Magnet: Beyond the Logo
Beyond the Logo – Why Emotional Storytelling is Key
BRAND BITES: Where Marketing Meets Creativity Podcast [EPISODE 1]
With Charis Hawkins, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications at Magnet
This is very exciting! It’s our first ever episode of the BRAND BITES Podcast: Where Marketing Meets Creativity.
In this episode, we’re joined by Charis Hawkins, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications at Magnet, and our host, Laura Richards, Account Director at Creative Content Works.
In this bite-sized, 25-minute podcast, Charis Hawkins, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications at Magnet, delves into:
- The Secret to Building a Strong Brand Identity
- Why Emotional Storytelling is Key
- Navigating Marketing Metrics and the 60:40 Rule
- Balancing Creativity and ROI in Marketing
- Generative AI: Love it or Loathe it?
- Career Tips for Fellow Marketing Professionals
Magnet are one of the UK’s longest running kitchen suppliers and manufacturers – with a heritage stretching back over 100 years. Since then they have become one of the leaders in the industry with over 200 locations/showrooms nationwide. For more information on Magnet visit: www.magnet.co.uk/
Laura: Hello and welcome to the CCW podcast. This is super exciting. It’s our first-ever episode, and today we’re joined by Charis Hawkins, Head of Brand Marketing and Communications for Magnet, and I’m your host, Laura Richards, Account Director at Creative Content Works.
Magnet is one of the UK’s longest-running kitchen suppliers, with a history stretching back over 100 years. Since then, they’ve become one of the leaders in the industry, with over 200 showrooms and locations nationwide.
Right, let’s get started. It’s really exciting. How are you?
Charis: I’m great, thank you so much for having me. This is great, super professional.
Laura: I know, I know, when I walked in, I was like, wow, this is super cool.
First things first, do you want to quickly introduce yourself, your role at Magnet, and we’ll take it from there?
Charis: Yeah, I’d love to. Well, I’m Charis, Head of Brand for Magnet, and actually, by the time this is aired, I will have been with Magnet for seven whole years.
Laura: No! It’s a good face cream you’re using, Charis!
Charis: It’s a long time, seven years. I can’t believe it; it’s absolutely flown by. And gosh, it’s been a blast, I must say. But in terms of my role, I love answering this question because I actually think I have the best job in the world, to be honest. I work with a great team. We deliver some amazing work, and first and foremost, I’m Magnet’s brand custodian and cheerleader for the Magnet brand.
It’s funny, actually, because wherever I go, no matter how tenuous the link is, I seem to somehow get in that I work for Magnet; I’ll find a way of getting it in there. In terms of what I do, I lead the creative across our campaigns and promotions, along with social PR, our partnerships, and I look after the above-the-line media—media, for example, any TV campaigns that we work on, any print that we run across home interest titles, and of course, the reason we’re here, content.
Laura: Which keeps you busy! How big’s the team there?
Charis: I think we’re around about 15 across the full team. That’s digital insights, retail trade projects, and we’ve got quite a few different customers that we cater to, and then brand.
Laura: Ah, cool. Fabulous. Obviously, we go way back. I’ve been at CCW for 5 years and worked with Magnet. I think it was my second day when I met one of your colleagues, and we’ve built that relationship ever since. In that time, we’ve obviously worked to push more CGI production.
So how has it changed, pushing the CGI and working with CCW? How have things evolved for you and the brand?
Charis: Well, they’ve massively evolved, mainly because content is just—you’ve got to have a constant stream of content, and that production of assets and that demand is always on. It doesn’t help that there’s always a new format to consider, as well as a new platform, and everything has its own niche. And of course, it’s not going to perform if we don’t deliver the content that’s right for that particular channel at that particular time.
But we found you guys, and we very much wanted to work with a partner who could work at our pace, which is essential, while still maintaining the quality of the product. This is a big part of our ethos and our ‘Better By Design’ creative platform. So, working at our pace while aligning with our values was crucial. Three of our values at Magnet are that we care, we bring our hearts to work, we deliver, and we also inspire.
We’ve certainly found that with you, and we feel really aligned there. We also love how expert your team is; they’re industry-trained interior designers, so they speak the same language as we do, which is absolutely fabulous, and they’re just as passionate about design as we are. So, that’s super important.
Also, from a personal perspective, and back to those values again, you really do care. You want to meet the full team, you want to get under the skin of our approach, and you want to meet our agency partners as well. It’s during these interactions that our creative juices start flowing, and I really, really value that.
