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Skye Healey Ward

Skye Healey Ward
Head of Marketing at Armadillo on Being Driven by Ethics as well as Aesthetics & Becoming a Certified B Corporation™️

At Marketing Trends we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. Armadillo is the first Australian rug brand to become a Certified B Corporation™️. In this interview, Skye tells us about the challenges involved in delivering unique, handmade products, the rising demand for ethical, sustainable and transparent businesses and her rewarding job as Head of Marketing of the brand.

Read Skye's Story here:

Career & professional background

Skye, how did your career in marketing start?

My career started in magazine publishing – initially with a youth-focused publisher where I worked on the launch of much-loved Frankie magazine, then onto bigger, more commercial titles at larger publishers.

I then did a stint in advertising agency land, but after a while I started to feel unenthused by FMCG and burnt out by the pace of agency life. After taking stock of what I was most passionate about, I made the decision to move to the client side and merge my love of interiors with my marketing expertise. I find it infinitely more enjoyable to market products that I am naturally excited about.

If you hadn’t pursued a career in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be?

I love that marketing has afforded me the ability to work in a variety of industries, because the fundamental skills are transferrable. If I didn’t work within the marketing function of a company, I would probably work in the arts in some way.

Otherwise, I’d work in interiors or design. I am passionate about how spaces impact how we live, how we relate to one another, and how powerful design can be in terms of both personal and environmental benefits.

Could you tell us about your role as Head of Marketing at Armadillo?

It’s a pretty great gig! At Armadillo I’m lucky to head up the brand and marketing functions of the business on a global scale – working across our Australian and US businesses.

Armadillo is an inherently design-led, creative business so my job is to build and promote the brand around those credentials, along with our for-purpose philanthropy and commitments to sustainability.

We recently rebranded the company, to bring the aesthetic representation of the brand in line with the quality of our products, and we produce all of the creative in-house, in conjunction with external talent, agencies and teams – which means my job is a pretty rewarding one, working with really talented people to deliver great work.

Armadillo showroom in Surry Hills - Photo by Rory Gardiner.

What type of impact has COVID- 19 had on your industry?

By and large, the interiors industry has surprisingly benefited from COVID-19. People’s discretionary income has increased as their spending on travel has reduced, and the impacts of lockdown meant that people were spending more time at home, and finally getting around to refurbishing and redecorating their spaces.

We’ve also seen a greater consumer push for mindful, conscious products that care for people and planet. People want to make healthy choices for their homes, and for the greater good of their communities and the environment.

At Armadillo, we’re fortunate that we’ve been one of the founding players in this space since the brand’s inception and recently awarded B Corp certification, so we’ve been able to authentically communicate this with customers and aid them in creating happier home and work sanctuaries, which are so important in times of uncertainty.

What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of growth?

Even though the design industry thrives on innovation and creativity, much of the marketing activity, particularly in the higher-end space, is quite traditional and formulaic. There aren’t a lot of true disruptors or innovators – this makes it a ripe space to play in, from a marketing innovation perspective.

In terms of the interiors and lifestyle field, we’re seeing greater demand for ethical, sustainable and transparent businesses, and for products that enrich people’s lives in myriad of ways – both the people making the products, the philanthropy side of the business, the positive environmental impacts of a product and the lasting benefits to the customer. It’s great that businesses are now being held to these higher standards and can only mean good things for design.

Armadillo's Odessa rug - Photo by Sharyn Cairns

As a marketer, what do you believe is the biggest challenge facing your industry in the future?

One of the big challenges for us is competing against that “Amazon culture” of online purchases and wanting everything immediately. Consumers often don’t differentiate between the shipping time and costs of a large-sized furniture item and a smaller one – so the challenge is managing expectations around this, and the time it takes to make a unique handmade product.

We work hard to manage inventory and stock control, but sometimes if a customer wants something bespoke it can take months to make and then ship. It’s more of a consumer education piece for us, as we’ll always stay true to our handcrafted manufacturing ethos and steer the business to deliver to the end user via methods with the least environmental impact.

Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration

What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your week?

Since I work across the global business, Zoom and Skype calls are the norm, and have been for our team long before the pandemic. A typical day sees me working with both our Australian and US leadership executive teams, and our Global Marketing team, who are based in our Sydney flagship showroom.

On any given day there will also be WIPs with our external agencies across PR, Digital and Performance Marketing, or briefings with any of the stylists, photographers, videographers and creatives working on campaigns with us.

We’re a fast-paced company, and we treat the marketing department like an internal agency, so we do a lot of presenting and reporting back to the business – which is essential for keeping everyone updated and engaged.  

Armadillo showroom in Surry Hills - Photo by Rory Gardiner.

What brands do you take inspiration from?

I always look outside of my industry to see who is driving innovation – I look towards fashion and beauty brands a lot. The French fashion brand Jacquemus always wow with their boundary-pushing fashion shows, their visual storytelling, and their clever mix of in-person shows and social media-led campaigns.

I find myself keeping a close eye on the legal cannabis business in the US – as they’re in an educational phase that fascinates and informs me in ways to also push informative messaging in engaging ways. There is also this interesting pairing of cannabis with high design, that I think is really clever from an industry positioning perspective. Brands like Canndescent and Kiva are at the forefront of this luxury cannabis space.

I’m also a massive Sonos fangirl. I love the brand, and the products & think they’re such an excellent example of being customer-centric in their approach. They understand their customers' passion for music and sound - how people want to listen, how they want their systems and services to sync and where they want to experience music in their homes & lives, and they innovate to reflect these desires. And the palindrome brand name for products that can be used sideways/upside down is such a stroke of genius.

Armadillo's Agra rug - Photo by Sharyn Cairns

Software and tools recommendations: what is the one software you can’t work without and why?

I wish there was just one! I find that we use so many different platforms now. Our team internally works on Asana, which works well for us. Obviously, Zoom, Skype, and Dropbox are now business critical. I can’t resist a poke around in Google Analytics.

What are three resources you would recommend for anyone working in your field?

  • Design media: Yellowtrace, Wallpaper, Dezeen as a daily read.
  • A great team helping you achieve your vision.
  • Great and trusted suppliers and agency partners who work as an extension of your team.