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Strength and Clarity: Why Following Crowds Will Leave You Lost In The Noise



As part of an ongoing interview series, Five by Five’s UK digital content planning and publishing manager Fiona Healey outlines how strength and clarity can ensure customer journeys do not simply end at ‘engagement’

Strength and Clarity: Why Following Crowds Will Leave You Lost In The Noise

Today, the communications landscape is more cluttered and competitive than it has ever been before. For brands, crafting a distinctive voice powerful enough to project through the noise is an existential challenge. 

The global independent creative and production agency, Five by Five, has developed a strategic framework to ensure successful and repeating customer journeys. Whilst there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there is a set of guiding principles that the agency applies to every facet of what it does. Namely, Five by Five identifies strength and clarity as the two keys to effective brand communication.

Over the course of this series of interviews, we’ll find out how Five by Five integrates the ‘strength and clarity’ philosophy into everything it does. Today, we speak to the company’s digital content planning and publishing manager Fiona Healey. 

LBB> In the context of our industry, what does ‘strength’ mean to you?

Fiona Healey> In a broad sense, it’s about overcoming noise and clutter and making standout work.

But more specifically, it’s about being relevant to your audience and offering them value. Because to achieve true cut-through it’s not about who’s shouting the loudest, it’s about whose voice has the best resonance. And you can’t do that without strength. 

LBB> On that point about ‘offering value’ - is that maybe the difference between getting cut-through in the short term with throwaway ‘clickbait’ strategies, and achieving long-term relevance? 

Fiona> Yes, absolutely. I think there are a lot of brands and even content creators out there who believe they have to produce content for its own sake. But at the end of the day if it’s content which has no purpose, and which addresses no needs, it’s just going to fade into the background. Following the crowd will simply leave you lost in the noise. 

It’s undoubtedly true that in 2021 you only have about a second - if that - to grab someone’s attention. So that’s where the temptation for clickbait comes in. But the thing about ‘strength’ in communications is that it has to be consistent across the whole customer journey. So if they click on your content and are immediately disappointed by what comes next, that’s going to have a really detrimental effect on your brand and future customer journeys. There’s no real point in getting someone through the initial door if you’re only going to lose them before they arrive at the destination. 

So the truth is that we need to invest in quality content - be it through investing time, money, or whatever else, it’s essential that brands look at the long-term picture rather than focusing on short-term wins. 

LBB> The media landscape is so saturated at the moment with different channels. Do you need to be represented on each and every one of them in order to appear ‘strong’, or is part of that ‘strength’ knowing which platforms are appropriate for you? 

Fiona> There’s a tendency to think that if everyone else is doing something, you should be doing it as well. But I agree that part of having strength as a brand is knowing who you are, and subsequently being able to hit the right tone for the message you want to communicate. 

One common theme that we see come up quite often is that brands feel if they’re not really plugging a product or highlighting their branding, then their content isn’t ‘doing its job’. But in reality, especially given the expectations people have for different platforms, being overtly salesy can do more harm than good. People know who you are when they’re looking at your social channel or at a branded email, so you don’t need to repeatedly hammer it home in order to communicate a strong message. So yes, knowing which platforms are right for your tone is essential. 

LBB> And what’s the link, in your view, between strength and clarity in communications?

Fiona> What ties the two together naturally is that strength is about grabbing attention, and clarity is about landing your message. Taken together it means being single-minded in what you’re trying to say and knowing what you want the customer to do in response to your comms. 

So part of our role as an agency is to be honest and respectfully challenge clients when we think something isn’t working, ensuring they’re in that headspace at all times. 

LBB> Could you give two examples - one which you’ve worked on and one from outside Five by Five - which really exemplify what we’re talking about here?

Fiona> Externally, one that comes to my mind is Red Bull. They consistently make great creative content but they also truly know their audience. They know that they’re going after a ‘thrill-seeking’ demographic and they’re not so product-focused that it comes at the detriment to everything else. 

They’re now a massive brand in their own right and that’s partly because they’ve so successfully sold an experience rather than just a product. 

Above: Part of Red Bull’s success in defining their brand over the years has been working to promote a holistic brand experience rather than just a product. 

And then for us, I’d like to briefly mention our work for CooperVision with Mélanie Astles. We probably took a bit of inspiration from Red Bull, if I’m being honest, and used an aspirational ambassador who had relatability and quality experience rather than just pushing products. 

For the client in this case, authenticity was key. So this was a challenging brief because we had to find an influencer who used a very specific type of contact lens, given that we didn’t want to use any old influencer who might lack that authenticity. Plus, they really wanted them to have a profile in an extreme sport and have European appeal. And yet despite fishing in a rather small pool, we were able to find Mélanie. 

She fits the bill perfectly in that she is an aerobatic pilot but is completely relatable in that she has other things in her life like her business, her fitness, and relaxing with friends. So we’re not saying that wearing these contact lenses will make you an aerobatic pilot, but we are saying that her approach to life is simultaneously aspirational and achievable for all of us. 

Above: An epic advert from Five by Five starring six-time French aerobatics champion Mélanie Astles highlighted the importance of great vision when pursuing your dreams. 

LBB> Finally, one of the themes across your answers so far has been promoting a holistic brand experience over specific products. But does that not make strength and clarity harder in that you have to package the core message inside something more indirect? 

Fiona> It is a challenge, yes, but the ends invariably justify the means when you get it right. What’s especially tough is that there is no kind of ‘perfect formula’ to get it right every time - if there were, every brand would be doing it. 

If I’m being honest, when you asked me about work from outside Five by Five that showcases those qualities I was racking my brain a bit because there just isn’t that much out there. And that’s precisely why it works so brilliantly when brands do achieve it. 

For me, I would sum it up like this: average creative communications are about what you say. Great creative communications are about telling the story of why you do what you do. What’s your purpose, and why do you exist? The best campaigns will communicate that via strength and clarity. 

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Five by Five UK, Mon, 04 Oct 2021 10:47:17 GMT