BITE Focus

“You’ve got to earn your place as a brand”

How WaterWipes and The Brooklyn Brothers pivoted their marketing strategy to be a support network for parents in the midst of the pandemic.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


As the country went into lockdown, people found themselves cut off from their friends, family and other important resources. While society remained digitally connected, house visits and face to face contact were forbidden. For many parents, this meant they were suddenly stripped of the lifelines provided by those little moments of connection and reassurance from those around them.

WaterWipes and The Brooklyn Brothers sought to step in, creating a platform and support network that parents could access whenever they needed it. The Early Days Club sought to keep parents connected, to build a community that they could feel part of while they felt so cut off from their own. It came as a development of the #ThisIsParenthood, a positioning the brand ordinarily operates from, which provided a solid foundation in the form of an authentic platform already in existence.

The brand turned their social channels into a support network and, through Zoom calls, connected parents not only with healthcare professionals but also with their peers, to offer vital information but also some light relief.

“It goes beyond making noise. It was actively giving parents something that they needed,” explains Jamie Caul, Brand Marketing Manager UK&I at WaterWipes who was in conversation with Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief as part of the ongoing Creative Brief Explores series highlighting thriving creative partnerships. Caul was joined on screen by Will Sansom, Joint Head of Strategy and Cali Oliver, Creative Director, both at The Brooklyn Brothers.

It wasn’t about sales. It was about providing parents with that accessible support community.

Jamie Caul

Fuelled by empathy

For the collective teams, the fuel at the heart of the platform was empathy, an understanding of the situation that parents found themselves in and a desire to help in any way they could. Caul says, “It wasn’t about a hard commercial approach from us. It wasn’t about sales. It was about providing parents with that accessible support community.”

Sansom elaborates, saying that the brand’s goal was simply to be there for parents: “Just so that parents felt like they weren’t going through it alone. We were there for them but most importantly, we were helping them be there for each other.”

For Oliver, what helped was that some members of the team were parents as well, so they had the first-hand lived experience. “We’ve always really tried hard to understand what our audience are going through,” she says. Part of the understanding came from essential research the team ran alongside search analysis, social listening, internal surveys and YouGov data.

But perhaps the most vital tool came in the form of a shared doc between client and agency, that members of the team would add anecdotes, stories, positive and negative, to around what it meant to parent under lockdown. “It was kind of like therapy,” laughs Oliver. These ended up being invaluable to the creative team as they built the Early Days Club from the ground up.

What was important, says Oliver, was “to have empathy with them but then also be able to laugh at some of the things you’re going through so you don’t cry.” At this document’s core were collaboration and vulnerability, in the shared experience of what it means to be a parent navigating a global crisis and parenthood.

A vital support network

The reality was that as the country moved into lockdown, parents, particularly new parents, were cut off from those they rely on most heavily: healthcare professionals. Without the home visits that can offer a lifeline, parents were having to look elsewhere for reassurance and advice. “We knew we could provide something of real value,” adds Oliver.

For the WaterWipes team it was vital to involve these professionals in the support network, alongside parental influencers who would help to form the community in which parents could feel part of. Caul explains: “In tandem with working with influencers, [we worked] with healthcare professionals because ultimately they brought credibility and people automatically tune in for that.”

The Early Days Club reflected the real lived experience of parents, something some brands in this category often shy away from to instead present an ideal which can increase pressure on new parents. Sansom explains that it’s about rising above the noise: “That tends to be noise in category or noise in culture, or sometimes both. In the world of baby care, it was both.”

It was a job in distinctiveness, a vital part of any successful marketing campaign. “Our way to rise above that noise of false perfection was to go, you know what, we’re going to show what it really looks like,” says Sansom. “And not in a way which is grim but in a way which is empowering. We’re going to show the highs and the lows and just celebrate that joyous chaos.”

This, believes Sansom, is how brands can build a meaningful relationship with their consumer because the campaign isn’t short-term. It’s a more emotional relationship, one which shows, he says, that “this is a brand that cares about, understands and gets me.”

One thing that we’ve learnt off the back of this is relevancy and authenticity is better than perfect.

