Is this the end for celebrity endorsements?


Last month saw the fallout from a misjudged social media post by celebrity fitness trainer Andrew Papadopoulos. He announced his engagement to former Miss Universe Australia, Renae Ayris on Instagram – with a very obvious plug for a hot drink.

“Reflecting on our engagement this morning with a very needed cup of NESCAFE Gold in bed!” said the post, under a perfectly posed picture. “So many precious memories to cherish and so many more coffees to enjoy together at home”.

Ouch. How did they get it so wrong?

Be relevant and real

It has a lot to do with context. Andrew Papadopoulos is an elite athlete, focused on health and wellbeing. Why then, would he be chosen to promote distinctly un-nutritious instant coffee? And that shoehorning of it into his engagement announcement was just all shades of awkward.

The world has got savvy to shameless plugs – especially when there’s such an obvious disconnect. There’s also been a seismic cultural shift over the last few years, and consumers demand authenticity in all things. Millennials and Gen Z’ers have come of age in a world of social media, sharing and peer reviews, so there’s no hiding place for brands. Consumers expect transparency, accessibility and honesty.

Enter then, the social influencers…

Social influencers are the new big marketing ticket, in possession of a loyal fan base who hang on their every word, image and opinion. Which means brands can tap into their expertise, and leverage it to their advantage. Where celebrity endorsement is designed to appeal to the maximum number of consumers, influencer marketing is by nature niche. Instead of getting your products in front of as many people as possible, brands can now get them in front of the right people.

Micro, macro and mega

The first level of influencers are the ‘micro’. They’ve usually got between 500 and 1,000 followers, through having passion or expertise for something specific like fitness, travel, fashion, business, beauty, parenting, tech or sport. Micro influencers have a profound connection with their followers, and get around 25% to 50% engagement per post.* The right influencer can mean instant credibility, authenticity and value for a brand – as they’re more likely to be personally invested in the product or service they’re promoting. They also cost a fair bit less than big celebs.

Interestingly, research has shown that once a social media influencer reaches a critical mass of followers, audience engagement starts to tumble. Which is borne out with the next stage of influencer: ‘macro’. With between 10,000 and a million followers, they get just around 5% to 25% engagement per post*. Although of course, they can reach ten times more people than micro influencers.

Finally, there are the mega influencers, like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Shaanxo or a celebrity with a social media account. With more than a million followers, they only get around 2% to 5% engagement per post*. Because of their mass appeal, it’s more difficult to attain the Holy Grail of credibility and authenticity – so they’re actually less valuable to brands than you might think.


Content creators

A big benefit of getting influencers to front your brand, is that they’re already content creators. They create blogs and posts to inform and inspire their followers already, and have a distinctive style which their followers buy into. So whereas celebrity campaigns are mostly created by agencies (the celeb just has to show up), influencers can talk about a brand in their own tone of voice, create a story and frame their content around it.

Who’s doing it well?

Some brands are doing influencer marketing brilliantly. Last year, Adidas’ Glitch campaign used football influencers to drive sales of their new boot. 260 influencers produced content, and gave their followers unique codes to access the shoes. This no-ad, no-big name and no-traditional media approach drew more than 50,000 downloads of the app, and a 75% sales conversion rate.

Airbnb cracked it too, in their collaboration with US music festival Coachella. They provided free accommodation for influencer attendees – and in exchange got lots of coverage across social media. Then Triangl, a swimwear brand starting out with no marketing budget, took the organic route and sent samples of their neoprene bikinis to mega Insta influencers – transforming likes into sales.


Matalan… mixing it up

So, celebrities… influencers… what happens if you mix them up? Matalan’s recent successful collaboration with ITV, that’s what. Denise Van Outen provided the star power, and was joined on her chat show by fashion insiders, style bloggers and other micro influencers, giving hints and tips on current trends, and promoting the Matalan brand.

20-second ads ran during shows like Corrie and X Factor, directing viewers to watch the content online. Matalan’s sales figures improved during the show’s 12 month run – but the real goal was to change perceptions of the brand, and engage new audiences.

The (older) elephant in the room

Ok, so the age thing. Gen X and baby boomers are on social at least as much as Millennials and Gen Z-ers, but are they as susceptible to the charms of influencers? It’s certainly seen more as a model focusing on younger consumers – but that doesn’t mean it can never work for older people. The channel used most by those over 35 is Facebook, and if brands can pinpoint their demographic, find a micro influencer who’s popular and trusted by their target market, it can still be a cost-effective way to reach these spending-powerhouse generations.

