I went into a bit of freelance journalism um realized there was absolutely no money in freelance journalism at that point. Um. So I ended up kind of just looking for for a role and was offered a job as a PR assistant, pr exec at CalPR, so literally just three doors down the road from here. Worked on things like Cravendale, campbell Soup, stuff like that.

Speaker 2:

And that was a really great insight into actually understanding consumer PR. But unfortunately the office shut down so I ended up moving off to London. The thriving Leeds community To be fair there was only three of us in the office. The head office was meant to be in in London anyway. So we ended up, um, myself and another girl ended up in London, and um, and then, yeah, my London career started.

Speaker 3:

How many people were in the London office then?

Speaker 2:

Oh, I'm gonna say at least probably 20, 25, something like that, and that's where a lot of the clients were and a lot of the main roles were. And then I went from kind of Calpia over to Ministry of Sound, which fascinates me and you've got Ministry of Sound.

Speaker 3:

As somebody who loves dance music, Obviously you were there during their high-profile time when they were producing Vicki and I would talk about the different albums that they produced.

Speaker 2:

Three CDs a year.

Speaker 3:

How many of those classic albums did they do oh?

Speaker 2:

my.

Speaker 3:

God.

Speaker 1:

It was different volume.

Speaker 2:

It was like do you?

Speaker 1:

remember Now 56? It's like that version, but for Ministry of Sound.

Speaker 2:

That's exactly it. It was literally every year. There was a different volume, but then there was bits in between that where you'd have, like the summer Ibiza hits, then you'd have kind of the.

Speaker 1:

And did they also do the Garage Anthem once as well? Yeah, the Garage.

Speaker 2:

Because that's it. Ministry of Sound's renowned for like dance music. Yeah, but in reality, they also had a lot of like.

Speaker 1:

Different.

Speaker 2:

People like Wretch32 and stuff like that, who were signed as artists that they produce music for as well.

Speaker 3:

And they had the club as well at the time and they had the club. Does that still exist?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so my role in Ministry of Sound. My role was basically to look after digital marketing for the nightclub and for the radio.

Speaker 1:

Right. So we were split as a team, so this must have been a dream job role. In theory, I was buzzing. I would have loved to do this. How old were you then?

Speaker 2:

I would have been so coming out of uni 22, 23?.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's the dream graduate job, isn't it? Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Speaker 3:

Until you stood there at 5am outside Ministry of Sound.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, trying to get drunk people to do a cool little Snapchat for you. I think at that point I was going in, going this is going to be incredible. I love dance music. I've written about dance music when I was a journalist. What better way to then launch into a career? My question is what the hell were your hours working at Ministry of Sound Club hours? I'm going to put it under. It was mainly, you know, eight till probably six during Monday to Friday.

Speaker 2:

But then you also work during the night, so there'd be times where you would go we've got a really big artist on, we want to do, you know, loads of social around it. So the club would start at 11 at night. It'd carry on till six, seven in the morning. I mean, this is my worst nightmare it is now, it is my nightmare now as a new father, thinking about being yeah being up through the night, unless I'm doing a feed those massive queues outside, even being in the queue for like two hours.

Speaker 3:

What a night. What were we?

Speaker 2:

doing. Trying to get people who were drunk to look at a camera and just say some stuff was probably some of the hardest things I had to do.

Speaker 3:

And during that time, obviously you've shared something and you worked with the French DJ, bob Sinclair. And so, for those of people who don't, because I'm a bit of an aficionado when it comes to the types of dance music and obviously he did the most recent track is World Hold On.

Speaker 2:

I'm glad you sang it, because otherwise I thought you were going to be singing it and then I thought of another one which sounds exactly video camera.

Speaker 3:

Guys just totally get. I've sent him west. I can do another one. He's got what the Love Generation Feel the love generation. Those two tracks are so similar. Actually they could be the same track. But then the one track that I remember you'll like this you've got this one, two, three, four and back two do you remember that one?

Speaker 2:

No, back back.

Speaker 1:

Back back. That was old Jim Tonic. That's old. That was one of the originals. I had that on vinyl. This is taking a real turn, Sorry.

