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hello – come in and make yourself at home

The Woodies have a blog. It’s a kind of collective. Not sure we’re about to start a revolution baby, but we might kindle a small debate or two and perhaps raise a smile. Anyway, rather than just blogging corporate Woodreed by fielding our top Woodie (as so many other companies seem to do in a thinly veiled attempt at impressing with their profundity), we wanted all our individual voices to be heard. An agency’s most valuable assets are its people after all. Everyone’s got something to say here and with us everyone’s ideas and opinions matter.

Each week someone different will be blogging. It's mostly about stuff that rocks our world as well as the flipside – the things that just don't cut it with us. We'll blog about inside and outside – inside this glorious industry where we work and outside in the real world.
It's a bit of an experiment, so go with us on this one.

Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The battle for talent is well and truly on. Reputation and recommendation’s not enough













As the economic recovery continues, organisations are competing for talent on an unprecedented scale. KPMG’s recent survey of HR professionals revealed that more than 80% of respondents say that addressing skills shortages is a higher priority now than it was two years ago – and will become critical in the next two years.
Personnel Today, July 2014

So how are you approaching your talent attraction right now? Are you limbering up in the red corner preparing to knock out the competition or twiddling your thumbs in the blue corner wondering what to do next?

How can you package up your offer in the most compelling way? How do you make sure you and your recruitment partners are telling the same story? How do you make sure the experience promised in the ads and on your website matches that within the walls of your organisation?

This is how

Treat your potential employees like you’d treat your customers with engaging, relevant communication based on insight.

Use your brand values to make sure the promise in your recruitment comms is aligned with your culture. Get it right first time by employing people who demonstrate they’ll fit with your culture; recruit for attitude as much as skills.


You don’t need to be Mars, Unilever or Coca Cola to get this right. We’ve recently done just this for two clients in professional services. A strategic planning led research programme, including key messaging workshops defined a compelling and competitive value proposition for our clients as the potential employer of choice. From this we developed distinctive visual identities to act as blueprints for all talent attraction communications, whatever the channel, and striking creative campaigns to put them both firmly on the talent map.

It's worth adding a postscript that you don't need a mega media budget to raise the recruitment bar. The key is in uncovering your value proposition then developing a platform of consistent content to use wherever, whenever and however you want to get your message out there.   

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Volkswagen Financial Services’ first ever ‘Brandthem’ - the story behind the music

Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) had five new values. Values Woodreed needed to bring to life, launching and embedding them firmly in the hearts and minds of employees. We’d created individual graphics for each value, abstract representations of people, each with its own personality to symbolise the value. Each graphic told its own story, but also came together to create the bigger more powerful story of ‘Living our spirit’.

A storyboard for a full length animation was written to allow each value to tell its own story, each of which would be accompanied by an individual musical soundtrack. We advised our client that rather than use music ‘off the shelf’, a unique set of values deserved a unique score of music from a composer of note. Luckily they agreed!

Choosing the right composer was key. Our target audience was broad so our score needed to feel timeless to give it maximum appeal to all. It was important to get the balance right; not too modern/electronic, not too traditional. We finally settled on Antony Pitts[i], a renowned musical composer, director and sound design artist, who had the ability to play, record and mix - all under one roof. Perfect!

Whilst each track would have its own identity and evoke different emotions, we wanted them to all work together to form a complete sound track that would be bold, ‘anthemic’ and above all memorable.

Antony Pitts picks up the story:

“Dave Wilson, Woodreed’s Creative Director, approached me to compose, score, and record an animation soundtrack. He wanted an ‘inspiring anthem’ and had detailed ideas about what kind of music should go with each of the five values.  He needed music that would build up from five separate directions and also work together as a single track.  As he suggested, we mixed together real and electronic instruments - we used a real piano and trumpet (me), a flute (my wife Karen Pitts), and Dave himself played a sampled drum kit, all held together by an acoustic tambourine rhythm.”

Here’s the detail for each value:

Customer
A simple grand piano tune in which more notes are added as the numbers increase on-screen.

Responsibility
The idea of a folk round-dance led to the collective of flute, fiddle, accordion, and triangle.

Trust
A ‘trusted’ synth bass doubled two octaves above to which was added a simple hi-hat figure.

Courage
The military snare drum is combined with a real bugle, part-electronic horn section and their martial themes are crossed with jazzier outbursts.

Enthusiasm
The Hollywood string section arrives on the scene accompanied by a full percussion department with handclaps and finally faux-lead guitar.

The resulting piece was a two minute ‘brandthem’ that helped put the new values on the pedestal they deserved, launching them with pride, conviction and energy to a delighted crowd. 

Do have a listen and we hope you enjoy it. 


[i] Antony Pitts (born 1969) is one of several composers in his family; he was an Academic Scholar and Honorary Senior Scholar at New College, Oxford where he founded TONUS PEREGRINUS and in 2004 won a Cannes Classical Award for their #1 debut album Passio.  He joined BBC Radio 3 in 1992 and received the Radio Academy BT Award in 1995; as a Senior Producer he won the Prix Italia in 2004.  He joined the Royal Academy of Music in 2001 where he was Senior Lecturer in Creative Technology until 2009.  Antony’s music has been premiered at London’s Wigmore Hall and Westminster Cathedral, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal, and part of his Requiem at private memorials for former Soviet agent Alexander Litvinenko. 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Are you a culture vulture or culture curator?

