The Brand Culture Sessions

arts | change | CULTURE | fashion | gaming | retail
Brook Calverley , Dec 08,2017

Way back in 2016 we started looking for a conference or event we could contribute to: somewhere we could connect up the three worlds of Brand, Culture, and Service, look at how the customer service proposition is really driven by culture, how brands were being created from the inside out….

We couldn’t find anything in Europe at all, and only a few in the US. Siloed events just for HR, Marketing, Retail, and none with the approach that we took. So we thought ‘Screw it’ let’s start one ourselves and see what happens!

The result was our very first ever Brand Culture Sessions, held Nov 29th…

Brook whole panel

Cosied up in The Library at Shoreditch House for the evening, a 60-strong group of likeminded clients past and present, friends, collaborators and journalists came together to share experiences, knowledge and progress the conversation around brand culture. There was lively debate, lots of food and drinks, networking and moderate dancing.

To keep things fast-paced we ran two panel discussions back-to-back before inviting everyone back on stage for a Q&A. Hosted by our co-founders Doug and Brook we had a strong line-up of speakers; Sian Keane – Farfetch, Victoria Munro – Sweaty Betty, Sarah Cleary – Selfridges Group, Will Dallimore – Royal Academy of Arts, and Charles Woolnough – Sony Interactive Entertainment. All directors and leaders of talent, engagement and culture in their organisations, representing a hugely varied mix of sectors and brands across fashion, retail, arts and consumer electronics.

This incredible breadth revealed both how universal some challenges around culture are but also the unique conditions of different organisations as they evolve, grow and age. There were tonnes of useful insights and ideas so below are just a few highlights.

Talent panel

‘Culture for Talent’, the first panel, brought Sian, Vicky and Sarah to the stage to describe the role of brand culture and its impact on talent and business strategy and customer experience.

Here’s a little of what we learned…

From Sweaty Betty: By living the lifestyle we’re trying to encourage, we enable greater brand understanding amongst our team. The company has a founder-led culture, it’s a family business, husband and wife are very involved so the culture is personal to them.

There’s also a strong purpose around empowering women and belief in nurturing the careers of everyone, including those who don’t just want to be in retail. Sweaty Betty’s brand culture is about motivating people, encouraging loyalty and offering ‘softer’ benefits such as a learning, training, flexibility around the working week.

At Selfridges the philosophy ‘everyone is welcome’ is still held dear. The people culture is reflective of the brand culture, critical to success and retention, and to creating an environment that our people consider to be fun.

For Farfetch the importance of clarity around values whilst growing is essential. A strong brand culture, vision and mission provide consistency during a period of rapid growth (currently there are 100+ new people joining the employee community every month!)

Change panel

Next on stage Will and Charles discussed ‘Culture and Change’.

We learned that:

At the Royal Academy change is feeling like ‘the new normal’ with a huge transformation project underway (new building, new facilities, a new public face) – ‘everything’s changing about what we do’.

Organisations are having to become ever more agile, even the 249yr old Royal Academy! But whilst the Royal Academy is ‘slightly swimming in change right now’, culture is the thing that glues everything together.

They recognise that management doesn’t always understand what the best change is and Will explained how giving other employees the opportunity to get involved, and encouraging them to look at things in different ways, get excited and solve problems benefits everyone.

From Sony, Charles talked about how the gaming industry has changed – affected by advancements in technology (e.g. the advent of smartphones), behaviours, the marketplace and described the ambitions of the founder, Playstation’s phenomenal growth and its impact on culture.

He described a culture in which ‘we allow our people to focus, react to consumer demands and address challenges’. And how, as employees become more aware of the newer tech giants and start comparing Sony to them, it’s having an impact on how Sony’s being encouraged to reflect on its own workspaces and practices to remain an attractive place to employees


It was such a fun, stimulating evening – huge thanks to everyone who came along. We’re already planning another so if you’re interested in attending our next event, drop us a line at

Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about the stories our guests shared or the work we did with them, feel free to drop a note to or Happy to share!