Brands bark for Year of the Dog

Finally a calendar date that truly speaks to me: Year of the Dog, baby!

I haven’t given my friends such a good laugh since the time I told them that my ‘plan B’ is to become a professional dog walker, groomer and hospitality entrepreneur (in that order) because it’d do wonders for my positive wellbeing. Logical, right? Our conversation went a little something like this:

 “How can you have a connection with dogs if you’ve never had your own?”

 “Well, I just smile at them when I’m running through the park and we sort of get each other.”

Cue laughter followed by short, sudden and sharp change of subject.

So, I write this blog, in celebration of Chinese New Year, in ‘plan A’ mode (digital marketing extraordinaire). So, if only to appeal to my penchant for pooches, it seems right that I share with you some of the biggest and best brand takeovers that shine a light on Year of the Dog.


Radley's Year of the Dog capsule collection

Luxury accessories brand Radley doesn’t do things by halves. So, is it really any surprise it’s creating a 10ft tall Scottie dog to celebrate the occasion this Sunday in Covent Garden, in celebration of its latest capsule collection featuring red leather and gold foil fabrics?

Handing out red envelopes containing shopping prizes, consumers are also being encouraged to share photos on social media using the #YearOfTheRadley hashtag for a chance to unlock even more goodies.

Radley’s not the only designer in town cashing in on the festivities. Almost every high-end brand (and their dog) is getting in on the action. Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton have both perfected a pooch collection too. Adorable and fun, the latter’s ‘New Year, New Tricks‘ collection is particularly classic, classy and timeless.


TWG Teas

According to the zodiac, those born this year are deemed to have serious and responsible characteristics. But, it’s not all prosperity and fortune. So, it makes sense to encourage those affected to slow down and have a nice cuppa to take it all in.

TWG Tea has launched its first Haute Couture Tea called The Breakfast Bulldog, which has sweet notes of red berries and caramel; best paired with eggs and bacon (apparently). Starting from $40, it’s definitely an investment.

Giorgio Armani

Armani Beauty Highlighter

It doesn’t hurt to step out the door feeling dog-gone good, does it? Which is why Armani Beauty has launched a limited edition Chinese New Year highlighter powder palette to mark the festive year of love and light.

Drawing upon the fact that dogs represent the best traits of human nature (steady now!) – loyalty, honesty and sociability – this dog embossed nude powder will empower you to face the day.

It’s great to see so many high-end labels take this calendar opportunity seriously, linked to a healthy and prosperous Asian market. Making bespoke collections is one thing, but choosing to invest in marketing campaigns and assets makes these examples really stand out.

What was your favourite Year of the Dog PR stunt? Leave a comment or tweet me on @dmhwhite.

Time To Talk Day: 3 brand campaigns that shout the loudest

It’s Time To Talk Day, a movement that shines a spotlight on the benefits of talking openly about mental health – and it’s never been more relevant.

It arrives just days after The Prince’s Trust launched its annual Youth Index report that revealed that young people’s happiness and confidence are at their lowest levels since the series began nine years ago, with one in four 16 to 25 year-olds feeling trapped and not in control of their lives.

Working within the youth charity’s digital marketing team, it’s a project that I’m proud to see my colleagues get behind and come up with creative ways to not only secure the headlines, but also communicate the positive success stories of how young people have found ways not to be defined by their past. But, rather, ‘owning’ their future with our support.

This year we worked with Hand Coded Studio to launch The Trust’s first ever Youth Index ‘Buzzfeed’ style quiz (it features emojis so I obviously signed it off right away) to engage young people to get beneath the statistics by answering questions about their current attitudes to their life and work. But, as this is part of our organisation’s everyday thought leadership exercise, what’s been even better is seeing multiple companies embrace this topic to inspire a culture shift in the way we approach positive wellbeing this ‘#FinallyFebruary‘ day.

Here’s a round-up of three of the best stand out #TimeToTalk campaign marketing highlights. Did you clock them?