Culture is one of this decade’s buzz words, with the media delighting in naming and shaming what it views as toxic and unhealthy cultures from some of our biggest institutions whether it is the banks, the Beeb, the NHS or its turning on its own like News International.

What lies at the heart of culture are brand values – the organisational watchwords for what drives, unites, motivates and differentiates one business from another.

But often these values are not clear, not embedded and not lived from the top, so people take them for granted or create silo cultures. This ‘taken-for-grantedness’ is what frequently makes culture problematic in organisations. People assume that everyone views things in the same way. What I’m saying is, just like the consumer brand, it needs managing to flourish.

A strong culture isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a competitive advantage. It’s an organisation’s own DNA, as intrinsic a part of the brand as the logo. Brands, in their most powerful form being organisational blueprints for growth led from the top.

Your brand inside matters as much as your brand outside. As Peter Simpson, founder and ex commercial director of First Direct, said: "Why would you want to be one kind of brand to your customers and a different one to your employees?"

Smart organisations know that the stronger the culture, the higher the levels of employee engagement (broadly defined as the skills to leave but the desire to stay). There’s a direct correlation between levels of employee engagement and business performance.

The higher the level of engagement, the better for business. Just look at Pret, Innocent, B&Q, Whitbread and, most recently, Nationwide, who have just posted a 113% increase in pre-tax profits for the year to 31 March - a leap it has directly attributed to employees. Ads recently ran in the national press thanking staff with the names of its 15,000 staff under the headline 'Our most valuable assets'. It cites GFK research for the year to May based on interviews with 60,000 customers of the main high street banks who were asked to rank satisfaction levels. (Source: Marketing Week, 28 May 2014)

It makes sense - engagement improves productivity. Engaged employees work harder, take less sick days, stay longer, are happier and make customers happier. People buy people. Forget the inside and lavish all your time and effort outside to your detriment.

Making money matters, of course it does, but people matter too. Treating people like dispensable cogs or work horses just won’t cut it anymore. Gen Y certainly won’t tolerate our old way of working.

The fast-track has lost much of its appeal for them and they’re willing to trade high pay for fewer billable hours, flexible schedules and a better work/life balance. Times are a changing; we need to move with them.

Our clients are seeing the bigger picture of employee engagement. CEOs are starting to take notice. In ‘Engage for Success’ , a government white paper on the importance of employee engagement, company leaders describe their "light-bulb moment" when an understanding of the full potential significance of employee engagement dawned.

Ex Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy talks about his reaction when he realised that the company knew more about its customers than it did its own people. He then set about understanding what the workforce wanted and what motivated them at work.

So what about us then? Our own industry? Your own agency? We live for our clients’ brands and the work we produce for them. We relish the thrill of the chase of new business; we love to compete, love to win and we’re obsessed with the prize. I wonder sometimes, really, honestly, how healthy our own cultures are? Is our industry really much different from the likes of News International and the banks?

Do you know what your agency’s values are and the defined and expected culture–defining behaviours aligned to them?

Are they simply words on a manicured wall, in a beautifully art directed induction vanity piece or genuinely embedded into the culture of your business?

Are they measured, recognised and rewarded? Are they used in induction, training and recruitment? Are they lived from the top down and right across your business or is it simply lip service? The say-do gap – how big is yours?

We are making some headway through the IPA’s CDP and, arguably, the Gold agencies are making their own people more of a priority. But employee engagement isn’t just about winning a Gold (see, it’s that prize thing again), it’s what you do every day that matters.

It’s about being true to your values by encouraging a collective set of behaviours that bind you together as one organisational culture.

A curator of culture, guarding and nurturing, or a vulture picking over fragments of a stagnant culture. Which one are you?

Check out Arianna Huffington's take on the subject in her Campaign piece

This first appeared on the IPA's website www.ipa.co.uk/blog

Thursday, 8 May 2014


Dribbling through adversity and scoring a brand slam dunk

Up until two years ago you could have been forgiven for thinking that there was only one basketball team in Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Lakers.

In the 2012/2013 NBA season the Los Angeles Lakers lost their season series against the Los Angeles Clippers for the first time in 20 years. This season sees the Lakers sit and watch as the Clippers go to the NBA playoffs with a chance for the overall title.

Finally after years of being ‘the other basketball team in Los Angeles’ (they even share the same stadium as the Lakers) the Los Angeles Clippers are a basketball brand on the rise. But at the end of last month disaster struck as the owner was caught making racist comments.

Fans, the press and especially sponsors were outraged with an estimated $30-50m of sponsors, including Adidas, Samsung and Kia, walking out on the brand within hours of the news being leaked.

The brand was on the brink of destruction.

