2020. Well, that was crap.
So look, we know it was a rubbish year, and we know you’re going to hear another 1,278 times that it was a rubbish year before this rubbish year is done.
So instead of listing out a myriad of reasons why 2020 was a dumpster fire of a trip around the sun, we want to change things up a bit and – shock horror – be positive.
We want to talk about the importance of digital branding (yes, again) and how it can turn your 2021 into a year to remember. For all the right reasons, this time.
A reason to be cheerful
2020 has made one thing clear for businesses – digital isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have. This should have been pretty crystal before the pandemic hit. Now, there’s simply no excuse not to understand the importance of digital branding.
Even the UN has got the memo. Earlier this year, the Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. The changes we make now will have lasting effects.”
Such clarity is a good thing. It represents a great opportunity for those willing to up their digital game through user-friendly websites, customer-centric social channels, relevant web content and contemporary design and UX. Yep, for those who treat their digital real estate as a genuine extension of their brand, big possibilities lie ahead.
Proof of the pudding
The proof that an investment in digital branding can yield results has been borne out in much of the work we’ve won this year.
Those fantastic folk at Macmillan asked us to promote their pivoted Virtual Coffee Mornings through integrated digital ads and social media messaging.
For children’s mindfulness aid Mindful Monsters (part of the Scope charity), we designed and wrote a vibrant, content-rich website, scheduled for release in early 2021. The site will be a hub of information for parents wanting to help their children be more creative, positive, calm and focused, while promoting the Mindful Monsters subscription and boosting revenue for Scope’s vital work.
This was done in tandem with an email campaign we created that introduced parents to the Monsters, offering free activities and encouraging them to sign up for a monthly subscription.
“Digital isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a need-to-have.”
Another big win for us this year was award-winning house-builders Hopkins Homes. The largest independent property developer in East Anglia, their classically beautiful properties are built by expert craftspeople using high-end materials.
This dedication to going the extra mile has given them an envious reputation – but it was one their design and digital assets weren’t doing justice to. That’s where we stepped in.
By creating new design and tone of voice guidelines, redesigning their website, and overhauling their social media feeds, Hopkins Homes now have a brand (online and offline) that perfectly reflects the quality outfit they are.
Fairer fashion with Hanes
The digital world is a place to promote more than just products. And with the rise in conscious consumerism – where how a brand behaves ethically becomes an important buying factor for customers – business’ digital channels can act as platforms to promote their good values and deeds.
This is exactly what we did for HanesBrands, the £5.3bn clothing company that owns global brands such as Champion, WonderBra, Leggs and Bonds.
HanesBrands have been pioneers in promoting ‘fairer fashion’ for decades – reducing resource use, sending less clothing to landfill, paying colleagues a good wage. But they never really shouted about it in a way their great work deserves, so they asked us to do it for them.
The result was a revitalised sub-brand – HBI Sustains – and a new website that puts their important policies on a pedestal and champions their ambitious sustainability aims as laid out in Project 2030. Find out how they’re making fashion fairer – with a little help from us – at hbisustains.com.
A good digital branding experience is a good brand experience
See, the reason we go on (and on) about the importance of digital isn’t because we can put together beautiful websites that are a joy to use. Or curate, craft and copywrite beautiful social media feeds. Or build email campaigns that people actually read.
(We do do all these things, by the way.)
No, we go on about the importance of digital because a good digital experience is a good brand experience.
“Good digital marketing is good marketing.”
For us, every business touchpoint and output is a reflection on – and as such must perfectly reflect – your brand. And today, people spend most time engaging with brands through their websites, landing pages, social media, QR codes, apps, and emails – i.e., digitally.
And yet most businesses still lag behind when it comes to making their digital platforms as user-friendly, as beautiful, as well-written and as on-brand as possible. As we’ve seen, in a Covid-19 world where online rules the roost, continuing in this vein marks an existential threat to businesses.
