What I’ve learned from launching a new brand during a pandemic
Zone’s senior delivery manager Bethan Broadbent reflects on how a ‘one team’ approach helped us bring ZENB to the UK market during these unprecedented times…
In June 2020, right in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zone helped to launch a new brand, ZENB, to the UK market.
ZENB is an exciting food brand which is focused on moving food culture forward by developing plant-powered products. It is also passionate about helping to raise awareness of food waste and inspire change within the food system. ZENB currently has three products on the market: Veggie Sticks, Veggie Bites and Yellow Pea Pasta, and works on a subscription/online purchase (D2C) business model.
Zone and ZENB started working together in 2018. By December 2019, we had a launch campaign plan in motion that we were due to launch in June 2020. However when Covid-19 hit, like all businesses, both Zone and ZENB saw enormous change and we had to adapt to ensure the launch was still a success.
Reflecting on the experience a year on, here are the things that I learnt and I hope these will resonate with others:
We’ve all had changes to our home and work life. Some people suddenly had children at home, or elderly relatives. Our commitments changed and we had to learn to be flexible. Zone and ZENB have always had a very much ‘one team’ approach, and therefore understanding this from both sides was crucial. Having the flexibility within the team in terms of working hours and what was achievable was so important. We had to accept that not everyone could be in every conversation and we had to accept different ways of working….but this was OK! Being flexible was crucial and something I hope we continue to take forward.
Behaviours of our target market suddenly changed. Our first launch plan had included cross-platform advertising and billboard ads — we had to adapt and rethink our strategy and plan for the launch. More than ever, our new product was going to tap into the behaviours we were seeing more and more: food delivery, focus on being outdoors (perfect excuse to take a snack!) and trying new things to help relieve us from the daily grind. Also, as digital is at the heart of what we do, we knew we had the right skills and knowledge to turn our campaign purely digital, refocusing our efforts on other channels such as VOD.
Regular communication when working remotely is key. We introduced daily stand-ups with our team and clients, and got our clients on Slack so our team could quickly chat/ask questions, which all helped with ensuring we could remain at pace. I took the opportunity to improve my active listening skills — it’s so easy to get distracted on Zoom/Teams calls with your phone and emails, so taking the time to stop and properly listen to what someone was telling me was really important. Also knowing and assessing the right form of communication to take — is this an email or would a call be better? Does this require everyone joining a Zoom call, or would a quick Slack message be sufficient?
Work closely with partners
Zone collaborated, and still does, with Tin Man (PR) and McCann (Paid) for the brand launch. We had to learn how to work a lot closer together to move quickly and replan the launch. This meant less of a reliance on the clients to facilitate conversations and taking more ownership. ZENB is a new brand and therefore a lot of inter-agency processes didn’t exist — we had to build the processes as we went along. We now have very good relationships with our other agency partners and hopefully this will continue to build and develop as the brand does.
Don’t be afraid to push back. We should be striving and pushing our teams for success, however we have to know when to push back and when we need to protect our teams and the health of the project. When we first started working remotely, our ability to move quickly was definitely stunted. We had to learn how to do things differently — we had to re-resource teams, look at our ways of working and this all took time. We had to recognise that our ability to work at the same pace and in the same way had to change and this ultimately had an impact on our project. However we’ve now adapted and I think our ways of working have improved for the better.
Checking in with each other
At Zone, mental health is something that we’re very committed to. And by having Mental Health First Aiders and Champions, the conversation is very present in our ways of working. This was key in helping us work together successfully as a team. Yes, the work is important, but so is our health. We were all conscious of supporting and looking out for each other, whether this was through team health checks, in our stand ups, 1:1s etc and daily reminders to take regular breaks. Our clients were also (and still are) amazing at checking in with our team and regularly asked how we were doing. This sense of kindness during this crazy time helped us work better together as we were more aware of how we were all feeling.
We should always celebrate our successes but I think now, more than ever, we really need to make time for this. We’ve survived this weird time. We’ve delivered amazing work. We’re still talking to each other 😉 We need to celebrate the big wins as well as the little wins. This is the way we learn and grow and move forward — make the time for it!