Growth is not always a panacea
In a world where growth is worshipped even above profit, is your design agency growing for the right reasons? David C. Baker gives his perspective on growth.
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“The experience has been more worthwhile than I could’ve imagined.” Stewart Steel, Digital Director, Good Creative
“My mentor was brilliant, and gave so much more than I expected. As a sole owner in the business, I don’t have peers with similar experience so it was brilliant to draw on his wealth of knowledge.” Ian Johnston, Owner, Quinine
“Having a design industry mentor has hugely benefitted my business. We’re more confident and clearly focused on what we want to achieve.” Dan Moscrop, Owner, Them
“Finding someone who is in the same industry but has an objective viewpoint on you and your situation can be invaluable. I don’t think you even need to go into it with a major business ‘issue’ to deal with. The chance to share war stories with someone that’s seen it and done it is worth the time in itself.” Stewart Steel, Digital Director, Good Creative
“My own agency Spring was emerging from a brutal recession into a new normal, and to receive guidance from Jim (Prior, CEO of The Partners and Lambie Nairn) was the equivalent of being taught chess by a Grand Master!” Erika Clegg, Co-Founder, Spring
“I’ve been hugely impressed by the calibre of the mentors on the programme. I thought the DBA would have good people, but didn’t expect many of them to be real industry names I’ve heard of and hold in extremely high regard. My mentor has been a perfect match for me both professionally and personally.” Dan Moscrop, Owner, Them
“I feel so privileged that I am a part of the DBA, and that we have access to it in the UK. My mentor has 30 years experience in the industry, and this just doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. The support the DBA offers is amazing.” Ian Johnston, Owner, Quinine
“You spend so much time thinking about how to please your clients, and not nearly enough time focusing on the business itself. My mentor was able to put everything into perspective – being reflective yet forward focused at the same time. As he had distance, he was able to bring observations and points that I would never have seen.” Ian Johnston, Owner, Quinine
“It was great to have someone spend time completely focused on our business and the challenges we faced.” Andy West, Director, MultiAdaptor
“Mentoring has been a bit of a catalyst. Once you see small things start to change, due to action you’ve taken, you build the confidence to tackle larger issues. These increasingly larger tweaks begin to hugely effect the outcome of your business.” Dan Moscrop, Owner, Them
“It was good to just have someone to really listen to you about your frustrations, or to get a business decision reaffirmed.” Andy West, Director, MultiAdaptor
“Having this programme specifically tailored for the design/creative industry not only benefits agencies of all sizes but also means that clients will see a step change in the quality and effectiveness of work delivered by the more robust agencies.” OwenTurner, MD, United by Design
Having a mentor with a vast wealth of experience, who helps you better understand the opportunities for your business and to tackle your fears in a supportive, exploratory way can help you take firm control of your agency’s future, and deliver transformational results.
The deadline to apply for Twenty/Twenty 2018 is Wednesday 15 November 2017. Read more and complete your application here.
Your role will be to administer and coordinate this extensive programme of events and training, reporting into the Programmes Manager to ensure that the quality of our programmes are maintained at a very high level.
You will have a conscientious and positive attitude, be able to work efficiently and independently and contribute to the team effort. With excellent communication skills, you’ll be accurate and numerate and pay close attention to detail. You will be expected to take a proactive approach to forthcoming tasks and develop your prioritisation skills. This key role will support other team members and you should feel comfortable taking initiative and contributing ideas, whilst maintaining and developing key processes.
View the position description, including how to apply here.
In 2010 White Logistics had suffered in the recession and had failed to show profits for a few years. A strategic rebrand was commissioned to help the business grow.
Working with agency The Allotment, White Logistics developed a brand proposition and identity that would, says Stracey, “communicate our drive, passion and levels of service not only externally but also to employees.” The new brand and livery reflected White Logistics’ values and started telling the story of how it solved problems for customers.
Says Stracey, “We started to use design effectively throughout the company”, and the results have been transformational, reinvigorating and turning around the fortunes of the company. Turnover has increased by 65% in the six years since the rebrand, and profits by 70%. The original investment in design was just £50,000. Based on sales increase that shows a return on initial investment of 1:79.
