Delphine Buchotte and Philip Atkins

During these uncertain times, brands need to tread very carefully and make sure their messages are authentic and they are making a human connection with the consumer. Delphine Buchotte and Philip Atkins, partners in Phidel, a seven-month-old digital agency focused on purpose-driven brands, spoke about what they’re advising their clients and what they would tell other brands in terms of being agile and how to speak to consumers during this unprecedented time.

“As a brand you need to put your mission, your purpose at the forefront of your messaging,” said Buchotte, who was previously chief marketing officer of Diane von Furstenberg and earlier was chief digital officer at L’Oréal Paris in Paris. She said the message must be built on values and not on transactions.

“When you are articulating and engaging digital ecosystems, with multiple points of interaction with the brand, you can really redirect your dialogue to the web site of the brand, where eventually the transaction will happen,” she said.

Atkins, former vice president of Totokaelo, chief marketing officer and head of digital at Bugatchi Group and vice president global merchandising and sales at DVF, said they require that their clients have a very clear purpose and angle to their brand. They focus on three key pillars: Equality and inclusivity, climate change and sustainability, and Next Gen advocacy, issues that are impacting social conversations among Gen Z.

They seek to bring a purpose to the center of everything they do, in their messaging, the digital ecosystem and the e-commerce environment. “That can be as literal as a give-back,” he said. For example, they recently did a re-branding of Frédéric Fekkai, which has a Save the Ocean platform.

Phidel works with 14 clients, some are brand development projects, and for some, they’re running their day-to-day marketing content and media strategy. Other clients include the candle brand Boy Smells; yoga studio Sky Ting, and Los Angeles fashion brand Dolan.

Asked what their advice would be for brands, Buchotte said, “There are two key words with what is happening now. It’s authenticity and agility. You need to have both.”

For example, the first piece of advice they gave their clients is to change their messaging to be sensitive about what’s happening and have a conversation that will help people feel better, and engage conversation so people don’t feel lonely.

“For Delphine and I when we started Phidel, it was about connecting brands to the culture. And COVID right now is the large and loudest message in the culture. It’s about being plugged into the heart of the consumer and the things that are deeply impacting them. The impact of COVID goes far beyond when quarantine is over. There is a huge consumer behavior shift happening. We’re starting to see trends toward sustainability and climate positive material, and also there’s the environmental side and also the social side of equality and the #MeToo movement and culture, and COVID is putting all of those things right in front of us. We anticipate a very profound shift in the way we consume product and how mindfully we consume products,” Atkins said.

In this extraordinarily challenging economy, does a brand need to spend money now on advertising, or can they put their message out themselves on Instagram?

Buchotte recalled when the “stay at home” edict first came down she called her clients and said, “‘You don’t pull back now. Why? People are online and they may be able to buy whatever they want.’ We managed to preserve and increase their investments in online media for our clients,” she said.

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