What’s more British than a Raymond Briggs-inspired stop-motion animation that wrenches at your heartstrings like a John Lewis Christmas ad circa 2014? This was the thinking behind B&Q’s “Later means never”, a hand-painted film that tells a heartfelt tale through revealing a disruptive and relatable human truth.
Build a brand
The film, which launched last week, was created with the aim of securing B&Q’s place in the hearts and minds of any homeowner thinking about an "interior" project.
But B&Q’s brand-building exercise started as far back as 2019 when Uncommon Creative Studio took over as its creative agency. With a desire to insert an emotional link back into the brand, in 2020 the pair introduced “Build a life”, a repositioning that was devised to reconnect B&Q with real people. The first work, “We will grow again” (see video below) was an emotive ode to the power and hope that spring brings, after a long and tedious winter lockdown.
“It has become more than a brand campaign,” Chris Graham, marketing director at B&Q, says. “Our employer brand has developed, our approach as a business to our D&I agenda has accelerated, as has our work to support the communities we operate in and fundraise for. In that regard, we are delighted that marketing plays a small part in a much wider team effort.”
And B&Q has the results to prove it, claiming rapid growth in key emotional associations with the brand. Among those who had seen its advertising, the proportion who agreed “B&Q believes everyone can improve their home" increased by 10 points to 80%. And those who believed B&Q "improving your home can make life better" increased by seven percentage points. “Further, we have seen more customers than ever considering B&Q for our category-led work,” Graham says. “It’s clear our message is landing.”
An idea designed to go beyond a single campaign, the latest iteration of “Build a life” continues on the same trajectory but this time focuses specifically on home interiors. “We were looking to increase B&Q’s place in the hearts and minds of any homeowner thinking about an ‘interior’ project – a broad term for indoor projects that involve any mix of paint, wallpaper, flooring, tiling and lighting,” Tobey Duncan, head of planning at Uncommon, says of the thinking behind the “Choose change” positioning.
“B&Q deserves to be one of the iconic brands in this country. Our hope is that by reconnecting B&Q with the truth of its business, we can help it earn a position atop UK culture.”
He explains that “Build a life” was founded on the belief that if our homes are reflections of our lives, then changing our homes is one of the most powerful ways we have to change our lives.
“Looking back, the first two advertising outings for 'Build a life' were quite romantic takes on this story,” he says. “We wanted people to feel the power of home improvement. This time we wanted to shift the focus to the decision point. Change might be progress, but it’s also a choice. So we played at the point where life forks in front of us and lays out options: do we stay still or to move forward?”
To bring this message to life, B&Q and Uncommon worked with mixed media filmmaker Sam Gainsborough through London animation studio Blinkink.
The stop-motion film involved meticulous craft at every stage of production, from hundreds of drawings to develop each character, to puppet-making and curated set design.
The living room was even modelled on B&Q’s interiors range, replicating every exact piece in miniature form.
Gainsborough explains that while his normal process is to come up with a range of ideas to gradually boil down to an essence through development, the team quite quickly arrived at the Raymond Briggs-inspired animation.
“B&Q is all about getting your hands dirty and working with materials. This made it obvious from the offset that stop-motion would be the most appropriate way to create the world. Stop-motion animation also has an innate British charm, which we knew would create the perfect tone for this story,” he says.
Gainsborough adds that once they had the story largely figured out, the team entered a process of storyboarding and started building an animatic. “This is essentially a moving storyboard where we pre-visualise the film and figure out how much time each story beat needs,” he says.
“The overall sequence is developed to make it cinematic and exciting to watch. Simultaneously, we developed the character designs to hone in on the best look for each character. We also work with amazing concept artists to figure out the exact look of the world. Everything you see in the final film has been thought about, designed and made by hand, so a huge amount of thought goes into every aspect.”
The work done in preproduction ended up with Blinkink's art department, which made it all from scratch. The character designs were then transformed into three-dimensional silicone puppets, each sculpted by hand, then painted and brought to life by the animators, one frame at a time.
In the end, Gainsborough says the most important thing was to give as much screen time to Nigel and his family as possible to make sure the character’s journey was at the forefront of the film. This meant some ideas didn’t make it into the final film, such as beautiful clouds of dust shot in macro-photography, sanding wood in stop motion to create animated swirls of wood grain and animated loops from patterns on rugs curtains and cushions.
With B&Q's latest push alive and kicking, what will success look like? “For us, key metrics of success will be a positive shift in interiors category consideration and preference,” Graham says.
“Ultimately, as a retailer, our main metric is always sales and, as a marketing team, we believe that driving consideration of our biggest category among customers will drive sales growth.”