Stripe Communications Blog

Inspiring Creativity – It’s a dangerous business but someone has to do it.

Inspiring Creativity – It’s a dangerous business but someone has to do it.

‘Creativity essentially scares people…’

This is a quote I used to start a talk I did recently for the Marketing Society Scotland.

The event was titled ‘Inspiring Creativity’ and was the third of the Inspiring Minds programme, designed to explore five key areas of marketing. Of those five areas which include briefing, planning, results and presentations – creativity is the most elusive.

Why? Because the end result of the creative process is what everyone cares about, and no-one really wants to know about the ugly truth behind the journey you take to arrive at that place.

This seems strange, but it’s true.

It’s scary for clients to commit completely to creativity, because it is unchartered territory. It is by definition, non-conformist.

It’s scary – in fact it can be an excruciating prospect – to be the person tasked to think creatively… Especially to order.

The process is so awkward. Luke Sullivan, author of ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’, describes creativity as ‘like washing a pig.’

So why do we do it?

Because it amplifies our message. It allows us to cut through into those uncharted places, it keeps us dynamic and it keeps us alive and even though it is the hardest role of all to fulfil, it’s the most rewarding one.

‘I am not creative’ is a phrase people say all the time. However, in reality this is not true, because if you are alive, you can create. Fear of the unknown and comfort of the usual, are the active restrictions at play here. To be creative you just need to have the confidence to push the boundaries a bit further.

Creativity is the soul of all marketing, branding and communications and we all need to be thinking creatively throughout the whole process. If we don’t, we lose the opportunity to make the biggest impact and make the most difference, to do the best work; and as hard as it can be, make us feel amazing about what we do.

So, how do we inspire ourselves to be less intimidated and be more creative?

First absorb the world around you: look, listen and understand. As George Lois says, ‘Nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires’.

Second, know the formulas.

As part of the creative induction process here at Stripe I have come up with what I call, ‘Five Ingredients to Create’. This is a crib sheet for the creative process and if you are using one or more cribs on this list then you’ve got it in the bag.

# 1 Be Original.

It’s obvious but it’s hard, because originality is abstract. Making something original is taking all the references and facts you see every day and adding that little twist to make it unique.

Picasso once said, ‘Good artists copy. Great artists steal.’

Interestingly, this was a phrase used by Steve Jobs in relation to design at Apple. This was explained later by Apple’s Bud Tribble, “if you take something and make it your own… it’s becomes your design, and that’s the dividing line between copying and stealing. That is part of Apple’s DNA.”

Creativity does not exist in a vacuum; it can do, but it seldom does. Take from the creativity of others, but make it a heist.

# 2 Be Reactive

Listen and jump into the conversation, this way you create immediacy. Instead of drawing in someone’s attention, you can fall purposely into it. Be there and be aware.

# 3 Concept and Craft

Think about concept and think about craft and how they work with each other to make an idea great. Sometimes you need to bring more creativity to the party to add value to an idea. On the other hand if the work is all craft with no concept, idea or strategy, it will lose its relevance or story. Treat the message right. Let it grow.

# 4 Innovation

Know about it. Digital and technology is moving forward around us, like an out of control juggernaut, and we all need to be aware what’s going on. Run beside it if you can’t be in front of it. Be ready to introduce new technology and techniques. Keep things exciting and dynamic. Use innovation. Use it first and be remembered.

# 5 Mistakes are good

Be careful with this one because it’s not the mistakes we make that are good, it’s how we allow them to take us forward that is. You are not being creative if you are not prepared to fail. It is a leap of faith that you have to be inspired enough to take. As daunting a prospect as this may be, this crib is the most important of all.

 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Why be good when you can be scarily great.

Planning, managing and celebrating #TheMoment with Glasgow 2018

Planning, managing and celebrating #TheMoment with Glasgow 2018

After 11 days of incredible sporting action, the inaugural multi-sport European Championships drew to a close on Sunday evening. Titles were won and lost, world records smashed, and we were right in the thick of it.

Stripe’s work on Glasgow 2018 started way back in February last year. Our first task after being appointed as the Championships’ digital agency was to set out a unique strategy to reach sports fans, families and the local community in the run up to the Championships, to generate awareness and help people understand what this new event was all about. With a focus on organic and paid social we set this strategy in motion, engaging these audiences and encouraging them to help us bring #themoment to life, starting with the first of our key milestones: 500 days to go.

