Ep. 9: The Pulling Power of the Purple Pound


9 min read

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Speaker 1: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.


Toby Mildon: Thank you ever so much for tuning in to this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show. I'm Toby Mildon, and I'm joined by two amazing guests, Arron Shepherd and Martyn Sibley. Arron is a senior investor and entrepreneur with years of experience in digital marketing industry. At 23 he moved to Dubai and became global director of Business Development at The First Group, where the company increased EMEA revenues from $25 million to $350 million in just three years.


Toby Mildon: By 2012, Arron co-founded SportLobster. He built a team of over 60 staff, onboarded over two million users, and completed successful partnerships with Cristiano Ronaldo, the NBA, Crystal Palace, Sky and many other major sports brands. Arron then co-founded Goat, which is a leading influence marketing agency with offices in London, New York, and Singapore, working with everyone from start-up companies to global brands such as UEFA, Lidl, Malibu and Nivea.


Toby Mildon: Goat has been named the fastest growing agency in Europe by AdWeek, and the fourth fastest-growing agency in the world. Arron, it's great to have you on the show.


Arron Shepherd: Cool. I don't think I could live up to that introduction.


Toby Mildon: That's a pretty good introduction.


Arron Shepherd: Thank you, yeah.


Toby Mildon: Yeah. Arron, you're joined with Martyn Sibley. Martyn is a business strategist who helps organizations design accessible and inclusive goods and services, and workplaces for the 1.3 billion disabled people in the UK... In the world, sorry. Martyn's goal is to help companies connect with the needs of the disability community to transform the way everyone lives, works and contributes.


Toby Mildon: He uniquely qualifies to lead this transformation. He's just a regular guy who happens to have a disability called spinal muscular atrophy, and this means that he can't walk or lift anything heavier than the book. Nonetheless, he's the founder of Disability Horizons, the UK's fastest growing disability lifestyle publication, and he's also an author, keynote speaker, and podcaster. Martyn, it's great to have you on the show.


Martyn Sibley: Good to be here as well, Toby. Thanks for having us on.


Toby Mildon: Both two really great guys. And...


Martyn Sibley: Lot to live up to, as Arron said. [chuckle]


Toby Mildon: Yeah a lot to live up to. And you've combined forces to create your own agency, which is Purple Goat. Arron, could you just give us a bit more of a background to the Goat agency and how you help out your clients? 


Arron Shepherd: Sure. So we're as you said we're the leading influencer agency globally with a 130 people across London, New York, Singapore. We primarily use social influencers to deliver advertising value for our clients. But we... I suppose the small segment would be the influencer marketing segment, which we're obviously a leader in, but a lot of our clients see that "influencer" is within social, and so really we're a social-first advertising agency.


Arron Shepherd: That includes all of the influence marketing, but we also do paid media for our clients. We're coming up with their cross-vertical strategies, we're doing the creative for them, we're buying their TV and whatever else it may be. We're an advertising agency built for the decade and the year that we live in right now. With obviously what's going on in the world, that's gonna force digitalization, so we're hoping it will push even more brands down the social and digital route.


Arron Shepherd: So we work with a whole variety of different brands, essentially those that are advertising partner. We are not agency people. Traditionally, the three founders, none of us has ever worked at an agency. The vast majority of the people that work at Goat never worked in another agency. So we have the advantage of not being bogged down by the traditional ways of thinking, and we come into pretty much every situation with a blank piece of paper in order to draw the straightest line that we can when things get very, very over-complicated.


Arron Shepherd: So what we did very early on was essentially guarantee results to our clients and try and de-risk it for them. We launched organically, we didn't raise any money, we'll be five years in August. As you said, we're the fastest growing agency in Europe, we've got a lot of amazing people working for us, some incredible clients. We're very fortunate to be where we are now, right at the tip of the wave, the largest in the space, and one of the most progressive agencies out there. So that's sort of it.


Arron Shepherd: Goat is what we do, and we got lots of clients. And to be clear, we're an agency that delivers business results to our clients. Our clients use us because we make them more money, not for any of the, intangible reason, it's about that. We serve the agency as business owners, because we wanted an appetizing agency that actually understood our problems and was gonna deliver them in the way that we wanted as entrepreneurs, and we basically built the agency to give that same service back to clients.