Laura: Oh it’s amazing to be recognised because that is one thing that we pride ourselves on, it’s building those partnerships. It’s not only just working with you, it’s you, and the team and the wider team. Let’s have a workshop, let’s have an open discussion and like you said just to get those creative juices flowing and share those ideas. Because ultimately that’s where you get the results so that’s amazing to hear thank thank you
Is there any kind of particular project with key results that stand out from that you’ve worked with us on?
Charis: Well I’m quite looking forward to what we’re about to to launch to be honest, as next month we’ll be launching our summer campaign and it was a meeting we had, I don’t know a couple of months ago, and it wasn’t even about the summer campaign but actually again back to that creative juices we were talking about the bigger plans, and it just got to well, what can we do?
And also what the work you’ve done for some of your other clients as well we’ve actually been able to take inspiration from those clients and their work and really know what CGI can achieve for us, there’s so much flexibility. You can have whether that’s going from day to night at the flick of a switch, or you know from a colourless image through to injecting all that colour, which we hope will make our customers feel really brave that actually they can bring colour into their home and so I’m looking forward to what’s to come.
But in terms of what we’ve done in the past I mean, last year’s spring campaign was just my favourite!
Laura: That and the launch of Nordic Nature, it was just and I think coinciding with the brand the Better by Design launch and stuff it was just all perfect timing.
Charis: It really was, Perfect Pastels was our spring campaign and that’s where we again celebrated colour but then Nordic Nature which actually then won award for kitchen of the year with Ideal Home which was absolutely fab. It became a sort of a moment for the brand and really started to elevate us from a design perspective.
Laura: Yeah it’s you can definitely tell it’s amazing, it really is. So with the brand identity, the Better by Design, how do you approach a strong brand identity that resonates with your target audience? Where do you start internally?
Charis: It starts with design. It absolutely has to start with design. It’s Better by Design is not just our creative platform, it is an ethos and permeates our entire business and so we always start with design and anything we do in design is led by consumer insight as well, naturally.
Jen who’s our Lead Designer, she’s done she’s done a piece of insight work on what interior trends there are and did you know Laura the ‘out out’ is now the ‘in in’
Laura: Oh really?
Charis: You all want to be at home. It’s a safe environment where we want to cocoon ourselves in our homes and feel safe. It’s also better for our well-being, you know. So it always starts with design, and then from there, that inspires our marketing campaigns and the content that we need to be able to tell those stories. Last year, we worked on a set we named ‘Curated Botanicals.’ It was all about biophilic design and being sustainable.
We launched another concept mindful world that was very much about being sustainable as well and looking at where all the materials came from but it always always starts with design for us.
Laura: That’s always the key touch point. Yeah makes perfect sense so you’ve done a campaign and it’s out in the masses on all the platforms. How do you at Magnet measure the success of your marketing campaigns? What metrics do you use?
Charis: Well, where do I start, really? We obviously measure everything in relation to the sales funnel, so all those metrics. But from a marketing perspective, specifically, we have regular brand tracking in place, which we’re really lucky to have. It measures our brand awareness, brand preference scores, desirability, and I guess not all brands will have brand tracking in place, but there are lots of cues that you can pick up.
We also look at why our customers considered us in the first place. Was it because we’re a trusted brand? Was it because we are known for design or offering quality products? And we’re starting to see those metrics shift, which is really exciting. We’re really, really pleased about that.
Laura: Have those responses changed since previous times?
Charis: Massively. For example, brand awareness is up four points, our quality scores are up; it’s all moving in the right direction. There’s a big team involved. There are lots and lots of reasons, all the way from operations through to IT in the stores. There’s lots of reasons, but we’re in marketing and we’re here to talk about content. And we really feel that the content is driving that, and not only from a consumer perspective, but actually, our colleagues feel really proud. It’s really a motivator for the teams internally as well, which then outwardly projects to the customer too.
Laura: Definitely, especially with the new showroom layouts as well, like the Stockton and obviously the Wimbledon and Kensington. They’re amazing. When I went to Stockton, I was blown away, so that would have an impact on a customer going in then to go to a competitor. I know where I’d want to go. So yeah, it’s amazing, it really is.
Charis: Oh, there were a few tears on the day. It was just fab.
Laura: I’ve still got about 100 photos on my phone, just taking them because it’s just beautiful there. Really inspirational designs. So how do you balance the need for creativity with the need for ROI in your marketing efforts?
Charis: It can be really hard, and I think a lot of retail brands will agree that it is really hard in the current climate. The 60/40 rule in investing 60% in brand and 40% in more tactical advertising is not always practical.
