4 questions I’ve asked myself since the return of #BlackLivesMatter

In the days and weeks following #BlackOutTuesday – a social media initiative to post black squares to encourage people to focus on the issues surrounding Black Lives Matter – my algorithm updates have significantly evolved from roaring rage to barely there.

In some ways I’m slightly relieved. When everyone’s talking at once it’s hard to know which voices are the most credible, as well as who’s invested in continuing the conversation long-term.

Change can’t happen in this space overnight because it’s so personal. Yes, we’re all working towards one, shared goal. But, #BlackLivesMatter is a hashtag that carries so many highly-sensitive experiences, underpinned by socio-economic inequalities, that in order to make improvements we need to question ourselves and develop confidence in our own narrative before we can work together at closing the gap.

Emoji hand fist in various skin tones to showcase diversity,

I’ve been on social media long enough to know that people get irate about race once in a while, throwing their arms up in the air because of the lack of diversity in education, workplace and the media. And, it’s always a welcome reminder. But, personally, it’s the conversation that’s happening one week, one month or even one year later that I find more intriguing.

We’ve seen statues fall with ease, but don’t statutes make the real difference?

What’s been personally challenging for me during this time is the worry that friends, family and colleagues will automatically categorise my mixed race heritage as the lead factor of my identity – when that’s not how I necessarily define myself. It’s just one section of my identity and for someone else to make that decision for me, undermines who I am and how I want to be perceived.

I like the idea that our intersectionality can ebb and flow based on how we’re feeling at any given time. I’m in charge of me, after all.

That said, since the rise in #BlackLivesMatter conversation, here are a few questions I’ve been asking myself:

Do brands actually understand the importance of integrity?

It’s easy to issue a social media post to stand in solidarity during times like this. But, earlier this month brands were positioning themselves more than just allies; they were making firm statements to do and be better. Yet, quite quickly, the major players – such as NikeSpotify and L’Oréal Paris – were pulled up for having all-white board members.

Even if brands could justify the decision-making process for every white board member present (and lack of BAME representation), they would’ve missed the point. To consumers it doesn’t feel right and, off the back of posting a black square, it implies hypocrisy.

Now, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategies and positive discrimination is a blog for another day. But, in essence, before grand gestures of empowerment can be used to ‘win’ customers over, brands really need to think about their organisational make-up, history and digital footprint. Maybe a better place to start is by explaining their role in the movement, outlining who they’re listening to (to guide them on this issue), or issuing a heartfelt apology to show how serious they are about progression.

All of this comes before trying to smooth over the sales pipeline as part of a tick-box exercise. Which, coincidentally, includes ‘throwing money at the issue’. It helps, but it won’t go away as a result of one-off donations.

Getting it ‘right’ takes time. For the record I don’t think any brand that tried to speak out got it right. If they felt they had to back the hashtag in the first place, it implies their customers can’t clearly interpret their inclusive brand values through their marketing or operations all-year round. A major case of organisational ‘imposter syndrome’ was certainly snowballing.

As a result of sitting back and waiting with integrity, brands may miss out on hashtag opportunities. But, that’s fine because protecting and advocating the Black Community is not an opportunity to win points.

Will Marcus Rashford’s campaign success encourage more athletes to speak out?

Anyone who has the commitment and dedication to pressure the government to redirect its funding to continue the free school meals initiative this summer, benefitting up to 1.3m children, is OK in my book. And 22-year-old Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford accomplished exactly that this week – just before the revival of the Premier League. (So, he’s not only an activist but he’s also got excellent project management skills.)

Footballer Marcus Rashford wearing red t-shirt clapping hands while on football pitch.

He’s now part of a cohort of Black British athletic activists, which includes Raheem Sterling, Anthony Joshua and Dina Asher-Smith, who are happy to use the pitch, ring and track as a part-time platform to speak out on issues, call out injustices and influence fans. But, they’re doing it in an incredibly authentic and heartfelt way by focusing their campaigns on their experiences.

They’re great spokespeople for change because they’re used to performing under pressure and don’t deviate from the end goal. Although Marcus was working closely with FareShare to achieve his aims, it was his story, his reality and his face the Government would have to deny – along with the BAME community who continue to live on the poverty line.

