Propaganda is proud to announce our prestigious win at the 2023 Management Consultancies Association (MCA) Awards for Strategy. This highly coveted award is a resounding testament to our transformative work with BSW Group, a major player in the timber sawmilling industry.
Our innovative approach, praised by judges, stands as a true demonstration of the power of consulting, delivering outstanding value through strategic work. In a fiercely competitive category, which featured industry giants like PwC, Arup and KPMG, Propaganda emerged victorious, reaffirming our commitment to excellence in consultancy.
Following the acquisition of BSW Timber by PE fund Endless LLP, the business strategically acquired five companies in the timber supply chain, creating the UK’s largest vertical ‘seed-to-sawn’ forestry business. Our role involved unifying their entities under one umbrella, resulting in the formation of the BSW Group.
Our comprehensive Brand DiscoveryTM process, engaging both colleagues and clients of BSW Group, identified two critical issues – lack of integration and understanding among the acquired businesses.
Our strategic recommendation shifted the Group from ‘seed-to-sawn’ to a ‘circle of experts’, branding BSW Group as “the most innovative, technologically advanced, and sustainable timber business in the UK”. We also provided a clear direction on investments in innovation, technology and education.
This repositioning set BSW Group on course for transformative growth, allowing them to achieve exit ambitions three years ahead of schedule and deliver Endless LLP’s biggest-ever return, demonstrating a new culture of collaboration between the Group businesses.
Beyond exit value, other quantifiable results also surged. Group revenue increased from £350 million in February 2020 to an impressive £900 million in January 2023. The number of employees also soared from 2,000 to 3,050 during the same period. Notably, BSW Group broke records by securing the largest harvesting contract with Forestry Scotland.
The MCA Awards, hosted by the Management Consultancies Association, recognise and celebrate excellence within the consulting industry. With MCA member companies representing around 60% of the UK consulting industry, this accolade underscores the quality and impact of Propaganda and BSW Group’s partnership.
This win is not just a triumph for our team but also a celebration of BSW Group, who fully embraced our transformative strategies in the competitive timber sawmilling industry. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the MCA for this esteemed recognition and reaffirm our commitment to setting new standards in strategic consultancy.
Propaganda Brand Consultancy has worked with AllBright – a 500,000 strong network for professional women across all stages of their career – to deliver a refreshed proposition, a brand refresh and an OOH campaign across London. This includes an updated CVI and assets, a brand film, website development and social strategy.
The creative delivered by Propaganda effectively communicates how AllBright is using its network to redefine ambition and transform business, reshaping the future of work. Throughout November, the OOH campaign will feature on electronic billboards in key locations across London such as Shoreditch, Battersea, Islington, Waterloo and Mayfair.
AllBright approached Propaganda to help unify and strengthen its three distinct business divisions. The organisation comprises a five-story flagship Mayfair members club, a networking and development programme, and the ‘AllBright Alliance’ – a data-driven support framework that empowers brands to help women across career levels succeed and thrive at work. Member organisations of the ‘AllBright Alliance’ include BNY Mellon, Simba Sleep and Chelsea F.C. Women.
Through Propaganda’s Brand Discovery™ process, the consultancy found a discrepancy between the way women’s networks tend to speak about success, and the way women actually feel. Ambition has become a very loaded term for working women – something they feel pressured to aspire towards, yet a concept that feels very constraining and often means sacrificing family and work life balance.
Propaganda advised AllBright to instead redefine how its 500,000 members see ambition and transform the working world for women from bottom up and from top down. Hosting a range of members from entry level careers all the way to top level executives, the AllBright club and development programmes bring people together to embrace connection, opportunity and collaboration. At the same time, the ‘AllBright Alliance’ is working with huge organisations to transform how business works for women, creating unlimited possibilities for their careers.
Tom Fowler, Strategy Director at Propaganda, says: “AllBright’s ambition to reshape the working world for women was a brand challenge steeped in purpose that was so compelling to interrogate. Rather than simply giving women a seat at the table, Propaganda is supporting AllBright in creating a new table.
“Building brands with purpose has long been at the forefront of what we do at Propaganda. Our history transforming organisations such as GenM (now the menopause partner for the UK’s biggest retailers), put us in a unique position to be able to integrate the three strands of AllBright’s business – ultimately creating something greater than the sum of its parts and whose impact will be felt for generations to come.”
To support a host of new client wins, award-winning brand consultancy, Propaganda, has appointed Paddy Cavanagh to join its strategy team. Cavanagh is a recent addition to the thriving Leeds consulting scene, having started his career at M&C Saatchi guiding strategies for NatWest, Thames Water and the Department for International Trade.
