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The 2014 thoughts archive

Don’t get integrated, get integral

We catch a whiff every now and again of ‘industry debate’, without necessarily looking to engage with overly introspective chest-beating or group therapy.

And one of the notions that seems to be in the ether right now is the seemingly age-old notion of ‘integrated’ agency offerings and of bigger comms agencies sneakily stealing work that should be the domain of the design and branding agency community.

We have a point of view. And it’s one born of our work partnering with clients to generate business-changing ideas.

Integrated agencies – and the clients that appoint them, presumably - appear to assume that communications/marketing in its broadest sense will be the output of their efforts. They talk about 'ideas' that are media neutral, truly integrated and produced by multi-disciplinary teams

But in our opinion, brand is increasingly the 'idea' and a brand idea is by its definition a business idea. The task of creating a truly useful brand idea requires a relationship and an alignment with a client organisation much deeper than that required to generate an integrated comms or marketing idea.

Whilst this of course isn’t always relevant to every brief, for those clients looking for a cohesive, unifying and differentiated idea to generate increased awareness and affection from internal and external audiences, we believe that brand is the key.

And therefore that branding agencies are the obvious home and genuine source of a truly media neutral idea because we don't even assume 'marketing' is the answer.

The real benefit of truly useful brand ideas is that they can – and should – be applied beyond marketing. The brand idea as business idea can provide cohesion as well as new excitement across all business areas. The same core idea will drive internal comms and culture initiatives and values and corporate behaviour programmes. Why shouldn’t this same idea underpin service design and R&D / NPD programmes? And be reflected in the customer experience and physical environment, regardless of whether your is a retail, manufacturing or service business?

Enlightened business recognizes that all systems and processes can be organised around a unique brand idea or principle that differentiates from competitors and encourages all stakeholders to expect a unique experience.

And if that is the output of engaging a partner to generate a big brand idea that is truly integral to business success, we ask ourselves why would an integrated agency delivering a comms idea be a threat to branding expertise?

There will be sectors – and FMCG is an obvious example – where a big new marketing idea can drive consumer behaviour and commercial success. But even here, we would argue that wider adoption of a more integral idea could drive even more benefit.

In fact, we would challenge any brand or organisation to demonstrate equal depth and width of sustained business benefit arising from an integrated marketing idea over a truly integral big brand idea.

This core belief will be expanded upon in future True North thinkpieces and publications. We are putting the finishing touches to a presentation on internal alignment with the big brand idea. If you’re interested in seeing it, please contact us at any time

Could you be the right person to drive True North brand comms?

We are trying to find a rare beast: someone with the ability to generate content and ideas, along with exemplary writing skills, to develop and deliver the agency comms plan.

Here's the spec:

Produce and implement (live and breathe) an annual comms plan, in line with agency commercial and brand strategy

Research, write and distribute content '365 days', across all channels – thinkpieces, blog articles, agency case studies, press releases, newsletters

Develop media and influencer relations to promote the True North brand, our work, agency news, commentary and opinion and build the profile of senior management

Manage the production of outbound marketing campaigns, to build awareness, perceptions and dialogue

Ongoing brand management – ensure alignment of all external-facing touchpoints so that the agency positioning is reflected consistently and effectively.

We need a self-motivated and independent individual who will work on their own initiative and call on the support of the rest of the agency team.

Reporting to the agency MD, they will have a clear grasp of the bigger picture whilst being able to juggle multiple projects and co-ordinate the input of others.

It's a challenging role, but someone's going to love it!

We think you'll need approx 3 years' relevant PR/marketing experience and an understanding of branding and branding agencies. But we're open minded.

Interested? email Martin - 

And they're off

After last years success at the races, last Monday True North set off on the tour bus for another gloriously sunny day at Cartmel Racecourse. An impressive and tranquil setting for the social event of the year. 

Our summer party kicked off with a quiz on the bus (catering for all abilities...with a first class degree!). We waved to Neil’s mum and dad as we passed their farm on route, Claire pointed out the services where she had bought the prawn sandwich that had made her very ill a few years back, and I pondered as to why the only answer I got right in the quiz was about the type of fish Nemo from Finding Nemo was.

Next up was the hat competition, judged by Alan (thought I’d have a guess at his name) the bus driver, awarding a bottle of champagne to the best hat owner. Needless to say this was polished off before we’d arrived. Well done to all those who put in the effort and came with a handmade hat, there were some pretty impressive designs in the mix.

True North kindly gave us each some cash to invest however we wished. There was to be another prize awarded to the person who could turn their cash into the largest amount (betting slips were to be kept as proof you hadn’t just nipped to the local cash machine). With fivers in hand we were set to go, feeling confident and ready to bring home the bacon. Tree went all in on her first race, won big and sat back drinking champers for the rest of the day, job done! Some of us were not so horse was so late getting home, he tiptoed into the stable (sorry). 