Judith is at the heart of the White’s story. The company was just two years old when she joined founder Rick White in 1974. She was company secretary by 1984 and Finance Director by 1996, before buying out the business in 2002.
Her own rise has mirrored the rise of the business itself from a small distributor of local fruit and veg to the national logistics and storage business it is today. She knows the business inside out and has had a singular impact on the unique culture and passion for problem solving which it’s become famous for.
Join us on Thursday 12 October, at this free event for DBA members, where we’ll be bringing together design leaders from business and consultancy to explore how to embed design across every business function to harness its transformative power.
The event will take a comprehensive look at how design can drive transformation in business, unpacking the value added when design is effectively embedded in an organisation’s practise.
Judith will discuss designers’ role in business, along with her fellow panellists from Royal Bank of Scotland and Heineken International, together delving into how designers can influence and change the perceptions of design in the businesses they work in.
Other speakers at the event include:
The event will be hosted at Imagination in central London, taking place between 10.30 and 17.30 on 12 October. See the full event agenda, speaker line-up and details of how to reserve your place, here.
Read White Logistic’s Gold winning DBA Design Effectiveness Award case study here.
IBM can attest to this. With a finger-on-the-pulse style response to the growing evidence around design driven organisations delivering on customer experience and returning value directly to business, in 2012 the organisation invested $100 million into the ‘design enculturation’ of its staff and business practise.
The result was the IBM Interactive Experience (iX) division. The creation of IBM iX saw 1000 new employees recruited, 10 new IX labs created, and three award-winning digital agencies acquired in the same month in 2016. The division supports and drives IBM’s focus on becoming strategically design-driven and prioritising the user and their motivations, a significant shift away from its previously favoured engineering-driven ‘features first’ focus.
With this user-first approach, IBM iX was able to streamline a complex sales process for T-Mobile USA Inc. T-Mobile enlisted IBM iX to create and design a custom sales solution that would enable sales reps to dedicate more time to customer service.
The user-focused design solution to T-Mobile’s sales process included a redesigned experience within Salesforce, and iPad apps that resulted in the elimination of 112 clicks from the sales process, leading to an average of seven hours a week saved for sales reps, enabling them to provide a superior customer experience.
This, and more strategic design-led work, has seen IMB iX named the largest digital agency network in the world, and ranked No.1 in the UK in the same category by eConsultancy.
GE Healthcare’s General Manager Healthcare Experience, Global Design, François Lenfant stated in 2011, “Design, if not connected to the key strategy of the company, cannot provide the right response.” This is why GE Healthcare bases their design practise in an organisation-wide philosophy: ‘The Magic of Science and Empathy’. It helps to drive end results towards more empathetic and caring design that improves user experience.
GE Healthcare’s design team is based in a warehouse in Buc, France, where product designers to graphic designers and ergonomic user interaction specialists work with engineers to remain at the forefront of healthcare design innovation. Lenfant’s mantra, “Change before you need to” filters through the business’s mind-set.
It was GE Healthcare’s “open innovation and design thinking processes,” that have helped VR become an important new tool in healthcare and diagnostics. The product is currently being tested with a customer in France, with plans to expand to the United States and Asia.
Design leaders understand the power of design to produce significant customer impact and business return, and when the Board is like-minded, great things can happen, as both IBM and GE Healthcare can attest.
Says GE Healthcare’s François Lenfant, “We don’t design products for customers, we design solutions for people.”
Provocation’s central ethos actually comes from the Sci Fi writer Jean Vinge who wrote “Indifference is the enemy, it makes everything it touches meaningless”. In a world where consumers are bombarded with brands 24 hours a day, this couldn’t be more pertinent. For a brand to be noticed, it needs to be remarkable. And for us, Provocation is a central part of this. You can’t ignore Provocation, and that’s a start! Provocation is a strategic approach to branding that ensures creative cuts through and is effective as possible.