We’ve done a couple of things. Firstly, we’ve really invested in insights. Kelly Drake, who heads up our Insights Team, is doing an amazing amount of work in exactly where we’re investing our money and what we’re getting in return to make sure that we’re as efficient as we possibly can be.
Second, it’s forcing us in the marketing team to be much more creative and lean more on our partners like you guys at Creative Content Works. You’re there for us through thick and thin. You’re there to go ‘Right, how can we do this a bit differently, how can we sweat the asset more?’ So, going on to the campaign, we’re about to launch, looking at okay, we’ve got the one scene, but how can we get beautiful cameos out of that scene or change the light? We’re looking at the direction the room faces, which has a really big impact on the space. So actually, it’s allowed us to tell even deeper stories in the end, actually without kind of going in realising that.
Then also focusing on working with our suppliers as well, our product suppliers because it benefits them if we’re in good shape too. They’ve been great at helping us get more content as well, so we’ve got some content of the manufacturing processes and that kind of thing, and everyone loves behind the scenes.
Laura: I agree. I love the inside the factory show on BBC when Channel 5 does those random ones like inside Cadbury, anything like that.
Going back to what you were saying about us being the experts, I think sometimes in campaigns, that really shows. We had a conversation this week about North, East, South and West facing rooms. Jo Thatcher, Head of Styling and Art Direction, was talking about it in the office. I had no idea that people choose paint colours based on that. I was like, really? It just shows that obviously the styling team knows much more than I do, and they’re the experts that can filter that through to you, so it’s amazing.
Laura: In terms of other marketing managers working on brand campaigns, what tips would you give them and key learnings from your role at Magnet?
Charis: We obviously caught up last week as we were prepping, and at the time, I was very much focused on the idea of always being true to yourself. I think that’s the advice I’d give to my younger self. You can’t change who you are, no matter how your career goes. You have to remain true to yourself.
We work for about 9,000 hours in our lifetime, and that’s really important. But then, that night, I was driving home (I dance in the evenings; it’s a rediscovered passion over the last two years as a result of the lockdown years). Actually, I really wish I’d never stopped dancing. So my advice is, yes, give your energy to your career.
If you’re ambitious or love what you do, yes, the brand you work for should receive that energy, and rightfully so. But protect that little bit which is your passion outside of work. That’s just for you, and that will really impact your work-life balance in a positive way, making you a much better individual when you are at work.
Actually, a lot of my more creative ideas have come when I’m out on a run or when I’m dancing in the studio with my pals. I think, protect that little bit that’s just for you, and don’t let anybody take that away from you. It’s really, really important, especially during Mental Health Awareness Week, which is this week. It’s really, really important.
Laura: It is, definitely. You know, I went to a gym class this week, and I didn’t want to go, but I came out, and I just feel so much better and positive walking home. I start thinking about things, and I think I logged on when I got back as well just because I was like, you know, I’m going to do that when I get in because at least then it’s done, and I can start tomorrow refreshed. So yeah, I totally agree.
2020 and 2021 were obviously crazy. How did lockdown and the dreaded COVID affect Magnet and the business?
Charis: I mean, what a time. I’m sure every marketer can relate to having to adapt and change, and luckily, we’re quite good at doing that in our fields, generally. But you know what? We couldn’t control what was happening. No business could. But what we could control was how we responded, and we were just really pragmatic.
Our consumers were at home, so we went to them, and we went virtual overnight. We started offering our design consultations to them at home. We were able to switch that on really quickly. And then, what else can we do? How else can we make that experience better for them?
Laura: What about you as an internal marketing team? How did working from home and not being in the office all the time? How did that affect you? Or did you just have to crack on and do it really?
Charis: Well, yeah, we did and kept the brand alive. The beauty of CGI is that it didn’t stop us; we could continue to create wonderful content because we didn’t need to see anybody.
Laura: Or go on a shoot with a crew of 50 people in a set build?
Charis: (Yes). We were quite agile in that way
Laura: We did find that other brands were asking us to do some more outdoor work that we wouldn’t normally do because they can’t get on a flight to South Africa. So yes, CGI did have its advantages there massively during the pandemic.
Laura: So, in 2023, we’re on the touchline of a recession. Is that having an impact on your marketing campaigns? Is the cost of living, and the news, is that something you are noticing with customers?”
Charis: We are really lucky that the home will always remain an important thing for consumers to continue to invest in because it makes us feel good when we’re at home. To be surrounded, and again, it’s a safe space.
