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Marketing a Childcare Centre: how to

Posted by – September 18, 2012

Marketing Space were asked to provide insight and advice about how childcare centres should market themselves for a publication called Belonging, for private Childcare Centres throughout Australia as part of the Australian Childcare Alliance. 

Here is our full Marketing Q&A for the Belonging publication – and a link to the Belonging online publication itself with excerpts (click it to get an enlarged view, and you can find the marketing article on pages 61 to 63 of the online magazine pdf).

1. In the childcare industry there are a lot of small operators, often operating in a close proximity to their competitors. How can one business try to distinguish itself from the rest?

There are a lot of childcare centres around, but there always seems to be pretty good demand out there as well. To stand out from the crowd of other childcare centres consider the following:

  • Create a ‘why our centre is fabulous’ type booklet or section on your website – ensure prospects who are considering your centre and comparing it to others can feel what you are about, not just get the facts like your fees and opening hours
  • Build a profile of your centre: good signage, high visibility to locals (maybe billboards or banners in different locations around the area, not just at your centre), consider advertising in your local paper and gaining PR through helpful articles you could submit to you local paper on child issues/ tips etc
  • Ensure a happy customer base: people ask other people what the childcare centre they use is like, where they send their kids, and so on – so ensure your parents are happy with your centre to increase your chance of gaining positive referrals from them. Research surveys are a great way to capture customer feedback and satisfaction levels. Marketing Space offer custom research surveys as one of our key marketing services for small business.
  • Be welcoming of new business: ensure your website has a clear ‘apply now or register for care’ type button; always respond to enquiries and don’t forget to point out your strengths (use the ‘why your centre is fabulous’ content)
  • Open your doors: Encourage and invite local parents to come to your centre and experience what you have to offer (for example: have an open day like a morning tea for pregnant mums to allow them to see what childcare is like)
  • Encourage your Staff to spread the word and talk about what’s great about ‘their’ centre, always be mindful of their work satisfaction and seek to have happy staff who are proud of where they work, over & above other centres  

2.    What is the best way to target the local market?

Understand your local demographic as best you can, and specifically the people in the market for childcare - are they pregnant, or already parents, or newcomers to the area. Think about how these people would identify a childcare provider – will they mostly ‘see’ you via local signage or advertising, ‘find’ you via referrals from friends/other parents/ mothers groups or indeed ‘look’ for you via community lists in local community centres, early childhood baby health centres, via local council childcare lists or an internet search.

A combination of marketing activity, profiling and registering your business in the right places such as local council childcare and perhaps an online childcare directory like www.careforkids.com.au is essential to connect with your target market.

3.    Childcare centres are dealing with the most prized possessions that people have. How can they increase the strength of their reputation within the area?

Childcare is a highly personal service, and appealing to your audience on an emotive level is critical. This means you have to connect with peoples feelings, not just with their practical requirements. No parent is going to choose a childcare centre that doesn’t FEEL right.

Building a reputation starts with the way you make people feel from their very first impression of your childcare centre, through to any and all interactions they have over time, what they hear from others and how your childcare centre might be talked about in the media.

Gaining a positive reputation can be approached both from the inside and out. Inside activity could be:

  • The way your staff behave and talk to parents – do they smile and show excitement to be at the centre looking after a child as he/she is dropped off in the morning or picked up in the afternoon?
  • Does your centre look tidy, clean, safe, healthy to a visitor?
  • Do you have visible examples and demonstrations of learning, fun, supportive activity that would enable a childcare centre to be known to have these capabilities and strengths?

Outside activity could be:

  • Gaining stories or articles in the local paper or in a child related publication or magazine about a great learning program your run at your centre for example
  • By showing support for various causes like SIDS, or ActiveKids or CanTeen or similar
  • Being active in the local community such as sponsoring or getting involved in a school fete or local sports club weekend event

4.    If a new centre opens up, what are some of the initial steps they should be taking to market their business?

Some of the essential marketing foundations would include creating great branding and signage, a website, registering to be on the local council childcare centre list, registering a local google listing for your centre (google places). Also consider forming a pre launch campaign to attract applicants, which could be as simple as a billboard at your site saying ‘opening soon, apply now’ and some small local ads or a letterbox drop. Also consider having a launch event to officially open your centre, invite some key locals such as complementary businesses who also work with parents and kids and build a great impression of your centre from the start!

