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Jan 09, 2023
Alex Lewis
What can brands learn from Just Stop Oil?
Is activism through disruption a powerful way of changing minds or harmful to progress? Alex Lewis of purpose specialists Revolt looks into what brands can learn from recent activist stunts.
Find the right fight
Extinction Rebellion began its civil disobedience strategy in 2018 to draw attention to climate change. But its ambitious and broad vision is difficult to translate into action because it requires change on many fronts simultaneously.

Movements like Just Stop Oil benefit from a specific vision that is closely connected to the action that needs to be undertaken to effect change. Oil and gas field licenses are issued by government, so there is a clear target audience who must be influenced in order for laws to be changed. With a more tangible goal and clearer action, these complex issues start to feel easier to navigate.

Brands need a similar focus to deliver change. When a brand looks at the issues affecting its business or challenging its core values, they need to go beyond talking about the problem to articulating a solution that is relevant to both the business and its customers. This mutual benefit can be used to frame the ‘fight’. For instance, Patagonia’s commitment to reducing waste through its Worn Wear program benefits customers who get to extend the life of their existing gear through high-quality repairs from the brand.
Translate activism into ‘actionism’ at scale
Marketers are familiar with the balancing act of long-term brand building and short-term tactical activation. Creating change in the world also relies on a balance: between the big, audacious goal you’re setting out to achieve and the more comfortable steps toward change that make it manageable.

Brands must think about their audiences: is everyone aware of the problem and ready to act, or do they need to be segmented into different groups? Those already engaged in the issue will respond differently to people with a passive interest. Think about whether both can be engaged at the same time, or if one audience can kickstart the action before others are converted to the movement.

Consider the partners who can support a brand’s activity, whether those are influential voices who validate the proposed solution, or people with the expertise to deliver it on the ground. For instance, supermarket chain Iceland’s recently launched in-store loans scheme is delivered with ethical loans company Fair For You, which helped Iceland design the pilot scheme.
Create a roadmap for change
Before a brand starts talking about its big goal, it must think about the steps required to get there.

Many of the problems we face are systemic: tackling one part of the issue will surface new problems. Audacious goals for change are effective when brands commit to tackling the problems they find along the way. Pampers’ commitment “to ensure that babies have the brightest beginnings” typifies this. Their program started with funding tetanus vaccinations with Unicef but has extended far beyond this to specialist nappies for premature babies and dads’ access to baby change facilities. They recognize that there are many areas where they have the expertise to solve a larger problem.

Start by identifying the first few steps along the journey. If the fight is clear enough, then break it down and start planning what is needed for the longer term.
Dec 20, 2022
Alex Lewis
How brands can successfully navigate the cost-of-living crisis
All brands are now having to assess or reassess their strategy for managing the cost-of-living crisis and consider how this impacts their marketing and communication. In this piece, Alex Lewis, Co-Founder of Revolt, argues that a clear three-step approach is required and shows how leading brands are taking action.
Act swiftly to both the reality and perception of crisis.

The fundamental emotions that underpin the cost of living crisis are uncertainty and fear. When we’re scared or uncertain, we look for things that makes us feel in control. Brands have both an opportunity and a responsibility to help consumers be or feel in control. HSBC is offering customers and non-customers alike an online financial health check, with recommendations of actions that can been taken to improve finances. And this approach to control can be applied in most categories. Subscription meal delivery business Gousto launched its ‘Ovenless Sunday roasts’ among a package of options that give people more control over the way they cook their food.

Part of helping people to feel more in control is giving them clarity. Amidst the current complexity of the crisis, brands have an opportunity to be clear on how they provide value.  Tesco Mobile has created a light-hearted campaign to talk about the ways they save customers money, showing that clarity doesn’t have to come at the expense of your usual tone of voice.  British Gas recently ran advertising to provide straightforward information on what the new price cap means. Its clear approach found its way onto talk shows as a benchmark for how the government could have gone about things.

But even with control and clarity, many families are still facing some very difficult decisions.

When people have to deviate from their normal behaviour in a way that feels like a sacrifice it can have implications for mental health. Therefore framing options as choices rather than cut-backs can create a more positive role for brands. Showing how a benefit can extend beyond saving money can not only differentiate a brand, it can also help people feel good about themselves. Sainsbury’s recently launched Sainsfreeze, showing how unused fresh food can be frozen. This initiative helps people to save money but is also helping them to be more sustainable.
Adjust strategies in ways that reflect the changes we’ve undergone.

