Notes

The four-letter word you should always use with clients.

Alison Rentoul Head of Strategy
19.August.21

The four-letter word you should always use with clients.

Every company has (or should have!) their values, mission statement and vision defined and ready to impart to eager new employees. On my first day at The Incubator, I sat down with Jeremy, our CEO, to nut out our plans and objectives for the road ahead and receive a download from him about The Incubator ‘way’. Pen in hand and ready to absorb the pearls of wisdom about to be imparted, as Jeremy began to speak, I dutifully took down his words.

F-U-C-K-I-N-G  C-A-R-E, I wrote. And then stopped, pen poised, waiting for more. But no further words were forthcoming. I looked up. Jeremy looked at me. “That’s it,” he said. “Nothing else matters.”

As someone who deeply believes you should only ever do something with care, or not do it at all, in that moment I knew I’d truly found my people.

In the year since this, I have come to learn not only is Jeremy a man of his word, but he is also absolutely a man of these particular two words, in every sense. This ‘mantra’, for want of a better term, infiltrates every aspect of our daily work at The Incubator. Not in a trite, put it up on the wall and pretend to worship kind of way, but in a very real, we actually do it kind of way.

Those two words float through my mind every time I’m about to send a client email, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Is this email as succinct, helpful, friendly and informative as it can possibly be? Could I make it easier to read, shorter or simpler? Have I attached the document or link referred to, to save them looking it up? Have I kept the job number in the subject to make the string easier to refer back to? Is the work or attachment I’m sending the best it can be? Has it been proofed, checked and double checked to save wasting their time?

When I’m working on creative, I ask myself: have we considered every angle? Even if I think we have, I take a few minutes to think it through one more time, just to make sure. Is this work going to serve the client, their customers, our community and even the world in the best possible way? Or could we push it that bit further? Dig that bit deeper, and go that extra mile to unearth something truly great?

In building connections with suppliers, I hold those two words at the heart of our relationship. Give them what they need so they can produce their best possible work for us, and so we all get to shine. Respect, respect and respect some more. And choose partners who work the same way, who demonstrate that they, in turn, really really care.

Recently we brought three new juniors into our team; and guess what was the number one hiring criteria? Yes, we considered their experience, work and talent. But more than anything, we considered their capacity to care. Of the hundreds who applied, the three we selected were not quite as experienced as others on the list: but they all demonstrated they had the right character to live and breathe The Incubator way. As one of my mentors once told me: hire character, train skill. You can always teach people how to do new things, but you can’t teach anyone how to have the right attitude—if it’s not already part of their nature.

In a world where cutting corners, rushing, bodging and ‘that’ll do’ has become far too common, it’s both reassuring and heartwarming to work with a group of people who still value doing things properly. It’s a point of difference we pride ourselves on, and one so deeply built into our DNA it’s become second nature. I love this about us, and I know our clients do too.

So as you go about your work today, see how often those two words pop into your head, and notice when and where taking those few extra moments to reflect on this fundamentally improves the quality of your work and interactions. It’s surprising how much richer your work and life becomes, when you really Fu@king Care about everything you do.


Boys in the bath - Sophie Hanlon

26. July. 2021

Boys in the Bath

Sophie Hanlon Designer & Copywriter

“I would never buy your deodorant just based on your terrible crap poofy ad. Keep your gay tainted ads off my tv you bunch of idiots.”

What makes a deodorant commercial one of the most complained about ads in all of 2020?

The above complaint, and countless equally charming others, were received last year by the Advertising standards board regarding a series of Tradie body spray and body wash ads featuring comedy duo, The Inspired Unemployed. These ads received vitriol, not because of any shocking or controversial opinions expressed by the pair, but simply because they were situated in the same bathroom as one another when talking about the product. Try to contain your horror.

The complaints received all seem to stem from the same homophobic ideology: “It’s hard to believe this advert was approved to be shown on TV as it contains audible sounds of grunting and exhilaration that are matched to a couple having sex.” It doesn’t matter that the ads are comedic, it seems for a certain sector of the Australian public, the barest of contact between men might still as well be a homosexual orgy of roman proportions.

However, despite partaking in the same actions considered gay in the previous ads, the recent release of Tradie Bodywash’s new series of advertisements featuring players from the Melbourne Storm rugby club didn’t seem to garner the same vitriolic reaction. It’s a scary thought that men are required to be football giants with obliques sharp enough to cut someone before they are considered masculine enough to share a bathroom with another man.

It’s interesting that many of the critics hid prudishly behind the commandments of advertising standards as the foundation of their umbrage. These complaints seem to point more towards a precarious ideal of outdated masculinity than any real moral affront.

…Or, to quote a popular podcast’s catchphrase: ‘Toxic Masculinity ruins the party again.’

Toxic Masculinity denotes the behaviour of men conforming to archaic definitions of ‘maleness’: in other words, machismo, violence and sexism. As Michael Flood wrote in 2018, “The term typically is used to refer to the narrow, traditional, or stereotypical norms of masculinity which shape boys and men’s lives.” These norms include the expectations that boys and men must be active, aggressive, tough, daring, and dominant.” Its hallmarks are the alpha-male oppression of others, rejecting so-called ‘soft’ emotions and encouraging overtly sexist behaviour. Oh, hello Patriarchy. A particularly poisonous blend of misogyny and homophobia, Toxic masculinity decrees feminine or ‘gay’ behaviour in men is not just unacceptable, but even cause for outrage and anger.

But what exactly is so threatening about moving the ancient gender goalposts? Could it be these ‘old school’ men are threatened by the inherent vulnerability of expressing their feelings, exposing their soft underbellies, or embracing their inner femininity? And do they cling onto these outdated ideals even at the expense of their own mental health and wellbeing?

