Habitat and UNILAD: The secrets behind the success of two British brands

Founded in 1964, homeware retailer Habitat has been around for over fifty years, during which time the brand has had to reinvent itself several times over in order to remain relevant and fashionable. UNILAD, on the other hand, launched little more than three years ago, starting out as a single Facebook channel and website and soon becoming one of the fastest growing media businesses in the world.

Despite their varied backgrounds, both British brands have achieved great things in their respective markets, so I was delighted to gain some insight from both at the most recent CIM London Professional Marketer Series event. Digital Marketing Manager Natalie Crane and PR Manager Adam Crudgington from Habitat were joined by Kevin Tewis-Allen, Global Director of Business Development (Music & Entertainment), and Sam Asante, Head of Marketing, at UNILAD, to talk about their brands’ stories.

There are, in fact, many ways in which the two brands’ success stories overlap, despite their differences. Here are some of the key themes from the event.

Be bold; test and learn

Habitat’s recent collaboration with fashion designer Henry Holland resulted in a number of bright, bold, and playful homeware pieces — very much a love/hate collection, in Natalie’s own words. But the campaign really got people talking, particularly on social media, and generated impressive engagement levels.

As part of the campaign, Habitat also used a fashion photographer rather than an interior design specialist, as well as testing out new channels — from Snapchat to Instagram Stories. A partnership with The Hoxton hotel also saw Henry’s designs take over a hotel room for one month, with bloggers, journalists, and other influencers invited to stay and sample the collection. These steps highlight the importance of being bold and trialling new ideas with each marketing initiative, in order to discover what works well and to differentiate your offering.

UNILAD, similarly, stressed the importance of testing new ideas and formats in their presentation. For instance, the group is now looking into producing longer form content, such as 6–12-minute videos, as well as launching a new website. Equally they recognise the importance of continually evaluating your target audience. For UNILAD, a key target segment is, perhaps surprisingly, now women aged 45 and over, as this group increasingly engages with content shared by their sons and daughters.

Content is (still) king

Founded just over three years ago, UNILAD describes itself as ‘social first’, and delivers content based on how people — especially millennials — actually consume content today. Kevin and Sam’s mantra is ‘Everything must be sharable and relatable’ — whether the content is funny, informative, serious or enraging.

UNILAD also uses content to break down language and cultural barriers. For example, some of its most widely shared content is dog videos, which are universally funny. This also highlights the key role of video, with more than 80% of internet traffic predicted to be video by 2019. Habitat likewise highlighted the importance of video, with, for instance, their video of Henry at The Hoxton, as well as a 360-degree view of the room, resulting in particularly high engagement rates.

Ensure marketing activity is integrated

Another key theme from both Habitat’s and UNILAD’s presentations was around the importance of joining up channels. In Habitat’s Henry Holland campaign, for example, the marketing team ensured that all channels — from email to social to PR to events — were streamlined and leveraged central campaign assets.

Kevin and Sam from UNILAD also highlighted the importance of recognising that, although content can often be re-used, every platform is different. For instance, Facebook is, as a whole, much more personal; and Instagram Stories generally result in very high click-through rates.

Define and measure against clear KPIs

Natalie and Adam from Habitat highlighted the importance of setting out clear objectives before the outset, so that success can be quantified more easily. For the Henry for Habitat campaign, for example, the key goals were around raising brand awareness, improving SEO, and generating engagement and buzz with the brand.

As a result of the campaign, Habitat saw a small jump in its search ranking for key terms like ‘duvet cover’, ‘bed linen’ and ‘throw’ — but these small increases had a big effect in terms of visibility and conversion, and ultimately average order value and revenue.

UNILAD also stressed the importance of closely monitoring metrics in order to make incremental improvements. Small changes such as rewording captions or even adding an emoji to a post can have a huge impact in terms of engagement, so it’s worth spending time on regular reviews to drive improvement.