Archive for June, 2021

Why I (secretly) liked ABRDN – and the City will too

Posted on: June 17th, 2021 by Tomas White

To see a massive amount of work ridiculed across traditional and social media must have been soul destroying.

Name changes are never well received; audiences are cynical, the media is suspicious, and branding consultants are as reviled as estate agents.

It’s also the kind of job you can only mess up. Very few people notice a smooth transition, but any kind of mistake is jumped upon.

As someone who has undertaken a corporate rebrand project before, and swore never to do so again, there are some hidden factors to consider…

First, projects like this can be put on the back burner, but they eventually absolutely have to be done.

Merged companies are hard to integrate, even more so when you retain two banners in the name. It signals past, not future; differences, not unity.

Whilst those in the operating brands can carry on regardless, corporate teams have no identity, areas like ESG are hard to personify, and eventually a recruitment brand suffers slowly.

Secondly, there are practical considerations beneath the surface – the vast majority of names in the world are taken. Then it usually turns out someone else owns all domain names. Names have to mean something to the company involved. And everyone hates Latin.

When we (semi) scientifically analysed this area, we found effectively three routes to go down:

First, something creative that invokes the spirit of the consumer product. Merlin Entertainment was a great example at the time, evoking magic. Hopefully Flutter might emulate that one day too.

These are great if you can find (and own) them, but they don’t always fit some companies, and there’s a real risk that something too strong will end up overshadowing the trading brands.

Secondly, you can make something up, preferably in Latin so you sound intelligent. Diageo is an example, it’s formed from Dia (Day) and Geo (World) and was meant to signify a different drink being available every day, everywhere.

Over time, Diageo has become a stellar corporate brand. But at the time it was ridiculed as an Italian footballer.

The third option is going with something simple; International Airlines Group (IAG), International Workspace Group (IWG), or even just initials whose meaning has long since gone.

This is probably the least controversial, and fades quickly into the background, so if those are two objectives it’s worth consideration. But initials arguably don’t tend to generate their own identity like other brands.

In the end – I quite like ABRDN. It’s memorable, invokes some of the glorious past, with some change. It’s distinctive and, crucially, will enable the company to move forward under one banner. And it’s got people talking, because as Oscar Wilde famously observed ‘there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about’.

In time, it will be familiar, pronounced properly, and in no way any worse than other masterbrands out there. It might even seem trendy.

In short, I think it will work. But it will take time.

James led the team that rebranded Paddy Power Betfair plc to Flutter Entertainment plc…

Long Live the Prince

Posted on: June 16th, 2021 by Tomas White

Created to inspire young people to be the best version of themselves and drive donations for the Foundation, the Brand and Reputation team at MHP leapt to the challenge of getting coverage for the campaign across all major media outlets. And the results are extraordinary – 915 pieces of international coverage, including every UK national besides the FT, 50 interviews secured for the campaign spokespeople and heaps of prime time broadcast, including a 12 minute segment on BBC Breakfast. Following wall-to-wall coverage on launch day, twice as many people searched Kiyan’s name on Google last month than when he died, driving valuable supporters to the Foundation website.

Brand and Reputation team member Carly Spencer shares her experience of working on Long Live the Prince here:

We all have memories that last a lifetime, and working on the Kiyan Prince Foundation’s Long Live the Prince campaign certainly fits that bill for me. Over a year in the making, it was a One-Engine campaign that saw many of agency’s disciplines work together, and the result was something special.

In 2006 Kiyan Prince was tragically murdered outside of his school while trying to break up a fight. 15 years later Long Live the Prince campaign brought him back to life as the professional footballer he was destined to be, while celebrating the incredible person he was.

There is a lot to be taken from the story of Kiyan’s life, but what’s so electric about the campaign is its universality – the narrative of unity, destiny and sportsmanship can speak to and inspire everyone at some level. Yet there is one message above all else that should always be remembered from the campaign: we all have stories to tell, unique routes to take, and dreams to follow.

I think we’re all brought up to believe in our dreams and that if we put our minds to it we can be anything we want to be. But working with the Kiyan Prince Foundation has reminded me is that no matter what your ‘thing’ might be, becoming your somebody is everlasting. Hearing his father Mark speak about his dedication to supporting young people at risk of knife crime and violence is something to be admired in abundance.

The Kiyan Prince Foundation not only touches on the tenderness of the Black experience across the UK, but it also echoes volumes about the chances we all get in life – no matter if they are missed or caught.

The Long Live the Prince story was more than just a campaign; it was a moment of integrity, ambition, and alliance that will have a lasting effect.

Spotlight On: cutting through the IPO noise

Posted on: June 9th, 2021 by Tomas White

More funds were raised through new listings in Q1 than any opening quarter since 2007 and momentum has continued, with over twenty companies worth a combined c.£14 billion completing their IPOs so far in Q2 and counting.

