• Transform magazine
  • May 19, 2022

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Five Minutes With Colin Clark

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Head of strategy and planning at launch marketing agency Five by Five, Colin Clark believes brands must experience in first person what the audience does. He discusses experiential marketing and taboos in branding, advancing suggestions for the whole industry and speaking about his own experience

What do you think is a taboo in branding that nobody talks about? What is the ‘elephant in the room’?

It’s the less glamorous things that are taboo. There’s been a focus on sex and body parts, and less on the mundane taboos – like dying.

In the UK, the ‘elephant’ is probably marijuana. It’s now accepted in some US states and Canada, and is gaining support in the EU; here, we consider it to be the start of a serious addiction and it is frowned upon. We are growing in awareness and acceptance of CBD products, but THC is still banned – except in specific medical cases.

Do you think brands are doing enough to connect to their audience?

People don’t fall into convenient audience segments anymore. It’s more about a state of mind. It’s harder to communicate in this way, but more effective – it builds brand empathy much quicker, too.

A method we use is to ‘become’ the audience. We immerse ourselves in their behaviours: where they go to eat, drink, work and play. When I worked for SunLife, I managed to get a weekend job at a funeral director’s and worked as a pallbearer. I also attended a local Death Café. We all had tea and cake and discussed death; some facing death shortly through illness, some dealing with it regularly. This was aimed to bring the taboo into the open and normalise it. It was upsetting, but also uplifting and hugely insightful toward the SunLife campaign.

Why do you think launch is an important moment for a brand? What are the biggest challenges to overcome?

Launches are different than business as usual. They are intensified. But besides that, the audience doesn’t know of the product and service being launched, and usually doesn’t know it has a need for it. This is particularly true of technology. Who needed to have thousands of songs in their pocket before the iPod? Who needed a camera on their mobile? Launch marketing is about creating the desire amongst an audience who will benefit from it the most, sometimes making them aware of a problem they hadn’t considered, then gaining traction and critical mass to establish the launch. A launch rarely lasts a day, week, month or even a year. It’s too easy to launch a product then leave it. Like a plant, it needs to be nurtured until strong enough to stand by itself.

What do you think is the best approach to lead a brand or a product to a successful launch?

We’ve identified 10 launch strategies and the application will depend on the product, market and audience. Perhaps the most striking approach though, is our test and learn phase prior to launch. We believe in stress testing our creative, targeting and offer amongst a representative panel before launch. This saves time and money in the long run, and helps provide a reassurance of success.

Which example, among your past work, are you most proud? What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Stagecoach, the global network of performing arts schools for children. They wanted a brand relaunch to help it grow its offering and appeal. We repositioned it as a brand that doesn’t just teach children singing, acting and dancing – but one that teaches them invaluable life skills, which maximises every child’s future potential and happiness. The ‘creative courage for life’ positioning broadened the brand’s appeal to all parents, increasing Stagecoach‘s target market.

The campaign focused on the children’s journeys, expressed through the visual language of doodles; not only their newfound confidence but also the fun they are having. Their thoughts, aspirations, imaginations, goals, fears and achievements, all as they grow through their Stagecoach experiences.

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