So, while Joe Wicks’ was our sporting saint at the start of lockdown, blessing us all with gift of exercise, it’s Rashford who will hopefully see us through to the other side – fuelling young people to face the day and giving them a fighting chance against their peers.

Is it OK to lead from the back on this issue?

With just 4% of Marketing Week’s Career and Salary Survey 2020 respondents identifying as mixed-race (compared to 88% who identified as white), it’s misleading to state that the industry has a race problem. It’s had a race problem for a long time; the sector has just been satisfied to report on the facts without encouraging change.

It’s not just a case of introducing more people of colour into the workplace; it’s also about creating a positive working culture that enables people to have constructive, yet occasionally uncomfortable, conversations that uncover solutions for how everyone can up their game.

That said, it’s important to acknowledge that not every person of colour will want to lead the charge in this area, nor have all the answers. As much as I value a safe, working environment (and appreciate the opportunity to have some influence in this space), I shouldn’t feel a weight of responsibility to inherit an organisational issue as my personal passion project. My front-line encompasses a lot of areas and it’s more than the 9am to 5pm.

Band-Aid fan of diverse skin tone shade plasters against blue background.

How much longer until I can blend my body in with fashion?

Nude shoes, nude tights and nude underwear to match my skin tone is still considered a luxury item, stocked by exclusive department stores. So, not only do I have to go out of my way to get what I want, but I also have to spend more. (Yet, statistically, I’m more likely to earn less. Go figure?) Yet, I’ve never appreciated that this is a form of systemic racism within the industry.

But, it’s not just fashion that risks ‘dehumanising’ BAME customers – plasters are hurting people too.

Some brands have already made waves in this area, but Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid brand used the recent movement to pledge a range of plasters in various skin tones to support the fight against racism (after discontinuing a similar attempt in the past.)

When I’m expected to fit into the same box as everyone else, but not treated the same as everyone else, life can get tiring. I deserve the opportunity to feel at home in my own skin – and that includes my right to camouflage my cuts, bumps and bruises.

All comments expressed are my humble opinion and I’m always open to learning more. Start a conversation with me using the comments or tweet me on @dmhwhite.

Is your marketing team eating content for breakfast?

Earlier this month, when it was socially acceptable to be outside of the house and mingling with others at a conference (gasp!), I took part in a panel discussion on creating killer content.

Addressing marketing, communications and digital professionals in the third sector, the Charity Digital team asked me to share strategic advice and top tips to stay ahead of the content curve. So, here they are:

Creating content is like eating breakfast

You wouldn’t skip the most important meal of the day, would you? OK, well you shouldn’t! The truth is, we’re all content creators, whether we like it or not. If you have a smartphone in your back pocket, you’re (practically) qualified for a role in content production – whether that’s in front of the camera or behind it.

So, why doesn’t it seem that easy? It’s down to marketing leaders to embed a positive content culture within organisations and start to become comfortable with rough cut edits – and it all starts with confidence on both sides of the table.

Set informal team challenges through content apps such as Seenit; start a YouTube channel to share insights and learning from the sector (check out Bloom & Wild’s Code & Wild technology and culture blog); and continuously recognise good examples of ‘homegrown’ content to encourage people to produce more.

You’ll develop good habits, like producing content at pace and eating your breakfast everyday.

Why watch content when you can wear it

We’re entering a content revolution. Traditionally, the age-old marketing question was: ‘Can you create a video’? This brought its own challenges, mainly because by the time this question had been asked a plan had already been formed (usually without any marketing budget.) So, you were at the mercy of a one paragraph content brief to create something that needed Oscar-winning potential.

But, now there are so many more forms of content to embrace – and I don’t just mean podcasts. Action for Children, End Youth Homelessness and The Prince’s Trust have all launched t-shirt collaborations (designed with influencers, illustrators and beneficiaries) to connect with audiences in a new way.

Although the view count is far lower on a t-shirt, the positive conversations and repeated wear makes it a great way for brand ambassadors to connect with the general public.

Remember that stats don’t tell the whole story

‘How many people watched that video?’ is a question that frequently gets asked when it comes to evaluation season. But, marketers know the true answer is much more complex. Are you interested in three-second views or completed views? Or does the success of your content lie in engagement or acquisition?

There are always a lot of numbers to work through but it’s important to retain a healthy sense of perspective and not to get too disheartened if it’s not what you expected. Content creation is a marathon, not a sprint (learning the latest algorithm trends are!) But your content was made to live forever.