Toby Mildon: Excellent. Thanks, brilliant. And Martyn, we should probably disclose that we actually go back a long way, we've known each other for ages, we've both got the same disability, SMA. And Martyn, can you just tell us a bit more about your background and how you ended up meeting Arron? 


Martyn Sibley: Yeah, sure. Well, like you said, we've got the same disability and I think that when I was a teenager, I was more adamant, thought I would not work in a job that was specifically around disability. It felt a bit cliched. But with growing up with a disability and then going through a career and even prior to that, university, there's just so many things day-to-day that are still difficult, that really shouldn't be, the solutions are easy. But we're still trying to raise awareness and get change and more inclusion of disabled people.


Martyn Sibley: And so, I think having done studying being in Uni for economics and marketing, done a bit at disability rights, the charity scope for five years in London. I was introduced the world of blogging and I think on a very personal level, blogging was very liberating. It was a way of both having a voice rather than relying on gatekeepers, traditional media. And even though there were times that I and other disabled people would get a bit of the airtime on the media, the narrative was a bit hijacked around triumph over tragedy, or pity, charity, and sympathy.


Martyn Sibley: And so by having my own platform, my own media channel, I was able to just say, "I'm a normal guy that happens to be in a chair, and I've got all the fears, all the dreams and ambitions that other people have, and let's have a newer conversation about how we have inclusion."


Martyn Sibley: And so that started to mix in with my love of travel, so I've travelled a lot of the world, and eventually did that as an influencer. A lot of the economics comes into it, because actually inclusion pays in terms of your business, and we'll come back to that a little bit more soon. From a political point, disabled people are voters, like you mentioned 1.3 billion people in the world have a disability. If you're a politician, that ought to be a large voter block as well as a consumer block.


Martyn Sibley: And then right back into the influencer blogging and social media, it sort of led me to run communities and build lots of influence and impact, and finally, to meet Arron and the guys at The Goat about a year ago, I think, to the day, and build up a really cool relationship in that space. And yeah, we're now business partners and launched Purple Goat recently.


Toby Mildon: So I love the name of your agency, Goat, and so you've created the sister agency, Purple Goat. I don't know what colour the original goat was. But why create Purple Goat? 


Arron Shepherd: Yeah, I mean, so orange is our colour. You see orange going anywhere with us. Why Purple Goat? Well, "Purple" came from Martyn. Goat, we obviously... What Purple Goat is going to offer from the services point of view is exactly the same as the Goat agency, with the exception that it is only targeted at the disabled community. So all the same services, but Goat, we deal with hundreds of communities. We deal with the parenting community, the gaming community, the football community. Then within the football community, the Sheffield United community, the Chelsea community, etcetera.


Arron Shepherd: So obviously there's sub-communities within this, but it's such a huge community that is so underserved, I mean that is the reason for Purple Goat. When the name obviously came from Martyn because of the significance of the word "purple" and around the purple pound.


Arron Shepherd: And we... I think what's important for us is, the reason that we're doing this is because of a conversation that Martyn and I had three or four months ago, but maybe a bit longer, six months ago now, where he talked me through the financial situation in the UK with the disabled community, their spending power, the percentage of ads that are targeted at the community, and I was absolutely staggered. I couldn't believe it.


Arron Shepherd: Still now, when I look at those numbers I think, "It can't be that. It's crazy." So those numbers that really did it for me were 22% of the population being in the community, which is much, much higher than I thought, and I think and the average person thinks, who doesn't have the insight into the community.


Arron Shepherd: And then only 0.06% of ads are targeted at the community. So you've got 22% of the population who are only advertised to 0.06% of the time, that's one 360th of 22%. So basically it means that one day a year, brands advertised to 22% of the population and the rest of the year, they ignore them.


Arron Shepherd: Now, my job as an advertiser marketeer, to be clear is to make brands money, irrelevant of what community that they're dealing in. It doesn't matter. Which ever community you want to deal with, my job is to make you make money by dealing with that community. And I just see this as such an open opportunity. How could you not make money from this community? 


