15/10/2020Comments are off for this post.

Context: as malleable as your message

There weren't many remote-control car racing games on the PlayStation 2 system. Probably because making a digital simulation of a real-life simulation is a daft concept. But there were a handful, and they were all naff.

Only one of them has stuck with me nearly a couple of decades later.

Not for the game itself - I never bought it and its name escapes me. Its legacy hasn’t been worthy enough to record in any Googleable detail. But it was promoted in a move I frequently reflect on in my career as a marketer.

In the early naughties, in the time before ubiquitous broadband access, I read magazines of a single genre – gaming. In the final boom era of print publishing, as a screen-dwelling early teen I would spend a wedge of my meagre pocket money budget on monthly glossy titles with a demo disk Sellotaped to the cover. I read these feverishly; eager to find out what new and exciting electronic entertainment I’d be badgering my parents to buy me in the near future.

Nestled in the back pages of one of these issues was a single-page review for a low budget RC racing game for the PS2. The evaluation it received was tepid at best. The final awarded score was countable on a single hand out of ten. Along with this number, was a final by-line from the author worded along the lines of;

“It’s the best RC racer on the system… but sadly this isn’t saying much.”

Ouch. A low budget title dammed and destined to be forgotten from the start. Something to be unconsidered, overlooked in favour of almost anything else. Which is exactly what I did at the time.

Until I read the next month’s issue.

Flicking through the pages, I came across a full-page advert for the very same RC racing game. On it featured a quote pilfered from the same review I’d read only weeks before;

“…the best RC racer on the system…”.

The promoter had carefully neglected to complete the quote.

The statement they presented was true; the quoted reviewer did indeed say those words. Now, the context it was in had totally changed. So had its meaning. What was originally a discouraging review was now independent customer validation.

Cheeky? Undoubtedly. Misleading? Possibly. Inspiring? Definitely.

As marketers, we are constrained by the hand of cards we are dealt. Not every product we sell is ground-breaking. Not every brand we represent is innovative and compelling. Not every budget we spend has the luxury of being seven figures. We play what we have at our disposal, trying to gain the little advantages that hopefully grow into big ones.

Someone faced the prospect of promoting a low-quality game, receiving low review scores with, we can assume, a low budget. Just by changing the context of what they had available, they turned an odds-against situation an (albeit small) advantage. It didn’t result in a best-selling video game, though it might have been enough to convince a few unaware kids and their parents to buy it. Something they certainly wouldn’t have done if they saw the quote in its original context.

Now, I’m not advocating the incredibly dubious, not to mention legally grey, practice of “contextomy” – the act of quoting out of context. Even I wouldn’t have the gall to turn "hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining" into "hysterically… entertaining” as the advertisers behind Live Free or Die Hard did.

What I will say instead is that if can’t alter what we have, what we do and where we do needs to change instead. If changing what we’re selling is not an option, we need to change the world it fits into. Context maybe king, but it is possible to mould it to your needs, (especially if you bend the rules a bit).

As an aside, I will note you didn’t see any review quotes on London buses promoting Cats…

02/09/2020No Comments

Just listen to yourself

How are you getting on?

Personally, I thrive in an empty house without any external stimulus. Gives me plenty of time to get real introspective. Nothing to do except talk to myself and dwell on exactly how I talk to myself. My tone of voice and the influences on it. What I say, how I say it, who I’m saying it to…

And what they think I sound like, not what I think they think I sound like.

Because I’d say I’m casual, like an Oasis campaign.

But my mum might say I’m open, like the famous Avis promise.

My boss would say I’m irreverent, like these ads for Visa.

And my ex-girlfriend would say why aren’t you taking this seriously, Tom?

It depends on what I’m saying.

I think I’m friendly, like a trendy oat drink.

And my mum would say I’m compassionate, like the packaging for Give-A-Care gifts.

But my boss would say I’m familiar, like those HSBC ads.

And my ex-girlfriend would say you told me you and Sam were just colleagues.

It depends on how I’m saying it.

I try to be enthusiastic, like these stories from Jack Daniels.

My mum would say I’m ambitious, like a Harley Davidson ad.

My boss would say I’m a tryhard, like some posters Musicbed ran.

And my ex-girlfriend would say not tonight, I have a headache.

It depends on who I’m talking to.

I’m pretty confident, like this ad for Snowbird Ski Resort.

My mum would say I’m bold, like these ads for the Guardian.

My boss would say I’m cocky, like anything Diesel puts out.

My ex-girlfriend would say I’m a cock.

