Blog : communications

Creating an ‘offal’ stir: Burns Night with Macsween

Creating an ‘offal’ stir: Burns Night with Macsween

I’ve spent the last three months in a haggis whirlwind. Tasting, researching, delivering, analysing, pitching, writing, and even dreaming about the iconic food stuff made famous by the 18th century Scottish poet. This is what happens when you’re working with Macsween, pioneers of Scotland’s national dish, in the run up to one of the most important periods in their retail calendar, Burns Night on 25th January.

In the fickle and fast paced world of product communications, creating a strong seasonal story is more competitive than ever as brands vie for the same space and media attention. As communications consultants, it’s our job to get underneath the skin of the brand (or haggis in this case) to understand our clients’ objectives and how these translate into stories to reach the right target audiences at the right time. It isn’t enough any more to be the market leader and have a good quality product – to make headlines, you have to have a strong narrative to back it up and get people talking.

The brief for this project was straightforward – how were we going to make a splash around Burns Night, own and ‘premiumise’ the occasion and ultimately help sales to soar?

Our solution – launch the world’s most expensive haggis to highlight Macsween’s commitment to creating only the most delicious, hand-crafted products.

As you can probably imagine, launching a one-off gastronomic masterpiece such as this doesn’t happen overnight. It requires weeks of planning and working closely with the marketing and product development teams client-side to build something worthy of a story; no small feat. In the end, the talented and imaginative team at Macsween concocted a real culinary showstopper – a 3.7kg haggis consisting of Highland Wagyu beef, white summer truffle and edible gold leaf with a £4,000 price tag.

 

Macsween Haggis Coverage

 

Once the product was in place, it was then a matter of developing simple yet effective supporting assets to bring it to life across multiple channels. Like all seasonal stories, timing was key. With January 25th falling on a Monday this year, we needed the story to land before the weekend, targeting shoppers and putting Macsween top of mind for Burns revellers.

The luxury haggis has made headlines across the world, reaching as far as the US, demonstrating that even within the competitive and complicated landscape of brand communications, simple stories are still relevant and can sometimes create the most impact. The power of haggis should never be underestimated.

A new Stripe force in London

A new Stripe force in London

It’s official… We’re excited to announce the opening of our new London office and the appointment of Chris Stevenson as our London MD.

Chris joins us from Emanate and over his career has worked with some of the most respected agencies and exciting brands to deliver PR, digital and communications strategies for clients across consumer tech, entertainment, FMCG and sports. He brings his expertise and innovative thinking to lead the business and nurture and grow our reputation in London.

But that’s not all we’ve been up to, as we continue to develop our strategic, creative and digital offering. We’re excited to announce that we have three further new senior players to add to our team.

Anna Russell, former General Manager, Brand Marketing at Audi of America has joined us as Director of Strategy. Anna will be expanding Stripe’s strategic and creative services and continuing the digital evolution of the agency.

Lesley Morton was part of the original start-up team at Stripe and returns as Head of Brand Entertainment. For the last four years she has been working on global brand campaigns and brings communication specialisms across music, arts, film & TV from her previous role as head of the Music & Entertainment team at CSM Sport & Entertainment.

And last but not least, we announce Hilary Joiner as our new Creative Director. With 20 years’ experience in both traditional and digital arenas, Hilary will be responsible for developing and delivering Stripe’s creative capabilities and ensuring that great ideas continue to be a part of our DNA.

We’re kicking off 2016 as we mean to go on. It’s our tenth year and we’re as ambitious now as we’ve ever been. The demand from our clients for integrated communications continues to grow and at Stripe we’re committed to innovating and differentiating our business.

Watch this space…

Love, Emojis and Heroes – What’s Rockin’ 2016

Love, Emojis and Heroes – What’s Rockin’ 2016

2016 is the year of the consumer. Through all platforms, across all trends, the customer is claiming back their mind and their body and is in full control of their media space. So adapt or die.

Digital comes of age. It’s still the media juggernaut, but this year we’re digging deeper into the analytical matrix.

The consumption of digital content is through apps and is fully mobile. Our desire for portability and our rejection of always digesting information in real time is set to continue, so we must continually maximize content to match and strive to work out where, how and when.