PG tips (Cheap and cheerful, but effective)

The family tea brand has taken its iconic red and green brand colours to create an image of two mugs together (with the handles creating a heart ), while encouraging people to ‘pop the kettle on’ and ‘invite someone for a cuppa’ to start changing lives.

Simple, honest and true, it’s a credible (not to mention cost-effective) marketing opportunity for a brand synonymous with taking a step back, breathing in and talking things through. Bravo!

PG tips gets people talking

Everyman Cinema (CSR was never meant to be easy)

The Everyman brand knows how to do good cinema. It’s an experience from start to finish and not just because there’s no popcorn rolling around on the floor, sticky carpets and a talkative teenager on the back row.

So, it was a surprise to read that the Islington branch has taken the decision not to screen any films today, opting people to come into the cinema to talk instead. It’s a bold statement for any company to not do the one thing it’s known to be good at. I hope it has a positive impact across the chain (both internally and externally), motivating them to do more stunts in this space. A highly commendable effort!

Everyman Cinema bans movies

Lloyds Bank TV advert (Probably impossible without the support of Channel 4)

Featuring celebrity ambassadors (Professor Green, Alex Brooker and Rachel Riley to name a few), staff and members of the public playing ‘Who Am I?’, it’s no coincidence that this raw Diversity in Advertising award-winning advert (which complements the banking brand’s ‘By Your Side’ slogan) debuts on ‘Time to Talk’ Day, exploring the misconceptions of non-visible disabilities.

The campaign, which runs across the All 4 portfolio from this evening, is a stark reminder that everyone is affected (directly or indirectly) by mental health and that we all need to be comfortable and capable of maturely talking about these subjects if we’re going to lift others up. Well executed by Adam & Eve/DDB.

How do these tweets, adverts and stunts make you feel? Look around and see what your favourite brands are doing to put you first today.

If you spot some more examples, tweet me at @dmhwhite.

Airbnb positively invests in Trump’s outrageous remarks

If you weren’t impressed by Airbnb’s 2017 Super Bowl advertising spot, which demonstrated clear solidarity (and if not, why not?), then you should be ‘bowled over’ by its quick reactive PR and marketing stunt to further promote worldwide acceptance off the back of Trump’s recent distasteful and disgusting remarks about some American, Caribbean and African nations.


Why? Because Airbnb is investing $100,000+ on digital advertising to showcase the wonderful homes, communities and attractions El Salvador, Haiti, Kenya and Ghana have to offer – countries that have accounted for over 2.7m guests, staying in more than 75,000 rental properties, of which generated $170m in revenue last year.

It’s a beautiful piece of reactive digital marketing that shows once again why this innovative brand is not afraid to stick its stake in the ground and get political. After all, its #WeAccept Super Bowl ad spot was a direct response to the President’s travel ban – which saw tens of thousands of people affected.


So, when the s!*+ hits the fan, Airbnb felt that the only option was to go above and beyond to recognise these areas as ‘go-to destinations’.

It’s a bold approach that will not only denote these beautiful places to a global audience (via media channels such as the Washington Post and CNN), but also champion the communities that live there; empowering them to feel proud. Something everyone should have the right to experience.

“We heard there’s been some expletive-filled interest in these beautiful destinations” is the copy that will spearhead the campaign, while using glorious imagery of some properties. A few have already been cherry-picked by Airbnb’s chief executive Brian Chesky; suggesting that this is a top-down initiative which only adds to the authenticity of the project.

 A stance such as this can only blur, tarnish and weaken Trump’s (meaningless) soundbite. No, it won’t change his thoughts or impact his position. But, it will help restore the balance that the world is desperate to see.

He is one man. He does not speak for the majority. He does not speak for me. We will enjoy our world and the wonders it has to offer – by renting a unique nearby home or otherwise.

‘Even the Pope needs marketing support’ and four other digital updates

Hey, how are you doing? Done much over the past five months?