Influencers Vs Celebs

Over the past year, brands have spent more than £800million on Instagram influencers** – and 23% of marketers plan to increase their influencer spending by 30-50% over the next year**. Influencers certainly give good bang for your buck, with lower costs and more credibility than some celebrity endorsements.

We think there’s still a place for celebs in marketing though – but the connection either has to be relevant (like Ronaldo and Nike), based on an insight (like Walker’s Crisps poking fun at Gary Lineker’s ‘nice guy’ reputation, or Snickers playing on Joan Collins’ diva status) or just harnessing sheer star wattage (looking at you, Clooney with Nespresso, Charlize Theron with Dior, and David Beckham with almost anything).


Celebrity or influencer… the moral of the story is to be transparent; never try and pretend it’s anything but a promotion for a brand, product or service – as fans, followers and everyday consumers will see right through it. In today’s world, authenticity is everything.

*Source: We Are Anthology
**Source: Mediakix


Sean Dwyer

Turning Japanese at Westfield White City

In the freshly built expansion of Westfield White City new stores are still opening, and if there’s one thing that gets us excited here at Whippet, it’s a new store. Especially when we learn that one of them is a Japanese Marketplace.


From the team behind the Japan Centre on Panton St and restaurant chain Shoryu Ramen, Ichiba is Europe’s largest Japanese food hall bringing artisanal food, drink, homewares and gifts from Japan to London.

The moment you arrive, there are instant references to Japanese culture. Bright lights and light wood textures give a traditional feel, reminiscent of a modern Japanese restaurant.Throughout the store are what Ichiba refers to as ‘theatrical zones’ – areas where chefs create authentic Japanese dishes, live, that you can eat in or take away. They also host cooking demonstrations and workshops, which is a great way to show customers who are new to the cuisine how to cook with their products.


The overall layout of the store is simple, with brightly lit fresh counter areas and well-placed overhead navigation and a brand style that’s fresh and modern. We particularly like the organic style of illustration which sits well with the friendly handwritten style of the logo and bold colour palette. Little brand touches such as the packing stickers and colourful staff uniforms help to add to the modern feel of the store too. However, we did notice a lack of in-aisle communication, particularly around education and inspiration, so unless you know your Japanese products (we don’t!), it’s difficult to understand what you’re buying until you see the small ticketing. A more evident tone of voice would help give the store more of a personality too.


Overall though, it’s an exciting store, offering something new and different to what can be a tough, been-there-seen-it-done-that London crowd. But with more than 3000 products and immersive experience top of its agenda, Ichiba looks set to appeal to both the Japanese community and Japanese-curious alike.


Sean Dwyer

Fish, chips and a side order of ‘new’ for Harry Ramsden’s

If you go down to the seaside today, you’ll be sure of a big surprise… as 90 year-old fish and chip restaurant Harry Ramsden’s shows off a new look and feel, designed by us, at its site in Westquay, Southampton. A new logo, a bolder, brighter colour palette, awesome photography, cheeky illustrations and a playful tone of voice, it’s already pulling in the punters, young, old and everywhere in between.  If you’re in the area, pop in… (we hear the new Sri Lankan fish curry’s to die for).





Sean Dwyer

John Lewis gives shoppers more at Westfield

The new, much anticipated, John Lewis store opened recently in Westfield’s White City £600m extension so we couldn’t resist checking it out.

While not as large as the Oxford Street store, this new flagship still boasts an impressive 230,000 sq ft of retail space over 4 floors (that’s almost 4 Wembley stadium pitches!). And at £33m, it’s not a cheap way to open the brand’s 50th store. So has the investment been worth it?

Westfield has dramatically extended the centre so it’s now officially the largest shopping centre in Europe with the John Lewis store a very definite anchor. We entered through the centre where the approach is pretty impressive. Located at one end of the new aisle under a magnificent glass roof, the store sits proudly, more reminiscent of a religious pilgrimage destination than a retail unit.