Speaker 3:

So anyway, that's who. Bob Sinclair was Sorry about the singing. What happened? Come on, fill me in.

Speaker 2:

So I think I was in that mindset when I kind of went over to Ministry of Sound and kind of in my other career of going like creative, idea it. I'm just going to absolutely go full steam and um, I think the bob sinclair moment for me was probably the the real turning point of going. You might have an idea, but before you just go off and do it, maybe just do a bit of due diligence. Look at some data, work out some analysis of what's working and what do people want. So he's a french dj. He's come to the club. I thought wouldn't people love to know like translations of things people say at the club in French? So let's do French.

Speaker 3:

He's quite a character as well, isn't he?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, he is, and you know he was a lovely guy as well. To be fair to him, we thought, oh, we'll do, like you know, french lessons by Bob. So we, you know, had cameras. We created like little whiteboards and chalkboards it was, I think, at at that point and he would kind of do little French lessons. So there was this ten part series that I'd had set up after the first two. How long did this take you to?

Speaker 1:

yeah, and what channel are you running this on?

Speaker 2:

so this was this was predominantly through Facebook at this point, so that was our biggest, our biggest platform like a Facebook live, or was it before?

Speaker 2:

that was pretty day in no, it was Facebook posts, so Welcome to French with Bob, and that's it. And it had, like, if you imagine, probably like a cartoony style, kind of like graduation hat on. So there was a bit of a theme behind it. I was loving it, I thought I was on to a winner and then what I quickly realized was that actually you know 18 year old people who love just going to the club. They don't really care about that, they just want to see really good pictures of the nightclub and people partying in the nightclub.

Speaker 2:

So I posted my first one. Usually we got around about 800 to 1000 likes at that point per picture. This one, I think 50. Like literally bombed and I sat there with my boss going.

Speaker 1:

I can just imagine you sat there.

Speaker 2:

Oh, let's just give the second one a try and see Second one went similar how much time did you spend on doing it? I probably spent a good couple of weeks, however.

Speaker 1:

I think, you could have just been ahead of your time there because on.

Speaker 3:

TikTok now with that Gen Z audience yeah, french with Bob, let's bring it back. Let's bring it back.

Speaker 1:

You were just 10 years too soon. She's right, she's got a point. I think you were, yeah, head of the game.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I like that phrase.

Speaker 1:

I think I'm going to, instead of a fail, just a bit of an early adopter innovator, too soon, but I can imagine that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, when you've put your heart and soul into something and you think it's going to work.

Speaker 2:

So I posted it, yeah, and just had to cull it. Just literally had to pull it and I think that's kind of for me going. I went in with an idea, just brainstormed some ideas, kind of didn't even check going. What do people want? What's the content people are engaging with? Do a bit of testing, let's see what people actually want to see.

Speaker 3:

And then, yeah, it was probably my worst campaign. I've done Well, the truth, the moral of the story there is test, test, test, test, isn't it? Because I mean, if you test, if you test whatever, you test something, not everything works. And you've tested something and it didn't work and just doing a bit of.

Speaker 2:

You know, look at the data before you come up with an idea. You know, I think again we can get really caught into doing creative brainstorms, but insights got to drive a lot of it and I think I've I've really transitioned into understand the insights and then let that lead the creative brainstorm yeah um, instead of just going straight in with what ideas everyone have and picking a very subjective, which one do we really like?

Speaker 3:

so. So, after that, what was it? What is your most successful thing that you did at ministry of sound then?

Speaker 2:

I think probably we did, and who was the?

Speaker 3:

biggest artist as well. You said said big artists.

Speaker 2:

I'd say the biggest artist is still probably Armin van Buuren.

Speaker 3:

Oh, okay, yeah.

Speaker 2:

I think he was DJ Mag's number one artist for a good number of years At the time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, You've got a little line for us there, Chris, no, no because that's the more.

Speaker 2:

It's a hard house, isn't it?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you've got. Yeah, it wasn't. It's not my thanks, though. We'll move on.

