Thought Pieces

The view from Keko: our predictions for 2021

Making predictions after a year like 2020 may sound risky. But because of the sustained nature of the pandemic, the associated lockdowns and the fact that so much of the world experienced the same things at the same time, even nascent trends have become established. And – here’s the first prediction – plenty of them appear to be here to stay.

  1. Masks aren’t going away.
    A behaviour that has long been second nature in parts of Asia, we think mask-wearing is here to stay – especially when it comes to travel. Even when the majority of us have been vaccinated, a raft of research on other airborne ailments will encourage us to mask up on the bus, tube, train or plane. Not because we’ll need to, but because we’ll want to. And this won’t impact our desire to travel in the slightest. In fact, we expect the desire to seek out adventure to be stronger than ever, with travellers choosing destinations based on how well they’ve handled Covid-19.
  2. Diversity is no longer just desirable, it’s essential.
    2020 was the year when the awareness of, and need for, equality went mainstream. No longer just ‘tokenism’, there was a genuine desire to embrace diverse cultures and values from almost every organisation and brand. This was more than just ‘being seen to do the right thing’ – it became about doing the right thing for the right reason. There’s no turning back this momentum.
  3. Shorter supply chains.
    At the start of the pandemic, we saw that the efficiencies and cost savings of long supply chains had a drawback. They lacked resilience and were based on the premise that cheaper was better – albeit not for the environment or the worker. Greater transparency, along with brands adopting ‘closer to consumption’ as a value, will ignite a ‘made locally’ trend. Labels and receipts will be pored over by consumers, and cancel culture will become a potent force here too.
  4. Broadband and tech are utilities, not luxuries.
    Virtual meetings, remote learning and digital dinners revealed the strengths and weaknesses of national infrastructure. Fast and super-fast broadband rollouts will be expanded and accelerated, and hardware will become more accessible to those in society who have had to share or make do without.
  5. Blended meetings and performances.
    Over nine months’ worth of virtual meetings have changed our perception of how normal these get-togethers can be, and how well these digital platforms actually work. Meetings, conferences and launches will always have a virtual element to them, no matter how many people gather in the physical space. But within a single year, we’ve opened up a world where physical presence is no longer a necessity but a nice-to-have, if you will. And this will carry through into arts and culture.
  6. Working in the office, at home and close to home.
    There was one issue which impacted nearly every one of us: where we work. Global surveys show that we missed the office, but also that we benefited from a reduction in commuting hours and distractions. It seems highly unlikely that the mass tidal flows of commuter traffic will return. As vaccines are rolled out and 2021 becomes a transition year back to ‘normality’, expect phased hours. Part working at home, part working in the office and, for many, working in satellite offices between the two. We will make better use of that time in the office too.
  7. The environment matters. Finally.
    Fuelled by revealing data from global lockdowns, the drive to reduce emissions will continue – but now with a bit more passion. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow will be one of the first large international gatherings since the pandemic began – and it will energise policy makers to do more. Individually, our consumption habits will improve, and we will pay closer attention to the behaviours and footprints of our favourite brands. If they don’t tell us, we will ask.
  8. Welcome to phygital
    Many pre-pandemic behaviours have gone for good. Others have merely adapted – especially when it comes to retail. Brands wedded to bricks and mortar who quickly established an online retail presence will not move back. Consumers now wish – or rather demand – to be able to engage and purchase 24/7, entirely independent of their location. And when they do make it into a retail outlet they expect to be amazed. The lingering effect of Covid-19 behaviours will also mean that some consumers will seek out quieter times to shop and a physical retail experience that’s closer to home.
  9. A reshaping of communities.
    The rebalancing of our city centres has begun, with major cities around the world using a reduction in road traffic to introduce more dedicated cycleways. This is a slower transformation than some cyclists might want, and it requires economic growth in return, but the debate had already started before 2020 – now it has simply accelerated. Meanwhile, large retail spaces will be broken up to attract more independent companies, and the conversion of retail and office spaces to residential will provide much-needed housing for both ends of the spectrum – the young and the retired. And because people have been spending more time in their local environment, they will take more interest in its development.
  10. Out is the new in.
    Over the course of the pandemic, we embraced eating, drinking, meeting and exercising outdoors. Temporary road closures to provide extra space for outdoor restaurants is already talked about as becoming a seasonal feature. Winter may well still push us back indoors, but perhaps not for as long as before. In the meantime, we predict a micro-trend boom on down jackets, hats and gloves – alfresco drinking is not just for the ski slopes now.

So there you have it – our top ten predictions for the year to come. If you’d like to be among the first to know when – or if – they come true, we can keep you posted via The Keko Debrief. We hope that 2021 proves to be a predictable year for you in a more general sense. And we look forward to spending it with you.

For goodness’ sake: how brands can win share-of-heart.

By Claire Birchenough.

The pursuit of short-term sales means brands often forget the importance of share-of-heart and winning respect from their customers. Now, the societal need couldn’t be greater – and, as a consequence, it has never been a better time to gain that holy grail of marketing: unbreakable brand preference. In case anyone needed reminding of how important shared values and emotions can be with consumers, three numbers illustrate the point in no unclear terms:

  • 64% of consumers choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues
  • 76% of people say supporting companies that are addressing social and environmental issues helps them feel they are doing their part
  • Nearly nine-in-10 consumers (86%) say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies

Even before coronavirus, having a positive impact on the world was fast becoming the best way for brands to emotionally connect with consumers.

Patagonia has quite rightly gained a premium status and price point – by genuinely caring about the world. This is perhaps best seen in their ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ Christmas campaign, which encouraged people to consider the effects of consumerism on the environment and to purchase only what they need. And in how they gave 100% of their Black Friday profits to grassroots non-profits working on the frontlines to protect air, water and soil for future generations.

