News

Cath Keers, the former Chair of Tesco Mobile, is to become Chief Marketing Officer at Sage.
 
Keers has been a non-executive director of Sage since 2017, and as a result of the move, she will step down from the company’s board.
 
As CMO, she will report to CEO Steve Hare and be responsible for the North East group’s global strategy and governance. This will span marketing, brand, communications, events, digital channels and marketing operations.
“Cath brings extensive executive experience of the small business market and customer-centric marketing. She shares our passion for helping our customers succeed, and finding new ways to solve their pain points, as demonstrated through both her non-executive work with start-ups and her time on Sage’s Board,” said Hare.
 
“This, combined with our shared belief in our vision of becoming a great SaaS company for customers and colleagues alike, makes her a great addition to the Executive Committee.”
 
Keers has also held senior executive roles at BT Group, O2 and non-executive positions at TalkTalk, Bupa and Funding Circle Holdings plc.
 
“As businesses navigate these uncertain times and adapt to the new context, there is no better time to join a company like Sage which shares my passion for supporting small and medium businesses and delivering the best results for customers,” she said.
 
“I look forward to overseeing Sage’s brand and customer marketing as we continue to evolve the business, building on strong relationships with customers as we support them for the journey ahead.”

She will take up the role on 8th September.

New research has revealed millions of consumers are spending more money than usual on their homes as a result of lockdown, with 75 per cent of Brits planning further improvements over the next year, including decorating, kitchens, bathrooms and extensions.
 
The data provides reassurance that despite the coronavirus, there are still lucrative opportunities for businesses in the home interiors sector. However, the research also discovered that even though the UK is easing its way out of lockdown, almost half of people who want to view items for their home in person are concerned about going to the shops.
 
Instead, they’re more likely to turn to social media for interiors inspiration before choosing which businesses to buy from, with YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest among the preferred channels, but with home interiors magazines and brand websites proving popular too.
 
The research, which questioned over 2,000 consumers and was commissioned by home interiors marketing agency Unhooked Communications, found 72 per cent of people have bought new interiors products for their home over the last two months. The most popular items include wallpaper or paint (22 per cent), kitchen utensils or cooking items (21 per cent), and tools (16 per cent).
 
Over two-fifths (42 per cent) said they’re investing more in their home in 2020 because they have spent less money day-to-day due to lockdown. More than a third (36 per cent) said because they aren’t going on holiday this year, so are instead splashing more cash on home improvements.
 
For the three-quarters of consumers planning home improvements over the next 12 months, two fifths (39 per cent) want to redecorate at least one room, a quarter want to landscape the garden, 14 per cent want a new bathroom, and more than one in ten (11 per cent) want a new kitchen. With more people working remotely, a further one in ten said they want to create a home office.
 
While 45 per cent have concerns about going to the shops to make their home improvement plans a reality, there are other considerations shoppers face when it comes to choosing which home interiors retailers to buy from.
 
Compared to 12 months ago, over half (54 per cent) said they’re more likely to want to support local businesses and 44 per cent said they’re more concerned about the cost of products and services for their home. However, two thirds stated they’re happy to pay more for items if they are good quality and last longer than cheaper items. On top of that, nearly half (46 per cent) said it’s important to buy from sustainable businesses that reduce their impact on the environment.
 
When it comes to choosing local home interiors retailers and suppliers, over half (55 per cent) rely on recommendations or reputation; a half (50 per cent) make their decision based on cost, and 40 per cent want to see proof of previous work and case studies. Over a third (34 per cent) want to be assured the retailer will deliver the products or the work within a certain timeframe, just over a fifth (22 per cent) want to work with businesses that offer a broad range of services or products, and 19 per cent take into consideration any added value services or extra support the businesses are able to offer.
 
Claire Gamble, managing director of Unhooked Communications, which carried out the research, said: “We know from speaking to our clients and contacts in the home interiors industry that many have started to see a rise in sales and enquiries as people are spending more time at home and are looking to improve their spaces. With our research showing that many consumers are planning further home improvements over the coming months, these are promising signs for the sector.
 
“But understandably, some people have concerns about visiting shops and showrooms, so it’s no surprise 42 per cent of those questioned said they prefer to search online for inspiration and information more now than they may have 12 months ago. While we know retailers and other specialist home interiors businesses are doing what they can to make shoppers feel safe in store, the sudden changes to our day-to-day lives and ways of working have emphasised the importance of using digital means to engage with customers.
 
“When it comes to products for the home, consumers often want to see them in person. But with social distancing and limited numbers in stores, home interiors retailers should look at how they can inspire and inform their customers from afar.
 