Speaker 2:

But you know there was people like Fede Le Grand, there was Benny Benassi, yeah, so there was some obviously big names. I think one of the biggest successes probably there was looking at the radio side. So the radio side of ministry was probably something that people didn't really know that much about. So when I was there, we did a live stream from Tomorrowland. So for those who don't know, tomorrowland is like a huge dance music festival in in belgium. So we did a live stream from that and it was my job to kind of social, pull that creative together, get content from the people over there, get it back, publish it, and we actually crashed the website now in today in today's website news it's like no, what are you doing?

Speaker 2:

you're gonna miss loads of sales. For us I was like wow, like we've got so much traffic to that website that people want to listen to Ministry of Sound's live version of Tomorrowland. So for me that was like you know what Social drove a lot of traffic in there. People have listened to it and yeah. So, from going from 50 likes to crashing a website, is to hero and what was the?

Speaker 3:

did you have insight to do that, or did you just go out? We did. Did you go over there as well?

Speaker 2:

no, so we had, we had a presenter over there, and then they would get loads of content. Send it back and then we had a radio producer that pretty much worked tirelessly through that, through that activity, to make sure that all the streams worked.

Speaker 3:

Okay, cool, and then we've got another one here, haven't we? Yeah?

Speaker 1:

I found this one really interesting. I feel like another failure to go through.

Speaker 2:

I really am hoping this isn't watched by my boss.

Speaker 1:

No, but I think this one is one that we hear time and time again in terms of not having to always be the kind of smartest in the room concept. That idea, you know, you hear it more and more in terms of tapping into other people's talents and not always thinking that everything has to come from you and tapping into other people.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think there's a real.

Speaker 3:

We're talking about the algorithm, right.

Speaker 2:

I was going to say you're talking about the dreaded A word, let's talk about algorithm gate. Talk us through it.

Speaker 3:

You wanted to create an algorithm.

Speaker 2:

So basically, you know we're this was when we worked at Hillary's and when I started at Hillary's kind of we're very data obsessed and it's probably where a lot of my kind of like understanding of insights is really driven from. You know a lot of my kind of like understanding of insights is really driven from. You know a lot of what we do is based on insights and data we want to really understand. You know, what is the performance of like you know, I suppose are each individual service advisors that are out there. So I was kind of given the task again, kind of you know, bit of an early project for me, and the term algorithm kind of got banded around a bit because we've got so many data points. It was like how do you kind of pull all of it together to give one really easy to understand kind of score, whatever it might be, and I had no idea, I have no idea how to build an algorithm.

Speaker 2:

I can't even say. I don't even know what program to start on. So for me it was like right, what do I do? So I just read up some bits online.

Speaker 1:

I started using it had you pretended you did. No, no, no, no, no. So it wasn't like on great algorithms.

Speaker 2:

I didn't trick anyone into thinking I knew what I was talking about.

Speaker 3:

Didn't you just want to speak to a web developer? I'd have just gone. I've got no fucking clue how to do this.

Speaker 2:

I'm going to speak to a web developer solution in hindsight, chris, that would have been the greatest starting point, but but not great content for this podcast but as a fuck up yeah yeah, that wouldn't have made the story no true so what I did, um was I got an excel spreadsheet and I put in all these data points.

Speaker 2:

I used vlookup as much as I could to try and find other spreadsheets that were already had that data, um, and I then tried to add weightings to certain data. So I started doing formulas that added like oh well, times that by 0.75 and times that by 0.8, um. And then I needed some help because I was like, well, I don't really understand these formulas. So then I got some people from finance to come and help me, um, and they were like I don't understand what you're trying to do. I was like let's, let's power through together, it'll be fine.

Speaker 3:

I like this. You're a go-getter.

Speaker 2:

Then there was some people from the Customer Insights team who again they were kind of going, wow, this is getting really complicated. And it kind of got to a point where we had to have a laptop run constantly because every time we opened the file it was looking up so many different data points that it would crash. So we had to just leave it on and let the data just get dated.

Speaker 1:

But as you were going through this process, did you think this is going like we're nearly there?

Speaker 2:

I thought oh, this is getting really complicated. This is really exciting.

Speaker 1:

I've never done this before.