Jamie Caul

The brand’s North Star

When The Brooklyn Brothers first started working with WaterWipes, says Sansom, the first thing the team did was work on the brand’s purpose and its mission. This proved to be invaluable when the pandemic hit because it allowed the brand to act with authenticity throughout.

He explains: “having that [purpose] really locked in place and really having that as our North Star meant that when we came to this point, where we needed to pivot really quickly, we were able to do it in a way that was credible and authentic.” This North Star, says Sansom, centres around, “inspiring self-belief in parents through honesty.” This, they realised, was going to be essential to maintain during the nationwide lockdown, with parents’ self-belief challenged at every turn.

Oliver expands on the guiding force behind the #ThisIsParenthood platform that inspired the Early Days Club. Its breadth allowed the team to settle on the right tone for the time, as the world shifted so drastically from week to week. She says, “the great thing about an earned-first platform like This Is Parenthood is it gives you that flexibility in tone to be able to shift it depending on what each specific activation needs.”

For part one of the Early Days Club this meant empathy and support, a guiding hand in an uncertain world. As lockdown began to lift, the second iteration saw more humour come into play and more peer to peer sharing of stories both the highs and the lows. “We wanted to be the brand that provided something tangible,” adds Caul.

Authenticity is better than perfection

The Early Days Club campaign was pulled together in just two weeks, with the two teams working as part of smaller, tight knit groups to turn around brilliant creative work at speed. Sansom says of this way of working that “being forced to go off in small groups and hustle things through quickly just made it better.”

He adds that if you’re in an office, the historical temptation, particularly within agencies, is to pull everyone into every meeting, to go back and forth on ideas for weeks at a time. This, says Oliver, was one of the refreshing realities of working with WaterWipes on this platform; there was no time to operate normally. “It meant the best ideas ended up getting out into the world,” she adds.

Kemp repeats a mantra that has been oft used by colleagues, friends and parents alike, that done is better than perfect. Caul agrees: “Although we had two weeks to pull this off, it wasn’t about being perfect. It was about doing right by what parents needed at that time…that’s really what drove it. For us, it was about putting the consumer first.”

It is a way of working that both teams are adamant they want to use moving forwards. It’s also helped by the trust that lies at the heart of the relationship, the confidence that the brand has in the agency that they had, says Caul, “the best interests of the brand at heart and that together we were going to figure it out.” “One thing that we’ve learnt off the back of this is relevancy and authenticity is better than perfect,” he adds.

You’ve got to earn your place as a brand. You’ve got to earn your place not just in the category and culture but in people’s lives and in the wider world.

Will Sansom

Earning your place as a brand

For WaterWipes, the Early Days Club was about the brand finding the right space to operate in, to ignore what the rest of the category were doing and simply, says Caul, be about “building that community during a time where it was hard for people to feel part of one.”

Sansom elaborates on finding WaterWipes’ moment: “You’ve got to earn your place as a brand. You’ve got to earn your place not just in the category and culture but in people’s lives and in the wider world. COVID’s been a really interesting experience in sorting out the brands with substance and the ones without.”

For the collective teams it was about asking themselves what people actually need at this point. It wasn’t about the brand broadcasting its messaging from a billboard but rather acknowledging the need to earn a place in a consumer’s life. To accept that the brand needs to add genuine value to its audience. If it isn’t, Sansom says, then it’s back to the drawing board because, “people are more discerning. They’re happy to welcome brands into their lives but also get rid of the ones that they don’t feel are adding value.”

As entire industries continue to work from home, it is no longer about simply bringing our whole selves to work but also, for many parents, they are bringing their entire families to work too, whether they like it or not. It’s a difficult time for many. But says Caul, for WaterWipes, they’re not going anywhere: “Regardless of what happens we will be there to support parents and families.” A prime example of a brand developing empathetic and effective marketing, to support a community with what they need most.

To watch the full interview, visit the dedicated Creativebrief Explores page.

Tune in at 2pm on Thursday 27th August as we explore how Haribo and Quiet Storm are keeping childlike escapism alive going during lockdown.

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