When lockdown struck, a culture of innovation and collaboration was the only way forward. Brands like Heineken, PUMA and Renault were able to plug into a programme that put mental health and motivation at the centre of its offering.
Simon Ward, founder and CEO of tech-led marketing company Team ITG which created the Stronger Together programme for its clients, reveals how it worked – and what it ignited.
Where we began
Covid has been the biggest challenge imaginable for any business, not just in terms of performance and turnover; it’s caused every organisation to question their culture – who they are and what they stand for.
Our focus on wellbeing didn’t kickstart when the pandemic hit; we’ve been looking after each other for years. But when the world locked down, we recognised that wrapping our arms around our people and partners wasn’t just a nice to have – it was an absolute necessity.
Just like with our technology and services, we know that one size doesn’t fit all. We’re all unique and what support means for one person would be completely different for the next. That’s why, with Stronger Together, we wanted to create an inspiring, robust and far-reaching support programme of events, industry speakers and other initiatives and communications that not only our Team ITGers could benefit from, but everyone we collaborate with.
So, as the world ground to a halt, we turbo-charged our output, putting “Wellbeing and Inspired Thinking” at the centre of it all.
Created for “the other pandemic”
Taking care of each other comes above everything else and mental health has been referred to as “the other pandemic”. We have been close partners of the mental health charity, Mind, for many years and are signatories to its ‘Time to Change’ pledge.
It's important to us that Stronger Together is a support programme for everyone: that’s why diversity has been so important. We’ve launched a whole variety of initiatives in all different formats, because what might resonate with one person might not be as engaging to the next.
Practise what you preach
Remedial support is one thing, but for us, actions speak louder than words in alleviating peoples’ worries.
Gyms closed? Let’s jump up and down together at 8am every morning, with online fitness and yoga classes from our in-house trainers. Masks now mandatory? No worries, we’ve sent you some masks that we’ve had specially made. Merry Christmas – enjoy this cake and gift package; there’s an advent calendar and activities in there for the kids, plus some wellbeing numbers to call if you need someone to talk to.
Covid is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s been important for us to build the momentum with small steps that make a massive difference.
Hundreds of people tune into our weekly wellbeing webinars and podcasts, hosted by professional coaches and counsellors. We’ve reduced all hour-long meetings to 50 minutes, encouraged screen-free lunch breaks and have put a stop to weekend emails. Individuals are not just employees, but people with “real” lives, a family and much more important stuff going on – and we celebrate that.
Collaboration sparks insight
Stronger Together is all about collaboration. We’ve really leaned into our culture in this programme: we are true partners to our clients – working side by side with each other to reach what is needed, rather than what might be seen as the “answer” on the surface.
This meant that not only did we extend open access to our initiatives to our clients, but we actively got them in on the mix, having the conversations with them, rather than at them.
We invited our partners to join Think Tank workshops with our strategic experts – debating, thinking out loud and sparking inspired ideas about how to navigate challenges and come out stronger.
And all of this has been underpinned by the valuable insights gained from our super-fast consumer research service. We’ve been helping our partners gauge customer sentiment to make better informed decisions about next steps by running our own rapid-fire focus groups, which has been fantastically received.
Inspired events on a global scale
Putting the imaginations of amazing thinkers and do-ers on hold for a year just wasn’t going to cut it. We wanted to inspire and motivate people during what could be seen as a bleak and grey time, so we called on some of the world’s greatest inspirers.
Astronaut Major Tim Peake came in to share his experiences of ‘The Ultimate Lockdown’: life in outer space. He was joined by Stevie Spring CBE and Paul Farmer, chairman and CEO of Mind, opening up discussions about mental health and the impact of isolation – and treated us to some of his incredible photos and stories from the International Space Station!
Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, joined us for an open and engaging discussion around ‘Opportunity from adversity’ – how brands can strengthen themselves in times of crisis. She doesn’t hold back and so many of our global clients found her advice around redefining their roles and rebuilding strategies for a post-Covid world totally invaluable.
Our final guest speaker was an innovator in all senses. Duncan Wardle, former head of innovation and creativity at Disney, gave us an interactive and off-the-wall session that got us all to think differently about the creative process, both on a personal level and professionally.
Proof is in the difference
Over 25,000 people worldwide tuned into our Inspired Events series. The response so far has been truly humbling, over 32,000 people have visited our Stronger Together website in just 10 weeks – a mind-blowing result!
Our people always get 100% behind our initiatives, wherever they are based in the world, and it’s been fantastic to see this same level of support from our partners too.
Feedback has been incredible; whether it’s from our colleagues, clients, businesses or the schools we invite along, we see and hear on a daily basis the difference that Stronger Together is making to peoples’ work and home lives.
Ultimately, this programme has ignited imaginations and united us all, even though we’re physically miles and even oceans apart. Proving that putting people first really does make us stronger together.
Opportunity from adversity: Mary Portas
Capitalism needs a reset, retail guru Mary Portas told the audience of clients and employees who dialled in to Team ITG’s Inspired Event, part of its Stronger Together programme for its clients and employees across the world.
The model needs to be made more sustainable and human, she said, given that 77% of consumers now say they value decency in business as much as price and convenience.
Portas was talking with British Council chairman Stevie Spring CBE about plucking opportunity from adversity and how brands need to redefine their roles and rebuild their strategies to remain relevant in a post-Covid world.
Businesses will eventually be measured by their ability to meet our human needs, rather than just by their profits, she warned. The task facing big, establishment brands now is to just start. Doing something to be more human will “nibble” its way into a business, she suggested, and so begin the process of change.
The past 12 months have witnessed a shift to “the kindness economy”, Portas told viewers. It started before COVID, with people taking a greater interest in issues of environmentalism, the Me Too movement and social justice, and is a sign of what we can expect to continue well after the pandemic.
Team ITG partners with some of the world’s biggest brands – Virgin Media, Co-op, Dixons Carphone and over 100 more – improving the efficiency of their marketing operations through its highly-automated and intelligent modular multichannel system, CanopyCloud, which is built to simplify, automate and create marketing campaigns.