To get an enthusiastic response, it’s clear that brands need to act authentically, and, yes, that means doing more than ‘social distancing’ a logo. Compassion can’t be tokenistic. Instead, it’s the brands that take action who show true empathy: Guinness helping bartenders, Pret fuelling NHS workers and Nike donating $15 million towards the coronavirus response. It’s Diageo providing grain neutral spirit to create eight million bottles of hand sanitiser and Mercedes F1 engineers helping to make a breathing aid for coronavirus patients in less than 100 hours. Or it’s Crocs donating shoes to US healthcare workers and Brompton supplying bikes for frontline NHS staff. I could go on.

Empathy is the superpower that will help brands through these uncertain times.

Empathy will win the hearts of employees – both current and ex-employees (true ambassadors for brands) – and it will earn brands ‘credit’ with consumers for years to come.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How Much Does Diversity Cost?

By Laura Mackenzie.

Millennials are the most diverse generation to date; 44% are from ethnic minority groups and 20% identify as LGBTQ+ (Brookings, 2018; Glaad 2017). As a result, this demographic isn’t just tolerating diversity. They are actively promoting it.

Although there have undoubtedly been representative improvements in recent years, due to movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, the world is still run predominantly by white, middle-aged men. The premium/ affluent sector is just one of many that have struggled to make real progress, leading to a continued underrepresentation of minority and diverse identities. Things are changing, but not fast enough. If premium brands refuse to take notice of this Modern Affluent demographic, they risk becoming irrelevant – in fact, some already have.

Dolce & Gabbana ended 2018 with one of the biggest scandals to rock the industry. They chose to depict an Asian model eating pizza with chopsticks; an unbelievably culturally inappropriate decision. The fallout was massive. Celebrities called for a boycott, Chinese e-commerce sites pulled D&G products and a major fashion show in Shanghai was cancelled. The impact is still being felt three months on, with no major stars wearing the label to this year’s Oscars ceremony. Today there is no room for cultural transgressions by global brands.

Diversity is not just something that needs to be embraced by brands to avoid disaster, being culturally representative has been shown to have tangible financial benefits. Just addressing the gender gap could boost global brands’ values considerably. Brands that promote gender-balanced marketing are worth £774bn more than their rivals (Kantar, 2018). Such substantial financial benefits speak for themselves; promoting diversity is a lucrative business decision.

Additionally, in order to remain at the top of the premium segment, brands need to be actively promoting equality in all its forms: gender, racial and LGBTQ+. Modern Affluent consumers are screaming out for this change, as the success of gender and racially diverse campaigns demonstrates. Certain established brands such as Tiffany, Gucci and Lancôme have all begun to embrace this philosophy and it is no coincidence that all three are in the top 15 most popular high-end brands online (Luxe Digital, 2018).

Although certain premium brands have begun to take progressive steps, diversity is still very much a trend, rather than fully embedded into the industry’s core values. If established high-end brands do not take significant steps in the right direction, they could become irrelevant, as new competitors appear more attractive to the Modern Affluent consumer. For example, brands such as Supreme, Off-White and Glossier have made remarkable progress with this demographic, by embedding equality as a core value. This has enabled their promotion of diversity to be perceived as entirely authentic.

Established premium brands can no longer rely on their traditional brand perception and heritage to retain consumers. Labels are no longer a key signifier of prosperity and status (Gemic Whitepaper, 2018). Instead, understated, well-made and reliable products are in demand. As a result, new market entrants can gain traction more easily and with partnerships such as Rihanna and LVMH’s on the horizon, the premium market is set to get even more crowded with brands that integrally promote diversity.

However, there is still hope. One established brand that has shifted its image and is now renowned for promoting diversity is Nike. As well as ensuring diverse representation in their adverts, they have gone further to embed equality in their core values. Through offering various workshops that foster young talent, they have increased the accessibility of the creative industry. In 2018, they unlocked the creative potential of over 650 young individuals from a diverse array of backgrounds with sponsored sessions on music production, photography and interactive design. This enabled their actions to be viewed as more than just tokenistic (a frequent issue for well-established brands), but rather as a champion of equality.

It is difficult to predict exactly what the rest of 2019 and beyond will hold for high-end brands. One thing is clear though: diversity is no longer an option, it is a necessity. Established premium brands need to fully embrace this if they want to remain relevant and engage the Modern Affluent consumer. Not doing so will see them become irrelevant and unwanted. As we like to say at Keko London, an open mind is the only way to see the world.

More Than Just A Sale – Brands Who Educate.

By Nina Eadie.


It’s not hard to reach a young audience through marketing today, as Generations Y and Z consume content at a baffling rate. However, creating content that actually resonates with a young audience is the challenge. Forget the clichéd ‘sex sells’ – health and fitness, the environment and a sense of ethical responsibility are taking centre stage for Gen Y and Z, and affecting their purchasing decisions too. The ‘woke’ generations want to be well-informed and appear intelligent through the brands they consume, which are often shared across their personal social media channels.

This article dissects the use of educational content, in place of more typical marketing, and looks at how this is particularly important in building a brand among Gen Y and Gen Z consumers. Here’s why…


Capturing attention and trust

Trust in a brand is a huge part of the psychology of a purchasing consumer. If we see a brand as the byword in its relevant industry or product, feeling well-informed by its marketing, we have more confidence to shop. Research conducted by’s Spotlight platform found that educational content renders consumers 131% more likely to buy – a staggering statistic. [1] It’s not a new marketing technique but is seeing a resurgence as the more innovative and forward-thinking brands increasingly understand the importance of strong, engaging content when it comes to appealing to younger generations.

