People Made

Brand is what the Brand does

We're People-Made.

We help brands do what they say, embedding and activating unique values through people and culture.

We specialise in four things: brand strategy, brand-led transformation, employer brand, and service experience.

Because the best brands in the world are authentically made and true to their word.



"A guest blog from our Strategy Consultant, Julia Bland:

In amongst the emporium of buzzing concessions on the ground floor of Liberty, my eyes were drawn to a slightly jarring, floor-to-ceiling orange ‘chamber’, flanked by a row of black and white photographs."

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It soon materialises to be a scent chamber; the ultimate in olfactory purity, complemented by the portraits of 12 master perfumers, which have become hallmarks of revered, ultra-luxury French brand ‘Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle.’

A subsequent induction into the brand that prides itself on “Personal, inventive and luxurious perfume-making”, so curator Malle, reveals a dedicated and expert architect of scent and an intriguing brand built on an incredible product. And with seductive names like ‘Musc ravageur’, ‘Portrait of a Lady’ and ‘Carnal flower’ winking out at me from the line-up of scents, my curiosity was understandably piqued…

First established in Paris back in 2000, today’s collection spans 21 fragrances created by 12 of the world’s most talented perfumers, responsible for recognisable scents by Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent and Davidoff, to name but three. Using only the purest ingredients, they have free reign to masterfully weave together complex layers of scents to create an exquisite mélange of top notes and the scent’s ‘heart’. What consistently unites these 12, however, are the parameters of Frédéric’s own personal standards and values. These timeless, unisex pieces are then “published” by Malle into carefully-shaped stores that have been designed by independent architects to be refuge-like spaces “where time stops.” What this brand demonstrates particularly well, as a result, is the power of collaboration when it hinges off an unwavering central core in the form of Frédéric himself.

But these perfumes are not only about the time and meticulous beauty of the production process; their magic and true essence is in the connections that customers have with them. Each bottle is a “perfumed ode” that invites people into the brand to celebrate this pure form of craft. The customer, who is encouraged to select their scent instinctively, is united with the perfumer and their own story by the brand. They become the final piece of the puzzle and take on this concoction, making it their own.

Three trends are expected to take off within the fragrance market this year: the rising popularity of niche fragrances, fragrance personalisation and novel retail experiences. (Source – Euromonitor International, 2015) Current manifestations of this personalisation are in the form of niche brand Le Labo allowing customers to blend their own, more “soulful” fragrance, or in the form of bottle engraving, such as Burberry’s new ‘My Burberry’ scent. Yet no one has done what Malle has in bringing his perfumers front and centre and heroing those, quite literally on pack, who form the epicentre of his “scent library.” Seems his niche approach and personalised business model are ahead of the curve by a good 15 years.

Engaging with Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle is a holistic brand experience in which every element has been considered; from the streamlined and deluxe packaging, to the stores and the personal tone of voice on their website. With Frédéric as the very clear figurehead, voice and vision of its future development and direction, the brand remains focused and authentic at every touchpoint and with each further expansion.

Now to use his illustrious chamber to decide whether a sombre base of vetiver and patchouli or a heady cocktail of amber and vanilla would match my skin better…

Posted by Brook


"A guest publication from our Strategy Director, Emma Woodhead White:

Finish up that kale salad. Drink up your homemade smoothie. It’s Friday and time for some scrummy indulgence. And with more and more restaurants opening up across the capital, we are spoilt for choice. So what do you feel like?"

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When my husband suggested a well-known Michelin starred restaurant as a treat last weekend, I excitedly accepted and looked forward to exactly that – a treat. The power of the Michelin endorsement, the ever-ironic food quality seal from the global car tyre brand, continues to hold huge esteem in the hospitality industry and be a trusted mark of fine dining around the globe. But arriving at the restaurant, I sensed a little niggle – dare I feel a little underwhelmed?