There’s a statistic that says consumers wouldn’t mind if 80% of the brands they use disappeared from their lives tomorrow. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, most of us will work on the everyday brands that fall into that 80%. Laundry detergent, toilet roll, shampoo… We invest so much of our time and energy into these brands, so for that to be worthwhile it’s our responsibility to jolt consumers out of the indifference they may feel towards these brands.
At Elmwood, we always strive to look beyond our collective worldview, and Provocation is a central part of this. It’s the Prov team’s responsibility to Poke, Stoke and Provoke our clients, and each other, to think differently, get out of our comfort zones and look to the wider world for inspiration. Provocation can come from anywhere, and when it’s harnessed and translated into brilliant creative, we can hope to go someway towards remarkable.
A great example of Provocation in action is the work we did for Mexican beer brand Tecate. Tecate’s goal was to re-define modern masculinity in Mexico.
Sitting in London, it would have been naive of us to make assumptions on what it means to be a young man in Mexico today. So we got on a plane and got out there with them.
We spent time immersed in their world and their lives. The provocation they gave us, and the invaluable insight we gained was central to the success of the project. We were able to create a strategic approach that defined the huge opportunity for Tecate in Mexico, and the creative has been incredibly successful for the brand.
PDD is a multi-disciplinary design and innovation consultancy, with expertise ranging from research through to design and engineering.
At the core of PDD is our Human Sciences ethos, founded on the principles of Human-Centred Design. By keeping the consumer at the centre of the design process we uncover and understand unmet needs, as well as unarticulated frustrations that inspire concept designs, deliver feedback on the most compelling solutions and act as a springboard for innovation.
A macro to micro process allows us to frame the problem in the context of the customer, category and market to qualify the opportunities, understand risk and explore out of category influences on customer behaviour.
As a Senior Consultant spanning the Human Factors and Research disciplines in the PDD Human Sciences team, I am involved in exploring how people interact with products, services, environments and the people around them to identify opportunities and solutions grounded in consumer reality.
My role ranges from exploratory ethnographic research with lead users in emerging markets, to formative and summative evaluations of medical and pharma products.
Formative aims to understand user behaviour by observation from the point of view of the subject of the study, in order to form an unbiased and comprehensive understanding of users, environments and potential coping mechanisms. By doing this, we can uncover unforeseen opportunities for innovation and development.
Summative aims to understand the cognitive, physical and emotional challenges involved in the use of a medical device or system in order to ensure compatibility with the needs, abilities and limitations of intended users. By doing this, we recognise and minimise potential risk to users and simultaneously we ensure our clients reach quality assurance requirements.
Harsh but true. There is an over supply issue in the design sector at what is called ‘the bottom end’ where there is little to distinguish one agency from another. As far as a client is concerned they can get what these agencies are offering elsewhere at the same standard or better, at an even cheaper price.
Blair’s advice for agencies finding themselves in this situation: instead of cutting your price, focus on improving your offer.
Having the confidence to drive a profitable relationship with a client comes from one of two sources:
1) A deeply held belief in your abilities. ‘We are the best at what we do’
2) Having more options eg a full sales pipeline, having reserves in the bank – options that mean you are not always desperate to grab the first client that comes along.
Either way you are in a better bargaining position when a new client comes along.
When talking about money you have to have the discussion up front. Losing a “sale” early is a good thing if it was not going to be a profitable client. It saves you the time that you would have put into the relationship only to find out further down the line that the budget is tiny or their expectations unreasonable.
Writing to fill space is content – it is not necessarily insight. David describes much of what he sees published by agencies as “thoughtish” or ‘kind of thoughtful, but not quite’. To write insight you need to create unique, deeply thought through insight to illustrate the expertise you have in the field – otherwise it is just ‘thoughtish’.
It takes time to build a great team. Too many agency owners become dependent on their first ‘expensive hire’ even when they are no longer right for the business. The fear of losing someone important paralyses them into doing nothing when really they should be looking for someone new.
You can read more from David on how to improve the likelihood of it working out here.
David claims that not being able to position your agency in the marketplace so that you are differentiated from your competitors illustrates that you are not an ‘expert’ and will therefore always be competing on price. You need to price your work so that you have time available to work ON the business – to develop and articulate thought leadership, to continually develop the positioning of you and your agency as an expert.
