When the clock ticked over into 2024 this New Year’s Eve, it marked the start of 12 months of celebration for integrated Leeds agency, ilk. Founded in 1999, the 31-strong business will be marking 25 years in the industry, servicing about as diverse a range of clients and sectors as could be imagined.
But where once ‘digital’ meant desktop word processing and faxing the odd invoice, ilk now offers a complete, in-house spectrum of digital marketing that spans their integrated skillset, delivering nomination-worthy results that connect with customers in new ways, engage audiences to build brand awareness, and drive conversions.
There will be three shining examples at the Northern Digital Awards this year, revealing three unique approaches to the use of digital channels to achieve complex and challenging marketing objectives. But these successes build on integrated strengths that start with a people-first approach that’s all about combining skills and sparking ideas.
“We start by bringing together anyone with something to offer, whether that’s PR and social specialists who would naturally be working on an account, or designers, web developers, account managers – the ideas come first.” says MD and founder Nev Ridley. “Then we drill down into the expertise and tactics that transform those ideas into real, actionable work that gets results. It’s a balance between inspiration and activation, and it allows our clients to get so much more value from our team than they see on an invoice, or would get from siloed teams or service-specific agencies.”
It’s a strategy that’s helped ilk create a campaign from scratch for government-backed Logistics UK and CILT, fighting the recruitment crisis in their industry through the Generation Logistics initiative. Whilst some agencies would have responded with a set of channel tactics and paid recommendations, ilk took on the brief with an open-ended, integrated mindset. The name, brand and visual identity came first, alongside a dynamic brand video and website offering content as diverse as job ads and careers quizzes, to cultural deep dives into the logistics of transporting a fictional dragon.
Once the campaign began firing on all cylinders, stage one was about understanding public perceptions of the logistics industry, then building awareness from there. Initial vox pop content for social and web offered a humorous insight into that general lack of understanding, so ilk’s PR team began selling in impactful case studies on diverse roles and career paths to the press, and the website featured ‘behind the scenes’ videos, interactive infographics and pop culture connections ready to both educate and engage the audience social and paid were sending.
As year one came to a conclusion, the results showed the dial was beginning to shift. 600m impressions across all activity, (48% above target), and 600k website visits (33% above target) provided the mass appeal, but further research also showed big boosts in brand awareness and understanding, in part driven by coverage across The Times, Metro, The Sun, The Guardian, Mail Online and BBC broadcast (123 pieces total). Next up for ilk, year two!
Two other nominations offer similar insights into ilk’s approach – Best Third Sector and Best Health & Beauty campaigns – both for online fitness provider, Couch to Fitness. The client, backed by funding from the National Lottery and Sport England, targets those looking to take their first steps in fitness, whether that’s getting off the couch for the first time, returning to exercise postpartum, or making changes to tackle ongoing health issues.
The multi-channel campaign led with paid and organic social, comprehensively targeting specific audience groups to drive engagement and conversion. Activity utilised email marketing and DAX ads to reach people in an emotive way, alongside leveraging organic Facebook groups to boost budget efficiency and reach people in a friendly, accessible and peer-appropriate space.
Some integrated agencies take a broad brush approach, where detailed and nuanced tactics take second place versus the big campaign idea. But at ilk, the detail and the nuance are the big campaign idea. Social specialists on the Couch to Fitness account crafted tightly controlled messaging that met a range of criteria, like avoiding traditional weight loss language, with a comprehensive Tone of Voice guide to pull it all together. Then those messages were taken to a precision-targeted audience using data as granular as postcodes to ensure the right demographic, social and geographic match.
Across the first three months, a target of 3,000 new members was exceeded, with 4,117. The average cost per member dropped below the £5 target, to £3.16. And the 10% of registrations expected to convert to full workout participants stood at 39%. Perhaps most hearteningly, too, for an agency so keen on skilled tactical implementation, 92% of that group of new members matched the target audience profile.
From the biggest, national campaigns, to the most targeted, specific ones, ilk’s integrated approach shines through. And all drawing on a diverse team packed with experience across all sorts of sectors, and all sorts of clients.