In the 500 days that followed we delivered some amazing work: created thousands of assets; planned and published posts across Glasgow 2018 profiles; produced films for online and TV; launched the official mascot Bonnie the Seal; recruited volunteers; live streamed with athletes and ambassadors; ran over 200 hundred social ad campaigns; measured and reported on all digital activity; and a whole lot more besides.

With Glasgow 2018 marking the first time that the six featured sports have come together to hold their European Championships, we needed to constantly analyse, evaluate and evolve our approach. Established multi-sport events like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games and recent single sport events here in the UK like London 2017 offered insight into what can work to engage sports fans and non-fans alike, but a new format presented new challenges.

We knew that the awareness and understanding piece of our work was going to be a much bigger challenge than that faced by other events and we weighted our strategic focus accordingly. This meant conducting a detailed research piece at the outset, really digging in to the conversation about other events, Glasgow as a host city, and the individual sports. We profiled our domestic and international audiences, segmenting our tactics for each based on all our findings to help us tailor both organic and paid social activity.

We also developed a bespoke measurement framework specifically for Glasgow 2018 that allowed us to evaluate activity in terms of not only the awareness and engagement benefits, but also hard metrics such as sales for ticketing campaigns. By combining in-built social platform insights, website analytics including UTM tracking, social listening tools, custom attribution modelling and enhanced ad reporting thanks to employment of the Facebook pixel, we’ve been able to accurately measure everything we’ve done and consistently deliver results.

Throughout the journey to the Championships, our priority was balancing of great creative with great insight: delivering brilliant ideas and content that really resonates whilst ensuring we were able to measure the value of what we do and provide genuinely useful insight that helped the combined Glasgow 2018 and Stripe team push things forward. As the Championships themselves kicked off two weeks ago, our day to day activity changed but not the way we worked.

On the 1st August we changed gear and moved to near round-the-clock measurement and monitoring of conversation surrounding the Championships, seven days a week. For twelve days we tracked key conversations, influencers, opportunities and issues. We watched Adam Peaty break another world record and set Twitter alight, we shared the home crowd’s disappointment when Ross Murdoch just missed out on a medal by the narrowest of margins, and we celebrated when Laura Kenny’s comeback led to a well-earned gold (and a mention from Elton John).

The Stripe team was responsible for gathering data and insight on all online discussion in real time and delivering reports at regular intervals each day, as well as spotting and working up reactive content and creative opportunities to maximise impact during the Championships.

Now that the event is over, all that’s left is to reflect on an amazing 18 months of preparation and hard work that resulted in one heck of a payoff. We’re still pulling together our wrap up report of everything that’s happened since that first milestone campaign, but we already know for sure it’s going to point to a hugely successful event and we’re so proud we got to be a part of it.

Most exciting job on earth? Experienced community manager sought!

Most exciting job on earth? Experienced community manager sought!

We are looking for an experienced, passionate and ambitious community manager to work closely with one of our exciting clients based in London. With an international audience, the role will involve on and offline activity, content creation, influencer management, proactive and reactive social posting, tackling multiple brands and channels simultaneously and everything that comes with that responsibility.

You will be energetic, outgoing, have a love for all things entertainment and showbiz as well as the ability to work in a fast paced culture, but in an organised way. With a solid understanding of how brands use social channels, how they should operate in the social space and the ability to lead an account from planning, delivery through to reporting and analysis, you’ll deliver innovatively and effectively.

If you are curious and creative, with amazing communication skills and a major love of the Mail Online’s sidebar of shame, send your CV and links to your work to talent@stripecommunications.com.

Location: London
Ideal start date: ASAP

In celebration of #WorldSocialMediaDay we take a look at where to start

In celebration of #WorldSocialMediaDay we take a look at where to start

Like most things, social media has its very own international day of recognition, yes that’s right, it’s #WorldSocialMediaDay and it’s certainly a cause for celebration.

2018 has been one of the most turbulent years in the world of social media – the Cambridge Analytica controversy has shifted public opinion of social media platforms and even more so, the ethics surrounding online information management. As a result, the public’s trust of information shared online by news outlets, public figures and of course, brands is at an all-time low.

Even with what seems like a constant wave of negative reports, social media has and continues to change things for the better for brands. No matter the size of business or the value of a product, micro-brands now have the capability to reach any audience they choose in the same way international brands have done so for years.

There will always be a place for global televised advertising and A-list celebrity endorsements, but social media has given all brands the chance to compete on a level playing field and that is what makes social media so priceless.

As more and more brands begin to acknowledge the value of having a presence on social media, there are still many asking where to start?