Make opportunities to refine content by testing it with sample audiences (focus groups, panel discussions, office polls etc) and leverage the right partners in your network to sustain momentum.

And don’t forget, in a world where we’re all keen to publish, it takes an incredibly strong marketer to know when it’s right to hold content back. Timing is everything.

Scripts are for Spielberg

‘I’ve single-handedly written a great script,’ said no one ever. Great content is a team effort, unless you really are Spielberg. Not only to ensure that what you produce doesn’t fall tone deaf on society!

But, more than this, when story boarding and scripting content it’s important to remain flexible and be prepared to ‘murder your darlings’. This is one of the only ways to invite the people you’re working with to be their authentic selves (using their slang and mannerisms etc). And it’s this relatability factor that is the difference between a video being seen and enjoyed.

That’s not forgetting the need to warm people up too before alerting them to the ‘on air’ red button. For most people, cameras are daunting and the thought of being ‘pitch perfect’ makes them nervous. So, invest as much time as possible in briefing them in and out of the studio – as well as continuing to keep the camera rolling after interviewing. Sometimes that’s when the best content is discovered.

This list only begins to scratch the surface when it comes to content. Share yours in the comments below.

What Nike’s co-founder taught me about developing high-performing teams

I’m a few years late to the party, but this week I finished Phil Knight’s memoir Shoe Dog. It’s the telling of a story where the ending is the world’s worst-kept secret. Because everyone knows where Nike, co-founded by Knight, ends up. On the track, field and commuter trails of millions across the globe. But I’ve never known or appreciated this iconic brand’s humble beginnings before.

Shoe Dog bookSomething that stood out to me while reading in detail how ‘Buck’ established his company is his unwavering entrepreneurial spirit and belief. Numerous times he put his livelihood, and that of many of his employees, on the line to give the company the best chance of success.

Cash flow issues weren’t fully resolved until the company finally went public in 1980 (coincidentally, the same week as Apple.)

But Knight felt able to take risks because he recognised that his team were equally passionate about the company’s potential.

 

Here’s how I believe he achieved the fine leadership feat of inspiring people on a journey to a shared vision.

Draw on your strengths

Knight recognised that confidence was needed to bring employees on a tumultuous journey. When he was running low on his own reserves, he drew strength by ‘borrowing’ it from one of his trusted teammates. As a result, he demonstrated a deep value for them; involving them democratically in the detailed decisions that needed to be made daily to ensure the company thrived.

From brainstorming company names and deciding on logos to innovating running technology, team members may have specialised in certain areas but when it mattered, they came together. They had one leader, but everyone had a voice.

In the early days success was in no way guaranteed, but as a collective they understood that if Nike was going to fail, it was going to fail on its own terms.

Share what you know

Knight includes stories of the frequent trips he made to Asia to meet with manufacturers, including Japan, China and Taiwan. As the culture is very different, he made sure to take colleagues away with him to show them the ropes. He also emphasised that the best way to reinforce your knowledge is to share it.

By explaining the ways of working, including the nuances of dealing with different firms, he not only gave himself confidence that he knew what he was talking about, but also up-skilled others.

Invest in training

Even when going public Nike was able to retain its unique start-up culture because Knight took the time to cultivate its management team to become future leaders. Investing in training was a long game, compared to hiring external candidates, but what it cost in patience eventually paid out.

External leaders didn’t ‘gel’ with the company’s ethos, but in the future Nike was able to seize the right type of opportunities through the people who lived and breathed the brand.

Don’t say thank you

Something which struck me was Knight’s decision, despite being full of thanks to his team, was not to overtly praise two colleagues for ‘switching’ locations on either side of the US. Later, Knight follows this up by saying that his regular praise ‘sound bite’ to colleagues was, simply: ‘not bad’.

At first, it seems that Knight is simply unapologetic when it comes to the cause. He’s already got the passionate ‘buy in’, so he’s not ‘wasting’ emphasis on encouraging the heart. However, later, he explains that his management style is plain.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and be surprised by their results.”

His lack of praise isn’t synonymous with a lack of enthusiasm. He’s simply demonstrating an authoritative leadership style. Here’s the vision, here’s the tools. Now deliver. Once you’ve delivered, give me more.

