September 24 2015
While many are familiar with B2C branding, we think the role of branding in B2B is often maligned. Most businesses recognise the need to invest in innovation, R&D and sales, but there’s a great chasm between this and the focus, budget and resource put aside to develop a B2B company’s brand. But many B2B enterprises could benefit from a good branding.
In fact, Interbrand’s 2014 ‘Best Global Brands’ included B2B giants IBM, GE, Cisco, Intel and Oracle in the Top 20, all of whom have been putting brand at the core of business activity for decades.
One of the chief advantages of investing in a strong, compelling brand is that it provides a focal point for your organisation, even in times of rapid growth or diversification. In fast moving markets, the core belief or idea behind your brand can be the only thing that retains any meaning or value with both customers and employees alike.
Take GE. This vast, complex organisation has used their brand to create order and coherence. Their brand idea of ‘Imagination at Work’ cleverly unifies a hugely broad organisation - making sense of their diversity - and has inspired 85 ‘imagination breakthroughs’ attributed to an additional $25 billion dollars of revenue for the business.
Turbulent financial times also highlight the importance of your brand. Add this to constant technological revolutions, and those without a strong identity (think: Kodak and Compaq) lose their seat at the table. Business today must be more adaptive and dynamic than ever before, and a strong brand allows companies to keep their credibility and reputations even while undergoing significant change.
One of the most powerful examples of this in the B2B world is IBM. Predicting the commoditisation of computing hardware, IBM shifted their core offering to business and infrastructure consulting, all the while remaining ‘IBM’ because they still want ‘To build a Smarter Planet’.
No matter how much salesmen and account managers would have us believe B2B relationships are wholly dependent on their persuasive expertise, even to be seen as company worthy of another’s time requires the relevance of your company to be obvious. This is where having a consistent brand idea and message, creatively and intelligently articulated and presented across everything you do, pays dividends.
It’s also worth noting how, for many enterprises, it’s not always differentiation, quality or even price that’s the most important criteria when selecting who to do business with. It’s trust and reliability.
Research by Lippincott shows 39% of business buyers’ choices are driven by brand, compared to 27% being driven by price. So in the complex business ecosystem where one small failing can bring down the whole supply chain, businesses need to have a reputation for delivering; that is to say a strong brand.
In conclusion, while we often hear things like ’Branding isn’t relevant for B2B’ and ‘Business is all about relationships’, these arguments fail to acknowledge the understanding of ‘brand’ today. It’s so much more than corporate identity and consistent marketing communications.
If companies invest, brand can be the organising principle which creates focus and coherence for management, motivates and inspires employees behind a common goal, and increasingly raises awareness and differentiates your offer with your customers.
With the challenges faced by many business this era, B2B branding is coming into its own.
September 23 2015
When it comes to innovative brand promotions there’s no business quite like fashion. The industry has always adopted a fearless and all embracing approach to new trends in technology and culture and this year’s London Fashion week was no exception.
Who’s in the FROW and the dress size of the models are no longer the only headlines to come off the runway, instead the most interesting stories come from the fashion houses who are taking risks and setting innovative examples for brands everywhere.
Senior Designer, Sarah Dutton takes us through her top 5 stand out events from LFW.
Vivienne Westwood’s Red Label show
Ever the anarchist, Vivienne Westwood used her Red Label show on Sunday as a platform to protest against climate change and austerity. ‘Politicians R Criminals' saw models take to the streets armed with banners and enter the runway to rapturous cheers from the ‘Fashmob’ in the rafters. Dame Vivienne knows a thing or two about making a statement and taking the show off the runway is a clever way to promote both her cause and her brand.
Burberry Prorsum showed a more youthful street wear influenced collection this season. Burberry CEO and Chief Creative Christopher Bailey looked to amplify the casual, reflecting the way that social media had changed the world. “There are no boundaries between cultures any more. High blends with low, and when it’s winter in one place it’s summer somewhere else”. Truly embracing this age of social media, the collection was previewed on Snapchat the evening before it made its way onto the catwalk. A fashion first, meaning guests didn't need an invite to the show in Hyde Park – just the humble app.
House of Holland’s shoppable catwalk
Henry Holland was another designer pushing the boundaries of fashion with digital tech this LFW. VIP FROW guests were able to buy pieces from his bold and bright collection straight off the catwalk thanks to a collaboration with Visa’s Shoreditch based innovation lab.
NFC (Near Field Communication) insect shaped smart jewellery was handed out to special guests including Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe. These ‘pre-paid’ pieces could then be used by the celebs to instantly shop items on the catwalk by scanning perspex ‘smart brooches’ that contained NFC receivers. This concept takes shopping to the next level, meaning you no longer a need to wait for those ‘must-have’ pieces.
Topshop team up with pinterest
Topshop have taken their own tech approach to London Fashion Week, teaming up with the online scrapbook, Pinterest.