Arron Shepherd: And so from my point of view, speaking with Martyn and other people in the community, I sense in the wider population, in our big brands that we deal with, there's a huge amount of fear from people that aren't in the community about upsetting people that are in the community. And that is actually what stops people doing things, is, "What if we do this for this group of people? Maybe people will think we're judging them or we're being... "


Arron Shepherd: And actually, you speak to the people in that community, every single time, they go, "Just treat me like anyone else. Just treat me like anyone else, I've got money like anyone else. Why don't you want me to come and shop there?" So the way that we start to think about it was more along the lines of, not pay supermarket, do something, say that you're gonna commit to something in the future around this community, 'cause that's meaningless.


Arron Shepherd: It's, there are 1.2 million people, for example, in wheelchairs. How can we get... If you're a supermarket, let's say you've six big supermarkets, 200,000 shopping at each one. I wanna go to those supermarkets and say, "If you change your stores and make yourselves properly accessible, change how people shop, you can get that 200,000 people to become 300,000 people, and all brands want more people.


Arron Shepherd: So the whole pitch for us is, how do we get brands to see the economic value from advertising to this community? Not the sort of PR benefit or the... It's not about that. I don't want anyone to stand on stage saying, "We're gonna do this." Don't, don't ever do that. Stand there and say,"We've done this and here's the results", brilliant.


Arron Shepherd: But for 10 years people have been talking about, "We're gonna do this, we're gonna do this." I, for one, I'm bored of it, and I'm not even in the community. So you too are in the community, you must be absolutely sick of it, sick of the platitudes, and you just wanna be treated like everyone else.


Toby Mildon: Excellent. Yeah, absolutely. Martyn, from your perspective, what do brands gain from working with you guys and what does it look like to work with you? 


Martyn Sibley: I think the key, and it's back to marketing 101, you understand what your audience, your market needs and wants, you give it to them, and you tell them that you're offering it to them. It's that simple. There will be research and insights from the community. And as Arron said, there's very much sub-segments.


Martyn Sibley: So you might do a piece around visual impairment, or hearing impairment, or mobility impairment. So I think that there's obviously that segmenting side. But at the end of the day, it's getting those insights, real true life insights, not what some random thinks a community wants from what they read in the Daily Mail, or they just imagine. I think there's a lot around that. But, and with the influencers side, I think this is a really important point as well. There's a lot of disabled talent, disabled people.


Martyn Sibley: Whether they've been to uni or not is less relevant. But it's just, they're clever, they've got really good skills or amazing talents, but they've maybe not been given opportunities in an economic area. And so for the influencers, the Instagramers, the Youtubers, that have already got good content and built up a good following, there's gonna be a chance for them to get paid at the rate and the amount they should be, or in terms of just more opportunity.


Martyn Sibley: But also at Purple Goat we're gonna be bringing in account managers and campaign managers, insights team, all the rest of it that you get at agencies, but very much looking to the disabled community and creating more job opportunities. And I still loop back to Arron's point, the first instance is his clients make him more profit, because they understand the market, and they're first to be a truly inclusive brand. That's absolutely point one, but there are some really good economic benefits beyond that for the community and beyond.


Toby Mildon: Absolutely. Arron did touch on this a bit earlier, around some of the fear that brands might have in targeting disabled consumers. What are some of the other fears, Martyn, that you see brands making in trying to reach the disabled community? 


Martyn Sibley: Yeah, so there's stuff that goes on every day that is still pretty not inclusive, not accessible. And some disable people, understandably, are quite pissed off. As Arron was saying is, "Stop the platitudes. Let's just get it sorted." But I think it's good to just mention that I don't believe brands are proactively looking to disabled people from the environment, from society. I think it's more from ignorance and just not thinking about it, rather than some malice. So I think that's point one.


Martyn Sibley: Once they're aware of the opportunity, and they think, "Okay, what could we do? Let's have a look." I think it's very much the fear that you've touched on, of saying the wrong word. There's always that. Political correctness has become almost like the enemy of inclusion, to some degree. I think that's a big thing that we're trying to work on. Language matters, there are cultural references that everyone should be aware of, but we as Purple Goat will help brands navigate and understand what is, wording-wise, what is good.