Cavanagh will join the strategy team working on multiple new business wins including pioneering business vehicle rental platform Nexus and Mayfair-based women’s members’ club and development platform AllBright.
Nexus enlisted Propaganda to leverage the brand to further accelerate its growth plans and value after it secured significant investment from private equity fund, Equistone.
AllBright approached Propaganda to help unify and strengthen its three distinct business divisions. Comprising of a five-story flagship Mayfair members club, a networking and development programme, and the ‘AllBright Alliance’ – a data-driven support framework that empowers brands to help women across career levels succeed and thrive at work.
Tom Fowler, Strategy Director at Propaganda, says: “We have a long history of transforming brands into sector leaders and work is already underway to deliver strategy and brand activation for Nexus that leverages both its leading tech capabilities, and its strong people culture for innovation and client delivery.
“AllBright’s ambition to reshape the working world for women was a brand challenge steeped in purpose that was so compelling to interrogate. Rather than simply giving women a seat at the table, Propaganda is supporting AllBright in creating a new table.
“Our new client engagements come through recommendations and referrals which is a testament to the strength and skills within Propaganda in exceeding client ambitions. We’re delighted to have Paddy join us to bolster the strategy team in continuing to transform brands that drive business value for our clients.
Propaganda, has successfully delivered a full rebrand for Endless LLP (‘Endless’), one of the UK’s leading mid-market private equity firms.
Having undergone Propaganda’s Brand Discovery™ consultative process – which provided Propaganda with the strategic insight to reposition Endless for future growth – the rebrand has helped to assert the firm’s position within the special situations market.
Work carried out by Propaganda includes a new corporate identity, brand film, messaging and collateral. Captured across both the new visual identity and tone of voice is Endless’ spirit and energy for making a long-lasting positive impact on UK businesses.
Craig Harrold, Managing Director at Propaganda said: “Endless has been operating for nearly twenty years and has a reputation for turning around the most complex of businesses into sustainable successes. However, as the private equity market is becoming highly competitive, Endless understood the need to undertake a strategic review of its brand and creative communications as it reaffirms its ambitions to the market.
“The new brand will position Endless as a specialist within the special situations market as well as providing the platform on which to develop its offering and future growth.
Aidan Robson, Partner at Endless says, “Endless is entering its next chapter and we wanted a brand that reflects both our history but also our future.
“Having worked with Propaganda on our portfolio business BSW Group, we’ve seen first-hand the tangible commercial value that their Brand Discovery and strategic creative can unlock. We’ve been both delighted and energised by the outcome, and we’re looking forward to working together on the ongoing execution of our brand, marketing and communication plans.”
Propaganda will continue to deliver brand and marketing strategy for Endless on a retained basis.
Leeds-based Propaganda Brand Consultancy has today announced the relocation of its headquarters to prestigious new premises at 1 City Square. This move comes as the business begins celebrations for its 30th anniversary.
They have agreed a deal on 2,232 sqft on the ground floor at the plug and play, flexible office development which offers the best Grade A office space in Leeds. The letting was completed by CBRE.
Laura Kynaston, Managing Director at Propaganda says “As we hit our 30th year, it’s a fitting time to move to new premises in one of the leading business addresses in Leeds. It sees Propaganda in the company of the consultancy and professional services businesses we are increasingly working alongside in our aim to drive brand value for all our clients. 1 City Square offers us an inspiring and collaborative space for both our people and our clients”.
Propaganda works with entrepreneurial, challenger and leading brands across multiple sectors to transform their businesses. From professional services, manufacturing, construction, health, beauty and retail, its portfolio of work has seen brands enter new markets, launch new products and turnovers soar. Clients include Clipper Logistics, Endless LLP, Gen M, BSW Group and Woodlands. It is also the only brand consultancy to be accepted as a member of the Management Consultancies Association
30 years since the business launched, Propaganda is now one of the leading strategy and creative consultancies in the North. Founded in 1993, by Chairman Julian Kynaston in his hometown of Huddersfield, the decline of the textile industry and its effect on the local economy opened his eyes to the damaging effects of businesses becoming complacent, focusing on short term performance, and having a reluctance to challenge the status quo. These early experiences formed Propaganda’s founding principles and the business has gone on to build an unrivalled reputation for brand growth and transformation through its combination of insight-led strategy, creative excellence and commercial rigour.