Gen Z, and Gen Y mostly, grew up with the internet at their fingertips, knowing how to research what they want, when they want, never having to leave a question unanswered or a subject undiscovered. They are self-educating and have the desire and the facility to research the products they want – and the brands that they buy. Exposed to marketing from an early age through internet use, these generations are immune to blatant sales pitches, seeing through brands’ unjustifiably conceited claims about their product. They want facts to back it up, and informative, quietly commercial content feels far more engaging anyway.


Inspiring a purchase

Educational marketing can help to make a purchase feel necessary.  British active-wear retailer Sweaty Betty presents an almost scaremongering sports bra guide online, which provides a detailed explanation and diagrams to explain what will happen to the ligaments when not protected during exercise. Purchasing one suddenly seems very necessary, particularly for an image-conscious, Instagram-obsessed member of Gen Y or Z. The brand places itself as the leading industry voice in all things boobs and bras. The consumer will be aware that there are many other sports bras on the market, but the learning they have gained on why they need one, encourages you to shop direct from the source of this wisdom.


Creating a confident consumer

With consumers choosing to shop online more than ever before, retailers have less opportunity for their sales staff to offer their expertise and knowledge to customers in-store. Imparting wisdom is a tried, tested and traditional sales technique, and this now needs to be pushed further into the realms of a brand’s digital channels to continue to inspire trust and loyalty in customers. Take diamonds – a technical subject which can quite often terrify the first-time buyer. Fine jewellery retailers are working hard to be the primary fount of knowledge on the subject. As e-commerce platforms such as Net-a-Porter continue to expand their fine jewellery range, shoppers gain confidence spending large amounts online. The Net-a-Porter website offers gemstone and diamond expertise in editorial format on its website, as do some of the more established jewellers such as De Beers. Hoping to target millennials is jeweller Vashi, whose website offers a step-by-step guide and the chance to design your own ring online. Clear descriptions and guidance dissolve the diamond jargon and give the buyer the power and knowledge to create exactly what they are looking for.


On top of trends

A very different instance of educator marketing can be found in the campaigns of outdoor clothing designer Patagonia. The company’s mission statement patently outlines the importance they place on the environment, in equal importance to the product. Promoting their brand ethos appears to be a key goal, connecting to an interested audience and using the brand platform as a global force for good, encouraging environmental consciousness. Patagonia has recognised that its essential market ‘lovers of the outdoors’ care about protecting their environment, or at least should, and that it has the facility to educate them. The website states, “We’re in business to save our home planet.” – refreshing in a world full of highly commercial brands, mainly talking all about themselves.

Patagonia’s motives cannot be questioned – their campaigns have wholeheartedly good intentions for environmental causes – but it can be argued that they are onto a trend here. People want to be educated on what can be described (fortunately and unfortunately!) as ‘fashionable issues’. Start-ups like powdered food retailer, Huel, have thrived via the trend for ‘wellness’, and current concern for sustainability. Aside from promoting its simple product, Huel’s website includes pages full of nutritional guides, quotes from dieticians, and information on how unsustainable our current food production methods are, as well as stats on food waste in the UK. The website leaves you feeling well-informed and just a little inspired to change your own habits. Every aspect of Huel’s marketing and content speaks clearly to millennials.


Becoming the authority voice

Despite clearly thriving, start-up mattress retailers such as Casper, Simba and Eve have not done anything particularly revolutionary in terms of product development. However, these companies have made a point of educating their audience on the importance of sleep, setting themselves as the byword in good sleep (as well as running like Silicon Valley tech firms). Their websites and social channels include swathes of content on the science of sleep; Simba and Casper incorporating a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted angle, whereas Eve assumes a more premium feel, emphasising that a good sleep is a luxury, alongside promoting their work with homeless charities.

Even well-known and established banks are using an educational theme to interest their young customers, in an attempt to keep up with the financial tech start-ups. The whole precis of challenger brands, such as Monzo, Revolut and Starling, is education and constructive information. In answer, Santander have devised an online hub, Prosper and Thrive, aimed at getting to the heart of millennials and their finances. The site includes educational editorial content on subjects that matter to Gen Y, such as “5 ways to budget being a wedding guest”. Again, they’re not marketing their products or services but aligning themselves as the experts in managing money.


In summary

Marketeers are recognising that education impacts on a consumer’s trust in a brand, and that disguising a sales pitch under information can help to create more engaging and accessible content. Brands empower consumers to make an informed purchase, through advice and education, aiming to be a fount of knowledge and the authority voice on their subject. The more innovative and astute brands are finding ways to overcome the lack of face-to-face time with customers in stores by creating interactive and informative digital platforms. Brands are pursuing cultural trends beyond their products in their marketing, in a bid to understand and speak to a younger audience of consumers, whose spending power is becoming increasingly relevant.


It’s not about winning, it’s how we play the game.

By Mark Walker.

On a hot summer afternoon in 2006, a man named Ibrahim Dimson walked purposefully through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. It is the world’s busiest airport and has been for a long time. Dimson was just one of 104 million passengers who took off or landed there last year, 20 million more than Heathrow.

So Dimson didn’t stand out. The only slightly odd thing about him might have been his luggage: just a single box of American Girl Scout cookies. Inside, where there should have been cookies, there was thirty thousand dollars in cash.

Moments earlier he had exchanged an Armani duffle bag with a man known as “Jerry”. Inside that bag was a collection of documents, all marked confidential – and a vial labelled ‘Secret Formula’.

So, who was “Jerry”? Dimson thought he worked for Pepsi. He also thought the Armani bag he had just handed over contained the secrets of Pepsi’s biggest rival, Coca Cola.

