An interview with Chris Donnelly, Verb Brands Founder & Managing Director
As a partner of the Luxury Communication Council, Meltwater had the pleasure of catching up with its founder, Rosie Shephard to hear exclusive insights from council member Verb Brands. Here’s what Verb Brands Founder and Managing Director, Chris Donnelly, had to say during an inspiring Q&A on the future of digital marketing.
Tell us about Verb Brands
Verb Brands is a full-service digital agency that focuses on delivering bespoke digital strategies for luxury brands. Founded in 2011, the agency has grown from an ambitious university project to the team of 50+ that it is today. Our services include the design and development of customer-centric websites and mobile applications, while also delivering SEO, PPC and social media management.
Is there a particular new tool or discipline that you’re particularly excited about?
I’ve been hearing a lot about the percentage of voice searches increasing to 50% of the global browsing searches by 2020. I believe it may be a bit excessive, but it is clearly something to be excited about, highlighting an area for potential investment from an innovation point of view.
What are the top three trends you’re seeing more of in digital marketing?
Personalisation is the number one trend for the luxury sector and digital technology. It can be used to massively gain a great level of connection with consumers. The key to digital marketing is achieving that unique connection, creating a sense of community whilst making technology less and less noticeable. Whether it’s retail, hospitality or any other luxury sectors, our aim is to gather as much data as possible to better understand consumer behaviour and to be able to deliver a unique proposition with that information in mind.
The second one is the new phase of search. The results from search engine queries are ever evolving and present a far more intelligent and personalised response than ever before. This is thanks to the demands of users. There’s no longer need to type in a long question and scroll through an extensive list of potential options.
“Users now search using their voice and expect search engines to know what they’re looking for after just one or two words.”
Examples include the rise of searches such as ‘near me’ or ‘where to buy’.
The third one is the extension of online shopping channels. Brands have to be more and more strategic when it comes to choosing which luxury online retailer to partner with. If you sell luxury handbags, do you want to be on Amazon? Do they have a shoppable Instagram feed? Or would you rather have the best-in-class eCommerce site?
What are you seeing as less relevant? E.g. blogs – are they still relevant?
I believe traditional blogs are perceived as less relevant than a few years ago, however, blogging has developed as a digital marketing channel in the past few years, expanding onto platforms such as Instagram which has arguably accelerated the channel. One of the main differences is the change from the classic ‘blogger’ to ‘influencer‘ or ‘Instagrammer’. However, let’s not forget that blogging allows for brand validations. Peer validations have become one of the most important assets for a company, translating into trusted online reviews, influencer marketing and google rankings.
“If you’re not recommended, you don’t exist anymore.”
What is everyone talking about in the social media space?
Instagram – and it’s no surprise. Instagram is the social media channel with the most momentum currently and the most dramatic updates with shoppable content and IGTV. We have seen the platform cannibalising its competitor’s features, like stories (from Snapchat), and I’m very curious to see how and whether IGTV will take over YouTube in the near future. I was reading the other day that people like to use no more than four apps on their phone. If you count Whatsapp, Instagram, Google Maps and your bank… that makes it all!
Is there a luxury brand example you can give us that you think does their digital marketing exceptionally well?
One of my favourites is Soho House. It’s the perfect combination of a luxury hospitality brand forming a close connection to its consumers, feeling exclusive, young and active on social media without being invasive.
“The most important element is to understand who your target it is.”
What are their interests? What do they like to read? What do they do in their spare time? Based on insights, supply them with great quality content that they can enjoy and relate to your brand. From a retail perspective, I’ve always admired Burberry’s capacity to engage with their audience through storytelling.
What are the common pitfalls of digital marketing?
Confusing being personable with being invasive.
There’s nothing worse than feeling that a brand is stalking you. Another pitfall to avoid is not understanding which channels you should invest on. Why are you on Snapchat when your target audience is over 35? This is a common example but can be applied to any digital marketing strategy.