Propaganda launches new age-positive consulting offer

Claire Lowson – brand strategist heading Propaganda’s age-positive consulting arm

Leeds-based brand and creative consultancy, Propaganda, is launching a new consulting arm, Propaganda Agency, helping brands realise the opportunity to differently frame how we see mid-life and the years beyond. Propaganda has appointed brand strategist Claire Lowson to lead the new division. 

As a Founding Partner of GenM, the menopause partner for brands, Propaganda’s new age-positive offering forms part of its commitment to changing the conversation around the menopause. Propaganda Agency will be the recommended brand support for GenM’s consulting division.

GenM launched last year and has so far signed up over 50 Partner brands including Co-op, Boots, Royal Mail, M&S and WW (formerly Weight Watchers), each pledging to do more to improve the menopausal experience. Building on its initial success, GenM is now launching a consulting division to support its brand Partners – connecting them with expert businesses who can help them adapt and shape their menopause offer. Propaganda Agency will work alongside this division, offering brand and marketing consultancy to GenM’s Partners.

Claire Lowson joins Propaganda to lead the new service. She brings extensive experience in brand strategy for clients including Kimberly Clark, GSK, Aviva and BT. Prior to that she was MD of TW Creative where she ran the RBS and Barclays accounts. She lectures on the Master of Design course at Ravensbourne University and oversaw the brand strategy and rebrand for Leeds Playhouse, formerly West Yorkshire Playhouse, where she is a Trustee. 

With a recent IPA report showing that less than 5% of marketers aged 51+ are female, Propaganda is committed to addressing the lack of older women in the industry. Through recruitment strategies, new role creation and an active freelance base for seasoned talent, Propaganda is working to address this gap of female understanding, knowledge and talent in marketing.

Laura Kynaston, Managing Director at Propaganda says: “Through our work supporting GenM’s brand proposition and launch, we’ve developed a deep understanding of the mid-life audience. It is clear those experiences demand new and appropriate brand responses. Propaganda Agency will help brands change the way this market is represented in campaigns, product development and internal communications, better serving this audience and driving societal change.”

Claire says: “Many forget that the menopause transition (which starts in relative youth) kicks-off the most powerful phase of life yet. From corporate clients retaining senior talent, NPD creating a new market, or external campaigning for aspirational ageing, the societal and commercial benefits are obvious. As marketers, it’s time to colour in the decades beyond 40 and switch out the cult of youth for the cult of powerful ageing.”

Heather Jackson, co-founder of GenM says, “Normalising the conversation around the menopause, and ageing as a whole, is one of the most important things we can do to make a change. Together, GenM and Propaganda will support responsible and forward-thinking brands to play their part. The outstanding work we have delivered with Propaganda over the last year speaks for itself – strategically we couldn’t have asked for a better partner. GenM looks forward to what together we can deliver to drive real change to the change over the next important and impactful years ahead.”

Contact Claire to find out how your brand can influence ageing positively. For greater representation, relevance and commercial opportunity.

Contact: 0113 322 9660

Paying for Nothing

When I founded Propaganda twenty-five years ago, nearly all the communications I received from people, whether they were trying to introduce me to their business or sell me their products, took the form of handwritten letters. I used to read them all.

Since then, the Direct Mail Marketing industry has taken root and grown into a behemoth. First came the proliferation of over-produced mail-outs, with the guiding principle being ‘the fancier the better’ – often amounting to countless acres of trees being consumed in the process. Today’s equivalent is the quantity-over-quality approach to digital marketing, with campaigns that fill feeds and flood inboxes with impersonal messages; emails which simply ask you if you’ve read a previous email; and best of all perhaps, the ever-mysterious LinkedIn invitation to follow someone who “read your profile and thinks we really should connect”.

It often seems to be the case that, out of a desire to produce something “novel” and “eye-catching”, we are missing the forest for the trees. What if companies were to go full circle by reverting to a simple handwritten letter? A throwback to simpler times, so unassuming that it inadvertently ends up cutting through the noise and saying more than any amount of marketing budget ever could. Essentially, no design or copywriting to be paid for, just a few personal, thoughtful sentences, which the client can often write themselves.

How many agencies would propose that to a client, let alone charge them for it? No big production budget, just an idea. Where is the margin in that? But the smartest client should always be happy to pay for the best strategic answer. Even if that answer is to take no action or spend no money.

To further illustrate this point, consider the following three case studies.

In 2011, when BBH revealed their creative response for British Airways’ biggest campaign for years, they recommended that the new strapline for the brand was… their old strapline. They rightly chose not to make a change, given that the one they already had perfectly answered the brief.

Exhibitions and trade shows are another example of action driven by convention. For most companies, the default option is to invest tens of of thousands of pounds for the luxury of putting their business services on display in a room where they are, unfortunately, guaranteed to be surrounded by their competitors. Inadvertently, they end up investing time and money in their own hard-earned customers being directly courted by the opposition.