Now don’t get me wrong. the meal was spectacular. Beautiful ingredients, elegant flavours, stunning presentation – I was impressed. But somehow it wasn’t enough. Look closely and the décor was dated, the service was good but ‘vanilla’ and the atmosphere of the place was a little, well, dull. I couldn’t help thinking that today’s ‘foodies’ were more likely to be down the road in a cold-pressed juice bar or pop up dirty burger joint.

The sign above the door, the place the waiters had proudly applied to, the vision of the restaurant that we now sat inside, had somehow become overshadowed. The brand had become more Michelin, and less the authentic, fun, quirky place it was obviously intended to be. Whilst I was inspired to take the obligatory “over plate” photograph of my (and my husband’s) meal, I didn’t share it. I didn’t send it to my friends and I didn’t feel the urge to recount all the details excitedly in the office the next day. It wasn’t a good enough ‘story’. And stories are what consumers today want to tell.

It struck me – London’s restaurants need to be careful not to let this powerful endorser brand overshadow the essence that makes them unique. Michelin continues to hold its own but in a world where increasingly consumers value discovering the unknown and seeking out unique experiences, is standing for “only what’s on the plate” really enough?

To the restaurateurs obsessing over the just-published 2015 Michelin guide, don’t sweat – reconnect with experience-hungry consumers, be confident in your culinary point of view and whether you were successful or not:

Be more than your Michelin star.

Posted by Doug


"A guest blog from our Strategy Consultant, Julia Bland

October 2014 saw Android perfectly encapsulate its upbeat spirit and effortlessly contagious Zeitgeist with its “be together. not the same” campaign in honour of the newly-launched Lollipop operating system"....

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Through a humorous series of short clips and eye-catching print ads that continue to turn heads on public transport and blockbuster billboards worldwide, the brand has succeeded in celebrating the individual whilst nurturing a true sense of community.

And a jolly fun community at that. With over a quintillion (!) combinations of clothes, accessories, shapes and sizes, their complementary, avatar-spawning microsite allows anyone to personalise their own ‘living’ counterpart. Designed to dance, rock out, laugh and cheer, these ultra-content human microcosms have come to encapsulate the tone and the ambition of the campaign to a ‘T’.

The tongue-in-cheek collateral was further built on with their ‘And you’ promotional video, which accentuated the sense of Android’s universal accessibility (“All kinds of phones for all kinds of folk”), as well as the advantages of its open-sourced platform. Its message was a powerful one of sharing and of pushing yourself to be that bit gutsier, with a momentum and a rallying cry that echo far beyond this short clip.

“Everyone doing the same thing won’t move us forward. Everyone doing their own thing, together, can.”

Proud to offer a product that isn’t one-size-fits-all, Android differs from its iOS rival (and makes this not-so-subtly known) by focusing on its beloved fans. Far more than just the host of devices it serves, this campaign seamlessly bridges Android’s operating platform to the people who are actually using the devices. In this way, the brand continues to nurture the pulsating energy of the individuals that make up the collective. There is a party – a dancing, swinging, hyper-connected party – and everyone is invited.

Here’s then to ‘being together’ not only with others, but with brands who understand their consumers and want to champion them. Android’s brand campaign is just as publicly prominent as it was a few months ago and continues to resonate through the metropolitan landscapes it is splashed across. Sameness is out, solidarity and surprising moments of connectivity and openness are in. It proudly celebrates difference and fosters a real energy amongst this community of unique beings. Seems there can indeed be a metaphorical ‘I’ in team.

All that’s left to determine now is whether sunglasses or a beret will look best on my virtual doppelgänger…

Posted by Brook


"A guest blog from one of our Strategy Directors, Emma Woodhead White:

Goodness, Happiness, Mindfulness, Consciousness – words that we hear a lot of at this time of year as we munch on our goji berries, ‘Nutribullet’ our veggies and vow to give our Headspace app another whirl. So here comes another wholesome word – thoughtfulness. And more and more of the best brand experiences are packed full of it."....