This level of autonomy for the right type of people is highly beneficial for inducing a creative workforce that can clearly see the impact their work is having. Needless to say, no one asked him for a pay rise during these early years. Money simply didn’t matter; just the product.

Nike advertising example

Trust to say the right thing at the right time

More than autonomy, Knight also have his staff space. It was refreshing to read that he didn’t feel obligated, albeit slightly guilty, to respond to each piece of correspondence that one of his first faithful full-time sales colleague sent to him each day.

In his memoir he recalls receiving letters with ideas, updates, questions and thought starters. Without knowing how to respond, as he was focused on his own project goals, Knight let the letters build up. He then continued to receive more asking why he wasn’t answering; almost pleading. The sheer volume left Knight feeling intimidated and that meant the silence continued.

In the long term, it didn’t harm their working relationship. The ‘silent treatment’ spurred the colleague, Johnson, on to continue building upon his ideas which eventually turned into trainer designs.

In time, they learnt to appreciate each other’s working styles and Knight made sure to invest face-to-face time with Johnson when it mattered.

It’s important to remember that those were posted letters. The digitised culture we work in today means we’re made to feel that there’s little to no excuse for not responding – and quickly.

But this anecdote has inspired me to take my time. When there’s something important to say, say it. A positive response rate is not always equal to trust and respect. A valuable response will suffice – and just maybe your team will appreciate the space to develop and thrive.

What will you do differently? Whatever you decide, just do it.

Every body has a reason to get healthy. It’s called January

There’s nothing more refreshing then slam-dunking people who ask you what your 2019 aims / goals / resolutions are by telling them you don’t have any. They tend to look at you, head tilted with confusion, trying to work out how you’ve managed to escape the mandatory ‘new year, new you’ mantra.

The truth is I’m happy. I’m so content that I could barely find the words to articulate myself to friends recently (probably because the term’s been so far from my vocabulary since my student days).

OK. So, I wouldn’t say no to becoming fitter, getting a buzz out of eating vegetables and learning new skills. But, I’m not going to upset myself trying to achieve these things either.

Instead, I’m going to find ways to naturally weave them into the activities that genuinely make me smile so they organically become part of me – the things I want to do.

And that’s the exact direction I feel WW (Weight Watchers is so 2018) is headed with its latest campaign: For Every Body.

Launched at the tail end of last year and supported by Oprah and Robbie Williams, it highlights that everyone has a reason to want to be healthier. But, its campaign doesn’t labour on food (or lack of). Instead, it celebrates health and wellness; recognising that these positive habits are what enable people to be the best version of themselves.

 

 

 

The campaign video is upbeat, fast paced and a showcase of everyday people’s accomplishments – occasionally highlighting the amount of weight lost by an individual. But WW is also careful not to define them by this.

 

It’s not about what they’ve done; it’s about what they can do as a result of their new lifestyle – in homage to the approachable and inclusive #ThisGirlCan movement.

Using Robbie as a brand ambassador is a smart move. Not only does it enable WW to capitalise on his 2.59m Twitter followers (which has helped the campaign video he posted on Boxing Day generate over 34,000 views), but also helps to change people’s perceptions of what WW is all about.

Robbie is a maverick. He doesn’t play by the rules and you certainly can’t imagine him counting calories and dieting. It’s just not the lifestyle rock stars were made for. But, he does bring a lot of energy to the campaign and is a great role model and advocate for positive mental health, encouraging people to take the next step.

As part of the brand’s refresh, there’s no more ‘sign up’ or ‘join now’ language on WW’s website. Users are urged to ‘Commit to change like Robbie’ where they can find out how they fit into this global community. Small and subtle changes, but inspiring none-the-less.

This is starting to sound like an organisation I can get on board with.

It’ll be interesting to see how the results translate into genuine, long-term sign ups. After all, however much a company wants to make an impact on the population’s wellness, it can’t operate without subscription fees.

At the moment, WW UK’s marketing emphasis has been on securing TV advertising spots for the campaign – notably within ITV’s showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens last week and its ambassadors’ online endorsements. WW UK’s Twitter channel has generated fewer than 2,000 video views, which is less than 10x the success of its US counterpart (which isn’t in proportion to its follower count).