What would be a smarter, more strategic approach to trade shows? Simple: not doing them. One soft furnishings firm became famous for diverting their trade show budget into the lease of a rustic stately home. When the guests arrived, all the cows in the adjacent field were ‘dressed’ in the brand’s latest fabric designs. That represents real talkability and real one-on-one business. The ingenious manoeuvre became industry folklore, which everyone in the soft furnishings industry still remembers, while not a soul can remember the participants in that year’s trade show. The smart-thinking firm stole the show, and stole it without even going.

A few years ago, Propaganda was tasked to advise a company who made innovative training cups on how they could combat an established rival baby brand, who were on the cusp of launching their own competing cup. How should their business respond? After undertaking an extensive Discovery process to understand the brand’s competitors, their market, and their place within it, our consultancy announced that the right move was to do… nothing.

It would have been easier to recommend a more conventional campaign. Easier but unwise. Because our client’s brand would suddenly be perceived as small and reactive, rather than the confident category leaders they were. They paid £10,000 to be told to do nothing, and were happy to take the advice and pay the fee. They would have been willing to pay much more, for a whole barrage of tactics, but it wouldn’t have moved the needle, so we didn’t recommend it.

Sometimes, the best course of action is strategic inaction. Restraint has its rewards. And that kind of advice is well worth paying for.

EthOss Grows Stronger in 2021

In 2018, EthOss appointed Propaganda as a strategic partner, to develop and articulate a unique brand proposition that was as distinctive as its flagship product – EthOss® – a synthetic biomaterial used in dental implant surgery, that encourages new bone to Grow Stronger®. The Grow Stronger® message communicated a product benefit, along with a promise to strengthen the skills and service offerings of dental care professionals across the globe.

The insight-driven rebrand’s bold imagery and stand-out messaging supported EthOss as they climbed to new heights, with sales doubling, and the well-respected Queen’s Award win marking a key milestone in the company’s success story to date.

Despite supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with uncertainty surrounding Brexit, EthOss has experienced continued growth year on year, and its position in the market remains strong. Turnover and total exports increased by 22 per cent between 2019 and 2020, highlighting the role of brand strategy in raising EthOss’ profile among existing and prospective customers.

Dr Paul Harrison, Founder and Managing Director, EthOss, said: “We’re incredibly proud to have been recognised with the prestigious Queen’s Award in International Trade. Exports now account for 58 per cent of our total turnover. We recently signed partnerships with distributors in France, Turkey, Chile, Kuwait, Latvia and Moldova, with EthOss now being sold in more than 45 countries worldwide.”

Craig Harrold, Director, Propaganda, added: “As always, it’s rewarding to see our clients achieving the ambitious growth they set out to achieve. EthOss offer a unique and interesting proposition in the medical sector, and we were glad to lend our support through Brand Strategy driven by insight, creativity and commercial rigour.”

Propaganda Branches Out With BSW Group

The UK’s largest integrated forestry and sawmilling group, BSW, has appointed brand and creative consultancy, Propaganda, as strategic partners to conduct a strategic brand review across its estate of group companies and capabilities.

Founded in 1848 in Berwickshire, Scotland, where its head office remains, the BSW Group has six main operating divisions: tree nurseries, forestry management, tree harvesting, sawmilling, biomass energy and timber processing and distribution.

The forestry and timber sectors are experiencing unprecedented global demand with an increasing recognition of the sector’s place in the bioeconomy: as a completely sustainable construction material, timber’s ability to lock-up carbon, alongside increasing urbanisation and construction activity. To service and succeed in this market, BSW Group has a stated vision to be the most innovative, technologically advanced, and sustainable timber business in the UK.

Propaganda’s Brand Discovery™ consultative process has established how best to position the group for accelerated growth, and communicate the combined value it offers to its industry, customers, people and broader stakeholders. BSW Group has adopted the strategic recommendations, and since appointed Propaganda to support them in activating the strategy and launching the new group brand. Dave Chapman, Sales and Marketing Director and James Brennan, Marketing Manager will be leading the launch programme at BSW Group.

Tony Hackney, BSW Group CEO said “We were initially introduced to Propaganda by our investors Endless, and I have to say they impressed us from the off, with their commercially focused approach to brand and marketing strategy. The Discovery programme has given us a clear view of the best path forward for our brand. We’re looking forward to working together to realise the results and value for everyone involved.”

Craig Harrold, Managing Director at Propaganda added “Tony and the entire team at BSW have relentless ambition and energy to really drive progressive change in their sector, we’re delighted to have played a part in channelling that energy to really optimise their huge potential and positive impact. And we’re equally excited to be working with BSW Group on the delivery of the strategy.”

