Stripe Communications Blog

Want the best creative solutions? Then prepare to go to Mars

Want the best creative solutions? Then prepare to go to Mars

Where’s creativity heading in today’s marketing context?
Well, there’s a ship about to leave the pod and it’s heading out-of-this-world.

Having recently attended the D&AD Festival 2019 (physically) and The Adobe Experience Festival (virtually) my take outs are looking into the stratosphere.

Just as we’re all feeling comfortable that we’re digitally up-to-speed, private space travel is bringing together entrepreneurship and enterprise in an explosion of converging technology, and futurists are now telling us to prepare for the post-digital era.

Boom! The sonic pop of this concept is blowing my mind.

So why should this matter to me as a Creative Director?

The answer is that these missions are working examples of how the combination of creativity and innovation is the key to the future. Not just as a savvy business model but as the way we need to think.

Right now, what better creative platform is there than to say you’ll be the first human on Mars? What higher technological challenge is there than to be responsible for the innovation to actually get there? What’s not entirely genius about owning both the creative and technological thinking of the journey and the experience?

Sophie Hackford, a speaker at Adobe’s 2019 Experience Festival, tells us how augmented and virtual reality are set to have a significant impact on the customer experience.  Looking at trends in the most popular gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Secondlife, gives us a glimpse into the commercial landscape of the future; spaces where avatars of ourselves are building lives, interacting, buying and selling virtual commodities.

The internet is becoming more and more immersive. UX and digital design trends are a response to these interactive and 3D environments. Communities are already engaging with flawless virtual influencers, and even our Hollywood stars and CEOs could be succeeded by both digital and synthetic avatars of themselves.

Hackford continues that if ‘virtual intelligence can automate experience’ then events in the future could become so good, no-one will want to leave and if you do miss a must-go social event, then there’s no risk of FOMO, you can travel back in time to take part in the 3D virtual world.

Where does this leave creative communications professionals?

In a fascinating, expansive place…but am I concerned? A little. Not just of the monitoring and morality issues, but more by the capacity my brain has to take all this tech on board. Time to grab an innovation geek and make them my new BFF.

And here’s where we go back to basics. Creativity can’t be automated and when fuelled by great strategy and insight it’s the driver of all enterprise, especially in communications. Looking at this year’s D&AD pencil winners, and observing as a judge at  the ‘Pioneering Spirit Awards’ for the Marketing Society Scotland, it’s clear that creativity is agile as well as migratory. If there is an understanding and skill to adapt, then creativity fits seamlessly into any new habitat and is the vehicle to get you there too.

What should we take out of all this?  Well for me it’s that creative and innovation in marketing terms should no longer be considered as separate skills. ‘Creativation’ is the future. See you on Mars.

Sophie Hackford, Futurist, Technologist, Researcher and Anthropologist Keynote Speaker, Adobe The Experience Festival 2019 https://www.adobe.com/uk/events/experiencefestival19/recordings.html

#DandAD2019 https://www.dandad.org/en/d-ad-creative-advertising-design-festival/

Stripe: more than red noses

Stripe: more than red noses

Today is Red Nose Day (RND), and a great opportunity to get out there and, in Comic Relief’s own words, “do something funny for money”.   We’re supporting RND at Stripe (not by buying plastic noses but paying to wear red and tell the worst jokes), but what about the rest of the year?  What are we doing as a business and as individuals to play our part and ‘give back’ beyond baking cakes and taking the calorific content of morning tea to epic proportions?

It’s a good question.  Let’s face it, we don’t really need £10 worth of homemade cookies and cakes at 11am, but it’s easy, quick and visible.  It lets us all feel OK that we’ve done our bit for charity.

While fundraising is hugely important, what’s harder is really being committed. What’s harder is standing up for something we believe in, tackling difficult issues, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, taking the path less travelled, thinking and acting differently. And asking your staff to do all that when you’re already a busy agency.

