Google, Grazia, and Loren

Last week I was lucky enough to grab a ticket to the Grazia Google Food for Thought event, in which a number of influential women who have recently taken the food industry by storm shared their thoughts and experiences on how digital has transformed the way we cook, eat and create food brands and businesses in 2016. Food, technology, awesome speakers, bubbles AND a chance to hang out at Google? What’s not to love about that!

The panel line up was impressive, and Google’s Head of Marketing Nishma Robb clearly took delight in sharing the stage with Grazia’s Deputy Editor Caroline Barrett before introducing our fabulous foodies Madeline Shaw, Uyeen Luu and Romina Chiappa who were being put through their paces by Sky TV’s Sarah-Jane Mee. A stage full of inspirational women who are each running successful businesses built around their genuine passion for making great food, and who have used the ever-evolving technological landscape to their advantage to grow and nourish a loyal fanbase which most brands would sell their grannies for.

There’s no denying it, they all agreed, that today’s dinner table has changed- from the food and drink we place on it, to the way in which we behave when we’re sat there. We seek recipe inspiration online not only in the form of typical lists and instructions, but photos, vlogs and video tutorials guide us through the process like a digital sous chef. We take photos of the food we eat, and swiftly upload to a multiple of online channels (after a heavy dose of cropping, filtering and hashtagging). We even painstakingly input every crumb we consume into our meal tracker apps and record our calorie consumption on our fitbits.

From TV, to apps, to blogs, to social media to YouTube Channels, these ladies have truly harnessed the power of all things digital. They’re helping to lead the way and define the forefront of what’s ‘in’ when it comes to what and how we eat, educating and inspiring the masses with their accessible and personal approaches to delicious food. Technology has propelled them into the limelight, and given them the opportunity to share their recipes, techniques and of course photos of their daily offering of #whatIatetoday with the world.

It’s easy to question whether, in the age of all things digital, something more traditional like a paperback cookbook even has a place anymore? It was a firm YES from our panel, “I’m buying more cookbooks than I’ve ever bought before” exclaimed Sarah-Jane; and she’s right. There’s something very satisfying about a physical curation of beautiful and exciting cookbooks organised elegantly on a shelf, showcasing the breadth of your knowledge and discernment when it comes to food- because let’s face it, even if it’s not digital, it’s still all about social currency right?

Our tech savvy ladies had some advice for brands, and other entrepreneurs seeking to harness the power of technology to reach out to the world- regardless of whether your mission is food focused or not:

  • “Each social media platform speaks a different language”, videos on Instagram SHOULD be different to videos on Youtube, as each serves a specific purpose and demographic so content needs to be developed with this in mind.
  • “Be truthful to your original values”, people see straight through you, and will quickly discard you if it doesn’t seem genuine, staying true to a purpose/ message/ idea is vital and whilst growth is important, retaining authenticity is more so.
  • “Plan carefully where and when to post”, who are you trying to speak to? What will they be doing right now? When are they most receptive, and in what arena? These are the questions you need to know the answers to.
  • “Connect with your audience”, you exist at the mercy of those who read your posts. Be understanding and receptive of their comments, and interact on a personal level to
  • “Never stop seeking inspiration yourself”, our panellists all had a plethora of other inspirational digital foodies who they aspire to be like themselves. They’re certainly not resting on their laurels, and they very clearly LOVE what they do, and continue to find ways to grow individually.

Technology has drastically changed the way in which people can (and do!) pursue success. It’s created a multitude of platforms for “the average joe” to communicate their thoughts and ideas far and wide, gaining traction with a captivated audience far quicker than in the past. Last year saw infamous YouTuber PewDiePie appear on the Forbes Rich List, and I’m sure the names of more riders of the digital wave will join him as time goes on.

A nice slice of infographics

We’re often under pressure from our clients to produce visually sophisticated, inspiring, outputs. We also internally push ourselves to produce work that is visually impressive, contemporary and will stand out against other agencies. So, attending a Breakfast Bites on the art of infographics was a no brainer.

The course was run by Rachel Cox, Senior Research Manager at Relish and infographic expert. The purpose of the session was to help us learn to think in a more visual way and ultimately discover the essence of a good infographic…I’m told this is information represented in a way that can be quickly and clearly understood without getting bogged down in all the detail! Rachel taught us three key elements to keep in mind when creating an infographic – design, data and story all of which must always be of equal measure.

We were shown some examples of creatively engaging infographics – whilst extremely inspired I did have doubts as to how I could feasible replicate something of this level design. We all know that time is a luxury when it comes to chart writing. After an analysis session we head straight to our default device, so Powerpoint in my case, where we mess around with the shapes in the hope of being inspired to create a slide that’s visually pleasing whilst clearly illustrating the insights.

According to Rachel, it’s unsurprising we struggle to come up with visual narratives that genuinely bring to life the points we are trying to make. Instead, we should be starting our creative journey with pencil to paper – it is the creative evolution through drawing that allows you to craft a powerful infographic. It is at this point you turn to Powerpoint to exemplify the idea …no wonder it’s felt like hard work up until now!

We put the idea to the test and I can tell you first hand it really works! In groups we were given a topic, in my case Wedding suits, along with several charts abstracted from a debrief deck. Using the slides we were tasked to condense the findings into one simple essence – a visual metaphor. Although harder than anticipated – coming up with ideas as a group is a productive method. It got me thinking, in our analysis sessions we should be challenging each other and working together as a team to sum up ideas visually more often. This way we can help train our minds to think in a more visual way.

But do we challenge ourselves enough – are we always crafting the most engaging and relevant work through incorporating a more visual narrative? We are already good at providing clients with fancy one-pager take aways but could we be doing more to condense our findings through the power of infographics. Not only will this push us to decipher what the most important insights are but will also help us tell a clear and coherent story. This way we can step out of the PowerPoint comfort zone and use stand alone infographic pieces to actively engage our clients.

Sharper Thinking? Definitely.

I love it when Steve (my Razor co-founder) surprises me.  Over one of our Monday morning coffees last year he suggested it was time to launch a new website and alongside it, relaunch our positioning.  Jiminy.  8 months later, it’s happened.  Launched, bedded in and now we’re all on board with Sharper Thinking.

It sounds SO obvious right?  We’re called Razor, of course Sharper Thinking is what we stand for.  I look back now at the various punning stories we’ve woven into what we deliver – cutting through, cutting edge, cutting to the chase and wonder why it took us so long to narrow our philosophy down to two snappy words.

The truth is, like many brands, you get stuck in your own initial ‘reason to believe’ and you don’t always take the time to introspect.  We had our 5 core values, our mission, our vision. We spend time each year discussing these with the team and making sure they are embedded in everything we do.  But in our 8 years of business and residual love for our first website we never quite got around to challenging the over-arching expression of ourselves.  

The agency we selected (Big Brand Ideas – they’re ace) not only designed our beautiful website and evolved our logo but they challenged us from the start.  They were briefed to evolve us, not just our look and feel.  They took the time to understand our business (even before we commissioned them), they immersed themselves in our world and they helped us craft the new expressions of ourselves.  I’m not convinced we would have worked so hard or so effectively, without them.

To the outsider, our new website is probably ‘just a website’.  Our evolved logo is ‘just a bit different’.  The response from our clients and friends has been positive and we look back at our old ‘us’ and think it all looks so old-fashioned – overnight.  We feel instantly more grown up, more professional and more in tune with what our clients really want.   The process and the results have provided us with a whack of oxygen, a reason to talk about ourselves more confidently and a new impetus to get out there and talk Razor.  We’ve always delivered it but now we really believe we look the part.  That’s Sharper Thinking.