So sustaining momentum is vital for the brand to remain relevant. This is easy to achieve in January with transformational success stories and quick win nutritional advice at a time when people need motivation to step away from the leftovers. And, as the ultimate authority on healthy eating, it instantly carries a lot of credibility.

But, it’s the campaign’s holistic wellness approach that will turn heads post January: tempting people like me, living without goals, to make empowering lifestyle tweaks to live well, indefinitely.

Here’s to a great 2019!

Enjoy a Prime Time classic by checking out this Weight Watchers’ social media cafe blog post from 2014.

Reversible poetry reveal violent Christmas scenes

Just being surrounded by mince pies makes me feel lardy. Then I think about the number of Milk Tray chocolates, muffins and cups of tea laden with sugar I’ve consumed just to get me to this point in December (don’t judge, it’s been incredibly busy) and I feel nauseous.

During this month, I’ve also had my fill of festive ‘buy now’ marketing campaigns – including John Lewis and Elton John, Sky Cinema and Cassette Boy and Lidl’s Kevin the Carrot. So, it’s refreshing when you stumble across a project that’s puts Christmas into perspective.

I don’t know about you but in my house statements such as, “I’ve bought you another Christmas present today” is followed by a tragic sigh as it means someone has to brave the high street once again to find something we can justify that each other will make use of. Note – we don’t even have to like it. Just use it. Once. For me… please?

During this peak time for selling high-end gifts and luxurious lifestyles, only charities could use this season as an opportunity to humble the general public when we start to get too carried away.

So, it’s no surprise that I’ve been touched by Refuge’s hard-hitting Christmas campaign, developed pro bono by McCann Bristol, that seeks to raise awareness of domestic violence through poetry.

Refuge's Auld Lang Syne reversible poem

Read from top to bottom the collection of three poems denote a loving family-filled scene. But, as soon as you read them the other way, it reveals the horrific reality for the one in four women who experience this situation in their lifetime.

As a result, the charity is calling on women to turn to the organisation if their partner turns on them.

What’s great about this advert series is that the creative team behind it recognises that the poetic words are powerful enough to allow the viewer or reader to develop their own imagery. After all, our own imaginations are always much darker and chilling. But, with statistics this high, it’s just as worrying how easy it may be for individuals to see themselves or loved ones between the lines.

But, between the impactful press, radio and OOH campaign media types, has Refuge focused too much on outreach, over donations and other forms of support – particularly when people are in the spirit of giving? With a subtle and small call to action, it’s very much down to consumers to take the prompt to get involved and drive change.

For example, the campaign could have benefited hugely from a microsite that gives people opportunities to understand the signs and indicators of domestic abuse and how to engage sensitively in conversation with potential victims.

This support could literally be the difference between life and death.

Refuge's Christmas Eve reversible poem

By doing so, this campaign would begin to reduce any stigma around domestic violence and how to support loved ones, by understanding what to do for the best, and when – without making situations worse.

Overall, it’s made me realise that Christmas is more than just creating a cosy atmosphere; it’s about reaching out to others and making sure you’re creating safe spaces for friends and family to confidently open up to you, no matter what.

And, even if you believe this isn’t relevant for you or your connections, there’s one thing you can do this Christmas. Share, give or get involved to emphasise the severity of domestic violence > www.refuge.org.uk

Merry Christmas Prime Timers!

Are brands failing to represent women in ad campaigns?

In the same week that new research revealed that London women feel excluded from the capital’s advertising, the likes of Reebok, Jordan Brand and Calvin Klein have launched empowering campaigns. But, do they hit the spot?

City Hall and University College London recently surveyed 2,000 women and found that just 26% of adverts in London were relevant to them (for example, either their body size wasn’t reflected or women were over-sexualised in revealing clothing). Compare this to over 55s and more than half simply feel invisible.

So, the Mayor of London (cue the obligatory Sadiq swoon) is offering £500,000 of free digital OOH advertising across TfL’s network to the brand with the best pitch that will challenge gender stereotypes and reflect the city’s rich diversity, as part of the new Women We See initiative.

This isn’t just a lock, stock and two smoking barrels tactic to ensure controversial brands like Protein World don’t slip through the net again. Remember that ‘Beach Body Ready?’ campaign that went down like a lead balloon?

This is about credibly bringing ethnic and LGBT+ female minorities to the forefront of campaigns to represent everyone.

