Archive for the ‘Uncategorized ’ Category

How to make your brand’s packaging stand out in online stores

Packaging design requirements for online sales differ from what’s needed to make them stand out on supermarket shelves. The Grocer spoke to a range of brand experts, digital designers and packaging gurus, including our Managing Partner, Jen Ives to find out the most important elements of standing out on an online shelf. Here are their top tips for success..

Standing out on the online shelf has never been more critical to a product’s success. As online grocery’s share hovers steadily around 13%, it’s a channel designers can’t afford to ignore.

But the online grocery arena has very different design requirements from physical shelves. Getting an initial listing in the online space may be easier, but the wide range of choice only makes standing out harder.

Plus, designs must capture the attention of shoppers swiftly scrolling through their options, rather than browsing the aisles. Often that’s on a tiny phone screen that doesn’t leave much room for creativity.

“How best to convey your brand’s story and authenticity in the confines of a 2.5cm digital square? It’s a real challenge for designers – a torture test,” says Jos Harrison, global head of brand experience and design at Reckitt.

But there are some tricks of the trade that allow products to break through the glass display and find their way into the all-important shoppers’ favourite lists.

These include everything from adopting a ‘less is more’ design, to utilising tools such as dedicated product pages and positive customer reviews.

Less is more

“It’s definitely a ‘less is more’ situation,” says Lois Blackhurst, executive creative director at STB Graphic Designers, which has worked with Morrisons, Safeway and Fox’s. “The online packs need a lot less information on them, but that information needs to work an awful lot harder,” she says.

“A brand must have the confidence to ‘strip it right back’ and use three or four recognisable design elements to deliver the personality that the brand is known for. Scrolling on a screen, especially if it’s on a small phone screen, doesn’t give the image much time to have any impact, so the design really needs to deliver something special. My advice for brands thinking about redesigning their packaging would be that if you think the pack design is finished, you should try and take one more element off! Confidence is key.”

Tim Bousfield, group creative director at creative agency Path, which has worked with M&M’s, Lavazza, Noodl Plus, Oppo, Peroni and Red Bull, says brands must “express themselves clearly and unequivocally”.

“Without the laurels of the real-world fixture to rest on, elegant and succinct brand expressions are crucial,” he adds.

Jen Ives, managing partner at Coley Porter Bell, agrees: “Simplicity – on the online shelf, product visuals are tiny and hard to read.”

Creating a simplified version means greater cut-through, says Luca Cicero, art director at food and drink marketing and design agency Jellybean, which has worked with Nutella, Chicago Town pizza, Sarson’s and Porky Whites.

“Dwell time on online shops is low and so you only have a limited time to grab the shopper’s attention,” he explains. “Consider creating a simplified version of your normal packaging so that key elements of the design are not lost amongst the finer details. Ensure type is clear and set at a reasonable size, and use graphics to communicate the product’s key features and benefits so that you are not solely reliant on text to communicate what the product is.”

Emphasise the main selling points

“The online pack should be similar to the physical one but stripped back to the essentials. Think back to the days of creating mock-ups for TV – it’s a similar concept. You want consumers to see both the brand and the variant,” says Ives of Coley Porter Bell, a global branding and design agency that’s worked with Tesco and M&S on their own-label ranges, as well as Jordans, Ryvita and Müller.

“It’s not advisable to use the exact same packaging as in physical stores,” Ives adds. “Brands need to increase the size of essential information on packaging online, ensuring that all the information shoppers need is easy to read.

“Size is also critical when shopping online – shoppers don’t want to end up with a single serving when they were trying to buy something to feed a family of four.”

Make instant impact

“The key objective has to be impact,” says Tom Primrose, branding strategist at Curious London, who worked on the branding campaign for AB InBev’s Leffe beer. “With such a short window of time to connect and such a small space to play with – often a phone, tablet or laptop – it’s crucial that the design disrupts the consumer in some way. It’s important to make your product look unique, so try and prioritise elements of the packaging that consumers will either recognise or that will grab their attention.

Stuart Lang, founder and creative director of branding and digital agency We Launch, which has worked with GSK and mixer brand Lixir Drinks, adds: “Cut-through on the shelf has always been one of the biggest challenges for brands. The expression ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ holds no water here. What customers see, compared to those around them, is of the utmost importance, especially in a world where products are no longer lingering in view as they fly by on the screen of your smartphone. With such little space for brands to operate in, knowing how to optimise their strongest visual attributes will make and break with digital consumers.”

“These visual elements are crucial for brands, says Primrose at Curious. “For established brands it draws in consumers that are familiar. Whilst for new brands, strong visual assets provide an opportunity for them to differentiate themselves from what else is in the market.”

Colours, patterns and logos matter even more

Cicero emphasises the importance of colour. “Strong colours in packaging not only create contrast, but also add drama,” he says. “Where colour is used to differentiate multiple products in a range, and where those products are seen together on a product page, they reinforce the breadth of the range as well as give an indication as to the different flavours and varieties that brand offers.”

Utilise product pages to the max

When an item is clicked from the main shopping screen of online grocers, shoppers are taken to a dedicated product page for the item.

“This is where you can have a little bit more flex as a brand and start to call on other areas such as your reputation with consumers, as well as product imagery which is more evocative. Linking in positive product reviews can help establish trust and authenticity, whilst a diverse selection of imagery can bring the brand to life and showcase products such as beauty brands in use,” says Primrose at Curious.

The pages are “vital to the shopping experience” adds Jellybean’s Cicero. “Your product page is your chance to apply every design, branding and sales trick in the book in order to convince the shopper that this product is for them. Care should be given to ensure that your product’s reason to exist is addressed including why it’s better than the competitor products, why it’s loved by consumers and why it should be bought,” he explains.

“Also great imagery, motion, video and maybe even audio, will help answer their key questions and guide shoppers to take action,” he adds.

They are particularly important for premium products.

“Online grocery shopping is a lot less engaging than shopping the physical aisle, and it’s a price-driven operation,” says Ives. “However, if you’re selling a premium product with more emotional engagement, in the absence of consumers being able to hold and feel it in their hands, product pages can be a great way to share the brand experience.”

Include shopper reviews

“Utilising verified Trustpilot reviews to point people towards your products is a crucial part of building an online presence,” says Steph Morris, head of marketing at Jimmy’s, the packaging of which went through a major rebrand early last year. “We try to integrate Trustpilot wherever possible to our social media campaigns and DTC listings and ensure that we reply to every review left. This not only helps guide consumers to purchase, it also contributes to SEO and drives traffic to your online listings.”

Pick your words carefully

“Making sure to include the right information and key words on product pages is likely to bump products higher up the list, which could itself be 20 pages long,” says Mark Croxton, VP customer support at Symphony RetailAI. “Consumers probably won’t scroll beyond the first few product pages, so getting to the top tier of the list is crucial.”

Using the right key words “will help to push brands further up the list and ensure they don’t get lost” he adds.

Product data has “become as important an asset as physical package label information,” says Jessica Chapplow, head of e-commerce at Havas Market, which works with Pernod Ricard and Dettol.

“A shopper cannot discover your products if they aren’t coded for every relevant search term, so the right key word set is critical to getting your product noticed and meeting revenue targets,” she adds.

Not only do product detail pages help shoppers, “some retailers use optimised PDPs as part of their search algorithms, ensuring products feature higher in search rankings,” says Callum Saunders, head of planning at fmcg brand activation agency Zeal Creative, which has worked with Nestlé, Kellogg’s and Imperial Leather.

