Uncommon on helping B&Q recapture its mojo with ‘Build a Life’ campaign

Uncommon Creative Studio won the ’Rebrand or relaunch strategy of the year’ category at The Drum Awards for Marketing with its ‘Build a life’ campaign for B&Q. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this successful project…

The challenge

B&Q is the UK’s largest home improvement retailer and the globe’s third largest. It is a gigantic business on nearly any and every metric. However, in its 50th year, trouble was brewing. The giant’s position in hearts and minds was decreasing.

Over a period of several years, the brand’s vitals had been in gradual decline. Brand metrics were underperforming. The brand’s decreasing stature couldn’t have happened at a worse time. In 2018 the brand was no longer just competing with its classic competitors (‘the home improvement sheds’) but brands that were perfectly positioned to exploit a leader’s decreasing stature.

On one hand, we had a major online competitor, with its breadth of range and speedy convenience, was able to attract consumers with little connection to the category. On the other hand, startups who with deep vertical expertise were better positioned to attract consumers who wanted a bit of excitement. And so declining brand health was affecting the bottom line. Like-for-like sales were falling and B&Q’s owner, Kingfisher, dropped out of the FTSE100 in early 2020.

It was clear that B&Q needed to reclaim its position in hearts and minds. In fact the CEO had boiled our brief down into one sentence: “Help B&Q get its mojo back.”

The strategy

The best brands don’t simply claim a position in their category. They earn a place in culture. If we were to rebuild the relationship between B&Q and home improvers, we needed to look beyond prices and products to understand the brand’s true potential, not simply as a seller of products, but as a part of the country.

The home improvement category typically talked about itself as a category of chores. B&Q’s competitors talk about home improvement as an exercise in fixing the broken or beautifying the inadequate.

Strategically, this felt odd. Because we knew that people don’t tend to think of our homes as inadequate or flawed; as the anthropologist Kate Fox wrote, we see them as reflections of our identity. But that was home. What about home improvement? Was that as emotional?

We spent serious time in the houses of customers. We heard them recount their stories. And we realised that home improvement isn’t simply about ‘fixing’ – it’s almost entirely about ‘creating’. What are we buying when we buy some paint? What are we doing when we fix our garden? So much more than anyone ever says. These aren’t just chores.

Plants reinvent a deck, turning it into the stage of summer. A pot of paint defines the mood of a room and therefore the stories it’ll witness. A new kitchen inspires new family rituals. Improving things at home also improves our lives. Home improvement is progress. The whole category was missing the power of this business.

We needed to shift B&Q away from the chore business and place them in the change business. Home improvement isn’t about what you fix, it’s about what you start. If life starts at home, B&Q are the brand with the tools and knowhow to help you build yours. The company’s core belief – sometimes forgotten in more product-focused comms – is that anyone can improve their home to make life better.

We captured this in a new brand role: B&Q exists to help you build a life.

The campaign

Capturing real life moments, using real people’s archive footage, to represent a genuine portrait of British homes and how they have been improved across the years – felt like the most truthful representation of our idea.

We launched with a film, for TV and online media, showing snippets from 69 families across the 69 cities that make-up the UK. Real families, found via an exhaustive casting process. In the film, we see the ups and downs of life at home and how home improvement can shape them.

The brand’s ubiquitous, catchy slogan – ‘You can do it when you B&Q it’ – became the simple, profound, empowering ‘You can do it’.

OOH was another key pillar of the campaign. We showed a range of B&Q products, seemingly everyday items, elevated by a headline that highlighted a universal emotional truth linked to that item. Everything else was stripped back – all you see is a simple object and a far from simple emotional message. Creating a powerful tension.

The campaign was supported across online and social channels – a truly integrated launch. And this is just the start. This wasn’t a brand dressing up as purposeful. ’Build A Life’ went to the heart of the business, not just the marketing. We showed that a huge retail business doesn’t have to be oriented solely around supply chains, product range and value for money. Standing for something more can increase your value to customers, not just prompt them to buy.

The results

We dramatically increased the stature of the business in a matter of months. The immediate response from our audience was extremely promising. It quickly became clear we’d struck a chord with the nation. As one person who’d seen our TV spot put it on Twitter, ‘why does the new B&Q advert make me emotional’.

Although not the result that matters most, it received immediate and widespread industry recognition in the UK and beyond, with editor’s picks in Campaign and AdAge, to name only two. Then the full results began to come in. We started seeing our brand metrics leap upwards, fast.

Key emotional associations with B&Q saw rapid growth. Among those who’d seen our advertising, the number who agreed ‘B&Q believes everyone can improve their home’ increased 10 points to 80%. And agreement that B&Q thought ‘improving your home can make life better’ increased 7%. It was clear our message had landed. But that wasn’t all.

Total spontaneous project association (B&Q’s proxy for spontaneous awareness) increased nine points to 78%. The growth in associations with individual home improvement projects was staggering too – 43% of home improvers associated interior decorating (a critical category for the business) with B&Q, an extraordinary 15% increase since the launch of the campaign.

Overall purchase consideration increased by one percentage point, reversing a years-long downward trend. Simply stopping the decline would have indicated a successful campaign. A reversal in such a short space of time was a spectacular result.

And preference (a new metric installed at the start of this campaign) increased three points in just half a year. Emotional Resonance, a measure of how close people feel to the brand, increased by three points too.

We hope ’Build a Life’ has shown is that there is no purely rational category. We took a category of tasks and chores and found the emotional truth behind it.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021. Find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open and don’t forget to visit our new interactive calendar.