Calvin Klein Women

Calvin Klein Women fragrance campaign

CK’s Instagram advertising campaign to launch its new fragrance features Lupita Nyong’o and Saoirse Ronan, alongside the iconic women who have helped shape their identities. From Eartha Kitt to Katherine Hepburn, the project oozes class, glamour and strength in a very credible, authentic and natural way.

Not only do Lupita and Saoirse seem incredibly natural in the marketing assets, but they also help denote that this is more than just pushing product; it’s about recognising individuality.

  • Diversity rating (culture, ethnicity, age): 3/5. Not only a good ethnic mix, but it also makes reference to iconic women through the ages. However the celebrities are young and don’t necessarily relate to older women. But, there is no reason why the campaign couldn’t be followed up with different ambassadors.
  • Observations: Just like the fragrance, it’s refreshing to be served with light, uncluttered imagery, with messages that don’t ‘over sell’. This subtle approach works, and makes those who interact with it feel like they’re in safe hands.
  • Prime Time rating: 4/5

Jordan x Vogue

Jordan Brand x Vogue collection

Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour has signed off two iconic Jordan Brand sneakers (with another in the pipeline for September) as part of the brand’s first ever women’s-only collection.

Inspired by Ms Wintour’s signature suits and sunglasses, the product features a soft leather upper, a sexy zip down the tongue and the ‘AWOK’ moniker (for Anna Wintour OK, her sign off on editorial content) on the sole and tongue. For colour schemes, women can currently opt for a bold red version or traditional white / ivory edition – both of which come with an ‘edited by Vogue’ tag.

  • Diversity rating (culture, ethnicity, age): 2/5. Jordan is doing what Jordan does best – letting the trainers do all the talking. The short video featuring Anna Wintour is mildly amusing but the storyboard seems slightly unbelievable and stifled. Anna may be iconic but as a white, upper class high-powered female, she certainly doesn’t represent all women.
  • Observations: The brands on their own are very self-indulgent. There is no ‘do good’ element here. So much so, a portion of the profits will actually be going to Vogue, according to the press release’s vague description. Women may champion these brands, but will quickly recognise that the campaign only goes skin deep.
  • Prime Time rating: 5/5 (Jordan) 2/5 (campaign)

 

Reebok: Be More Human

Ariana Grande for Reeboks #BeMoreHuman campaign

Reebok is supporting women’s charities – The Movemeant Foundation and The Women’s Strength Coalition – through its latest Be More Human campaign, featuring chart dominator Ariana Grande, millennial model Gigi Hadid and Wonder Woman Gal Gadot.

Through a series of films and creative used to promote 10 limited edition shirts featuring a message from one of the brand’s ambassadors, the campaign inspires others to be their ‘best self’. And, unlike Vogue which will be taking a portion of the Jordan sales for itself, Reebok is committed to donated 100% of the purchase price to charity, to be split equally.

What I like about this campaign, is that it gives fans another way to participate in the campaign mission by donating in sweat. For those who post a work out selfie using the #BeMoreHuman hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, Reebok will make a further donation to the charities.

  • Diversity rating (culture, ethnicity, age): 4/5. Yes, the campaign piques consumers’ interest with the A-listers, but the sports brand has been wise enough to include a diverse range of influencers on this campaign. These individuals include: Reese Scott, Founder of Women’s World of Boxing; Shannon Kim Wagner, Founder of the Women’s Strength Coalition; and Jenny Gaither, Founder and CEO of Movemeant Foundation – further proof that the brand is committed to celebrating women’s strength in all forms.
  • Observations: Through its digital channels, Reebok is driving people to find out more about the charities its supporting, to drive change for women everywhere – creating a ripple effect much broader than the campaign itself.
  • Prime Time rating: 4/5

Do these advertising campaigns represent you? What makes you think twice about a campaign? Leave a comment below or tweet Prime Time on @dmhwhite.

adidas x Parley sustainability campaign steps up

While Nike has had its head turned by Nigerian World Cup football kit hysteria this month, rival adidas has quietly ensured it’s not ‘sold out’ to commercialism [entirely] – by launching its sustainable Parley range.

Working with Parley, a network organisation of leaders who purposefully come together to tackle ocean destruction, Adidas has co-created a clothing and footwear range made from upcycled waste found on beaches and coastal communities, intercepted before it reaches the oceans.

