Southpaw’s Zoom panel explores why adopting the mantra of ‘Keep Calm & Brand Build’ will ensure your brand thrives in a crisis.

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Southpaw’s Zoom panel explores why adopting the mantra of ‘Keep Calm & Brand Build’ will ensure your brand thrives in a crisis. Click to watch the webinar.

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“Marketers have panicked and pivoted through the last 100 days, but our mantra for a brighter future is ‘keep calm and brand build’. What do you think of that statement?”


A punchy question kicks off the Southpaw-hosted Zoom panel, chaired by CEO Tom Poynter and drawing insight from Niki Macartney, Southpaw’s Strategy Director; Orlando Wood, Chief Innovation Officer System 1; and Imaad Ahmed, Chief Advisory Officer, WARC.


“Hitting long term targets is the real challenge,” observes Macartney, an insight backed up by WARC data that shows 7/10 marketers want to invest in long term brand building but feel that short term pressures have allowed emotion to overtake reason.


But how to build your brand in the midst of a covid-triggered supply and demand recession? “The one nuance many marketers will be worried about is budgets,” says Imaad Ahmed, Chief Advisory Officer, WARC. “But look at other levers too to maintain visibility, like customer experience, PR, partnerships and commerce.”


As per Binet and Field, brand building spend in its many forms will aid recovery; it’s how you build your way out of recessionary times. But as Orlando Wood says, “As we come out of this (covid19 crisis) we have an opportunity to take stock. We need to think about how to make advertising better at attracting attention and eliciting emotional response.”


The key to eliciting that emotional response is creativity. Aside from size, it’s the most important thing to build your brand in the long term.


Wood explains that we live in a time where advertising is aimed at appealing to the narrow, linear, goal-orientated left brain. “The type of creative that is made today - with a few exceptions - tends to be different to the type you got 20-30 years ago. Advertising has become unilateral, we’re not referencing the things that attract and sustain interest - characters, human interaction, parody and pastiche. Creativity is there, but it’s being deployed in the wrong way.”



There’s a case for re-engineering the right kind of creativity - namely the kind which appeals to the open, emotional and connected right brain. But what’s going to motivate brands to do this in a pandemic? Out of need, argues Macartney. “It’s not just through a love and desire to make the work better. We should need to make this work better because the data and case studies show a decline in effectiveness over decades.”


Moderator Poynter poses to the panellists how brands can answer that need. “Company culture is imperative to get back to brand building and growth. Long term-ism should be hardwired, so when panic happens you are rooted to what you know and what is good for the business,” asserts Macartney and Ahmed agrees, “You have to see advertising in terms of capital investment and talk in the language of a CFO. The research shows that excess share of voice correlates with profit, and brand growth over the long term, and those are the things stakeholders will be receptive to.”


Getting down to brass tacks, the panellists all agree there are codes and commitments marketers can follow to not just talk the talk, but strut their way to long term brand building success.


Wood stands by the Three F’s: Fame, Feeling and Fluency. “They are the three emperors of advertising: mental availability, the feeling you get about a brand, and rapidity of recognition. Establish these three heuristic principles so your customers can make quick and easy decisions in your favour.”


To do that, Macartney explains the importance of understanding your audience. “Get down to granular detail. Understand biases, decision making, behaviour - at Southpaw we work through what is most likely to influence behaviour so we can nudge, steer and create better brand building advertising.”


Once you have the advertising campaign, then depth and breadth of commitment to your creative is what will seal the deal. But don’t befooled, says Imaad, it’s not all about the dollar signs. “Creative Commitment is a composite metric of three things: how much spent, how many channels, and the duration. Increase Creative Commitment, and you increase effectiveness. A lot of people assume that budget is the most important lever, but that isn’t the case: by increasing channel and duration, some brands have been able to move up the ladder without having deep pockets.”  


There is nothing more sobering than a crisis to help us restore a sense of meaning. For brands, that meaning can be found in projecting human connection, sensitively referencing the best culture has to offer, honouring creativity, and above all understanding what makes people tick.



See advertising in terms of capital investment. Talk like your CFO. For example, an excess share of voice correlates with profit and brand growth over the long term. Those are the things your stakeholders will understand and be receptive to.


Factor in emotional response to your work, then plot market changes This is how to show that emotional response, as a measure, has a bearing on market share changes. There are many short term feedback loops to track data, but this is how you can plot and prove long term brand building effects. How people connect with the work is shown to have a bearing on the long term outcome.


Consumer response to creative work has a significant bearing on your brand The WARC Effectiveness Ladder is a tool that takes six types of marketing effects that creativity can inspire, then looks at the commercial impact. From small ideas to enduring icons like John Lewis and Snickers, this is a useful way to learn and energise your own brand building plans.


Panel members:


Niki Macartney (Strategy Director, Southpaw)

Imaad Ahmed (Head of Advisory, EMEA, WARC)

Orlando Wood (Chief Innovation Officer, System 1)

Moderator: Tom Poynter (Managing Director, Southpaw)

You can access further information and sources used in our webinar on the below links.



Creative Effectiveness Ladder (also use this link to Register (free) for Lions Live access to download the Creative Effectiveness Toolkit)

WARC Talks Hub - featuring WARC x Lions live sessions with James Hurman & Orlando Wood's "Where the lemons bloom"

Marketing in a recession


Presentation of Lemon at Eff Week 2019

Fluent Devices presentation (incorporating Fame, Feeling, Fluency) at Eff Week 2018

Lemon book

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