The secret formula for Coca Cola is held in a million-dollar vault. Only two people on earth know it in full. They can’t even board the same flight in case they are both killed in a crash.

And since the late nineteenth century, Coke has guarded that recipe from its rivals, principally Pepsi. The company’s CEO would even ceremonially smash a bottle of Pepsi to introduce company conferences. So, it would have been safe to assume that those at Coke would have been pretty aghast to think of “Jerry” from Pepsi buying their secrets. Except that Jerry didn’t work for Pepsi. He worked for the FBI.

Coke had known about the operation from day one. What might have surprised Dimson and his motley crew might have been how Coca Cola came to know and how the FBI became involved.

When Dimson reached out to Pepsi, they didn’t hesitate. The first call they made was to their rival Atlanta.

A Pepsi spokesman explained:

“Competition can be fierce, but it must also be fair and legal. We did what any responsible company would do.”

While this is a noble sentiment, the context must be examined. What was once a contained market between two embittered rivals changed in the late twentieth century. The game these two competitors were engaged in changed when the sweet sticky brown liquid became a cornerstone of modern life. Neither Coca Cola nor Pepsi could hope to truly dominate such a vast market, especially via such nefarious techniques as a stolen recipe. So instead of looking to win the game, it became enough for both players just to be playing. A finite game had become infinite.

It’s a perfect example of the extent to which marketing is a game. It’s a very serious game to those who play it, but ultimately, it’s a game: a competition with many players in which the prize is market share. And within that grand fight for supremacy, smaller games take place all the time – battles for shelf space, share of voice and consumer perceptions against all kinds of criteria.

But there’s one game in this ongoing war that stands out, due to its peculiarly chaotic nature – and that’s social media.

Social media is different because, like the unending duel between Coke and Pepsi, it can be seen as an infinite game. As philosopher James P. Carse explained: “a finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”

That doesn’t sound much like the marketing most of us know.

Finite games comprise a known number of competitors, alongside a set of agreed rules. Crucially, there is an objective. Games like chess, football and cricket all fall into this category. In a finite game you ultimately know how to win and you know who you are playing. Infinite games are quite different. In an infinite game, the competitors are not always known, and the rules are subject to change at any time. But most importantly, there is only one way to win. Your competition drops out.

Think about this in relation to social media. Firstly, there are infinite competitors – and new ones, however short-lived they may be, will keep coming. You don’t need big budgets to build monstrous followings on social media, which means much lower barriers to entry than there are in other forms of marketing. Consumers and influencers come and go. Even the arena itself is constantly in flux. New platforms are emerging all the time, any one of which could become the next Instagram or WhatsApp.

But most importantly, there is no way to define a winner. There is not even a traditional win/lose relationship – in that you can only succeed at the expense of a rival. To put it simply, in social, you don’t need to beat anyone to win. You just need to keep playing – and keep playing well.

In a world where every investment has to pay off at some point – a world of deadlines, quarterly results and ROI – this approach to social can be a tough sell. Conversely, some might say this is no different from other long-term marketing initiatives, such as branding, which have no end point. But I would counter that social media marketing is different from everything else we do because it is so dynamic, so chaotic and so ephemeral. And that means you need to treat it differently. You need to behave differently.

In short, social is not about winning. It’s about taking part.

If you can’t win, what does good look like?

So, if all this is true, what even is winning? What do we mean by ‘playing well’?

In the long term, it’s about perception. If you play the game well, consumers who use social media will come to favour your brand. You therefore need to tell a story in social that consumers find appealing. Simple enough. But it’s also about flexibility – the flexibility to allow for many different kinds of communication within your social media activity, from customer service to short-term promotions. You can’t adopt a consistent tone of voice or subject matter for such varied activity. But what you can do is ensure that everything you do is honest. Whatever you do and whatever you say, you need to be authentic.

In the traditional advertising era, the customer always knew when they were looking at an advertisement. An ad with a goal and a message put together to convince them of something. Companies could say whatever they wanted as long as it was legal. And customers read it and formed their opinions, accordingly. They might not like the ad, but for the most part, they had no alternative source of information with which the ad had to be consistent.

But in the social media world, everything is public. How a company behaves, what it believes in – it’s all out there, and it’s all part of the equation when a customer decides whether or not to buy into a brand. And if the things a company says in its marketing are seen to be inconsistent with the way it is known to behave and the things it is known to believe in, consumers will smell a rat.

Take Nike’s recent campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. It’s about sport, so there’s authenticity there. But it’s also about sacrifice and being prepared to lose something in service to your beliefs. Nike may well have thought only of their financial gain with that campaign, yet there is no doubt they knew that in running such a polarising, political campaign, they would lose a lot of customers. They did it anyway – and that sacrifice – even if it pays off financially – is what made the campaign authentic.

The good news is that you don’t need to fuel political anger to create an authentic story. You just need to find something rooted in what your brand stands for and what your company makes. Something that will serve you well into the future, because consumers believe it and because they believe that you believe it too.

A game with no endgame.

What all brands can learn from this is that whatever pressing need or opportunity you decide to address through social media, any end point you choose will be imposed by you. To your consumers and your competitors, nothing ever ends.

In this chaotic, boundless battle, you’ll never win. So instead you need to focus on playing better, which means telling the best story. And the only stories that matter are those that are truly authentic for your brand.

The first step to success is to accept that the game is unwinnable in any traditional sense. So forget about being a winner, and focus on the way you want to play and the stories you want to tell. Only that way will you learn to play better than anyone else.

Louis Vuitton’s New Codes of Luxury.

By Harry Steer.


