New Zealand Marketing - - Opinion -

Writ­ing a brand strat­egy used to be the ba­sis for good cre­ative work in a fullser­vice agency. To­day, though, more clients are turn­ing to spe­cial­ists as they in­creas­ingly recog­nise the strate­gic and fi­nan­cial value of their brand and the im­por­tance of get­ting the think­ing right from the start.

As ad­ver­tis­ing philoso­pher Jeremy Bull­more once ob­served: “Prod­ucts are made and owned by com­pa­nies. Brands, on the other hand, are made and owned by peo­ple... by the pub­lic... by con­sumers. A brand im­age be­longs not to a brand – but to those who have knowl­edge of that brand.” But that im­age can be shaped through good de­sign – and an un­der­stand­ing that brands ex­ist ev­ery­where cus­tomers in­ter­act with them.

As such, brand strat­egy needs to start at the begin­ning and at­tempt to de­fine the cen­tral story and pur­pose of a com­pany. This is then matched to well-di­rected and well-de­fined de­sign-led cre­ative so­lu­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions that will de­liver busi­ness growth.

Com­pa­nies like Cul­ture & The­ory of­fer de­sign-led cre­ative so­lu­tions that usu­ally rest on think­ing from pur­pose-driven strat­egy, lead­ing on to port­fo­lio ar­chi­tec­ture and jour­ney plan­ning, right through to brand po­si­tion­ing.

“Our cre­ativ­ity turns up in the form of ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign, brand iden­ti­ties, dig­i­tal UI, nam­ing and pack­ag­ing,” says Jonte Gold­wa­ter, strat­egy direc­tor at Cul­ture & The­ory.

Gold­wa­ter sees his com­peti­tors as ev­ery­one from the big, main­stream agen­cies to de­sign spe­cial­ists. Satur­day is a good ex­am­ple of the lat­ter. Satur­day is a de­sign agency strong in iden­tity de­sign and cor­po­rate stake­holder com­mu­ni­ca­tions – em­ployee, in­vestor etc. – in­clud­ing an­nual and sus­tain­abil­ity re­port­ing and re­views, plus cap­i­tal mar­kets doc­u­men­ta­tion.

“There are so many ver­sions of what brand means in peo­ple’s minds that it all sounds a bit samey un­less we de­ter­mine unique lan­guage for what we do,” ex­plains Satur­day’s Guy What­ley. “Iden­tity is widerang­ing and goes way be­yond the vis­ual as­pects of de­sign. Iden­tity is built over time in the same way that Jeremy Bull­more de­scribed how a bird builds a nest. Hence sto­ries, ex­pe­ri­ences, and a con­glom­er­a­tion of stim­uli is what we’re in­ter­ested in get­ting in­volved in de­sign­ing for our clients … We dis­cover the idea and story to be told and en­joy telling and show­ing it in dif­fer­ent chan­nels. Maybe it’s the de­sire to make peo­ple feel some­thing and turn them on.”

For Cul­ture & The­ory, there are ex­am­ples where its ap­proach to brand strat­egy has beaten out full-ser­vice agen­cies. West­pac asked it to help de­velop an or­gan­i­sa­tional, pur­pose driven strat­egy, while New Zealand Cricket brought the brand spe­cial­ists on to help rede­fine its role as an or­gan­i­sa­tion and as a brand. Methven tasked it with its mas­ter-brand and the range ar­chi­tec­ture to take ad­van­tage of global growth, and Ja­cob Douwe Eg­berts asked it to po­si­tion and de­velop all of its ma­jor New Zealand brands.

The main com­ments Gold­wa­ter gets are around an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of fix­ing things for the long term.

“I think mar­ket­ing teams are be­com­ing a lot more com­mer­cially fo­cused,” he says. “As a re­sult, mar­keters are look­ing at how brands en­able busi­ness and how busi­ness en­ables brands. The two are in­trin­si­cally linked. To un­lock this re­la­tion­ship a new set of skills, and a new type of agency, is of­ten re­quired.”

This new type of agency is de­fined by the spe­cial­ity of its peo­ple. “Ex­cep­tional is not born from the mid­dle and the usual.” It needs highly strate­gic and an­a­lyt­i­cal peo­ple who un­der­stand how busi­ness works com­bined with highly cre­ative peo­ple who un­der­stand how to de­liver an ex­pe­ri­ence that will en­gage, ex­cite and grow that busi­ness.

“The pros for us are that we get brought in to solve a prob­lem,” says Gold­wa­ter. “As an ex­am­ple, Qri­ous, which is an arm of Spark, un­der­went a repo­si­tion­ing and an iden­tity change which has helped them fo­cus their busi­ness to move for­ward in the ex­cit­ing and rapidly de­vel­op­ing world of data driven de­ci­sion mak­ing.”

One com­pany that has dom­i­nated the brand strat­egy space since the turn of the cen­tury is Richards Part­ners, which has been very good at work­ing with com­plex clients with lots of stake­hold­ers. The Nu­plex brand re­fresh is a prime ex­am­ple. It in­volved dream­ing up a name for a smart bit of chem­istry, talk­ing the com­pany into an iden­tity change, cre­at­ing a tool­box and do­ing a beau­ti­ful de­sign job. Six months later, a ma­jor resin com­pany from Belgium took a shine to them and merged to­gether to be­come one of the big­gest resin com­pa­nies in the world.

For Richards Part­ners, it is al­ways about hav­ing good strate­gic think­ing cou­pled with good de­sign think­ing. There are some great de­sign firms in New Zealand and some great strat­egy peo­ple, but con­nect­ing the two to­gether, suc­cess­fully, is not easy to do.

As What­ley puts it: “I think our de­sire to tell the story vis­ually and ver­bally, and link it in to the dif­fer­ent facets of an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s mo­ments of truth with stake­hold­ers and au­di­ences is what wins over pure tech­ni­cal com­pe­tency in this or that. Craft­ing and en­gi­neer­ing a brand‘s vis­ual and ver­bal ges­tures to equip it prac­ti­cally for 365 days of do­ing busi­ness and in­spir­ing mul­ti­ple au­di­ences is a spe­cial­ist skill that is of­ten not found in fullser­vice ad agen­cies.”

Craft­ing and en­gi­neer­ing a brand's vis­ual and ver­bal ges­tures to equip it prac­ti­cally for 365 days of do­ing busi­ness and in­spir­ing mul­ti­ple au­di­ences is a spe­cial­ist skill that are of­ten not found in full-ser­vice ad agen­cies.

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