“While Ocado’s rebrand needed to be digital first, everything we did needed to look as good online as it did in your hand,” says JKR creative director Martin Francis. “We were very interested in the idea of being ‘shelf proud’. It had to look good in digital form, but it had to look amazing at home.”

Given the online format, the priority was “simplification and amplification” of branding, colour palettes and product information.

“As the consumer will only ever purchase these products online, bold simplicity and distinctive illustration was a key factor from the very start to distinguish from competitors in the online experience,” Francis says.

“The pack in the hand will of course have nuances from their online visual – scaled down type, romanced copy, GDAs – but the difference will be less apparent than other branded packaging, which may have been created initially with the physical shelf as a starting point,” he adds.

Appealing online packaging “inevitably means sacrificing some elements” Francis says. Things like “subtle textures, finishes and detailed patterns add value in the hands of the consumer at shelf but will often be lost in the digital environment and could just be adding unnecessary noise and confusion to the pack as it appears online” he adds. “Food photography which delivers appetite appeal at shelf will often play a lesser role.”

“One of the key ways in which we’ve built online category presence is by always using our own approved product photos across all online platforms,” says Morris at Jimmy’s. “This has allowed us to consistently have crisp, top-quality imaging that really showcases the reason to buy. For example, as our iced coffees are best consumed ice cold, we photograph them with condensation beads to give the consumer that impression of a refreshing taste experience.”

Take ownership of imagery

It’s also important to test visuals on a variety of screen types, says Grudzinski. “Graphics that look great on a 14-inch-tall breakfast cereal box on a grocer’s shelf will get lost when reduced to an image that’s a half-inch tall on a phone screen,” he notes.

Tap the power of symbolism

“It’s about imbuing relevant meaning at a brand identity level and the quickest and easiest way to do that is through symbolism. By creating intentional associations through symbolism – in other words – generating visual metaphorical shortcuts in consumer’s minds, you create connections,” says Ellen Munro, creative director of BrandOpus, which has worked with Princes and Rustlers.

“Visual triggers and quirks also create memorability,” she adds.

As Path’s Bousfield puts it: “Create a visual system that is recognisable on screen and on-shelf. Make customers feel like they know the brand, even if they don’t.”

Originally published in The Grocer

Written by George Nott

Future of packaging: contain yourself

Supermarkets were finally tackling their plastic waste problem before Covid stymied progress. Are they – and, crucially, shoppers – ready yet to embrace reusable packaging again?

Branding and packaging experts, including our Managing Partner, Jen Ives, weigh in on this question and what it means for brands.


Written by Chris Stokel-Walker.

Our supermarkets have a lot to answer for when it comes to the amount of plastic waste they generate. In the UK, the sector used nearly 900,000 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2019, according to research by Greenpeace.

Some consumers, horrified by the findings, took matters into their own hands, leaving plastic wrapping from fruit and veg at the tills in protest. Facing a public backlash about the overpackaging mountain, the industry realised that it had to act. Both retailers and producers started working out how to get smarter with their packaging.

There were trials aplenty. Waitrose started an 11-week pilot in its Oxford supermarket that reduced single-use packaging by 98% and plastic packaging overall by 83%. The Waitrose Unpacked scheme, which installed the kinds of dispensers seen at zero – waste stores across the country, was rolled out to several other stores.

At its store in Ulverston, Cumbria, Aldi moved some products, including rice and pasta, into dispensers designed for customers to bring their own containers. This was part of a project that could, the company hopes, reduce its plastic consumption by 130 tonnes a year.

Morrisons tested a similar scheme for some frozen fruit, pasta and seeds, offering them for sale at a 10% discount to incentivise customers to  choose the greener packaging option. The company’s overall goal is to cut its plastic consumption in half by 2025.

And Asda’s Middleton supermarket in Greater Manchester became a beacon for eco-conscious shoppers, offering refills on products in a scheme that’s set to expand to more stores in the coming months.

It all showed great promise. The world of packaging looked to be moving in the right direction, but then the pandemic shook consumer confidence in food safety. For instance, 55% of Canadian consumers polled for research published in April 2021 said that they had be – come more worried about the issue since the start of the Covid crisis.

“A lot of the innovation that had been happening before last year went on the back burner,” says Simon Geale, executive vice-president, procurement, at Proxima, a consultancy that works with a number of big UK retailers. “Businesses reverted to ‘anything will do’.”

Particularly during the period of panic buying at the beginning of the  pandemic, supermarket chains prioritised getting enough stock on their shelves, rather than thinking about the most sustainable packaging solutions for it. They also struggled with a cardboard shortage in mid-2020, exacerbated by the un – precedented growth in demand for their online delivery services. This affected their ability to safely trans – port certain products to their stores, never mind to customers.

Eggs that used to be packed in cardboard were stocked in plastic boxes, for instance, while bakery items that had been displayed loose before the pandemic struck ended up in plastic packaging at Budgens. And the roll-out of refill stations in some supermarkets was postponed amid concerns about the transmission risk they would present.

Indeed, as public unease about the  spread of Covid-19 via contact with surfaces grew, the whole concept of reuse became less popular. Research published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies in April 2021 revealed that public support for a ban on all single-use plastics in food packaging plunged from 72% in 2019 to 58% in 2020.

In response to consumer demand, manufacturers reverted to producing overpackaged goods in an effort to make them appear more sanitary. The hermetically sealed pack – age is terrible for the environment, but it’s a godsend for those worried about contracting viruses through contact with dispensers.

With the benefit of more than a year’s worth of data, we now know that Covid is far more likely to be transmitted aerially. Public health bodies including the World Health Organization and the US Food and  Drug Administration have ex – plained the risks posed by so-called hygiene theatre and exploded the myths that pervaded during the early stages of the pandemic, which had led some retailers and shoppers to resort to unnecessary practices such as double-bagging.

“There were so many grey areas in the information we were given at  the start of the pandemic,” says Charlotte Bowyer, co-founder of the Zero Waste Company, a shop in  Tunbridge Wells, Kent. She felt obliged to stop customers bringing their own containers – a difficult decision when your whole ethos is to reduce waste in as many ways as  possible. As a compromise, she offered them recycled paper bags.

Getting customers to return to a frame of mind in which most are happy to reuse containers again is likely to be a challenge, says Jen Ives, managing partner at Coley Porter Bell, a packaging design agency with clients including M&S, Tesco, Müller and Fox’s Biscuits.

“This has become a top priority for brands. The conversations we’re having with them are about how to build trust and emotional connections with consumers,” says Ives, who believes that big brands have a responsibility to communicate clearly and dispel myths that have built up about viral transmission through contact with surfaces.

“If they (brands) can understand what the sensory codes are that cue ideas of cleanliness and safety, and tap into those through sounds, smells and visuals, they can start to build a more immersive brand expression” 

“That would reinforce on an implicit level the strategy and messaging they have about safety, cleanliness and sustainability.”

Bowyer says that the pandemic has caused “massive setbacks” for the zero-waste movement, “especially with the shift to online shop – ping. You cannot do that without waste, no matter how hard you try.”

Her company tested the water by providing a delivery service during the first UK lockdown, but found it hard to stay true to its ethos of limiting waste while also ensuring that items arrived safely at customers’ homes. Despite such problems, Bowyer is confident that the Covid crisis has reaffirmed consumers’ attitudes towards inefficiency.