Speaker 2:

I'm inventing, I started I started writing a paper to explain what it looks like. Um and I'll get onto that in a minute, because I think at that point when I wrote the paper, I should have probably gone. That's a really complicated thing that probably most people aren't really going to understand how it works, let alone then know how to improve their scores and stuff.

Speaker 2:

So over the course of this period, I think three people from the finance team left, I think we lost three people from the customer insights team. I think four or so laptops might have died and crashed. And in reality, if we fast forward to where it is now, I think the big thing for me was just going. There were people in those teams who, if a brief, went to them to go. This is what we're trying to do, this is the output we're looking to try and get to. What's the best way of doing it? They would have just come up with what the solution is now, which is a really simple, easy to understand plan that actually you know they've got all the skills and they've got all the knowledge and the tools to be able to quickly update and share and kind of edit it as and when we need it. There isn't an algorithm anymore.

Speaker 2:

That shows how probably far away from the mark we were. It's more of just a case of going. We've got all these data points. There's a little mathematical equation that kind of turns it into a really easy to understand format, and I can't take any credit for where it's ended up, because everything that I think I was trying to do was going. That's too complicated. Let's rip that off and give that as something else.

Speaker 3:

I quite like the fact that you went at it, though you're seeing that as a fail. I think that's like because a lot of people, as soon as you said the words Excel spreadsheet formula, I could see Vicki was getting confused you wouldn't even ask me that, because she'd just look at me and go. I'm not doing that.

Speaker 1:

That's not for me.

Speaker 3:

Technology. You know a lot of people get frightened because Excel formulas are complicated enough, aren't they right? Yeah, they're mad. The fact you're getting stuck into that is. I think that's quite impressive.

Speaker 1:

Did you have to rip that up then, or did you continue to get to the stage you are now like to be?

Speaker 2:

fair we drew, drew a bit of a line in the sand where we went. This is quite complicated, like I think in one of my explanations for stuff I had a section that explained what the raw data was, then I explained what the weighted data looked like, then I explained what the like forward effect, like the front facing data looked like. I think when I have three variations of data that I've got to explain yeah, and I'm adding weight into things.

Speaker 2:

It's probably too complicated. So we drew a line in the sand. Um, there's, you know, a couple of people who were way smarter than me at understanding what we were trying to get to and how to get there, ultimately took over the project and, and I think again it's kind of going. It's okay to step back from something, you know.

Speaker 2:

I think you see a lot of people go oh you know I failed, oh that's really bad. I'm now kind of, you know, I've got to kind of be ashamed at it. I've kind of gone. Ultimately, the right people are going to get it to the right place and I think as I've kind of progressed through my career, I've kind of got to a point where it's going. It's okay to go. I don't know that. You know, I've got people in my team who are way more technical understanding of things like social, of influencer marketing, of content creation. It's no point in me kind of going no, no, I need to hold on to that and I need to control that. It's kind of going. Let's give more autonomy and trust and let people feel empowered to take what they're good at and run with it.

Speaker 3:

That's exactly what I have to do here, because you start out trying to do everything and then eventually you've just got to let the cleverer people do whatever they've got to do. Isn't that right, vicki? So you meant, before we spoke, you talked about brand activations, so do you want to tell me a bit about what you mean by that and what you do with brand activations?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I suppose myself and our head of brand are probably a little bit of a dynamic duo, I kind of say so. We work really closely to go. You know she'll go. What are we trying to say?

Speaker 2:

You know, ultimately the challenge as a brand is people aren't buying from us for X, y and Z reasons, and she'll go. This is what we need to say, this is how we need to address it and these are the messages we need to get out there. And then she'll. She'll come to me with a bit of a you know how. Ultimately, how do we then communicate that out effectively? So my role is is to sit there and look at it and go if we're going after a certain demographic, what, what media do they use, what are their behaviors? What type of stuff do they engage with? Um. But then on the other side of it, we'll look at it and go actually, how do we get the most effective reach or we're trying to really change people's perception of a brand? Where are they most engaged with content and which platforms do we need to be on?