When Louis Vuitton named Virgil Abloh their new Artistic Director for Menswear in March, the announcement was met with mixed reactions, from the fashion world and beyond. The American designer’s appointment represents the peak of a relatively quick rise through the fashion ranks. Critics pointed to the fact that he lacks any classical fashion qualifications, which they suggested means he is not qualified to move the luxury brand forward. Some of the strongest criticism came from Raf Simons, Calvin Klein’s Chief Creative Officer, who accused Abloh of lacking originality. Saying: “He’s a sweet guy… but I’m inspired by people who bring something that I think has not been seen, that is original.”

I believe that Raf Simons is looking at luxury fashion through a traditional lens, predominantly focusing on the apparel produced and ignoring the wider positioning of the brand – specifically, how Louis Vuitton is using brand communication to engage its customers and alter their perceptions.

Over the past couple of years Gucci and Louis Vuitton have become two of the fastest-growing brands in the world, helping the luxury fashion and accessories sector grow by 42% since 2017 (Source: Interbrand). However, when you look closely at this growth, it becomes clear that while both brands are growing, it is Gucci who are winning with the younger audience. At Keko London, we define this younger audience as a ‘Modern Affluent Consumer’. This audience is of increasing importance and now accounts for 85% of the growth in the luxury sector (Bain). Furthermore, as this audience matures, they will increase their share of the audience and their value contribution to the luxury market. For Gucci, the benefits of engaging this audience are already clear, with the brand reporting revenue up 49% in the first quarter of this year. Half of that revenue is attributed to consumers aged 18 to 35.

Gucci kick-started their efforts to appeal to the modern affluent audience when they appointed Alessandro Michele as Creative Director in 2015. Since taking his position, Michele has transformed Gucci from traditional luxury to a culturally relevant brand that appeals to the modern affluent consumer. Considering this alongside Vuitton’s success last year with Kim Jones’ Vuitton Supreme collaboration, Abloh’s appeal to Vuitton is in his ability to continually tap into the modern affluent zeitgeist, whether through his 3.2 million Instagram followers, his label Off-White, his numerous brand collaborations or his DJing.

To appeal to the modern affluent audience, both Gucci and Vuitton have set out to move away from traditional luxury brand behaviour, using exclusivity and high price points to create demand. Instead, each aspires to tap into modern affluent values and aspirations. Abloh explicitly referenced this when he stated that the first thing he was going to do in his new role was define the ‘new codes’ for the brand and fashion in general. He explained that they would come from his interest in what people wear – and to achieve this he would develop a luxury version of that reality. This will involve focusing not just on design but on how the brand communicates with its consumers, including the release of products, the runway shows and the way it interacts with the global political mood.

This is not new territory for Abloh. When he launched Off-White in 2013, he stated his ambition as “to give my point of view and merge street sensibilities in a proper fashion context. I think that if I can merge the two, it’ll make something interesting.” Since starting his new role, Virgil has managed to carry this over, with much of what has been produced being defined as street wear. However, this has not come at the cost of traditional luxury codes: craftsmanship, focus, origin and rarity. Instead of casting these values aside, it sees them demonstrated in a manner that appeals better to the modern affluent audience. One of the best demonstrations is found in craftsmanship. For the latest range, he claims, “…a number of garments in the collection are laser-precise studies of the most normal, basic things that men wear today,” he says. “We’re making a double-faced hoodie that [has] the same hand-stitching that you would find on a handmade tailored suit.” Another take on a fashion basic is a crew-neck T-shirt in leather, or a jean jacket in mink.

At Abloh’s recent Paris fashion show, he went on to elaborate more on his new codes, stating: “the people have changed, and so fashion had to.” However, it would be cheapening his work to suggest that Abloh’s new codes are solely based on street fashion. His Vuitton Paris Fashion Show was centred around a spray-painted rainbow catwalk, matching the palette of the collection and lined by 1,000 students from Paris. The models had representatives from every continent in the world (bar Antarctica) – a fact highlighted on a map that read “We are the world”. By creating an inclusive and diverse show, Virgil demonstrated his understanding of millennials beyond street wear. He tapped into their values while aligning them to the traditional rules of luxury, in an effort to empower the next generation.

When you consider Virgil’s work since joining Vuitton, it could be argued that he hasn’t completely rewritten the codes of luxury. Indeed, a more honest description would be that  he has simply reinterpreted them for a modern affluent audience. To his credit, Abloh admits as much, stating that his “premier position is just to translate brand into current culture…”

“The brands that I choose to work with are usually best in category and they also have some heritage to them,” he continues. “And my goal is to sort of articulate that heritage in a new, refreshing way, to a younger consumer.” At Vuitton, he has achieved this through what he calls “a global view on diversity linked to the travel DNA of the brand.”

Virgil Abloh has identified modern affluent expectations and he has responded. But already, it’s apparent that he is not going to let Vuitton rest there. He has recently stated that he’s already thinking about what an even younger generation will want from brands like Vuitton. (New York Times). One thing’s for sure: we’ll be watching with interest.

Quantity of Eyeballs or Quality of Endorsement?

An insider’s view on influencer strategy.

By Clemmie Cuthbertson.

In the last two or three years, the influencer marketing sector has increased in size rapidly – and many believe it still has room to grow. According to the Association of National Advertisers, “75% of marketers currently work with influencers and of that, 43% plan to increase spending in the next year. Of those who are not currently using influencer marketing, 27% indicated they plan to do so in the next 12 months,” (The Drum, 2018). But all this intent does not necessarily make influencer marketing effective. Enthusiasm and effectiveness are not the same.

I am in the rare position of being both a social media influencer and an employee at an agency that delivers social solutions for its clients, often involving influencers. So I see the industry from two very different perspectives.