“People saw the environmental impact of the world going into lock – down and the aftermath of all the excess packaging and single-use masks,” she says. “A lot of them are coming to us and saying: ‘We need to make a difference with our waste and plastic output.’”

Yet Bowyer believes that zero – waste shopping is not the future. That may seem an unusual thing for her to say, but she readily admits that “zero-waste shopping is hard – and people like convenience”.

Instead, she hopes that consumers will occupy a more sustainable middle ground where there is room for more environmentally friendly or compostable packaging, while businesses such as hers will help to propel the conversation in a more eco-friendly direction.

Ives wholeheartedly agrees with her. “Coming out of this pandemic, we are all still feeling our way,” she says. “But there is definitely a responsibility – and an opportunity – for brands here.”

Originally appeared in The Times Raconteur Future of Packaging publication, ‘Contain Yourself’ (pages 5-6).

Brand Makeovers: Jenn Szekely On 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Jenn Szekely.

Jenn Szekely leads Coley Porter Bell’s US business, based in New York and is a member of the Coley Porter Bell Board. She brings over 20 years of experience in B2C and B2B across a variety of industries, including retail, technology, hospitality, FMCG, nonprofit, manufacturing and healthcare. Prior to her career in branding, Jenn ran her own company, which included retail stores in Boston, Massachusetts — specialized in fashion, art, antiques and design — that were recognized in national and international newspapers, magazines, books and television.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My path is not a linear one. I started my career with a brief stint in the music industry, in promotion. It was an industry I was brought up around and while I love music, my passion was design, art, and antiques. I decided to follow my passion and started my own business and for almost a decade, before selling, I owned and ran two retail stores in Boston (one of which is still there today) and wholesaled globally.

Family and personal reasons brought me back to New York. After six months of spending half my day doing yoga in an Ashram in upstate New York, I distinctly remember my mother wisely saying I cannot be retired at 30, so find yourself something to do. I ended up taking a role as an art consultant, doing art for hospitality, corporate and residential interiors, which was related to what I was doing in my own business, having worked with many interior designers. I worked on lots of hotels and restaurants, including Atlantis in Paradise Island, Westin, Sheraton, and with Todd English on various projects for his restaurants.

And while I liked doing the art, I wanted to influence more around the hospitality experience and work on the overall branding and experience of hotels. I ended up going to an independent agency that did work I admired, from there I took a different type of role at a larger private equity owned agency and from there moved to different positions at global holding company branding agencies, which eventually led me to WPP and Coley Porter Bell (an Ogilvy Company).

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the first projects I worked on in branding was for Absolut. The project was to develop a limited-edition Absolut New York bottle. We ended up convincing the client to do Absolut Brooklyn instead, given that Brooklyn was blowing up at the time. My role on the project was to help find the right celebrity partner. Why I was given that job on the project, I have no idea, as I had no experience doing that sort of thing. Anyway, I ended up loving it, as I got to have lots of conversations with very interesting people (well-known writers, artists, musicians, etc.). But when you think about Brooklyn, the one person bubbled to the top of our list, Spike Lee. One day I picked up the phone and called his office and to my surprise, he took my call. We had a great conversation, which ended by him accepting an invitation to visit our NoHo office to discuss the project further and meet the team.

Two funny things happened the day he came. The first was about 10 seconds into the visit where he said to me, “Jenn, this is not going to work out.” The reason: We had a showcase in our reception area of the office and sometimes we would display our work but other times, we let the teams build displays around things they were passionate about. That week it turned out that the numerous Bostonians in the office decided to make a shrine to the Red Sox and Celtics, which did not go over well with the die-hard Knicks fan. While I could have been more prepared, it ended up being funny and a good ice breaker.

The next thing that happened was really funny; a real happy accident. The design team were putting all sorts of images on inspiration boards in the studio. One of the areas of exploration were the great brownstones and stoops of Brooklyn. Buried in the mix, Spike pointed to one image and went on to tell us that the image was of the house he grew up in. I was told by our designer it was a random coincidence but even if it was not, it was a magical moment and one I like to think sealed the deal. In the end, it was his stoop that ended up becoming the image used on the final bottle design.

When I reflect on that experience and experiences I’ve had since then, the lesson I’ve learned is that authenticity and a little scrappiness can sometimes be the winning strategy. It is not always necessary to overplan, overengineer and orchestrate every interaction.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

I feel very fortunate to have had several successes in my different careers, but when I think of my current chapter (branding), the real tipping point for me was when I was started getting recognized by my peers and former colleagues. The major jumps I had in my career came from people/companies who were referred to me by former colleagues. My latest role is actual the very first time I’ve worked with a recruiter for a position.

The one big thing I would take away from this is that relationships matter, especially internal ones with colleagues. A lot of times people are so focused on external perceptions of themselves and their work but the internal colleagues you work with won’t always be colleagues and they can be your best advocates in your career — sometimes even more so than your clients.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working on a bunch of exciting projects right now, but one is tugging at my heart due to the impact the company has on people. Unfortunately, due to confidentiality agreements I can’t say much about it, but I can say it is in the healthcare space for a company whose innovative approach has made such an impact on an audience that too few people have invested in.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Before the pandemic my answer would have been travel and go somewhere new, meet different kinds of people and experience different things, as I have found that some of my best thinking comes during these types of trips.
During the pandemic, one thing that has helped me is unplugging. When I’ve had time off, I’ve taken time away from all my devices. Being present in both nature and with the people around me has given me the same inspiration and has rejuvenated me in a similar way travel does.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

When I explain what I do to people and the difference between branding and advertising, I talk about how branding is about defining and developing the foundational elements of a brand, the strategies, identities, and experiences that don’t change the way a lot of advertising campaigns do (although some do stand the test of time). Branding work should last for the next 10–15 years and sometime longer. The work we do complements advertising, acting both as the springboard for the development of creative and experiences but also a filter for evaluating them.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

There are so many reasons, from differentiating against the competition: building trust with audiences and helping create loyalty, to ensuring consistency, helping recruit and retain talent, and more. There’s also lots of data, including data from BrandZ that shows that brand-led organizations outperform leading stock market indexes like S&P500.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Companies typically consider rebranding when they are going through a moment of change. That change could be due to M&A, a leadership change, a change in business strategy, etc. Or in many cases, the brand just hasn’t kept up with the business. I’ve worked with so many companies where their business had changed over many years, but the branding still reflected who they were and not who they currently are.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There are watch-outs when it comes to rebranding, especially if you are a legacy organization with lots of heritage. In that instance, you want to make sure you are not throwing away the baby with the bathwater. When rebranding, not everything needs to change. One misconception of our industry is that a rebrand means ‘all new’. Some elements of a brand have such equity it would not make business sense to make a wholesale change and sometimes just optimizing a few things can have a huge impact.

