New social media strategy is child’s play for gift company

1 November 2011

Anyone who’s ever been stuck for ideas of what to buy a child for a birthday or Christmas will find Wicked Uncle a godsend. When the online company, which sources unusual gifts for under-12s, wanted to reach out to a younger audience, they approached HELO, who found them a trio of students well-versed in the uses of social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Wicked Uncle benefited from having access to a team who could devote their time to an issue of growing importance in building a loyal customer base. Sales – the lifeblood of a small company – have increased substantially since the project was carried out.

Wicked Uncle

For anyone who’s an aunt or uncle, godparent or grandparent, or maybe even a parent, Wicked Uncle might just be their NBF (New Best Friend). The Battersea-based company ( takes the pain out of gift-buying for children by suggesting interesting and unusual presents, which are wrapped and delivered along with a personalised card and pre-written thank-you note. When Wicked Uncle wanted to increase awareness of their offering with young people, they turned for advice to those who should know – young people themselves.

CEO Mike O’Shea had met Essi Niittymaki of HELO through the OpenCoffee Club, a networking event for startups, and she matched him with Salama Begum, a History and Philosophy of Science graduate, and two PhD students, Mary Gee and Neil Matthews. Salama had already worked on a project for HELO which, she says, “cemented my desire to go into consulting”, and she was looking for further hands-on experience. The students devised a marketing strategy using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to keep in regular touch with – and retain – customers.

Salama, now studying for a Masters in Management, gained new respect for the effort involved in building a business from scratch. “The most important lesson I learnt was how to work in a team, as so much of studying for a degree is a solitary affair,” she says. She also benefited from HELO’s arranging for her to have a mentor, consultant and UCL Advances’ ‘ambassador’ John Spindler, at hand to answer questions and give advice.

Mike O’Shea found having access to young people, with their different views, “invaluable”. He says: “It benefited us enormously to have the research carried out by people who were themselves part of that key social media-using demographic.” Wicked Uncle has grown substantially in recent months and Mike believes that a proportion of that can be attributed to the students’ advice. He adds: “I think what Salama took away from here was the importance of having an incisive commercial attitude. In a small company, sales are the top priority, not building brand awareness. Only big businesses can be that indulgent. We have to remain tightly focused on our goals.”