Throughout the pandemic, Sarah Fulford-Williams and her team of more than twenty people at Our Own Brand agency, have supported a multitude of businesses with branding, communications, social media and marketing. Here, we share her insights on how marketing has changed in the last year.

Building empathy

“A few months into lockdown, we noticed a pattern,” says Sarah, 34. “The brands who immediately turned up the empathy dial and kept their finger on the emotions and feelings of their audiences were thriving, while those that were operating from an individualistic standpoint and not giving anything back weren’t.”

For Sarah, good marketing is all about being in tune with your audience, about building a bridge of communication from brand to consumer. “We’ve helped brands take a step back to ask themselves: Does this resonate? Do we need to change our communication strategy so that we can adapt as circumstances change? It’s time to be honest, personable and real.”

Co-founders of Our Own Brand Richard Williams and Sarah Fulford-Williams (left and centre) and Head of Production Josh Trigg (right)

Sarah encourages business owners to frequently re-examine their brand tone of voice. “If you’re a small business founder, your tone of voice is often an extension of you as a person,” she says. “It sounds simple, but people want to be communicated with as human beings, they want to engage with the people behind the product or service.”

Telling customer stories

“Story-driven marketing is something we’ve always pushed at Our Own Brand,” says Sarah. “Pre-lockdown, it was a much harder sell. Brands would come to us with a set idea of how they wanted to communicate and the strapline they wanted to present. But when lockdown hit, that all went out the window. Consumers won’t return to normal, and brands shouldn’t either. Trust and communication have never mattered more than they do right now.”

In the last year, Our Own Brand has helped clients weave customer stories into their marketing campaigns. “One example of story-driven marketing is our #LawyerLikeNeverBefore campaign for LawAdvisor Ventures. We’ve showcased real world stories from lawyers, to encourage a more balanced way of working, which allows for people in the legal industry to live happier, more productive lives.”

Sarah adds: “Starling is another example of a brand that’s given a platform to their customers so that they can share their stories and inspire others.” Starling continually shares interviews with business owners to shine a light on their challenges and triumphs.

Beyond customer stories, it can be important to tell your audience about who started your business. “Put your founder or founders at the heart of everything you do,” she says.

Starling’s founder and CEO Anne Boden outlined how she started and grew Starling in her second book, Banking On It. Sarah says: “One of the biggest things that attracted us to Starling was knowing of the founder Anne’s story. I’m also a Swansea girl and as a woman in business, I find her really inspiring.” Sarah has been a Starling business and personal customer since 2018.

Sarah uses the Starling app to manage the salaries of her eight full-time employees, as well as paying invoices to 15 freelancers. “The app is amazing - it’s always changing and offering us something new. And as a fast growing business, we really welcome that. We know that our needs are taken care of by a bank we can trust.”

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