The business will commence a series of celebrations in March to mark its milestone year including a commemorative brochure of client work past and present, a film capturing 30 stories across 30 years of Propaganda, and a volunteering programme launched for its 45 employees.
Julian Kynaston, founder of CEO of Propaganda says, “30 years is a huge milestone for the Propaganda. Surviving for 30 years in our industry is one thing but to arrive here still at the top of our game, delivering industry-leading strategic and creative work for our clients is something I’m incredibly proud of. Our new headquarters perfectly reflect the top class consultative business we are today.”
We are incredibly proud to have won the 2022 MCA Social Value Award for our work with GenM. As the only agency that is accepted as a member of the Management Consultancies Association, winning an MCA Award is a particular honour for us as they recognise organisations that deliver long-term strategic results for their clients, rather than just celebrating one specific campaign.
The results were announced in a ceremony at the Park Plaza Westminster hotel, presented by Sir Trevor McDonald. This year, the Social Value category received a record number of entries and was revealed to be the second most competitive of all 25 awards. Other shortlisted entries in the category included IBM Consulting with the UK Health Security Agency (HSA) and Netcompany with the Department of Health & Social Care.
Our work with GenM has helped to transform the conversation around the menopause, empowering GenM to partner with some of the UK’s biggest brands across industries, improving the menopause experience for the UK’s 15.5 million menopausal women.
Having worked with Propaganda since 2021, GenM is partnered with 70 of the UK’s biggest brands including Boots, Royal Mail, Next, M&S, QVC and Co-op. GenM helps brands better cater for menopausal customers and employees; ultimately improving the health and happiness of millions with menopause-friendly products, services, signposting, workplace policies and marketing campaigns.
Originally, GenM was positioned as a one-stop-shop website with the aim of being ‘Google for the menopause’. GenM appointed Propaganda to help launch the brand online. However, Propaganda’s consultancy quickly identified challenges with this model. As a two-person organisation with limited funds, reaching a broad audience was a challenging proposition and unlikely to quickly drive the wider scale societal change they desired.
Propaganda recognised that engaging directly with established brands and businesses, encouraging them to change, would allow GenM to achieve a much bigger, wider and more impactful influence on menopause-friendly products and support.
Propaganda set GenM on this new strategic direction, targeting the key audience of companies and brands. This approach, creating positive change for ‘the change’, has already generated more significant and enduring social impact than any direct-to-consumer efforts GenM could achieve.
This sustainable and long-term business model delivered by Propaganda has resulted in 70 of the UK’s biggest brands signing up as GenM Partners in the 12 months since launch, and has built GenM’s brand equity with consumer and business audiences, delivering messaging that menopause is a societal issue that affects everyone, including business. Propaganda has delivered national PR campaigns for GenM with a combined media reach of 450,000,000.
This has allowed GenM to have an unrivalled impact on menopause on the B2B space with initiatives such as the launch of a world-first recognisable menopause-friendly symbol (similar to gluten-free or vegan logos) now displayed across Boots stores nationwide.
A recent proliferation of new brand straplines is pointing to an increased awareness of a ‘life-long’ audience brands want to talk to. This is good. For a long time now, women of my age (‘midlife’ or Queenagers to coin Eleanor Mills) have been protesting at the invisibility of their peers – watching them disappear from pivotal roles in the media and industry whilst men of a similar age continue unchallenged.
But are brands delivering on their promises? Boots’ new strapline ‘With You for Life’ and John Lewis’ ‘For All Life’s Moments’ feel ‘all of life’ positive.
Yet John Lewis’s first advert with the new positioning couldn’t have been more traditionally millennial-focused.
Reinforcing the stereotype of child-birth and child-rearing at a certain age, in a certain social construct. Narrowing ‘all of life’ to the already cliched and overdone. And missing more carefully considered audience insights.
Targeting an audience on age alone just doesn’t work. Today we do things like starting work and having children at massively different ages and within many varied social constructs (if we do them at all). And the focus on Millennnials as THE target market for consumer spend completely misunderstands where value lies.
The over 40s are now outspending the under 40s by 250%. Forbes sees women of 50+ as Superconsumers, holding spending power for up to 95% of household purchases. In the UK, the over 50s total over 23 million people (and growing) and represent the highest disposable income of any other age demographic. At age 65, outliving men by an average of five years, most women still have over 40% of life in front of them.
And what are they doing? Well, they’re certainly not sitting around at home. The number of over 50s in work has increased by 36% in the last 20 years. By 2050, 47% of all over 50s will be in work. And the fastest growing workplace demographic is women over 50.
