Brandwatch in 2019: A Year in Review
By Leia ReidDec 30 2019
Today marks my final day at Brandwatch, after four and a half years.
As a woman of oft-heightened emotions, mainly swinging between maniacal joy and deep rage (joke! I’m actually incredibly stable mentally), I have of course already shed a number of tears. I cry at adverts though, so don’t take that much from it.
In our final one-to-one this morning, my boss, CMO Will McInnes, asked me to pen a final blog on what I’ve learned in my time here.
I said no because I felt it was a tad egomaniacal, and also there is a goodbye tour to set off on. But then he basically said I could write about my favourite stupid moments here at Brandwatch – and there have been a lot, in amongst the hard graft – so I said YES, WILL! I’m not even going to asterisk out any swears, and I’m going to all caps A LOT.
So here, as my final blog for Brandwatch, my home for the best years of my career (so far), are four stupid things I’d like to share, one for every year of my tenure.
Back in 2014 the Brandwatch social accounts were a Wild West of cat gifs, memes about drinking under our desks on Fridays, and essentially whatever community manager Chelsea Varney wanted to put on them.
For whatever reason we decided to try and get some mad engagement by launching a Twitter competition. “It’ll be great!” we said. “We’ll boost our numbers and get hundreds of demo requests!”
The competition was to be a safari of sorts. We wanted our followers to tweet us photos with their heads sticking out of the bodies of animals. Of course.
What says ‘social intelligence’ like your face launched out of the body of a manatee?
— Natalie Kate M (@Natalie_KateM) August 19, 2014
Of course absolutely nobody other than our own staff sent any photos or engaged in any way whatsoever. But we had a bloody good go.
— glennw (@glennw) August 19, 2014
— Ruxandra Mindruta (@RuxandraRux) August 19, 2014
— Jimmy L (@whatdaeff) August 19, 2014
My favourite stupid moment of this failed competition was our intern Phill’s effort. He got it so unbelievably wrong. I love it. One day I will wallpaper my house with this stupid fucking picture.
made this for work pic.twitter.com/e4pG0eB9zP
— Phill Agnew (@p_agnew11) August 14, 2014
As soon as Will mentioned favourite times here at Brandwatch I instantly thought of late 2015.
Brandwatch React had just become A Thing, under the stewardship of Marcus Beard. What we didn’t know was that alongside writing blogs, getting tweets to go viral, and arguing with Kay Burley on Sky News, Marcus was also building something new.
Something special. Something that would almost single-handedly take down Brandwatch.
A social network of sorts, the brainchild of Beard – who actually works at 10 Downing Street now, I’m not even joking – pitted players against each other to steal ‘beezypoints’ and try and climb to the top of the Beezynet points board.
Here’s how the founder describes the venture.
It didn’t really make any sense, but we’re a competitive team, so when we saw the distinctive (terrible) UI on screens around us we all signed up.
Before we knew it, deadlines slipped. Deals fell through. Children weren’t fed. The building regularly caught fire because of a dodgy toaster and nobody even noticed. We were just pawns in the Beezynet game.
— Marcus Beard (@marcusbeard) October 11, 2015
We hit peak Beezy in November 2015, when I remember walking through the engineering floor and seeing a number of interns with their screens coloured the distinctive yellow and black.
Luckily for everyone involved, Marcus got a new job soon after.
Before Slack, what was there? Productivity? Real conversation? One on one human interaction? I jest, as I love Slack. I love how it connects me with colleagues in offices all over the world, I love how I can share memes simply and with no fuss, and most of all I love the way I can react to comments with a tiny Gemma Collins screaming into a phone.
We adopted Slack as a company way back in late 2014. Prior to that, we’d use Skype, and rarely crossed lines between teams. The marketers had a Skype group, the engineers had another. There weren’t any shared groups, per se. We barely knew each other!
With the advent of Slack came new insights. We now had mass channels where we could all – as an entire company! – talk to each other about important things and also not important things. A new dawn, a new day.
Fights about whether pastries should be sweet or savoury. Fights about the air con. People telling me my eggs had been boiling for too long. Discussions on whether pet cats should be allowed to play with live fish. The #Brighton channel was a thriving community.
And without a doubt, the personal highlight for me was in April of this year.
Amongst toilet etiquette chat (the first rule of toilet etiquette chat: you don’t talk about toilet etiquette chat) someone casually dropped in that a round robin email had been sent to the building our office is in.
We share the building with a few other companies – so I must caveat this with the belief that nobody in the company could possibly be guilty of the crime.
And a crime it was. A crime against humanity. A hate crime against mirrors.
Someone was sneezing on mirrors ON DEMAND, EVERY DAY.
I’ve never been so enthralled.
As you can imagine, the rest of the day was rife with finger-pointing at other companies, accusations of guilt, and fostered a sense of community that we had perhaps never felt as strongly before.
The mirror sneezer brought us together; for that afternoon, we were one. United in disgust. It was magical, and I’ll never forget it. Thank you, #Brighton.
A couple of months ago we discovered a dead rat on the skylight above the atrium of our building.
So, here's half a dead rat with its spinal column sticking out which a seagull must have dropped on the glass roof of our building. Happy Friday! pic.twitter.com/xBKTKEl2cY
— Natalie Kate M (@Natalie_KateM) July 20, 2018
There’s not really much you can do about a dead rat on the top of a five-storey building. It’s still there, in fact.
But that’s not the story here.
The real story is what unfolded following the discovery. A week or so later, a slip of paper mysteriously appeared on the window overlooking the atrium.
Whispers around the office could be heard: “who did this? What does it mean?”
And then another was found, this time a scathing commentary on one of the most divisive items in the building.
To this day, the Brandwatch Banksy is still a mystery. A riddle wrapped in a rhyme. Some say they stalk the corridors at night, looking for Blu Tack. Some say they don’t sleep, as sleep is for wimps. One thing is for certain – they won’t give up their identity.
I was both surprised and delighted this morning to receive my very own original Brandwatch Banksy.
The last day surprises continue pic.twitter.com/VxQE7J1SkZ
— Natalie Kate M (@Natalie_KateM) August 30, 2018
And so, this brings me neatly to today.
I could write about tons more stupid memories that I absolutely love, and make me die laughing.
Like when our star coder sent an all-staff goodbye email, signing off ‘it’s time to suck today’s dick’. Or when our CEO sent an email to our then VP of Marketing with the entirety of copy solely in the subject line, saying ‘can you use brandwatch to find out what’s happening in syria’.
This place is mad, and special, and like nowhere else – I’m pretty sure of that. And I’m going to miss it terribly.
And if anyone knows who the mirror sneezer is…please let me know.