creative north highlights and takeaways

Creative North 2019 Highlights & Takeaways

On 7th June, the first ever Creative North took place at the beautiful Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. The conference was arranged by copywriting agency Hampson Nattan Williams to bring copywriters and content marketers together to discuss all things… content. The theme for the inaugural event was “The Future of Content” with speakers giving their educated view on what is in store for the creation of content in this modern age. If you couldn’t make it, Ricemedia is here to give you our highlights of this fantastic event.

Peter Stephen – Why Being Authentic Pays

Experienced B2B copywriter, Peter Stephen explored the importance of why being authentic is important for businesses and explored good and bad examples. Reflecting on Peter’s presentation, his message of “truth underpins a brand” is something content marketers should think of when creating content. It’s easy to hyperbolise what a business is and what it can do, but is that authentic? The examples shown were particularly interesting especially as Dove’s use of “real people” is still a well-crafted advertisement by a team. However, its concept is placed firmly in reality with people being displayed who wouldn’t normally feature in product advertising. It’s up to us with content to strike that perfect balance between selling a product but also sounding authentic.

  • Peter explained how consumers are now sceptical with what they see online due to the rise of fake news. This makes audiences somewhat cynical towards brands who are trying to be something they’re not.
  • Interesting stats were shown to the audience: Consumer Content Report found that 86% said that authenticity is important when deciding what brands to support. 57% also think that fewer than half of brands create authentic content.
  • “Truth underpins a brand” – It’s the mission of content marketers to find the truth behind a brand and tell their story.
  • User-generated content is seen as more authentic to consumers. For example, people are more trusting of reviews of a product made by a “real person” rather than an influencer who has been paid to promote a product. Websites should take advantage of using User Generated Content such as reviews as an element of trust in their brand.
  • Peter showed us examples of brands getting the authenticity right; Dove using real women to advertise their products and Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign. He also looked at campaigns that he felt hadn’t got it right including Gillette’s “the best a man can be” trying too hard to be authentic. It was trying too hard to be authentic and ended up alienating some of its target market.



peter stephen creative north

Tolani Shoneye – Freedom of Content

Former Buzzfeed writer turned podcaster Tolani Shoneye discussed the importance of freedom in content and how it drives creativity but also brings in newer audiences. Tolani’s unique insight into content creation was fascinating; she has a super strong passion for content, and you could see the freedom she has to create works that will interest people who may have felt excluded before.

But what does this mean for the future of content marketing? Our clients are involved in various industries and each has their own little niche. Within that niche are people interested and passionate about that subject. It’s up to content marketers to adopt new ways to find them. Also, Tolani herself stated in the Q&A session after that you can apply this freedom to B2B and B2C marketing. While you may have the facts, figures and algorithms in front of you to tell you what you should do, how you create content that drives traffic and conversions to a site is a different matter. That is where creativity comes in – an element of freedom should be there.

  • Tolani explained how we are now living in a world where content has more freedom. Because of this freedom, the established facts, reality and voices were now evolving.
  • For Tolani, most of what she saw on TV growing up didn’t appeal to her or her friends and family when she was growing up in London. Through freedom and creativity, she can tell her story and show her truths.
  • Content is everywhere – now there’s more chance of finding content that is made for you and not just the same stuff that excludes certain people.
  • Freedom + Niche = Good Content! If you have your niche and have the freedom to be creative, you will create good content that will interest your niche.
  • Niche content will bring out an emotional response from those interested/invested in that industry.
  • Businesses should tell their story which can also resonate with its target audience.
  • Tolani’s tips for creating content is to take yourself these four questions:
    • What story am I telling?
    • What voice am I saying it in?
    • Who do I want to listen?
    • Who else will listen?

tolani shoneye creative north


Tom Cheesewright – Infinite Choice

Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright discussed how marketers and businesses can still connect with their audiences in a world full of infinite content. The “explosion of content” definitely represents a challenge for marketers to get noticed. With the innovations in technology, everybody can be a content creator, so you need to stand out from them. “Authenticity” was the theme of the morning, and if you can be authentic, you will fare better than those who aren’t being true to their brand. With our peers offering authenticity by being “the real influencers” it places importance on user reviews (especially for e-commerce websites). With Google’s YMYL and EAT updates putting even more importance trust, businesses cannot be seen as deceptive – they need to exude trust in with that they’re offering.

