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The anti-panic buying model”: How Bother and Wax/On are simplifying the weekly shop

Douglas Morton, Founder of Bother and Ben Hooper, Creative Partner at Wax/On on the power of collaboration, brand self-awareness and being inspired by disruption.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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“I don’t think you can fail to be inspired in this environment,” says Douglas Morton as he unpacks the impact of the ongoing lockdown on businesses and individuals. Morton has a unique take on the crisis having recently launched Bother, a company he has founded which aims to simplify the way consumers’ do their weekly shop. 

The average UK household spends 18.3 hours every month on grocery shopping. What Bother aims to do is help consumers reclaim that time by finding the best deals, for both the individual and the planet, and delivering boxes to people’s homes. Bother delivers the basics, it claims, so that people are free to shop more locally for the other bits and pieces they want to buy.

Morton sees the disruption this lockdown is causing as inspiring in itself, believing that there’s a real opportunity at the moment; “it’s a big reset button,” he adds. For the team at Bother, Morton says that working flexibly from each of their homes may have been a situation forced upon them by the ongoing lockdown, but “as a business, we don’t know anything different.”

He goes on to add that he hasn’t actually met almost half of his staff in person: “It’s a cultural challenge but it’s one that’s good and I think it keeps us flexible.” This flexibility is something that Ben Hooper, Creative Partner at Wax/On echoes, believing that, from a creative point of view, the lockdown state is “both very inspiring and freeing but it’s also very challenging because you’re limited.”

“The challenge for creatives has been how do you create something so that you can be relevant for your client that then doesn’t become tired very quickly,” Hooper adds. It’s a lesson, he feels, for agencies, “to start seeing how they’re going to survive moving forward.”

If you can be a brand that stands up and remains true to your vision, that can be disproportionately enhancing for your brand following a crisis.

Douglas Morton

Simplifying customers’ lives

Bother was built on essentially “the anti-panic buying model,” explains Morton. The team spent seven months developing the idea and structure for the business, having “identified what we saw as a real structural problem in the market quite early on,” he adds. As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the launch was sped up, with Morton realising that, “if we were able to use our launch in a way that was beneficial to people, why wouldn’t we?”

While the conversations at the start of lockdown swirled about the precarious position business found itself in, Hooper recalls a rousing speech Morton gave about the brand and its vision. For the agency, Hooper says, “it was a really strong, focusing moment,” and the catalyst for the decision to launch the brand immediately. 

Much of the creative that had already been made needed to be changed, as social sentiment was monitored. As Hooper says, they had to change “to make sure it didn’t jar with how people were feeling.” Bother didn’t want to become a “disaster capitalist” by taking advantage of the situation. Hooper expands that it was “very pleasing to be able to make something relevant. A lot of brands had to stop because they said we have no right to be talking to people right now.” 

Morton feels that it is the brand’s clear, genuine vision, ingrained in its structure from the start that will carry them through. The belief that this is the way that shopping should be done. This vision was developed together, by both brand and agency working alongside one another. “Bother is here to save people and planet from household shopping,” rings the tagline, a message that resounds both in spite of and despite the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment.

Born out of frustration

Like many businesses before it, Bother was “born out of frustration,” says Morton and a belief that everyday products should be easier to find. This frustration is where he drew his passion from, he says, to bring about change in an industry which should have seen it happen long ago.

Morton highlights research that reveals that while digital-first grocery delivery is at 80-90% of the market in Asia, in the UK just 16% is digital-first penetration grocery channels. “What this means is it’s massively inefficient,” explains Morton, “a market that is not fit for purpose.” But in the last few months, big FMCG companies have totally shifted their focus to be predominantly digital first. This is a trend that Morton believes has been held back for years, “blocked by incumbents and by consumer habits that are not good for anyone, not good for consumers’ lives, not good for the environment.”

Hooper expands by revealing that the research the team did around attitudes towards online and supermarket shopping helped to inform the messaging that was created. This was then rolled out across social, “always the plan from the beginning”, so that they could understand what messages landed best and where. It would also allow them to find their first customers in the process.

The only way we’re going to get this done in the right way is to collaborate properly. You haven’t got time for your own agendas.

Ben Hooper

Collaborate to innovate

What is clear in the work being done across industries, brands and businesses is that pooling your resources allows business to move forward, not at the expense of one another but rather alongside each other. This collaborative attitude was evident right from the start of the agency search that Morton carried out. 

Hooper reveals that Wax/On partnered with the creative agency Uncommon early in the pitch process, disproving the long-held history of agencies being naturally competitive at all costs. “It hasn’t felt disparate in any way,” adds Morton, who reveals that the Bother vision has been “quite agency led for the last seven months.”

“The only way we’re going to get this done in the right way is to collaborate properly,” believes Hooper. “You haven’t got time for your own agendas.” He believes that this move to collaboration will be a lesson for many agencies in how they can survive the challenges they may be facing in the current climate. He adds, “there are some strong principles that have come out of this period that hopefully we’ll continue.”

What do people need from brands?

“The best thing about a business like Bother is it has purpose built into it right from the very beginning,” says Hooper, as the conversation turns towards the inevitable. Arguably the term purpose has become largely meaningless, at least tainted, as across the industry, brands co-opt movements and ideas, which seem nothing more than posturing rather than genuine vision.

As Hooper explains: “If you’re not 100% genuine, even if you’re trying to do the right thing, you get found out straight away. It’s that tricky and that difficult for brands to get right.” What he feels is the most important idea to be exploring right now is, “what do people need from brands after this?” 

As everything changes, perhaps for good, so too does people’s, consumers’, behaviour, whether that’s around shopping or going out. Hooper adds that, “it will be interesting to see how big business adapts in accordance with that behavioural shift.”

For Morton, it fundamentally comes down to trust for a brand, something that has become even more vital within the current ongoing pandemic. He believes it’s about how the risk reward changes: “The risk reward on trust changes. If you can be a brand that stands up and remains true to your vision, that can be disproportionately enhancing for your brand following a crisis.”

Hooper’s advice to brands? “Don’t believe you’re more important than you really are. Every business needs to have that level of self-awareness.”

Never in the history of mankind have we ever had the world being switched off for a period and then switched back on again.

Douglas Morton

Break habits and reset

Both Morton and Hooper are optimistic about the changes that this current situation could usher in, believing it to be an opportunity for reset, to break habits and start again. As Morton says, “never in the history of mankind have we ever had the world being switched off for a period and then switched back on again. The impacts of that are very revealing to us as individuals and as consumers.”

He goes on to add that “there’s a potential there for consumers to change the balance between their habits and their desires.” Hooper agrees, optimistically hoping that the era of mass consumerism may shift, if only slightly. He acknowledges that he is not in the business of making predictions though because, he says, “I’ve never worked in a time when things become irrelevant or wrong so quickly.”

For Morton, he hopes that consumers might accept the change being forced upon them. His parting advice is collaborative and links back to his opening point about seeing the inspiration within the disruption: “Look for the opportunity. Support each other, support change and be thankful.”

Hooper echoes this by inviting people to challenge the way they behaved in the past, whether that’s in the pressure you placed on yourself at work, or in the way you shopped. There is a “community aspect,” he believes, at play at the moment. People can learn to use that to collaborate with one another. As Morton believes, we have the opportunity to say, “how can we not only be part of that change but define that change.”

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