What’s new this year is the way we’re evaluating our digital data and its impact on strategy, which aims to make social more viable and valuable. Businesses want ROI and so ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ aren’t enough. Although they demonstrate awareness, in 2016 we’re looking for love.

Creative virility is super for vanity, but advocacy now reigns supreme. Excellent consumer experience converts consumers to brand activists and thus maximises social connectivity. The focus is on follow through, so perpetuating the circle of client happiness and truth. Even our beloved emojis, (now used more than not) are to be scrutinized for the data they can yield. (Insert happy face with wrinkles, drinking a nice Riesling).

Content will see a further move away from static to video. Interactivity will keep your customers clicking in the appropriate direction. Understanding the right degree of personalization and making content relevant is crucial too. Know your platforms, be ready to pounce on the new. But the big technological trend that will impact content is virtual reality, already popping up on Facebook and YouTube with the emergence of 360 Video.

It’s an Olympic year, so sport and our pursuit of a healthy lifestyle are on the podium. Keep up with the gurus and influencers in this spectrum; the frontrunners will be worth their weight in gold. And let’s not forget there’s an American election in November so corporate and financial businesses should be on high alert with their spin on this.

Creativity, our stalwart, is always about the story leading the customer through the media jungle, entertaining and delighting them on the way and delivering them a happy ending. A campaign with a conscience is a seasonal vogue, but if there’s one thing that’s always in style, it’s an honest to goodness, strategically grounded, fantastic idea.

Our affection of all things seventies has been turbo boosted into the stratosphere with the sad death of David Bowie. As music is fashion and fashion is music and Bowie’s creative brilliance is the embodiment of both, never has he been so culturally pertinent. See his genius penetrate through both artistic mediums and long may it continue.

And that’s it, health and prosperity (with a bit of strategy, innovation, creativity and integration) for 2016 from Stripe HQ.

The Creative Genius of David Bowie

The Creative Genius of David Bowie

Yesterday, I joined millions of music fans the world over in celebrating the life and work of David Bowie. I filled the Stripe airwaves with Bowie’s greatest songs and then spent my lunch break devouring articles on the musical legend. There was one characteristic that permeated every article on Bowie; a word that encompasses him perfectly – creativity.

We live and breathe creativity in our industry – it’s ultimately at the heart of what we do; but it can be challenging to develop game-changing ideas continuously. Someone like Bowie can teach us a lot, about being true to your vision – by being bold, standing out from the crowd and speaking to people through your work.

I’ve admired Bowie since I was a teenager and even though I am severely lacking in musical aptitude (I’m borderline tone deaf), I was, and continue to be, hugely inspired by his work.

The essence of Bowie’s creativity was in his sheer fearlessness, the willingness to think and act differently. In 1972, Bowie released his iconic album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and took on the persona of alien rock star, Ziggy Stardust. With his androgynous appearance, other worldly lyrics and avant-garde performances, Bowie was as equally compelling as he was controversial.

The world Bowie created was alien to the British public, and this is exactly what he played on. By daring to take risks and display his creativity in everything from his cut-up lyrics to his personal style, Bowie changed not only the 70s music scene, but also pushed the boundaries of sexuality, gender and identity.

It looks likely that Bowie’s albums and singles will dominate the music charts this weekend, proving his work is as relevant today as it was in the 70s. This legacy is testament to Bowie’s commitment to breaking down artistic boundaries and there’s no doubt he will continue to be a creative muse to many industries and generations for years to come.

One thing’s for sure – I’ll definitely be utilising Bowie’s cut-up technique the next time I’m struggling for a headline.

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

“You just have to deal with the situation. It’s not until afterwards that you realise how much it affects you emotionally” said one participant at an event Stripe was hosting this week.

In the wake of a tragic accident at a primary school, she was the local authority’s communications specialist – briefing councillors, consulting with emergency services and arranging plans for the school’s memorial. She was following protocol and process in the midst of a community’s grief.

This is surely the dark side of PR and comms if ever there was one: planning for worst case scenarios, considering how an organisation could respond, and pre-empting the emotions and sensitivities involved. Nothing prepares you for the reality of being at the centre of a real crisis, but having communications plans in place can be the difference between offering heartfelt condolences and being swallowed by your own emotions and negative media coverage.