I’m afraid I wouldn’t know because, unfortunately, I’ve been hiding under my digital marketing desk (pretending to have it all together during the 9-5) and, as a result, I’ve not had / made time for my WordPress whirlpool of escapism – and, for that, I’m truly sorry.

I feel like a baby blogger all over again. So, to help shake off my stabilisers, I’m going to share the top five things I’ve learnt today as I get my head back into the likes of PR Week, The Drum, Campaign Live and JustGiving:

Even The Pope doesn’t have time to do his own comms strategy ⛪️
It’s not just me then. Although, I doubt I’d even match up to the budgets Pope Francis has, which has allowed him to hire Accenture Interactive as the Vatican’s global experience agency.

With the task of streamlining communications, by unifying its outlets to feed through a single, new portal: Vatican News, the team will also be responsible for creating a team that can carry his vision forward.

You have to hand it to Pope Francis who is having no problem paving the way for change, as he recognises that digital is not a choice, but more of a requirement in order to remain relevant. He’s moving quicker than some organisations, which are still attempting to detangle their web of red tape that prevents them from embracing new, cost- efficient processes.

Public Health England (PHE) gets young people emoji-nal with STI prevention campaign
Its first sexual health campaign in eight years, Ogilvy UK and Durex is helping PHE prevent young people from contracting STIs this Christmas – by featuring authentic case studies across Instagram and Snapchat in a unique video format with popular emojis to protect their identity.

With almost half of young people (47%) admitting that they didn’t use a condom the first time they had sex, this raw messaging aims to create a culture shift among Gen X. Take a look for yourself:

Twitter teams with Bloomberg to create TicToc, because time is running out for this platform
TicToc unites the expertise of Bloomberg’s news curation with Twitter’s distribution for a mobile, ‘on the go’ audience.

Through video, data and graphics, users will experience global and breaking news options in ‘snackable’ formats that are updated every hour.

I’ll stick to BBC News notifications for now, and continue to use Twitter for the real value it adds: comedy commentary on the news, thanks to the lists of people I’ve created to stay on track.

Facebook confirms that social media puts us in a bad mood. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it
In a blog post called Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad For Us?, researchers from the University of Michigan found that people who read the site for 10mins a day are worse off than those who use the platform to interact with friends.

What’s more, other university academics found that those who like twice as many posts than the average user had worse mental health. So, Mark Zuckerberg has pledged do more to support the billions of people who use its site to improve their positivity – including a snooze button to give people the option to avoid updates from individuals for a fixed time. Gee, thanks!

So, now I can avoid my ex’s eye-rolling cousin as she snaps her way through Christmas Day, and Facebook saves me from unfriending. Happy days.

Tony the Tiger gets lonely on the supermarket shelves, so moves onto cereal cafés instead

Tony the Tiger is on a mission.
The word on the latest sales reports is that no one is buying cereal anymore, let alone premium brands like Kellogg’s. But, this 111-year old brand won’t be beaten just yet. In fact, it’s opening a new cereal café in Manhattan, featuring an Instagram station with props to help customers get the best from their soggy cereal shots.

Getting to the heart of the cereal experience, the company aims to create a stronger emotional connection with its customer base – reminding them of why a box, bowl, cereal, spoon and some cold milk is one of the most satisfying meals you can enjoy.

So, there you have it. What’s new with you and your digital innovations?

Flag them to me and they could feature in the next blog post – coming soon. I promise.

Five ways to grow support with user-generated content

Every charity needs good content to help it stand out from the crowd. It gives you creative licence to persuade people to donate, buy or connect.

But, digital marketing teams no longer need to scramble for news to push out. Not if they have a decent advocacy plan in place which encourages supporters to do the storytelling for them.