On the one hand, brands often contact me, asking where to send free samples of their latest low-calorie, additive-free alcopop or hottest make-up creation, in the hope that I’ll post images of their products to my profile. It means I’ve had to make a decision: will I take money for this and become an influencer for hire, or will I use and post only the products I genuinely think are good, refusing financial payment?

As an influencer with a day job – and admittedly, not quite a Kardashian-sized following – I chose the latter. But it’s not just influencers who need to weigh this decision. Brands who engage with influencers must factor it into their strategy, too.

Not all influencers are created equal
Influencers who take money to publicise a brand are, in essence, advertisements in human form. Consequently, social media etiquette demands that they append the tag ‘#Ad’ or ‘#Spon’ to any posts that feature a product they have been paid to publicise. For brands, this can be a great way to reach large and otherwise hard-to-reach audiences. But everyone knows it’s an ad – so although its reach might be great, the persuasive power of this kind of post will be minimal.
If, on the other hand, you see a brand or product featured on my profile, you’ll know I genuinely like it. This position has greater potential to persuade, but influencers like me rarely deliver huge audiences.

So for brands, there is a choice to make: quantity of eyeballs or quality of endorsement. And like so much in marketing, there is no right answer. Which one you choose for your brand (or what combination) depends, on what you want to achieve – or more specifically, where you are in the funnel.

Use the funnel
There are many variants of the sales funnel model, but the one we tend to use here at Keko London is the tried and tested AIDAR: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action and Retention.
If your focus is at the top of the funnel – if you are simply trying to alert your audience to the arrival of a new product or your brand’s entry into a new market, for example – then the paid influencer route might be a sensible option. You can think of it in the same way as buying a poster, an ad at the side of a football pitch or space for your logo on a Formula 1 car. It will get your brand seen, but that will be about it.

You also need to consider the phenomenon of fake followers. The purchase of fake followers (and fake likes and fake comments) is more widespread than you might think – especially among ‘macro-influencers’ with more than 100,000 followers.

This has come about because, as an influencer, the more followers you have, the more brands will pay you. There’s even a formula for how much you can charge, based on the size of your following.

If I were to charge, for example, I could earn £0.015 x my number of followers – currently around 18,000. Which means a brand could buy a post for £270.00.

Naturally, people who depend on these fees for a living want to earn as much as they can – so they buy followers to increase the price they can charge per post.

So how can you tell if an influencer’s following is authentic? Engagement levels are a good indicator. On average, Influencers should reach at least half their followers’ accounts every week. If someone has a million followers but they only reach 1,500 per week, then you know not to use them. Likes are worth looking at, too. Your influencers should aim to have between 6% and 10% of their followers like their photos, if not more.

As mentioned above, however, even engagement can now be faked. So if it’s mass awareness you’re looking for, the fact that not all those eyeballs are real is something you’ll have to accept. As Lord Leverhulme might have said: “I know that half the money I spend on macro-influencers is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Beyond the numbers game
Using macro-influencers for awareness is a numbers game – and only by crunching the numbers like this can you decide whether you’re doing the right thing or you’d be better off buying paid media and controlling the message yourself.

But that doesn’t mean there are no pitfalls further down the funnel. Here, you’re trying to really persuade people of something – be it the quality of your product or some specific capability or benefit. It’s an opportunity to have an influencer talk about your product in more detailed way – so make sure you arm them with all the information they need – not just the snippet a macro-influencer would post.

Measurement is possible, too. When working with a micro-influencer at this level, one way to track effectiveness is to make sure they put a call to action in their post, e.g. ‘Use code Clemmie10 for 10% off NutriBuddy’s latest health shake’. Then you can see how many people redeem.

Part of a bigger picture
In the longer term, think about your influencers (micro or macro) as storytellers, rather than just a conduit to consumers. Each one has a little part of your narrative to impart to their own audience. Many consumers today are more likely to look at social media than look at your website, so it makes sense to develop a base of influencers who can be relied on to deliver at whatever part of the funnel they are best suited for. Paid or not, influencers will work best for you when they are part of something bigger – and not just a one-off transaction.

A Rose By Any Other Name.

By Naser Al-Khalaileh

How many different ways can you say love in English?

Take a moment to think about it.

Whatever your answer, it won’t match the Arabic – a language with 14 different words describing love, each with its own intensity and connotation. Because in Arabic, the love you feel for your siblings* is different than the love you have for a partner. And in a relationship, the love you feel at the beginning, when it’s all dreamy and dandy*, is different from the love you feel later on, while you’re doing the dishes.

That’s not a comment on the complexity of Arabic or the simplicity of English, but rather the uniqueness of each. In English, some terms can never be translated into Arabic – not with a single word at least. And some concepts just won’t make sense no matter how hard you try. While Arabic can express poetic notions like love in countless ways, there are countless words with no single-word Arabic equivalent at all. Try as you might, but even “access” is inaccessible. Therein lies why advertising campaigns either work perfectly across markets or fail miserably.


A global tradition of getting it wrong

I started my advertising career as an Arabic copywriter. I soon learned why so much advertising in Arabic is dreadful.

The scenario is well established: a global brand spends anywhere between 6 and 18 months developing a brand campaign, complete with communication pieces for every step in the customer journey. The campaign was likely conceived in Europe or the US. Even if it was a regional campaign by design, the creative team will probably have been led by an expat from one of those two regions. Therefore, the idea is, at its core, English. Inevitably, in the mere moments before the shoot begins or the printer gets to work, the concept is handed over to the ‘local team’ to translate – or transcreate – into their language. If the brand is lucky, its message will translate seamlessly into the different languages. More common, however, is that the smart, catchy* and funny campaign line – the backbone of it all – will be so linguistically and culturally irrelevant to the region that it either won’t make any sense or it will come across as tasteless. And just like that, a global marketing push is made in vain*.