Last week, CIPR Scotland hosted an event on ‘using digital channels in crisis communications’. The speaker talked about research from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that showed 40% of organisations don’t have plans in place in case of a crisis.

The CIPR event focused on developing digital procedures for crisis situations. This included:

  • Act immediately – even if you need time to develop a public response.
  • Push pause on all planned content, including scheduled social media posts. Ask yourself “is this content suitable in the current circumstances?”
  • Integrate all parts of your communications structure into the crisis plan. This should range from social media and website content to SMS services, telephone hotlines and email bulletins.
  • Review your organisation’s tone of voice and spokesperson – sometimes the response needs to come from the CEO. No one else.
  • Start monitoring online discussions immediately – you need to understand what people and saying and why it’s being said.
  • Ensure internal communications is included at all stages. Getting your staff to understand the situation and how to correctly respond is vital.
  • Update your website. Add relevant information and check the tone being used on the homepage.
  • Engage your stakeholders and keep them updated. We develop these relationships and networks for a reason.
  • Always remember the emotions involved and act appropriately.

These considerations apply to brands not directly involved as well, as was demonstrated on Friday evening as the world watched and mourned for Paris.

As news poured in about the atrocities, many brands continued to post scheduled or automated content. The public reaction was disgust, even by those in the communications industry itself. Ad Week has run an article on how brands showed support without being insensitive. Facebook, Airbnb, Google, Skype and Verizon have been recognised for their appropriate support.

We can’t always predict when a crisis will occur, but real-life dictates that it will happen. It’s up to us to know how to respond, react fast and hope we never have to.

The new Barbie ad: leading a campaign for change?

The new Barbie ad: leading a campaign for change?


The new Barbie ad ‘Imagine the Possibilities’ hit the screens last week and its timing was spot on. It’s been a month of conversations about equal rights for women – thanks to the film release of The Suffragettes and, of course, that gender pay-gap essay.

Now, we have a women’s libber Barbie too. Let’s just hope she doesn’t come in a box…

Well done though Mattel, I’m sure the launch was perfectly planned to coincide with the film’s release and the rest will have been the PR gift that’s kept on giving.

It’s certainly got people talking – like all bold, new campaigns should. Of course, some people love it but there are haters of its very nature too. It is still Barbie after all.

Personally, I think Mattel has nailed it – it’s inspiring, positive and shows that girls can aim for more than their dream house, shopping and marrying someone like Ken. It’s emotive too. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it a brought a wee tear to my eye.

I did have an ironic laugh however, when someone pointed out that when you click through at the end it takes you to this.

Not quite in the same vein somehow, Mattel. There is something to be said for thinking about cross channel/platform communications.

However, at least it’s taking positive action and trying to (finally) break beyond traditional gender stereotypes by inspiring little girls to aim high.

What’s also been hugely encouraging is that male icons have been joining in the pro-feminist conversation too.

Bradley Cooper responded to J-Law’s essay by encouraging women to stick up for themselves and aim to change mind-sets. James Bond’s new film Spectre features a fifty one year old love interest, and Daniel Craig (rightfully) slammed an interviewee recently when she suggested Bond had ‘succumbed to the charms of an older woman’. “I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age”, he replied.

Nice one James.

Could it be then that the tides are starting to turn?

While they’ve attempted to shift perceptions in the past, with the likes of Computer Engineer Barbie – complete with a pink laptop. In reality, there’s probably a long way to go until Barbie is taking over the boardroom, stops accessorising in pink, puts on weight and, is played with by the boys as much as girls. But, if this is just the early days of its evolution then it’s a good start.

We know how challenging – and hugely rewarding – it is to try and drive behaviour change via campaigns. It takes time and the objective to win hearts and minds must be ongoing.
So let’s hope this good work from Mattel doesn’t stop here.

Stripe expands digital skill set

Stripe expands digital skill set

To strengthen our integrated communications offering we’re excited to announce some new players that have joined the team.

Stripe has appointed a Digital Strategist, Designer and Digital Account Manager to further enhance the digital experience for our clients across all sectors and specialisms. Reporting into Digital Director, Darcie Tanner, the new roles are a strong mix of adding both new digital expertise to the mix, as well as increasing the skill set within the current team.

