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I am a strategy director with experience in all stages of brand strategy and execution. I work with CEO's on the future of their business, and I bring brands to life through tailored content. Whatever you need. I am based in London, but can work wherever you and your clients are.

 

 

The Blog of Camilla Grey Petty

 

Filtering by Tag: brands

Branded content review: Nike’s web series ‘Margot vs Lily’

Camilla Grey

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, the old content giants were dying and new unicorns were spinning yarns both incredible and strange…

Whether brands are lurking quietly in the background or right out in front, they are finding new ways to communicate and sell that truly challenge more traditional media platforms and publishers.

Writing in The Guardian, Andrew Marr described this all as a “wave of creative destruction overturning all traditional media”. And its true, today’s leading brands not only come armed with money and power, but also with creativity. Whether in-house or agency, brands have access to some of the most creative people in the world, enabling them to disrupt traditional media as much as traditional industries.

So, in the same month that both The Independent and BBC3 packed up their analogue and broadcast bags to go online-only, Nike launched an eight-part original web series called Margot vs Lily. It’s no low-key thing — the creative team behind it have legit TV credentials (Glee and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and it has all the gloss and style of New Girl or Rookie MagIt’s not perfect — in fact it’s a little uncanny valley — but it represents such a holisticfusion of creative ideas and approaches that it’s worth noticing.

But let’s go back to the uncanny bit. Margot vs Lily has everything going for it and yet… it’s like watching a PowerPoint for a branded content idea in film form. I get the feeling that they brought in this epic creative team of storytelling experts, and then feedback-ed their way to something very odd. I asked a screenwriter (my Mum) for her view on the first episode. Here’s what she said:

Script gurus talk a lot about jeopardy and conflict and what’s at stake, but, if nothing meaningful to the audience is at stake, there’s no story. It can be tiny, but it has to feel authentic. And it has to be felt: show, don’t tell.
Why should the audience care enough about Margot and Lily to invest in their story? (And by ‘invest’ I don’t mean purchasing opportunities.) If an audience is to feel enough for Margot and Lily to care what happens to them, their ‘struggle’ has to feel authentic. Authentic, ‘deep character’ struggles around women and exercise lie in the fear of exposure, embarrassment, failure and uncertainty — painful subjects for a brand identified with being the best.
And so, Nike Women’s messages are ticked off at such an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ rate that it’s clear that, whatever larks are to be had along the way, both young women are going to win — and not merely the bet but also a ‘sweatspiration’ lesson about life.
Good drama taps into our worst fears. The nightmare of someone who wants to win is not to lose but to come second forever. A brand narrative committed to a simple linear outcome cannot hope to embrace the messy but essential ‘what-happens-next?’ uncertainty that drives a good story. Margot v. Lily is noChariots of Fire. Either Nike Women should instead have gone to the team behind Friday Night Lights, or not confused brand story with drama.

Mum’s are so wise aren’t they? Seriously, though, she’s right. Margot vs Lily is failing to pass as content by committing to the brand story, not the human story. As consumer, we’re able to see past all the Nike gear and oh-so-subtle calls-to-action, but are going to want to watch past episode 1 when Just Do It just isn’t doing it for us as a narrative?

A newsletter of a generation

Camilla Grey

Yesterday, Lena Dunham announced the forthcoming launch her of newsletter, Lenny. Describing it as being like “your over sharing Internet friend”, the newsletter is aimed at young women and will cover fashion, politics and relationships. Dunham and her co-creators have outlined big ambitions for the newsletter and hope to surface many different voices through their content. But perhaps most interesting is how The Cut (the women’s section of the New York Times) heralded Lenny’s launch. In an otherwise warm and positive piece, their opening line made no bones about the underlying intention of Lenny.

“The Lena Dunham experience is getting another brand extension.”