At Stripe, giving back is high on our agenda.  We believe it’s our duty to support the communities we live and work in, to provide opportunity, to inspire, assist, encourage and champion.  It benefits those around us and invigorates our staff, challenges perspectives and encourages fresh thinking year-round.

So, are we walking the walk – you decide?  For the past 12 years, we’ve offered every Stripe a Passion Day to support a cause close to their heart, had a companywide charitable focus for the year and given guest lectures to inform and inspire the next generation of communicators.  We’ve worked free of charge to address the taboo of self-harm, to challenge sexism and outdated mindsets in the communications industry and to raise awareness (and funds) for a specialist Breast Cancer unit.  We’ve slept out in freezing temperatures to support the end of homelessness in Scotland, we’ve improved school playgrounds, cycled across the country, paid every single internship and mentored rising stars.

We’re doing all this not because we have to, but because we want to. So, while we’re absolutely doing something funny for money today, it’s important to us to give back and pay it forward year-round.

International Women’s Day 2019: What’s more important than balance is equality

International Women’s Day 2019: What’s more important than balance is equality

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Balance for Better which of course makes perfect sense. It’s what we’re all striving for and although we’ve come a long way in the last 12 months, there’s still a huge amount to be achieved.

So, if this year is all about balance it got us thinking about where that left us at Stripe. You see, our workforce is 80% female and although we have a 50/50 Executive Board, our Management Board in Scotland is 100% female. Does this mean we’re in the wrong? Should we be beating ourselves up for not having more men in our business? Some would say yes, that we’re creating an environment which is positively discriminating in favour of women.

I disagree. Balance is important, but what’s much more important is creating a level playing field for every one of our team to fulfil their ambitions regardless of their gender. What’s more important than balance is equality.

We didn’t start out to create a female led business but when two thirds of people employed in our profession are female, Stripe isn’t unusual. However with only 30% of women making it to Board level, this is an area where I’m proud we lead the way.  Whilst we’re far from perfect, we’ve learnt that the key to retaining senior women isn’t about HR policies, it’s about culture. Management teams need to create an environment where all staff are supported to have a flexible working day where they can be there for family when it matters and that their career won’t suffer as a result.

I also believe if you have female leadership in a business it sets the tone and positively impacts how women are recruited, promoted and retained. This is why it’s so critically important that women are equally represented at Board level, because without that cultural shift at the top nothing will ever change.

At Stripe our culture is everything. It’s not driven by gender but is dictated by the common values that we all share. Our values are universal, but emotional intelligence plays a large part in our decision making. We treat our people as human beings rather than employees – recognising that what goes on outside of work can hugely impact their performance in the office.

Don’t get me wrong we combine this approach with a good dose of commerciality. Last year we had our most successful year and grew by 35%. That doesn’t come without a huge amount of hard work, personal sacrifices and not being afraid to make tough decisions when we need to.

Over the years we’ve kept our heads down and worked hard, rarely taking time to stop and recognise what we’ve achieved. But when we thought about this we realised we weren’t just doing a disservice to ourselves and our people, we were neglecting the fact that we have an important role to play on International Women’s Day.

And that role is to inspire. No one should have to work in an environment where they aren’t treated with respect or where there isn’t an equal playing field and people need to vote with the their feet if that’s happening to them. By telling our story we hope to inspire all future leaders to build businesses where the only thing that defines you is your talent and your values.

So, this year we are standing up and are proud to be who we are and of what we’ve achieved. We may not have perfect balance, but we will always strive for equality and surely that’s what’s important.

Merlin Entertainments appoints Stripe Communications London as retained PR and social media agency for all London attractions

Merlin Entertainments appoints Stripe Communications London as retained PR and social media agency for all London attractions

We’re very proud to announce the expansion of our partnership with Merlin Entertainments as the retained PR and Social Media consultancy for the London portfolio of attractions including; Madame Tussauds London, The Coca-Cola London Eye, SEA LIFE London, The London Dungeon and Shrek’s Adventure! London.

