Interviews

Charlotte Langley, Brand and Communications Director, Bloom & Wild

At a time when the industry points to data as the silver bullet for marketing, Bloom & Wild’s Thoughtful Marketing movement highlights the importance of empathy in communications.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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In the thousand tiny paper cuts of everyday life, the ability of the lack of empathy in modern marketing to wound is one which is increasingly difficult to ignore. Like the inadvertent algorithmic cruelty of a Mother’s Day reminder to a human being dealing with the gulf of grief of losing their own mother and being unable to say goodbye. The past year has bought with it a scale of loss which is difficult to comprehend, yet nonetheless demands empathy is a business imperative. At a time when the industry points to data as the silver bullet for marketing, it’s vital to remember its audience is made of flesh and bone.

As Brand and Communications Director of direct-to-consumer flower delivery brand Bloom & Wild, Charlotte Langley is blazing an empathetic trail for brands who want to take action and bring more humanity and empathy to their marketing communications. “This year has been a lot in so many different ways, your tolerance is affected. There has been so much loss this year. I saw a lot more apprehension around Mother’s Day this year. That expectation of kindness from brands and businesses is there,” she explains.

This expectation for kindness demands that brands become a “better reflection of people’s real lives.” As Langley says: “There is no point giving a shiny message if you don’t think about the simple things you can do to support what [people] might be going through.”

Thoughtful marketing is not at odds with business growth.

Charlotte Langley

The Thoughtful Marketing movement

This is where the Thoughtful Marketing movement comes in. The journey began in 2019, which was the first year that Bloom & Wild’s customer delight team offered their consumers the ability to opt out of those potentially painful Mother’s Day emails. Notably it was a move based on active listening as they not just registered but responded to feedback from a number of customers that they no longer wanted to receive Mother’s Day emails.

“We thought that there was surely something more we could do, so we built Mother’s Day opt outs and ensured that we had the tech to take out Mother’s Day promotions from the navigation bar when those customers were on our site,” says Langley. It was a move which prompted a positive response, as she explains: “We were completely overwhelmed because people were so thankful and we received so much positive feedback, it was even mentioned in a debate in parliament.” 

This genuinely altruistic vision has driven the brand’s drive to open up the project to others. Since 2019, 170 brands have signed up to the movement. “Our goal is to help brands on this journey,” explains Langley. “We can really open source our expertise. There are some brands that don’t know what to do or where to start.”

Mindful marketing drives business

Top of the agenda for brands beginning their own thoughtful marketing journey is debunking the myths surrounding the potential impact on their business, alongside the human tendency to shy away from the lived-experience and pain of grief.

According to Langley the biggest challenge is sometimes convincing senior teams that offering opt-outs won’t have a negative impact on their bottom line. “We have found the lifetime value of a customer who engages with these opt outs is 1.7 times higher than those who don’t. Thoughtful marketing is not at odds with business growth,” she adds.

As Langley explains, brands can help start conversations on how to support somebody going through a difficult time. She adds: “Our goal is for brands to offer their customers a choice. My dream is an industry-wide opt out scheme.”

The team is clear that there is absolutely no point in marketing to people who don’t want to hear it, when it's actively painful for them to hear it. “It could be difficult to receive, for example, marketing about baby products when you are experiencing fertility treatment, or you have had a loss. Marketing thoughtfully is in fact one way of being more precise,” she adds. 

From a marketer’s point of view there is a real opportunity to use your constraints to be more creative.

Charlotte Langley

Creativity and constraint

It is notable that Bloom & Wild has kept the Thoughtful Marketing Movement at the top of the agenda throughout the coronavirus crisis. “From a marketer’s point of view there is a real opportunity to use your constraints to be more creative,” Langley explains. For Bloom & Wild photoshoots conducted over Facetime have not just been so much easier but the style of the photography more candid.

“Leading a team remotely has been the biggest challenge and making sure they are happy and healthy when we are physically apart,” explains Langley. With this in mind she has been intentional in cultivating a positive culture. “You have to build in structures, so in our weekly priorities meeting we make sure we share one thing we are proud of,” she says. It's a simple act which, she shares, has allowed the team to celebrate each other and share moments which in the office would perhaps remain unsaid.

Of course, there are challenges that have come hand in hand with the pandemic. Namely Langley started in January 2020 and the joy of being able to walk to Bloom & Wild’s Vauxhall office was short lived. Today that commute is a shuffle to the spare room that after a year in lockdown many readers will be painfully familiar with. 

Peak mode

As a direct-to-consumer business the brand did not face the initial panic and flurry of challenges that bricks and mortar stores faced in the midst of lockdown. With subscription an important part of Bloom & Wild’s flower delivery business, it found itself in a sweet spot in which scaling at speed was its single biggest challenge.

According to Langley the brand experienced a 160% year on year increase in delivery during 2020. An exponential rate of growth which continues; by Mother’s Day 2021 it had already made as many sales as it had in the entire year.

“We have been in constant peak mode for an entire year,” she explains. This was accompanied by an intense sense of responsibility when it came to recognising the role of the brand in customers’ lives. “We felt a real responsibility to do it well,” she added, sharing how a customer had got in touch to share that sending flowers enabled her to feel like she was in the same room as her daughter, when they were physically separated.

Self-gifting and the rise of the ‘just because’ purchase opportunity

According to Langley there has been a 170% increase in self-gifting amongst consumers, a notable trend. It’s one that is often accompanied by an act of kindness. “We have really seen the multi-order rate go up,” she adds, pointing to the ‘one for you and one for me’ generosity which has been increasingly evident in the midst of the pandemic and is not bound by occasions such as birthdays or Mother’s Day. She highlights the fact that in 2020, 780,000 consumers sent a bouquet ‘just because’ rather than to mark a specific milestone or moment of celebration.

But will these consumption habits change when lockdown eases? Langley believes that the new habits are here to stay. She explains: “It’s been such a long time in lockdown, people have made new habits and I don’t see them falling off a massive cliff.”

The brand has undoubtedly been buoyed by the growing tranche of consumers seeking a ‘little lift’ when they have been spending so many of their days confined to the same four walls. “There is something calming about bringing nature into your home and people have really been trying to create that moment,” Langley says. The brand has also been mindful of paying this good fortune forward, expanding its friends and family discount to front line workers and donating a slice of its profits to charity.

 

To find out more about the Thoughtful Marketing Movement and how you can get involved join Bloom & Wild’s Charlotte Langley, alongside Rachel Aldighieri, Managing Director of the DMA and consumer and business psychologist Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos as they lift the lid on the simple changes that brands can make to become more empathetic.

The event will take place at 9am on Thursday 29th April and tickets are free and available on the Thoughtful Marketing Eventbrite page