Jenny Stanley is Founder and Managing Director at creative technology studio, Appetite Creative Solutions, a creative technology studio. Stanley explains how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted her day-to-day working life, and how it is steering wider trends within the industry.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I am the Managing Director and Founder of Appetite Creative Solutions – a creative technology studio. We focus on connecting brands with their audiences using the most effective and newest technologies. We do this through gamification, AR, 3D, barcode scanning, connected experiences, branding and website creation, videos and social media.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
I used to travel two to three times a month before the pandemic, visiting clients and our offices in London, Madrid, and Dubai. So far this year, I’ve spent six months in the same country, without getting on a plane, which hasn’t been the case for over ten years. In fact, maybe ever!
The only other change, like everyone else, is a huge amount of video calls rather than face-to-face meetings, which has meant that we can actually be much more productive. Internally we now just do our morning team meetings by video call. The only other difference is that the 30 minutes between meetings for travel time has gone. Sometimes a five minute breather or nature break is required, but there is not one in sight! So, I’ve had to start putting the lunch hour in my diary so I can have a break.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
We are very reliant on Teams and WhatsApp. We have always had a culture of connecting through digital, and we have made things even better through the lockdown period. During the lockdown, we hosted our internal ‘Olympic Games’, in which we all hosted a different activity of our choice. We’ve had online Yoga, Kahoot, and Guess the Baby amongst other games – we’ve probably learnt more about each other than ever before!
Now we are out of strict confinement, we have all been meeting at the office one day a week. On that day we also eat lunch together which is a great way to reconnect and create a balance between the virtual and physical team. We’ve been organised like this since June 1st and its been working really well for us. There are some unwritten rules which is the video has to be on for all calls, making it much more personal, and to join on time which is really important. Everyone is really happy working this way and productivity has gone up too. We have discussed as a team whether we will return to a five-day office week, and there has been a resounding vote that the current set up is working well so we will not return to that model.
Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?
I love the ability that some brands have to jump on things quickly and do it right. For example, I loved Brewdog’s ability to offer something back and make hand sanitiser from their waste product within just a few weeks.
The Burger King marketing teams have also been impressive in their approach for trying so many new things. For example, Burger King Brazil launched a campaign rewarding people for staying home during the coronavirus pandemic with the “Lockdown Whopper” campaign. The burger chain is using its mobile app’s geolocation feature to assess whether customers are sheltering in place and gave them vouchers.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
We launched a new webinar series that takes a look at different viewpoints from across industries to investigate the challenges and the opportunities that the pandemic has presented us with.
For the webinar series, we have been working with many experts and speakers and looked at “How brands and marketers can prepare for the bounceback” with specialists from Tetra Pak. Other topics included, “Adapt or fail – looking at ways to pivot and rise to the challenge of the Pandemic” with the Hewlett Packard CMO. “How to connect with Healthcare professionals in today’s world and how to prepare remote sales teams for the new challenges” with experts from Novartis, Ferring and a change consultant.
With the rise in gamification during the lockdown, we also looked at “How brands can level up their marketing strategies with Esports and gamification” and we were joined by industry experts including Head of Gaming at Endemol and Oliver Weingarten, CEO and Founder LDN UTD Esports team. We’ve published these on YouTube and as podcasts – and will continue to look at different challenges and opportunities that are being brought to us by the pandemic.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
We produce different types of digital marketing solutions, but since lockdown we have seen an increased focus on social media and live events. In the first few months clients were looking for more short-term solutions, yet in the last few weeks there’s been a clear shift to looking into full platform solutions, with particular focus on investment into 3D virtual reality events.
Clients are interested in platforms rather than one-off virtual conference experiences. They want to fully replicate the 1:1 networking opportunities in digital, realising that digital experiences can be improved and deliver useful data and insights. I think this is signalling that we have widely accepted the changes the pandemic has brought, and they will remain for the long-term. Companies are looking to invest in solutions they can use for the next 12-36 months, rather than the quick fix we saw in the beginning.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
We spoke about this quite a lot with PR experts from GingerMay and Tetra Pak in one of our webinars. The most important thing is to continue to communicate and do so in an informed way – being mindful of the current climate. Be flexible and adapt your messaging. For examples, Amazon needed to hire 100,000 extra staff, and Zoom had a huge surge in server requirements. Think quickly about how you are affected, how you can help, strategise quickly, and then communicate to your audience and customers. See it as an opportunity to evolve, do things differently, and perhaps get better cut-through with your messaging.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your company?
We are really enjoying a better work-life balance, we will continue to look at ways to ensure we are able to bond as a team, stay creative, and find new tools for team collaboration and events. Technology-wise we are always looking into the latest trends and the newest technologies. We have been investigating TikTok and web browser-based AR, to deliver some fun projects to brands.
Additionally, the appetite for data continues to grow. We have our own liquid dashboard solution that really brings data to life in a very dynamic and customer-centric way. We are literally developing and updating this platform every week with new data points clients want to capture. Clients can track customer behaviours against interaction, dwell time, return visits, geography and much more. This data can be downloaded into dynamic graphs and charts giving analysts a clear-cut story behind the data. Brands are really looking to understand their audiences better and our job is to make sure they connect to their audiences in the right way, using the right creative, and the right tech.