5.    What about older businesses, do they constantly need to be marketing themselves too?

Maintaining a core marketing presence will help keep a business in the minds of the market as a key service provider. Become invisible and so too will people forget about you. Older businesses may not need the same amount or type of active marketing, but certainly core aspects like a website, good signage at the childcare centre and fundamentally ensuring your customers are happy and willing to spread word of mouth will go a long way to helping a centre stay viable.

If you are in the childcare industry, please share this on to any industry contacts. Also please provide feedback on these tips or suggest other useful marketing activities you've used for your childcare business.

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Paint a Marketing Innovation in your business

Posted by – August 28, 2012

Creating change in a product or service and doing so with true innovation can be just the spark you need to stand out in the market, to get people talking about your business.

Innovation is an inspiration many businesses aim for. When people talk about great brands, businesses or business people who inspire them, often it is because they are seen as ‘innovative’.

Here are some great examples of innovations in the paint industry – one that seems to reinvent itself quite often, with colours, textures, and a bit of magic too!

Paint with suncreen

Yes us Australian’s are pretty obsessed about sunscreen, but that’s not why I like this innovation. Paint was developed with UV protection to create cooler surfaces, to reflect heat and therefore reduce heat penetrating inside.  With energy costs growing at a rate that makes you sweat more than a hot room on a humid summer night, this innovation is sure to have high customer appeal.

"Dulux® InfraCOOL® HEAT REFLECTIVE COATINGS optimise the Total Solar Reflection of a treated surface and create more sustainable structures. InfraCOOL Technology means surfaces reflect both the visible or “coloured” light plus invisible infrared light which accounts for over 50% of the sun’s total light energy.  "

 

Paint the Ceiling Pink, not the Town Red

 Another paint innovation of recent years is ceiling paint that starts off pink and dries white. Another highly useful innovation for anyone who has ever painted a ceiling (or will need to in their lifetime!) – it is not only hard on your neck, arms and back, but your eyes can go cross-eyed trying to keep track of where you have painted already. This innovation seems like magic, but is so practical you can’t resist the obvious benefits.

Thinking about these innovations I am sure you will agree they have changed the market in the paint industry – in customers eyes they appeal quickly & easily, they meet a number of needs. Customers who get onto these innovations often talk about them alot to their friends and networks, because they want to share the "great discovery" they have made. As such, word of mouth tends to flourish around innovative products.

Do you know of any great innovations? Or have you created any great innovations in your business or industry? Please add your comments below.

 

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A Twitter basic – #hashtags explained

Posted by – June 12, 2012

For those unfamiliar with hashtags (which is the use of the # symbol with a word or phrase), in less than 60 seconds you can get the picture.

People using Twitter use #hashtags as a way to label or categorise content. For example, if you are talking about films you might use the hashtag #films. People can find or get feeds of content related to a specific #hashtag. If you are at a specific event like the Australian Open you might tweet something about a game you are watching and use the #hastag #AustralianOpen, so your tweet goes into a group of other tweets that also mention the Australian Open.

The use of hashtags has spread beyong Twitter now, and heavy social media users often use hashtags when commenting on any social media site, like Facebook or a blog.

This article on American Small Business information site Small Business Trends has just published a good, simple article about hashtags, so read away.

What do you think about #hashtags? I love them, because I love to organise things and make lists and #hashtags can help to filter or capture information about a topic or event or situation that you would otherwise never find.

If you use #hashtags or have any tips or learnings to share, please add to this article via the comments section below. 

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Is Twitter really big in Australia?

Posted by – May 24, 2012

Lots of businesses ask me if they should be using Twitter. My answer, although possibly not very helpful is 'maybe' or 'it depends'. Like any marketing opportunity, it really does depend – mostly on value (what are you going to get out of it, achieve) and volume (with how many people/prospects/customers/influencers).

This article provides a picture of people using Twitter in Australia – and may be very helpful to guide you in deciding if Twitter is something to get into!