“Our research shows YouTube, home and interiors brands’ own websites, social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, and home interior magazines are among the preferred channels for consumers when researching trends and products, and these provide a great first platform for businesses to engage with audiences before welcoming them into their shops. As well as using these channels to showcase products and services, it’s also important for businesses to consider the messaging and stories they convey too as we know consumers are looking for sustainable, local businesses that can deliver quality and reliable products and services.”
Holiday cottages in England enjoyed their busiest day ever for bookings after the prime minister gave the go-ahead for a reopening on 4 July – spurring hopes of a staycation boom for an industry battered by coronavirus.
 
Cottages.com, which claims to be the UK’s biggest operator of ‘managed’ cottages, and sister company Hoseasons, best known for its boating holidays and lodges on the Norfolk broads, both said they enjoyed record one-day sales in the wake of the reopening announcement, with bookings coming through at one every 11 seconds.
 
“Year on year sales were up 270% for Hoseasons by the end of the day, with cottages.com reporting a 455% increase as both brands smashed their previous record sales days,” said Simon Altham of parent company Awaze UK.
 
“We were expecting greater levels of interest, but the surge in demand was still surprising and we certainly hadn’t expected a record day. Government confirmation seems to have just given people an extra level of certainty.”
 
In a survey of 2,000 people conducted by the hospitality jobs platform caterer.com, 38% said they were seeking more remote destinations, with the Scottish Highlands proving one of the most popular.
 
In the Scilly Isles, James Francis, co-owner of the Star Castle hotel on the main island St Mary’s, said phones had been ringing “non-stop all through yesterday evening and starting again this morning”. The Scilly Isles, which have had no recorded cases of Covid-19, have been completely cut off from the mainland with both the air and ferry services operating for essential travel only. Francis said the restarting of tourism was “a wonderful dilemma to have” with so much demand but reduced capacity within the hotel.
 
He added that the islands would be particularly quiet this summer as the Skybus flights and Scillonian ferry will both be running a reduced service. “The islands never get crowded – unlike many places on the mainland – even in the height of summer, but this year, we are expecting July to look like spring, in terms of visitor numbers.”
 
Although hoteliers, campsite owners and self-catering businesses in England expressed relief at being able to reopen on 4 July, one hospitality body sounded a note of caution saying that the measures hotels have to put in place may deter people from staying.
 
“Without the ancillary services which people expect, such as the restaurant, bar and spa, hotels are going to struggle to attract custom once the novelty of simply getting away post-lockdown wears off,” said Jane Pendlebury, CEO of Hospa, the Hospitality Professionals Association.
 
The Association of British Travel Agents was also quick to point out that the tourism sector was by no means out of the woods.
 
“The measures [to] allow people to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation, and take domestic holidays from 4 July, is a step in the right direction on the road to restarting travel in earnest,” said a spokesperson.
 
“However, the travel sector remains in a perilous state, with redundancies announced each week, and more needs to be done to help the whole sector recover. We need a more comprehensive roadmap as soon as possible that includes timeframes for relaxing international travel restrictions too, so businesses and customers can plan ahead.”
Butlin's has confirmed all of its resorts will stay closed until July 23.
 
It said it wasn't reopening the parks due to a lack of guidance from the Government on when it can offer live entertainment and reopen its pools.
 
"Guests whose breaks have been affected will receive an email, SMS or letter from Butlin's asking then to complete a form. "For those guests that have breaks booked after the 23 July, we know this is an unsettling time," it said in a statement.
 
"We'd like to assure them that we continue to have discussions around opening very soon and are exploring different ways to bring guests the Butlin's experience we know they are looking forward to.
 
"We will provide all guests with a minimum of 14 days notice if there are any changes to their break and of course they also have the option of our Coronavirus Book with Confidence Guarantee, which allows them to move their break or request a full refund between three and 28 days prior to the arrival date.
 
 
"We know this has been a frustrating time for all, and we thank everyone for their continued patience as we continue to work towards reopening our resorts."
 
Butlin's was the most searched-for holiday brand during the lockdown, according to money.co.uk research.
Channel 4 has announced MoneySuperMarket as the new sponsor of the broadcaster’s network film package ‘Film on 4’.
 
The 12 month, multi-million-pound partnership will see the money saving-service sponsor all films aired across Channel 4, E4, More4 and pre-9pm on Film4, as well the extensive collection available to stream on All 4.
 
The brand’s sponsorship idents will be visible around 2260 films, including this month’s free-to-air UK TV premieres of Film4 Productions’ multi award-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and British comedy The Festival from the BAFTA Award winning creators of The Inbetweeners.
 