Emily Puddephatt joins Stripe as our Digital Strategist. Emily was previously at DigitasLBi/Lost Boys, bringing five years’ experience working on award-winning cross-digital projects, ranging from community management, influencer outreach and social operations through to full social and integrated strategy for clients such as Nissan, Interactive Investor, SAB Miller, BBC Worldwide and UGG Australia.

Hannah Murray joins Stripe as a Digital Account Manager, also from DigitasLBi where she spent three years working across the search (SEO) side of the business, with a focus on social search campaigns for UK and international clients such as Danone, Europcar and award-winning work for Premier Inn.

Rachel Patrick, designer (with digital design expertise), joins the team after working in the Digital Directorate of The Scottish Government, prior to which she worked agency side and has experience working with IRN-BRU, The Royal Mail, Glasgow 2014 and Nandos.

Our digitally integrated accounts have more than doubled in the last 12 months and there is no doubt in what direction the market is going. These new appointments allow us to continue to exceed client expectations and deliver a strong, creatively driven approach that builds upon and broadens our capabilities in today’s increasingly competitive and connected world.

Stripe’s expertise in digital has been recognised most recently with shortlistings in the Social Buzz Awards and UK Social Media Communications Awards and our addition to The Drum’s Digital Census.

You can see a full list of the Stripe crew on our Stripe People page.

My Digital Day take-outs: Tackle the big questions first

My Digital Day take-outs: Tackle the big questions first

By 11am last Thursday there was some pretty big questions being asked of the delegates at the Marketing Society Scotland’s Digital Day 2015. Namely, how do you want to change the world? We’re talking in the context of brands here so not me personally, but even still. My exact thoughts in response were: Coffee. First. Please.

The speaker was Andre Campbell, Global Manager of Integrated Digital Marketing and Brand Partnerships at Microsoft and despite the enormity of that specific question he was doing a pretty slick job of convincing us that really, if you can’t answer that question then your brand is going to lack purpose. And these days it’s ALL about the purpose (Note: purpose, not proposition).

Andre is a really passionate speaker and got me thinking about how important it is to tackle these tricky questions up front and put them at the heart of how we, as marketers, build brands. If you want to succeed in today’s competitive world then you need to be so much more that ‘just another great product’. That helps of course, but it’s not everything – in fact, far from it. Brands need to show heart. Lots of heart.

I had a discussion with a colleague a couple of days before where her words echoed a similar sentiment – ‘start with the heart and the rest will follow’ and she’s right. Create a purposeful brand that stands for something. Evoke emotion. Take action. Win hearts and minds. Sounds good, right?

So how does this translate to content – today people want more from their brand and therefore more from their content. Andre states quite simply ‘build stories that matter’. This sounds like common sense to me but this stuff needs to be said out loud, because, well, sometimes common sense isn’t that common. And you only have to look at your own social media feeds to see the brands guilty of churning out content that does not matter.

Having said that there’s a lot of stuff that’s pretty awesome – Andre cited the Nike ‘We Own the Night’ campaign. I love this. They totally nailed it. Nike created a meaningful space for its female fans – it invested time and energy in them and the result was gold for everyone. I’m just gutted I wasn’t there.

For me, what this comes back to is thinking about the quality of content – Nathalie Nahi touched on this in her workshop around the science of online persuasion – and Tom Ollerton of WeAreSocial discussed it more detail asking another big question of the day, ‘if you stopped doing social now – why would anyone miss you?’. Yikes. So you can be timely, relevant, informative and entertaining but to really succeed you need to give your fans a reason to miss you – give them the content that they can’t get anywhere else. While exclusives are nothing new, we need to think hard about the audiences and channels we apply them on.

Digital Day 2015 definitely threw-up lots to think about relating to the role of content in building a really strong brand led-business. But for me it was all about the big questions. I was so intrigued that evening I asked my six year old how he wanted to change the world. His answer: make a donut robot. When I asked why, he simply said, can you imagine how happy everyone would be. Start with the heart and the rest will follow, maybe it is that simple.

Stripe secures Midori UK digital & PR brief

Stripe secures Midori UK digital & PR brief

We’re raising a glass here at Stripe after being appointed by Maxxium UK to handle digital and PR services for its melon liqueur brand Midori.