Brands — and Lena Dunham has become a brand — must constantly find new ways to cut through an otherwise crowded space and (it just never gets old) engage deeply with their target audience. In 2011, I wrote about Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter client (now publishing platform) A Plus. If you’ll excuse me the self-indulgence of quoting myself,

A.plus has gone beyond hoping that people will actively seek out or notice tweets from brands — or in his case “celebrities” — and positioned it right there next to your Twitter stream. As Twitter, and indeed other social networks, age and grow, the idea that your brand’s voice will be heard through the noise just because you’re good at tweeting is not a risk worth taking. What A.plus proves, is that if you have the insight on your audience to give them something they’ll truly use — like a great Twitter client — then you have also created the opportunity and right to give your voice, your message priority

Lena Dunham has earned that right, and she’s been smart about where she’s used her voice and how. And yet, while the underlying need to stand out has not changed, audience savvy has. And none more so than among the young, enlightened, feminists that Dunham is going after. In fact, she’s helped educate them. Through GIRLS, her book and her social channels, she’s instigated a discourse around our online and offline selves, around what’s meaningful and what’s bullshit, and around what’s art and what’s artifice.

The focus when it comes to Lenny seems to be about modern feminism, but I think it’s really about something deeper — the existential dilemma of self as brand. In the Buzzfeed coverage, Dunham is quoted as saying, “We’ll be allowed to show the ugly and complicated thought processes that go into forming your own brand of feminism”. But take out the last two words and it takes you closer to the nub of the challenge facing everyone today, not just women. Feminism is a part of it, but what’s made Dunham “a voice of a generation” is her creative response to the bigger picture, to responding to mass marketing with self marketing.

I read recently that Millennials aren’t a demographic, but a genre — a cultural style that’s informed by a diverse set of interests that spans fashion and politics, food and finance. What defines a Millennial isn’t their age, gender or location, but their ability and appetite to live full lives amidst a barrage of conflicting messages and pressures. In this light, Lenny is potentially quite meta — a ‘brand extension’ about navigating life in a world of branded extensions. My inbox awaits.

 

The best brand ever: Five things I learnt from the One Direction Documentary

Camilla Grey

1. Know your market and then transcend it

“When people say I’m in a boy band, I say “Yeah, I am but I’m in a cool boy band.” (Zayn)

Build a deep understanding of your competitors, your audience, the lexicon and the platforms where your customers already are and would expect to find you. Then find your point of differentiation and focus on that.

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2. Create an identity that develops as you do

“When you go on tour, the outfit you choose is the outfit you’re stuck with” (Louis)

Your identity should not be an afterthought. Your core values, and how you look, speak and behave should be defined from the outset. They will help you make crucial decisions about how to grow your business, where to invest, who to hire and how to expand across touchpoints. Most importantly, your brand can help you say ‘no’, without making it personal.

 

3.  Your fans are your promoters

“A small group of british girls, became a huge group of british girls, who then turned Europe into fans. American then stepped in. So in the space of months, the girls had got the whole planet to support One Direction.” (Simon Cowell)

Start small and reward those customers who are loyal from the beginning. Make them feel part of the team by asking for feedback and giving them insider info. Give them collateral (photos, videos, pro tips etc) that’s easily sharable and let them feel that your success lies in their hands.

 

4. It’s a 24/7 commitment

“We’re on a 131 show world tour. There’s no rest. Just go go go” (Zayn)

Your brand is a living, breathing thing. Once it’s out there, its perception is built as much as by the public as by you. Just because you’re asleep, doesn’t mean your customers are. Just because you’re not on Instagram doesn’t mean your brand isn’t. And just because you don’t want to talk about something, doesn’t mean your competitors and nay-sayers won’t. Setting up proper monitoring and measuring to keep on top of what’s being said and where, and having processes in place to allow you to react quickly to feedback (both good and bad) is crucial.

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5. Keep it real

“People say “you’re famous”. I just struggle with the word. It just gives you no substance”. (Harry)

Numbers aren’t a measure of success. Having one million Twitter followers doesn’t necessarily mean you have high sales. Stay true to your values, deliver a great product, and connect with your customers in ways that are useful to them and you won’t just be known for your name, you’ll be loved for having a real place in people’s lives.