An example of this is one of our clients, Boots, part of the Walgreens Boots Alliance. This 170+ year old brand knew it needed a refresh but there was hesitation given the iconic nature of things like its logo. Building off the new brand strategy, we helped them update their visual identity and add to it, as opposed to starting from scratch. The logo was optimized for the digital age and liberated from the dated lozenge but the essence of it was retained. The evolution of their logo was supported by refreshing all the other elements of the visual identity, making it fit for purpose for the digital age, modernizing it and giving the organization the tools to clearly communicate its three key offerings — pharmacy, beauty, and well-being.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

Define and activate your brand purpose- Numerous studies have shown that Purpose-led organizations outperform those that are not. As a result, many organizations have been defining why their company exists beyond profits -their brand purpose. But for many, little is done with it besides defining it and using it in marketing and communications, or having the words displayed on a Boardroom wall. Far fewer have cracked the nut of embedding it into their organization. It’s the brands that are activating it, having it play a pivotal role in the employee experience and using it to guide business decisions that are the ones gaining the most traction. Patagonia is an example of a company who lives and breathes its brand purpose, “We’re in Business to Save Our Home Planet”. Not only do they give away 1% of sales each year to environmental organizations but they encourage employees to take part in their mission, beyond their day-to-day jobs. After a year of employment, employees can take two-months off (paid) to volunteer for an environmental cause or organization. They have initiatives like Action Works and support employees that are activists for causes they believe in. They take their purpose so seriously that they will even pay their employees’ bail, legal fees, and related time away from work if they are arrested in peaceful environmental protests.

  • Elevate the role of your corporate brand- This strategy is particularly aimed at house of brands companies or hybrid companies with strong product brands. These types of companies, both B2C and B2B typically spend most of their resources marketing their product brands, giving very little attention to their corporate brand. In many cases, there is not even a clear strategy for the role of the corporate brand, as it relates to their product brands. Hospitality and travel companies have used their loyalty programs to connect the different brands within their portfolios, but one can argue they can do even more to support their corporate brand. P&G is an-example of a company who has done a really nice job over the last decade elevating their corporate brand relative to their products. Through vehicles like ‘Thank you, Mom’, and how they incorporate their corporate brand into their product brand experience, consumers are much more aware of the company behind the products they buy.
  • Align your brand with your business- There are so many companies out there that have amazingly innovative products, services, and business models but when you look at the brand it is hard to believe they come from that company. Their branding has just not kept up with their business, in other words, they just look old and dusty. I recently reached out to help solve this very problem with one company who I won’t name but is in the medical technology space,
  • Create an immersive brand identity- When it comes to brand identity, the needs today are different than even a decade ago. While digital has been a growing for a long time, the pandemic has made it something companies can no longer ignore. But many brands just don’t have the tools from an identity standpoint to thrive. There are lots of amazing identities out there that visually manifest their strategy and tell the story of their brands, but very few are delivering a truly immersive and holistic experience, which people expect from brands today, regardless of whether they are B2B or B2C. Some brands are doing things well — brands like Uber have made digital a core part of the identity, their component library is completely connected to its identity, and Netflix who leverages the power of a sonic identity, to brands like Zappos and Starbucks who put a strong focus on the service experience — but very few have been able to put all these together to define a truly immersive brand identity that can be delivered across its communications and experiences.
  • Embark on an employee engagement program – Employees are your biggest brand ambassadors. More and more of our clients are seeking help with employee engagement, not only because it’s a critical component to ensuring success when rebranding, but also an increasingly important factor in recruiting and retention, as expectations of the employee experience are higher than ever. One of our clients, LEGO® has done a brilliant job at engaging employees around their strategy of “learning through play”. There is a great quote from Seymour Papert, a former LEGO® Professor of Learning Research at MIT Media Lab: “Rather than pushing children to think like adults, we might do better to remember that they are great learners and to try harder to be more like them.” In support of this, Lego® does things like having Play Days, where LEGO® employees from over the world take the day off work to play. The whole idea of learning through play is not only used internally, but it also informs lots of external decisions, from the partnerships it has to the actual products they develop.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One of the ones that stands out that I had the privilege of working on is Tupperware. The whole story of the rebrand, how it started, and the amazing clients is a story on its own for another time but regarding the work, it’s just powerful.

Tupperware suffered from perception challenges as a brand that was seen as dated. But when you experience the brand today, it clearly communicates the mission-driven, global and innovative brand that it is. The old associations of the Tupperware party have been replaced with a brand that inspires and installs confidence in women around the world, that has always and still does develop some of the most useful and innovative products in the marketplace. I encourage you to do a blind taste test of chicken made in their microwave pressure cooker, a gift I was given to me by their global creative director, it blew my mind!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wish more people embraced the power of mentorship. It is quite magical to see the impact a person can have on another person. I am so lucky to have benefited from the mentorship of founders of some of the world’s iconic branding agencies, they were experiences that shaped my career and ones that I can’t help but want to pay forward. If more people took the initiative to take on a mentee, I believe the world would be a better place. And for those who say I just don’t have the time; I want you to know that you are missing out, as the experience is so reciprocal. While mentoring is helping and grooming others, I continue to be surprised and delighted at how much I learn and get out of the experience as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I can’t believe I am going to quote a Baz Luhrmann song publicly but I am. I love much of what is in Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen) but the one piece of advice that I love the most is…

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t.”

I find this quote so liberating. It is related to the reason I love airports so much; it opens the door to possibilities. It also quells the voice of around expectations, and while I love my current chapter, it makes me feel optimistic about my next one.

How can our readers follow you online?

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

Originally published in Authority Magazine

Achieving brand consistency in an omnichannel world

If brands have learnt one thing from the COVID pandemic it is the importance of the digital landscape as not just a selling tool but as a platform to heighten the consumer relationship. In May 2019 36% of customer interactions were conducted through digital channels globally, by June 2020 that percentage had risen to 58%, and it is unlikely we’ll see this reverse even as we come out of the pandemic.

So, brands today must have a digital presence, but this should be seamlessly integrated with digital and human touchpoints.  And as marketeers cope with a greater spectrum of touchpoints it can become easy to fragment the experience and cause confusion in the mind of the consumer.

In the past, brands utilized different channels for different goals, with different strategies. We only need to look at how communications agencies have been structured over the decades to see this; ATL, BTL, PR and digital all working separately and under the control of different entities and departments. Yet, the consumer doesn’t think in channels, they simply see the brand.

Build your brand and its identity system with this in mind is the core of omnichannel thinking. The consumers’ experience of the brand puts the consumer at the centre, is touchpoint agnostic and most importantly completely consistent and integrated.

Managing multiple brand dimensions

Today, success will no longer be derived solely by having the best offer on the market. Consumers now expect to interact with brands on an emotional level, they want brands that have a soul, that have purpose in the world beyond simply making money. And they expect brands to understand them as an individual and demonstrate this understanding through experiences and interactions.

Immersive Brand Thinking is an approach that helps marketeers to organise these – and other – complex, growing and intersecting demands, in a way that creates brand systems fit for the modern day and seamless engaging experiences.  It starts with key strategic foundations, fused into a brand experience platform which in turns drives an immersive brand identity system and unites marketing efforts beyond.

In moving towards a more Immersive approach to help address the omnichannel world, there are brands old and new we can take inspiration from

Digital to real world

Glossier, the online beauty brand, knows that community is at the heart of the brand’s success.  Through their social media platforms, the brand facilitates conversations about the products consumers use and love. This organic conversation made Glossier the go-to brand for online discussion and sharing content in the make-up space.

As Glossier moved into the bricks-and-mortar space they made sure to keep this sense of community at the heart of the offering. They understood that their online ambassadors are part of their identity, and a key asset to the brand. So they brought some of their most high profile online ambassadors into the stores so customers could interact with them and talk about their favorite looks.