The deal was brokered by Channel 4’s in-house Sales team 4Sales and MoneySuperMarket’s media agency MediaCom.
 
The sponsorship idents have been created by creative and marketing agency ENGINE and   feature the star of the brand’s new ad campaign, the Money Calm Bull, in a range of high-jeopardy movie scenarios. Whether he’s in a perilous, antagonising, or just socially awkward situation, the Money Calm Bull remains completely at ease because his bills are under control with MoneySuperMarket.
 
Rupinder Downie, Brand Partnerships Leader, Channel 4 said: “This significant new partnership with MoneySuperMarket includes a fantastic line-up of some of the most popular and well-known movies, right across our portfolio and comes at a time when we are all staying in and watching TV together more. The Money Calm Bull provides our viewers with a new cue that their favourite film is about to start!”
 
Mel Stonier, Head of Brand & Brand Communciations at MoneySuperMarket said: “MoneySuperMarket is committed to helping people reduce financial anxiety by saving money, we believe that when you’re Money Calm, everything else becomes a bit easier to deal with, and our Money Calm Bull epitomises that – he remains unflappable whatever life throws at him. The partnership with Channel 4 will really bring to life the cool-headedness of the Money Calm Bull for the nation as we settle down to watch our favourite films.”
 
A MediaCom spokesperson said: “With the launch of the Money Calm Bull we wanted to find the perfect context to help illustrate the calmness and peace of mind that can be found by getting your bills under control. Positioning the totally unflappable Money Calm Bull up against the drama, emotions and adrenaline of the nations most loved films felt like the perfect partnership.”
Payment brand Klarna is partnering sneaker experts Highsnobiety for a raffle that will use heart-rate technology to select a winner and prevent auto-purchasing by bots.
 
“Heartbeats 4 sneakers” will see five of the past decade’s most sought-after styles raffled off to trainer lovers, who will be approved for entry by their heartbeat. Highsnobiety estimated that close to 100% of traffic on popular releases now come from bots, so the campaign aims to ensure only humans can enter.
 
Consumers’ heart rates will be measured by putting their fingertip on the camera lens of a smartphone or desktop device. Entrants will also have to describe their passion for trainers using emojis.
 
The competition is open to participants in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the US. Entries can be made during 2-6 July through heartbeats4sneakers.com.
As part of this season‘s Pride Collection, Crocs has teamed up with Amsterdam social creative agency Hey Honey for its social media content creation. Hey Honey worked with British artist Josh McKenna to bring the collection to life with a series of playful illustration animations.
 
Josh McKenna is renowned for the original ‘Sashaying’ sticker, London’s Pride Wall and his involvement with Pride and LGBT+ movements.?
 
Josh spoke about the work he did for Crocs: “When I was approached to illustrate this visual for the Crocs Pride activation, I was more than excited to collaborate. I work with many brands on Pride activations every year and as a rule, I only like to work with those who are proactively helping the LGBT+ community.
 
Josh continued: “Crocs’ mantra of encouraging everyone to be comfortable in their own skin/shoes and its messaging, “Come As You Are”, is all about freedom of expression and individuality, just like Pride. A notion I carry through style of illustration and what inspired me to create this artwork for Crocs.”
 
Will Reed, creative director at Hey Honey, said about the collaboration: “Working with Josh was a no-brainer. His work personifies Crocs’ mantra, ‘everyone comfortable in their own shoes’, so we were really excited to collaborate on this project”.
Challenger portal Homesearch has announced its first industry coup after Rob Sargent’s Acorn Group has become its first paying estate agency chain.
 
Acorn’s 36 branches are now fully subscribed and join a plethora of one and two-branch agents who have also signed up to pay for the service, although Homesearch admits it’s some way off persuading the bulk of its 10,000 branches to do the same.
 
“It isn’t just a portal, that’s obvious; there’s a lot more for an agent to gain than just another place to list your instructions,” says Sargent.
 
“We know it will take time for them to build up public traction, but I think they’ve anticipated what UK agents need to not only market their clients homes but also at the same time assist their member agents in stimulating new business.”
 
It is now just over 100 days since Homesearch promised agents it would build a service to rival Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket.
 
Agents can now preview the site, which on 15th July will throw its digital doors open to the public to find their next home using its search engine, which bears a close resemblance to Airbnb’s.
 
Homesearch now says it lists approximately half the level of stock currently on Rightmove or approximately 450,000 properties.
 
“We are thrilled and grateful to Rob and the whole Acorn team for believing so strongly in what we’re aiming to achieve,” says Giles Ellwood, co-founder of Homesearch.
 
