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Brand Storytelling in the NEW Digital Age

HVO Search brought together

Lucy Yeomans - Creator & CEO, DREST 

Caroline Issa - CEO, Tank 

Sarah Crook - Former CEO, Dundas

Whitney Hawking - Founder & CEO, FLOWERBX

and leaders in Fashion, Beauty, Luxury & Lifestyle to discuss brand storytelling, digital communication and new ways of experiential marketing in 2020. 

It certainly has been a few interesting months and for many of us, the lockdown has made us think more deeply about ourselves and what we value.

But how have the rules of marketing changed to reflect this? 

How do we navigate what we say to our customers? 

How do we marry up the intangibles with tech? 

How do we communicate all the senses digitally? 

In our session - "Brand Storytelling in the NEW Digital Age", we are going to try to answer these questions.

The Questions We Explored...

During our discussion, we explored the following: 

In what way have the rules of storytelling and marketing changed?

How can brands capitalise on a captive audience right now, but on the other hand how can they be heard over the noise?

There are so many channels of communication available right now - How do you ensure your marketing is cohesive and on-brand? 

Recognising that digital in a virtual world can successfully address 2 of the 5 senses - sight and hearing, how can storytelling and digital bridge the gap in capturing the essence of the remaining 3 senses - touch, smell and taste? (Antony Baglioni)

What marketing experiments have you seen that made you stop and think about it - what has stood out to you? 

Who is doing a good job with their brand storytelling right now? Tell us of a specific campaign you liked and thought was exemplary  

What should CMOs focus on in 2020?

Key Take-Aways
“It’s not about campaigns, it’s about actions from the heart. The winners are the brands who are in tune with the hearts and minds of their audiences.”
Lucy Yeomans
In what way have the rules of storytelling and marketing changed?     

We're all directly connected to our audiences and getting immediate feedback. What used to be a more one-way communication is much more interconnected. 

During global crisis, brands must step back and explain their brand identity and values. 

People remember how you act right night: how you treat your employees and how you treat the world. Being transparent with your team and customer is important. 

The spirit of community has come to the forefront and the gap between the super brands and the smaller brands have closed. Creativity has provided huge opportunities. 

The better we understand the emotional need state of our customers, the better we can story tell and communicate with them.

Younger audiences especially want discovery and conversation and this pandemic has fast-tracked this type of brand communication. 

Right now isn't about campaigns, it's about actions. 

Timing and tone of voice are everything at this time

How can brands capitalise on a captive audience right now, but on the other hand how can they be heard over the noise?

Allowing your audience to be creative and add to the content and story is a great way to make them feel like a part of the brand. Not just an observer but an active participant.

Content is an issue as brands haven't been in studios so allowing your audience to create content that's less polished can be a great way to create great content.

Technology, if it's used in a smart way, is a great tool to link the physical and virtual worlds. 


There are so many channels of communication available right now - How do you ensure your marketing is cohesive and on-brand? 

Outdoor digital campaigns and billboards in the UK worked really well for FLOWERBX and their website traffic was up 1000%. But the tone of voice was really important for this, e.g. focusing on how flowers uplift spirits. 

It's becoming more complicated to story tell in ways that aren't expensive - owning your platform and connecting with people on a much more human levels is so important. 

Now is the time for experimentation on lots of different platforms and ultimately trying to connect in a way that your audience is going to stay with you no matter the platform. 

Community features such as the ability to comment, follow and share opinions in app have been fast-tracked.

The informality can be quite refreshing and we're seeing more honesty and openness which is great. This also makes it a more level playing field between large and small brands.

WeChat is an incredible platform and I think it's the future for Western society. 

“Technology has allowed us to experience the same thing at the same time. What WeChat does incredibly well is social commerce livestream shopping. This is a great example of having shared experiences but in a very physically distant way."
Caroline Issa

Recognising that digital in a virtual world can successfully address 2 of the 5 senses - sight and hearing, how can storytelling and digital bridge the gap in capturing the essence of the remaining 3 senses - touch, smell and taste? (Antony Baglioni)

Technology has allowed us to experience the same thing at the same time - e.g. dialling into national theatres, live YouTube streams and people are able to do this with friends. This in no way can replicate the human touch but it's a great experience nonetheless.

Livestream shopping is going to be very interesting as you have a shared experience but in a very different way. 