User-generated content (UGC) is now the key to growing support and unlocking long-term loyalty. If this is new to you, here’s how you can start to unpick the lock:

Prince's Trust Uncut

1. Start with your colleagues

Are they active on social media? Are they following you? Are they shouting about how great the organisation is on their own channels? If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, perhaps they just need to be reminded.

Use your internal comms to start the conversation (particularly using colleagues who work on the front line and see lots of exciting things that you don’t) or revisit your social media policies to see how people can get involved.

2. Ask your audiences what they think

People like to be asked their opinion. So why not involve supporters by asking questions or setting them challenges to share quotes, memories, images and videos that will raise your profile?

Social media polls on Twitter and Facebook are also good tools to generate extra news hooks to give your content a twist.

3. Be our guest (blogger)

Your website is a powerful resource, but it relies on a steady flow of topical, relevant and evergreen content to keep people coming back.

Don’t put that pressure on yourself; open up your news section to involve third party ‘views’ from supporters, partners and industry experts.

This doesn’t have to involve putting pen to paper either. Experiment with podcast, video diaries and infographics.

4. Don’t post and run

In a wildly busy team, it’s tempting to post your tweet or Instagram and then walk away.

But, the job isn’t finished when you tap publish. Make sure you invest in new followers, as well as those who like, share and comment.

Remember, you own a brand that they want to know more about – which means you’ve got the power to make someone’s day by replying.

5. Give UGC an identity

From developing a hashtag to creating a unique brand concept for your UGC, you’ll remind people that it’s something you welcome and celebrate – and you’ll start to receive more in return.

It’s an approach The Prince’s Trust has recently embraced with its new ‘Uncut’ series. We’ve introduced a video and image stamp to show when a member of our community has created something really special.

Prince's Trust Uncut

We realised that although our team is epic at creating award-winning content, more frequently we were seeing great videos from our community which get to the heart of our values.

They were raw, authentic and inspiring stories told in a completely different way. So, rather than say ‘that’s not how we do things around here’, we decided to secure more of them.

Followers are great for our ego, but advocates have a far better impact.

Advocates care. They’re modern-day champions who are more willing to read emails, sign up to events and pledge donations when you really need them to take action.

So what are you waiting for? Grow your advocacy army today.

This article first appeared on JustGiving – the place where inspiring stories, insights, tips and tools are shared to help charities reach more people, inspire more action and raise more money.

What can Shazam’s charity collab teach us about marketing partnerships?

The Zoella’s, Sprinkle of Glitter’s and Thatcher Joe’s may be top the influencer scale this year. But, with technology moving at a rapid pace, how long is it until we place our interests, opinions and trust in Artificial Intelligence (AI) instead? 

Siri, Alexa and Google Home are all brilliant at telling us the time, weather forecast and nearest curry house. Yet, it’s just a matter of time until brands strategically leverage these gadgets’ profiles to influence us.    

Arguably, this has already begun to occur – and it’s great to see UK charity Alzheimer’s Research get in their early through music app Shazam.

Working with Innocean Worldwide UK, it launched ‘The Day That Shazam Forgot‘ to educate young people that Alzheimer’s isn’t just a disease reserved for older generations. With 65,000 people under 40 living with the condition in the UK, it prompted people to find out more and donate to show their support. Alzheimer's Research teamed up with ShazamTaking over the app’s interface, users were made to believe Shazam had forgotten the song in question, serving up lines such as ‘I’m sure I know this one…’ and ‘I just can’t quite…’. This was then followed up with subtle advertising to drive people to a landing page on the website.

It’s a great idea that delivered a high number of impressions and click-throughs in a short space of time. But, the fact that the reports on AdWeek and Campaign fail to outline the number of donations raised as a direct result of this marketing stunt leaves me feeling deflated.

As an industry, marketers (myself included before you think I’m preaching on a sunny Sunday) need to take more responsibility for delivering tangible, impactful and business-changing results. KPIs focused on impressions, visits and cost per click distances marketing from ‘real’ objectives – and charities cannot afford to work in silos any longer

Saying ‘I only have to bring people to the donation page, whether they choose to give or not isn’t my remit’ won’t work for much longer. 

