In conversation with

Marisa Thomas

Head Of Brand at Bloom & Wild

Introduction

Introduction

Ever heard of ‘floriography’ – the language of flowers? Whether we’re sending a bunch to a friend, creating a table setting or curating a bridal bouquet, we are tapping into this language to tell stories through the art of flowers.

Marisa Thomas knows this more than most. As Head Of Brand for leading flower delivery service Bloom & Wild, Marisa’s role is to facilitate this floriography for their community, and deliver their key message – spreading joy – to those who need to find a new way to say what’s on their mind.

Her connection to the brand began as a personal one: the first bunch of flowers her wife had ever sent her were from Bloom & Wild. Perhaps that moment sowed the seeds that saw her leave agency life at The New York Times Studio in favour of a more colourful one, joining the company in 2018.

We sat down with Marisa in her appropriately flora-filled office to talk harnessing community, authentic storytelling and brands who are getting it right.

Question and Answer

You worked at social media agencies and the New York Times studio before joining Bloom & Wild. Why did you decide to go in-house, and why for this brand?

I loved working agency side and solving client problems, but I was always envious of my clients. They got to spend all of their time focusing on getting to know their customers, learning insights from the other teams in the business and ultimately be responsible for getting a campaign off the ground. For that reason in-house always seemed appealing to me, but it had to be for a brand I loved.

The first bunch of flowers my now wife ever sent me were from Bloom & Wild and I was obsessed with the brand immediately. So of course when I saw the opportunity for the brand role here I knew this was the company to make the switch in-house for.

How do you tell Bloom & Wild’s brand story?

What’s really special about telling Bloom & Wild’s story is that the reason Aron (our CEO and co-founder) started the company is so simple. He wanted to find a way to make sending and receiving flowers the joy that it should be. Six years on from that and we focus on that idea of joy whenever we look at our brand storytelling and weave it through all our comms. Our brand story comes from our customers, who choose us to help spread joy to the people they love.

What are your biggest difficulties when it comes to brand storytelling?

Although spreading joy is core to our brand, we also have to be sensitive that while flowers are sent for celebrations and big moments they’re also sent as little acts of kindness, which may be for sadder reasons. This has implications on our tone and we aim to be as inclusive as possible for all the reasons why you may be sending or receiving flowers. We also have to be sensitive in our marketing as our peak sales moments like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day can also be really difficult for some people.

I was super proud to see the care we take being praised last year when we ran an opt-out campaign for Mother’s Day. We let our customers choose if they wanted to receive marketing from us about Mother’s Day and if they didn’t, we’d tailor our emails to them so that no mention of a potentially painful day would be included. Our customers were so appreciative of this, and as the first brand to do this we were actually mentioned in Parliament during a discussion on Bereavement Counselling, raising whether it should be mandatory for all companies to offer this kind of opt-out. And over the last year we’ve seen lots of other brands starting to implement this as well. It’s really exciting to know that we started this movement!

We all know community is important for direct-to-consumer brands. How does Bloom & Wild approach it?

Our customers and fans really do make the brand what it is today! The key is to actually listen to your community and let them know they’re being heard. Our Customer Delight team is a key part of nurturing our community – it doesn’t just sit with the social team to get back to comments, we really take on board everything we hear from our customers. That’s how the opt-out idea came about! We’re always looking for new ways to get our audiences directly involved with us. That can be through interactive stories and direct messages on Instagram, but we also make sure to speak to our customers on the phone or involve them in feedback and research. Our community doesn’t just live on social and I really think we’re great at making sure we engage with our customers however they like to communicate.

What three questions can marketeers ask to try to get in the heads of their target audience?

I think firstly the three questions need to be answered by the target audience – either directly or through the data you have available. It’s really easy to speculate or assume your opinion is that of the customer. This is something I’ve seen a lot when I was agency side. When I moved the The New York Times I really saw what an impact understanding your audience, the segments and the differences in what engages them could make to our campaigns.

With that in mind my top three questions would be:

– Why do they need and love your product/service/content?

– How do they consume content?

– What drives them to act?

“You should always be asking ‘what’s in it for them?’ A laugh, an insight, an offer - it doesn’t need to be big, but the reason for the content being created needs to be to solve a customer need not just broadcast a brand’s message.”

How important is internal brand culture at Bloom & Wild and how would you describe it?

Extremely important. We have five values internally and we really do live them. They are: pride, care, delight, customer first and innovation. Throughout each month you can nominate anybody for displaying one of these values, and when we get together at the end of each month we celebrate all the wonderful things the whole team have done. It’s the most caring and friendly place I’ve ever worked. Being set up like that encourages collaboration and breaks down barriers, which all leads to a better end-product for our customers!

What do you think is often a brand’s biggest mistake when it comes to creating content?

Self-serving content. When you don’t add value to the person who’s meant to engage with the content, there’s really no point. You should always be asking ‘what’s in it for them?’ A laugh, an insight, an offer – it doesn’t need to be big, but the reason for the content being created needs to be to solve a customer need, not just broadcast a brand’s message.

Marisa Thomas

Which brands do you admire for their tone of voice?

Everlane. They make things super simple and have really mastered a persuasive yet approachable tone. Their subject lines are great!

Also, Billie razors. I really admire their tone and how it translates to a tangible personality that lives across all of their channels.

Oatly have built a bit of a marmite opinion on their TOV for some reason, but I personally love it. They’ve made dairy alternatives feel punchy and fresh and the tone across their packaging is great.

How do you keep on top of marketing news? Any podcasts, newsletters events you follow?

Twitter and LinkedIn end up being where I keep up with campaign news and the like. Vikki Ross’s #copywritersunite and #copysafari are great hashtags to follow. I also love the Talking to Ourselves podcast, the most recent one with Fernando Machado was super inspiring.

The Storylist

Books

  1. Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  2. One Plus One Equal Three by David Trott
  3. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

Magazines

  1. Courier
  2. The Economist
  3. The Gentlewoman

Newsletters

  1. The Word by Sonder & Tell
  2. The Drum
  3. Medium Curated

Podcasts

  1. Shiny New People
  2. Today In Focus
  3. The Daily

Websites

  1. The Guardian
  2. AdWeek
  3. Trouva
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