Jelly London take as much care with their own brand as their clients’, and the industry needs to take note.
Still taken from Karen Cheung's film for Oxford Sparks.
The internet is big. Really big. You just wont believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. So when you put something out on it, you can’t expect people to just stumble over it. As immense as that project you’re so proud of may have been for you and your colleagues, it’s no more than a drop in the vast, filthy ocean of the World Wide Web.
We all know this, but some production companies still aren’t pushing their work out there hard enough. Working with brands and ad agencies, they’re allegedly experts at creating marketing, but the sad truth is that many don’t put much effort into marketing themselves. If it’s lucky, a new piece of work will get posted to Facebook and Twitter and a generic press release will be sent round to every trade journalist in the address book. All bases covered, right? Well there’s a lot more companies can do when they start thinking of themselves as brands in their own right.
Thankfully, some people are getting it right. And one small illustration and animation company have absolutely nailed it. They’re called jelly London and I met their Head of Creative Communications Charlotte Mary Rose to find out how they work hard to put themselves out there and why they think it’s important.
Head of Creative Communications. That’s not a title you often see in a production company, but while jelly have other people to do the traditional marketing slog – running around to agencies and clients with reels, touching base with all the right people – Charlotte’s role is much more about making noise on various media channels and building the company’s brand.
Founder/Creative Director Charlie Sells explains why they decided to create this role. “As jelly is very focused on producing high-quality content for our clients, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are also a brand and need to be promoted as such.”
She’s right. There’s so much for production companies to think of that it’s easy to see how maintaining the brand can get pushed down the to-do list. When you’re pitching on the jobs that will put bread on the table and working hard to make said jobs as great as they can be, promoting the personality of your company online seems almost frivolous. But Charlie wanted to make sure at least one person at jelly kept this priority in mind.
“What was clear to us,” she says, “was that we needed a Head of Comms who understood our tone of voice, our creative vision and who could look after our talent’s unique selling points, as well as our own brand personality, through all the different channels (which still include print by the way).”
When I meet Charlotte I notice something refreshing. She’s interested in everything. Unlike so many sales and marketing people who only want to talk about the work their company’s doing, she wants to hear about the conference I went to the day before and what other articles I’m working on – goings on in the industry in general. This curiosity is what makes people good conversationalists. And good conversationalists are good at social media.
Social media is great for building a brand personality and jelly have embraced it wholeheartedly. In the Twitter followers competition, they’re ahead of some of even the most prominent, global companies. I asked why is it so important to them.
“We feel that even though we are a smaller company our character and creative work deserves to be shared and while we may not be purchasing media space in magazines and online, social media is a more direct alternative,” explains Charlotte. “And it’s actually a pleasure to share because we’ve got so much nice work and content being created, why should we not talk about it? It’s really a subtle sales tool and opportunity for getting more work.”
Let’s be honest, the British production industry is distinctly, well, British. A lot of people don’t like selling. We think it would be rude to boast, so we often just put our heads down and hope that the work will “speak for itself.” But these days it won’t. And Charlotte sees nothing pushy about promoting jelly. “My tone of voice is not salesy at all and it’s not meant to be either,” she says. “It’s more just taking pride in the work you do and the artists you represent. When you work in a creative job you should be proud.”
The challenge, as she sees it, is to package and present the craftsmanship behind the creative project in an engaging story. “It can be tricky to understand what is in an artist’s head sometimes,” she says. “Together we break down their concepts into an informative piece. What went wrong in a project often makes for a natural learning curve.”
Keeping a presence on all the many channels takes organisation, so Charlotte explains the detailed social media strategy she upholds.
Jelly aim to update their Facebook page at least two to three times a week, sharing interesting articles and news about what they’re doing. Pinterest is where they keep a portfolio of all the work their talent has produced, past and present, with a board dedicated to each illustrator on their roster. This is great for search engine optimisation, Charlotte notes, because it provides lots of external links back to their main website.
Twitter is the big one, really. That’s where jelly post quick, up-to-the-minute updates of their work. “It’s also a really good way to collaborate and engage with brands, festivals and competitions,” says Charlotte. “You can also be a bit cheekier there”. She shares one of her tricks with me. “I’ve met a lot of journalists who I wouldn’t have had a chance to meet through Twitter because whilst you can ignore an email, a twitter message publicly hangs out in cyber space waiting like a lost high five. It’s not very ‘social’ to ignore a message or compliment. In fact, it’s actually quite rude!”
On top of that, jelly have all the usual visual channels – Behance, Vimeo, YouTube, which are basically just places to put their work out there. They also publish a monthly newsletter for those who want a less frequent summary of events.
Lastly, they run two of their own blogs, one dedicated to illustration and typography and the other all about animation, on which Charlotte writes regular updates, interviews and articles. Interviewing people from outside the company, even when they have nothing to do with jelly, might seem illogical to a traditional PR brain, but Charlotte thinks it’s hugely useful. “We want to mindfully engage the right people,” she says, “but also [being] able to learn from them and their professional experiences and, in a roundabout way, to raise our own profile.”
Each channel needs to be treated and nurtured differently. But the channels themselves aren’t the key to building a production company’s brand. They’re just tools for getting the message out there. Charlotte stresses that you’ve got to find things to talk about and thankfully jelly make her job easy on that front because creative folk are so interested in the craft of illustration and animation. “Wherever there’s a project there’s a story behind it,” she says, “and that’s interesting and engaging to read.”
Another thing that Charlotte thinks about is tone of voice on all of these channels. She’s relieved that jelly is a relatively small company, because when the majority of content comes from her keyboard, the tone is clear and unmuddled. There’s no bureaucratic process of getting messages signed off; she just puts them out there.
Jelly’s Owner, Chris Page, is keen to stress his enthusiasm for this kind of marketing. “Social media is a constant, modern day brand-awareness campaign,” he says, “which is all about interaction, engagement and storytelling. The only difference is – jelly London’s story is actually more like an ongoing conversation between creatives, brands and ourselves.”
“The most important thing about social media is that it’s social,” adds Charlotte. “There’s a person behind the brand conversation. If it’s planned and scheduled it can’t be reactive or natural, in some circumstances it can just be plain awkward. I envisage it as someone strutting into a crowded art gallery and shouting to strangers about their latest spot on day-time telly –imagine the response.”
Charlotte thinks you should genuinely try to reply to everybody on social media, whether they’re a huge possible client or a freelance illustrator who is just starting out in life. Part of jelly’s brand persona is that being friendly is far more important than being cool. And it’s working for them. Start a conversation with them on Twitter today and see for yourself. They’re really lovely.