But firstly, if a tweet to you means a chirp from a bird out the window moreso than a communication from Twitter, you can get a quick lowdown on what Twitter is first up. 

We always hear about the gazillions of people using Twitter or whatever globally, but for a small business, that is largely irrelevant. Are people using it in your market, your industry, to talk about your products or services? Th

New information hot off the press from the Australian Research Council's Discovery Project provides some great insights into what's happening on Twitter and the user volumes in Australia.

Start up Smart published an article about this Australian Twitter research, check it out.  The Herald Sun also reported the research in this article Twitterverse map shows what Australians are tweeting about - which displays a great infographic that maps the topics Australians are talking about and the topics that tend to be discussed in by the same people/groups versus those that are not. 

Australia's first Twitterverse map, based on the tweets of 950,000 Australian Twitter accounts, shows people who regularly tweet about sports would rarely discuss real estate while food and wine fans are unlikely to mention farming.

Early 2012 figures reported say that there are around 950,000 accounts and 120,000 Twitter users in Australia (users are classified as having at least 5 followers).

So if your business is considering Twitter or already there, check out the hottest / largest discussion subjects or topics and see if these cross into your industry/business, or consider how they might. See what topics are also popular for those talking about or following topics related to yours. For example, Real estate and AFL are at opposite ends of the spectrum, yet Books and Film are closely mapped. 

If there are no topics related to your industry or business or interests on Twitter then maybe its not ripe for you/your business yet. On the other hand, it could be ripe for the taking if you are interesting enough to create a following and topic of popularity!

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What is Twitter? No it’s not just a bird call.

Posted by – May 24, 2012

If a tweet to you means a chirp from a bird out the window moreso than a communication from Twitter, here is a quick lowdown on what Twitter is.

Twitter is a website – a social platform. Users go to Twitter.com, and write short messages – bite sized updates about life, something they are doing, seeing, reading. Or about work, a passion, or any topic they are interested in. Or to share news. It's like a text message posted online. Only 140 characters of letters/spaces are allowed – hence short bursts of communication emerge.

The short message a user writes is called a Tweet, it is published and available to anyone to read or find on Twitter.com

This is how Twitter position their service, I hope I have done it justice, their explanation is pretty great!

 

The idea of Twitter is to connect with people so they can get a stream of your Tweets into their Twitter page /timeline (like an inbox) and vice versa. If someone connects to another person it is called 'following' ie. they want to follow what you are saying/posting.

Consider it like an email platform that only allows really short messages and whereby you can select who sends you emails (your followers) or maybe to you it's like a mobile text messaging box where you get messages from your address book of contacts into your inbox. And vice versa.

 

If you can spare 3 minutes to watch a video, this one is pretty good as a basic run down on introducing Twitter

Sounds a bit full on doesn't it, getting MORE communication when we are all overloaded with it already. But what's great about Twitter is it is personal and personalised – you decide what to say, you decide who to follow. Want to know what the prime minister is up to, or your competitor, or indeed a colleague you do business with – getting an insight via their Twitter posts may be invaluable to you. And conversely, what you have to say, share, inform others about might be invaluable to them and get you a good following, a great standing, publicity and more!

You can get your Twitter feeds instantly, daily or weekly, you decide how you interact. 

So if you want to give it a try, set up an account on Twitter and go fly!

Tell us what you think, sound interesting, not relevant, too hard, or do you have a question? Pop your comments in below!

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Kick starting Public Relations (PR)… when’s the best time?

Posted by – May 16, 2012

So many enthusiastic start-ups and SMEs are keen to see their names in bold print.

All have worked hard to build their businesses. Many have a solid customer base and are making a profit and many others desperately need more customers and are struggling to cover costs. Felicity Grey, Director at PR company The Theory Crew provides great insight into getting your business and key message/s into the media.

 

How to think about 'timing' your PR

No matter the stage your business is in, there’s no set rule for when is the best time to consider public relations (PR).  It all depends on your story and your audience. Some businesses try to use public relations and are unsuccessful. This is by no means symptomatic that the business concept is a failure. 