With 60 plus more companies reported to be looking to list over the coming months, getting communications right in early meetings with investors has never been more important. You only get once chance to make a first impression, so what should wannabe PLCs be focused on?

There are four key areas we’ve been working on with the corporates we’re currently advising in preparation for their first presentations to investors… aka the “Early Look” or “Pilot Fishing” roadshows.

1. Positioning and key messaging

There is no one size fits all solution for getting positioning right at IPO; but there are plenty of lessons learnt from past successes and failures to incorporate. It is necessarily different according to each company: where they are in their development, the sector they are in, their plans for growth, and so on.

But crafting an impactful and succinct investment case to make sure that positioning is well understood is central to sparking investor interest in a new company and getting their attention. A slide explaining the investment proposition early in the presentation should clearly explain the key strengths of the business, the opportunities ahead and how it can take advantage. That needs to be backed up by slides that deliver the right key messages, supported by data points and KPIs to create a compelling, distinctive equity story. Start by answering the “why invest” question to frame the presentation that follows, and finish with the same summary as the final thought for investors to takeaway.

And don’t discount the importance of ESG. It’s widely recognised that it is now a key consideration for investors. But rather than just having an additional slide explaining an ESG policy, think about incorporating ESG into the explanation of how the business is run and how it fits into the future strategy.


2. Preparing for scrutiny

For many management teams, an IPO roadshow is the first time they will face the scrutiny of fund managers – the seasoned investment professionals they must win over and whose backing they need to make the float a success. Practice might not always make perfect, but intensive rehearsal is by far the best preparation for first encounters.

It’s the job of the IPO advisers to probe hard on any potential deal-breakers, scan the horizon for upcoming industry and macroeconomic curveballs, and help shape answers to head off potential issues at the pass. Convincing answers require clarity and transparency, providing reassurance to focus minds back onto the core investment proposition. Having relevant stats to hand to back up answers is a key part of this.

In a world where still many, if not all, ‘meetings’ are virtual, there are also new dynamics to consider. Have the management team had specialist presentation training to make the most of the format? Have protocols been agreed between the presenters about in-meeting feedback? While body language is more difficult to read and attention spans are shorter, a virtual meeting offers new opportunities to provide live guidance in a way the traditional face-to-face meetings did not. Embrace the new technological age and have a live chat / email group running through meetings – any feedback will be less painful than a kick under the table at least!


3. Media engagement priorities

Quality media coverage can provide a valuable reference for investors researching the company ahead of the Pilot Fishing meetings. But may also be seen as an unwanted distraction of management time. In each situation, media strategy should be carefully considered ahead of the early look presentation roadshow to decide what the objective should be and how best to manage any changes to the initial plan. It is also prudent to plan for news of IPO plans finding its way to a journalist, as it so often does. So being prepared with a ‘leak strategy’ – statements and protocols to ensure the first, tone-setting, piece of media coverage tells the story you want – goes without saying. Having professional photography that brings the story to life ready should also be a priority in this preparation.

A proactive approach with media may also have its merits. Giving a trusted journalist a “scoop” on an IPO will help to shape the article when it’s written. Working with them, providing time to ask questions and even potentially giving access to an interview with management – who have been thoroughly prepared of course – helps to avoid misunderstandings and unhelpful copy. But be prepared; their first question will always be about valuation. So agreement on that front will need to be reached first with advisers.

If the IPO story has leaked, with that threat no longer hanging overhead there may be opportunities to continue to raise a company’s profile and seed key investment case messages through the media. Is there an entrepreneurial success story to tell? Is the business a post-COVID winner or central to the ‘building back better’ and/or greener agenda? Whether trade or national, there may be hooks for coverage to warm up investors doing their desktop research ahead of early look presentations. Laying the groundwork for when the media becomes re-engaged with the IPO story upon launch further down the line from the Early Look roadshow can also help to cultivate understanding and support.


4. Thinking ‘digital ready’

Building an investor relations website ahead of listing is an important workstream and one that shouldn’t be underestimated. Ahead of the Early Look, work can begin on a template structure to populate as the IPO materials become finalised further down the line. In the event of an IPO leak, a company’s website will be the first port of call for an interested investor, so ensuring any corporate website is updated with relevant information about the business can also ensure continuity of message from the outset.

But being truly digital ready means much more. Auditing a company’s social channels should be an early priority – do they portray the professional (or at least professionally managed) image investors will want to see? Is there any potentially problematic content that has been posted? Taking action to tackle any issues early will prevent them becoming a reputational sore later.

Planning, and potentially implementing, a social channel strategy should also start to make sure opportunities to tell the company story are not missed. LinkedIn has over 30,000 fund managers within its professional-focused network; putting some paid social spend behind a piece of content or supportive media coverage will help ensure it gets in front of this important community.