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After a winter weekend at The Pig near Bath in November, I was blown away by the gorgeousness of all the little details the experience offered. Neat rows of wellington boots in the porch ready for willing walkers, hand-labelled Kilner bottles filled with garden-infused olive oils, a 25 mile menu inspired by foraged ingredients from the hotel’s own patch. Even the bedroom’s minibar had been given a lingual upgrade to ‘larder’ – a charming oak fronted cupboard brimming with unexpected goodies such as pork scratchings, jelly beans and local ciders.

The service was the true hallmark however – big genuine smiles, bags of local knowledge and oodles of pride in the experience they are part of. The stories I told most when I returned? When the bar staff brought wine and popcorn to our room (just because they knew we were having a movie night) and when the front desk presented us with a handwritten map for the crisp country walk we took (and loved) the following day. 100% genuine, thoughtful, brand-bursting touches.

Yet to what extent are these the results of magic or design? How do brands like The Pig ensure these smallmarks remain a genuine and unexpected part of their brand experience as they grow?

The personalised email I receive from my Ocado driver ‘Steve’ telling me he’ll soon be delivering my order and to look out for his tomato van is exemplary of a nice tone of voice, but it’s not really written by him. The offer of a complimentary hand massage in Jo Malone, or a taster choccie in Hotel Chocolat, have become a little predictable (although no less enjoyable). I even found myself a little perturbed in Pret a Manger recently when I realised it has been at least 6 months since my last coffee ‘on the house’.

What starts as special can so quickly become expected.

So what’s the secret? Perhaps it is in striking a balance between what is defined (brand) and what unites the people we employ (culture)? Perhaps it can never exactly and perfectly live in a strategy deck? Or even a training manual? The moments we remember, the stories our customers tell, are so often the hallmarks of a people-centred culture with a clear brand to orientate it and genuine freedom to deliver truly unique experiences to their fans.

Bravo to The Pig – bottle it while you can.

Posted by Brook


"A guest post from Emma, one of our Strategy Directors....

As the ominous sounding ‘Black Friday’ looms and throngs of gift-hungry shoppers head to the high street and ready their ‘refresh’ buttons, we can’t help but admire the stoic authenticity and festive escape annually re-mastered by some of Britain’s most-cherished luxury retailers"....

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Stepping out of the cosy, panelled lift onto the quiet, twinkling third floor of Fortnum & Mason’s Piccadilly store this month is like pushing through the moth- eaten coats at the back of a wardrobe and emerging into a gleaming festive hideaway. Walls of handmade Christmas crackers, bowls filled with delicate glass baubles and stacks of glittering decorations piled high like winter logs. I find myself entranced by the idea of a personalised hessian stocking for my husband (a mere 10 minute wait while they make it just for me in the ‘workshop’) and doing laps of the space to soak up the atmosphere a little more.

This is not about stuff, I think to myself. It is about experience.

Yet with the cues and codes of Christmas so well trodden, it is a challenge for brands to retain an authentic magic in the retail experiences they create. The 2014 Christmas Grotto at Harrods – an ever-more glossy and tourist-first experience – sold out within days. The elves at Hamley’s now offer to eat tea, dinner, even brunch with children whose parents have diligently pre-booked a sitting weeks ago. Is it all getting a little contrived, a little predictable?

Luxury brands are therefore looking to define a more exclusive, authentic and discreet experience for the Christmas shopper; true to the essence of rarity, craftsmanship and personal service so woven into the DNA of high-end brands. Jermyn Street perfumer Floris is hosting exclusive wine and perfume pairings, whilst Murdock London is creating a men’s winter grooming lodge in Mayfair. Even online marketplace Etsy is borrowing language cues from the luxury world with the creation of ‘Etsy House’ – the brand’s first exclusive pop-up shopping experience.

So what of the ‘economy of things’? It’s true – retailers are predicting that shoppers will splash out £1.7bn on the internet alone this Friday and the pavements of Regent Street will be bulging as Black Friday descends for 24 deal-busting hours. But none of this should dampen our Christmas spirit. Just hit escape. Seek out an authentic dose of festive magic.

