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The Honey Partnership

World's Leading Independent Agencies: Getting under the skin of social creative

Most brands struggle to embrace social at every level of the business, but China shows a winning path, says The Honey Partnership's Mark Terry-Lush

Mark Terry-Lush, managing director, The Honey Partnership: "No story means no soul and no soul, when social is involved, means no sale"
Mark Terry-Lush, managing director, The Honey Partnership: "No story means no soul and no soul, when social is involved, means no sale"

To imagine the future, brands need agencies to combine cultural relevancy, technical nous, creative flair and the agility to cope with here-today, gone-tomorrow influencers, apps or platforms.

The power of a compelling narrative is not a ‘nice-to-have’ in social, but a ‘vital-to-have’. No story means no soul, and no soul, when social is involved, means no sale. This is why Honey builds social creative campaigns that we cherry-pick from culture to tell a story via technology. We create something that has a soul, is in the moment and relevant – what people naturally are, and brands aspire to be.

To cope with the demands of an always-on, socially mobile audience, Honey looked to China for inspiration – because the real home of tech innovation isn’t Silicon Valley, it’s Shenzhen. ‘Made in China’ suspicion has given way to a ‘Created In China’ pride and an entrepreneurial zeal unmatched by any western co-working space. Honey has embraced the nation’s philosophy of continuous improvement to do something better, faster.

Our team has worked with brands from Apple, Asics and Amazon to BMW Mini, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Škoda and Under Armour. Our wealth of experience comes from consumer and B2B in sectors as diverse as finance and fashion, lifestyle and technology, media and telecoms. Think Air China, Haier and China Unicom alongside Valio, The Student Hotel, TP-Link and JBL.

There are three fundamentals that brands should adopt to get this eastern-influenced approach under their skin.

1. SHU ZI or "the numbers". We put our clients’ KPIs first and work out how social can contribute.

2. LING HUO or "adaptable". We are agile, responsive and iterative; then build those behaviours into the creative process.

3. KUAI SU or"fast". Real-time and always-on are overused phrases, but tools like WeChat and Alibaba’s DingTalk mean we deliver results faster.

This Chinese way of working gives brands an edge that was impossible until recently.

For audio brand JBL, we adopt a social creative approach to content and comms that creates hyper-relevance and authenticity with its younger audience. We transform tech firms such as TP-Link into lifestyle brands with a social-first approach that delivers awards, reviews and stories that outperform KPIs.

The Student Hotel – a complete connected community of Gen Z and entrepreneurs – shares our belief that social publishers are vital for brands. Together we’re building the ultimate international hotel brand, opening up to 40 destinations in the next three years.

This approach has earned impressive results for our clients and is recognised by the industry. Over the past year we’ve won ICCO’s Best independent agency, EMEA, and picked up gongs at Cannes, the Effies and The Social Buzz Awards, among other plaudits.

Getting social creative under the skin leads to great ideas, produced quickly, that reach millions. Brands understand the need to embrace social but still struggle with this transformation. This isn’t a simple change, but to embrace 'The China Way' will embed winning behaviour deep in your business.

Mark Terry-Lush, managing director, The Honey Partnership

Mark Terry-Lush – Q&A

Will you go to Cannes this year?
I’ve been for 12 years and will go again, despite it being too big, too expensive and too commercial. Last year I went to Kinsale for the first time and felt rejuvenated, connected back to the craft. That said, Honey’s spiritual home is SXSW.

AI: the best and the worst scenarios are…
Worst: that I meet and fall in love with a girl called Joi. Best: AI helps my daughters save the planet. As creatives it will release us, not replace us. It will free us to do other things.

What will you change in 2018?
Improve diversity in my boardroom by investing in the next generation of leaders, who are already in the business.

The best work of the past year is...
Samsung's "Ostrich". Who knew an ostrich could fly? Samsung Gear inspired us with #DoWhatYouCant. The social creative element is the catalyst for the inspiration.

THE HONEY PARTNERSHIHP: at a glance

Founded: October 2014
Principals: Partners Mark Adams, chairman; Mark Terry-Lush, managing director; Chris Adams, managing partner, Hey Honey; Ran Ge, head of business development.
Staff: 25 FTEs
Location: London (HQ), Shenzhen, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Melbourne.

World's Leading Independent Agencies is by invitation of 

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