Should every brand dabble in the recently launched IGTV? Should every brand pay influencers for partnerships? Can brands even prevent themselves from being sucked into the anti-social media agenda?

One thing common across brands nailing the volatile social media landscape is those with a clear, defined and confident brand identity. An identity that transcends through all content – images, videos and tone. An identity that has helped it navigate the landscape of traditional PR and marketing, so it’s a pretty good place to start.

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Last week in Cannes our work received a highly coveted Cannes Lions award in the entertainment category for our factual, feature-length documentary, Wildlands. A hugely competitive sector in which we were the only BTL agency to be represented.

Cannes is undoubtedly the creative pinnacle in global marketing comm’s. It sets the benchmark and showcases the most remarkable work from around the world. To not only appear but to win among them is a phenomenal achievement.

In 2017, we premiered Wildlands at BAFTA to a global media audience. The documentary assesses the war on drugs in Bolivia and South America as told through the eyes of those from both sides of the law who have helped shape and determine that war. Narrated by NY Times
Best selling author, Rusty Young (Marching Powder, Colombiano) the film has now been distributed globally through multiple digital platforms (Amazon Prime, iTunes, GooglePlay).

We created Wildlands to promote and support the launch of our client, Ubisoft’s, new video game; Ghost Recon: Wildlands. In fact it was the idea that won us the pitch. The game depicts Bolivia as a narco-state, gripped by a drug cartel which gamers must take on and defeat.

Wildlands served as a companion documentary to the game. It asked you to ask the question; is it conceivable that a fictitious video game portrayal of a drug war could be mirrored in a factual reality? Also in a western civilisation where cocaine use is prolific, what questions must society ask ourselves to stop this insidious and destructive drug?

In a world where the likes of Narcos, Sicario, etc. captivates global audiences, we knew we could bring new gamers to Ubisoft through non-gaming platforms, providing an entertainment experience with depth, substance and integrity. Digital VOD platforms then also leveraging algorithms to serve content to those people most predisposed to consume it.

What started life as a UK marketing asset for Ubisoft, was quickly adopted as the lead global marketing asset. Our client’s belief allowing Wildlands to grow to become what we wanted it to be.

All winning work in Cannes is embossed with these three tenets; courage, vision and emotion. They make you feel, make you care, make you think and make you do something. They make you pause, reflect and react.

Wildlands was complex, challenging, riddled with issues and at any one point, we could have said enough. But we didn’t. We didn’t because Stripe, Chief Productions (our production partners) and Ubisoft knew this work was special. This work would present a landmark in video game marketing communications and this work would make you feel, make you care and make you act.

Wildlands has now scooped a D&AD pencil a Clio award and now a bronze Cannes Lion. But it’s most important function is to prove to us all that courageous, visionary and work that moves you will always win. You just need to do it.

Stripe are seeking a senior creative conceptual designer

Stripe are seeking a senior creative conceptual designer

Are you bursting with ideas, a pixel-perfect perfectionist and have passion for the exact amount of white space? Stripe are on the hunt for a talented and ambitious senior conceptual designer to join our Edinburgh team full or part-time and to deliver across both Edinburgh and London clients.

Stripe is a leading creative and digital communications agency known for being a fast-paced, dynamic and fun place to work. We are award winning both for the work we deliver as well as being a great place to work.

You are the next generation of Stripe, helping take creativity to the next level. You deliver outstanding creative, especially in the digital arena, however your experience will include the ability to develop concepts that go beyond digital tactics and tie into emotive ideas that engage and move the audience.

The role requires social asset creation (static, gifs etc), video editing, photography, creative direction, participation in brainstorms, campaign conception and development, an understanding of print and production and the ability to give and take feedback constructively to achieve the best solution possible.

You are a people person, thrive on being challenged and are keen to make your mark in the creative world and across the business.

Sound good? Then send your CV and portfolio to talent@stripecommunications.com.

Closing date is Sunday 1st July.

How I earned my Stripes

How I earned my Stripes

With the applications for the 2018 Stars & Stripes graduate programme closing later on Friday 4th May, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my experience of the programme, which kicked off a year ago today when I submitted my own application.

What happened next?

Stripe contacted me the following week to let me know I had successfully reached the interview stage of the process, which would be taking place on Stripe’s canal boat/meeting room… ‘the barge.’ An onslaught of thoughts flew through my mind; what would the competition be like? What would I be asked in the interview? Who would be interviewing me? And most importantly, was I going to get seasick on the barge?!