Speaker 2:

So my, my role is is basically going how do we make what we've got and the content and the creative and the consumer message as effective as possible to move those dials. And we measure that through things like brand tracker. We measure it through things like um mixed media modeling, so old econometric modeling, um to go. Was that the right? Was that the right plan? Um, so I'll, I might go we've got a brand tv campaign that we need to do because that's really effective reach. Or we might go actually we need slightly lower funnel activity so we might do a partnership with you know, recently we've done something with global and future where we've done a really integrated content like, I suppose, partnership, where we've talked about the really key elements of hillary's you know what makes us better than kind of trying to do it yourself and we've told that story in a really, I suppose, um contextually relevant way and have you found because like the this sector is very it's in a very at a very exciting time, isn't it?

Speaker 1:

And I suppose, these past five years in particular, with the way especially social's changed and there's been such a rush towards people doing things, learning how to do things at home, sharing on kind of influencer tips, taking them on board, have you found that you've had to totally switch your approach from a social point of view Because you said that you rebranded as Hillary's and that must have been a big change in terms of? Was that an audience? No, I think it was just a development of the brand to be honest.

Speaker 2:

You know, as we started to attach more and more products, you know we were known as Hillary's Blinds, whereas actually you know we do way more than that. I suppose our approach to social has always been really tricky as well, because we are a lead generation product. You know we actually are a business that need to build appointments, whereas social seems to be leaning very quickly and it has always kind of moved towards e-commerce.

Speaker 2:

So, a lot of products that they come to light with are, you know, buy through the platforms, you know shop lives, etc. Which you know we just don't do. So I suppose that the mindset that we've had to really try to approach is there's a shop that you can buy through Instagram. You know, instagram shops is a thing. How do we take that platform or that format and make it work for us? So, you know, for us it's things like, yes, you can go and buy a product, you know, direct through something like Pinterest, but actually we do samples or brochures. How do we make that work? Maybe slightly different to the sales setup that they've got, but it kind of works for our format. So I think, for social, for us it's about kind of making what they have fit with our model a little bit more.

Speaker 2:

The biggest change for us has been influencers. I think influencers has been a real big turning point for us where the pay to post model has completely gone out the window. And I think you know we think back to even eight years ago or so where the team were maybe getting ad hoc requests from businesses or or kind of influencers to just get free product. Now it's how do we work with influencers on a long-term partnership. How do we build credibility, authenticity, but also they're content creators, you know. So, instead of us going, we need you to say this, and we need you to write this.

Speaker 2:

Let's go in. This is the brief we want you to kind of address. You make it in the way that you know is the most engaged and the most authentic, the most credible. So for, for us, it's kind of changing the mindset as well as changing the, the approach yeah, it has.

Speaker 3:

That's the maturity of the influencer marketing. It has moved away from being spoon-fed to do this. Do three tweets, do do as a blog post, a video, whatever to to now, just create your own thing and go at it, as long as you get certain things included.

Speaker 2:

And the team. You know we have a PR team that manage all of our influencers and an absolute testament to them. They have an amazing relationship with influencers. You know we're over in Ireland at the minute. Our PR manager and our PR exec are over in Ireland at the minute meeting our Irish influencers because we know the value in those personal relationships. You know I might upset a few people who might watch this, but I really do not see the value in using that software. Where you go, they manage all the relationship, the influencers. They'll do all the contracts. They'll do that because the influencers are then kind of meeting a middle man and then meeting the brand, whereas actually for us it's. You know we have have the WhatsApps with the influencers, we talk to them, we speak to them, we engage with them on our own socials. It just builds a really nice community.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, and the authenticity if you've got a relationship, yeah, it makes it a lot stronger. The ambassador pro we were talking about it years ago, where you need ambassadors rather than just somebody. That's pay-to-play, like you say, because a lot of the people the influencers used to just get paid to just post something. Then they move on to the next thing and they can have competitors and all sorts of things. So what do the influencers do for you then? What sort of stories are they telling? How do they make interesting content? How do they make it interesting?