Homesearch says its biggest challenge has been persuading the major and minor estate agent CRMs to accept its feed tech without charging them a fortune for the privilege with, so far, mixed results.
 
“I sincerely believe this is the lone reason so many challenger portals have failed. It makes you want to give up at times,” he says.
 
“But we’re excited to hear what you think. The good, the bad, and the ugly will all be listened to.”
 
Agents wondering why the portal’s property pages look so sparse have been reassured by Ellwood, who says that over the coming weeks they will include floor plans, property descriptions and video/virtual tours.
Lactalis UK & Ireland is investing in its award-winning Seriously brand with an innovative new product launch and packaging refresh.
 
New Seriously Nuggets is the brand’s latest launch into the hot cheese category and will be available in Waitrose and Ocado from early July, with further launches planned in other retailers later in the year. In a separate move, the brand is also unveiling a new unified packaging design that will be applied across the entire range.
 
Seriously Nuggets, which will be available in 150g packs containing six tasty nuggets of award-winning cheddar cheese, will have an RRP of £2.50 and is designed to offer consumers a hot cheese product that can be enjoyed at home. High in protein, the new crispy, tangy cheese nuggets are made with real cheddar and will appeal to consumers looking for meat alternatives. They will also offer retailers the opportunity to tap into the Big Night In Occasion, as well as the increasing popularity of convenience foods.
 
Heloise Le Norcy-Trott, Group Marketing & Category Director for Lactalis UK & Ireland, says: “With Seriously performing well in the market with double-digit value sales growth YOY, we wanted to continue to build on this success by introducing yet another exciting hot cheese product. With its Scottish heritage, provoking backstory and a proven track record for bringing successful new products to market, we believe that Seriously Nuggets will be a big hit with both consumers and retailers.
 
“In addition to the launch of Seriously Nuggets, we are also relaunching Seriously’s packaging design. The new look will not only unify the range, but also emphasize the great taste of our products by highlighting that they are all made with the same rich, characterful and tangy award-winning Seriously Cheddar. Both of these developments are part of a wider investment in the Seriously brand and we look forward to sharing more exciting news later in the year.”
Round Midnight, a Birmingham based theatre company has created LINK_UP:Remote PSHE Learning, in response to an invite from Innovate UK for business-led innovation in response to the global disruption caused by COVID-19.
 
Back story:
 
In September 2018, in partnership with BAFTA award winning production company BDH, Round Midnight created VIRTUAL_DECISIONS; an early intervention virtual reality program for young people that explores gang culture, knife crime and anti-social behaviour.
 
By wearing a virtual reality headset, each participant is placed in a realistic scenario where they are faced with multiple dilemmas in which they must make a choice. Each choice results in various outcomes, showing that every action has a consequence.
 
Following the immersive 8 minute VR film, a drama workshop then explores the issues raised in more depth. Through discussions and drama exercises the young people are able to reflect on their own personal journey within the VR and compare it to that of others, making it a user led – and user shared experience.
 
Since its launch in April 2019 Round Midnight & expert facilitators have delivered the VIRTUAL_DECISIONS program to over 1000 young people in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester. The program has also been supported and endorsed by:
  • David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police Crime Commissioner
  • West Midlands Police Violence Reduction Unit and Probation Service
  • The Greater Manchester Magistrates Association
 
Due to their recent success with the Business-led innovation in response to COVID-19 grant from Innovate UK, Round Midnight will be able to continue the important work they do with young people – promoting #KnowledgeThroughExperience.
 
With this grant Round Midnight will be collaborating with experts to research health and wellbeing and what that means for young people, particularly during and in the aftermath of COVID-19. The findings will aid in the development of a new digital platform; LINK_UP [working title].
 
Due to launch in November 2020, LINK_UP will be a platform to “bring people together, to learn
together”
 
by:
  • delivering digitised workshops to secondary schools
  • using live experienced facilitators as avatars
  • Utilising the VIRTUAL_DECISIONS film and its themes
  • combining interactive VR drama with Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) topics
 
Sami Cornick, Development Manager of Round Midnight said, “Since 1992, Round Midnight have specialised in teaching difficult subject areas through Theatre in Education (TIE) performances. We have combined our knowledge of transferable creative methodologies with modern-day technology to develop a unique, cutting edge experience for young people. It is through this experience that young people can explore the world around them in a simulated and safe environment, where they can achieve a greater understanding of themselves and their decisions, in addition to the world around them”.

Virtual_Decisions trailer from BDH on Vimeo.


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