Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the co-founder and Creative Partner of Waste. Waste is a 14-year-old creative agency filled with digital natives and analog enthusiasts who combine to make beautiful bits and bytes. We have offices in London (HQ) and LA, and we have a load of great clients covering a broad range of sectors, from energy, entertainment (specifically gaming), smart homes, telecommunications, all the way to wellness apps.
My role varies from day to day. Could be anything from business strategy, HR, creative direction, design, new business to finance. When running a company, you need to be able to adapt to anything and make quick and confident decisions at the drop of a hat.
For example today, our ECD is away, so in the morning I will be stepping in to lead a pitch, then in the afternoon I could be working on anything from the agency strategy and roadmap to HR.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
In the short term, it has been tricky. Both my wife and I were working long hours and also home-schooling our two kids, and we found it hard to distinguish between the start and end of days. It became unmanageable while they were at home, so my wife cut back her hours so that we could cope.
Things are easier now, but structure and routine are incredibly important. I spend the first part of the day on back-to-back Zoom calls, checking in with different people and teams. Around the middle of the day, I tend to turn Slack off or at least snooze it for a couple of hours and use this time to work on business-related tasks before heading back into an afternoon of video calls.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
I wouldn’t be able to function without all the obvious tools such as Slack and Zoom. Exercise is also crucial, while it hasn’t been as regular as I would like, kicking the day off with a run or ride has never been more important.
Something else which has been fundamental is the ‘Waste Way’, our cultural pillars and employee value proposition. As luck would have it, we had six months to redefine this just before we went into lockdown. We took each department through the presentation individually, clearly sharing what is expected of everyone and what you get in return if you live up to these values. This was super inspirational and got everyone pumped. At a time of uncertainty, the Waste Way acted as a guiding light, galvanising and uniting everyone. Over the past five months, the pillars have become part of everything we do.
Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?
I’ve been particularly impressed by the companies that have had to move to a direct-to-consumer model. I read an article at the start of lockdown that said that Beavertown had lost 85% of its business. Instead of panicking, they moved their focus to their online business and have seen a 1,000% increase in their web-store sales.
Equally impressive are companies who have developed or created products for good. For example, Brewgel Punk Sanitizer. Love them or hate them, Brewdog’s ability to move fast and seize the moment is exceptional. Barnard Castle beer was also jokes.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
In order for us to connect with our people, we have held regular Zoom parties. As cheesy as it sounds, these offer a chance for everyone to get together and act a bit silly.
For our 14th birthday, we had a magician turn up, and we sent a bottle of tequila to all the Wasters – what could possibly go wrong? And in the heart of lockdown when people were really in need of a bit of escapism, we had a virtual visit to an alpaca and llama farm in Germany. We also have regular one-on-ones, team meetings, early finish Fridays, and encourage people to take regular holidays.
In a funny way, the pandemic has actually helped bring us all together. Our office vibe score has increased significantly and most people seem pretty happy. In fact, the sense of camaraderie and company spirit has never been higher.
To reach a whole new generation of talent during lockdown, we launched a virtual version of the Waste office in ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’, and shared a creative brief with visitors, for a chance to win a paid internship in our office. We’ve had a fantastic response and will be announcing the lucky winner soon.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
We have a rich heritage in the gaming sector which, on the whole, has been booming during lockdown. Game sales are up around 30% and console sales around 60%, and they have been frequently out of stock. The rise of Nintendo’s ‘Animal Crossing’ has been particularly impressive, and esports is off the scale. You just need to look at the very steep spike in streaming hours on Twitch and YouTube gaming to understand how powerful the sector is right now.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Leverage gaming – but do it right. We’ve seen a number of sectors use gaming’s large diverse audiences successfully, all the way from sport, to fashion, to FMCG brands. But if you’re going to venture into this space, a bit of advice – gamers are not the nerdy cliche from the 90’s who sit in their mum’s basement listening to Metallica on 11 (although I do like Metallica ????).
The next generation of gamers are one of the most culturally diverse audiences out there; a fiercely opinionated bunch that are not afraid to call bullshit when they sniff it. So, don’t just wallpaper the game with your logo – figure out how your brand can add value to their world and overall in-game experience.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?
Our longer-term strategy hasn’t changed a huge amount, but the lockdown has allowed us to spend more time evaluating and evolving our vision and roadmap to ensure that it’s aligned to a post-Covid future. Which in turn has forced us to rethink our proposition, which we’ll be launching in the not too distant future.
We’ve also put a huge focus on our company culture, redefining our values and ensuring every one of us lives up to them. The work environment plays a big part in our culture, so we opened it up to the company to help us define what going back to work looks like in the short term, and what the office of the future looks like in the longer term. A small group of us started on Monday. Fingers crossed it goes well!