The interview was tough, there’s no point sugarcoating it. When you are up against fierce competition to work for a shit hot company, what can you expect? After a presentation from the managing director, we were put through our paces in speed dating style interviews and a tough timed writing test. Although challenging, the session was really enjoyable and gave us our first insight into what it was like to be a ‘Stripe’.

After this, I received the amazing news that I had a place on the Stars & Stripes programme and my first day arrived in no time.

Slotting into life at Stripe

Any nerves I had about starting my new role were very quickly quashed when I was welcomed so warmly into the team and given a detailed introduction to the accounts I was going to be working on and the training that we would be receiving.

From day one, development was a huge focus and I joined the Stripe Academy programme. As part of this, we took part in sessions on everything from account management to writing skills and pitching, to evaluation and reporting. All of these helped me feel totally equipped to carry out my work day to day.

What to expect as one of the Stars & Stripes

I was catching up with my university lecturers recently and said to them: “if you’d have asked me this time last year what I would have expected to have done and achieved in just a year, I would never have expected it to have been this much.”

It’s a common belief that on many graduate programmes you play a bit of a background role, not really getting involved in key projects, however, at Stripe this couldn’t be further from the truth. On my first week, I set off to Glasgow to attend a photocall followed by a client meeting at The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square about the swanky launch party that was taking place later in the year.

Since then, I have written media releases, social copy and procedures, planned parties, launched products, worked on digital ad campaigns, received a promotion… and this is only half of it!

Applications for the Stars & Stripes graduate programme close at 5pm on Friday 4th May. To find out more and how to apply, click here

Make a Date with Data Protection

Make a Date with Data Protection

So what can I say about GDPR? Sadly for the Stripe team the term doesn’t stand for God Damn Public Relations, if it did we’d ace that.

What I’m talking about is the General Data Protection Regulation, not the most exhilarating topic perhaps, but please don’t stop reading, let me explain…

The regulation is a new law that will come into force across the EU (including the UK, we’re still in it for now) this May. The law makes it incumbent for businesses to safeguard all their staff, client and supplier private information; meaning that they have to be a lot more sensible about the personal information that they collect and store.

The UK’s existing data protection law was created back in 1998, the same year Geri left the Spice Girls, Titanic was top of the Box Office and two PhD students from California created a little-known search engine named Google. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then and the law relating to data badly needed updating for a new generation, one that communicates, shops, banks and does business online.

Almost every week the media reports on yet another company that has either fallen prey to hackers or has inadvertently shared customer information with a third party. This dissemination of personal information leads to an array of problems, ranging from nuisance phone calls (“Have you been mis-sold PPI?”) through to fraud and identity theft.

Last month the user database for popular app My Fitness Pal was hacked. I’ve intermittently used the app to chronicle my various failed attempts to shape up. As a result of the hack, I now know that my contact details and (even more terrifyingly) my weight could be in the hands of anyone. And this is small fry compared to other headlines – the patients whose NHS medical records were hacked; or the Grindr users whose HIV status was sold to a third-party marketing firm…Life is getting a little too Black Mirror, and that is exactly why we need GDPR.

Like most professions, in the comms industry we do, by trade, collect some personal data. In preparation for the upcoming law change, we’re implementing new and secure processes for managing data, emails and encouraging our clients to do the same. Our goal is to ensure all the data we keep on file is up-to-date, relevant to our business, and above all, stored safely.

The law sets a new standard for data protection and makes businesses accountable for how they control and process data. It will require changes in mind set and processes, but ultimately, the outcomes are positive; the law will help us ensure our privacy and reclaim a degree of autonomy in the digital age.

Three cheers for data protection.

Who’s leading the way this International Women’s Day?

Who’s leading the way this International Women’s Day?

We are currently at the epicentre of a new feminist movement spearheaded by the #MeToo campaign, and as a result International Women’s Day (IWD) is arguably more significant than ever before.

Given the swell of conversation calling for gender equality, IWD presents the perfect  opportunity for brands to showcase their commitment to the solution by pushing for real societal and business change.

However, not everyone has hit the mark. Here’s Stripe’s breakdown of this year’s best and worst IWD campaigns and whether they really #PressforProgress…

Mattel, Inspirational Barbies

Here’s a great example of a brand identifying an issue and taking positive steps to address it, rather than just paying it lip-service.

When Mattel, maker of Barbie, found 86% of mothers around the globe are worried about the kind of role models their daughters are exposed to, they responded by marking IWD with the release of a new range of dolls celebrating inspirational, historical women. They also released a further 14 dolls in their ‘Shero’ range, including a doll version of UK boxer Nicola Adams.

