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Watch Kenyatte Nelson, CMO of Shop Direct, and Neil Henderson, CEO of St Luke’s CEO on stage together. Together they tell the story of transforming Shop Direct to a brand-led organisation.

Learn how they reset the brand agenda at the Very brand, transforming from one with an almost purely transactional relationship with customers to one that they loved.

Alternatively, if you’re short on time you can also watch a 3-minute interview with them.

Key Learnings

Find out:

The opportunity and challenges
The customer insight
A brand that deals with the awareness challenge
Executing the strategy
Creating shared ownership
Measurement and results

Neil and Kenyatte’s presentation tells the story of how Shop Direct created a new brand to help transform their 90-year-old business into a market-beating, pureplay, online business. A brand that has grown into a £1.2 billion business in just seven years.  In today’s world tech is powering change, but the need for brand stories that capture peoples imagination has not gone away.

Context for the story

Very is the youngest brand in its competitive set, which includes players such as Argos, ASOS and IKEA.

  • At its simplest, the brand is exactly the same as its sister brand Littlewoods. The same demographic, same products and same delivery service.  There is a slightly different financial model, but apart from that brand is the only thing that differentiates it from Littlewoods.
  • Littlewoods is over 90 years old. Both Very and Littlewoods sell everything from refrigerators to tech products and clothes. Essentially they are department stores. What makes them different is credit – they are powered by their financial services offer.
  • In 2010 it became obvious that the Littlewoods brand was not in a position to take the business forward. A new brand was required to grow the Shop Direct business. As a result, very was born and launched with Fearn Cotton and Holly Willoughby. Littlewoods was moved to a state of managed decline.
  • Kenyatte was brought on board soon after to create growth from branded communications.

The opportunities and challenges

  • Very had previously been growing through financial services promotions. Kenyatte wanted to create a stronger brand, which would drive growth without having to lower the price point.
  • There were three challenges to overcome: company truth, product truth and audience truth. St Luke’s were the incumbent agency and their long experience of the brand meant that they were ideally placed to tackle them
  • Very’s product is complicated – a mix of a retailer and a bank, which is a difficult combination, but also one which gives them their competitive advantage – detailed data not only on their customers’ shopping habits but on how they pay for things.
  • Finding the ‘company truth’ required a partner who could help us to articulate the proposition in a way that was authentic and genuine.
  • They needed to get to the bottom of the ‘audience truth’ – their customers’ motivations.
  • This was more than just a lick of paint. Not just a new campaign, but a total brand platform – driving growth on the one hand and inspiring employees and stakeholders on the other. A brand agenda.

The customer insight

  • The Very audience has three selves. First, the ‘actual self’, weighed down by the demands of everyday life. Then the ‘hoped for self’ an aspirational vision. And finally and the ‘feared for self’, unable to reach aspirational goals perhaps because of financial restraints. Our customer had high https://clomidonlinepct.com expectations, but life demands created a gap. That gap creates stress which is fuelled by a shortage of resources such as energy, inspiration and financial flexibility.
  • Very offers inspiration in the form of a product our customer desires, and creates accessibility through both a seamless online customer experience and flexible and payment options. Essentially Very closes that gap.
  • The agenda-setting idea used to express this was “Getting more out of every day”. Transforming Very from a brand that was all about selling stuff, to one that about inspiration.

Creating a brand that would create awareness

  • The brand had a big problem with awareness, partly because unlike many of their retail competitors they didn’t have stores.
  • At the height of Christmas campaign for Very, their audience have 40 opportunities to see the brand, but if it doesn’t stand out it’ll get lost. Those opportunities were not just traditional ads. They ran the gamut of communications from fashion posts, PR coverage, SMS messages, e-commerce and so on. All of it was on digital screens, all of it potentially on the move.
  • So, Very was as much of a content provider as a retailer. They looked to the broadcasters as examples of businesses that combined brand and content really well. We started our work on the brand with this front of mind.

Executing the strategy

  • They knew that customers liked the pink and square with retro type fo the Very logo. They needed to put this at the heart of the communication and make it more than a logo
  • The moving version of the logo exemplifies the train of thought. The square shifts perspective to become a box, and the box becomes a delivery box. This wasn’t going to be a static cube – like the broadcasters logos it would have a life all of its own.
  • As a pureplay, online brand Very could authentically make delivery central to the brand in this way
  • It is a box, so you can literally ‘get more out of it’.

Creating shared ownership of a brand agenda

The third part of the jigsaw was about complete shared ownership. You can always tell when there’s a great idea in the room because people start to snowball with it. And that is what happened with the Very cube

The process of co-creation, shareholder engagement and the adherence to customer and business truths, meant that the whole business was onboard. So much so that executions of the cube started appearing on Very’s first branded products, in the office spaces and on internal communications. Kenyatte is keen to emphasise that this was not controlled by him. The different business units did this on their own. The idea ‘belonged’ to them in a very real sense.

Measurement and results


Since the cube launched:

  • spontaneous awareness almost doubled
  • In 2016  they exceeded the prompted awareness of Next


  • The number of people that would definitely or probably shop at Very increased from one in ten in 2014, to one in three in 2017


  • Record profit and sales growth over the last five years

Stakeholder perceptions:

  • Five hundred brand partners have joined the brand. Many are brands like Jigsaw or Bose, who previously did not see Shop Direct as an appropriate retail partner
  • Employee engagement has improved hugely and is close the point of being considered best in class

“Just what the industry needs, great collaboration between clients and agencies on the topics that drive business growth.”

Bridget Angear, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO

“It’s great to see the IPA in the UK bring the whole industry and particularly the trade bodies together to focus on effectiveness. This new Marketing Effectiveness initiative will enable people across the industry to work together to build on best practice.”

David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS

“Effectiveness is a team sport, so it was great to see the industry in the widest sense, come together. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, only by using all parts of the brain will we solve effectiveness challenges and design our campaigns to deliver short and long term value. That’s why what happens next is important – if the IPA can help facilitate progress on this with a long-term initiative around Marketing Effectiveness, we’ll definitely crack it.”

Bart Michels, Global CEO Kantar Added Value and Country Leader Kantar UK

“The time spent at #EffWeek was extraordinarily effective. It was great to hear the diverse views from all areas of the industry. All tied together with the common themes of accountability and effectiveness.”

Andrew Canter, Global CEO, BCMA

“It has been a privilege to be part of the inaugural Effectiveness Week. The agenda is one which we at O2 UK feel passionately about. To see and hear perspectives across the industry demonstrates how the breadth of marketing effectiveness is increasingly being valued within businesses. Data, insight, social, customer experience, test and learn, ROI, these are all fundamentals and were covered expansively at the event”.

Sandra Fazackerley, Marketing & Consumer, Telefónica UK Limited

“The full week of effectiveness events brought into clear focus the need for marketers to use data and insight to achieve the key business objectives of growth and profits. Marketers today are in a better position to quantify their knowledge of customers and measure the ability of investments in marketing to increase brand and shareholder value.”

Chris Combemale, Group CEO, DMA