Brands like Glossier – along with familiar examples such as Amazon Go – have understood what lies at the heart of their brand, the associations they are building and their role in the world, then used this to build on and offline offerings that match, rather than mirror

 Traditional identity systems evolving to connect with new audiences

The automotive industry is probably one of the few where we could be forgiven for assuming it is still rooted in customers’ need to see, feel and try the product before parting with tens of thousands of dollars. However, VW believes otherwise.

As the brand moves into the electric space, they developed a clean, new brand identity to match their vision for the future of the company. But in their future they also recognized that the digital landscape would become increasingly important, as millennials and Gen Z normalize having an online relationship with car buying and maintenance.

Thus, in building the new identity they took a digital-first approach. The logo was stripped back to its essential elements, giving greater flexibility and ease of use across touchpoints.

Equally, the brand knew the identity would need to work just as well on small interfaces, such as smartwatches or in-car screens, as it would on more traditional touchpoints such as dealerships or the cars themselves.

VW have a clear understanding of where their brand and category is moving to, and how that will affect customer touchpoints.

Using omnichannel experience to reinvent categories

Innovative paint brand, Lick, is removing the barriers to decorating by reimaging the customer experience for modern consumers. Built around the call-to-arms platform Let’s Decorate, everything about their experience and identity is designed to make choosing and buying paint simple, convenient, and fun.

Their approach is more than just slapping a coat of digital design onto a traditional experience. Instead, Lick thought about experience to redesign key interactions.  Their sample paint swatch is stuck on the wall and replaces the old sample pot.  The branded swatch is not only easier to mail but encourages Instagram sharing.

And though the humble paint tin’s redesign may have been inspired by ease of posting, it is being used as part of Lick’s identity in much the same way Coke would use their iconic glass bottle.

It will be interesting to watch which other aspects of decorating they redefine – and integrate into their identity – in the future.

Connecting divided categories

Healthcare is a notoriously silo’d sector, even as insurance companies and governments increasingly recognise that prevention is cheaper than cure. Enter leading US medtech brand, Omada Health. Omada’s mission is not to treat, but inspire and engage its members make long-term, sustainable changes to improve their health. Think of them as doctor, coach, support community, and smart watch combined. Every aspect of their experience – smart health devices, online care specialists, website and app – has been designed to integrate with each other. And this applies to their identity too. Omada knows that achieving design coherence and clarity is not a nice to have, but crucial to their mission. Their brand principles of Candid, Savvy, Empowering, Supportive and Delightful are evident in everything they do.

What omnichannel success looks like

All these brands, in different ways, have all evolved their offering to meet the requirements of consumers, developing successful omnichannel experiences. Whilst each has its individual strengths there are clear learnings to be taken away.

 Understand what drives your brand

Being crystal clear about the foundations and idea upon which your brand is built is more important than ever in an omnichannel world – without those strong foundations the whole house can come crashing down

Don’t try to do everything

Building and managing brands across today’s complex eco systems is tough.  Being clear about the aspects about your brand and identity system that will drive growth will allow you to focus efforts where it makes the most difference

Think multidimensionally about your identity system

Immersive Identity systems need to do so much more than stand out, they need to connect emotionally, tell stories, shape experiences and more.  Ensure your identity is built to grow your brand around multiple dimensions

Think about assets differently

In the past assets were about creating distinction and recognizability.  Whilst this is still important brands need to think more fluidly about their use and deployment of assets and understood what consumers value most in their brands and flex assets to engage based on these needs.

Allow your customers to collaborate

Identities are no longer something to be policed, they are part of a brands conversation with its customers.  Allowing you customers to use brand assets to create something personal to them will drives emotional engagement and greater advocacy.

written by John Clark

originally published in WARC

Image credit: Design Retail

No longer just a label: the importance of sustainability to brands

Over recent years, it’s become clear that sustainability is an increasing priority for consumers.

Expectations have shifted from ‘do no harm’ to ‘must create positive impact’, brands are judged by their core everyday actions. If they don’t push to transform their business into a sustainable one, they, more than ever, risk their bottom line. For many shoppers, purchasing a product now requires an alignment on ethical grounds.

Many brands have adapted to this mindset meaning sustainable thinking is no longer a niche – but a fundamental requirement.

And while sustainability’s focus has historically been on environmental impact, to maintain relevance in the current landscape, brands must now incorporate economic growth and social equity to appeal to consumers. Considering the fundamental role brands have in shaping cultures, a holistic approach that considers their purposes as well as how they portray the world and the environmental impact they generate, is necessary.

As consumers are aware of green-washing as well as purpose-washing, brands need to practice what they preach to earn the trust of their audience.

A great example of this is Patagonia, which just happens to operate in the outdoor clothing industry. In its own words: We aim to use the resources we have – our voice, our business and our community – to do something about our climate crisis. It leads the way by its actions, dedicating time and resources to improve the planet – and encouraging its stakeholders to follow suit.

Portraying diversity is ever more pertinent for every brand in the public eye. The Golden Globes and Hollywood Foreign Press Association faced recent backlash for their lack of diverse representation among members.

This rapid descent of a world-renowned non-profit and award ceremony shows how important it is for brands to ensure their representation, both visual and verbal, is always diverse. If businesses are to be sustainable in the long term, they need to ensure that they’re not tokenistic and that diversity is embedded throughout the business, not just externally.

Dove is known for championing diversity and encouraging body positivity in its advertisements. Its recent #ShowUS campaign brought together more than 10,000 images of women and non-binary individuals from around the world to display a more diverse and inclusive definition of beauty for all media and advertisers to use.

While the first focus for sustainable thinking is often on the environment, social sustainability is also important as it demonstrates that brands are considering the minority as well as the majority. In this way customers feel listened to and the brand can stand out among its competitors.

In recent years examples of this design for inclusiveness have come from the beauty industry. Actress Selena Gomez’ make-up line, Rare Beauty, was designed with inclusivity in mind – and not just in terms of its shade range, but also its packaging. As a Lupus sufferer, Gomez wanted the packaging to be accessible for people with arthritis (a common comorbidity of her condition), so the products incorporate a ball design on the top to allow easy opening.

In a more sustainable future, striving for un-stereotypical ideas –being vocal and acknowledging unconscious biases and stereotypes – is going to be an important aspect of how brands use their voice.

Maltesers UK’s #TheMassiveOvershare is part of Maltesers’ campaign focused on normalising postpartum struggles and encouraging mothers to break down the stigma around maternal mental health by sharing their highs and lows – fighting the fallacy and dangers of the perfect motherhood stereotype).

While sustainability is no longer solely focused on eco minded solutions, this remains an important aspect. Brands need to balance the booming e-commerce opportunity with sustainability, by implementing recyclable or reusable packaging and products.

Last Christmas, Primark gave its shoppers the opportunity to reuse their eco-friendly paper bags. With tear-away handles and base and festive red stripes, the bags transformed into the perfect wrapping paper.

With the pandemic giving people even more time and cause to consider their brand choices, it’s an important moment in time for businesses. Brands that will thrive will be those that meet consumer expectations: immersive brands that create a connected omnichannel experience and have sustainable thinking woven into their core.

Written by Michela Graci

As featured in Transform Magazine, 19 May 2021.

Sustainable Thinking Applied: 10 Brands We Celebrate

As businesses strive for brand success – they now know that it cannot be at the expense of the greater good. Sustainability is the subject keeping many CEOs up at night. Although there is no exact roadmap that will lead to the business nirvana of sustainable commerce, embracing sustainable thinking goes beyond environmentalism and CSR basics.