Perhaps the economy of experience is the thing that will really get us talking (and shopping) this Christmas.

Posted by Brook

Pour H&M, or Poor H&M

"On the one hand, the Isabel Marant pour H&M collaboration has benefited both brands
– Isabel Marant gained the coverage and cult following (just think of future sales), and H&M
scored another big hit for delivering another inspired collaboration"...

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But look a bit closer and I can’t help thinking it was a missed opportunity, or worse still – might have
done a fair bit of damage.

By opening up the collection online to the US market – a first for a big H&M collaboration like this
– it should have been an opportunity to showcase the retailer’s ecommerce abilities. To cheekily trump
better experienced online offers from the likes of Topshop and Zara, or Apple and Amazon. For loyal and
new customers to have a unique ‘H&M brand experience’ – new accounts created, future sales assured,
word-of-mouth praise shared…

In that sense – this was a massive opportunity missed.

With all the attention and time spent on the collaboration – the ecommerce strategy failed to show up,
especially in the US. The result? Consumers taking to a host of social media channels to share their
anger and frustration at how bad the H&M online experience was, e.g. @iluvsavoirfair – “Who else got
tricked into waiting in the @hmusa online queue for two hours only to refresh and see everything
had sold out? #HMIsabelMarant”

The official line from H&M was that demand caused the site to crash – something more and more retailers
seem to be taking great pride in announcing – but given the anticipated interest, that really doesn’t wash
for savvy online shoppers. Their trust in H&M online is dented.

Luckily it was a different story in-store – where limited edition wristbands, great service, and carefully
curated décor greeted every buyer. Here we saw H&M at it’s best, translating brand ideas into shopping
reality – designer style remixed for the high street.

So maybe according to H&M, the online space isn’t where you experience the brand after all? They might
well have a point – few retailers successfully go beyond ‘good service’ that’s simply polite and efficient.

Those visionary enough to deliver a more distinctive experience, one that’s true to the brand, give
their retail space more purpose and meaning; the kind that inspires some to queue in the rain. But, when
H&M tally up the lost sales online and dip in trust for the brand – they may see a missed opportunity
that was theirs for the taking.

Posted by Doug

The Chief Culture Officer

"Pleased to share a guest post from Katy…

Just saw an interesting article in Marketing Week that raises the issue of who within an
organisation should take responsibility for its culture. In the boardroom – they write – there
needs to be someone who champions the ‘consumer voice’, making sure that the internal culture
reflects a strong customer understanding"...

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We shared a similar idea at TFM&A earlier this year. Brands in the social age of transparency stressed how
brand culture internally has a big impact on how you’re perceived externally.

Authenticity builds trust. An honest, ‘this-is-who-we-are’ culture shines. Long gone is the time when
PR and advertising could build carefully constructed walls of perceptions and values that organisations
wanted to be associated with; customers can see through these. You need to live the values you say you do,
which means the CMO has to nurture a culture that’s true to the brand.

Ask any employee of a company destined for success and they know the values of their company align to
their experience. Disproving cynicism by being honest is valued by the customer and results in more
meaningful conversations with them which engender loyalty.

If there are cracks in your internal culture, you’ll be too busy trying to temporarily gloss over these.
Without authenticity, it won’t be long before social conversations expose gaps in other areas. A true brand
is just that; refreshingly open.

Posted by Brook

Barclays x People-Made

"We happened to be on site with Barclays this month when their leadership team announced
the bank's new purpose and values. As every plasma screen switched to a live feed of the Board
address, it was interesting to see the floor down tools en-masse and tune in"...

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We happened to be on site with Barclays this month when their leadership team announced the bank's
new purpose and values. As every plasma screen switched to a live feed of the Board address, it was
interesting to see the floor down tools en-masse and tune in. They were told that the new values
(which include stewardship and integrity) were not optional. Those who didn't want to sign up,
should head off. Collectively the business was to head in a new direction.

