Building a brand strategy from the inside out for an iconic national retailer


Brand Strategy, Campaigns, Integrated Marketing, Research & Data, Video

Henry’s had prospered for decades from the global rise of consumer photography enthusiasm, growing to become one of Canada’s largest specialty retailers with over 400 employees in 30 stores coast-to-coast.

Historically Henry’s had relied on traditional product marketing to engage a seemingly endless multi-generational supply of family memory-makers, artsy travel dads, and aspiring fashion photographers, not to mention a stable market of wedding and portrait pros. At the height of the digital photography revolution product innovations from manufacturers like Canon and Nikon, and new online sharing platforms, sent aspiring Helmut Newtons into paroxysms of consumer lust.

In 2014, however, the digital imaging industry took a major nosedive, and Henry’s found themselves at a crossroads. There were more photographs being taken than ever before, the problem was you no longer needed a camera to take them. Smartphones had reached a tipping point, both in their ubiquity and in their digital photography capabilities, and in a classic example of disruptive innovation, companies like Apple began competing not against specific camera manufacturers but the notion of cameras as a whole. The digital imaging industry, in an analogue to the challenges faced by railroads at the turn of the 20th century, was having its Model T moment.

The Challenge

Henry’s had updated their logo and store designs but weren’t seeing the consideration lift they had hoped for, especially among new, younger customers who were embracing whole new paradigms of lens-based art, and increasingly turning away from traditional retail value chains.

Henry’s needed a way to understand and speak to new customers without alienating their shrinking but still enthusiastic base of older, traditional enthusiasts. Historically, “brand” had been a top-of-funnel marketing element, functioning to guarantee top-of-mind awareness for Henry’s in a category they had no real natural scale competitors in. That game was up, and it was time to figure out not just what value consumers had to Henry’s, but what Henry’s had to offer creative consumers.

The Process

I designed a comprehensive touchpoint audit that looked at Henry’s various customer journeys from an omni-channel perspective, and designed a survey-based market research study to collect consumer preference and perception data. Henry’s had already done some great work segmenting their customers based on product choice, but I needed to better understand customers’ challenges, needs, and aspirations, and to map Henry’s competitors in a way that accounted for recent disruptions in the camera marketing space, such as the rise of aligned YouTubers like Peter McKinnon.

Industry research, sales data, and extensive qualitative interviews all pointed to an oversaturated product category with ever-increasing complexity and cost, without it really being clear what the value to consumers was to continually upgrade equipment they already didn’t know how to use to its full potential.  Over and over, customers demonstrated that while they coveted new gear, at almost every purchase tier, what they really wanted was to become better photographers and to get more out of the equipment they already had.

Our expertise doesn't come from a brochure, it comes from doing. We're not clerks, we're collaborators. We're photographers, filmmakers, content producers, and artists. We're industry insiders and social media makers.

The most valuable moment for both Henry’s and the customer was in the lengthy in-store conversation leading up to a purchase, where the sales associate didn’t just explain product features and benefits, but dug into customers’ motivations and desired outcomes in order to make truly informed decisions about how to solve that particular customer’s needs. Henry’s excelled at personal selling because its associates couldn’t help but apply their photography expertise as added value to each sale.

How could I take this experience and integrate it into Henry’s omni-channel marketing in a way that felt authentic to the collaborative ways associates described their customer relationships?

The Solution

We Are All Creators leveraged the talent of real Henry’s associates from across Canada, not only paying them to appear in advertising, but licensing their work – an experience most of them had never had – for use in magazine ads, out of home, digital advertising, video content, social, and direct marketing.

The promise of We Are All Creators had nothing to do with great prices or selection – the cost of entry in a world of minimum advertised pricing – but rather put one-on-one conversations and relationships at the centre of Henry’s mass communication strategy, positioning Henry’s as the heart of 30 creative communities across the country.

The Results

We Are All Creators generated over 1.5 million overall campaign impressions, with a 45% lift in key image attributes among the target audience, and approximately 4 million overall organic product impressions across all channels. Digital integration drove 76,000 site visits, 238,000 YouTube views, and two thousand organic hashtag shares, gaining a 12% average increase in subscribers across Henry’s social channels. Further, We Are All Creators galvanized employees and was adopted as the theme of the 2019 National Manager’s Conference, where I had the privilege of being the kickoff keynote speaker.

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