With this, life’s milestones are coming later. More babies are now being born to over 40s than to teenagers. And more are being born out of wedlock than in. Young people are staying in education and living at home longer as people stay in work longer. Many more people choose to live alone/unpartnered and many women over 40 are both single and childless.
The relentless fascination with marketing to 18-34 year olds is completely out of sync with where growth and value lies. And falling back onto the usual social mores just doesn’t hit home anymore.
An advert positioning a new mum in her 20s misses the massive swathe of working mums in their 30s and 40s. Assuming a 50+ woman is an empty nester ignores the many with younger children. And single women of an older age are arguably not targeted with anything much at all – even though they are the ones with income and time to spare.
Part of this being seen and marketed to also demands new products and services. Perimenopausal and menopausal women hit this stage on average at about the half-way point in life. Their reconfigured biology offers decades ahead that can be the absolute best but are more likely to be so with products and services addressing their symptoms and needs.
These insights are not being translated into what this audience wants. 87% of menopausal women feel overlooked by brands and 97% feel brands should work harder for them. 73% hate the way their generation is patronized when it comes to technology and 86% believe style is not defined by age. The over 65s are the fastest growing Instagrammers and GenX spend more time online than GenZ.
Who knew? And how do we make effective change?
It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. The lack of value around older women in particular contributes to gendered ageism and less women making it to c-suite level. With less women in senior marketing roles and leadership dominated by millennial males, brands lack understanding of this pivotal consumer. Brands need to have lived experience to lean on to drive accurate representation in the consumer space.
Marketers have to dig deeper. There has to be a far clearer understanding of consumer psychology than traditional perceptions based on age provide. Brands must rely on insight not instinct. And making connections that go further than age will be more meaningful.
Eg GenX and GenZ show parallels that advertising doesn’t necessarily speak to. Both value meaning and purpose above status and money. Both are interested in mental health and wellbeing. Both crave work/life balance and fulfilling time away from work. They share interests and values even whilst being different ages. And inter-generational connections provide fertile breeding ground for insight and innovation too.
But these too are generalisations. And brands today can’t afford to generalise.
What I will generalise on, is this. That raising the status of age is good for everyone. Stretching out the lifespan in terms of milestones, goals and aspirations helps millennials see that they don’t have to cram in marriage, babies and career – and burn out – before they fall off their perch at 50. Helping GenZ breathe into their expansiveness and see that they have a 100 year life to fill, with no glass ceiling of health, work or life to stop them, will surely reduce the pressure on their mental health (GenZ mental health being 40% worse than older generations) giving them more chance of developing their full potential and the change the world needs.
Brands need to see all of life. And at the moment, that means pivoting the focus away from youth and onto age.
Age, where we all want to get to. Which brands owe it to us to make the longest and best destination ever. (And John Lewis, we’re hopeful for a Christmas ad that cracks it!)
“All it takes is a few great tweets”
This is a comment I hear regularly on the likes of LinkedIn and in marketing circles. See also, “social media built my brand” and “without Instagram, we wouldn’t be here”. All have the same sentiment, that social media is the one stop shop to creating a brand online. Get the social right, and everything else will follow.
I’m here to tell you it’s a trap. Sure, social media can help your brand, but it’s not the ONLY route to success, and it absolutely can’t be seen as an alternative to traditional marketing methods.
Brand 101 starts with.. a brand! And by brand, I mean an image, tone and product that will be recognised by consumers in a range of settings, be it supermarket shelf, TV advert or yes, an Instagram post. This together creates the brand concept. The brand then needs to act purposefully, give consumers something that they actually need, and have a product that actually works. Got all those things? You still won’t become a millionaire through social media. Nobody has heard of you yet*.
Once you have your brand concept, you need to tell people about it, in a consistent way. People forget things. Especially marketing material. So you have to repeat it. Over, and over again. In lots of different ways. Forever. Heinz means beans. Beans means Heinz. This line in various formats has bean (sorry) around since before Mark Zuckerberg was even born. It’s used in and out of Heinz’s advertising for the last 50 years, and with it has come consistent brand creative, all perpetuating the concept – “we are the market leader for beans.” See also “it has to be Heinz”.
When Heinz had their viral moment with Weetabix last year, it wasn’t successful because it was right place, right time, just some teenage social media exec in a dark room somewhere at Weetabix or Heinz HQ**. It was successful because they’ve had a whole half a century of brand consistency and loyalty under their big, beany belts. Beans means Heinz. Heinz means beans. The social media professional running the account thought of Heinz. You looked at a pile of beans perched inexplicably atop some Weetabix, and it made sense for it to be Heinz. Mission accomplished. The most powerful brand recognition survey you could ask for.
