In conversation with Keziah Wildsmith, Founder and Director of Heaps + Stacks.
Heaps + Stacks was founded by Keziah Wildsmith from her dining room table. Today she leads a team of twenty to produce joyful events with personality and purpose, across the world. Results-driven always working towards a clear return on investment for clients, Keziah and the team in turn have had impressive growth, working with brands such as Nike, eBay, L'Oréal, and Selfridges to name just a few.
SDD: As the founder of Heaps + Stacks, you've built a B Corp Certified Agency specialising in creating unique and shareable brand experiences. What is the inspiration and vision behind the agency's approach to crafting creative experiences for global brands?
KW: We big up brilliant brands by creating scroll-stopping events designed to be shared. During the design process, we let fun and care guide the way. Fun could be found in the colours we use, an unlikely venue choice, a silly concept (we recreated Blind Date for eBay last week…), or how many gags we can fit into a client email, and examples of ‘care’ would be; what can we make by hand? how do we make this feel special? how will this be used after? how do we make this process nice for our team? suppliers and clients alike?
GHD Dreamland, Global PR Influencer Event
SDD: Heaps + Stacks takes clients from concept to delivery across a variety of projects. How do you approach tailoring each experience to a specific brand's identity and goals, especially given your ethos of the absence of a "one size fits all" policy?
KW: We work with such a huge range of clients, each with different wants and needs, levels of confidence, experience, and resource – so our role really is always flexing to see how we can get to the end result as efficiently and enjoyably as possible. Super strong creative output is always our goal, but the journey to get to that point needs to be pleasant for everyone involved too.
To get under the skin of a brand's identity, it's about doing your research and scouring the web to understand the personality of the brand and any transformation they’ve been on, but also we love to have F2F thought showers with clients, where we (usually) take out a huge roll of brown paper and all sit around a table drawing and mind mapping what this experience might be a how it could show up in the world!
In terms of hitting clients KPIs, it's about not losing sight of them after the brief phase – as an agency we are constantly checking in on those goals through the process, installation, live, and derig because if they aren’t hit how can we prove the ROI?
SDD: Creating culture-smart brand experiences is a unique focus for your agency. Can you provide an example of a project where this cultural awareness played a significant role in the success of the brand experience?
KW: Each year we launch an insights report, and our most recent one mentioned the importance of making you ‘feel something’. In line with this, we worked with REN to launch a product in a TikTok-able laboratory that focused on skincare and ASMR working in harmony, to help the consumer destress and feel good. By creating these pleasing moments using REN products we created a positive brand association in attendees' minds through various sensory installations.
REN Lab, Consumer Brand Activation
SDD: In today's digital age, how does Heaps + Stacks leverage the power of social sharing when designing brand experiences? What strategies have you found most effective for encouraging engagement?
KW: In these scroll-heavy days, IRL experiences are gaining more cut-through than ever before – with brands like Jacquemus leading the way with activations that raise a smile.
For us, there are a few ways we can do this (and depending on the messaging, budget, look & feel there will be an approach that suits best):
Little and often: for a Tim Walker inspired event for MAC we created many surreal moments for people to post (designed for stories / TikTok); we created menus that were read upside down, edible petals that could be eaten straight from the floral arrangements and stencilled the models face from the campaign straight onto the bread roll (?!)
Made with Love: We have found that things that feel hand-crafted and loved gain more of a response than anything that feels too contrived or super smooth as the web is flooded with AI stuff – people crave real!
Mapping it out: We like to map out all of our experiences end to end with content ops along the way, this could be from an invitation landing on your doorstep to an unusual drink at the bar, the mirror in the girl's toilets, and what they leave with at the end!
MAC Hyper Real, Influencer Event
SDD: Your agency believes in the idea that powerful design doesn't have to be serious to achieve serious results. Can you share a project that exemplifies this philosophy, where a playful and unconventional approach yielded impressive outcomes for a brand?
KW: There are so many agencies out there that are very minimalist and cold, in an urge to appear elusive and therefore desirable. However, for me, it’s not about that. I’ve always wanted to have fun at work, be silly, laugh. So on founding the business, I wanted to maximize this. The name Heaps + Stacks really is about abundance; an abundance of ideas, joy, passion, and energy! So (as much as humanly possible!) this upbeat, effervescent thread runs through everything we do.
A couple of recent examples would be creating a wishing well for GHD where the press and media could come and wish “for a good hair day” as part of a dreamland landscape we installed at the Tate. Another example of this would be a recent event with No7 where we gained a social reach of 1,605,827 from attendees with one installation featuring a real human hand wall that displayed the product at the push of a button!
No7 Derm Solutions, Panel Discussion / GHD Dreamland, Global PR Influencer Event
SDD: Sustainability and ethical practices have become increasingly important in the creative industry. How do Heaps + Stacks incorporate these principles into your agency's approach when designing and producing brand experiences?
KW: It’s obviously not a sustainable industry, however, there are tonnes of small things you can do as an agency to minimise your impact. We bake small steps into all stages of production such as designing with the end in mind – so considering where things might go after, where they might live on, or if we can design with multiple events in mind. Can we use only UK-sourced florals, can they be donated to a hospice after? How can we support the wider community more through donations, shopping locally, supporting minority-owned businesses, and giving opportunities to local talent first?
For us, it’s not one huge change, it's lots of little decisions that together have a big impact.
SDD: Your agency brings joy to its audience through creative experiences. Can you elaborate on how you create emotional impact through your projects beyond traditional metrics, and why this is important to your work?
KW: People just want to feel something! And the more we can elicit an emotional response the deeper the memory will be (which of course helps with recall, and staying top of mind for the all-important purchasing moment!). When in the design phase of any project alongside the ‘normal’ elements such as colour, pattern, and materiality we are thinking about what emotion we want guests to leave with; is it radiating happiness, or the hairs on your arms standing on end, or an unquenchable feeling of longing… whichever it is we need to factor it right in at the beginning.
Genesis Battersea Launch Party, Influencer and Media Event
SDD: As an industry leader in creating physical experiences, what advice would you offer to brands seeking to craft memorable, shareable, and culture-smart brand experiences that resonate with their target audience?
KW: It can feel tricky to get the tone right at the moment as we live in a crazy time of contradiction. Our investment in sustainability is just as high as fast fashion. People are strapped for cash, but luxury still prevails, maximalism is cool, but at the same time, minimalism is still thriving?!
Boxing target audiences into clear-cut segments feels outdated, instead of demographics brands should be searching for people that align with their values and beliefs alone or they could be missing some really, huge fans.
Also as we are in a moment where anything ‘salesy’ feels more gross than ever, it’s about designing experiences that feel helpful, can guests leave feeling enlightened, give them the chance to learn a new skill, or leave them more equipped for success than they were before – and that’s how brands can really strike a chord.
Keziah is the Founder & Director of Heaps + Stacks.
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