There are a number of factors that can limit your chances of success. Some reasons might be:

-       Your press release was badly written.
-       You didn’t make follow-up calls.
-       Your story wasn’t of interest to the media or was pitched to the wrong journalist.
-       Your story isn’t of interest to the general public, moreso to a niche audience.
-       You don’t have key messages.
-       Your timing was out.
-       A news event occurred which was out of your control and your story was dropped.
-       A journalist loved your story but the editor didn’t.

 

 

 

Key considerations when deciding how to go about creating PR impact: DIY or PR agency

Many businesses are rightly disenchanted with PR agencies because they pay expecting to see results and they don’t deliver. Here are some points to consider which will help you think strategically about when to embark on DIY PR or when to engage a PR consultancy; and what to ask for.

-       Do you have a strategic business vision with marketing activities and initiatives planned which you can link your PR efforts to?

-       Do you have a PR plan with a series of tactics including media?

-       Do you know who your target audience is and what drives them?

-       Do you have one or a series of announcements to make that are timely and newsworthy?

-       Are you in a hurry for PR for any particular reason and if so, what are your reasons? Is it ego driven or perhaps it’s because you have an announcement to make that can’t wait.

-       Is the media your only and your best way to promote or engage your target audience? What other avenues exist?

If you plan your PR strategy rather than simply jumping in, your results will speak for themselves. 

Many start-ups opt for PR because they want to build their customer base. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this approach but other factors should be considered to make sure that your media efforts are best placed to gain results. By considering the questions above you will give yourself a strategic account of opportunities available to you and make sure you exploit them.

If you want to develop your own PR plan consider Theory Crew’s PR Planning toolkit available upon request at The Theory Crew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creating a successful PR launch event

Posted by – May 16, 2012

You may have started a new business venture, dreamed up a new product or service, built a partnership and are ready to tell the world about it. If you get your public relations (PR) launch event right, it’s highly likely they will hear you.
 
PR Launch Event: 5 key principles
So how does one plan a successful PR launch? Felicity Grey, Director at The Theory Crew, provides this valuable guide that will help any business considering or embarking on a PR event how to set up for success.
 
 
There are five key principles:
1.    Planning
2.    Ideas
3.    Timing
4.    Attention to detail
5.    Adaptability
 
But before you delve in to the five principles, look at what you are launching…
 
It needs to be compelling or motivating to a larger group than you. It also needs to communicate that it is meeting market demand.
 
If it’s a business venture or a product or service, here are some questions to consider:
 
·      Is your product or service innovative?
·      When is the best time to launch, considering outside factors such as key events, sector events and media interest?
·      Is your concept interesting or will you need to formulate ideas to make it more interesting?
 
 
The difference between a product launch and a PR launch
Many business owners confuse product launches with marketing or PR launches. They aren’t the same.
 
You can launch a product in the market well before you conduct a PR launch and vice versa. Apple is renowned for using the PR machine before they launch a product and boy does it work. Queues of people clamber to purchase the latest Apple products because they know its coming. Demand has established before the product is even launched to market. However, this option often carries risk. If the product doesn’t live up to its expectations, you could suffer negative press that may far outweigh your positive marketing efforts.
  
On the flipside, many companies launch their product and their PR at the same time. They make sure the product is ready for the market, tested and available for sale before they launch. This is probably the safest option. The Harvard Business Review published a post a year ago explaining why many product launches fail, it’s a worthy read if this is your game.
  
So now you need to decide go back to your original questions and ask yourself, are you ready? Perform a SWOT Analysis to assess potential risks if you plan to launch PR prior to the product.
 
1) Planning
 
OK so you’re ready to start planning, here are some tips to help you through this phase:
 
  • Identify a clear budget taking into account the following:
         o   PR outsourcing if that’s the way you want to go.
         o   Venue
         o   Hospitality (wait staff, food and drink, etc.)
         o   Product giveaways and other marketing collateral
         o   Speakers, celebrities and any paid endorsements
         o   Graphic design and invitations
         o   Staff
 