  • Tom explained how people now have an infinite amount of content around them to interact with.
  • With so much content in the world, people are bombarded with so much choice but how much of that is authentic cannot be certain.
  • Tom used the phrase “explosion of content” to describe this phenomenon.
  • People now spend 10 hours a day in mixed reality – people are engaged with the world through their phones.
  • New interfaces will see content appear for all. One example is Virtual Reality.
  • We are all content creators – “The real influencers are our peers”. The opinion of those around us matters.
  • Tom presented three challenges facing businesses today: Consumer Navigation, Brand/Publisher Reach, Societal Disconnect.
  • Consumer Navigation – How do we find what we love without FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?
  • Brand/Publisher Reach – How do we connect with consumers through the noise of content?
  • Societal Disconnect – Decline of the watercooler moment, the thing that brings everybody together.
  • Marketers need to find the path through the niche to bring people back together (engagement, watercooler moment).


tom cheesewright creative north


Anna Pickard – Creating Brand Personalities and Voices That Stand Out and Scale

Head of Brand Communications at Slack, Anna Pickard, discussed how to create a voice that stands out and appeals to your target audience. It’s thought that soon AI will mimic written communication between humans, but there’s a debate of how authentic that will be. While it might be easy to set up rules on how to sound human, it still requires that ability to communicate in a way that’s actually human. Anna’s example of how Slack shows empathy towards their audience on the eve of changing their logo is something an AI is unlikely to replicate for a long time yet. That feeling of being valued is important for users and it’s something we must look to when considering our audiences. The closing advice on “choosing your moments” and “knowing when to stop” is vitally important as certain types of content may work better at certain points in comparison to others. Alongside this, it’s important that brands don’t bombard users with the same thing won’t interest them for long; knowing when to stop is crucial.

  • Throughout her talk, Anna expressed how important it was for your voice to be human, rather than trying to sound human. Audiences are looking for you to be authentic so write how they would interact with you.
  • When building your voice and scaling it for your business, you must also consider how well you use it. If you don’t use it responsibly, your audience won’t be interested.
  • “Knowing what you’re not is a great place to start.” – This gives businesses time to focus on exactly what they are which is more likely to bring success.
  • “The more you make rules on sounding human, the more you don’t sound human at all.” – This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have guidelines in place but it’s important to remember you are writing for people, so write like them.
  • Slack have used empathy in their messaging, including tweets reassuring their followers before a huge update is implemented on their system.
  • With your marketing, you must understand the motivation behind everything you are doing.
  • Craftsmanship is key – every word counts when crafting content for a business.
  • Key tips for creating your brand’s voice: Meet people where they are, allow people to feel seen (important), enjoy being wrong, choose your moments and know when to stop.


anna pickard creative north


Nick Parker – The Future of Content Is Tone

Nick Parker from That Explains Things and creator of VOICEBOX finished the conference by exploring how important tone remains in the future of content.

Nick is a very engaging speaker, and the many laughs garnered was backed up by his excellent insight. In an already complex world, people don’t want over complicated content and advertising. By keeping the message simple, you can engage with your audience effectively. The recent Oasis campaign was shown as an example of over complicating messaging, but only time will tell on how successful that tone of voice will be for the brand.

The closing section of Nick’s talk focused on the 11 Primary Voices that are used in content today. It’s up to content creators to work with businesses to ensure that their voice is the most suitable not only for their company but their target market as well. If their current tone of voice isn’t working, you shouldn’t be afraid to change it to one that resonates with your audience.

  • He emphasised how important it is for marketers to keep the message simple and not over complicate it.
  • Examples of complicating it were shown including the recent Oasis “we’ll stop advertising if you keep buying” campaign.
  • Good examples included Brewdog’s campaigns and Deliveroo advertising pizza on a bus stop with the word “pizzahhh”.
  • Businesses need to avoid creating tone without content.
  • Informal is now becoming serious as brands use it as a tool to get their message across.
  • Increase in the use of Emojis is turning them from informal to serious. It’s now seen as an opportunity for businesses to appeal to people.
  • The need for content that is authentic and human means AI’s won’t be stealing content writer’s jobs any time soon. Phew!
  • Nick explored the 11 Primary Voices of Content:
    • Simplifier – Less is more.
    • Playful child – Innocence.
    • Energiser – Enthusiastic, larger than life.
    • Purposeful – focus and seriousness.
    • Straight-talker – Expect the expected. Ronseal: “It does as it says on the tin”.
    • Warm friend – Reassuring voice.
    • Firestarter – The one that likes to cause trouble.
    • Neutraliser – The non-voice which doesn’t draw attention. The UK Government’s website uses this voice.
    • Sensualist – A voice that appeals to the senses.
    • Storyteller – Where a brand tells its story from inception to now.
    • Impersonator – Where the voice is taken from literature, a point in history or in the style of a person.


nick parker creative north

Overall, this was a fantastic event with many great takeaways for content marketers to implement on their own content strategy. We look forward to attending more events from the Creative North team.

Ricemedia is attending various industry events throughout the year that covers SEO, PPC, CRO and Content Marketing. You can catch up on our highlights of April’s BrightonSEO and the Google Smart Bidding Event over on our blog. Keep your eyes peeled for more of our highlights and takeaways throughout the year!