While the crisis is affecting everybody, there are particularly vulnerable groups who are likely to be more affected: women and children, people with disabilities and minority groups. Brands should consider whether they can tailor products or services to support those who are most vulnerable. Heinz works with Magic Breakfast to provide nutritious breakfasts in schools. In response to the cost of living crisis, Heinz launched a campaign promising to donate one breakfast for every four cans purchased.

A crisis is an opportunity for companies to show commitment to their brand promise, but it takes real courage for businesses to look for and commit to new opportunities. This is why having a business purpose is so important in times of crisis. Being clear on why you exist, and what you offer to your customers, enables purpose-led businesses to hold tightly to a long-term strategy, while allowing for more flexibility for testing new ideas in the short to medium term. Iceland has had the confidence to recently launch a micro loans programme which builds on work they’ve been doing to better understand their customers’ needs.

And in this time of crisis, brands must keep sight of the fact that what’s good for the planet is good for the pocket. The overlaps between cut-backs and sustainable behaviours represent a huge opportunity area for brands. Think about reuse. Rental schemes that remove the need for ownership, or subscription programmes that reward the reuse of packaging. Think about recycling. Less than 50% of a UK household’s waste is currently recycled. And think about reduction. While cutting back helps with the immediate needs of cost reduction, it is very much part of the bigger picture of helping both people and planet.
Sep 10, 2022
Alex Lewis
Qatar is not the new land of football
There are far more promising places to visit, with real scope for positive impact.

In the run up to start of the FIFA World Cup 2022, attention increasingly focused on the negative issues surrounding the choice of Qatar as host nation. Questions about human rights, LGBTQ+ policies and the safety of workers were rightly being asked with ever louder voices.
Jul 13, 2022
The Drum
Pride everlasting: Stonewall on keeping the Pride month momentum going
Pride month has ended, and most major Pride parades, in the UK and USA at least, are done for the year. We sat down with Robbie de Santos of Stonewall and Alex Lewis of Revolt, Stonewall’s agency partner on its evergreen ‘Take Pride’ campaign, to ask: how can brands and agencies take Pride seriously for the next 11 months?
Taking Pride
The ‘Take Pride’ campaign, developed with Stonewall’s agency partner Revolt (which previously worked on a Stonewall rebrand), is designed to reassert the year-round, society-wide commitment required to claim and protect equal rights and treatment for LGBTQ+ people. The campaign will run, they say, for years as a “sub-brand” campaign.

“We wanted to deliver a simple message that brought people together, and really connected with the fact that LGBTQ+ equality hasn’t just been won by a few activists on the fringes; it has been won by people in workplaces, people in schools, friends and families, who have all shown up for LGBTQ+ people in their lives,” says de Santos. “Really, there’s an element of complacency about it. That complacency comes from a lack of ownership. The thinking behind this campaign is about helping people to own their part in our Pride movement, whether they’re LGBTQ+ or not, and to commit to that on an ongoing basis.”

That ongoing basis means creating “multiple moments throughout the year, beyond the awareness day/week/month cycle,” such as the ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign. Organizations should, equally, be focused on the whole calendar; the prognosis here from de Santos is actually pretty good: “Most organizations aren’t just doing some kind of above-the line activation for the month of June; most of them actually do go quite deep.”

The trouble is that “they don’t have the narrative to talk about it… I think there’s a tension between D&I teams and comms teams in these institutions where good work happens all year round, but the comms teams often are the ones saying, ‘we can’t talk about it unless there’s the Pride month hook.’ One of the challenges for comms and advertising teams, across all industries, is to be better at integrating and celebrating the good work that they do.”
Pride always
De Santos is clear about what he wants to see next from Pride and its relatives: “Stand and fight and hold strong, because this isn’t a time about winning new rights. It’s a time about protecting the existing rights that we’ve fought for, before we’re able to think about significant steps forward.”

Meanwhile, Alex Lewis, co-founder of purpose-specialist agency Revolt, which partnered on the campaign, is confident that the industry’s trend toward authentic, purpose-driven marketing is here to stay. He compares the industry’s position on purpose to its position on digital transformation 20 years ago (so: nascent but very clearly heading in one direction). He encourages brands to take a more granular look at “the ‘fights within the fight,’ which is quite an interesting space for brands, because I think it makes it more ownable and distinctive, rather than just associating yourself as a brand with the macro rainbow and the notion of Pride.”