A brand’s tone of voice is subjective, is the point.

You might not like some of them. You might not choose them for your own marketing. But just look at the great ads that brands have created with a clear tone of voice. With the help of agencies that knew how to interpret a set of guidelines – and make tone of voice work for the message, the medium, and the audience.

At TMW Business, we work within your tone of voice guidelines to do just that. Sometimes, we’ll suggest ways we could push them. Once or twice, we might even help you reconsider them. But we’re always looking for the best way for your brand to talk to your audience.

Want to talk about tone of voice? Drop me an email at tomr@tmwunlimited.com.

I promise to be casual, friendly, enthusiastic, and confident.

29/07/2020Comments are off for this post.

What’s your brand exit strategy?

There's a term I came across in the constant daily deluge of coronavirus news; exit strategy.

In pandemic context, this is the plan being developed and deployed to get us to the end of it. You’re already seeing this in action; from social distancing that ‘flattens the curve’ to the frantic search for a vaccine.

These critical activities have a single clear objective; get back to normal as soon as is safely possible. The question is, once we’re at the point we can return and pick up where we left off – what is this ‘new’ normal going to look like? Moreover, how can brands and marketers help shape it?

In the short to medium term at least, we’re living in world where “fear, uncertainty, doubt” are the steady background noise of reality. And not overplayed clichés in creative briefs. We’re already seeing brands adapting to the challenges that have been thrown at them. There have been some stunning examples of ingenuity, creativity and altruism on display - becoming some of the glue that holds us all together while we’re in isolation.

But these are the product of a time where there is no tried-and-trusted rule book to refer to. So, we’ve responded by pivoting. We’ve changed course; reprioritised the long run in favour of putting our energies into the short term. However, the pivot back many not be as simple as we might hope. Not only will we need to awaken and rebuild from a long hiatus, but the normal we yearn to return to might not be the one we actually see.

While brands and businesses should be focusing their attention on the present situation, they should also be giving some attention to what comes next. They need to be defining their own pandemic exit strategies to get back to the comfort of stability. Whatever that may be.

In the back of their minds, they should be asking and answering questions like;

  • How will we reengage the audience whose relationship with us has rapidly shifted and changed over this period?
  • How do we move back without losing what we’ve spent quarantine developing? 
  • How do we go back to generating business at a time that’s liable to be highly competitive and loud?
  • How do we retain the goodwill we’ve developed, or manage any negative publicity we’ve created?
  • How can we be ready to prepare for another massive shift in customer behaviour?

What the world is going to be like post-pandemic is almost as uncertain as the situation right now, but this time, we know that it’s coming. Therefore, we can be ready for it.

Let’s face it, we were all unprepared for coronavirus. That’s why we’re scrambling around trying to deal with it now. For brands, this time is an opportunity to carefully and considerately plan ahead an exit strategy that returns them to a normal. One that’s hopefully better than the one we left.

So, what is your brand exit strategy on getting back to normal after this all ends?

If you need a hand working it out, drop me a message.

Stay safe, see you on the other side.

21/07/2020No Comments

From couch, to crushing it: 5 steps to kick start your ABM pilot

At this point, most of us are familiar with the concept behind account-based marketing (ABM). By greatly narrowing your audience and focusing your messaging, B2B marketers can foster relationships and create opportunities with the single most valuable customers to their organisation.

That’s the theory at least, but what about putting it into practice? For many of us, not so easy.

It’s understandable. ABM can be a tough ship for a team to launch. There are numerous considerations and activities to navigate. And it can be a daunting prospect for those of us that are doing it for the first time.

This webinar will help guide you through an ABM pilot from getting going to making it happen.  

In our 45 minute session, we’ll talk you through a practical journey of approaching your first ABM target account.

Join us to explore:

  • How to pick and choose which accounts will be your ABM guinea pig
  • How to carry out research that will influence everything from messaging to execution
  • Developing your proposition so it’s airtight and connects with your targets
  • Building customer journeys supported by tactical executions
  • Setting meaningful milestones to ensure your ABM pilot is performing so more can follow

Embark on your ABM pilot programme today by watching our on-demand webinar.

08/07/2020No Comments

DirectionGroup UNLIMITED and First Base UNLIMITED rebrand as TMW Business

London, 08:00 July 8th 2020:

UNLIMITED is pleased to announce the rebrand of its B2B marketing agencies DirectionGroup UNLIMITED and First Base UNLIMITED to TMW Business as of today.