Why? Because without tangible results, PR, digital and marketing departments aren’t truly understanding their supporters’ needs and budgets simply won’t increase. It’s in everyone’s interest to take this seriously.

This might mean agencies working with third-parties like Shazam to take their brand partnership one level further and – for a short time – completely changing the dynamic of the app; giving Shazam a heart to promote the cause itself (offering authenticity and credibility) rather than offering a standard advertising package. 

Now that would really be something to talk about.

There’ll be plenty more opportunities in the future for apps to surprise us. The question, is will you be able to tell when they’re pushing a brand-led agenda?

Chuck E. Cheese needs some digital crackers to give its autism initiative some bite

Occasionally you can count on a mouse to the right thing. And, America’s Chuck E. Cheese‘s restaurant chain dedicating the first Sunday of the month to sensory play, for children with autism, is both morally and reputationally good. 

Launching in time for World Autism Awareness Day last month, the organisation took a customer’s request to heart when she asked if her local branch would be willing to open earlier for her autistic nephew. 

By dimming the lights, switching off the music and unplugging its animatronic stage show two hours before its official opening time, the restaurant was able to transform into a suitable environment for children who face sensory challenges. 
 Chuck E. Cheese introduces Sensory Sensitive Sundays 

And it worked so well, after a series of regional pilots, Chuck E. Cheese is now taking a bite out of this big initiative. 

So, not only has the brand positioned itself as an organisation that listens (willing to evolve to meet customers’ needs), but also capitalised on this mass-market opportunity by catering for the 3.5m  people in the U.S. who are on the spectrum.

Now, this may sound a little cheesy, but isn’t that the type of company you’d like to associate with? 

It’s not just having an impact on the organisation’s bottom line, but the feel-good fever is spreading to staff too, who are embracing relevant training to enhance performance and service – another good sign that Chuck E. Cheese is taking this seriously. 

So, with customers sharing positive feedback and the company generating good PR write-ups in the likes of AdWeek, Huffington Post and various disability trade titles, now’s the time to ‘turn up’ its marketing strategy while the news is fresh. 

Chuck E. Cheese has issued virtually zero content to support its Sensory Sensitive Sunday’s project – and it needs to strike while the iron’s hot. 

 Chuck E. Cheese is supporting autistic customers 
I guess its marketing agency Current is nibbling on its next steps.

While it waits, I recommend Chuck E. Cheese commissions a video to capture young people enjoying these sensory sessions which can feature on its dedicated landing page on its website and used as a promotional tool across social media. This could also be supplemented with a simple social media strategy – predominantly focused on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – for restaurants to roll out to drive sales in the run-up; sustain an element of exclusivity during the sessions; and celebrate success after each event to boost customers and loyalty. 

To extend its reach, Chuck E. Cheese should also partner with a national autism charity – preferably one with prominent regional centres so it can maximise its presence across the U.S. – to raise awareness and promote advocacy through its e-marketing channels by offering discounts.

Of course, by working with a relevant third party, Chuck E. Cheese could also benefit from data to retarget potential customers (autism community groups for example) via digital advertising to ensure the messaging is landing in the right place. 

All in all, this is an epic opportunity for the party restaurant chain which could grow and grow. 

Will UK brands take notice of the big cheese across the pond? Here’s hoping. 

Crayola makes its mark with integrated campaign

It’s not often that this momentous event occurs in our lifetime. No, I’m not talking about eclipses, royal weddings or black Presidents. I’m talking about a new shade of blue.

A few years ago US scientists (accidentally) created a new shade of blue – currently called YInMn – by blending chemicals. And, Crayola has jumped on this discovery by putting it in its iconic box of 24-crayons.

Having retired ‘Dandelion Yellow’ from the pack, the brand ran a series of consumer polls to find out which colour people preferred and blue came out on top every time. So, what better way to capitalise on this than to feature the first new blue the world’s seen in over 200 years? (I know, that really is a thing!)