Sharing risks, sharing rewards: partnering with Vamoosh to deliver their vision

Propaganda’s consultative approach revolves around standing shoulder to shoulder with our clients. We don’t use that turn of phrase lightly; we position ourselves right there beside them, moving heaven and earth to support their business decisions, guided by our insight-led strategies. At times this involves having honest conversations with them in the boardroom, other times it means embedding ourselves in their day-to-day procedures. Perhaps most significantly, we are not averse to taking an entrepreneurial approach and establishing strategic partnerships when a client emerges with a proposition we believe in.

In the mid-2010s, we came across a start-up brand with a truly market-disrupting product: a laundry detergent that dissolved pet hair. It was an idea which spoke to a niche audience about a problem which was massive in their world: legions of pet owners who spent every day of the week purging their clothes of dog and cat hair. After some market-scoping, the name ‘Vamoosh’ was chosen.

Our belief in Vamoosh’s vision led us to become shareholders in the company, establishing a partnership through shared effort and, of course, shared risk. Using market insight, strategic positioning and punchy creative, we delivered the gravitas Vamoosh needed to disrupt the pet care sector, delivering on their excellent concept.

Since launch, Vamoosh has secured listings in Pets at Home, B&M, The Range, Lakeland and Dobbies Garden Centres, in addition to being available on Amazon. Additionally, it now looks set to break the £5m barrier at retail, a remarkable result considering the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last five years, the brand has continued its multi-channel ascension upwards, even receiving a notable mention from Mrs Hinch – one of the most popular social media influencers in the world. The product range now encompasses three products, including the most recently-launched Washing Machine Cleaner.

As a Brand Consultancy, we will continue to establish partnerships with people we trust and believe in, using strategy-led insight to drive commercial results. That was our approach when we started over twenty years ago, and that is our approach now. We are now reaping the benefits, with a portfolio of clients who are driven to take bold decisions that drive growth.

The difficult truth of iOS 14.5: pixels vanish, platforms fade, but brands endure

For the last 14 years, SMEs and corporates alike have enjoyed the profitable rewards of Facebook Advertising and the Facebook Pixel. Track your customers’ every move. Build an empire of lifetime value audiences. Press a few buttons, and you can even find new customers that are lookalikes of your existing customers. Scale, spend and saturate your market. Haunt your customers’ every waking moments chasing that purchase. Relish in success that is attributed over a monstrous window of 1-day view, or 28-days click.

This month, all is set to change with the global rollout of iOS 14.5 for iPhone users, which includes a mandate from Apple that all app developers must ask their users if they are comfortable with their behaviour being tracked for advertising purposes. Facebook have contested this, with full page ads, a noisy PR campaign and even the unceremonious removal of the Apple pages’ ‘blue tick’.

This outcry was ignored, and Apple have pressed ahead.

Some marketers estimate that around 70% of the UK Facebook population users, given the option, intend to opt out of Facebook’s pixel tracking. This means the empires of custom audiences built over years of eCRM data will crumble overnight as users choose to effectively muzzle Facebook’s proverbial sniffer dogs, removing themselves from audiences and data sets, and throwing Facebook off their scent from their platforms to external websites. Lookalike audiences will match less accurately. Reach will go down. Frequency may increase. Spend and efficiencies will ultimately suffer as targeting, Facebook’s long-standing USP, becomes less of a silver bullet and more of a machine gun.

What advertisers are left with is Aggregated Event Measurement, Facebook’s new tool to effectively guess at user behaviour, based on its own AI. It’s a poor substitute to the reams of data that the Facebook pixel would return, but it’s all we have left. Advertisers now have two choices: accept the status quo with a declining funnel of customer data, or change and fill the funnel yourself.

In this new world, the shift moves away from the bottom of the funnel, and targeting the same type of customer over and over. Instead, advertisers should look to new sources of audience, focussing further up the funnel, above the line, using organic social to fuel their ads. Custom data audiences may be out, but tactics that require engagement and conversation are still very much in.

For example, until now, the targeting of Facebook engagers or people who have saved an Instagram post may have been less favoured due to a preference for higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) from website behaviour retargeting. However, in this new playing field, they immediately become bigger opportunities. But, in order to benefit from these audiences, they must be populated, and that brings us to what so many brands struggle with – organic content that engages.

And strong engagement starts with a strong brand. Brand message, brand USP and brand tone. Writing a compelling story that will engage users, no matter the medium. In today’s world, much of this is about having a purpose and an emotional connection to your audience. The brands that do this well will last a lifetime. Those that don’t will slip into irrelevance. Platform changes and technology may come and go, but brand marketing will never go out of style.