I’ll stop crapping on social media now, as it’s actually my job to do it, and it does have its place at the brand table. So here’s the point in the blog post where I start to big it up. Why do I tell my clients they need to be on social media? Well, creating a relationship with your customer is usually first reason. Influencing conversions, that’s another. Potential access to 2.3 billion people usually convinces the media buying sort. Social media can work throughout the customer funnel, from driving awareness through to taking action. But it can’t build a brand alone.
Brand building instead is achieved through consistency, purpose and delivering a reliable product that consumers will buy. That activity should be delivered across multiple channels, not just social, in order to hit your potential audience repeatedly in different settings, at different times and in different need states.
“But Glossier/Gymshark/[insert millennial start up here] did it!”
Did they? Or did they just tell you they did? Glossier actually launched after 4 years of market research from it’s founder, Emily Weiss, while she was interning at – wait for it – VOGUE, the largest circulating fashion magazine in the world.
Glossier’s organic social media feed alone did not lead them to become multimillion pound turnover business. Concentration on a lean D2C, digital-only offering with low overheads, 4 carefully researched (and healthy margined) launch products and savvy investment did.
Social supported the brand execution just like any other channel, and their affiliate marketing scheme literally paid users to promote the product. In short, investments were made here. Cash was parted with. It wasn’t ‘a few tweets’, it was 4 years of hard graft, business acumen and smart marketing which involved a social channel or two.
But, none of this would have worked if the social executions didn’t replicate the Glossier brand values, have the right ‘look’ (even if that look was diverse) and meet the brand’s brief.
Propaganda believe in brand first, social second. All it takes is some careful insight and discovery, brand positioning, brand concept, purposeful activity, quality product that solves a problem, AND THEN few great tweets.
*Unless you have your viral moment, which in itself isn’t a marketing strategy. It doesn’t happen to everyone, isn’t predictable, and is at the complete and utter behest of the social media platform itself. If you’ve experienced one though, congrats!
**A lesser known fact is that Weetabix tried this approach with several other FMCG brands before finding viral success with the beans combo.
Propaganda, the Leeds-based strategic brand consultancy, has been nominated for a Social Value Award by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) for their impactful work for GenM.
The award celebrates work that has enabled clients and consultancies to achieve outstanding and sustainable benefits for wider society.
GenM was founded by Sam Simister and Heather Jackson, who were unwilling to settle for the invisibility of the UK’s 15.5 million menopausal women and non-binary and trans people in menopause.
The founders engaged Propaganda in 2021 to help their brand gain traction. Working hand in hand with Sam and Heather, Propaganda recommended a strategic pivot from being a one-stop shop for consumers to becoming the menopause partner for brands. By partnering with existing brands, GenM was able to rapidly scale their social impact, while creating a sustainable business plan for long-term .
To raise the profile of the menopause audience – making the invisible visible – Propaganda created and produced powerful national campaigns, achieving a wide range of national and industry coverage including titles such as Forbes, The Times, Camapaign, Marie Claire, Courier, Times Radio, and BBC News.
In the six months since launching, 55 pioneering brands have become GenM Partners, publicly committing to take action to improve the menopause experience. Partners include household names such as Boots, Marks and Spencer, Royal Mail, and JP Morgan.
Most importantly, organisations are already creating positive change, from developing menopause-specific products, and enhancing store signposting, to creating menopause workplace policies, sharing taboo-busting internal comms, and launching campaigns to overcome censorship of women’s health on social media.
Laura Kynaston, Managing Director of Propaganda, said, “As the only brand consultancy ever to be accepted as members of the MCA, we are delighted to be nominated for our work with GenM. It underscores Propaganda’s purpose-led approach. In all our work, we strive to make it matter. And championing a better menopause experience matters to millions of under-served women, as well as impacting everyone in our wider society.”
Sam Simister, co-founder of GenM, added, “Propaganda got to the heart of what we were trying to achieve. Their recommendations made the evolution to our new brand proposition easy. We’re still in our first year, with a clear trajectory in place to attract and retain more brand partners, who collectively will help us normalise the menopause conversation and improve the menopause experience for all.”
The MCA Awards winners will be announced on 14 November 2022.
Links for more information:
MCA Awards Finalists: https://www.mca.org.uk/mca-awards/finalists