Language transcends its essential function of communication. It seeps into our culture (or vice versa) and more often than not, language and culture become inseparable. Which means an ill-conceived campaign line, slogan, or even a single word, can dictate the way a story is told in a film, how a photograph is interpreted, or how a script is read. If that story, shot, or narration doesn’t come from within the language and its culture, it can lead to much more than a weak campaign. It can cause offense. Or worse, in my opinion – indifference.

When looking at Arabic ads as an English-speaking Arabic native, the original English lines often appear to me as imaginary subtitles. The translation may be awful, but I can usually see what the original sentiment was – and by how far the brand has missed the mark. Many bilingual people can do this. You don’t need to work in advertising.


The example of Egypt

There are exceptions – markets that never fail to produce outstanding campaigns. Egypt is an example. It may be the example. I’ve long wondered why everybody in the Arab world loves Egyptian ads. They’re almost always funny and they’re relatable for most Arabs, not just Egyptians. Part of this could be attributed to the popularity of the Egyptian dialect across the Arab World – the lingua franca made famous by classic and modern films and plays. But familiarity can’t be the only reason. I believe it’s all in the copy.

No matter what the concept was, whether locally produced or adapted from a global campaign, it’s always translatedtruthfully into the language and culture people speak and live every day. By embracing their culture, language, and different dialects, advertisers in Egypt manage to make the most seemingly culturally-specific topic relatable to a wider audience. Through the sheer power of honesty and authenticity. The most successful cases are when the campaign is dismantled and rebuilt using local materials. Built with a foundation in the global concept, but roots that reach even deeper to tap into the local culture. It works, and the number of globally awarded Egyptian campaigns is a testament to that.


So what can we do?

What brands, creative directors and strategists* can do to help create more relatable* communication across regions is simple: invest in local talent, get them on board early on, listen to them, and – once in a while – let them lead the messaging in their own language. Your customers will probably love it! Well, ours do.



*Words that don’t have a one-word Arabic equivalent in these contexts.




Technology and the Joy of Missing Out.

By Chris Griggs

Director of Technology, Keko London

Who doesn’t love new stuff? It promises so much – especially when it comes to technology. New tech can make you look cool. It can make you and your business more successful. In comparison to new stuff, everything else seems stale, boring and, well, old.

In particular, many who work in agencies tend to go all dewy-eyed about new tech – however fanciful its promise might be. This can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Wanting to deliver a competitive advantage on behalf of clients – a noble aim, though not one that can be achieved exclusively through new technology.
  • Wanting to win awards – a less noble aim. A major culprit as to why I feel the agency world has lost its way with technology. Why? Look at any award book from the last 20 years and ask yourself how many of the digital campaigns are truly great ideas, and how many are average ideas coupled with the first application of a now-dated technology.
  • Wanting to be seen as innovators; as fast-moving pioneers rather than conservative, risk-averse Luddites. Because, well, who doesn’t?
  • Being afraid we’ll be left behind forever.


Guess what? New is not always best.

If we look at the really big changes to our lifestyles that the internet has ushered in, many of them are really just repairs or improvements – either fixing things we already had or enabling us to do something we already did more effectively.

eBay made it easier to buy and sell second hand items. PayPal made paying for it easier, especially when you don’t know the seller. The iPod let us listen to music from our entire music collections, rather than just the tapes, CDs or Minidiscs (remember them?) we were prepared to lug around. The iPhone bridged the gap between a computer and a mobile phone, enabling us to use the internet on the move – before the iPad bridged the gap between an iPhone and a computer, for those of us who needed bigger screens. More recently, Uber fixed many of the problems with taxis, while Air B’n’B made it a doddle to let our flats for short periods, while giving us all an alternative to hotels at the same time. Spotify and Netflix, meanwhile, resolved the file storage limitations of our various devices by giving us streaming access to everything.

What all these innovations had in common is that there was either a known problem there to be solved or, if not, an opportunity – a genuine consumer need – to be exploited. The knife and fork were not invented because it would look cool to hold a different-looking implement in each hand. They were built to make life better and they succeeded because they did exactly that. They were not created as part of an arms race, with the simple goal of being first. In fact, every example above was based on technology that already existed; technology that, if it hadn’t been commercially deployed already, it had at least been publicly demonstrated. As Steve Jobs told a room full of Apple developers back in 1997, “You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”


Back in the real world…

Many of the world’s most successful new technologies are the work of start-ups. And usually, their ideas have arisen from problems the inventors experienced first-hand (if you work in an agency, you’re probably more familiar with the term ‘insights’).

In agencyland, however, we have remained preoccupied by the empty promise of the new and the next. We’ve become so dazzled by new tech that we’ve lost sight of these real-world problems. As a consequence, we’ll often rush towards a new technology with no true appreciation of the problems it is ready to solve. Which in turn, results in solutions that are really just demonstrations – proof of our ‘innovative capabilities’ but nothing more. Predictably, the customer experience usually leaves a lot to be desired.

For me, the time has come to refocus on real-life problems. Which means getting out of our offices, where we languish at a safe distance from the people who experience the fruits and failure of our labour. A time to apply true empathy to our clients’ current and future customers, by experiencing the real, physical world, first-hand.


Let’s get physical.

Today’s most successful digital applications are often mashups of the physical and virtual worlds. Uber is predominantly a physical experience – only the hailing and payment of the taxi happens digitally. Amazon still requires the physical act of packing and shipping an item. Booking process aside, AirB’n’B is also a physical experience.