So, what does engaging brand marketing look like for your business? That’s where our new service comes in, launching soon. To be the first to hear about it, drop us an email at

Propaganda aligns strategic partnership between Love Hemp and Togetherall

An agreement has been announced between leading UK CBD brand Love Hemp and 24/7 online mental health support community Togetherall. Having been aligned strategically by Leeds-based brand consultancy Propaganda, the cross-sector partnership differentiates Love Hemp as an outspoken advocate for lifestyle, health and wellbeing, committed to providing customers with support above and beyond their CBD product offering.

Togetherall’s platform, previously only accessible to the NHS, Armed Services and Education Institutions, will now be available to all Love Hemp customers (aged 16+) and can be accessed for free simply by signing up via Love Hemp’s website. The platform facilitates supportive dialogue between people experiencing mental health issues, and allows access to trained mental health professionals who moderate and monitor users’ needs.

Tony Calamita, CEO of Love Hemp, said “Mental health has always been something that’s been quite close to home for me. I’ve suffered with it myself in the past in my younger years. Some people don’t want to speak to their friends and family. Some people don’t want to seek professional health. So, they don’t actually have anywhere to go for support when they need it. With Togetherall offering anonymous mental health support 24/7, it fills that gap absolutely perfectly.”

Propaganda identified the Togetherall partnership as an opportunity for Love Hemp to differentiate the brand in an increasingly saturated market, creating stand-out and enhancing their brand value through action. “Brand messaging should be built on a clear purpose – but it has to be authentic, otherwise consumers will see straight through it”, said Cynthia Bell, Strategy Consultant at Propaganda. “To achieve meaningful, long-term growth in brand equity, you need a purpose-led strategy where your core message is reinforced through investment in the causes you align yourself with. Based on the positive impact loyal customers report that Love Hemp has on their lives, the Togetherall partnership is a perfect fit.”

The announcement came during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, and has been well received by both press and consumers.

Propaganda shortlisted for two Northern Digital Awards 2021

Propaganda is excited to announce that it has been shortlisted for two Northern Digital Awards 2021, for Best Integrated Campaign with Roberts Bakery and Best Digital Marketing Campaign in Health and Beauty with Love Hemp.

The Northern Digital Awards recognise the very best in digital marketing and celebrate exceptional agencies, teams, campaigns and talent from across the region.

Propaganda has been acknowledged for its work on the #ShareYourBakes campaign with next generation bakery, Roberts Bakery, and the Love Life campaign with CBD brand Love Hemp.

Both digital campaigns were strategically planned, launched and implemented in 2020, amid the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Award winners will be announced via a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 28th January 2021.

Managing Director at Propaganda, Craig Harrold, says “We are thrilled to have been recognised for not one, but two Northern Digital Awards this year. We’re known for prioritising strategy over tactics and this recognition demonstrates our ability to articulate and deliver brands across all channels and touch points. We’re looking forward to the virtual awards ceremony next month!”.

Propaganda wins Northern eCommerce Award

Propaganda is thrilled to announce its recent award win for Best eCommerce Crisis Response Campaign at the Northern eCommerce Awards 2020, for the #ShareYourBakes campaign with Roberts Bakery.

The Northern eCommerce Awards celebrate the very best in eCommerce and online retailing from across the North of England and winners were announced virtually on Thursday 1st October.

Prior to lockdown, Propaganda had been working with Roberts Bakery on a project that would bring Roberts closer to its customers, but the crisis of COVID-19 presented a new challenge.

Panic buying and demand for bread grew significantly at the start of lockdown, leading to supermarket shortages in finished products as well as the ingredients to bake bread at home.

These challenges created the perfect storm for Roberts Bakery, to accelerate its direct to consumer proposition with the support from Propaganda.

Within two weeks, a fully integrated campaign was launched including a D2C website where consumers could purchase ready-made bread products and baking kits, as well as a national TV campaign, digital, social media and PR support.

Ultimately, this resulted in Roberts Bakery becoming the first major bakery brand in the UK to sell directly to consumers. In just 4 weeks, the D2C website had received over 100,000 unique users, over 350,000-page views and 2,000+ orders.

Managing Director at Propaganda, Craig Harrold, says “The launch of the fully integrated campaign and D2C site in such a short space of time, is a testament to Propaganda and Robert’s ability to be agile in the most challenging of circumstances. Receiving this award really helps to underline the value in all the great work we have produced, to support consumers in their time of need.”

Propaganda’s white paper reveals secrets to surviving a recession

In light of the Covid-19 crisis, Propaganda has released its latest white paper, exploring what brands need to do to survive a recession.

As the UK enters its deepest recession since records began, the biggest risk for business is playing it safe.

Propaganda’s exclusive white paper looks at the essential tools and insights needed to ensure brands survive until the economy recovers, answering crucial questions, like:

How is Covid-19 accelerating existing retail trends?
What can businesses do to apply future-focussed thinking?
And what streamlined processes will help them adapt and respond?

To discover how your business can remain relevant and bounce back, download our latest white paper here: Recession 2020 White Paper.