Cutting through

If you’d like to discuss further, please get in touch… our experience has shown that the earlier a specialist IPO communications adviser like MHP is brought in to assist with these areas, the more value we can add – giving us time to understand the business, its opportunities and potential challenges, as well as building constructive working relationships with the key people within a company and establishing a partnership so that we work as an extension of the internal team. We look forward to hearing from you.

MHP Appoints Heads Of Strategy And Creative, Builds New Studio Team

Posted on: June 9th, 2021 by Tomas White

Kate Gomes is MHP’s new Head of Strategy, joining from H&K Strategies, where she served as Corporate Strategy Director. Her career has spanned the House of Commons, the Cabinet Office, the IPPR and clients including Shell, GE and DS Smith. She will work with Deputy CEO Nick Barron to drive forward the company’s Networked Age behavioural science research and consultancy programme.

Luke Walker is MHP’s new Head of Creative, joining from Weber Shandwick, where he served as Creative Director, helping to create award winning work such as Brutal Cut for Action Aid and Deep Fraud for HSBC.

In addition to overseeing all Strategy and Creative work for MHP, Kate and Luke will help to accelerate the growth of MHP Mischief’s new creative content team, Studio, which is led by Gemma Irvine.

Studio’s recent work has included a series of documentaries for AstraZeneca about the making of their Covid-19 vaccine, developing the visual identity and launch assets for Global Youth Mobilisation, and developing Wine Drinkers UK’s social media strategy for its campaign on tax.

Studio will support the work of the combined agency, marking another step in the integration of the MHP and Mischief brands.

The move follows a period of strong growth for MHP Mischief which has recently added major new clients including fintech giant Plaid, online electrical retailer AO, and train operator Avanti West Coast.

Alex Bigg, CEO of MHP Mischief said:

“In a polarised and information-saturated world, communications strategy rooted in real audience insight has never been more important, while creative work needs to be outstanding in order to cut through.

“Kate and Luke are exceptional talents, who will help us fulfil our ambition to create an integrated agency built for The Networked Age. They will work closely with Gemma Irvine and her Studio team to develop more effective and powerful campaigns, with long-term impact.”

Kate Gomes added:

“MHP Mischief is an agency that’s got it’s finger on the pulse on issues that really count, from polarisation to vaccination. I’m thrilled to be joining to help deliver continued timely, impactful strategic work. MHP Mischief is an agency that’s going places and I couldn’t be more delighted to be going places with them.”

Luke Walker said:

“The chance to lead the creative output of this agency is a huge opportunity, as the talent, ambition and momentum are all there. I firmly believe we can do something special. The aim is to create industry-defining work – work that persuades, changes behaviour and makes people act. I can’t wait to get started.”

World Environment Day

Posted on: June 4th, 2021 by Tomas White

As the ENGINE Climate Action Group moves forward, gathering momentum with our climate action plans, one of our goals is to deepen our understanding around the complexities of the Climate Crisis in which we (the world!) have catastrophically found ourselves. By doing so, it’s our hope that we will be able to contribute to the global efforts by at very least helping to build awareness, engagement, and momentum around this critical issue within our own industry.

There’s a lot to absorb, in fact, the overwhelming nature of this subject has probably not helped with consistency of engagement. So please, resist tuning out, because if you can commit to learning even one new thing each day, before you know it, you will find it pretty much impossible to turn away.

Greenhouse gas emissions are causing the earth’s atmosphere temperature to rise at an unsustainable rate by trapping energy from the sun. The most common greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon dioxide is the most dangerous and abundant of these greenhouse gases, and this is why cutting carbon emissions, carbon footprints or seeking low-carbon alternatives are strongly encouraged as ways to address climate change. If not addressed, the majority of our world will be uninhabitable by 2100. A stark and frightening fact.

It is widely agreed that we need to limit global heating to 1.5˚C by 2040 – beyond that point we reach a daunting “tipping point” of no return. This means drastic increases in heatwaves, droughts, fires and flooding as well as a devastating impact on biodiversity and our ecosystem. In addition, climate-related health issues will soar, with impacts already escalating far faster than anticipated.

So, how can we protect against this? At the very least, we need to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. Net zero being the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.

The urgency of the Climate Crisis has brought this timeline forward for many. A third of the UK’s biggest companies have already committed to net zero with the majority having committed to as early as 2025, and 2030 at the latest. Indeed, one of our own clients, Tribe Impact Capital has gone one step further with its own “track and trace” carbon programme and a unique initiative to position the business as a quasi-carbon sink.

And what can you, as an individual, do? Maybe download Giki Zero – a ‘fun’ footprint calculator which will help you build your own personal path to zero carbon emissions. Or why don’t you pop along to Our Future Planet at The Science Museum to find out more about why this is such an important issue.

World Environment Day serves as a perfect opportunity for us to take stock of the world around us and consider how we can all change one thing to better protect it. The science is clear, that if we don’t take action now, it will soon be too late. Our future is in your hands.