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Living many lives with Vanish & the RB Global Brand Experience Lead - #BehindTheBrand

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You know Vanish. It breathes new life into your clothes and enables consumers to live even more meaningful moments, well aware of the important emotional connection people share with certain garments. Every piece of clothing is a memory. And that, the Vanish brand knows quite well.

RB Global Brand Experience Lead Nick Horan below loves to refer to Vanish as the "Jonathan Van Ness" of garments – and you can really see why. Vanish is a reinvigorating brand, now engaged in "more conversations than ever before" and ever so focused on the challenges of sustainability. According to Nick, Vanish creates meaningful experiences – and his one true hope for the future of branding is that other brands may slow down and focus on conveying the same kind of spirit, too.

Today we are getting Behind the Vanish Brand, learning more about the brand's challenges in the next year, how it rose to success, and how it works with the most talented and unique creative agencies across the world.

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Nick Horan, Global Brand Experience Lead at RB

How was your brand born and what does it do?

Vanish was born in 1983 as a stick for removing stains. In 2002, we added active oxygen into our formula and Vanish grew to be present in circa 70 countries. Our brand helps clothes live many lives, empowering people to embrace the benefits of responsible clothing consumption.

What is one unique aspect of your brand?

People have a deep emotional connection with their garments. They select clothes as an outward reflection of their personality, and they wear them and associate them with strong memories.  For example, I can tell you the jumper I was wearing when my baby was born. Our brand’s uniqueness is its ability to revive the clothes you love in front of your eyes so they can live a longer life.

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Can you describe your brand’s personality in one sentence?

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The Jonathan Van Ness of garments! I was once asked, if I had to personify Vanish as a famous person, who would it be? My answer is Jonathan Van Ness (guess what I’ve been bingeing on in lockdown) and it’s for a multitude of reasons.  

One, you don’t miss him in a crowd; he uses fashion to push boundaries and challenge conventions and comes across as confident in who he is. 

Two, and most importantly, he is able to see the beauty in real people who don’t see beauty in themselves anymore. He uncovers their stories and works with them to find their inner value again, reviving their pride and giving them tools to empower themselves with reinvigorated confidence. 

What was the biggest challenge for the growth of your brand?

Our challenges are twofold: One is the societal lack of awareness of the impact of clothing waste, and two is the stigma associated with re-wearing garments. We’re in a massive period of change and people are starting to understand the impact of their choices, embracing the joy of vintage, thrift-shopping and discovering new trends. But for our brand to grow we have to be at the forefront of these shifts and develop innovate solutions for garment longevity whilst being a voice for positive change. 

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Which was the first huge success that you can remember? 

Having been Global Brand Experience Lead on Vanish for less than a year it’s easy to recall the successes of the last year. These include repositioning the brand around the benefit of clothes’ longevity, underpinned by innovations in formula that give Vanish more super-powers: removing odours; hygienically cleaning; preventing colour transfer; and of course, removing stains. 

But we wanted to push the envelope and not just extend the life of clothes but to revive them. Our latest success has to be Vanish Miracle, a serum that revives colour, debobbles and removes loose threads and stains. This is a real wonder-product that brings garments back from the brink.

What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your brand in the next year?

Vanish is having conversations with more people than ever before. It’s being purchased and used for more reasons and in more ways. The opportunity for Vanish is to embrace this diversity and benefit people on an individual, but also wider societal level, is vast. My focus is on equipping the brand to have meaningful interactions whenever, wherever and with whomever it interacts with. 

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Do you work with an in-house creative team, an agency or both?

I am lucky enough to work with a brilliant creative community both internally and externally. Internally we’ve a dynamic group of brand experience leads from all walks of life, and we have a growing innovation design team as well as an artwork process team. Externally we have forged long-term bonds with agency partners who bring their expertise to brand, comms, digital and physical experience. 

What do you look for in a creative agency?

I could reel off a bunch of KPIs but the tangible things I value are:

  • Left-field expertise and specialisms - I’m always keen to learn from other industries and specialisms. Finding creative ways to apply success from one field to a completely different field is where big experience innovations come from.
  • A genuine uniqueness - what has the agency developed that can bring a competitive edge for our brands?
  • Good people - I read somewhere that the average person will spend 90,000 hours of their life in an office, so I look to partner with agencies that have great people who have a shared sense of brand ownership and pride in creative results.
  • Measurable success - design for design’s sake is art. I look for creative agencies who have strong clarity in terms of how their actions delivered success and are able to quantify the result.
  • Diversity – Vanish is present across the world and it’s important that those building the brand are representative of that audience.

What is one tip you would give to other brands looking to grow?

Make sure your brand is a positive and active participant in society. Never have brands been more personified. They chat to you online, they have personalities, they align to causes and they can incite change. 

What is your current role? What’s a ‘typical’ day?

Simply put, my role is to set out how we will delight people whenever they interact with Vanish. The challenging part is making sure we set that vision in 70 countries with around a billion interactions a day. Much of my day is therefore dedicated to understanding the people that buy our brands, identifying the key interactions they have and designing them to delight. 

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What’s your one big hope for the future of branding?

My colleagues will confirm I’m obsessed by a fact: the average person is exposed to up to 10,000 brands a day compared to 1,600 in the 1970’s. It may sound odd but my big hope for branding is to slow down and create fewer but more meaningful and authentic interactions which create positive changes to both individuals and broader society.

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

My Bible over the last year or so has to be ‘X: The Experience When Business Meets Design’ by Brian Solis. His blending of digital innovation, anthropology and practical tools for building user experiences have been invaluable – it’s well worth a read!

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