We've been helping Barclays put this lofty ambition into practice, working on the OneBarclays
transformation programme which will bring the business together on a shared platform. Interesting
times; we're privileged to be working at the heart of something so vital to the business and it's
drive to make banking better.

Posted by Brook

Brand is what brand does

"The truth is that in an age of social transparency, where reputations are won or lost in realtime,
if any part of your business isn't aligned with your brand values - promises will be broken, and
consumers will walk."...

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Promises, promises. When brands stay true to their word, consistently, and sometimes in surprising
ways – they earn our trust.

Take Patagonia – the outdoor clothes company is obsessed with minimising its environmental impact –
so much so that it promoted the sales of its secondhand clothes on ebay. Far from cannibalising it's
revenues, it boosted sales by reinforcing what it stood for. Purpose and profit.

Apple, everyone's favourite case study, are no different. This interesting article from Gizmodo last
year revealed the secrets behind their Apple Genius service training. Guess what – it's less about
technology, and more about empathy and understanding. It's the behavioural part of Apple's brand
proposition: humanising technology.

The truth is that in an age of social transparency, where reputations are won or lost in realtime,
if any part of your business isn't aligned with your brand values – promises will be broken, and consumers
will walk. If the tax team at Starbucks made their business decisions based on brand, I wonder how
differently that might have turned out.

But whose responsibility is it? More than ever before, CMOs are taking ownership of their brand's
internal culture – and the behaviours that shape the organisation from the inside out. It's a low
fence between colleagues and customers – and some brands have done a great job of bringing those
experiences closer together.

And if you need any proof – think back to Greg Smith's letter of resignation from Goldman Sachs.
When outing a toxic internal culture triggers a £1.3billion fall in share price, it's time to get serious
about what you do and how you do it.

Posted by Doug

Leading with purpose

"Purpose isn't simply one of the circles on your brand map: it's the reason you exist; an
anchoring principle that guides the business; your north star. It's for the long term."...

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In 2012 I was asked by Calling Brands to research and write a thought piece on purpose and its impact
in the workplace.

It was called Crunch Time and it started with the premise that businesses are finding themselves ever-more
reliant on their people at the same time as finding it ever-harder to bond with them.

I was already aware of the positive impact that shared values has on employee engagement but had no idea
that organisational purpose would have such a big effect too: we discovered that after pay, it was the most
important factor when choosing who to work for. We also found that purpose inspires discretionary effort
and lifts loyalty.

The role of purpose outside the organisation is hardly less profound; with a growing sense that business
has a responsibility to the society that supports it, consumers quickly gravitate to brands that stand
for something more meaningful than the pursuit of shareholder value.

But who defines, owns, embodies an organisation's purpose?

An interesting piece in Fast Co last month is typical of one body of thought, suggesting
it springs from a charismatic leader.

Eiman writes “Purpose leaders don't manage; they mesmerize. They don't execute initiatives;
they lead crusades”.

Sounds ghastly to me. But more importantly it also sounds like the most insanely high-risk brand
strategy imaginable.

Purpose isn't simply one of the circles on your brand map: it's the reason you exist; an anchoring
principle that guides the business; your north star. It's for the long term. To invest its ownership
in just one individual (average tenure FTSE100 CEO = 4.6yrs) is beyond dangerous. A purpose that
gets tweaked every time the boardroom door revolves is no longer a purpose: it becomes this years'
advertising play.

Even when a business and its leader (usually its founder) become so inextricably linked as to define
each other, this cult of leadership simply stores up the problem for the next generation. Who really
believes a post-Jobs Apple will continue to dominate as it did in the past?

The only sustainable strategy for the guardianship of purpose is to embed it within the collective;
to make it owned by all and make all accountable to it. I think only then have you got a fighting chance
of making it meaningful… but get that right and purpose will unlock massive potential in your brand.

Posted by Brook

Brand x Culture x Experience

Lovingly People-Made in London