Does that mean branding is just about digital? No. From an internal memo to an all-conquering OOH campaign, branding is everything you do. That’s why at Woven we’ve got experts in everything from social media to experiential marketing, so we can consult and create branding across the (bill)board.
Branding is far from a digital-only science. But it’s vital to remember that digital is every bit as important as your TV ad, glossy magazine, radio script and shop front.
“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”
So said JC Penney, founder of, er, JC Penney. And he’s right. Growth doesn’t just happen. It’s not a lottery. It takes foresight, ambition and, of course, people.
To manage our growth, we had to grow our team. We brought in a number of account directors, each with their own specialisms in social media, retail and experiential marketing. In line with 2020’s digital theme, we also brought in a director of digital experience to ensure our clients’ UX is seamless, user-friendly, search engine optimised and accessible to all.
To manage this growth, we had to grow our team. Early on in the year, we appointed Si Muddell as chief growth officer. With a huge amount of digital, brand, and product development experience on both client and agency side, Si has brought new processes, people and client wins with him.
To further enhance our creative offering, we hired Katie Reeves as creative director and further expanded our creative freelance base to include more designers and copywriters. Other hires include a head of operations, a director of digital experience, a senior project manager and a number of account directors, each with their own specialisms – including experiential marketing and social media.
And in early 2021, we’ll be welcoming our new chief operating officer – Alex Ellis. Having been an operations lead, managing director, and chief digital experience officer, Alex has spent his career delivering exceptional digital work to some of the world’s biggest brands. Along with his track record of scaling and professionalising agencies, Alex will supercharge ambitions to take the business to the next level in 2021.
Without the experience, skill and drive of both our new hires and our existing team – who have all grabbed an oar and taken the challenges 2020 has thrown our way in their stride – we wouldn’t have won a host of new clients or had a record-breaking year for turnover. It’s thanks to them that we end 2020 in a much stronger position than when we started it.
Because it’s not just about hiring good people – it’s about hiring the right people.
If you picture your business as a bus (or Range Rover – whatever works for you), your job is to get the right people on the right seats. This means employing colleagues who aren’t just capable but who understand and share your business’ values.
“It’s better to hire someone who fits your business and can learn the skills rather than someone who has the skills but won’t fit your business.”
But, as Gino Wickman – author of Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business – says, you need to point the bus in the right direction, too. This means taking the time to work out where you want the business to be in one, three and five years’ time. Only then can you grab your driving gloves, turn the keys in the ignition, and get motoring.
Make 2021 the year you truly transform
So, why are we telling you all this? Not to brag. (Honest. We haven’t even told you about the work we’ve done with HonestBrew, Clothworkers, Durkan and others.) We’re telling you this to show that even in the crappiest of years, there’s still a wealth of opportunity for businesses to grow by offering better digital branding experiences.
“We’re still shocked by how few brands do digital well – and by the opportunities, they’re missing as a result.”
Of course, the notion of “going digital” is hardly a groundbreaking rallying call. Digital transformation is a phrase that’s been around much longer than it should have been. And, truth told, we’re bored of saying it. But the sheer number of businesses who have so far failed to grasp its importance still surprises us. Well, shocks us, actually.
Because digital isn’t a secondary channel. It’s not an experiment to dabble in or a toy to play around with. It’s every bit as important as your other platforms.
This was true before Covid-19. It’s even more so now. And by grasping the digital nettle – by aligning your brand and business goals with your online channels – you can be perfectly placed to make 2021 a (much) better year than 2020.
We’ve proved it can be done from the clients we’ve worked with this year. And if you want to see your name in our 2021 round-up, all you’ve got to do is call. (Or email. Or fill in our contact form. Or use our chatbot. Or send a carrier pigeon.)
So, that was the year that was. Momentous mostly for the wrong reasons, but a few positive lessons to take on board.
Now, all that’s left to say is have a great Christmas.
And come out swinging for 2021.