The entrance on the first floor is flanked by 4 window displays, each displaying a simple, bright and strong display in the iconic John Lewis style with the rallying cries of their summer campaign, ‘Time to pump up the lilo’ and ‘Time to burn the sausages in the garden’… where do we sign up?!Whippet_JL_4

On entering, the usual mix of curated fashion, beauty and home brands are available but what’s really striking is the obvious attempt to make the store feel like a true experience as opposed to a mere functional space. One of the ways John Lewis have done this is with the emphasis on service and experience as a key differentiator. And the addition of 23 bespoke services including lingerie fitting, technical support, personal styling, home design, opticians and beauty spa treatments definitely make for a dazzling mix of options designed to encourage behaviour beyond the traditional ‘in and out shop’ to a planned ‘afternoon out’ destination.Whippet_JL_2

Managing Director, Paula Nickolds says they wanted to create “a place to shop, do and learn under one roof… a new level of personalised, curated shopping which until how has been the preserve of boutique shops.” And we think John Lewis has certainly delivered on that promise.

There are daily fashion talks in the Style Studio, cookery classes in The Demo Kitchen, craft classes and interior design talks in The Discovery Room, to name but a few. And this is before you venture into the supremely chilled Sleep Studio to test mattresses, explore the Smart Home area or design your own rug and sofa to go with your unique flooring choice.Whippet_JL_3

What John Lewis has successfully achieved is a great experience – we forgot we were in a busy West London shopping centre and happily bought into the personalised, service-driven experience. That’s when we headed to new bar, Smith and Sinclair for an edible cocktail.

John Lewis, we salute you. You have certainly not knowingly oversold this one!


Sean Dwyer

How to make your brand work harder by sweating the details

We’ve all heard that when it comes to branding, the devil is in the details, but what does that actually mean today? In a world where product is no longer at the centre of the brand proposition, for the consumer, the details actually are the brand.  What do they represent? Do this brand’s values fit into the way I see myself?  When I buy something from this brand, is it a simple transaction, or can it be a real relationship? Even the smallest encounters with a brand contribute to the picture of who a brand is in a consumer’s mind, so every interaction has to be meaningful. But what does this mean in practice? We’ve gathered a few examples we’ve seen recently to illustrate how just a few small things can make your brand work harder.

Find new touch points on the customer journey to inject brand personality

By Chloe is a casual dining chain serving vegan twists on popular American foods. It’s (luckily for us!) just opened up in our neighbourhood. They literally don’t miss even the smallest moment to express their brand personality. From floor to ceiling, all the way down to napkins and tip jars, you only need to make one visit and you get a great idea of what they are all about: vegan food with a sense of humour. Everything in the restaurant is meticulously designed and planned to fit together, and that creates a really memorable and recognisable brand experience.


Use existing brand assets in a new way when you pivot

Rapha started as a luxury cycling sportswear company, making tight-fitting performance wear for road cyclists, but when they expanded their brand to include lifestyle-orientated products like wool jumpers and cotton trousers, they needed to find a way to make their new products stand out from the hundreds of other lifestyle clothing brands out there.

They did it by taking the iconic neon pink colour they were famous for using on their cycling jerseys and sportswear, and using it in a new, more subtle way in their lifestyle range. Meaning, for example, their jeans and cotton trousers could be worn in any environment, and appear to be standard, normal clothing with nothing cycling-specific about them. However, to those in the know, the tiny neon pink details like stitching, trims on the insides of cuffs only visible when rolled up, and tabs on pockets revealed that they were actually from the high-end cycling brand. Clever.


Put the little details in places your target customer will appreciate most

Millennial-targeting cosmetics brand Glossier could have chosen to rely purely on their products to create their brand experience, instead they found unusual moments in their customer journey to add surprise and delight. One of our favourites is the shipping boxes they send their products in. What could have just been a brown cardboard box like everyone else’s has instead been used as a canvas to inject some brand personality. The interior lid of the box features a piece of copy and a flood of millennial pink that perfectly represents their brand – and will appeal to their customer. They taken a touchpoint in the customer journey that many brands ignore or dismiss as unimportant, and transformed it into a memorable experience that fits perfectly into their customers’ world of unboxing videos and shelfies.

These are just a few examples of tiny, seemingly unimportant details that help these brands stand out, but there are a few key things they’re all doing that make these details really work:

1. Be real Find authentic brand values, and define how they translate across every touchpoint. Customers can spot fake from miles away.

2. Be consistent Everything you say and do should be unified in tone and visual style across all channels. This makes it easy for customers to spot and engage with your brand when you’re doing something amazing.

3. Be unique It’s all about ownability. Customers are looking for the differences that help them choose which brands to buy into, and which brands to ignore. What you say and do should be things that could only come from you.


Sean Dwyer

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