We can all gain from listening to a diverse range of stories and discussions for inspiration. What are your favourite podcasts? Please let me know at email@example.com – I would love to start a list of recommended podcasts for DBA members.
In recent years, the lid has been lifted on low fat and fat free yogurts that often contain lots of sugar. Arla aimed to transform the world of yogurt, by creating a product that’s naturally low in sugar and nutritious with high protein, no fat and 50% more milk. Arla wanted to become a ‘champion of dairy’, so it needed to do more than sell yogurt, it needed to be revolutionary.
One of its biggest challenges was the huge competition. The yogurt aisle is crowded and most of the products aim to influence the consumer at shelf, with around 80% of purchases being influenced in store at the last six feet to purchase. And it needed to transform the perception that Greek or Greek-style yogurts are the healthiest options. Arla wouldn’t have long to challenge these assumptions – just six feet – so they needed a ground-breaking design and turned to agency Elmwood.
Far from wanting to blend in with the others on the shelf, Arla needed a unique approach. Aiming at the health conscious over 55s and busy young professionals, there was an opportunity to empower and inform its consumers.
As a new product, it’s not easy to dig out heritage, so Arla drew on its Scandinavian roots, hence the name skyr. It provided the perfect foundations for simple packaging, which helped convey its natural ingredients and stand out from the complex products in its competition, think Onken, Yeo Valley, Daneo.
The designers worked with this to create a striking design that’s also calming – a balance that’s not easy to strike. The idea of the iceberg draws on the Nordic landscape and evokes the feeling of something pure on top with something refreshing, delicious and full of energy underneath. It definitely provides a welcome contrast to a dollop of yogurt with fruit on a spoon.
In a market filled with fierce competition, Arla has grown to be the 12th largest supplier of yogurt in the UK and skyr has proved so popular production is struggling to keep up with demand. Gaining listings in the UK’s big four supermarkets and beyond, it has engaged consumers and ensured cut through at the point of sale, with 70% of skyr sales adding incremental value to the yogurt category.
Arla skyr became a £12.2 million brand in 13 months, and is predicted to become a £21 million brand in just 20 months. By appealing to a broader target audience than anticipated, its 3% penetration target was smashed, reaching 8.3% a year after launch. The stand out appeal created by the design at the crucial shelf fixture was key to turning recognition into purchase, with aided awareness for skyr being extremely strong at 45%.
The great news for Arla farmers is that they will see more of their milk being utilised in a product that has proved to actually add value to its category, creating opportunities for their own growth.
Judged by business leaders and entered jointly by client and designer, the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards recognise and reward designs that have had a tangible, measurable impact on business success. The Call for Entries is now closed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest in the 2019 Design Effectiveness Awards.
Listening is a difficult ability to nurture, requiring a far higher level of focused attention.
But deep listening has many benefits including:
Few people are formally trained to listen: psychologists, coaches and mediators among others. But outside these professional categories how many are really able to actively listen? Think now: how many people do you consider amazing listeners? I can count very few.
And yet, skilled active listeners are people we like to work and be with. They make us feel respected, acknowledged and understood. They often provide us with valuable feedback. They are calmer and more in control of their emotions and responses. With them we experience a sense of expansiveness, personal connection and presence. They are the partners, friends, colleagues and leaders we all look for, yet – I’m sure you’ll agree – are the hardest to find.
But we shouldn’t beat ourselves up. It’s not our fault we’re lousy listeners. It’s all about the monkey and the gap.
4,000 years ago a brilliant man – the Buddha – coined the expression, ‘The monkey mind’, to describe the hyperactive minds of humans. Like the tree-dwelling mammal, our minds jump from one branch to the next, from one topic to another.
According to Buddha’s teaching this is the default mode of a mind that struggles to stay present, focused and unbiased to what appears in the moment.
He would have never imagined (or perhaps he did) the rate at which technology would exponentially exacerbate the monkey mind. We are here and elsewhere at the same time, tweeting, texting, jumping from one conversation to the next, faster and faster.