  • Define your purpose for the launch and your target audience: the more detailed you can be here the better. You can’t be everything to everyone…well unless you’re Apple. Make sure it’s not just about you. Stating: “Come to our great product launch” is simply not enough. As with any communication, fulfill your audience’s need and make it about them. Consider why your audience will want to come and consider whether you need a consumer audience at all – you may just need media.
  • Consider key aspects that will help to create an appealing PR event: timing, locations and themes – no holes barred.
  • Perform a reccy. Make sure you visit the locations you’re considering and think about size, accessibility for your attendees and the media.
  • Prepare an invite list.
  • Organise a date and time
  • Book your venue.
  • Make sure all your marketing communications activities are pre-prepared and ready. For example, if you are launching have the website completed and ready to go live, etc.
  • Any influential people coming? It would be good if they were. Think about whom you can invite that is recognised and admired by the media and your consumer audience. Strong supporters of your business, or guest speakers are very helpful.
 
2) Ideas
 
Ideas are key to the success of your PR event. In your initial planning, think outside the square and think big. List all your ideas associated with:
 
-       How to get attention
-       How to interest media
-       Think about what’s worked here and overseas
-       What will get people talking
 
Make your event relevant and take time to research. Consider linking your launch to a newsworthy topic, check out relevant research supporting your claims or opinions. Statistics, quotes and third-party opinions will be regarded highly by journalists you intend to engage.
 
3) Timing
 
Timing goes with adaptability. Consider calling a journalist you plan to invite and ask them if there are any conflicts. If something huge is happening for your target media and consumer audience give some thought to changing your date. Don’t let all your hard work be undone because you refuse to be adaptable.
 
Consider when is the best time of day – morning, midday, evening, weekend etc for people to attend your PR event, ideally combined with the best time to showcase your business.
 
Timing is key to making sure you have the attention of your media and attendees.
 
4) Attention to detail
 
If you are not a person good with detail, assign these tasks to someone else. It’s the small things that can easily undo an event and make it fall apart. Small considerations such as printing your media release to hand out at the event to media or booking your own photographer to take photos for your own, post-event marketing are crucial. Make a list and get help if you need it.
 
5) Adaptability
 
You’ve completed your plan, assigned responsibilities and everything’s ticked off the list. On the day, if unexpected requests are made or things don’t go as planned, run with it. There’s no point sticking to your guns and failing to be adaptable. Put on your poker face and make quick, smart decisions and you should be able to keep the show on track and fix any problems that arise.
 
Planning and delivering a successful PR launch is an achievement but getting it right boils down to hard work. If you don’t have time to do it all yourself or you’re out of your comfort zone consider outsourcing some of the work.
 
But, if you’re up for the challenge, give yourself time for research and give it a good go! Best of luck.
 
 

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LIKE is not LOVE

Posted by – May 10, 2012

Social media software provider VIRTUE recently launched a campaign: “Like Can Never Replace Love.”

 Facebook like buttonThis really struck a chord for me and I think it’s a great sentiment to remember as businesses get caught up in social media and the game of chasing “likes”.

Business and marketing is about so much more than being liked. It is a great reminder that brands are built on true, meaningful and valuable customer relationships.

Sure, the objective of gaining ‘likes’ fits with the longer term goal of getting people to fall in love with your brand, but don’t forget to make the experiences add up and evolve, from transactions and passive following, to real world customer engagements.

Virtue sum up the premise behind their 'Love campaign' perfectly by saying:

"The world’s greatest brands aren't built on clicks, they’re built on meaningful relationships with real people. So don’t stop at like. Go for love."

How is your business thinking about or using social marketing to use likes to make love in your business?

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The best times for social marketing

Posted by – May 10, 2012

Are you getting into the swing of social media marketing, maybe you've started a Facebook page, or a Tweet or ten on Twitter and are keen to communicate with your audience.

social media timing

A key consideration with any media/ communication should be timing – and you should plan your activity at just the right time/s to increase your chances of being read, noticed, responded to, and engaged with.

So when is the right time to communicate with your audiences on social media sites?

Marketing Magazine Australia shares some new data from url shortening servive bit.ly who deliver a huge volume of links on social networks that key times to gain click throughs on Facebook and Twitter. They report:

 

   "Early to mid-afternoon, when the office crowd hit their post-lunch crash, according to data released by link shortening service bit.ly. In a study of link performance for short URLs generated by the service and posted on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, 1pm–4pm on weekdays emerged as the most fruitful time to post a link on Facebook, while for Twitter 1pm–3pm was best."

 furthermore

"For both Facebook and Twitter, brands should avoid posting links after 8pm and before 8am, after 3pm on Fridays and on the weekends, or they run the risk of achieving low engagement on the post."