We were first appointed as retained PR consultancy for Madame Tussauds in 2016, and our work with Merlin Entertainments now includes the entire London portfolio of attractions, providing domestic and international press office management, brand campaigns, news hijacking and all issues and crisis management for the London attractions. Our social media remit includes development and implementation of social media strategy for all attractions plus ongoing community management and influencer strategy and engagement.

Some of our recent work with Merlin Entertainments has included; when Madame Tussauds London displayed Donald Trump outside the US Embassy when the US President declared on Twitter that he would not be visiting the UK to open the new London embassy building in Vauxhall. Also, recently in December when the London Eye played host to the nation’s favourite nanny to coincide with the European premier of Mary Poppins Returns.

Our London Managing Director, Chris Stevenson, said, “It is a privilege to work with some of the UK’s most iconic attractions and a team with boundless ambition to produce bold and innovative work. It is a tremendous collaboration between the Stripe team and Merlin Entertainments London marketing team and we are confident 2019 will be another huge success working closely together.”

Gemma Cracknell, Marketing Director, Merlin Entertainments said, “Stripe have been a valuable agency partner to us since their original appointment and we are delighted to have expanded the scope of their role to include all of the London attractions. They have already delivered some outstanding results for us across our attractions and we look forward to continued success with Stripe as a key agency partner.”

The Art of Insta Influence

The Art of Insta Influence

As you place that final blueberry on top of your porridge and the tub of cocoa powder on the counter ‘accidentally’ spills, perfectly framing your best china bowl, you lift your camera – poised and ready to get the perfect shot of your creation. You get a snap that fits your Instagram feed perfectly, a masterpiece that would rival the work of Salvador Dali… well maybe not, but one that will get you a lot of likes!

Thanks to this platform we have all become Instagram artists, it allows us as individuals to become creative directors of our own online brand. Ultimately you can be as creative, commercial, comical or artistic as you like and for the marketing and PR industries, working with influencers is a gamechanger in bringing campaigns to life.

Influencer led campaigns can work with those who have a large number of followers, known as macro influencers, or those with a smaller group of followers, between 3,000 – 10,000, which we classify as micro influencers. Campaigns can incorporate influencers in several ways including personal appearances, content creation, brand ambassador partnerships and influencer gifting.

I’ve pulled together three of our top tips on generating beautiful and effective user-generated content through Instagram influencer gifting, which can perfectly complement your campaign.

Be reactive!

With Instagram Stories now boasting 400 million daily users, keeping an eye on your Instagram feed can prove very helpful when scoping out macro influencers who you think will like your product. A speedy message to the influencer is a must. If someone puts a story up saying their favourite snack is pitta bread, and you happen to have a large box of them in the office, send them a personalised box, like we did with Lucy Mecklenburgh and Tiffany Watson  for our client, The Food Doctor.

It’s not all about numbers

As great as it is to engage macro influencers, sometimes they just aren’t the right fit for the brand. It’s all about doing your research and getting your product into the hands of the right people. Identifying influencers with a smaller following, who will truly love the brand and the message is just as beneficial. By gifting your product to micro influencers, and forming strong relationships with them, you’re likely to generate amazing and authentic content that will deliver meaningful engagements.

Think about the bigger picture

When you think about your mail out, imagine the journey your box will go on. From the agency, to the post office, to the talent agent and beyond. The challenge is getting your product to its final destination in excellent condition and packaged perfectly to entice the influencer to take the Insta worthy image. Pack your mail out how you want it to be opened and remember that little details make a big difference. For example, if you’re sending out a bottle of alcohol, why not include a cocktail recipe card?

And, above all else, don’t forget your compliment slip where you can include your hashtags, social handles and a personal thank you. An influencer who gets countless packages each week is likely to remember a gift that stands out and will be more likely to share it with their followers.

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.

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.