Jessica Myers Very Group

CMO Spotlight

Jessica Myers on 'outsparkling' her rivals

The Very Group’s chief marketing officer tells how its flamboyance of flamingos helps the retailer reach fashion and finance-conscious families

By Jennifer Small

There’s a glittery pink thread running through everything Jessica Myers and her team do at The Very Group, and it all starts with customer insight. Since joining the online department store as chief marketing officer in October 2022, self-confessed “customer-obsessed growth marketer” Myers has led research to allow the brand to get closer to its target customers. First, a value-based segmentation, which was then overlaid with attitudinal research to help understand the customer’s “hopes and fears, wants and dreams.”

Myers is lyrical about Very’s target customer, who the brand’s research has identified as a 40-ish mother of two, working full-time while prioritising her family in everything she does.

“She's always thinking about how to create and capture memories for her family, to help them get more out of life. She's incredibly generous in how she approaches that,” says Myers.

“Whether it’s the children's first day at school, making sure they’ve got the latest trainers and durable school uniform, or planning for Christmas – which is a time when she absolutely shines – or thinking about birthdays and events throughout the year, she’s always putting her family first. That's why she loves coming to Very; because she can shop across multiple categories.”

With more than 4.4m customers and annual revenue of £2.15bn, The Very Group operates and, selling 2,000 household-name brands that cover “everything except food.”

Of course, the Very customer is also “the ultimate budgeting queen” who finds sustainable fashion hacks like the retailer’s adaptable hems and waistbands useful, and the “flexible payment options” through the Very Pay platform, regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, valuable in managing budgets to support her family.

And this is where Myers’ background pays off. Having spent the majority of her career in banks, at Amex, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, and NatWest Group, before shaping brand strategy at Metro Bank, she speaks the language of financial services, and understands working in a regulated environment.

“Being able to bring together the skills of financial services, and learn the trade of retail, then marry those things together, I relish being able to apply commercial and creative rigour to galvanise everyone behind a mission, and that's exactly what we've been doing here,” says Myers. “There's something about retail. I'm now constantly thinking about getting ready for Christmas, so I can safely say, after having been here almost 18 months, I'm a retailer now.”

Very is a fun place to work, where people set each other up for success all year round, says Myers. But during the golden quarter, in the run up to Christmas, “the place is electric.”

And none more so than Black Friday 2023, when “everyone in the office was running around in flamingo outfits,” thanks to the launch of Very’s new creative platform and brand campaign, featuring a flamboyance of the pink birds. The animation and characters Kerry, Terry and Cherry, were created in conjunction with The Gate (part of the MSQ collective), and designed and produced by Nexus studios, directed by Paloma Baeza, a BAFTA-winning director.

“I have never experienced launching a brand that’s had such a deep alignment with business culture and been adopted so quickly. Flamingos were everywhere. From a cultural perspective, it was just perfect.”

And The Gate, appointed in June 2023 after a competitive pitch, shares the same culture as Very, explains Myers, so feels like an extension of the team. The creative shop won the Very business with “an incredibly powerful strategy and creative platform, ‘Let’s Make It Sparkle’ which is what you’re now seeing live in the market” says Myers.

“The best relationships happen when you can't see where one team stops and the other one starts, because everybody is in the trenches together, getting to know each other and building trust,” she explains. “The Gate also deeply understood the Very customer, the most effective way to target her, and brought the work to life to really attract our customer. It was absolutely magnificent,” says Myers.

The “glittery resistance” of hun-culture

After a full immersion into the Very business, The Gate team quickly nailed the essence of the Very customer, who is encapsulated by “hun-culture.”

“It’s Amanda Holden wearing a pink dress putting out bins on a Friday night. It’s work hard, play hard, go the extra mile, but have a really good laugh while you're doing it. There's a glittery resistance to our customers. And as The Gate started to unearth this, we knew they had pinned her 100 per cent. Hun-culture is apparent in the way the flamingos speak, their houses, in the language and creative copywriting, and in the music. Girls Aloud is classic hun-track; this is just one example of how they've absolutely got her. And this isn't a made-up person,” says Myers, “everything we do is completely grounded in data and insight.”

Customers responded to the work on social media with comments like: “That's me. I can really relate to that.” And one of the most defining moments for Myers was when Hunsnet (a popular website and the home of 'hunfluencers' and the go-to experts to discuss all things 'hun') reposted Very’s work on Instagram, saying: “this is 100 per cent hun.” The campaign had hit its mark.