Fact: the distinctive green liqueur was first launched in 1978 at the legendary Studio 54 – arguably the world’s most famous nightclub in its day.

We’ll be shaking up a cocktail of digital and social strategy development, community management, CRM and influencer outreach as well as traditional consumer and trade PR and communications.

It’s all aimed at building awareness among the core consumer targets to strengthen the brand’s emotional connection with fans.

Maxxium’s Nick Barker, who is Brand Manager – liqueurs, had this to say about us: “Stripe’s pitch demonstrated a thorough understanding of the Midori brand and target audience. They have created a compelling digital and comms strategy to help us deliver, and it’s great to have them on board”.

It’s an exciting brief – cheers!

A day in the life: Yasmin Ahmad

A day in the life: Yasmin Ahmad

Ever since joining the Stripe PR train in 2013 I’ve found it near impossible to sum up my job in one word, sentence, or even a paragraph for that matter. My friends always ask “What is it you actually do?” and since the day I started I’ve found it hard to put my job into a string of words that my non-comms industry friends can digest. So, to give a little taster of what a day in the PR  and communications world is really like I’m going to break it down for you….*

*Please note: a cheeky chocolate biscuit or two may have accidentally slipped off the copy…

7am
I’m an early riser and find it much easier to peel myself out of bed in the morning than keep my eyes open past 10pm. Before getting ready for the day, I have a quick scroll through my social channels to see what’s been happening in the world and check my emails to ensure no comms emergencies have happened overnight.

Work wear in PR ranges from relaxed and comfortable for a day at your desk, to power dressing for client meetings or pitches. Today it’s a pair of jeans and relaxed shirt. After a bite to eat I jump in my Fiat 500 and face the morning M8 traffic.

9am
Officially, the day kicks off at 9am but I try to get in early to get my head into the day. Being an account executive means that finding, mounting and sharing client coverage is first on my list. Once all coverage has been sent over I grab a few newspapers and catch up on the day’s news. Together, the team will highlight and share exciting or relevant news – this can be anything from a great PR stunt to the latest app launching.

10am
Once I’ve scanned my to-do list I get on with the day’s tasks – I try to highlight three priorities to focus on. We regularly use the morning to issue and sell in media releases to target press. Getting our client news in front of journalists can often be quite challenging so ensuring we sell is crucial.

11am
One of my daily tasks is to manage social media on behalf of clients.  We’re all familiar (and most likely, addicted) to using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on a daily basis but taking control of a business account and community managing each page requires a lot more time, planning, and precision than your average personal post.

12.30am
It might not happen every day, but Stripe encourages staff to reclaim their lunch break following this Stylist campaign. Not one for working out at night, I try to use my lunch breaks to get a bit of fitness in to my life. After a 28 minute workout (Kaylia Istines Bikini Body Training Guide) I return to my desk to eat a few slices of avocado on toast.

2pm
If you’re going to work in this industry, you need to enjoy creative writing. I often use the afternoons to tick off some of my writing tasks – media releases for me range from the latest Stewart Milne Homes showhome opening to new A/W fashion at Buchanan Galleries. 

3.30pm
I have a Stripey Thinking session in the diary – this is the company’s creative thinking process. Through a dedicated facilitator, we use a system of categories, post-its and creativity to come up with captivating ideas for the next big client campaign, photocall or event.

4.30pm
Back at my desk I try to tick off a few more task before the day ends. PR is an extremely fast paced business and there really is never enough hours in the day to get what you need done.

5.30pm
5.30pm passes and I continue working to get the task at hand complete. Unlike many other jobs, once the bells rings for the day, it’s not a matter of stopping what you’re doing and heading home. To ensure tomorrow is a little easier, I stay and finish off what I’m doing for that all satisfying tick off the to-do list.

6pm
Before I head home I look ahead at what tomorrow has in store and plan out my day. Doing this the night before means you can dive straight in to the day’s work and don’t miss any upcoming deadlines.

8pm
My evenings usually consist of a little home cooking, catching up on my favourite TV series and ultimately relaxing before another day in the manic, yet rewarding, world of PR and comms.