While the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not legally binding, governments are expected to own and establish national frameworks to achieve the 17 Goals by 2030. Coupled with this, private-sector enthusiasm for the SDGs is strong and growing and we see more and more companies translating interest into actions. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are an increasingly popular way for investors to evaluate companies in which they might want to invest and ESG stocks fared best in the COVID-19 slump.

While mainstream conversation about sustainability has historically focused mainly on the environmental perspective, the conversation now needs to embrace economic development and social equity to drive attention in today’s cultural climate.

So, to identify the 10 brands we want to celebrate for their sustainable thinking we have applied a framework consisting of five pillars that underpin our holistic approach to creating sustainable brands. These are: Walk the (purpose) talk; Strive for un-stereotypical ideas; Portray diversity; Design for inclusiveness and Eco-minded solutions. This is not an exercise based on detailed analytics, instead, we have used these guardrails to identify 10 brands that lead by example and set inspirational benchmarks across the five categories.

Category 1: Walk the (purpose) talk

Across the world, brands are at different stages on their paths to purpose – some are defining it, others are looking to embed it into what they do, and some are living it through actions, communications and initiatives. We want to celebrate those that are ticking all three boxes and using purpose as a true centre of gravity and growth driver:


Driven by their vision to inspire the world to reimagine its perception of waste, they transform imperfect fruit into tasty juices and are conquering the category one bottle at a time. We are particularly proud of our partnership with this truly sustainable brand. Not only do they have an amazing vision, but they also act upon their commitment by partnering with numerous charities. Enjoying 550% YoY growth, they were recently officially certified B Corp.


A bank that defines itself first and foremost as a community, second as a company. In their own words: A new kind of financial partner that puts our customers and their conscience first. Committed to turn every transaction into positive action they reforest whilst people shop, offer cashback on socially conscious spending and only lend their customers’ money to clean, planet-friendly projects.

Category 2: Tackling stereotypes 

Being vocal and acknowledging unconscious biases and stereotypes – these brands use their voice and presence to spread awareness and help overcome them.

Ben’s Original 

Mars rebranded its Uncle Ben’s rice range following criticism that the name and image promoted racial stereotyping. At the same time, they changed their purpose to be more inclusive: to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table. As brand experts, we know how delicate any intervention on distinctive brand assets might be, so we praise Ben’s for taking the leap and changing its 70-year-old name and image. 


Bodyform’s taboo-breaking journey began in 2017 when they replaced blue liquid with red ‘blood’ in its Blood Normal adverts and they’ve never stopped. Followed by Viva la Vulva and more recently Womb Stories, the brand is on a mission to confront and break taboos that hold women back and pushes against the misperceptions of shame and silence surrounding women’s bodies.

Category 3: Portray diversity 

These brands are on a mission to ensure their visual and verbal representation is always diverse, never single-minded, and always culturally relevant.


Google used machine learning and appointed a task force to analyse diversity across all its communications, and used the findings to address any imbalances and misrepresentation as well as developing a training programme centred around representing diversity in communications for the brand – 90% of the team and 200 agency partners have taken this course. 


Yelp created functionality that allowed businesses to identify as being black-owned and allow users to specifically search for black-owned businesses.

Category 4: Design for inclusiveness 

Designed with the needs of the minority in mind to generate a greater benefit for all, these brands have inclusive design close to their hearts.

Nike FlyEase

Shoes that are ‘hands-free’ and quick and easy to put on. The easy-entry designs expand access and unlock benefits for all athletes. “As we continue to push the limits of making athletes better, we also need to push the limits in terms of allowing all athletes to wear our product”, said Richard Ramsay, FlyEase Innovator.


Microsoft created a controller for the Xbox which can be used by anyone with limited mobility as research showed that one in three young disabled people had to stop playing video games due to their disability. 

Category 5: Eco-minded solutions 

Just as consumers do their part by reducing their energy use and recycling their waste, companies are working hard to make a difference too. These brands are building their reputation upon their commitment to the environment and inspiring more sustainable practices in their industries.


Reducing packaging is something Lush has been working on for many years but now the brand is pushing the bar even higher with its packaging-free Naked Shops. If shoppers want to check the ingredients in a product, Lush Lens, an AI product recognition tool, scans the product and then sends the information to the shopper’s smartphone. “From the very first day over 20 years ago, our products were naked, but now we see a bigger movement against plastic and against waste. Alongside that, we can now fill up a whole shop with skincare, body care, hair care and bath bombs, while still providing that five-star experience.”, explained Lush product inventor Alessandro Commisso.


The world’s most comfortable shoe is also totally planet-friendly. From shoelaces made from recycled water bottles to the sugarcane used to make the SweetFoam™ cushioned sole, Allbird’s sleek sneakers are sustainable from top to bottom. Its upper is either made from certified superfine Merino wool or TENCEL™ Lyocel, a sustainable tree fibre that cuts its carbon footprint by half.

We need ever more brands to move towards creating positive, visible, and meaningful relationships between a company’s performance and its impact on our planet, and to be brave enough to just shake things up.

Brands can be a force for good and brand design and communications are key drivers of change to connect them with the growing numbers of consumers looking for honest and transparent companies that have a positive impact.

These brands I’ve highlighted are just a starter for 10 and I’m grateful to know there are more each and every day applying their sustainability thinking to create a shift towards more conscious consumption patterns. For the sake of our planet and society, it’s time we all paused to celebrate this wonderful new breed of movers and shakers.

Article originally in CEO Today. Written by our own Vicky Bullen, CEO.

What AOL got right and wrong

The iconic internet 1.0 marque will be phased out as Verizon sells its media assets to Apollo Global Management.

If you were born anytime before the millenium, chances are you can still hear the screeching sound of an AOL dial-up connection booting on your desktop.

But the iconic America Online brand, the gateway to the web in its early days, is officially no more. The brand will be phased out in Verizon’s $5 billion fire sale of its media assets, consisting of AOL and Yahoo, to Apollo Global Management, announced Monday.

From now on AOL, which consists of digital media companies including HuffPost and TechCrunch, as well as a roll-up of early ad tech assets including Convertro and Millennial Media, will be bundled under the Yahoo brand. 

The AOL-Yahoo mash-up has undergone various brand iterations since both companies’ acquisitions by Verizon for a collective $9 billion in 2015 and 2017, respectively, (remember Oath?). Most recently the roll-up has simply been known as “Verizon Media.” 

Once a part of that mash-up was Tumblr, which Yahoo bought for $1.1 billion in 2013 and sold for a mere fraction — $3 million — to Automattic, which owns WordPress, in 2019.

While both Yahoo and AOL suffer from lost relevance on the modern internet, Apollo clearly sees more equity in the Yahoo brand. Yahoo even released a brand campaign featuring its new positioning just as the news of the sale broke.

A new era of the internet

Experts agree AOL is the obvious brand to put on the chopping block, as it has repeatedly tried and failed to distance itself from dial-up internet.

“The death of the AOL brand should come as no surprise to anyone,” said Daniel Binns, CEO of Interbrand NY. “Shedding the vestiges of dial-up internet has been a huge drag on the AOL brand, and the category it has played in has been disrupted several times by world-leading brands like Google and Apple.”

While AOL still has high brand recognition, it’s mostly from a nostalgia perspective, said Melanie McShane, senior director of strategy at Siegel + Gale. 

“AOL was one of the first internet super brands,” she said. “But they’ve been trading on that history for a long time and it’s had some diminishing returns. The things they are known for are not the things people are looking for.”