And, with every pair of trainers developed from approx. 11 plastic bottles and other sustainable elements, there’s no doubt that these kicks are environmentally friendly.

I’ve already seen an advertising takeover on this week’s Time Out magazine in London (front, back and inside covers), but the conscious brand which is committed to changing lives through sport, is doing more than just an ‘off the shelf’ marketing push for its ‘Run for the Oceans’ campaign – it’s creating a movement.

This Sunday (17th June 2018), adidas is hosting a one-mile closed road running route, starting from St Paul’s Cathedral, whereby participants can track their performance on the Runtastic app. All results will be tracked globally, with $1 donated to the Parley Ocean Plastic Programme for the first 1m kilometres run.

You do the maths. That’s a $1m investment straight up. This is responsive, behavioural changing PR.

But, don’t be too swayed. Prime Time is nothing if not cynical.

A new study by Media.com has revealed that over two thirds of consumers would pay more for environmentally-friendly products, and 60% also claimed they’d pay more to brands which ‘give back’. So, by adidas taking responsibility for its impact, the company is appealing to customers’ ‘buy good, feel good, do good’ nature – and can therefore justify up to £180 for a pair of Adizero Prime Ltd running shoes.

But, when CSR becomes a key selling point for products, how does this impact an organisation’s overarching marketing strategy? Is it possible to exhaust environmentally-friendly USPs? And, how will it look to consumers if adidas decides to dial up its investment in commercial campaigns over the coming months?

Fortunately, these are questions adidas doesn’t have to answer. The current leading ethical clothing company, according to Good On You, there’s no one to learn from – meaning there’s no other role to play apart from setting the agenda. And, that’s a good position for any brand to be in.

A six-point prayer to improve your leadership skills

Dame Sarah Mullally recently moved from Devon to take on one of the top jobs at St Paul’s as the 133rd Bishop of London. Last night, she took part in a Q&A at the iconic cathedral to discuss the role, her vision and the future of the church. Sarah wasn’t just highly engaging, but also came across as incredibly savvy. So much so, I’ve compiled her top six sound bites into effective leadership tips.

 

Whether you’re in PR, marketing, digital or an industry that’s rather left field (like shepherding flocks for example), these can apply – and, more importantly, add value to what you do day-to-day.

  1. You can’t fix everything by yourself: Look at who your current partners are to see how they can help you achieve your shared goals. Then, look at a wide spread of similar institutions (in this case, churches of all shapes and sizes) and find out what they can teach you (there’s always something, you just need to look hard enough), you can teach them and introduce skills-sharing initiatives to benefit all parties.
  2. Take time out to reflect: This uninterrupted time can give you the space you need to see how you can become the solution to your own problems. Sarah was referring to prayer. But, used well, quiet time is an opportunity to be transformed just as much as it is to develop ideas to transform the world.
  3. If you can’t change it, respect it. Then find a way around it: Sarah may have been talking about gender inequality within the church, but this is applicable elsewhere. Recognising that change can be slow, she encourages individuals to focus their energies on identifying the resources they personally have access to, to drive change. Ask yourself, ‘where’s my influence?’ and take action.
  4. Be open to change: Failure to listen and learn will prevent your organisation from evolving. Change is vital, yet hard fought so you need to be in it for the long run.
  5. If you’re too noisy, people won’t listen: AKA the classic ‘one mouth, two ears’ approach. To avoid falling into this trap invite other people’s voices into your projects – to genuinely help shape your ideas into something you might not have achieved on your own.
  6. You own the vision, but let the team help interpret how you get there: When asked how she perceived the church’s responsibility to balance the split between outreach and service, Sarah said she sees clergies across London finding their own way to achieve God’s vision to make disciples of all men and compassionately heal those in need. If your business priorities are of equal importance or, even worse, interdependent, let those on the shop floor decide what happens next. This will free you up to continue enabling and empowering them to do their jobs even more effectively.

After an enlightening evening, that’s my ‘divine’ interpretation of Sarah’s thoughts. A wise and inspirational woman, with a successful background in nursing, I firmly believe her advice is applicable beyond the pulpit and can help managers and future leaders everywhere, no matter what the sector.

Check out St Paul’s website to view the event film and listen to the Q&A podcast to hear it for yourselves.

Amen.