Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

HeyHuman and Brave’s Helen Weisinger talks exclusively to theMarketingblog

Our special Q & A feature concentrates this time round on HeyHuman and Brave’s Managing Partner Helen Weisinger.

I found Helen’s approach fascinating. Her comments made really good business sense. Helen’s determination is captured in this exclusive Marketingblog interview – enjoy it.  Editor

  • Growth. I was interested in your new business approach. I thought your idea of developing new business from present clients made good business sense. Please tell us more…

With fewer traditional new business opportunities to grab today, agencies are getting better and better at maximising new business opportunities. Agencies that get it right don’t just task their New Business Director with looking for brand new opportunities, they actively seek New Business Directors who build on current, solid relationships and harness existing trust.

To me it makes perfectly logical sense to build a new business pipeline from clients we currently have. In some circumstances, it helps solve existing problems and, while it doesn’t always lead to increased revenue immediately, it is almost always appreciated and makes the relationship flourish.

When I was working at a previous agency, we recognised that some FMCG clients needed help with trade marketing.  Far from shying away from an area we didn’t traditionally service, our response was to launch an inclusive workshop designed specifically to combat the problem. This initiative truly cemented our relationship with a number of clients as it showed we really cared about the communication challenges they faced as a business. Heading up the new business at HeyHuman and Brave, I’ve noticed a growing demand from clients that agencies test untried ideas and projects pre-release.  On the whole, clients remain open to taking calculated risks and look to their agency partners for guidance, step by step, as they venture into new territories, social platforms and digital frontiers.

It takes bravery for a client to put their trust in a team they’ve only just met  For me, a good New Business Director is able to spot client challenges that others may overlook and turn these into solid, revenue-driving business opportunities that help their client, and agency grow. It’s a win/win situation for all if you get it right!


  • You got very excited when we talked about WACL. Tell us why…

12 winners of the annual WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London) Future Leader Awards.

WACL is an amazing organisation. Not only has it existed for over 90 years, actively supporting women in the industry, it also raises phenomenal amounts of money for charity. The WACL legacy is to support women in their professional development; we do that by directing eyeballs to big subjects and issues such as equal pay, career growth and self-confidence on the ‘shop floor’.

There’s a certain level of comaradarie between us women folk and we’re quite good at supporting eachother through difficult and challenging times.  It’s that support and willingness to help one another that really draws me to the WACL platform. What’s more, WACL is also a forum and great networking opportunity, especially when you  consider some of the amazing keynote speakers we’ve hosted at our dinners or political debates.  Just last month, we held a debate in the House of Commons to revisit the idea of gender stereotyping in the industry and, as Tess Alps, chair of ThinkBox said: “It’s not job done.”

We don’t just focus on the socio-political though, we also run events like our speed mentoring sessions (we partner with brand such as Google, for example) and invite 20 women get together for 15 minutes and receive coaching on an issue they’re facing. WACL is not, I’m pleased to say, a raging group of feminists (in the old fashioned, bra-burning sense of the word). Don’t get me wrong, if feminism is a synonym for equality, then yes – I consider myself a ranging feminist too.  But, the beauty of WACL is that it’s not a women-only movement.

We are an inclusive organisation where a good number of our speakers happen to be men. We invite them to join the debate following in footsteps Harriet Harman, Lord Bell, Nick Clegg and many others. In terms of why this ‘glass ceiling’ exists, I tend to side with Emma Barnett from The Telegraph who suggests that it’s still a case of not enough women putting themselves forward for the top jobs, for whatever reason. At WACL we are trying to transform that glass ceiling into a glass elevator by not only observing and emulating our male counterparts, but actively surpassing them in the process!


  • You talked in depth about HeyHuman. Innovation was mentioned as being important to the agency. What else is providing a real edge to the HeyHuman operation?

Everything we do starts with a solid understanding of human behaviours. Even our name confirms that we really do understand people and all their quirky, eccentric, sometimes-bonkers ways. Through some sterling, proprietary research, @HeyHumanAgency is the agency that can show you the deep correlations between brand behaviour and brand sentiment on the one hand; or, why people claim to love some brands yet buy others.

The most interesting characteristic of HeyHuman is how the agency adapts to its client’s needs and how, like our brain, it reshapes itself according to the situations it finds itself in. As creative, brand activation agency we understand the power of behavioural economics and the value of the data that informs it. Recently, we conducted an in-depth behavioural research study on the subject of ‘Brand Love’ that shows how consumer experiences of brand communications builds those key branded relationships.

It uncovered, for example, 75% of people questioned defined easy Jet as a “friend with benefits”; 60% have a “secret fling” with McDonald’s and 70% still have a “special relationship” with the NHS – something we’re seeing hitting our headlines day in, day out as we approach the General Election in just a couple of months.

We’ve taken this research even further by inviting some top UK and international brands to join us on stage at Advertising Week Europe to discuss what “brand love” or “loyalty” really means in today’s marketing environment. We’ve lined up a great panel which will be chaired by the Rupert Howell who, incidentally, is also a non-executive director of both HeyHuman and Brave


  • Courage counts: Tell us why you described the other agency in the HeyHuman stable Brave as an ‘Undiscovered Gem’?

Brave, as the name says, definitely has bravery coursing through its proverbial veins. Despite what you might think, it’s not bravery in the usual sense of the word – they’re certainly not all off-duty fire fighters or anything quite so brave as that. The agency, @BraveCreativity, is about having a level of understanding so deep that you’re permitted to take clients through sometimes-unchartered landscapes with commercial bravery the order of the day. This bravery is not maverick; it’s calculated, controlled and clever.

The brilliant thing about Brave’s offering is its ability to recognise and advise clients on potential new revenue streams.  It is, by far, the most commercially aware business I have ever worked with. We develop smart, commercial and creative work that inspires and excites people to act.


  • What advice would you give to any newcomers to the agency in terms of future career direction?

Creativity comes in lots of different ways. Today, technology enables creativity to develop at an alarming rate and, at the same time, puts the power of creativity in the hands of you and I, not just ‘the creatives’. The continued advancement of technology will, I believe, see advertising becoming a technology-led industry that’s constantly pushing the boundaries of whatever medium it uses to get it’s message across to consumers.  It’s still a fast-paced, fun industry to work in as its a place where the newcomers can teach the old dogs as much as the old dogs can teach the newbies.

My advice for the newcomers is to stay hungry and grab every challenge as learning comes in many guises.  Be professionally flexible and open as, these days, your career in advertising can go any direction you wish. Look around you, not just above you, if you want to make it.


  • Have I missed something? Your opportunity to finish off with a flourish.

I’ve been lucky in my career. I started at an agency working on everything from gatekeeping to copywriting. From there I went to media planning, then account management. At that point I received a single piece of advice that changed my career path for good.

Someone recognised my talent for new business and I believed it. It gave me confidence and I haven’t looked back since. So again my advice is to trust what others see in you, be professionally flexible and sometimes, be brave and take a leap of faith. It usually pays off, one way or another.