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Panel discussion to audience with slide show presentation



26 May 2022

THG Ingenuity's Investor Fireside Chat

In the heart of London’s Mayfair at the esteemed AllBright Club, THG Ingenuity hosted our inaugural Investor Fireside Chat. Here we’ll round up some of the key takeaways from both our keynote speaker, Ian Maskell, Global Vice President of Marketing at Unilever, and our panellists:
    - Dr Barbara Paladus, Founder, Codex Beauty 
    - Anjun Murari VP of Global Sales Channels & Strategic Development, Molton Brown 
    - Sophie Pycroft, Founder, Spectrum Collections 
    - Dr Daniel Waterhouse, Investor, Balderton 
    - Tom Mills-Webb, CEO of Beauty Brands, THG 
Too woke or not woke enough?: What is a brand’s purpose?  
To open the evening, Ian Maskell, Global Vice President of Marketing at Unilever, posed the question: should we put social responsibility at the heart of business?  

In today’s environment of hyper-conscious consumers, brands are expected to carry a narrative of purpose either on or beneath the surface, adding value beyond the products and services they offer. For some, such a narrative is engrained in the foundations of the brand – with Ian highlighting the likes of Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Tom’s shoes.  

However, it was revealed that 80% of buyers know nothing about the brands they buy from, and just 12% of Millennials choose brands they deem ‘responsible’. So, why is social responsibility so vital to brands today?  

In many instances, it’s about how brands get it wrong, more than how they get it right. Take Pepsi’s infamous protest ad featuring Kendall Jenner, or Starbuck’s #RaceTogether campaign, and you will find far greater noise surrounding the lack of authenticity and purpose such initiatives had in the eyes of the consumer.  

The future of branding is set to weave consumers values into an authentic narrative that, wherever possible, speaks to the social responsibility of a business. More than that, the story must be written with a power and creativity that captures consumers’ attention. Such a narrative also doesn’t necessarily need to be told, but rather heard by the intended audience; so, don’t start with your ‘why?’, start with theirs when it comes to your next brand campaign.  

man giving speech to audience with slide show presentation

Ian Maskell gives his keynote speech, asking '"What is a brand's purpose?".

Where is the world of ecommerce heading in the post-pandemic era? 
Much has happened in the wake and aftermath of Covid-19, both positive and negative, for ecommerce brands. For our panel session, rather the dwell too much on the past, we kicked off with a discussion around the lessons learned throughout the pandemic, and where ecommerce is headed in the next 12-24 months. 

For Sophie Pycroft, Founder of Spectrum Collections, the impact of the pandemic was seen on day one; with their largest client, Superdrug, going dark, dust began collecting on Spectrum Collections’ stockroom. Yet opportunity arose within the B2B world as consumers were hidden behind closed doors, and a shift towards new partnerships with the likes of ASOS and Beauty Bay rekindled the flame behind the beauty tool brand.  

In the world of Codex Beauty, Founder Dr Barbara Paladus noted how the practicalities of remote skincare came to a head throughout the pandemic, and forms part of the future of the bioscience beauty company. Lines between in-person consultations and ecommerce have been blurred and bridged by connecting consumers with skincare experts in a private online space to recommend products. This touch of personalisation is one that remains to inform the future strategy of Codex Beauty.

New means of engaging with a brand was also on the minds of Molton Brown’s VP of Global Sales Channels & Strategic Development, Anjun Muraui and Unilever’s Ian Maskell when considering the future of ecommerce. For Anjun, the buzzword of the session was omnichannel, with the pandemic and its aftermath triggering a rebalance in the consumer’s mind between online and brick and mortar experiences, and a subsequent demand on brands for such a balance. Bridging the online-offline gap meant something different for Ian, who pointed out the emergence of 10-minute home delivery solutions such as Getir and Gorillas as spelling a new potential chapter for Unilever’s Ben and Jerry’s. To quote: “If you can deliver ice cream, you can deliver anything.” 

Daniel Waterhouse provided his perspective as a Balderton investor, stating that the offline to online shift is still ongoing for both brands and consumers, and that the year of fast commerce is still playing out. In his eyes, on the horizon lies a host of opportunities to reach and connect with younger generations of shoppers within a wave of impact commerce to be embraced by brands, addressing cultural and environmental topics at the forefront of many of today’s consumers’ minds.  

The omnichannel opportunity  
The theme of omnichannel was present across the evening’s discussions, and whilst acknowledging customer demand for an omnichannel experience, we posed the question as to how established brands can ensure sales in existing channels aren’t cannibalised as new channels are explored and implemented. 
Across the panel the opinion rose that brands’ perspective on performance is in a time of flux. As omnichannel methods are embraced, a holistic view of overall performance will be required as the counterbalance to such an approach. For Ben & Jerry’s, for example, Ian stated that deliveries are set to account for 25% of turnover by 2025, reflecting not an anticipated performance change, rather a performance re-distribution. Just as Steve Jobs killed the iPod with the creation of the iPhone, philosophically channel cannibalisation can be acceptable when considering overall performance. 

In discussing channels, our panellists were also asked which channels they were looking to grow. Social media struck a chord for both Sophie and THG Beauty Brands’ CEO Tom Mills-Webb who noted the significance of TikTok and influencers respectively in future strategies in connecting with new and returning customers. Sophie likewise highlighted new product development as being a cornerstone of growth for Spectrum Collections, and to approach NPD through a sustainability lens with the goal to not only produce new tools, but to develop products that enable consumers to care for the tools they have bought before.  

birds-eye view of rooftop terrace in the sun with green garlands and patio furniture

The AllBright Club, Mayfair

Dr Barbara provided a different angle on the influencer topic, reiterating the importance of skincare experts and dermatologists to the future of Codex Beauty. Working closer with individuals and communities across the industry to evolve a diagnostic-driven skincare brand consumers can trust to address their demands.  

Daniel closed the discussion with an interesting take on growth, saying whilst growth isn’t to be discouraged, it is no longer the be all and end all of performance and value. Brands who set out on a path of clear and steady progress in building a sustainable business are those that will reflect the changes we have seen and are seeing across the buying community and that will ultimately succeed. 

What does the future hold? 
To close an evening of animated discussion, we asked one final question to all our panellists: if they were going to invest over the next 12 months, what would it be in? 

For Tom, Ian and Anjun, content came out on top, namely utilising it to create meaningful conversations with consumers. Where TikTok emerged as a focal point for Ian and Ben & Jerry’s, for Anjun and Molton Brown in particular, experience, and an authentic experience at that, is set to be the differentiator for brand success.  

Dr Barbara sees the multiplicity factor of working with dermatologists and accessing their network to be the greatest opportunity over the next year for Codex Beauty, where for Sophie and Spectrum Collections the future lies in exploring NPD as well as sustainability and packaging to meet consumers’ product and value-driven expectations.  

Leaving the room with some food for thought, Daniel mused that investment opportunities in ecommerce were far from over, with Latin America offering intriguing possibilities across the likes of door-to-door DTC subscriptions for brands looking to expand.  

A special thanks to our panellists for providing their fascinating perspectives across all questions on the night, and to the AllBright club for facilitating this max-capacity event. Thanks also to our moderator, Herculano Rodriguez, THG Ingenuity COO, and to our host Saoirse Correia, THG Ingenuity Director of Investor Partnerships.  

To discuss your opportunities with THG Ingenuity, get in touch with us today.

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