Skip to content

Hidden in Plain Sight: Finding Merlin's Values

3 min read.





Employer Branding

Discover the immersive approach that made Merlin’s new values relatable, and brought people together through a shared language and intrinsic set of behaviours across a global organisation.

When Merlin’s new Chief Executive Scott O’Neil embarked on a tour to visit every Merlin attraction in his first 12 months, the number one question he was asked was about values. So, creating and embedding a new set of values for Merlin became a strategic imperative.

Merlin Entertainments is the global leader in branded entertainment destinations. It creates and delivers memorable, immersive brand experiences to over 60 million guests every year. The Ph.Creative team knew that nothing less than an immersive approach to developing and launching new values for Merlin, after 20 years, would do. If the new values were to resonate with 30,000 employees across 20 countries, they would have to bring the magic. And together, with the Merlin team, they did.

The Aim 

Merlin’s aim was:

1. To refresh its values to better reflect its evolving culture

2. To align teams working at different attractions globally, so they all knew what Merlin Entertainments stood for

3. To reflect its dynamic and inclusive workplace

To achieve this, the values needed to become an integral part of daily life for all 30,000 employees and the thread that pulls people together.

What We Came Up With

The five new values are We Care, Own Your Craft, Drive and Discover, Go Together and Enjoy the Ride.

Our strategy was to ensure employees had a sense of ownership over the values from the start, and a sense of collaboration that would lead to high levels of advocacy, despite this being their first time seeing the values . To do this, we needed to show the values, although new, were more familiar than they realised – already part of Merlin’s culture, just waiting to be discovered.

The Launch

The launch of Merln’s values needed to be as magical and unforgettable as a trip to one of their own attractions, so where better to do it than at Gardaland (Italy’s no.1 theme park with LEGOLAND® and more)?

With 370 global leaders in attendance and a live stream element with global Merlin employees, we got started.

Having designed a brand for the values, giving each one of the five its own look and feel so they could be used throughout global business, the aim for the three-day event was simple: share the values in an organic and seamless way. We wanted them “hidden in plain sight” so leaders' first interactions with them would feel natural, making them easy to adopt.

Our team flew out to Gardaland ahead of the conference and placed messages, signs, and posters - everything from door hangers to restaurant notices - using the new values.

While pretending to document the conference, the Ph.ers attended workshops and social events and captured soundbites of employees who naturally personified the new values. That night while the employees slept, we wrote their words on giant post-it notes and stuck them around the venue. When they woke, they were surprised and delighted to find their quotes, each one relating to the new values, displayed around the hotel and the resort for everyone to see.

On the final day of the event, we brought all the elements together, the post-its, photographs and film snippets of the leaders already living the new values, and made them the unwitting stars of a video to launch the new values to their 30,000 colleagues via live stream.

They were thrilled to have been part of it, and the sense of co-creation combined with the familiarity of the values meant the new values became a natural extension of Merlin’s culture and were quickly adopted.

After the Launch

To accompany the film, we designed an interactive journal which has become affectionately known as “The Culture Book”, entitled "Values in Your Words". This was created for leaders to share with their teams back home, serving as both an educational tool and a narrative of the new values. It offered engaging activities and thoughtful reflections to encourage a deeper understanding of the values, and to reinforce the idea that every member of the Merlin community is a co-author.

To embed the values into Merlin’s day-to-day, there was an ongoing worldwide activation plan aided by “Values Conversation Cards” to help team leaders to introduce the new values in a fun and relatable way.

Their recognition programme (STAR) was also re-imagined and aligned with the values to get employees, from car park attendants to office staff, to embrace the values every day.

Lanyards and pin badges associated with the STAR programme were designed and created to represent each value. Office walls, car park spaces - everything underwent a fun and imaginative refresh to incorporate the values into daily life. They're even embedded into learning and development modules.

The Result

Well, it's still evolving, so time will tell. But 96% of employees rated the event as the “Best leadership event they ever attended”, the Culture Book is sold out, and the pin badges are so popular that the staff are now trading them.

Not bad, eh?

Share this post