Martyn Sibley: But yeah. I think practically, coming back to your last two questions, it's very much about, those insights will inform what a products and service isn't doing and what it could do. What a digital space, like a website, isn't doing and what it could be doing. And just breaking down customer services, or marketing, all the different parts of a business, from those insights, and then looking at how to rollout changes, but ultimately to win new customers.


Martyn Sibley: And I think another area is brand loyalty. That some brands would already have disabled customers, but they won't have ever felt represented or spoken to. So you can also get higher retention, higher lifetime value of customers. And there are other benefits. But yeah, I just think the fear is just doing the wrong thing. I think it's as simple as that. And we're just gonna hold their hand, in the positive, nice meaning of it, and just help them navigate a newer world. And the benefits are there for the taking, really.


Toby Mildon: Definitely. Martyn, have you seen any great blunders when it comes to targeting the disabled community that the brand should avoid? And similarly, have you seen really great practice that brands should strive towards? 


Martyn Sibley: The biggest blunder that I've experienced, and I know quite a few others have, is when airlines drop heavy, many thousands of pounds, expensive wheelchairs. One thing in an air travel sense would just be like, "Don't damage vital mobility equipment." And in finding a solution to that, more people would fly, there'll be less compensations spent on the damaged wheelchairs, less stress for people that do still dare to fly with their wheelchairs.


Martyn Sibley: So, certainly a lot of blunders in air travel. And there are more intricacies around not being allowed to have the wheelchair in the cabin. Other blunders are just, it's back to that, the wording and the basic customer service, and just, if a staff member feels comfortable, confident and empowered to serve just a customer that happens to have a disability, then you just wouldn't get those awkward turning people away because of a guide dog or saying something that's just totally insensitive.


Martyn Sibley: So yeah, the blunders are across the board in those kind of areas. But the solutions come back to insights and training, and just more confidence for a business.


Toby Mildon: Yeah. I've seen on social media people using just stock imagery of people in wheelchairs.


Martyn Sibley: That's a good one.


Toby Mildon: I don't know about you, but I'd take one look at that picture, and I'm like, "That person isn't disabled. That's completely set up right there." Arron, you've mentioned, and I think you've made it very clear, the commercial case behind reaching the disabled community and targeting the Purple Pound. And they... As a business, you exist to help your clients increase their profitability, but what else does inclusive growth mean for you and your agency? 


Arron Shepherd: It means, and I don't want anyone to think that's the only thing that we care about, I think the way to get brands, the only thing brands care about is money, ultimately. And by "brand", I really mean, I don't mean the inclusivity officer at one of these brands. I'm sure that person really cares. But the reason it's not happening is when it goes up to the CFO, they don't, they're making financial decisions.


Arron Shepherd: So I think in order to move everything forward, we have to do it based on financials. However, once that's happened, there's a huge amount of other benefits that are gonna happen. And I think for us, a key part of this is nothing about us without us. Now, that doesn't include me, my role here is to make sure that Purple Goat has all go has all the same insights and live reporting, market-leading tech that the Goat agency does.


Arron Shepherd: When it comes time to say what we should actually do, it has to come from not just Martyn, but the entire community. So we're gonna build a team of marketers here, that are from the community. Not because we want to be seen to have that, but because they will be better at marketing to this community than people that are not within the community. So it is purely in our own interest to hire people from within the community.


Arron Shepherd: I think another big thing that's gonna be very, very positive for inclusivity, is I think working from one is gonna really push this forward for people. So we as a business, for the last, for all of my businesses, forever, everybody has gone to the office every day. We've never had a working from home policy, we've never had a flexible working policy. 100% going forward, we will.


Arron Shepherd: We won't take offices that are as big as they were before, we will take slightly smaller ones, maybe a bit more spread about, there'll be venues that people go to for big client meetings, big brainstorming things for events at the agency, rather than periodically commuting every day. So I think that not just with us, but across the world, is gonna really help people with disabilities get into the workplace because there are gonna be less barriers around commuting, specifically. So I think that's a big, big positive.


Arron Shepherd: But for us, it's about not treating it any differently. Fundamentally, I don't look at disability marketing any differently than I look at gaming marketing. If we want to do things, when we're advertising to the gaming community, we're surrounded by people that are in the gaming community, all the influencers are from the gaming community, all the staff working on it at Goat are living in the gaming community themselves.