The fantastic Cartmel staff kept us watered and fed, with delicious BBQ food (a step up from last year, where we turned up loaded with raw meat and a few disposable BBQ’s). In between each race the party continued with a swingball and a ‘who can get sick-note Karen’s cardboard cutout face into the best scenario then take a picture’ competition.

Pizzas arrived and soon after it was time to head back to the office. It was all over too soon. Back on the bus, tour guide Ady Bibby kept us informed and entertained. The journey home being much less civilised that the one going...

A huge thank you to True North for a brilliant day out. How are you ever going to top it at Christmas?

Can design save the world?

Last Friday the True North team headed over to Sheffied Design Week for a one day conference themed around the thought provoking question…can design save the world? Throughout the day we listened to the views of 16 leading names in the creative industry, exploring how design, innovation and creativity can change the way we live, work and play. Speakers included Dominic Wilcox, Anthony Burrill, Ian Anderson of The Designers Republic and Tony Brook founder of Spin.

So, after a few days to digest, what do we think here at True North HQ, do we really believe we are the saviours of the world?

Well, I think on reflection we’d have to say sadly no. Even if we were to ignore professor Brian Cox’s end of the world predictions and presume there is actually ‘something' that can save us from impending doom, I think we’d have to have to be pretty naive to think that design alone could be our saviour. Even just from scanning our True North client list its not difficult to get some perspective and find other disciplines working on important, ground breaking projects in areas of biomedical science, education and conservation, projects that really do have the potential to save the world.

However, not to do ourselves too much of an injustice, what we do strongly believe is that design absolutely has the power to change the world. It has the power to change the way we think, the way we act, the way we live, the way we spend, the way we consume. When the ground breaking discoveries happen, it’s design that will help communicate these discoveries to the world. It’s design that will help us build houses to cope with climate change and an ageing population and it’s design that will rally the world around a common cause. 

But our favourite argument of the day came from Spin’s Tony Brook who quoted the late American graphic designer Lou Dorfsman...‘Design alone cannot save the world, but it can make the world worth saving’. 

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

We're looking for a Superstar Account Manager to join our team

You'll need to have at least 2-3 years of client account/project management experience, ideally gained within a first-class branding or creative agency environment. 

You will maintain and grow significant client relationships, ensuring that targets for profitability and account growth from existing clients are met. You will need to proactively add value and deliver on the agency promises 100% of the time, working to the highest standards and seamlessly managing every aspect of the agency/client relationship.

We're looking for someone who is motivated by working on insight-driven strategic projects, with a genuine understanding of and appreciation for excellence in branding and design. You'll need to be super-organised, capable of juggling several, often complex, projects simultaneously and with excellent attention to detail. You will inspire confidence from colleagues, partners, suppliers and clients at all levels. 

And you'll need buckets of stamina, enthusiasm, drive and ambition: True North is fuelled by every team member wanting to be the very best they can be, at the very best agency they can help to develop. 

If this sounds like you, and if you're interested in working at a fast-growing, award-winning agency with high profile and international clients, email Tamsin at as soon as you can. 

Don’t forget the brand when investing in brand innovation.

Consumer research company Kantar Worldpanel has just released the results of its global Brand Footprint survey, and in the UK, Warburtons is our top-performing brand for the second year running, bought an average of 25 times a year by 86% of UK households.
The data shows that more people are buying Warburtons products more frequently, which Kantar attributes to ‘the release of new non-bread products’ and a wheat-free range.  Alison Martin, director at Kantar Worldpanel says, ‘The brands which excelled this year are those which invested in innovation, inspiration and invention.’ This news has been widely welcomed with lots of conversations around UK companies investing in brand.  Indeed, research also showed that Cadbury has increased its consumer reach points by 12% this year and this has largely been attributed to the huge number of extensions launched under the ‘Marvellous Creations’ range.
Now, I’m sorry to be a stickler, but I do believe that there is a cavernous difference between ‘investing in brand’ and ‘investing in brand innovation’.  The former follows the Warburtons route – interrogating the values of your brand and manufacturing capabilities and launching brand extensions that exploit both to great commercial effect.  This route has also allowed Tesco to launch many other services where ‘every little helps’, and Apple’s positioning around creativity paved the way for the hugely successful launch of the ipod in the way that Dell couldn’t possibly match with DJ Ditty, with a brand very much rooted in computer hardware.The latter model, however, follows the Cadbury route, which has seen Cadbury’s Dairy Milk incorporated into myriad extensions and arguably reduced from an iconic brand to something of an ingredient.  Sales are indeed looking good for Cadbury’s, but I would be interested to monitor the health of the classic Dairy Milk in the long term.  
So, brand owners, I urge you to remember your brand when investing in brand innovation, or your may find it less of an investment over time.

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