“I'm taking that as a huge success metric,” laughs Myers.

Commercially, the campaign has performed strongly, even exceeding Myers’ own high expectations. The business performed well during the golden quarter, with a 3.4 per cent year-on-year increase in sales activity, and some big swings in major categories such as toys and electricals.

"What’s a beautiful campaign if it’s not delivering commercial results? That’s why we’re here."

Jessica Myers, chief marketing officer, The Very Group

Having tracked its Black Friday, Christmas and end-of-season sale campaigns, Very reaped significant increases across spontaneous awareness, prompted awareness, and brand consideration metrics. During the same period, Very’s ad was declared Kantar’s second-most-persuasive Christmas ad.

The Gate developed an effectiveness metric for The Very Group; an extension of the brand’s purpose to help its customers get more out of life, the “more machine” has three benchmark engines, around fame, fluency, and feeling, to help the brand cut through. Campaign performance is essential to Myers, who says her goal is always to “outsparkle rather than outspend” her competitors.

“What’s a beautiful campaign if it’s not delivering commercial results? That’s why we’re here,” she says.

Cut through the “sea of sameness”

As leader of a team of more than 200 colleagues across brand, customer proposition, partnerships, performance marketing, creative, social, and consumer PR, Myers is a passionate Very brand champion who believes in using creativity to solve business challenges. Looking out at the retail market, she finds it hard to differentiate between one brand and another, but she wanted the Very brand to clearly define itself in order to create greater affinity with its target customers.

“We wanted to cut through that sea of sameness, which is why we refer to ourselves as a flamingo among a flock of pigeons.”

Myers uses her in-house creative team for the majority of customer communications, which are created using templates set out by The Gate, for email, SMS, the brand’s live shopping channel, and performance activity.

Working with media agencies helps ensure Myers is future-focused, innovative, and entrepreneurial with planning and booking media, and she is currently running a competitive review to select the brand’s next media agency partnership. (It had worked with Dentsu X). But at the same time, she employs a strong in-house performance team, which handles most performance activity.

With both media and creative, Myers sees value in having agencies and in-house marketers working together for continuous learning and to push creative tensions to help get to the right place. The in-house team usually also drives content for Instagram, where the brand has worked with celebrities such as Michelle Keegan, and influencers such as Hattie Bourn.

“These are the people and personalities that our consumers trust. Our influencers become the Very network – we leverage their reach, their relevancy, their authenticity, to help generate buzz and drive engagement in a really authentic way through their stories.”

What does the future hold for the Very brand? The 2024 Christmas campaign has already been briefed in with The Gate, says Myers. Meanwhile Kerry, Terry and Cherry are currently back on screens for its Very Pay campaign, which introduces flamingo child, Coral, to the “Let’s Make It Sparkle” platform.

And the brand will continue to build on its pink sparkly thread for 2024 and beyond. Because after all – as Myers points out – “a flamingo is for life, not just for Christmas.”

The world according to Jessica Myers

What is your favourite piece of creativity?

“I love everything from Guinness. Everything Guinness does is just straight out of the book of brilliant brand building, and they get it right every single time.”

What’s been feeding your imagination lately?

“I'm a massive podcast listener. In fact, every time I travel, which is every single week [to Very Group’s Liverpool HQ], I use podcasts to enrich my thinking and to think more creatively. One of my favourites is: Uncensored CMO, because I love the podcast that John Evans has created – the quality of the speakers are brilliant and I’ve learned a lot through it. And I also love the variety I get through Diary of a CEO.”

What do you think has been your boldest creative play?

“Launching a pink flamingo at Christmas.”

And how did it pay off, and what lessons did that teach you?

“It was about strategy rooted in insight, creativity that delivers on strategy wholeheartedly, and making bold and brave decisions.”

What do you enjoy most about being a marketer?

“I love being able to balance the art and the science, the customer and the commercial, and being a growth accelerator.”

What makes a good creative marketer?

“A marketer who deeply understands their customer and can turn that insight into action. At the same time leading and working with people, because people are what make it brilliant.”

What makes a good creative agency partner?

“Deeply understanding the customer and the business that you're working on. Being able to work as one seamless team and giving low ego. We’ve definitely found it with The Gate; there’s a difference between swagger and ego – they’ve got the former, but not too much of the latter.”

And what frustrates you?

“The sentence ‘we’ve tried that before.’ People without a growth mindset.”

What excites you about the future?

“The pace of change, and the opportunities that it creates. And coming out of the cost-of-living crisis, which would be a boon.”


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