While there are currently only three dolls in the ‘Inspiring Women’ range: Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and Katherine Johnson, Mattel assures us there will be more coming.

For those of us who can think back to playing with anatomically impossibly shaped dolls and only really being influenced by how it looked, it’s nice to think this generation will be encouraged to think ‘Yes, I can be a successful boxer, mathematician, director, artist’… the list goes on.

Well played, Mattel.

Luxor Crystal, Whisky glass ‘for women’

The Austrian firm, Luxor Crystal, known for making luxury glassware embellished with Swarovski crystals, has designed the Highlander Whisky Glass featuring ‘a new shape especially for women’.

Apparently our hand shapes are so delicate we require special glassware. Please.

The glass design itself is lovely, but the marketing campaign is misguided. Women do not need gender-specific drinking products – this condescension does not endear us to your brand. All Luxor Crystal has done is reinforce the gender stereotype that whisky is a man’s drink. Can’t women just enjoy a dram in whatever glass they choose?

Uber, #DrivenWomen

Uber’s #DrivenWomen campaign film introduces audiences to the brand’s female drivers, in a bid to challenge the oldest gender stereotype out there. The video celebrates the brand’s female drivers by showcasing their voices on how driving makes them feel and how it positively impacts on their lives – helping to actually drive change on the issue (pardon the pun).

We’re often surprised to be met by female drivers, simply because there’s less of them. And the #DrivenWomen campaign answers many of the questions passengers are afraid to ask. Why do they drive? What do they like about it? Is it becoming more common? Do passengers ever challenge their suitability for the job?

The drivers profess the benefits of being in control of their own schedules, and according to a recent global study 74% of female driver-partners cited flexibility as the key reason they drive for Uber.

The campaign has its finger on the pulse of a real issue – visibility – by showing the women behind the wheel. It’s a win for empowerment and equality, exactly what IWD stands for.

Next and Hello! Magazine, Star Mums

Unveiling an all-white, glamorous panel of celebrity mothers to judge Hello! Magazine’s ‘Star Mums’ competition, sponsored by Next, has succeeded in one thing – royally pissing off their target demographic.

The selected line up chosen to dub the publication’s Star Mum has resulted in national backlash for both brands’ ‘‘narrow view of motherhood”. Unfortunately for both Next and Hello!, they’ve managed to offend the people they were trying to empower with a poorly executed and thought-out representation of mothers in British society.

Albeit a misunderstanding, what was meant to be celebration of diverse mothers doing incredible things has gone down like a lead balloon by losing sight of the competition’s purpose.

Getting to the heart of modern romance with Amazon’s Alexa

Getting to the heart of modern romance with Amazon’s Alexa

“What if my date ghosts me?” “What if they don’t look anything like their picture?” “What if my hands are sweaty AF?”

Have you ever asked one of your friends any of these questions ahead of an important date? What if your friends are not available this Valentine’s Day, enjoying their own romantic ventures oblivious of those vital questions niggling away at the back of your mind?

Fear not, in this age of modern dating, fuelled by Tinder and DMs, Amazon’s Alexa is here to be your wingman this Valentine’s Day. The future of dating has moved from apps to voice.

With the busiest time for online dating being from the day after to Christmas to Valentine’s Day, earlier this year saw Match.com launch a new skill for Amazon’s Alexa which can provide the answers to all your pre-date qualms. Providing humorous and cheeky answers, the digital assistant spouts out information gathered from the largest survey of singles ever conducted, Match’s Singles in America study.

Creating a skill for Alexa essentially means uploading information to the cloud from which the device draws its information and, as explained in last week’s blog post, the brands who are getting there first are the real winners.

Match.com is not the only romantic brand to broaden their offerings to include Alexa’s support: EHarmony has created a skill that actually allows users to find themselves a date without even lifting their finger. Linking your online account and Three Day Rule’s skill provides single users with daily dating motivation and tips, to get people out of their comfort zone and away from habits that could be negatively impacting their dating game.

The future of modern dating remains topical after Black Mirror episode ‘Hang the DJ’ left everyone feeling uncertain about leaving our romantic fates down to technology and now we’re leaving our dating advice and potential future partner in the hands of a robot…

This leads us to consider the future of advice, not just for modern day singletons’ misgivings, but also to wider queries we may ask our friends for: should I visit a doctor? Where would you recommend I book my summer holiday this year? Does this dress suit me? Based on this, brands are faced with a number of opportunities to become a key source of trusted information when it comes to answering these questions and giving advice, at the sound of a word, by developing new skills for Alexa and other digital assistant technology.