The team at the Clippers understood that they needed to work ‘quickly and firmly’. They looked deeply into their brand and how the key truth of their brand was that they are an innovator and key part of the one of the most progressive and diverse sports leagues in the world.

Following the immediate sacking, lifetime NBA ban and $2.5m fine handed to the manager the Clipper’s homepage was replaced with the white words ‘We are one’ on a complete black background, soon almost every other team in the league had the same.

The players cancelled their pre-planned strike from playing and won the next game, the fans attended like never before with 6.47 million viewers ranking it the most watched cable game of the NBA playoffs, and almost all of the sponsors have returned. This story shows how power of a brand can bring people together inside and outside of that brand.

The brand managed to dribble through adversity with fast and clear decisions to score a slam dunk for the brand. It seems that with this understanding of their brand, soon you could once again be forgiven for thinking that there is only basketball team in Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Clippers.

Sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-27248645
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/29/nba-la-clippers-donald-sterling-lifetime-ban-racist-comments
http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2014/05/05/140505-NBA-Clippers-Impact.aspx
http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2014/05/01/NBA-Clippers-Content-Strategy-140501.aspx
http://www.hothdwallpaper.net/wallpapers/hd/593837/wallpapers-slamdunk-blake-griffin-los-angeles-clippers-nba-slam

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sorry for the F word, no apologies for the B word

I was in two minds about how to approach this, and in two minds whether to share the headline in the original.

I was going to paste an extract and then add a bit of erudite (!) Woodreed commentary but then when I read the full piece again (see link) I'm really not sure it can be bettered. And how to choose which extract from a piece crammed full of great quotable quotes?

Perhaps the only thing to add to this cracker of a piece about the power of culture is the B word - that's the B word as in brand.  Internal cultures are created when people inside an organisation behave in a way which is aligned to the brand values.  Not just any old values picked at random from the Motherhood and Apple Pie Book of Corporate Values, but values which are grounded in a clearly defined and differentiated brand which has a solid proposition relevant to its target audience.

So I'm with you Brian Chesky all the way on this - just so long as we don't forget it's the brand values that lie at the heart...
"By upholding our core values in everything we do. Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture. "

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A picture paints a thousand words. Or in this case about 100.



Our Monday morning Woodreed workout set us the task of writing 100 words about Manet’s "A Bar at the Folies-Bergere". 1 minute to think then just simply write for 5 minutes or so.

There was such a range of responses, from description to dialogue to humour. Particularly amusing was Patrick’s version where he wove in the previous week’s workshop where we’d been dissecting the best and worst of the SuperBowl’s commercials.  What was impressive was the speed in which we all managed to organise our thoughts at 9am on a post clocks going forward Monday morning. Well done Woodies!

Here’s a selection…

What is she thinking? She us gazing distractedly and concerned as she talks to the moustached man in the tall black hat.

Who is he? Is he controlling her or is he perhaps bringing her news ? His face, like hers, impassive.

Neither smiles, neither speaks

In the hubbub of the Parisian night – two silent people. All around life goes on, colourful,  noisy and brash. Prostitutes sit at the bar waiting for their next few Francs.

Is he her love, lost, or something more sinister? Or perhaps something more benign – her brother or an uncle.

It can be whatever you want it to be.

______________________________________________________________________

“It’s over”

“Why?”

“I’ve met someone else. Someone who appreciates me for who I am, doesn’t judge me for what I am or where I’ve come from. Someone who doesn’t want me to be anyone but who I am”

“It’s the drink talking”

“It isn’t that, I haven’t had a drink all night, I’ve given it up, and you know that. I know it’s hard but you can’t change me, I won’t change and you won’t change my mind”

“But I love you”

“No you don’t, you don’t love anyone really….except yourself”

“Think of all the times we’ve spent together. The walks along the Seine, last summer on Ile de Re?

“Just memories. Pack them up, put them away, move on”

“Au revior Cheri/e”

___________________________________________________________________

After Scarlett Johansson appeared in her career-ending Sodastream advert she found herself in the Ragged Trousers bar serving Newcastle Ale on her left and Lambrini on her right feeling as if she were in a painting from the 1880s…

Why oh why had she ditched Oxfam she thought as she looked down at the locals in the bar. Sodastream had gone out of business soon after the ad ran and Oxfam had put an end to poverty using all the support from outraged viewers of Scarlett’s ad. The bar was owned by Oxfam and all their profits going to a good cause and she had to wear this flower uniform as punishment.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Accentuate the positive... eliminate the negative

We recently asked the workforce of a client of ours who has admittedly been going through some tough times (really tough) in recent years "What 3 words spring to mind when describing the organisation?" 

The words they came up with were overwhelmingly negative. No great surprise, we knew the workforce was likely to be in a fairly low place.

We also asked "What makes you proud to work here?"  We then analysed the results in terms of what they said. Over 80% of the comments were positive in tone with just over 10% negative and the balance neutral. 


Despite the negativity there was a hunger and a will to find something positive to say - and most people managed to do just that. It's an interesting insight into the need we have to feel part of something which we can align ourselves to and be a proud of.


That's where an organisation with the integrity to live the values grounded in their brand comes into play surely?