Individual spaces that create and use community will more successfully bridge the gap between senses. 

It's exciting that experiences that were felt by a select few can be opened up to wider audiences using technology this is really key in fashion shows. 

The convergence of different aspects and marrying up different industries is exciting, for example how collaborations with chefs and musicians are helping with engagement. 

What marketing experiments have you seen that made you stop and think about it - what has stood out to you? 

A lot more TikTok videos! People who are quite serious are being more creative and silly which is uplifting. 

Travis Scott performing in Fortnight and Glossier relaunching their sweatshirt in Animal Crossing. 

Instagram live conversations are a great way to address the feeling of connection people are wanting.

“Covid-19 has fast-tracked the transparency of brands and how they communicate and engage people creativity. This has levelled the playing field between smaller and larger brands.”
Sarah Crook
Who is doing a good job with their brand storytelling right now? Tell us of a specific campaign you liked and thought was exemplary 

Brands who communicate in a purposeful, sensitive and authentic way will be successful afterwards. Gucci, Chanel and Alygary have been great at providing resources both for social communities and the customers who need to escape. And customers will remember this.

Nike and Uber took everything that they're about and told customers "Just Don't Do It" or "Thank You For Not Riding" and put people before profits. They are amazing examples of caring for people first. 

Secret Cinema as been using Secret Sofa to unify their customers and experience. 

“You need to have purpose and you need to have relevance. We’re all going to carry on consuming but many of us will consume in a more meaningful way and brands must adapt their strategy.”
Whitney Hawkings
What should CMOs focus on in 2020?

Covid-19 is not going anywhere and we've all felt a very real impact of it. I think the transparency will continue.

Continuation of creativity and level playing field.

The reality of return on investment will come back into play and CMOs must find a balance between community and brand loyalty and conversion.

Beyond selling products and more about brands explaining to consumers why they should care over other brands. Explaining how a brand adds value and how they are relevant is key. 

Helping customers understand how the value fulfils a need and understand what the market need state is and adapt strategy so they are in sync with customers. 

A brand's proposition must fit into the consumers life. 

Audience Poll

During our live discussion we asked our 100 attendees what they thought about the future of brand communication. Here are their responses...

1.Is your business communicating more or less right now?

73% said MORE

20% said LESS

7% said NOT SURE

2. Have you increased or reduced your marketing budget since lockdown?

44% said REDUCED

34% said KEPT THE SAME

10% said INCREASED

12% said NOT SURE


3. What engagement tools have been Most successful for your brand during lockdown?

44% said Instagram

24% said Email/Newsletters

17% said Other

10% said Webinars

2% said Facebook

2% said TikTok

4. What is your number one marketing priority right now?

46% said Engagement

22% said Building Brand Equity

15% said Social Responsibility

10% said Other

7% said Product Promotion

5. Is your company using / experimenting with more experiential marketing such as VR, AR etc.?

49% said NOT SURE

37% said MORE

15% said LESS

6. Should brands address social and political issues in their marketing?

49% said YES

41% said IT DEPENDS

10% said NO

Our Panelists
Photograph of Lucy Yeomans depicted in a PNG format.
Lucy Yeomans
Creator & CEO of DREST.

Lucy Yeomans is Creator, Founder and CEO of DREST, the world’s first luxury convergence platform with gamification, shopping, creative content and philanthropy at its core.


Yeomans moved to Tatler in 1997 as Features Editor and  less than a year later became Deputy Editor. She was then appointed Deputy Editor of Vogue in 2000 but was offered, and accepted, the position as Editor-in-Chief of Harpers & Queen at lunchtime on her first day. She took up the role in November 2000. 


In 2006 Yeomans spearheaded the successful transition of Harpers & Queen to Harper's BAZAAR, and in May 2007 the publication picked up the top award at the PPA Awards and was named “Consumer Magazine of the Year” beating Vogue and other titles.. She was also named in December by The Independent as one of the Media 50: Newsmakers of 2007. 


In 2012, Yeomans became the Global Content Director of luxury online retailer, NET-A-PORTER.COM, launching firstly the company's weekly digital magazine, The Edit, in 2013, followed by the acclaimed global fashion print magazine, PORTER, in the spring of 2014, of which she held the position Editor-in-Chief and oversaw the magazine's highly-successful Incredible Women franchise. 