It’s been well documented that emotional suppression leads to increased psychological problems in men, such as depression, substance abuse, addictive behaviours and even suicide. Joseph Vandello, a social psychologist and Professor at the University of South Florida is quoted as saying “Part of the problem among men is that one of the markers of traditional masculinity is independence and rejection of help.” Restricting the way men can relate to each other through the threat of shame and ridicule, leads to a culture of male self-reliance and silence that obstructs emotional development and discourages men from seeking help. “No matter where the turmoil in modern men’s lives comes from, it seems like there would be a clear benefit to men feeling confident in seeking help to cope with mental illness and change the behaviors that harm their health—and that risk hurting others,” writes Amanda Mull in The Atlantic.

How great then, that in spite of the outrage and vitriol still spewing forth from the terrified gender rigid, this new generation of men aren’t afraid of blurring those gender lines. The Inspired Unemployed have built a huge following on their own quirky brand of gender-fluid skewed masculinity. From embracing their ‘bromance,’ to cross-dressing and camp, they have no problem mocking the traditional stereotypes men have been boxed into.

The men from the Melbourne Storm aren’t scared either. These athletes embrace and embody the noblest elements of maleness, like pride in one’s work and the mateship of sport, but they didn’t bat an eyelid at our scripts and scenarios. On the day of shooting, right from the get-go the players were building each other’s confidence offscreen, supporting their mates to deliver the best performances. And once the cameras were rolling, they commanded the screen with confidence and charm, completely oblivious to the so-called ‘shock factor‘ of being in a bubble-bath with another bloke.

Australia has had a long history of sloth-like change when it comes to evolving societal attitudes. A study by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that, “throughout the year 2012, verbal abuse had been experienced by a quarter of all gay men and lesbians, 47% of trans men and 37% of trans women.” Our true embarrassment as a country should not be that we managed to lose both a Prime Minister and a war with emus, but that America beat us to having marriage equality. No one should lose to the United States in a progressiveness race.

In spite of this, progress is being made every day in this country, and our attitudes are changing. Instead of trying to drag everyone kicking and screaming back into a toxic gender-binary past, we think it’s time these curmudgeonly old complainers caught up with the rest of us. At the very least, if these Tradie ads are anything to go by, being a true new man is a hell of a lot of fun.

Check them out for yourself, and let us know what you think!


Leaving your corner of the forest.

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

 —Winnie the Pooh

01 . June . 2021

Leaving your corner of the forest.

Kyran Docker
Creative Director

It’s a little trite in brand circles to discuss building brands to ‘be your friend’, but in a world reaching for more genuine connections, consumers are expecting authenticity from their brands. Thanks to social media, the connection between brand and consumer has become closer than ever before. Once distant monoliths, you now have 24/7 access to whatever brand you like, from your Health Insurance to your breakfast cereal.

Brands are discovering new ways to form personal connections with their customers. Everyone can remember a brand that went the extra step and gave you the warm fuzzies during your interactions, a Tim Tam with your delivery, a personal note, a free gift, planting a tree with every purchase, a second pair delivered to those in need, the list goes on. But while the little things are nice, what’s important is how companies are using their platform for the larger things. Listening to your audience and committing to making their world better, standing your ground, and showing support for the things that matter can not only be the right thing to do, but can lead you to develop loyal customers.

In the states, years before the Black Lives Matter reckoning for brands, Nike was thrust, or thrust themselves, into the centre of the conversation with the release of their 2018 ‘Dream Crazy’ spot. Part of Nike’s 30th anniversary of Just Do It, the campaign starred former NFL star Colin Kaepernick, tennis legend Serena Williams and skateboarder Lacey Baker inspiring people to dream crazy. It contained the now famous line ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.’ The backlash was swift and strong and overblown, there was burning of shoes, cancelling of orders and snipes from the President. However, the bank holiday weekend following the release resulted in a 31% increase in online sales, Nikes overall valuation increased by $6 Billion in the months after the campaign launch. Manish Dudharejia writes that there are four key takeaways to learn from the Colin Kaepernick Ad.

Four key takeaways

01.

Approach controversy wisely.

02.

Embrace the backlash.

03.

Know who will rally behind you.

04.

Never sacrifice values.

Dream Crazy
2018

Nike

According to a recent broad study, Impact of Culture: What it Means for Brands Today, conducted by MAGNA and Twitter along with its localised extension, shows that Australian brands involvement in and leadership of social issues is not only what consumers want, it’s what they expect.

The study found that:

  • Almost three quarters (74%) of Australians thought of culture other than that of tradition.
  • More than half think it’s important for brands to be involved in social issues and movements, and almost half think it’s important for brands to be involved in events and trends.
  • The top ways for brand involvement include giving back to the community (59%), supporting social issues that benefit everyone (52%), demonstrating that they put their customers first (52%), and are inclusive of all (52%).
  • Involvement in culture is nearly as valuable as having positive brand perceptions.
  • Almost one fifth of a consumer’s purchase decision is made up by a brand’s cultural involvement.
  • Brands supporting social issues have the most potential to impact consumer purchase decisions.

Speaking to Adnews, Emily Float, head of agency at Twitter Australia, notes that the way culture is defined has changed but its importance has not.

“Consumers want brands to get involved in the issues and moments that matter most to them and those that do, will reap the rewards,” she said.

“For marketers, this presents an exciting opportunity because involvement in culture is something in their control. Price and quality will always be the top driver of purchase decisions, but those are relatively set, and brand perceptions can take years, if not decades, to meaningfully shift.

“A brand’s involvement in culture is something that can be changed with a single campaign, and it’s something Twitter in particular is well positioned to help with.”

So, after you’ve spent so much energy making all these new friends, when are you going to head over to their corner of the forest?