Arron Shepherd: So there's no difference here, right? This is community-based marketing, and so whichever community you're marketing to, you need to have a workforce that's made up of that community itself. So, I generally don't differentiate, Martyn's just as capable as anybody else that we deal with. There is no difference.


Arron Shepherd: So for us, we don't... We try and not really think about it as a different thing. We understand that there are things that we have to be more aware of, with an accessibility point of view and things like that, but I don't think of Martyn any differently than I think of any other business leader in our organization that's leading things. And I think that is how we really move things forward when people don't talk about it, right? 


Arron Shepherd: I don't want to be talking the whole time about how many disabled people there are working at Purple Goat, right? Assume that it's gonna be full of them, the majority of them are gonna be from that community. Maybe all of them, I don't know. It'll be we'll hire whoever the best person is at the time. But if you're not from that community or you don't have someone who you're very close to from that community, you're gonna not be as good at marketing to it as someone else, essentially.


Toby Mildon: Brilliant. And Martyn, from your perspective, what does inclusive growth mean for you? 


Martyn Sibley: Yeah, I think that the fundamentals are very similar to what we've been talking about previously, that if you understand there's a market of consumers and you are, or have the workforce as Arron was saying, that understands the culture of what it is to be in that community, but also knows how to help a brand and a global business take those insights and sort of translate them into some quick wins, some long-term strategies.


Martyn Sibley: But ultimately, in making those changes that having disabled people in the DNA, or different parts of the chain if you like, is just gonna bring more results and more growth. And then that's your point, isn't it? Talking about inclusive growth, those businesses will grow because of the inclusion of talent and the inclusion of customers that were previously ignored.


Martyn Sibley: And I know on your model, Toby, one of your Cs is around celebrators and that the once a brand has done lots of good, genuine, authentic, good things around inclusion, to celebrate it. How have you, have you seen good practices with brands that have marketed those positive changes really well? 


Toby Mildon: Yes, some of the best practice around celebrating, is really allowing employees to tell stories through social media, and recognizing that there were lots of pubic platforms out there like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, where people are publicly talking about what it's like to talk with a particular... Sorry, to work with a particular employer.


Toby Mildon: Thanks guys, it's been really great having you on today's episode of the Inclusive Growth Show. And if anyone is interested in working with you and following your work, what should they do? 


Martyn Sibley: Well, my immediate thoughts, the content both I... Well, on my personal brand, at the moment, Martyn Sibley, do a daily livestream where there's disabled people, just from a consumer perspective, disabled influencers. I today had Tess Daly, who's an Instagrammer and has worked with brands like Boohoo and doing some great things with her content. And more going forward, there will be, I think, a lot more brands getting involved. And Arron, I think do you wanna talk about the Goat content as well? 


Arron Shepherd: Well, I mean we vlog daily but I would, to be honest, I would use this opportunity to very much to encourage people to go and follow Martyn. If anyone does want to see what is possible through the disabled community, we can show you that. There's two big benefits. There's obviously a societal benefit, but there is also a profit benefit. And we're not gonna be telling you to do things that are just societal benefit, we want to have both. But Martyn is the best person to walk you through all of that, much better than I am.


Arron Shepherd: So I would suggest that people go and get in touch with Martyn, he can walk through everything that we're doing at Purple Goat, he has got more than our 100% full support. It's something that we're really, really excited about, and think it's gonna do some really good stuff, not just in the UK, but across the world.


Toby Mildon: Thanks. Martyn, what is your channel of choice for people to get a hold of you? 


Martyn Sibley: LinkedIn. Come to LinkedIn, we've got the launch deck, which has been seen by a phenomenal amount of people, and a lot of engagement and connections as a result. So yeah, I think come, Martyn with a Y, 'cause just to be awkward. So Martyn Sibley on LinkedIn, and yeah, there's the daily live streams on the deck there.


Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Thanks ever so much guys, for joining me on this episode of Inclusive Growth Show. And thank you for listening to this episode, and I look forward to seeing on the next one. Until then, good bye.


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Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website @mildon.go.uk.