Meet Madeleine Livesey – General Manager at one of Australia’s best retail strategy and creative agencies The General Store.
Founded by Matt Newell (Executive Strategy Director) along with two creative founders The General Store has been operating for over 4 years. Specialising by sector rather than by discipline allows the company to offer all the services retail clients tend to need from advertising to architecture, digital to design.
Let’s jump straight into our interview.
Hi Madeleine, can you tell us a little about yourself and where you have come from?
Hello, I’ve been at The G Store for nearly 4 years now. I was working as a lawyer in a big Sydney firm specialising in private equity transactions in the retail sector.
I loved retail, but the hours were killing me and I felt pretty stifled creatively.
Matt Newell gave me a shot as The General Store’s first employee (I started as the Project Director) and I’m now General Manager.
Interesting, can you tell us about your team and how you work?
We’ve now got a permanent team of 8 people and an amazing pool of freelance creatives who we bring on board for the projects that best suit their skill sets. We’re really big on multi-disciplinary creative teams when it comes to delivering unexpected outcomes.
For example, on a store design job we’ll brief our interior architects but also bring in technologists, digital strategists, theatre set designers, scent designers and also advertising creatives.
Scent Designers – Wow. Can you share a little about how you plan to grow the business?
It’s a multifaceted strategy, one part I particularly enjoy is keeping across everything that’s going on in retail.
Matt Newell and I travel a lot to check out the best retail concepts around the world as well as the big retail conferences (I was at the NRF Big Show in NYC in January and Matt’s just wrapped up at the World Retail Congress in Dubai).
We always keep across the coolest new retail innovations from around the world. We are going to be including these in the new blog we’re about to launch: hotshopsblog.com.
Tell me about your biggest challenges?
I’d say a pretty big challenge we face is the dwindling marketing budgets of clients. It’s an industry-wide problem. Russel Howcroft gave a pretty compelling presentation at the Inside Retail Festival ideas, imploring clients to double their marketing budgets.
Creative X factor is, unfortunately, immeasurable (but is so valuable when it comes to marketing cut through).
If you haven’t watched ‘The Wicked Sick Project’ – it’s worth 3 minutes of your day, it illustrates the power of good advertising (in particular good copywriting) perfectly.
What about your successes?
One of the projects that we’re most proud of is the physical retail stores we designed for Shoes of Prey.
They were highly successful initially and David Jones Sydney took out best store design in the world at The World Retail Awards in 2015 (beating a Karl Lagerfeld concept store in Paris and a Puma flagship in Osaka!)
The store design was rolled out across Nordstrom department stores in the US but just last year Shoes of Prey made the decision to go back to being an online pure play. Although we won’t be seeing the beautiful shoe flowers around anymore, Shoes of Prey are doing really exciting things with Nordstrom – essentially offering an infinite number of SKUs without the inventory problem, and the brands have paved the way for that relationship.
There seems to be a lot of complexity around marketing, do you have any thoughts on this and how it’s changing?
At the most basic level, you just need to fish where the fish are.
Understand who you’re marketing to and then communicate with them in a way that’s relevant and memorable. Easy!
It’s definitely changing, but that’s because people and people’s expectations have changed drastically.
At the NRF Big Show in January, US-based retail design agency WD Partners presented on The DNA of the ‘Digital Native Audience’ (those of us who barely remember life without the internet).
- Our attention span is down around 8 seconds (that’s one second less than a goldfish)
- 44% of consumers check Facebook or other social media while watching TV or streaming content on a second device (Global Webindex 2015)
With all the talk of increasing digital spend, does TV and radio still have a place in a marketer’s strategy?
Absolutely. Google is still advertising on TV after all!
TV isn’t the channel for everyone but it is still the most effective channel if you’re trying to grow brand awareness. And it’s even better when complimented by a digital strategy.
Check out this concept by Wayfair in the US who aired a fully shoppable weekly TV show on A+E channel.
How do creative and strategy fit together?
Good creative is born out of a strong strategic brief, the two go hand in hand.
Strategy work can take many different forms, from mystery shopping to customer insights, to landscape analysis, to reviewing everything from brand tracking reports, NPS results and other available data.
The key goal being; to devise a single-minded proposition that then forms a tight creative brief.
The strategy puts everyone on the same page and is a valuable guide for the creative process that follows.
We guide the project from start to finish, through the strategy piece, the creative process right through to production and then post campaign monitoring.
What do you think is going to change in the next 12 months?
So many things!
Keeping our dwindling attention spans in mind, I’ll be keeping an eye on the channels that best deliver on micro-moment media.
Mobile messaging apps have grown so fast that over the past five years, they have surpassed the top worldwide social media networks in both size and monthly active users
60 billion instant messages are sent around the world per day. There’s untapped potential in conversational assets as marketing channels.
Brands should be thinking about how they can provide non-disruptive, engaging content like GIFS, stickers, emojis etc through these channels.
Do you have any thoughts on the future of creative, analytics, technology, AI and automation?
That’s another huge question, so I’ll keep it relevant to my point above around instant messaging. Brands are already successfully deploying chat bots in this space quite effectively but need to be mindful of customer experience.
The Digital Native Audience may be quick to try new things and engage with new brands but they’re equally as willing to abandon them if the customer experience is poor.
Where does digital meet creative?
A creative concept is one thing. But with digital, the creative use of the channel is equally as important.
I still think the Melanoma Likes You Instagram campaign by GPY&R Brisbane was absolute genius. They developed an algorithm that responded to a list of hashtags so that ‘melanoma’ could start following you, like you and comment on your photos.
Tell us what elements a successful digital marketing strategy has?
It has to be personalised and hyper-relevant to the customer.
Users searching YouTube for “Orange is the New Black,” for example, were served ads with cheeky copy about prison food. Those searching for Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” were asked if they needed “dinner for one.”
Nike always does a great job at this. For example, the display campaign where they placed apparel banner ads in weather forecasting apps and tailored the apparel options to the weather near you. The in-app ads were part of a broader TV-lead campaign.
Your thoughts on companies like Gallantway?
Understanding the client and the market in which they operate is key to adding value. In my experience, clients really appreciate dealing directly with the senior people agency side and it’s this level of service that you get at smaller agencies like Gallantway and The General Store.
While we work across a range of disciplines, there are areas that our clients need that are definitely not without our skill set. We recommend Gallantway to our clients for SEO and SEM account management and set up. We also ensure that we bring partners like Gallantway into strategic planning sessions as well as creative brainstorming workshops.
Do you have any advice to marketing teams?
Fight for your marketing budgets and be brave enough to take creative risks – although scary, the reward in terms of cut-through can be amazing.
Thanks for your time Madeleine. If you would like to hear more from Madeleine and the team at The General Store you can follow their new blog or drop them a line. You can also contact the team at Gallantway to learn more about performance marketing and how we can help your company.