 

This data is based on click through results from url links posted by brands. Not on brand page posts read or comments liked or links within social networks not using bit.ly. It is insightful and a good guide, but important to remember the basis of the data.

As a small business, I know when I read and engage in social media from the brands I follow as a business, which is typically during my business day. As a consumer however, I read and engage in brands for my personal life during the evening when I am switching off from business (that is as much as any small business owner switches off!). 

Do you use social media as a consumer? When do you log in, get social? As a business who uses social media, have you uncovered any insights about good vs bad times to engage your audience? 

We'd love to hear any experiences – just jump on via the comments section below to submit.

 

 

 

 

 
 
    
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What’s hair styling got to do with branding?

Posted by – May 1, 2012

The other week my hair stopped curling. Let me explain: my hair has a gentle wave but I create lovely even curls (if I have the extra 5 mins required during my get ready time) with my GHD. If you are a girl you no doubt know what a GHD is, if you are a male with a girl in their life you also probably know what a GHD is, but for those who don’t: a GHD is a hair iron – it flattens, curls or kinks you hair. Really, really, well. The best I say.

The GHD is like the soulmate to the Hairdryer. An invention no less impressive and game changing as the iPhone was to the mobile phone market.  

ghd hair iron

So upon my recent hair misdemeanour of curls falling out just hours after being created with my GHD, I started to distress about having a hair problem, a hair disease. Then the marketer in me started thinking how funny that was because I didn’t even think for a minute that maybe something was wrong with my GHD, so sold I am on the brand and product being pretty much perfect (could be perfect if they figured out a way to stop you burning your fingers),

GHD were an unknown brand and they became a hair styling staple, as commonly bought and demanded as a hairdryer, almost overnight. Girls, and women, the world over, flocked to shell out $400 (or thereabouts) on this product, most of whom probably never spent more than $100 on a hairdryer and whom never would have dreamt of spending such a seemingly large sum on a nice to have (not need to have) product. I was certainly one of them. Girls even had birthday cakes made in the shape of a GHD, look: 

In a very short time, the GHD became the must have item for women who wanted gorgeous hair, ie. pretty much every woman on the planet. They had just one product, and hence why it was and is still simply called “The GHD” or “My GHD” – it straightened hair, perfectly, no frizz, little fuss, beautiful. My Mum tells me she used to straighten her hair with the clothes iron, and I have seen a photo of it or else I wouldn’t believe her. From hairdressers to your best friend, everyone became a fan or owner of a GHD, and if you didn’t have one, you lusted after it until you could afford or justify the price tag.

The GHD is/was product gold – the best in its field, yes I believe so. I remember my older sister bought one and I chastised her for it, how could she possibly justify spending so much money on a hair styling thingy. I bought a competitor one for a fraction of the price and thought it was pretty good, that was until I used hers, then I just had to have one too. And so it went for no doubt many, many girls and the brand and global business that is GHD now, a decade on, remains a firm market leader, a quality that competitors aspire to copy yet can’t.

Looking into GHD for this article, I found two brand taglines, both powerfully apt:

 

ghd: a new religion for hair

ghd brand tagline

ghd: you can do anything with your hair

 

ghd brand tagline

 

This is what GHD say about themselves on their website:

A decade on from revolutionising hairstyling with the launch of its first styler, ghd remains true to its founding ethos: the spirit of transformation. In addition to its iconic stylers, which continue to be a cult must-have for women in search of beautiful hair, new product line ghd Style and a collection of professional brushes complete the ghd range.”

I can’t pick any holes in that. This is not a sponsored post. This is simply a marketing story of an amazing brand that I thought of following my hair uncurling incidents. My hair has recovered its ability to hold curls again, so I am putting it down to a different hair shampoo or leave in product that I tried. I have way too many of those in my bathroom cabinet.

GHD will be in my bathroom cabinet as CEO of my hair for some time to come.

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