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

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

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

Heritage: factual or fictitious, do customers care?


Here at Whippet we love getting our teeth stuck into a great branding project. One of the first things we always do is delve into the history of the brand to see where it’s come from, where it first started out and what nuggets of gold we can uncover to inform the new proposition. The dream is to find a wealth of heritage or an amazing brand story that we can bring to life. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn’t. But the idea of heritage for brands is an interesting one. How important is it to customers? Do they know if the shop where they buy their bananas or brogues from started trading in the 1800s? Do they even care?

More and more brands are embracing the notion of heritage and the more successful ones make themselves as relevant today as they did when they first opened their doors. However, that doesn’t always mean the brands are necessarily old in years. Shinola, an American watchmaker is a great example of an artificial heritage brand. The name was bought from a vintage American shoe-polish company to give authenticity and a vintage feel. The brand was then tactically located in Detroit to play off the rich manufacturing history the area is known for. Clever, when the products were all to be made in Detroit by local workers and craftsmanship was key to the brand’s proposition. The outcome? A hugely successful, authentically American brand that most people would believe to be as rich in heritage as say, a brand like Jack Daniels. 


On the other hand, you have brands with an authentically true heritage. Some of these brands leverage this to their advantage, so it becomes a key part part of their brand appeal. John Lewis is a good example of this. They take every opportunity to tell their story – consistently, over time, in every channel, resulting in a loyalty that gets passed down through generations. And when they turned 150 in 2014, they brought their rich history to life through a series of immersive experiences and pop-ups, making themselves relevant enough to engage a whole new generation of younger shoppers.

But other brands are failing to tap into their rich heritage… and appear to be suffering. Take House of Fraser. The third largest group of traditional department stores in the UK – and on the brink of launching a CVA – it was, like John Lewis, established as a draper’s shop in 1849. 1849! It has a heritage of almost 170 years behind it. But who knows? Its focus has been on creating a ‘house of brands’, rather than a ‘house with heritage’. Its ailing status can’t solely be attributed to this fact of course, but you can’t help wondering had it told its heritage tale more strongly throughout the years, hung its hat on its history, whether it would have secured a more loyal customer.


If done well, the outcome of a brand’s heritage is a sense of trust and assurance, a feeling for the customer of reliability, of quality, expertise and service. All things that any brand strives for. Sometimes, as Shinola shows, customers will buy into that heritage regardless of the brand’s actual birth date. And sometimes, it pays to be true. But one thing’s for sure, in a digital age where we’re all glued to our phones, the appeal of something real and tangible with a great story behind it is becoming even more huge.



Sean Dwyer

In praise of (the real) artisan


Don’t we all love a nice, crusty piece of ‘artisan’ bread and drinking a ‘craft’ beer? It seems that nowadays, artisan brands are everywhere.

Our supermarket shelves, local high streets and online retailers are full of brands and products claiming craft credentials. But with big brands getting in on the act and the use of the term becoming so universal, have we reached ‘peak artisan’ and how do we know even what’s real anymore?

The marketing principle that it’s better to make what sells, rather than sell what you make is known to us all. However, the real artisan and craft trend has turned this thinking on its head.

For the real artisans, it’s not the market opportunity that’s the main focus. Rather, their products are inspired by their own experience. Their stories are personal and compelling, full of dedication, skill and imagination. The film clip on the The Cornish Seaweed company’s website for example, captures the enthusiasm of the founders and how they have used their expertise to create a range of seaweed products (all packaged by hand in a sustainable way) – a very special story indeed.

Small scale production ensures control of every detail for the artisan, and process really matters – often traditional, but with many innovative twists. The authenticity and quality of the products are what attract the customers, even if it means having to pay a bit more (and if you want this uniqueness, why wouldn’t you?)

Unlike the big brands, who use their size and economies of scale to gain an instant wide reach, success can actually be the enemy of the artisan maker. The demand and increase in sales can result in the need to increase production as well as marketing activities, all to the detriment of quality and more importantly, exclusivity.

So how can real artisans compete with big brands whilst retaining their uniqueness and integrity?

One interesting development that appears to be a positive compromise is the likes of small, artisan brands using the scale of bigger brands to increase their reach. While not new, Amazon Fresh is a case in point. As long as they are allowed to retain their brand identity and values, and not be pushed to conform to the mothership, small brands on the Amazon Fresh platform gain the benefits of large scale distribution and marketing, while still preserving their authenticity. It appears to be a win/win situation.

One thing is clear, the artisan offering to customers is wide spread and sometimes quite confusing, but ultimately what makes an ‘artisan’ product is the human touch and heart behind the product which gives us an emotional feel good factor. Preserve that and there’ll always be a place for them, however and wherever they choose to sell.



Sean Dwyer

How to have a birthday (clue: the answer’s not in your logo)


Dust down your shell suit and dance atop your Lack table – it’s time to party like it’s 1999.

When you have a big birthday, what’s the best way to celebrate? If you’re like most retailers, you slap the year of your birth underneath your logo and do an advertising campaign. If you’re Ikea, you use the opportunity for one big party and invite the public along.

Ikea’s recent House Party – a takeover of a four storey town house in London, played homage to the brand’s 30 year’s presence in the UK, and was free for the public to enter for one week. A brilliant hand, played at just the right time as part of their overall brand strategy.

Each floor was cleverly decked out as a living room throwback to past decades reflecting our changing tastes in interiors. Guests could wander around the whole house, much like an exhibition, taking a trip down memory lane with Billy Book cases, Twister and Connect 4 in the 80s, Britpop and minimalist sofas in the 90s and shiny acrylic units and clashing walls in the 00s. Hammy actors made the experience even more fun (and even more bonkers). By contrast, the top floor looked to the future, inviting people to consider how they might create homes that help us make better use of the world’s dwindling resources. Come night, the house turned into an actual house party, complete with Jamiroquai playlist and Hooch at the bar.


Experiential marketing is nothing new, but has been gaining traction over the last few years as traditional advertising fails to hit the mark. But what was interesting here, is that while the house was stacked full of Ikea product, there was absolutely no emphasis on buying anything. In fact, you couldn’t even pick up a catalogue (although you could check out 30 years of catalogue covers made into wallpaper – a nice touch). Ikea knows you can’t make money directly from experiential. It’s not the place for transactions. Instead, the whole event was a cleverly executed gold standard in brand awareness, geared towards putting Ikea at the forefront of consumer’s minds, both for their ‘design classics’ which continue to endure, and to cement their reputation as one of the most forward thinking, innovative and ethically minded brands. After all, if a brand stirs positive emotions with consumers, they’re more likely to have a positive perception overall.

Ikea has recognised that as people aren’t responding to traditional advertising, they need another way to reach the ever-apathetic, attention-of-a-gnat consumer. Something with talkability. And the great thing about experiential is it’s hugely shareable. Even if people didn’t visit the house, they probably consumed it via social media – meaning Ikea probably reached thousands, possibly millions, more people than they might have otherwise.

So if you’re about to have a birthday soon, think twice about that logo tweak and take a leaf from Ikea. Prawn vol-au-vents optional.



Sean Dwyer

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