's Holly Tucker on cutting through the noise

The site's co-founder explains how her online business has been shaped by strategic comms.

Holly Tucker: co-founder,
Holly Tucker: co-founder,

Holly Tucker is co-founder of the online marketplace, which launched in 2006 with the aim of providing small creative businesses with a portal to sell their goods online. Eight years later the website now plays host to more than 4,000 businesses and is set to launch in Germany. 

You started off life working as a junior advertising executive at Publicis. How did your earlyexperience of marketing inform the way you’ve shaped the business?

The sectors were very segmented back then, so my first real introduction to communications was when we set out to launch However, it really informed how my co-founder Sophie Cornish, who is a former journalist, put the business together because we realised it was all about creating a brand. We knew we needed to do that to cut through the noise so we focused on three audiences: small businesses, consumers and the press. That informed our thinking from the start. 

Explain the role of comms now

One of our first hires before we launched was PR consultant Julie Turner, and we knew that to attract the media we had a huge amount of education to do to make sure they understood we had an angle to suit their needs. That could have been the idea of Sophie and I as businesswomen in the context of the glass ceiling that women face, the army of incredibly talented people who would be on the site, the idea of shopping online or just looking at the world of retail from a product angle. It meant that when we launched we had 16,000 visitors on the first day and featured in newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.

What is your current comms set-up?

We now have a PR team of four and a marketing team of ten out of 200 staff. At the moment we just work with an advertising agency – WCRS – which we hired a year ago. That said, when I look at marketing or advertising campaigns PR stands equal, and when considering campaigns PR will take as much time and strategy. You can’t outsource everything and I very much feel the people who live it and breathe it are best equipped to know the nuances of the brand, but we would possibly 
contemplate getting a PR agency as we get bigger. At we also have inductions for every member of the business, which I carry out, and which involves discussing the role of PR and the company story and brand days, as well as days with our partner businesses. It’s important that as we grow the roots of the business are kept alive, because when you lose that essence, well, it’s where things go wrong. 

How have you seen the brand positioning change as a result?

It was a conscious decision from day one that we would use our partners’ stories to underpin our own. We made sure we were the portal for these businesses to ensure we didn’t dilute the story so that the public was not confused. When we launched we also very much targeted the female demographic because we had no budget and needed to focus, but now we’re at an age where we can start to target different audiences and celebrate the creative industry in its entirety. We also take more risks with our product lines and marketing – we’ve done work around ‘dadpreneurs’ for Father’s Day, for instance, and one day hope to focus on ‘universitypreneurs’. It’s about opening up who we’re engaging with.

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