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  • Writer's pictureNeil

There is nothing permanent except change

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

This story starts with me sitting in my hotel in Santa Monica in 2018. I was on my return leg of an amazing business trip and I was reflecting on some of the exceptional retail experiences I'd had on my travels. The very sharp sales assistant in Lulu Lemon store in Salt Lake City selling me a gym-bag that I didn't need. My visit to the Arc'teryx store in Seattle was like being in the theatre. The way the staff talked me through the reasons why I should buy one of their products was brilliantly scripted, beautifully delivered and in a great environment. When retail works well it’s beautiful.

But as I sat looking out over the beach, I had this nagging feeling that back in the UK our retail marketing division was at risk to changes in consumer behaviour that would impact traditional retail. Consumers were using online so much more than ever before and as a result I was worried that understandably our clients would go where the money is with their sales support budgets. Increasingly that was feeling like online rather than bricks and mortar. Brands needed to communicate digitally with their end customer, and I felt we needed to adapt.

Despite spending the past 8 years of business in the digital space I was a late convert to online shopping. I’d been managing premier league footballer's social media and executing commercial deals for them and building online stories for brands, but I was fundamentally a lover of traditional retail. The retail sector has been incredible to me for over 27 years. I have spent my career building companies with the support of outstanding retailers around the world. As I sat scribbling, I reflected on one of my favourite retail spots in the world,3rd Street Promenade. With my bags around my table it was a clear sign that retail was not dead. I'd just been exceptionally served by the sales colleagues in Apple, Tesla, Nike, Lids & Urban Outfitters. They all gave me a great shopping experience, and I had happily parted with my money in all of them bar one. You guessed it; I couldn't afford the Tesla. 

However, I still had this nagging feeling that wasn't going away. I knew digital was the future, and we needed to prepare and prepare quickly. My napkin ended up with a load of random, unconnected scribbles. Digital Solutions. Engagement. Video content. Consumer needs. Grab attention. Cut through. D2C. Plus a fair few random doodles of balloons and wine glasses. Don't ask!

I mentally flicked through all the client meetings of the year in my head. There was a trend building. Retailers who didn't offer an outstanding experience or deliver fantastic value were struggling to attract customers. Buyers in these retailers, many who are very close friends of mine, had an ever-increasing challenge of securing the right products from brands on terms that allowed them to service their overheads. Brands were feeling retail was an expensive platform compared to Amazon or their own branded websites. It felt like a vicious circle, and, at the time, I couldn't see an end to the cycle. It worried me. As an employer, we had a lot of people dependant on us winning retail marketing contracts. Those scribbles became the formation of strategic shift.

Our teams went from doing 3000 store visits a month to not being needed at all when the lockdown kicked in. Talk about having to pivot quickly and adapt to current conditions! 

"There is nothing permanent except change" - Heraclitus

As predicted, the pattern emerged that more sales support budget was moving from retail-based campaigns to digital channel campaigns. Using a stats and facts-based approach to underpin the direction of creative output we did some stunning work. 2019 was our biggest and best year for developing digital content and helping build digital strategies for clients.

Fast forward to today, and COVID has clearly accelerated that shift in strategy. We now find ourselves squeezing a gradual two-year strategic objective to a two-month action plan. Thankfully before COVID, we recruited experienced talent, and we trained our team to be ready for the inevitable change. We had aligned our service offering in a way that we felt more in tune with what we are genuinely passionate about and what we feel the market needs for 2020 and beyond. The COVID outbreak certainly magnified the importance of that decision.

As we accelerated our existing plans to support this fundamental shift in who we are, what we do and how we do it, we knew we needed a name change. 

We are therefore happy to announce that we will rebrand as Good Place Ideas. As a group, we all felt very strongly about the name. At the heart of our agency, there has always been a genuine intention of decency and integrity and doing the right thing. Our main aim has always been to do an excellent job for our partner, and we wanted to bring this into our company DNA. Our ideas come from a Good Place. In a future business world where collaboration should come before win at all costs, we feel the name is befitting of the new us.

The COVID lock down has certainly given me lots of time to reflect. I'm missing the chance to travel internationally again to see friends and partners around the globe. I'm thinking about how we can help our partners get through economic downturn by rebuilding their brand stories to drive sales and keep customers. I'm using digital platforms like they have become the new normal. But, I'm missing stores. I'm missing people. I'm missing the chats over coffee or a beer. I'm missing great dinners with business partners. But I'm safe. I have my health. I've got a great team and loyal clients. I feel lucky. We are still here, and we are going to give it everything we have to make a success of what we believe in.


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