On the other hand, while many people have traded in their Yahoo email address for a Gmail account, the company’s finance, news and sports portals still maintain relevance. And building off of Yahoo’s brand is more economical than constructing a new brand altogether.

“We know how hard it is to build a net-new brand,” McShane said. “Yahoo hasn’t done a great job of keeping up with tech giants, but it has done a better job than AOL was able to.”

From a B2B perspective, Verizon Media built one of the largest ad tech companies in the market. But Yahoo hasn’t had the best history with acquisitions in the space. It must also consider how much appetite there is for its offering among consumers, and whether the brand is strong enough to attract great talent.

“When you’re known for one thing, it can be very resource intensive to try and stand for something else,” McShane said. “There will be a challenge around credibility that they can reinvent themselves again. They’ll have to have a purpose beyond printing profits from ads.”

What AOL got right and wrong

In addition to lack of innovation, AOL’s demise was preceded by a few poor branding decisions.

Most notable was the choice to stop using the AOL name for the company’s broadband offering after AOL bought Time Warner in 2000, as well as Verizon’s decision to invest in its own email offering over AOL’s, said Jenn Szekely, managing partner Coley Porter Bell U.S.

“The most critical mistake was not leveraging the AOL brand strengths to drive a comeback,” she added, pointing to companies like Apple, Netflix and Nintendo that were able to reinvent their original offerings to keep up with consumer demand.

But AOL didn’t get it all wrong. It was one of the first tech brands to nail sonic branding with its famous dial-up tone and “you’ve got mail!” greeting, an area where more companies are investing heavily. “AOL was one of the first technology brands to have its brand sound become famous,” Szekely said.

While most agree AOL’s relevance has waned, some branding experts are mourning the loss of a one-time giant.

“It’s a shame a brand that was so well known is basically being put to death,” Szekely said. “Many businesses would kill for the awareness that still exists with the AOL brand, as they would have to spend a fortune and a fair while to get there.”

McShane added: “If anything, it teaches us that time in tech goes very, very fast.”

Article originally by Campaign Live.

The Gucci Balenciaga debate

Branding experts, including our own Jenn Szekley, and analysts review and discuss the Gucci Balenciaga debate, looking at the project unveiled with the Aria collection.

MILAN — Arguably, never has a hacking job been as lauded as Gucci’s “incursion” into the Balenciaga brand.

Creative director Alessandro Michele presented his Aria collection for Gucci on Thursday, unveiling designs that pay tribute to Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga, Guccifying the designer’s silhouettes and placing the two brands’ labels on a shiny, sequined pantsuit, for example. Michele told WWD that he and Gvasalia “really wanted to surprise viewers with these designs,” aiming to continue to experiment in “a dialogue with the outside world,” and feeling like “playing with possibly the biggest sacrilege,” blending distinctive elements and logos from two very recognizable brands, “getting out of the closed-in atelier. Creativity means dialogue, continuous experiment and freedom.”

How this will translate in production and distribution remains unanswered for the time being as Gucci on Friday said it was “really premature to speculate further on this ‘hacking project,’” underscoring that it was neither a collaboration nor a capsule. No matter — branding experts and analysts piled on the praise, basically defining the whole idea as “genius,” and giving their stamp of approval over the strategy behind it.

“Both being owned by Kering, it’s a win-win, and arguably an easier deal to structure being both in-house,” said Los Angelesbased lawyer Jeff Gluck, who specializes in intellectual property litigation. “I’m not aware of the deal structure but typically the IP is owned by the house, not the designer. I do think this is another example of rules being broken in a good way and industry norms becoming more unrestrained. I’m still waiting for that Nike x Adidas collaboration.”

The tie-up “brings additional desire to the Gucci brand,” said Alessandro Maria Ferreri, chief executive officer and owner of The Style Gate consulting firm. “This is an especially intelligent project, it’s subtler than co-branding. One brand is reworking the aesthetic code of another label, taking iconic shapes and molding them into something new. And both designers are disruptive. Alessandro sprinkled a good dose of pepper on Gucci.”

For all intents and purposes, he continued, these are Gucci products and the company, he believes, is “testing the waters, feeling the temperature” of the reaction to the products, and will then adjust and fine-tune the distribution, depending on the feedback, maybe channeling a few pieces to celebrities and influencers and then merchandising them for the larger public, perhaps through pop-ups or shops-in-shop. This tie-up is easier to manage for a company such as Gucci that can rely on a formidable retail network, he noted.

Ferreri said the amount of paperwork, red tape, contracts and negotiations between Gucci and Balenciaga had to be less than any other collaboration with an outside company, as they are both owned by Kering. “It would be great to see a Bamboo bag in the Bottega Veneta intrecciato,” he mused, speaking of another Kering brand.

Indeed, Ferreri underscored how this “hacking project” is in sync with remarks made in February by Kering CEO FrançoisHenri Pinault on increasing the number of in-store and digital merchandising events, pop-ups and pop-ins, capsule collections “and powerful creative collaborations” for Gucci, commenting on the label’s 10.3 percent drop in organic sales in the fourth quarter last year.

“Creativity in fashion and luxury is nourished by the constant changes in society’s attitudes, and by understanding the new needs and desires resulting from those changes, enabling creators to provide personal responses that are both surprising and relevant,” Pinault said on Thursday. “I have seen how their innovative, inclusive and iconoclastic visions are aligned with the expectations and desires of people today,” he said of Michele and Gvasalia. “Those visions are reflected not only in their creative offerings, but also in their ability to raise questions about our times and its conventions. The unique, creative experience witnessed [in the Aria collection] is a perfect example of their approach, and illustrates the extent to which creativity and freedom are linked at Kering.”

In an interview on Friday, Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga, said Michele’s “hacking” brought the “don’t ask, don’t tell” practice of design appropriation into the open.

“It’s such an amazing, brave conceptual idea to do that — saying and assuming, OK, we’re all influenced by each other in a way, and fashion is an evolution of these kinds of influences. And I think they did it in a great way,” Gvasalia said.

“That idea immediately spoke to me because I felt it brings something new out there in terms of how brands see each other,” he added. “It was a more conceptual exchange.”

Marketing and communication adviser Paolo Landi also said this was a “beautiful idea,” but he believes the true added value of this operation is “immaterial or rather, the immaterial value by far surpasses the potential tangible value. The high conceptual content of the project brings to Gucci, but also to Balenciaga, an enormous intangible value, in terms of modernity of the company culture.”

He sees “the walls of competition being broken down. The rules of strategic positioning are overthrown, as two storied brands are joined together in the modernity of an offer that is disorienting.” The end-results are shared, he said, and the two companies become “even stronger, precisely because of the innovative character of the operation,” stimulating “a dialogue between two of the best talents today, bringing vitality in the universe of fashion, which is sometimes static.”

Landi compared the Gucci-Balenciaga project to “certain artistic partnerships in the past,” such as the 1620 “Martirio delle Sante Rufina e Seconda” in Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera, dubbed a “painting of the three hands,” because it was realized by three painters — Giovan Battista Cerano, Pier Francesco Morazzone and Giulio Cesare Procaccini. “But there are other examples where one painter, for example, creates the figures and the other the landscape,” said Landi.

The market “always rewards bravery and innovation, especially the financial markets, but I am convinced that also in terms of sales, these products will be successful because of the uniqueness of the event, which will probably be unrepeatable,” according to Landi. The value of this win-win strategy, paradoxically, would be even stronger if the two brands were not both owned by Kering, he concluded.

