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A lesson on building brand personality with Squarespace’s senior creative manager

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A lesson on building brand personality with Squarespace’s senior creative manager

Squarespace's 'The Ditch' campaign

Squarespace is renowned for crafting creative and unique brand campaigns. Its ability to infuse its comedic and playful brand personality into every marketing touchpoint helps to align the brand with its modern, contemporary and innovative driving principles.

Squarespace has just launched its inaugural Trans-Tasman brand campaign in both Australia and New Zealand, fittingly titled ‘The Ditch’.

The new campaign, led by Squarespace’s award-winning in-house creative team, underscores the website platform’s growth in the region, with Australia serving as one of its fastest-growing markets. Squarespace senior creative manager Ben Hodgin took Marketing Mag on a behind-the-scenes look into the making of and intentions behind ‘The Ditch’.

The ad brings to life the concept of a captain – who creates a modern business idea called ‘Hitch on the Ditch’ – marrying Aussies and Kiwis who can’t choose which country to have the ceremony in on his own boat.

Squarespace taps into the notion that a business idea can come from anywhere, encouraging both Aussies and Kiwis to look under their noses for an opportunity to monetise what they already know or have.

Behind-the-scenes of a Squarespace campaign

Hodgin explains Squarespace campaign briefs always start with the product. He says the team starts by asking themselves: “What are we showcasing that fulfils our mission of helping anyone with an idea succeed, and how do we communicate it clearly?”

“We work to distil data and identify insights to inform what we want to say – then it’s our job to figure out how to say it,” Hodgin adds. “Every project is different, but we generally spend weeks ideating on the creative before deciding what’s right and [what’s] also going to be effective.”

Sometimes the team is working with 10 ideas, other times they are working with 100-plus ideas, Hodgin says.

Squarespace’s unique brand DNA is credited to its founder, Anthony Casalena. Design has always been at the heart of the brand, and Casalena’s drive to help people make beautiful websites is built upon the foundations of “good design”. “This democratisation of creativity runs through everything we do,”  Hodgin says. 

Squarespace's 'The Ditch' campaign

‘The Ditch’ capitalises on the brand’s overarching personality to highlight that while Australia and New Zealand have a lot of similarities, they also have their fair share of friendly rivalries. “Wine, music, you name it,” says Hodgin. “We asked ourselves, where’s the common ground between the two – literally? And who could start a business there?” Enter Captain Kev.

“Kev’s business location in the middle of the ditch conveys what we always try to showcase – whatever your idea, you can turn it into a business.”

‘Authenticity is always key’

The campaign leverages a mix of traditional media and digital channels. Marketing Mag asked Hodgin when it is best to take a grassroots customer-centric approach, vs OOH advertising.

“We always make sure that the medium is right for the idea,” Hodgin says. “We’ll typically start with whatever helps communicate the message best. We also make sure to conduct a robust audit after work runs and look at their effectiveness, which then informs where we go the next time around.”

The campaign’s narrative embraces the cultural distinctions and friendly rivalry between Australians and Kiwis, utilising different narrators from each country for each video. “Authenticity is always key,” Hodgin says. “We worked closely with our Australia Pacific team members and local agencies to ensure we captured the cultural nuances.”

Squarespace's 'The Ditch' campaign

As far as performance goes, Hodgin thinks campaigns which tap into a localised insight will always resonate more by capitalising on the personal qualities of the audience.

Creativity at the executive table

In crafting up a new brand campaign – having been on both sides of the industry in external agencies and in-house creative teams – Hodgin doesn’t find there to be a big difference in the ideas themselves that are presented. Great work comes from both models, but rather there is a difference in the process of getting to the final idea.

“One advantage of working in-house is that you’re both the creative and the client,” he explains. “You’re in constant communication under one roof with the people who make the decisions alongside yourself.”

The current landscape of digital marketing places an emphasis on responding to current trends and mindsets in real time. “The accessibility of an in-house team and lack of layers leads to quick experimentation and implementation,” Hodgin says.

Marketing Mag asked Hodgin why it’s important for creative leaders to have a seat at the C-Suite table. He doesn’t view ‘creative’ in C-Suite as a person or a job title but rather an ethos.

“I truly believe that creativity is essential to any business that wants to stay innovative and relevant in the future – and that doesn’t apply strictly to marketing, it goes for every department. Problems change and the customer’s needs shift.”

Hodgin thinks Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger sums up this ideology well: “Innovate or die.”

Switching to an in-house creative team

For marketers considering a transition to an in-house creative team model, Hodgin shares three key insights and advice:

  1. You have to believe in the brand you’re marketing as it’s your only client.
  2. Make sure the brand values the power of marketing and puts resources behind making it.
  3. Understand that advertising is now just one facet of the company and that your responsibility is ultimately in service to the brand’s core mission, not just a successful marketing campaign – although both working in tandem is ideal.

The rise of brand personality

Heading towards the end of April, Marketing Mag’s focus on the power of storytelling this month has heard from industry leaders across all areas of marketing.

Squarespace campaigns tend to stand out for their unique plotlines as almost every creative piece for the brand tells a customer story in some way. “While sometimes they’re real and sometimes they’re characters we dream up, ultimately our hope is that when someone watches they can see the entrepreneurial spirit in themselves and are inspired to start on their creative journey,” Hodgin says. 

Squarespace's 'The Ditch' campaign

The brand campaign will be showcased across TV, online radio, digital, video and social media in Australia and New Zealand.

Squarespace’s ‘The Ditch’ and the rise of campaigns led by ‘real brand personality’ sends a key message to marketers: be there or be square.

Assets provided by Squarespace.

Also, take a deep dive with the Squarespace team into the making of their Super Bowl ad.


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Billy Klein

Billy Klein is a junior content producer at Niche Media.

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