Speaker 2:

So we have different influencers that relate to some of the different life stages that we know that people buy from us on. So, you know, we might have a home move, we might have a new mum, we might have someone who's recently had kids that have flown the nest. So we'll basically brief them on what our seasonal content plan is at the point. We might brief them on a key product launch, we might brief them on something that we know we need to change our perception on. So, you know, last, last year I'll take something really simple last year, um, we wanted to do something around king's coronation but we don't. We don't have, you know, the luxury of probably going oh, let's go get a shoe and let's get this and let's, you know, pay a videographer and a photographer. You know it becomes really costly for quite a very time sensitive post.

Speaker 2:

So we actually briefed the influencer teams to go. We want to get in touch of this cultural moment. We want something that we can post during that period. Can you ultimately create our content for us that we can then post out?

Speaker 2:

So we use them for cultural relevance and seasonal stuff that ultimately would have cost us loads of money to do a full shoot on ultimately would have cost us loads of money to do a full shoot on um or we will, um, give them a brief that goes we've got a product launch and we want you to kind of take this angle of it, to kind of talk about this benefit of the product launch. And we've had influencers where, like motorized for example, they um, they woke their kids up because the kids wouldn't wake up. So they did this funny little video of them opening the blinds from outside the door so the sun would come in and wake up the child, so it was like you know I'm using Hillary to help wake my kid up, because they just sleep through the morning without them, so there's really kind of like nuances that they can pick up on.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, nice, I like your strategy, by the way. I think, it's bang on is what you're talking about there. Having direct interaction with the influencers sounds really useful and you're going to get a better result from that. What sort of level of influencers are you using there? Are they like? Are they nano, micro?

Speaker 2:

It's a real mixture, you know. So we've probably again looking, I always say, over the past so many years. But we started working with people like George Clark, you know, when we did H homes on four sponsorship, so that kind of was our oh, we need a big influencer to help support this, this brand activity we've. We've now got to the point where we've gone. We've got some that might have two or three thousand followers. We've got some that might have 20, we've got some that might have have 50 or 60 um, and I think what we've kind of found is that it's, you know and I'm going to probably repeat everything that people say it's not about the followers, it's about the engagement and it's about kind of the audience that they've got. So we will find people that we will look at and go. They are primed for. They talk about stuff that we know our customers are interested in. We know that that's the reason people buy from from hillary's um, and if they've got 5 000 or 10 000,000 followers, it doesn't matter to us, it's the stories that they're telling.

Speaker 2:

But in reality we're on the full spectrum and we've also got influencers that we now call ourselves partners with, which have people like Abigail Ahern, who started as an influencer. We made some collaborative content with her. She now has two product collections with us. So we've moved her through that kind of journey of going create some content. You know, at that point it was about don't be afraid of the dark. It was released around Halloween. We did some stuff around it's okay to use dark interiors in your home, don't be scared of them. Over the course of you know, five, six, seven years, we've now released two collections with her. We've done a full product launch, full PR campaign around it and she's kind of gone from one end all the way to the other.

Speaker 1:

That's really interesting. And how often do you? Are you constantly updating your ambassador program or adding to it, or is it you kind of look at it 12 months, or how does that work? So we have a?

Speaker 2:

we call them the interior squad. Now that is a name coined by our PR manager and, like I said, you know she's got to take a lot of credit for this. You know it was her idea and her conception of how she wanted to pull this together. So we had six last year. We've now doubled that this year. So you know it's a big, you know, increase in investment for us, but we see the huge benefit from it. You know increasing investment for us, but we see the huge benefit from it.

Speaker 2:

You know we not only see great content that comes from it. You know engagement rate is better, net sentiment score on social is better. We see things like cost per asset. So what would normally cost us, you know, quite a bit to do a big photo shoot. We can turn that around quite quickly and then when we use that content, other channels can benefit from it and that ultimately makes them more effective. So you know the beauty of kind of this ambassador network now is that they are an incredible face for the brand and they're producing stuff that everyone can benefit from.

Speaker 3:

You're using them as content creators, as the very reason for your being, rather than using your in-house guys, so it's saving you money, isn't it?