DREST provides brands a new frontier to connect with consumers and currently features over 160 of the world’s leading fashion brands including Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Off-White, Loewe, Chloé, Thom Browne, Burberry and Stella McCartney. 

The platform also incorporates philanthropy at its core and from breakeven has pledged to donate five per cent of every micro-transaction generated in-game to causes that support digital responsibility, mental health, body positivity and female empowerment.

Caroline Issa 
CEO of Tank


Caroline Issa is CEO and fashion director of London-based quarterly title Tank and editor of online magazine The Montreal native is an established fixture on the fashion week circuit, having published Tank magazine for 18 of its 22 years. 

In February 2015, she launched a line of ready-to-wear essentials with American retailer Nordstrom for two years, in July 2019, a seven-piece capsule collection for Label/Mix and in September 2019, a successful jewellery collaboration collection with her friend Monica Vinader.

The former management consultant describes herself as “a businesswoman who loves fashion.” She has landed her brand collaborations with the likes of Prada, LK Bennett, Hugo Boss and La Mer.

In 2004, Issa founded Tank Form, a creative agency that boasts an impressive client base including Mulberry, Silhouette, Debeers and Monica Vinader , and also creates digital content for several retail and fashion clients, such as Cartier, Hugo Boss and Lane Crawford

Issa has also worked on creating and releasing new publishing technology. In 2007, she launched — a digital magazine of which she is editor-in-chief — under the auspices of Tank. Six years later she launched a print edition featuring Fashion Scan, an experimental app developed by Golsorkhi, Issa and their team, that enabled users to unlock digital content within physical magazine pages using their smartphones and tablets. The technology was later brought to O: By Tank, a long-standing supplement created by Tank for The Observer, a Sunday newspaper published by the Guardian Media Group.

Today Issa spends most of her time between Tank magazine, and Tank Form consulting. She spent three years as the external examiner for Central Saint Martin's MA journalism and fashion promotion courses and can be found on numerous juries for fashion awards.

Photograph of Caroline Issa, depicted in a PNG format.
Photograph of Sarah, depicted in a PNG format.
Sarah Crook
Former CEO of Dundas


Sarah has spent 25 years building an illustrious career in brand building, merchandising and business development, honing her talent in balancing a strong commercial business acumen with
a strong sensibility to product and consumer engagement, developing some of the industry’s leading luxury brands.

Starting her career at Christina Ong’s Club 21, Sarah spent her first ten years securing, developing and distributing iconic brands such as Armani, Donna Karen, Mulberry and Luella

In 2004 she joined the Gucci Group as Merchandising & Business Development Director of Stella McCartney, one of the leading Emerging brands within the Group and went on to become Vice President in 2009.

Sarah worked as a Strategic Brand Advisor and consultant for multiple brands including LVMH (Pucci and Loewe), as well as helping to shape and advise several key brands for the British
Fashion Council in partnership with then President Natalie Massenet.

Sarah re-established her partnership with Marco Bizzarri in 2014 when he asked her to re-join Kering (formally PPR) in 2014 as Chief Executive Officer & President of Christopher Kane, also holding a Senior Executive position within the Kering Management team.

After more than 20 years working with highly established brands in a traditional arena, in 2017 Sarah took a more disruptive route, assuming the position of CEO of Dundas World, working collaboratively with former Pucci Creative Director Peter Dundas and co-founder Evangelo Bousis establishing a more disruptive, seasonless approach to smaller, capsule collections strategically positioned.

Sarah has recently stepped down from her CEO position but retains a Shareholder & advisory role within the company.

Whitney Hawking
Founder & CEO of FLOWERBX


Whitney Bromberg Hawkings is Founder and CEO of FLOWERBX. 

She graduated from Columbia University in 1998 and started her career in Paris working for Tom Ford at Gucci.


In 2016, she resigned from her position as SVP of Communications of TOM FORD after working for the designer for 18 years to found FLOWERBX, the online flower delivery service that has become the

first global flower brand. 


Over the past three years, she has launched FLOWERBX across the UK and in France, Germany,

Belgium, and Ireland and 17 other countries across Europe. 


She is currently focused on strengthening and growing the European markets and supporting the US East Coast operation, which launched May 2020.

Photograph of Whitney, depicted in a PNG format.
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