Pirates, prancercise and possibilities

On 18th October The Specialist Works brought 300 senior marketers, media owners and thought-leaders together to ask What’s Possible. But in doing so we set a rule for our speakers: no fluffy theories, only ideas you can action in the next 12 months. They delivered.

Here are some of our highlights from the day – three key themes which will drive business growth in 2019.

#1 – Purpose: preach and practice 

Many of the day’s talks covered the changing needs of consumers and what this means for brands. We want things cheaper, faster and more often. Convenience is king, and brands are racing for the crown. But in the process, are brands neglecting their own purposes?

‘Are you going to sell something, or start something?’ – Sam Conniff Allende  

For a lot of brands, in a climate where Instagram could be tomorrow’s Myspace, the last thing on their mind is their purpose. But taking the time to define why your business exists and what problems you’re solving will mean better products and services. That is, according to Nils Leonard, Uncommon founder. He talked about launching the creative agency with a clear point of view on what they wanted to be about and being fortunate enough to work with brands like OVO Energy who aligned with their values.

“Don’t just look at work, look at the crew that run it, look what matters to the people behind the business that you’re working with and ask yourself whether they’re going to be a good fit for you” – Nils Leonard 

Be More Pirate author Sam Conniff Allende gave us the pirate spin on purpose: create necessary good trouble to get sh*t done. The purpose behind his book was to inspire rule-breaking induced innovation. Just like the Golden Age pirates. The pirate code was centuries ahead of its time and led the way to social reform. Sam thinks it’s about time for that to happen again.

 “The supreme purpose of the John Lewis Partnership is the happiness of people that work there” – Lord Mark Price  

#2 – Prioritise wellbeing

For John Lewis, the wellbeing of the people who work there is their number one priority. As well as making it a good place to work, Lord Price says it means you’ll get better business results. Lord Price said a highly engaged workforce means 20% higher profits. This is the result of higher productivity, lower staff turnover and happier customers. Employees’ mental, physical and financial wellbeing is key to having an engaged workforce. That means giving employees real responsibility and helping them feel that they’re directly involved in the company’s success.

“In 2018 the tech community sinned repeatedly. In 2019 there needs to be some level of atonement” – Meabh Quorin  

Wellbeing is #woke. Meabh Quorin turned the conversation from our employees’ wellbeing to our own. Meabh talked about how we’re increasingly worried that technology is making us sick and affecting our ability to just live life. Companies are selling products that claim to make us better people, and this has had an adverse effect on our self-esteem. The solution to this is, you guessed it, more tech – such as Apple’s screen time feature (also addictive). Meabh predicts we’ll see the rise of more educator brands acting as life coach, promoting quality face-to-face time (not FaceTime).

#3 Authenticity 

Caring about wellbeing and having a brand purpose only matters if it’s authentic. If you’re authentic, you’ll be trusted. Cristina De Balanzo, talked of four steps to redefine brands to be more human: storytelling, humour, simplicity and authenticity. Your brand’s values, meaning and tone must be consistent to drive long term engagement. The truth is, people don’t like feeling misled. Cristina told us that the brain detects and disengages if something isn’t genuine, whether that’s a photoshopped too good to be true picture of a product, or, a la Emily Turnbull’s session on voice, believing you’re talking to a human when it’s actually a robot.

“Stop dictating and start facilitating” – Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos 

Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos told us nurses are more trusted than doctors because they facilitate rather than prescribe. Brands should follow suit. You’ll have a stronger connection with your customers if you talk with them rather than to them.

“Talk minus action equals shit” – Martin Woolley

All these examples share the same sentiment: be prepared to practice what you preach.