First Base, acquired in 2018, was followed by DirectionGroup in 2019 to bolster up UNLIMITED’s full-stack B2B marketing expertise. Both agencies were integrated into TMW UNLIMITED in April this year.

Trish Harriss and Debbie Bough, formerly joint Managing Directors of DirectionGroup, will remain in these roles in TMW Business. Faye Hawkins, formerly Managing Director of First Base, will assume the role of MD, TMW Business – London Team.

TMW Business will operate as a specialist division of TMW UNLIMITED and will work alongside its creatively-led integrated B2C sister agency.  The new offering combines a unique blend of B2B marketing specialism with award winning creativity and brand strategy. Powered by UNLIMITED’s newly launched Human Understanding Lab, it will put scientific understanding of human behaviour at the heart of its thinking and creativity to bring a more human-centric and emotionally connected approach to powering client performance.

TMW Business will provide a full range of integrated B2B marketing services across the entire customer journey with a range of specialist services including content marketing, ABM, automation, sales enablement, channel marketing and performance marketing. Clients include Microsoft, Canon, Fujitsu and Cognizant.


“With the addition of TMW Business, the TMW UNLIMITED proposition continues to go from strength to strength, offering true marketing integration across both B2C and B2B target audiences.”

Trish Harriss, Joint MD TMW Business,

“For TMW Business, B2B marketing is all about people. But unlike other agencies we are not just humanising B2B, we’re using data and insight through the Human Understanding Lab to really understand people and create ideas that combine emotion and motivation to drive action.”

Debbie Bough, Joint MD TMW Business,

“Our clients are looking for specialist B2B marketing services as well as creativity – under the TMW banner we are giving them both, with no compromise.” 

The new business offering will be over 50 people strong and will operate virtually and from offices in Reading and London.


24/06/2020No Comments

Copy in isolation: starting a new job in lockdown

Picture your first day in the office. You’re dressed to impress. You were excited this morning, but now your nerves kick in as you approach the door. There are lots of awkward handshakes. Lots of names. You’re given a guided tour and shown where you’ll be sitting, the fire assembly point and most importantly, where you can make a brew. Then, you’re forced to think of yet another password to remember.

We haven’t been virtually introduced. I’m Lucy. And I recently started as a junior copywriter just as lockdown came in. It’s been a world of weird.  

The workplace is very topsy-turvy right now. For many, all sense of work life balance has gone out the window. And ‘new ways of working’ is a poignant phrase. It’s a time when companies can show how well they work from home. Or show they’ve got a lot to learn. But it’s also a chance to open some unexpected doors. Indoors of course. See our guide on What to do when what you usually do can't be done. At DirectionGroup, there’s been so much enthusiasm and drive to pull together, support each other and come out from this lockdown stronger.  

So, enjoy reading my guided tour of starting as a copywriter in isolation.

To scream or to laugh?

Yes, I’ve worked from home before. But I’ve never started a job from home. I never expected my cat to interrupt a meeting with the creative director. Or a co-worker to drop off my laptop (from a social distance, of course). Or to simulate after-work drinks with colleagues on a Friday afternoon. Every induction has been via video. New colleagues have seen more of my house than some of my long-term friends. And ‘Hope you’re well’ has a whole new meaning.

But I’ve enjoyed my one-to-one sessions. And in some ways, that’s been better than a ‘stand in front of the classroom and present yourself’ moment. Or a ten second introduction with someone as they rush to a meeting. On the spot greetings can be really intimidating. But organised video chats are great. And people have been very creative in the quest to stay social. 

The kitchen or the conservatory?

The kitchen wins. Because I won’t lie, my biggest surprise is the amount of banana milkshake I consume. But second to that is how much training depends on social interaction (normally). It’s more difficult asking for help when you’re working remotely. Do I video call? Do I IM? Or email? And how long will it take for them to read my message and reply? My co-workers found a way. They put a welcome folder on my desktop before I started. It’s got examples of work, writing exercises, a welcome presentation and guidelines. I call it the folder of knowledge. And that’s because I’m finding it invaluable. And my team checks in with me daily.

Induction training is one of those things. You have to do it. It can be tedious but it’s necessary. Like unclogging a drain (how did that coin get down there?). And it’s much easier if HR has told you exactly which courses to complete, how and by when. Having everything ‘admin’ laid out in front of you, like I did, makes it a lot easier. Because when you’re new, you’re not always sure who’s the best person to speak with. Oh, and just as a side note, it really helped that all the IT worked too.

Is this the deep end or the shallow?