I think the recession is a factor, and yes, the cost of living. Media inflation as well is a concern. But again, going back to data, we’re being really, really specific about what we spend and where we spend it to make sure that we are driving that return, being really efficient and really careful. We’re not turning any lights off; we need to keep going. The strongest brands do survive recessions. We know that from the last one, so it’s about keeping the brand strong and keeping the morale high across the business too.
Going back to the stories and the beautiful content we create, it does energise the team, and so it’s really important that marketing keeps going. We’re a beacon of light all the way through, and we’ll stay strong throughout.
Laura: So, on to the future, what does the future look like? Have you got any exciting initiatives that you can share with us? Obviously, the summer launch is on the 28th of May, did you say? That’s next week, my 40th birthday; we’ll cut that bit out!
Charis: We’ve got our summer campaign launching, and there’ll be some new colours that we’re adding to our range; two of which are going into Sophie Robinson’s, a well-known interior design expert, kitchen, which is really exciting. In fact, the kitchen has been delivered today, so we’re all super excited about that, another proud moment.
There are lots of partnerships coming up throughout the year. We’re working with a local brand called Dowsing and Reynolds; they’re Leeds-based, as we are. They sell lots of products, the finishing touches, I would say, like switches and sockets, that kind of thing.
We’re working with The Founders, designing a kitchen for them, and it’s quite a challenging brief, so that’s quite an interesting design story coming up. Watch this space; there’ll be more new products to come.
Laura: It’s all systems go, which means more workshops, more partnership meetings, more stuff for us to get our teeth into too.
Are there any kind of tech trends that you’re into at the moment or anything that you’re particularly looking at or excited about?
Charis: AI is the big one, and it’s a bit scary for me. There are mixed views, aren’t there? I was talking to somebody last night actually, and he was saying he thinks it’s actually really good and it will help with productivity. He’s right, you know. I did have a dabble, not for work, mind you. I had a dabble, and I thought, gosh, this is really scary. But you can never replace what the human can bring in creativity or having context or, to be honest, emotion.
Laura: Or that light bulb idea when you’re driving back from dance? Or when we’re sitting in a room?
Charis: That’s it. An emotional connection is something that, certainly at Magnet, we’ve strived to have across our marketing, and that’s like a running thread. Our brand campaign last year featured an owl, with the analogy being that an owl is beautifully designed as a creature fit for its environment. A really kind face shaped like a heart is so beautiful but also really functional as well, just like a Magnet kitchen is.
That emotional connection will always be the thing that consumers buy into when they’re choosing which brands to buy from.
Laura: Similar to Christmas adverts that supermarkets and retailers do because it’s not about the product they’re selling; it is about conveying emotion to the consumer. You’re absolutely right.
As a senior female marketing manager, what advice would you give your younger self and other women in the industry who are looking to develop their careers?
Charis: I think, again, it’s probably where the “be true to yourself” stands. I also believe in you’ve got to work hard. I think anybody needs to work hard, whatever your identity, but actually, be true to who you are, and that, at the end of the day, will always come out on top. It will win, and people respect that.
I think, so long as you can maintain your integrity and always be respected in the workplace, that will, you know, pay dividends in the end, and you will grow. I think, work hard, believe in what you do, bring your heart to work, and have fun. I’ve always had values that I bring with me every day, and so far, so good.
Laura: Absolutely. You’ve ended it talking about how much you love it, and you’ve started it talking about how much you love your role!
Charis: I didn’t plan that!
Laura: Full circle, it fits like a glove. Thank you. We’re going to end with something fun. I’m going to ask you three fun questions not based on marketing.
Charis, if you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring and why?
Charis: This is one of those questions where I should say something really cool, but, you know, if I was on a desert island, I know for a fact I’d burn, so I’d need some cream. I’d need a pillow so I could sleep well. Oh gosh, water? It’s really boring, probably blusher, actually.
Laura: Oh yeah, a bit of blusher to make the red look a bit brown?
Okay, would you rather travel to a time in the past or a time in the future?
Charis: I’d probably go to the future, actually. I’d be curious to know what the future holds, as long as I can come back as well. If I didn’t like what I saw, I could try and change a few things, but yeah, I’d go to the future.
Laura: And finally if there was only one food that you had to eat every day for the rest of your life what would it be?
Charis: It just has to be pizza, with all the veg, all the chilli, all the garlic, just pile it all on!
Laura: Charis, you’ve been great! We really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for coming over, and it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Charis: Thank you, thank you so much. It’s been fab, I loved it!
Laura: Loved it, loved it, thank you.
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