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Bumbl’s Lois Bell on keeping up with today’s speed of change in marketing and social media

HLN caught up with Lois to chat about adapting quickly to changing consumer habits, social media and mental health as well as her hopes to see an increase in the number of women in creative leadership roles.

By Laura Kingston

Can you tell us about you, your background and your role at Bumbl? 

Of course! I’ve always loved to create. I remember being about eight-years-old and attempting to make a wildlife documentary in my parents’ back garden. I’d also write stories, draw, and pretend to be paparazzi as soon as I got hold of my first camera.

Trying new things and learning different skills is something I’ve always enjoyed. Nothing motivates me more than when I don’t know how to do something!

Having a lot of interests allowed me to have fun being creative, but it also posed a challenge when I had to narrow my focus after leaving school. In the end, I went with writing and studied Journalism at Northumbria University. I didn’t travel far… I’m too much of a staunch Geordie!

I graduated with a First and worked in various marketing roles, both agency and client-side for a few years. Before joining Bumbl, I was head of marketing for a chain of sushi restaurants, which I really enjoyed. I was also running my own clothing brand, which allowed me to be creative while managing the commercial side of the business.

At the same time, things were starting to take off for my fiancé Greg at Bumbl, which he founded in 2015. The company was looking to take on its next hire and it felt like perfect timing for me to join. 

As creative director at Bumbl I’m responsible for the creative strategy of clients, and I’m very hands-on, which is something I love so much about the role. 

I’m really passionate about gender parity within the creative industry, and I’d love to see the number of women in creative leadership roles, which is currently 17%, continue to increase.

Tell us more about Bumbl – what do you do?

Bumbl is a marketing agency based on Newcastle Quayside. We help ambitious brands punch above their weight, supporting our clients with marketing strategy, creative campaigns and digital know-how. We love to work with brands that have a challenger mindset and understand that ‘business as usual’ doesn’t always cut it.

That’s something that couldn’t be more relevant today as we’ve seen enormous shifts in how businesses and entire industries have changed the way they operate in a very short space of time due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Even with that aside, things have been advancing quickly for some time, and we see it as our job to help businesses adapt to these ever-changing consumer habits. 

It’s all about achieving tangible business objectives through effective marketing. Today that means a lot of social media marketing. In 10 years it may be something different, but we’ll keep up and adapt. Ultimately it always comes back to consumers – how they spend time, discover brands and make purchases.

Every member of the team at Bumbl dedicates a minimum of two hours per week to research and innovation. We believe that this is essential today due to the speed of change.

Digital marketing is such a rapidly changing industry – what changes have you seen in just the last couple of years and how do you ensure that you always stay ahead of trends?

Some of the biggest changes in the past few years have been the explosion of influencers, the shift in attention from feeds to Stories, and algorithm updates that have all impacted the way people consume content. 

Perhaps the main change from a brand perspective has been the transition from focusing on organic to paid media. It used to be possible to build a presence and reach a high number of people without any paid advertising on social media, but that has become increasingly difficult.

To move the needle, brands really need to be investing in social media ads to reach large audiences outside of just their followers.

To make sure we are always on top of these changes, every member of the team dedicates a minimum of two hours per week to research and development on their specialism. It’s essential today due to the speed of change. 

What about the impact of Coronavirus? Have you seen a direct impact with some of your clients?

I’d be surprised if there are any businesses out there that have not been affected in some way or another. Some of our clients have had to amend their marketing messaging, others have had to change how they operate, and some in the hospitality and leisure sector have closed their doors entirely for the time being.

Our team has put together a whitepaper explaining how brands can adapt their approach to marketing to navigate through these turbulent times.

Bumbl lockdown marketing in a crisis coronavirus

What does a typical day look like for you? 

Normally I arrive at the office at about 8.20am, plan my day and catch up on emails. Other than that, no day in the office is ever the same, I’ll be doing anything from client meetings, team discussions and strategy development, to media creation and organising shoots. During lockdown, my routine has stayed pretty constant, but with a few more distractions from our miniature dachshund Rolo… and less time spent doing my hair! 

Social media has great sides but also negative sides. What do you think of this and how do you manage this with yourself and also your team?

It’s no secret that social media can have a negative mental health impact on people. This is something that I think collectively, we are all now more conscious of and hopefully will start to improve. 

I went through a period where social media was having a negative impact on my mental health, due to comparing myself to others’ filtered lives. But I made the conscious decision to completely reassess the type of content I was following.

We can all be mindful about who we follow and what we consume and it can actually be a really positive place. You’re in control of who and what you follow.

Trolls are something that the major platforms have struggled to deal with too, but one solution might be to make sure people can’t hide behind anonymous accounts by providing ID when setting up an account. Hopefully, they will work it out soon.

I went through a period where social media was having a negative impact on my mental health, due to comparing myself to others’ filtered lives. But I made the conscious decision to completely reassess the type of content I was following.

A lot of people now are becoming more mindful of their digital activity but it doesn’t look like social media is going anywhere – what are your predictions for the future and what would you personally like to see?

I hope that people will stop caring so much about likes and feedback for validation, meaning people will be more creative and authentic. Instagram has trialled removing like counters which is a first step, but there is a long way to go. 

Platforms like TikTok also promote creativity over vanity, so hopefully, we are starting to move towards a wave of creative expression.

What does the future look like for Bumbl?

Everything is a bit crazy at the moment, so the first step is to ride out the remainder of the UK lockdown. We’re fortunate enough to have built solid foundations, which means we’re in a good position to get through and come out of the other side stronger.

We’re focused on how we’ll be able to help our clients and other businesses once we come out of this period, as there are likely to be long-term effects that we’ll have to navigate. More than anything though, we’re committed to building a happy team that delivers excellent work for ambitious clients. We’ve got big plans for growth over the next five years.

Finally, North East favourites, please!

I’m well overdue a hair appointment, and I can’t wait to get back to Sassine in Jesmond when lockdown is lifted. Anthony and the team are wonderful… it’s like being at a spa!

Ernest in Ouseburn is our favourite place to grab brunch. It’s so chilled out and dog-friendly.

We love going for a team lunch at Thali Tray. We’re all partial to a good curry at Bumbl, so it definitely hits the spot!

Jesmond Dene is our go-to dog walk. A total haven just minutes away from the city centre.

We love going up the coast to Bamburgh for a day out. My grandparents had a caravan up there when I was little, so I spent lots of happy summers there. Whenever we go it brings back so many memories from my childhood.

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