Users can pin all their current favourite fashion pieces and ‘Pinterest Palettes’ will then scan the Pinterest board, identifying all the dominant colours in your selection. This gives users their personal colour DNA and a suggestion of Topshop items they may like from the current collection.
A clever interactive way to guide shoppers to items they may previously not have clicked on.
Louis Vuitton launches LFW immersive exhibition
Louis Vuitton unveiled it’s Series 3 exhibition on Monday, taking visitors on a journey through the creative influences behind the Autumn / Winter 2015 collection. The Artist’s Hands Room features tables topped with screens playing footage of some of the brand’s most famous pieces being crafted in real time. In another room two craftsmen work for real whilst another room replicates the interior of a catwalk space, with life size videos of models strutting towards you on screens.
This immersive experience invites visitors into the mind of Creative Director Nicolas Ghesquière, provoking an emotional connection to the product.
It is also an excellent reminder that although these items may be expensive and enviable pieces the care and craftsmanship that goes into making them establish their value.
September 17 2015
The power of genuine partnership was a strong theme that ran throughout Communicating the Museum (CTM) this year, with many inspiring examples being presented.
Partnerships that sought to blur the boundaries and break down the traditional relationships between agency & client and drive creativity, innovation and experimentation came from Project Projects in New York, Pattu in Turkey and Us.
New partnerships that blurred the boundaries between communicators & curators, audiences and organisations were presented by MuCEM, V&A, MoMA and Kunsthalle Bremen to name but a few.
Innovative partnerships that extend the reach, take collections out to the public and help Museums fulfill their organisational purpose were also presented by the likes of Louvre, that sought to partner with Paris CDG airport and curate an exhibition inside Terminal 1 as well as partner with LEGO to create a set where the famous architecture of the Louvre is re-created in LEGO bricks.
The importance of strong organisational purpose and culture was another theme at CTM. As Museums shift from ‘monasteries to public squares’ where ideas are exchanged and audiences seek to participate rather than ‘attend’, the importance of a strong purpose is ever more important. The challenges this shift in thinking creates for internal divisions and departments, risks exacerbating tensions between curators - the traditional experts and holders of knowledge and the communicators, tasked with engaging audiences and promoting reach. In this environment a definition of purpose and culture helps provide a guiding ‘north star’ to internal teams who seek to reimagine their purpose beyond the traditional boundaries and provide a clear ‘red thread’ ensuring coherence overall for audiences.
The importance of considering all the ways in which Museums can engage with hard to reach audiences within their communities and genuinely deliver culture, knowledge and art 'for all' was a popular topic.
An inspiring presentation from the State Library in Queensland referenced a range of innovative ways they are tackling ‘Threshold Fear’ and welcome new communities through their doors. From policy changes that drastically reframed their security protocols and admissions process, to creative partnerships with local families that taught new skills in surprising ways such as the Cubby House project. All of this was perfectly summarised in this quote from Nina Simon:
"If you're a museum person and you want to understand threshold fear, don't go to a museum. Go to a boxing gym. Go to an unber hip bar. Go to a place of worship that is not your own. Go to a tattoo parlor. Find a place where you feel an increible urge to bolt out the door the minute you walk in. Go there alone. See what makes sense and what doesn't to you. Consider what intimidates you and what you feel comfortable with. Not the people, the areas or experinces you gravitate to as safe starting points. And then go back to your own insititution and try and see it through that lens. Hold on to your poudning heart and imagine carrying that adrenaline through your own front door."
Interesting presentations from Project Projects and Pattu explored the expanded and expanding role of graphic design and designers in creating experiences that inspire, delight and generate open sourced identities.
From organisational brand identities comprised of distinct url codes, evolving structures that use meta data shaped by users to identities which are reimagined every 4 weeks, to minimalist identities that move and change. Organisational identities and exhibitions that reach out, live and evolve were discussed and showcased.
Several presentations explored the role of digital innovation within the Museum experience - both now and in the future. The Van Gogh Museum talked about the need to think about experiences, not products. And how and where technology could play a crucial role in enhancing the overall museum experience, rather than designing ‘digital’ experiences per se.
Amy Heibels at LACMA talked about the Museum of the future and the crucial role technology and innovation would play in curating and facilitating the entire experience. She also outlined the case for why a strong innovation culture was the single best investment a Museum could make in supporting digital communications and enabling innovation through technology.
September 10 2015
Strategy and Communications Intern and Philospohy and Spanish student Andrew Bennett considers the role of communication in today's museums and galleries.
Cultural centres, whether they be galleries, museums or theatres, have a fairly unique privilege, not felt in other forms of business. While profit remains a front-runner in their list of deliverables, this is often trumped by concept, meaning the one is rarely dictated by the other.
In recent years, artistic emphases on personal freedoms and rejections of authority have resulted in an irony of sorts. Fuelled even further by the endless possibilities of the Internet, everyone can now participate in cultural debate and criticism, leading to a rejection of the artistic authorities that introduced the very concept.