This suggests that rather than being entirely screen-centric, we can add value to people’s lives by enabling technology to augment our physical experiences. But to do so successfully, we need to think differently. We need to identify real opportunities to improve the minutiae of our physical lives – and that means considering context and experience. It means undertaking physical, real-world research and creating usage scenarios. And only then, when we know we’re looking in the right place, can we start to look at the technology itself: Location, iBeacons, Projection, Audio Watermarking, IoT – all can help us connect the digital and the physical, but only if we have found the right problem to solve. Let’s not develop an all-singing, all-dancing, big data-driven AI bot if all we need to do is put up a sign.


Join the resistance.

In an agency context, this will mean being prepared to challenge briefs that stipulate a particular technology at the outset. On receipt of briefs like this, we need to step all the way back to the high-level objective (e.g. increase awareness of product X) and then look at what consumer or business problem we can solve to achieve it. Only then can we examine the technologies available, with an aim to enhancing or improving a real-life experience.

Crucially, we need to remain disciplined throughout. Which means not rushing to the newest technologies available to us, or the ones we think will win us awards. And we need to keep things simple. Which means resisting the temptation to add features, extra tabs, content and more calls to action. In fact, it means resisting everything – unless it will help improve the life of the end user – because that’s how you create a great app. Instead of rushing to be early adopters, we should all be early resistors. Let’s define the future not by FOMO, but by JOMO – the joy of missing out.

What does ‘Personal’ mean?

What does ‘Personal’ mean?
By Jenni Ashwood


This is something we’ve been thinking about and mulling over internally for a while. It’s something we’ve written and rewritten many times. Which is demonstrative of the complexity of the subject. So rather than a ‘properly’ crafted essay piece, this is a collection of thoughts and possible conclusions drawn together.

We see ‘personalisation’ as being 2018’s important word and so do our clients: “How can we better connect and resonate with our customers?” and “how can we really mean something to them?” But everyone has a different POV on what ‘personalised’ means in marketing and what’s important. From the Data Manager, to the UX Specialist, to the Product Strategist, to the Brand Planner, to the creative team, the word ‘personalisation’ in the context of ‘marketing’(1) can often cause confusion.

So what could ‘personal’ mean?

Personalised products – this could be products that consumers feel are relevant to them and their needs, or literally personalised products (e.g. making something the colour of my choice alone, my initials, to my exact specification so that no-one else has it).

Personalised targeting – talking to people in the way that’s right for them. Mixing data with qualitative research, understanding their preferred journeys to purchase, with the addition of some instinct too. Boden has been excelling at this for years with their DMs that show pieces previously bought and suggesting new ones based on that. Newer companies like Stitch Fix are showing that data-driven personalisation plus a layer of human thought can make something very special that is hugely relevant(2).

Personalised experiences – retail is more than just bricks and mortar, or a nice and easy ecommerce journey; 53% of UK Millennials would rather spend money on an experience as opposed to a possession(3). It’s free delivery and simple returns, as well as a reason to spend time in store/online that isn’t linked to a hard sell. Offline, Rapha have really excelled in this space(4); online we love the Everlane Instagram and website (incidentally, their New York store was also a very relaxing place to just ‘be’ in a heatwave). In the travel sector, Black Tomato’s ‘Get Lost’ programme merges the need for disconnecting with an incredibly unique ‘holiday.’

Personalised brands – demonstrating how a brand’s values are echoed and shared with their customers: 54% of British and American millennials are looking to connect with brands which enhance their spirit and soul(5). This isn’t about chameleon-ing yourself as a brand so that you match each individuals’ requirements. It’s about nailing your colours to a mast so that customers can say ‘yes I get that, and they get me too.’

Personalised content and creative – this is more sophisticated than walking past a billboard and having your name flash up. In many ways, it’s about having content that resonates with what someone cares about that day – which arguably editorial publications have been doing for years – but which is often harder to implement in an ‘advertising’ context with print lead times etc.

…But the truth is that this is all easier to theorise about than actually do. From a practical perspective budgets only stretch so far. So do you spend limited funds on a new brand campaign, dynamic content or updating retailer environments?

Perhaps it can be summed up as this: personalisation is valuable in some contexts, especially with brands with which you have a close relationship. And it’s about what people expect from you (the brand) based on the kind of brand you are, as well as whether they have given you permission or not to do so. Canvas 8 (2018) highlight that 48% of consumers are frustrated when a brand doesn’t personalise its services, and 61% say they would switch companies without hesitation if they have a poor customer experience. With this said, brands could potentially lose out due to unsatisfactory experiences as they contribute to an erosion of trust. These businesses may fall victim to the ‘switching economy’ – where people switch brands for a better deal when service isn’t up to scratch (Canvas 8, 2018).

I like thinking of it in ‘real terms’ – if you met someone briefly once and then they messaged you at least once a week offering advice that they claimed was perfect for you, or sent you a free bracelet with both your initials engraved on it, you’d think they were mad!

Bill Gates, speaking on Radio 4 earlier this year, touched on this when questioned on the legitimacy of companies using personal data to target more effectively. The conclusion he drew was simple and we think can be echoed across the other ‘personalised’ elements: the preference for personalised advertising is the most important ‘personal’ thing a brand should care about.



1. Getting the right product into the right marketplace for the right people at the right time \
3. Proudlock D., 02/07/18, UK Millennials Report
4. Though their latest campaign to ‘Ride with Us’ perhaps shows that for many, this intense personal experience was actually excluding many who felt they, personally, weren’t the right fit. However there’s an argument that by trying to reach more people, they dilute the previous successful work they’ve previously done.
5. Proudlock D., 02/07/18, UK Millennials Report