Analysts were also upbeat about the potential of the project. Equity analyst Fabio Cereda at Jefferies International Limited said the Aria collection was “one of Gucci’s best events — smart and a proper statement of intent in its centenary year. Kind of ‘don’t you forget about me’ on steroids.”

He defined the project with a brand under the same Kering umbrella “a genius idea” for Gucci, believing this “could be a test with scalability.” He also praised the selection of Bamboo bags presented on Thursday, which in a report earlier this month he said are “expected to resonate well with the European cluster in particular given the key heritage component,” seeing them as “a core driver of what we expect to see gradually improving metrics later this year.”

Luca Solca, senior research analyst, global luxury goods at Bernstein, believes the tie-up “is a good idea. Gucci especially needs to create a novelty effect in China with the young Chinese who have bought a lot of Alessandro Michele’s products. We are seeing an excellent reaction on Chinese social media and the collection seems really different, which is a good reason to buy it. Bravo Gucci.”

Vincenzo Di Sarli, president and founder of DMR Group, which focuses on monitoring, tracking and analyzing data, communication activities and public relations strategies for leading brands worldwide, concurred with Solca. In China, he said, consumers are always “rushing for the latest news,” and Di Sarli expects this project to be successful in the region.

He also sees it as “a step forward in fashion.” While leveraging synergies with Kering, Michele succeeded in bringing novelty, foregoing any kind of rivalry with another designer, on the contrary pairing with a young and buzzy designer. “It’s a genius idea because both brands are within the same group, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened with more Kering labels.”

“It’s a sign of the times, an evolution, young people want new things to differentiate themselves, there’s more and more research and communication. A few years ago, who would have imagined Chiara Ferragni joining Tod’s as board member?” he said, referring to the recent appointment of the digital entrepreneur. “Content constantly evolves, young people are thirsty for news, the mobile phone is a window on the world and everyone is always at the window.”

The COVID-19 pandemic “has closed an era and opened another one, with new revolutionary phenomena taking place, and fashion reflects what will happen in the future.” Di Sarli also underscored that “there is a great communication project behind this launch, it takes very little to make a mistake, but they are genius at communicating and have caught our attention.”

Rebecca Robins, chief learning and culture officer at Interbrand, also pointed to the element of novelty. “Collaborations are taking new shapes and forms in the industry, from the open collaboration model of Moncler Genius, to the co-creative leadership at Prada. Both brands are well known for ‘iconic’ brand tangos, most recently with Gucci x The North Face, and Balenciaga x Crocs. It’s not a surprising move for Gucci, as a brand that’s been breaking boundaries and defining its own rules and playbook for some time, with Alessandro Michele even creating his own lexicon for collections.”

Collaboration might not be the right word for this current Balenciaga/Gucci combination, said Jenn Szekely, managing partner at Coley Porter Bell (U.S.), but “where we are in today’s market a collaboration can be a desirable thing for customers of these brands. The key is to make sure it is a 1+1=3 equation, where they offer something unique that captures the essence of both brands, instead of a copy and paste, and then they will create real desire and command a price premium above their current price points.”

Szekely said that, from a branding perspective, “we are getting more and more inquiries to help companies determine the optimal relationship between two brands as these partnerships proliferate. There a variety of ways these brands can go to market (co-branded, one leads versus the other, one is an ingredient within another) and determining the right go-to market approach is a critical part of launching these collaborations.”

Original publication featured on WDD.

Pharma companies are coming out of the shadows

Corporate pharma brands are speaking directly to consumers as they gain prominence during the pandemic.

Most people know what Viagra or Lipitor are, even if they’ve never taken them. But if you ask them who makes those drugs, much fewer will be able to answer Pfizer. Historically, pharma companies have distanced themselves from their portfolio brands. But in a digital world with changing consumer expectations, not to mention a global pandemic, some are starting to revisit this strategy.

The rise of social media

Pharma companies have kept their corporate brands quiet to protect themselves in the event of a product issue, which can impact peoples’ health.

Weight loss drug Fen-phen was recalled in 1997 after a study revealed it caused heart disease and pulmonary problems. That led to thousands of consumer lawsuits, resulting in pharma company Wyeth paying billions in damages. Claims are still being filed and paid 20 years later.

While separating the corporate brand made sense before the internet, companies can no longer hide behind their portfolio brands. People now have access to instantaneous information that can spread in real-time and on a global stage.

B2B brands go B2C

More than half (52%) of consumers want brands to stand for more than what they sell, according to a 2018 study by Accenture. As people show they care about the companies behind the products they buy, more B2B companies are starting to speak directly to them.

CPG brands such as Procter & Gamble kicked off the trend of corporate brand purpose, but pharma companies are following suit. Last year, Pfizer’s ‘Science Will Win’ campaign showed how the corporation was racing to create the COVID-19 vaccine. The company has also been telling the story of its rebrand in the press, including conversations with the CEO.

The war on talent intensifies

Technology is increasingly playing a bigger role in pharma. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 68% of biopharma leaders cite advances in technology as a top five issues that will shape their company over the next year.

As pharma becomes more technology-driven, the talent mix at these companies is expanding. These companies are now not only competing with traditional peers, but with the Apple’s and Amazon’s of the world. As global talent shortages grow, pharma companies have to work harder to attract new talent. That starts by making their corporate brand desirable to new candidates.

The COVID-19 spotlight

The pandemic has put pharma brands front and center like never before. In January 2020 the pharma industry received approximately 10,000 mentions globally in major publications, compared with over 30,000 mentions in December. Moderna, how a household name, was virtually unknown to the public a year ago.

Very few people probably know who made the flu shot they took last year, but those who’ve taken the COVID-19 vaccine know exactly which company made it. This has opened the door for pharma brands to establish a relationship with consumers in a way that was a real challenge before.

As pharma companies come out of the shadows, the challenge will be to clearly differentiate themselves beyond the sea sameness in the category.

Jenn Szekely is a partner at Coley Porter Bell

First published in Campaign US

National Apprentice Week

It is National Apprenticeship Week and to celebrate all of the wonderful apprentices we interviewed our very own Finance Apprentice Alex to find out what is it like working here at Coley Porter Bell.

Name: Alexander Bull

Role: Finance Apprentice


What does the role entail?

I’m really fortunate to work in a small finance team for a growing, dynamic and talented branding and design agency. This role really is an all-encompassing finance role; tasks include aiding the AP and AR branches of the business, contributing to month-end reporting, analysing profitability and more – I’m also afforded exposure to the creative side of the business, and whilst I’m not quite fluent in “Creative Lingo”, my knowledge of the creative/branding/advertising business in general has increased ten-fold since I joined in August of last year.


Favourite thing about working at CPB?

Working with my finance colleagues has been the best thing about working at CPB. They have done an outstanding job in getting me up to speed with the nature of the role – nearly entirely remotely I might add – my experience to date would not have been the one it has been without their support. This matches the wider agency culture – everyone is incredibly hard-working, supportive and collaborative.


Advice for anyone wanting to be an apprentice

Apprenticeships, in my opinion, are the most efficient way to progress your career (assuming you don’t want to be a Doctor or any role where a degree is required!). You earn (and avoid student debt) whilst studying towards a professional qualification – so if there’s a role out there that aligns with a career path that also interest you, go for it and put everything into it – you get out what you put in (not to sound too cliché).