This contemporary audience is now so acutely aware of its preferences that galleries and museums are increasingly threatened by other sources of ‘culture’, e.g. TV, online and rival establishments. Curators and authors have been demoted and the lines have been blurred between amateur blogger and academic.
The audience has to be pulled in and listened to for any significant engagement.
This fierce competition forces cultural institutions to move away from the inhibitive,‘culture is pure’mantra. Instead, a thing or two could be learned from marketeers. Rather than pushing information and agendas onto the public, the audience has to be pulled in and listened to for any significant engagement.
The biggest indicator of this is that, according to the Meaningful Brands framework, “most people would not care if 74% of all brands disappeared for good”. So, it is no longer enough to just be trusted by consumers; brands must make a meaningful impact on lives. Cultural centres must therefore change their focus from merely presenting exhibits to genuinely interacting with their guests.
Brands must make a meaningful impact on lives.
All in all, to stay relevant in the modern era, establishments must balance visitors’freedom to roam with their own, institutional presence - the very thing found, for example, at The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.
Situated near the areas of Moss Side and Hulme, the gallery’s recent £15m redesign prioritised making itself accessible to those who may not ordinarily go to museums. They looked to be much more engaged with their audience, and were clearly successful as there was more than a fivefold increase in visitors in the month after reopening.
This increasingly attentive approach is also channeled elsewhere, as the gallery also runs after-hours cultural events and many wellbeing projects, the latter exploring the roles of art in child development and stroke recovery. This is all targeted at enabling guests to enjoy art individually, with the gallery positioning itself as the essential platform from which this takes place.
Ultimately, The Whitworth has reinforced itself as a meaningful brand, building on its location to directly engage those coming through its doors. As many other arts institutions suffer from budget cuts, they could take inspiration from The Whitworth to understand how to stay relevant, despite increased cultural competition. Although many may not be able to afford a redesign, the gallery’s repositioning still has many lessons to offer.
September 10 2015
Queensland Art Gallery
This strikingly simple visual and verbal system pulls the two brands together whilst simultaneously celebrating their differences. Each gallery has it’s own distinct personality and tone of voice which creates conversation and interplay across the two sites, giving visitors a more rounded experience.
The brand’s identity system revolves around a geometric grid based on the Star of David. This comprehensive and visually consistent range of assets invites surprise and flexibility across all media, while always unified in visual language.
The Simone Handbag Museum
This solution provides the museum with an elegant, modern identity and strong flexibility through a diversity of assets. The contrasting colour palette and use of both cut-out and close-up photography neatly reflect the themes of past and present.
This intuitive but simple logotype works well as both an edgy, bold identity and a handy flexible framing device. Resulting in a brand that successfully combines the theatre’s young, roguish energy with a refined and consistent structure but with plenty of room for flexibility.
By just using four letters set in a bold frame this pinned poster inspired identity and it’s monochrome palette creates a strikingly simple identity system, which can house this traveling theatres’ ever changing content and venue.
Jenna Chattwood, Creative
September 9 2015
Manchester’s Liverpool Road Station, once the first ever inter-city railway carrying passengers and produce between northern cities, has, since 1983 been home to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. A place seeped in the history of the industrial north, a place dedicated to the exploration of scientific and industrial innovation and the place where, in June 2014, Chancellor George Osborne launched his vision for the “Northern Powerhouse.”
A fitting stage that saw the now First Secretary of State outline plans to liberate the northern cities from the shadows of London. “Not to rival the South, but to be its brother in arms,” by devolving power from Whitehall to the regions.
Fast-forward six months to February 2015 when the cogs in the devolution machine began to turn and it was announced that Greater Manchester would take control of a £6bn health and social budget. Last Wednesday evening this became a reality when representatives from academia, science, national health and industry signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’ Health Innovation Manchester was born.
The vision for Health Innovation Manchester is to transform the health of the population in the region by driving research and innovation into every day medical practice.
For us at True North, this launch was a culmination of an incredible and insightful piece of work, which saw us create a name, vision, purpose and identity for this first of its kind partnership.
We started this project with a focus on collaboration, spending time with a diverse range of stakeholders and partners, interviewing them to define their vision and establish guiding principles. Discovery, development and delivery through transformative healthcare solutions was a vision that resonated with each and every partner and so, this became the focus that bound the brand.
Inspired by this idea of the continuous and connected system, a visual identity was created that reinforced the vision. An abstract infinity symbol becomes a powerful brand device, flowing across and connecting all brand communications.
This same brand device was used in the brand film, produced and edited by Gate Films. A series of seamless transitions from once scene to the next demonstrate the system’s joined-up approach, reinforcing the close connections and the blurring of the lines between academia, industry and healthcare providers.
The overall look and feel of the brand is that of an energetic, forward thinking organisation. One that has movement and pace, capturing the sense of positive momentum behind this transformative brand.