Crayola introduces YInMn blue
Jokes aside, kudos to Crayola for taking this PR stunt by the horns. After successfully involving its customer base in this ‘storytelling’ sequence, it’s now handing over the naming rights of the crayon – encouraging people to submit entries.

Supported with a social media campaign which uses the hashtag ‘#NameTheBlue‘, the most colourful company on earth is pushing its online contest across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – reaching millions in the process.

But, followers is not what Crayola needs; it’s digital engagement. So giving responsibility to its fans is an efficient way to drive likes, shares and comments to encourage advocacy, setting the product up for a sales boost.

Crayola's #NameTheBlue campaign needs some extra support
With a background in PR, I can appreciate it’s not easy for brands like Crayola to consistently generate shareable content that’ll hop the fence into the world of media coverage. Pantone does it well and Dulux has dabbled, but they’re the only campaigns I can pull out of the bag.

But, articles alone won’t get people talking. Sponsoring posts will ensure the conversation is driven by the right people.

All in all, the colourful company has done a great job of seizing the opportunity – with three hooks for the price of one: retiring Dandelion ‘yellow’ (Crayola’s selling boxes of this one colour to commemorate it); introducing ‘blue’; and #NameTheBlue. Now, that’s how you make your mark.

KFC comes clean after making up fictitious food blogger

Bloggers have taken the world by storm in the last few years. [Insert personal praise for Prime Time here]. Why? Because, the content they post is C.A.T: credible, authentic and trustworthy.

The social influencers that have risen up out of the ranks – having turned their hobbies into businesses – may be slightly compromised thanks to the introduction of #spon and #ad hashtags, which are required to clarify when they’re getting paid to say nice things about products. But, the micro bloggers who still turn up to work and find time to write about what drives them are able to remain true to themselves – which is why they’re still one of the most trusted sources for accurate online information.

So, to read that KFC (the brand that pushes the line with crude content when it comes to its digital activity anyway) cat-fished customers by creating a fictitious clean eating flogger (food blogger) to promote its Dirty Louisiana burger is quite outrageous.

Figgy Poppleton-Rice has a blog, Instagram and Twitter account with almost 30,000 followers combined and the idea to make her up came when the fast-food chain’s marketing team realised that 80% of the top-selling books on Amazon were about healthy living.

KFC's fictitious blogger Figgy Poppleton-Rice

In an attempt to reverse the trend – and capitalise on a slight lean towards fitness fatigue – it used social listening to plan a tongue-in-cheek campaign. Using Figgy to drip-feed countless images of kale, almond milk and cauliflower rice, it was part of a bigger piece to reveal the brand’s dirty burger, which has since generated millions of views and thousands of shares and comments on its Twitter and Facebook profiles.

A novel approach, most consumers have taken kindly to the campaign (which was mostly driven by KFC due to its potential reach) because of its humour and talkability. It’s even generated global PR coverage with articles on Mashable, Men’s Health and Yahoo! to name a few – although all of these publications did call KFC out on its stunt.


But, looking through the campaign, it didn’t matter. In fact, I can see why it worked so well. KFC researched its target customer, developed an anti-customer persona, and tied this with current trends to craft a relevant campaign that its actual audience would find hilarious.

Which prompts the question: Will more brands be willing to push outside of its comfort zone in an attempt to create unique content that’ll grab attention?

As long as the preparation towards the big reveal is balanced just right, most marketing teams will have the prowess to pass it off while having good fun with their followers. It’s a win-win situation.

In an industry where marketers are at constant risk of ‘content shocking’ their audiences (producing irrelevant content that consumers simply can’t keep up with), it’s a great example of content-first advertising that’s both interesting and entertaining.

With less than a month to go until April Fools’ Day, I hope KFC has still got buckets full of energy to make the most of this opportunity too.