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Behind the breakthroughs

Andrea Gray (Managing Director) & Luke Allum (Creative Director)

We caught up with our leadership duo, Andrea Gray & Luke Allum, to get the low down on what a 'breakthrough by design' really means to Liberation.

Why does Liberation talk about ‘Breakthroughs’? You’re a marketing agency, right?

Luke: When we look back at our work and talk to our clients, one thread keeps coming through; our work, works. We find that brands don’t just come to us for a beautiful logo or a shiny new store, they want change, serious change. The challenges come from around the world, with different ambitions and KPI’s. Our strategic solutions support brands in achieving their aims, be they business or brand-focused. Marketing and design are simply our tools, our breakthroughs are beautiful.

Andrea: Luke’s spot on, time and time again we have conversations with CEOs, CMOs and the like about a project or a brief. We’re quickly talking about the need behind it, the real business need. That’s when the Liberation point of difference becomes apparent. Our ability to step back, understand the issue, the business, and create a plan that the business can bank on. Our breakthroughs have been fuelling brands like Apple and Google for over a decade, they haven’t done too badly. Traditional retail is under huge pressure to adapt, to change, we want to be the bright light in retail’s darkest days.

Which ‘Breakthroughs’ are you most proud of?

L: For me, it’s Jessops, a fantastic UK brand that fell on hard times. 2013 Peter Jones brought the brand out of administration, our first task was to support in getting the business retailing; reopening stores, reactivating all marketing and advertising needs across physical and digital. As the momentum built, so did the ambition, to transform the business, update the identity, a new generation store concept, 50+ stores opened nationwide and build a concession business. With the aim to secure the business and reclaim the title as the UK’s favourite Camera Retailer once again. The story doesn’t stop there. Our latest revolution was to diversify the offer, expand the audience and become a photography lifestyle store, setting the business up for future growth and success. Working with Neil Old CEO, we supported in forging a new strategic partnership with Fujifilm. The new venture has enabled Jessops to stretch into lucrative adjacent categories, go deeper in verticals fuelling both margin and revenue growth across a seamless digital and physical offer, some call that omnichannel, we call it fundamental.

A: Google called us and said they were going to start making hardware and they needed a retail brand, that’s not a call you get every day. From Start-up to Superbrand within 5 years, the numbers are incredible; $5.5billion sales in Q1, 26 products across 25 countries. This is why we love retail, working across physical to digital, presenting a holistic brand experience globally. The work doesn’t end there, we’re part of the family, in their offices and ours. Building partner relations, going deeper in markets and of course launching new products! We produce +20,000 assets per annum, enabling Google to retail globally, consistently. Google has led the way in “Smart home”, complementing a growing IoT ecosystem via services and Google Assistant. We have loved being part of that, demystifying the tech, creating compelling content and building out reasons to buy into Google.

How do you create breakthroughs?

L: It sounds obvious but we listen, to what keeps the client up at night, what’s holding them back, what would make a fundamental difference to the business and themselves. Harnessing our insights, expertise, and experience we create strategy to deliver change, be it; perception, profits or performance. Each challenge is different and requires a unique set of services and skills, we supply the end-to-end solution. We start with consultancy and finish with creative, that’s what we do and the big agencies are only just trying to catch up.

A: We get people, what drives them or drives them away! Breakthroughs are based on data, research and understanding psychological drivers that underpin consumers’ attitudes and behaviour. We identify how brands can best connect and convert, into sales, subscriptions or seats (if we’re talking leisure). Retail is a psychological experience, we shape experiences and create campaigns that turn doubters to believers, fear to faith, browsers to buyers.

Lastly, the million-dollar question - is retail dead?

L: Bad retail is dead. It’s sad to see brands I grew up with disappear, to see the job losses. Especially when it may have been avoided or the impact reduced if they had moved with the times, adapted, reacted to the online revolution. Of course, it’s easy to say that with hindsight, we know only too well, the big the ship - the slower to turn. For us, there are new divisions of retail forming, brands that recognise that will be in good shape. It’s why we love working with other entrepreneurs and enterprising CEO’s. They are the ones that will respond to change and forge new ways, hopefully with us!

A: Next-gen retail is only the beginning, working with digitally native brands going physical stores is a fun one. They’re lean, dynamic and positioned to deliver big brand experience in a box. They get engagement and personalisation like never before, traditional brands have just got Instagram. The future isn’t ‘us-and-them’ it’s ‘we-are-you’, retail needs to reflect that.

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