In conversation with Lounge Creative Lead, Author, Tedx Speaker, and Creative Coach, Jo Bird.
With a background in photography and design, Jo Bird started out as a graduate at Rankin’s studio, before building a career as artworker, both in-house and in agencies. At 26 she randomly took a job as a photographer’s agent, which led her to meet a bunch of art directors. It was love at first sight. She knew immediately that was the role for her. So, thanks to a bit of luck and good timing, Jo landed a creative job at Gymshark, just as it was taking off. Now she is forging a name for herself as an award-winning creative lead at some of the most social-native rocketship brands. In her own words, "I guess I love the thrill of being part of something big".
SDD: As Creative Lead at Lounge and a recognised Creative Marketer of the Year, you've delivered a number of strikingly creative concepts. Could you share an example of a brand whose visual identity you helped transform, and how you ensured that those elements resonated with the target audience?
JB: Let’s talk about Gymshark. I started there in 2019 and walked into an all-male creative team. The brand itself is pretty masculine, having originated with apparel for male bodybuilders. I think the guys were pleased I’d arrived because I immediately got assigned swimwear, Sports Bras, and International Women’s Day. What I didn’t realise at the time, was that a surprisingly huge chunk of the Gymshark audience is actually women. So, I dedicated the next 4 years to creating campaigns through a female lens, for women. Instead of just showing women posing on a beach in swimwear, I wanted to explore, what’s their story. What’s their attitude? What kind of moment are they sharing with their friends? What are they feeling? I think the difference in visual communication was pretty immediate. I had female colleagues constantly telling me how much the stories resonated with them. That’s all I cared about. Does this brand speak to women like it should, based on the data?
SDD: Brand consistency is crucial across all consumer touchpoints. How do you ensure that physical experiences align seamlessly with the digital presence to reinforce a unified and recognisable identity?
JB: For me, story is queen. And physical touchpoints are just another way to tell stories. To do this, you have to make sure that there is a clear brand story. What’s the message? What are we trying to say? What impact are we trying to make? If it’s done right, you should be able to articulate the story in a single sentence. When you have that, you can apply it to any touchpoint, online, offline, or on Mars.
SDD: In an increasingly digital world, how do you view the future of IRL retail experiences? What strategies should brands adopt to stay relevant and enticing in a landscape where online interactions are becoming more prevalent?
JB: I think the purpose of IRL retail has completely changed. It was once a means to make transactions. It’s now a means to build connections. If brands move into IRL retail with the single intention of making money, they will be disappointed. You have to be very honest with yourself about that fact. If you move into IRL retail with the intention of continuing your brand story, to build brand awareness, to increase talkability, to surprise and delight your audience, and to make sales, you will be much more successful.
SDD: We were excited to learn that you have been working on a Lounge Underwear store concept! Can you share a behind-the-scenes insight into the creative process that has gone into developing the brand's first bricks and mortar space?
JB: Honestly, I was asked to ‘come up with some ideas for the first Lounge store’. It felt so casual! Most people might’ve thought “Oh cool, I’ll do a moodboard.” Luckily, I know how fast things move at these rocketship brands. I also know that if you want to be part of a project team, you really have to prove yourself. So, I left no stone unturned. I did an entire presentation with IRL research and a breakdown of our brand story, which is Comfort Made Sexy. I did moodboards that explored every physical element, from product displays, to lighting, to textiles. I explored personalisation elements, tech incorporation, fitting room innovation. You name it. Everything was considered. Everything spoke to that brand story. Thank god I did all that work, because before I knew it, it was signed off, renders were done and we were told it wasn’t going to be just 1 store… it was going to be 8!
Renders by Imaginize
SDD: Brands often aim to create 'Instagrammable' moments as part of their IRL activations. How do you strike the right balance between crafting shareable activations and ensuring genuine, meaningful interactions between customers and the brand?
JB: You have to ask yourself ‘are we in this for the long term?’ Because pretty aesthetics and viral social posts will never be the glue that hold a brand together. Yes, they are needed for relevancy. But what about legacy? Who are the brands that get referenced in almost every conversation, ever? Nike, Disney, Apple. They didn’t just go viral a few times. They built so much more. They built a feeling. They built hope. Magic. Excitement. Both online and in their retail stores. Disneyland. Apple Genius’. Nike’s House of Innovation. Customers are humans and humans feel things. You’ve gotta give them something to feel good about.
SDD: Given your role as a Cannes Future Lions Judge, you've encountered many innovative visual campaigns. What key elements do you believe are essential for a brand to stand out visually, and how can these elements be effectively integrated across all marketing touchpoints?
JB: There are 3 things I see repeatedly on innovative campaigns: Humour, Hope and ‘Aha!’
In a socially-led world, humour is a no-brainer. People are constantly looking for entertaining, scroll-stopping moments. You can merge this with IRL. Gymshark did it well recently with their fake celebrity takeover in their Regent Street store. Hope is successful when brands show us a world better than the one we live in today. Whether that’s a John Lewis ad, new tech in the Apple store, or the experience of Disneyland. And finally, ‘Aha!’ Is all about the penny-drop moment. When a brand reveals something unexpected, to teach us something new. The ‘Imagine’ OOH campaign tackling gender bias by CPB agency (2022) is a great example. These are 3 really great elements to consider in both online and offline marketing.
Image by CPB
SDD: With your extensive experience as a Coach & Mentor, what advice would you give to creatives striving to create campaigns that not only catch the eye but also convey the brand's values and personality?
JB: First, get clear on the brand’s values and personality. There are a lot of buzz words thrown around within brands. A lot of these words are designed to sound good, but aren’t really at the heart of the story. So, you’ll end up on a wild creative goose chase. You have to be relentlessly curious. You have to dig deep to find out the truth. Eat, sleep, breathe it. Ask ‘why’ all the time. Be observant. Test and learn. Really solidify the message, because it’s not until your message is literal, that you can start to think lateral. It’s the epitome of the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time figuring out what you want to say, and 20% actually saying it.
Jo is Creative Lead at Lounge, Author, Tedx Speaker and Creative Coach.
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