Speaker 2:

It's saving us money and it's, you know, if I put myself it's coming from a customer. You know, I think again, probably a massive learning I kind of take over my years is going no one knows the customer better than the customer. So trying to come up with a, you know concept or story or something that feels like you're trying to be someone, you're not, I think people can see through it now really really quite a bit. And if you try and even just down to humor like people have different variations of humor as a brand trying to be humorous, if you don't land that in the right way, you know it's going to fall flat with your customers, whereas these ambassadors and these influencers, they get what's funny to their audience. So letting them just drive what's funny, what's humorous, is going to land so much better than us trying to do it for them and just give them a piece of content I think that point you make around the.

Speaker 1:

You know the cost and a lot of brands sometimes that we speak to, they they underestimate that and they they consider the I suppose, the upfront initial influencer investment as a huge chunk of money, which it is, and but that added value that you get from content that you don't have to test because they do all the testing with their content day in, day out, with their audiences.

Speaker 1:

They know what works, they know, you know even from as oh, I wouldn't place that here, I'd move it further down in the edit because I know that this will get hit, you know, and all of that expert knowledge that they have from their audience that they talk to every day is invaluable really. When it comes to, let alone, the site, you know the cost of, you know the crew and the videography and you know the production side. I think the way that you look at it there is really insightful and I think you know could be. You could get a lot from that because it does. You can underestimate the impact that you get from cost saving, from working with people who are experts in what they do on a regular basis.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, we could literally clip that video and play it to people. Do you want influencer marketing? Because this is what it can do for you. You know, because people just see it, as like Vic says, as a cost, but actually it's a cost and a benefit. There's loads of benefits to it.

Speaker 2:

And you know, even down to things like you know SEO. Now the whole trust element of eat and stuff is going. You know how do you build credibility? Well, you work with people who, if you do it right, if you're able to then integrate that content more and more in your own activity, you can build that seo before like trust value. So you know, it's I. I think if I look at some of the stuff that we've done with influencers now, it used to sit on its side. It used to be influencer marketing. It's a brand awareness bit.

Speaker 2:

It's part of PR. That's what we do, you know. If I take us back to recently with the Global and Future Partnership I was just talking about, we used three influencers in that activity to join the dots between PR influencers. And then the partnership stuff we were doing and the activity then felt like it was one. Everything we were doing felt like it was one rather than. And the activity then felt like it was one. Everything we were doing felt like it was one Rather than it kind of going oh, we'll use, you know talent, that heart or future can get us.

Speaker 2:

No, we'll use our own, because then it builds that better link.

Speaker 3:

Okay, cool. And then the final story you've shared with us. Do you want to tell us a bit about your VOD activity?

Speaker 2:

Yes, my VOD, a more recent one, shall recent's good, yeah, and, and I think again that's a, that's a kind of mindset. You know, I I try and encourage the team where we are. Test and learn failure's okay. You've just got to keep making learnings from it because, you know, in a world where we are constantly having to adapt to technology like we're talking about ai just before you know, without testing it, you're not going to know where the benefits are. So VOD was one of those things for us. We've always done video on demand as part of our brand activity with TV, but we wanted to do something different. We wanted to target specific audiences with our video on demand and it's not new, you know. You look at jet 2, for example. They do a really great addressable video on demand piece. Uh, we wanted to look at that too.

Speaker 2:

Um, and I suppose the the big thing for us was really making sure we targeted the right people. Um, if I fast forward now to where we are now, um, the people we thought we were targeting were maybe not the people that were actually being targeted, and the the bit for me is going. It's just about doing that due diligence, because I think there are multiple things that get sold as a oh. You can target these people and we know about these people. We know about these people. But when you kind of end up scrutinizing it more and more, you understand maybe is the data set as robust as we thought it was originally? Um, and it's the same with things like uplift studies. You know, I'm a big believer that.

Speaker 2:

You know, uplift studies are a great tool to prove the value of certain things, but if it's like self-declared versus if it's actually a control and expose give you two very different variations of whether it's actually beneficial or not, and I think it's some of this stuff with the data and the VOD is probably a prime example of going self-declared people versus actual people. Do you know the difference? Do you know who you're actually targeting? Do you know which pot you're in? Because what you think you might be targeting might not actually be who you are targeting in that way.