Instead of taming the monkey we feed it with its own poison: an accelerated cacophony of input and interactions. There is a shared sense of urgency in all dimensions of our hectic lives, both personally and professionally.
And there’s another reason why we wander so easily: the way the brain functions.
We talk at a rate of about 125–175 words per minute, while we think (listen) at the rate of up to 450 words per minute. This substantial gap between speaking speed and thought speed represents a 75% time differential in which the monkey mind can wander, entertaining itself with additional words and thoughts. This goes some way towards explaining why we retain, remember and understand so little of what we hear – only one quarter according to research. Counterbalancing the forces of mind wandering and bringing awareness to the challenging task of listening takes effort, yet could be easier than you think.
The time to reconnect with ourselves and others is now.
Buddha taught that our minds can be tamed and slowed down by meditation. This contemplative practice calms our internal monkey and generates mindfulness.
Mindfulness and deep listening go hand in hand; they are two sides of the same coin.
Luckily, we needn’t formally meditate to boost mindfulness. There’s no need to sit on a cushion, legs crossed. We just need train ourselves to listen, and, conveniently our daily life offers this opportunity.
I train my clients with a technique called the 3As: Aware, Active and Awaken. You can download my handy guide to mastering the art of listening in three simple steps here.
By listening, we can learn about and transform our relationship with ourselves – much more than we can through talking.
A powerful shift occurs: we leave behind bias, antagonism, self-centeredness and separation, instead embracing presence, collaboration, solidarity, and intimacy with ourselves – and with others. And crucially – for both our personal and professional lives – we allow ourselves to be positively changed by them.
Read the full unabridged version of Roberta’s article at her website.
What this stems from is a confusion between Art Direction and Design – while similar they actually require very different skill sets, and more importantly they actually achieve very different objectives. Whereas an Art Director sets out to translate desired moods and turn concepts into imagery, a Designer sets out to create tangible or intangible objects, products and experiences. It has always been difficult to differentiate between the two, it is especially so at Cannes when the Design Lions encompass everything from UX design and activation to more ‘traditional’ design like logos and packaging. In Cannes everything is viewed through advertising tinted glasses, from the judging to the content programme.
The developing scenario is a threat to our long-term design authority. More and more brands and clients are attending Cannes and when they see ad agencies winning design awards, they think to themselves that maybe ad agencies can do our job, which is not the case. Brand-design agencies are specialists. We are trained in the art of creating the visual presentation of a brand. We think about the overall brand point of view and create long-term meaning, memory structures and visual equity. This is simply not what ad agencies do. By definition, and for very good reasons, they are focused on communicating their next campaign, the current proposition, or the new positioning.
Another issue is the criteria for what works. When the judges in Cannes discuss the effectiveness of entries, it often comes down to the amount of social success it has seen. Did it go viral? How many millions of impressions did it gain? What about the increase in sales? What about the return on investment? These are the statistics that I would be more interested in as a marketer. At the end of the campaign, how many more widgets did you actually sell? Or if you like – did it actually change a single person’s attitude towards the brand? Did it affect their behaviour? My entire session at Cannes was about the fantasy of decision-making and how brands that have been designed with meaning can actually change people’s behaviours in a way that no other medium, including advertising, can.
I don’t want to downplay the importance of advertising or social media success; both important aspects of any brand’s marketing mix. What I am saying is that without a solid brand identity and design to match, how will the ads have a lasting impact on your bottom line? Take Fearless Girl, the stand out winner at Cannes, which took home 18 Lions, including four Grand-Prix awards. There is no denying that it was a brilliant piece of work, but the question that remains is do those outside of the industry even know who the piece was commissioned for? SHE is not a fearless girl at all, SHE is a Wall Street asset management company’s CSR policy program.
Yes, it’s becoming harder and harder to define exactly what constitutes brand-design, but when a brilliant piece of design work comes along, we all take notice. Now we just need to make sure that the design agencies out there doing that work aren’t afraid to take on the ad agencies and prove to them that design really can make a difference.
Image credits: © BrandOpus
Image credits: © Michal Grosicki | Unsplash.com