I was very excited for my first assignment. Eager to crack on and break some eggs. But when I received the brief, I felt a bit ‘flappy’. Is this a straightforward, run-of-the-mill job? Without seeing your colleagues, you can’t really tell what their typical day is like. There’s simply a lack of context. One thing about an office is you can speak to the person sitting next to you. And that’s how we want to write too, isn’t it? As if we’re having a conversation.

I was so worried my first draft would be total rubbish. And in a way, I was right to think that. Your first draft is never going to be your best. Or even good. It will probably be bad. But I was wrong to think that’s different from any other copywriter. Even the most experienced. So, I’m learning to just get it down on (virtual) paper. I spent much of my first day reading through tone of voice and copy guidelines including this blog. It’s a little bit like re-training your brain. And you can’t do it alone. You need to share your work because feedback is the greatest teacher. Copywriting is a process and a craft, first. With some creativity sprinkled on top. 

Starting as a copywriter in lockdown has been a real challenge. I’ve got so much to learn in this role. Which is true of any new starter. But there’s been a number of things that have made it easier. Firstly, positive messages. Secondly, preparation. Thirdly, continued communication. That’s why the right support is so important when you start. Especially when you’re working remotely. In lockdown.

Anyway. Back to business as (un)usual. 

24/06/2020No Comments

Offend the right people

We work with a lot of clients. And each client is different. However, on the whole, they all share a common trait. I call it the ‘What-if?’ trait.

The what-if trait is very simple and it’s something that has existed since the dawn of advertising, it’s fundamentally what the industry was built on. The what-if trait is the need to understand how what we say, will influence our audience. But we’ve got out of the habit of using it for the right reasons.

We’ve gone from using ‘what-if’ to drive our marketing forward, to using it to put it in shackles. One of the worlds most renowned taglines showed us the power of ‘what-if’ in the 80s.

“Advancement through technology” wasn’t a bad strapline for a car brand. It showed they were forward-thinking. It showed they put innovation at their heart. It could elevate them beyond the grease and rubber of the more traditional car brands. But, what if we made it German? “Vorsprung Durch Technik”. At the time of its inception, Germany was still a taboo subject to some extent, it’s place in British popular culture was still enveloped in a hangover from the war. But all of a sudden, a phrase that meant nothing to the majority of the British public, came to personify the German car industry and place Audi at the centre of it. We even had Del Boy saying it.

But would that happen today?

“What if other countries think we favour the German market over theirs?”

“What if people just don’t get it?”

“What if we put off the 51.9% of people that voted for Brexit?”

Increasingly these concerns are making their way into our creative and messaging decisions. And it’s constraining our marketing. Good marketing is going to ruffle some feathers, but it’s about whose feathers you ruffle.

Gillette ran a campaign in 2019 titled ‘The Best Men Can Be’, focussed around the concept of toxic masculinity. And it would be fair to say it did its bit for being divisive. It polarised to an extent that will be hard to replicate, the problem was it really pissed off a lot of people who buy razors.  The ad hit the mark from a popular culture standpoint it rode the wings of #MeToo and will never look out of place in the 2019 Zeitgeist. But it didn’t offend the right people.

Gillette forgot a simple truth. Every campaign starts with your audience. There are nearly 8 billion people out there (if you get creative with channels), you’re not going to please them all. The first thing you need to do is identify which portion of that audience will buy what you’re selling. Once you’ve done that, stop and remind yourself the rest is inconsequential. Even if they’re on the peripheries of your industry. A Tesla owner is a car owner, but they don’t want to buy diesel, so don’t worry about them when you’re selling it.

Then tell your audience what you think they want to hear, with some strong insight and good creative they’ll listen. They might even buy what you’re trying to sell. Audiences are becoming more and more tribal (see Brexit and Trump 2016) divisiveness unites people within a tribe and builds stronger affiliation. And creating some haters gives them something to unite against.

Let’s start asking ‘what if?’ in the right way again. If you find yourself saying it, think about your target audience. If the ‘what if’ doesn’t relate to your core audience, then stop yourself there. If it does, then use it to push yourself further.

What if we started offending people?

24/06/2020No Comments

17 Syllables of Clarity

Problems are complex.
More so in our marketing.
How can we reply?

Wading in the mud
through layers of data, insight.
Bogging down our pace.

Our singular goal;
Forming clear proposition.
Boiling it all down.

Detail is clawing.
Do not trip over your thoughts.
Speak one, one alone.

Force thought clarity
by fixing strong restrictions.
Abiding to them.

Which is why here now,
a planner distils notion
by writing Haikus.