Speaker 1:

I like how refreshing you are talking about these failures, because they are actually really insightful and it actually brings to life the company I'm taking I'm getting from what you're saying the company, hillary's, that you work for, or you know, the wider company. They take on board those you know, because a lot of people might be like god, I've done this wrong. I've spent a lot of time and investment on that and you know there might be a fear allocated to that, but it seems like they're quite progressive in terms of we've tested it. It hasn't worked, let's move on and try something else.

Speaker 2:

Do you know what? It's a great company and I think when I started at Hillary's, I was expecting, you know, I had a perception of probably what a lot of people have mind's man who comes through the door. It's leaflets through the door. That's what you know over the last 50 odd years. That's what's been built on getting in, I realized how much you know progressive thinking there was and it for me, it's really about going. It's okay to. It's okay to fail at things as long as you've kind of done some of the upfront analysis or upfront data to go to go.

Speaker 2:

There's a proposal there that, yeah, we might not know what the answer is right now, but if you've done enough due diligence, that's fine. I think that's probably the example with the VOD, where you look at it and go. You know we did as much due diligence as we could do, you know. But the learning probably going forward is what more could we have done? What more scrutiny could we have done? And that's again a huge testament to the 70 of us in the marketing team at Hillary's. There's 70 of us in the marketing team at Hillary's and there's even more as we start to think about some of the other brands that we work across and it's driving that mindset that it's okay to keep testing and learning, pushing the boundaries. Step change, try things differently. Just make sure you're learning from it and taking it into the next piece you might do.

Speaker 3:

I've got one last question. Obviously, you've been on the show. Now you know what we ask, the sorts of questions that we ask. If you were us, who's the next person you'd get on this show?

Speaker 2:

Oh, my God.

Speaker 3:

I ask everyone that, and everyone does exactly the same noise.

Speaker 2:

He tries to think about someone.

Speaker 3:

Do you?

Speaker 2:

know what? I am always a big fan fan and he's absolutely everywhere. But it probably doesn't surprise me, is people like Rory Sutherland.

Speaker 3:

I knew you were going to say Rory Sutherland, you're the third person to say Because?

Speaker 2:

I just think you know the approach he takes is on trying to get people to think differently. But also the way that his stories around why brands did things and people think they did it for one reason, but actually they did it for another reason, I think is always really insightful. But, like I said, I think probably a lot of people say that.

Speaker 3:

Well, rory, not yet I think I will do. Yeah, at some point Rory's got his own podcast and everywhere he's written a load of books.

Speaker 2:

Everyone wants Rory, Everyone yeah.

Speaker 3:

And he's on TikTok, to be fair. So I will drop him a message and see if he wants to come on. We'll get him on at some point. I'm coming for you, Rory. Yeah, thanks for coming on the show. If people want to get in contact with you, how can they find you?

Speaker 2:

Easiest thing is probably on just LinkedIn, just from a professional point of view, um, you know, from just from a professional point of view. Um, I think just drop me a note on linkedin. It's just christopher mccartney. You'll find me probably wearing this jumper in the profile picture, so it'll be really easy links to know it's me, um, and then, yeah, just drop me a note, I'm surprised you come down in hillary's.

Speaker 3:

Uh, brand new, brand new rail.

Speaker 2:

The blind behind, yeah, yeah, exactly showcases that they take into into christmas thank you for listening to Socially Unacceptable.

Speaker 1:

Please remember to subscribe to the podcast and leave us a five-star review. Don't forget to follow us on social media on Instagram, tiktok and LinkedIn at Prohibition PR, and Twitter at Socially UA. We would love to hear some of your career fuck-ups so we can share them on the show. For more information on the show, search Prohibition PR in your search engine and click on podcasts. Until next time, please keep pushing the boundaries and embracing the socially unacceptable.

Marketing Mistakes and Lessons Learned
Ministry of Sound
Chris' F*ck Up
Chris' Second F*ck Up
In-Depth Marketing Strategy Discussion
The Power of Influencer Marketing
Targeted Video on Demand Marketing Discussions
Contacting Christopher on LinkedIn