Lewis is clear on the question that brands should be asking themselves. “What is it about your own DNA, your own product and service, your history, that can be directed toward something a bit more granular and focused, which would be of real benefit?”
Sep 10, 2021
Izzy Whiteley
The power of Neurodiversity: How we can free diversity of thought
When you think of what it means to be smart, what comes to mind? For me, this image started to form early on in life. It meant getting high grades, going to Russell group universities, reading lots of books and being politically engaged. All things that I was not. 
As a society, our perception of intelligence is framed through a biased, homogenised lens. We see reading books as intellectually superior to audio books, and engaging with The Economist as time better spent than watching documentaries. The way we moralise thinking and learning breeds a culture of shame for many, but it is particularly acute for the near 15% of the population who have ‘learning difficulties’ (of which diagnoses include ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyscalculia). 

I’m Dyslexic, and I’ve carried a weight of shame around the way my brain works for most of my life. Yet over the past few years I’ve learnt that what I’ve achieved isn’t in spite of my Dyslexia, it’s because of it. I’ve learnt that I’m not dumb, I’m different. 

This belief is the cornerstone of neurodiversity – a frontier of the diversity and inclusion conversation – which seeks to open our minds to the diverse ways people think. Reframing learning difficulties from a source of shame, into a source of power – for all of society. 

Dyslexia is a language processing difficulty that is often seen in reading, writing and spelling. A common struggle for people with dyslexia is messing up ‘their, there and they’re’, which people seem to be dumbfounded that anyone ‘educated’ could possibly do. Less understood is how Dyslexia changes how you process the entire world around you, often affecting things like memory and organisation. 

As for many people with learning difficulties, school was a traumatic experience. In a system where your worth is ranked by grading and creativity is seen as a hobby, as quickly as I was taught what it meant to be smart, I learnt I was not. People say that if you were to design a system to remove someone’s self confidence, you’d come up with school – as a long term member of set 7/7, I wholeheartedly agree.

I’ve learnt that when society writes a narrative about you, it’s hard for it not to become your story. Believing I was stupid, I stopped engaging in and avoided conversations I felt were above me. I thought, maybe I can be funny instead? Or perhaps, creative? So I leaned into my creativity and went to uni to study Fashion. This is where my perspective on myself first began to shift. I received the highest 1st in my course for the past 3 years, it was a far cry from set 7. To be seen as talented was incredible, but it was a creative course, so by society’s standards, I still felt unintelligent.

“I’ve learnt that when society writes a narrative about you, it’s hard for it not to become your story.”

It was my journey that began at Revolt that really started to unpick this narrative. I joined as an activist and was never asked for a CV or about my grades. As my role developed, I found my feet as a strategist, long before I could even work out what that meant. My colleagues at Revolt were the first people who called me intelligent (other than my mum), and after an incredible line manager and a workplace that believed in potential over credentials, I started to believe it. 

Then I read a book about neurodiversity, and everything changed. I learnt that neurotypical people have what they call ‘flat profiles’, which means that their cognitive skills dance around the same level. Whereas neurodiverse people have ‘spiky profiles’ which means they often have very high scores in things like verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning, but much lower than average scores in processing speeds and working memory. 

This rings true to the experience of many neurodiverse people. For example, people with ADHD may struggle to concentrate for seemingly average lengths of time but can complete urgent and demanding tasks in ways others can’t. People with Autism may struggle with a meeting environment but can deliver rule observant and punctual tasks in a phenomenal way (yet only 16% of Adults with Autism in the UK are in full time employment). 

A U.K. study of self-made millionaires found that 40 percent were dyslexic. Who cares if you’re mocked for mixing up ‘there’ and ‘their’, when you’re a millionaire?  Neurodiversity shows us that these people think differently, and that difference is powerful.

Neurodiversity can be a secret weapon for businesses who embrace it and companies like P&G, Microsoft and Google are waking up to its power. After all, in our fast paced, ever changing world, a little difference can go a long way. The challenge is that our current education system, our recruitment procedures and our lack of understanding make it difficult to seek out and nurture these talents.

Right now there are neurodiverse people out there that have the ability to flood the world with unique and groundbreaking ideas, but they’re shut out, weighed down by shame. Let them in, help them grow, watch them thrive. We will all be better for it.

Our new series, Created Equal, is where different voices inside Revolt will bring their unique perspective to bear on the subject of inclusion and diversity. 

Our intention behind the series is to help usher in a more equitable world by sharing: the actions we’re taking as a business to improve,
the insights we’ve gleaned from our I&D work with brands and non-profits and the perspectives of our people to deepen our understanding of lives unlike our own.
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