Mr Miliband’s big moment

Last Saturday’s blog post by the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, astutely makes a connection between perception of the present Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, and Clement Attlee.

Attlee’s legacy is formidable. Among other measures in a truly remarkable period in British government, he presided over the creation of the national health service, and established the welfare state and free secondary education. Arguably he was the finest Prime Minister of the twentieth century and the most accomplished leader the Labour Party has ever had.

All this despite – in an era where relentless rolling news wasn’t a factor – being considered to possess a pretty dull, non-media friendly, personality; hence Sir Winston Churchill’s quote, cited by Mr Robinson in his post, “an empty taxi drew up outside 10 Downing Street and Attlee got out”.

Continue reading “Mr Miliband’s big moment”

How to bring a brand to life

How can you help the next generation of great British designers understand the way that their talent helps businesses build brand reputation and successfully communicate the spirit of a brand through visual, practical and environmental design communication?

That was the question senior lecturer Mike Bond (one half of the design partnership Bond & Coyne) invited me to address during a lecture to a group of final year students at Kingston University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture last month.

The slide-deck (above) includes the visuals I used from that lecture (an annotated excerpt of which I used in the recent post ‘Do marketing communications teams have a future?’). In fact, as regular readers may realise, it’s a mash-up of three previous presentations that I’ve produced but with an eye on the practical application of the content plus a couple of twists.

Although it’s intended for an undergraduate audience, it’s likely to be just as relevant to to the owner of a small business or a head of marketing because it offers up two frameworks by which to easily and practically:

  • size up a brand’s character by breaking it down into its component parts (by unashamedly touting the beautifully simple model offered by Wally Olins in his book The Brand Handbook); and, once you’ve done that
  • suggests some design principles that you can apply to brand communications which are just as relevant to a routine e-mail as a they are multi-million pound advertising campaigns.

I’m also posting it now because it’s relevant to the final instalment in my series of posts on ‘The difference between brand and branding’. (If you missed them, see Part One and Part Two.)

Given the audience it was intended for, the visuals introduce you to the Olins model and then walk you through a workaday characterisation of how ideas are moved from one person to another via media.

After that, it offers up examples of the events and innovations that have disrupted the continuity of traditional communication and what the consequence is for brand design communication, before setting out four principles for brand communication and associated practical examples.

During the lecture, I offered the group a real-life example against which they could test the brand dimensions of the Olins model and the design principles I’d suggested by asking the question ‘Where next for HMV?’

But you could drop any business or brand into this slide, though; even your own.

All you need to do is consider a single-line core idea (expressed in terms of what consumers gain from you being around and not what you or your business gains), then how that idea is reflected by the way you go about doing business (using the four dimensions offered by Olins) and, finally, how you stack up against the four design principles that I’ve suggested.

If you’d like me to talk through the slides, and assuming there’s an audience for it, I’d be happy to try out a Zipcast for the first time.

If you’d be interested in a Zipcast, just e-mail me, tweet me at @mrianthomas or @NewTradition_, or post a message at our Facebook page to let me know.

Do marketing communications teams have a future?

I was intrigued to read this post by Paul Worthington at Wolff Olins blog earlier today. Especially the idea that he raises in the third and fourth paragraphs where he poses two questions: what is it that really makes Google Googley (to paraphrase the idea) and, if its usefulness does the brand trick all on its own, does this challenge presumptions about the elevated status of brand?

(Focusing on those two paragraphs doesn’t reflect a lack of interest in the whole purpose of the post, by the way. I’ll be very interested to see the outcome of the exercise that Paul’s describing and the conclusions that Wolff Olins draw from it.)

It’s a similar train of thought to my post a year or so ago on signature interaction and chimes with ideas like Alex Bogusky and John Winsor‘s Baked In.

However, the reason I was all the more intrigued by Paul Worthington’s post was because, yesterday, I delivered a lecture about Bringing a brand to life to an inspiringly sparky group of final year students at Kingston University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture.

During the course of the lecture, I ran through my favourite model of brand dimensions offered by Wally Olins – whose name still adorns Wolff Olins’s own business although, these days, Olins is chairman of Saffron Consultants – in his brilliant book The Brand Handbook.

I’ve posted the relevant visuals from the lecture at the top of this post but the gist of it is that I introduced the group to the model, then took a look at the things that were affecting the traditional process of manufacturing marketing communications – the financial crisis and the loss of consumer confidence in general corporate behaviour, the rise of mobile platforms and devices, and the advent of the social web – and then came back to the Olins model again.

In the process of doing so – both in preparation for the lecture and during it – it struck me that the status of marketing communications teams as an organisational function is not just fragile; instead, the prognosis for them appears to be terminal.

So too is the traditional nomenclature for product or proposition marketing.

It seems counter-intuitive to me that traditional organisational structures can persist in the face of a radically changing communications environment in which the consumers of their products or services exist. That’s not to say that specific expertise in communication or product design isn’t required, it’s the general approach to organisation of that expertise that isn’t required.

In other words, it strikes me that if – as Bogusky and Winsor suggest – we are entering an era where marketing communications and product development are ‘baked in’ to a product or service, then the only thing that organisations need to concern themselves with is cradle-to-grave interaction design. Gone is the need for permanently embedded professional cohorts and in comes a flatter, more agile, mash-up of multi-disciplinary approaches resembling project management methodology – in terms of gathering and dispersal of expertise – but with its focus on outside-in experience rather than inside-out requirements.

So it is difficult to see how, as organisational entities, the disciplines of marketing communications and product marketing can avoid convergence with customer service and information technology; especially when – to consumers of their products and services – the boundaries between those functions are indistinct and irretrievably intertwined.

For instance, is a response to a comment posted by Joe Public on a brand’s Facebook page promotional? Or is it simply a question for customer service? Or one for PR, or even a web team? The reality is, it’s likely to cut across each of those disciplines in one way or another.

In fact, it is already becoming difficult to see the join between products and services among leading brands whose reputations have, historically, been as product manufacturers.

Where, for example, does the iPhone stop and its functionality as a service start? And at what point in the consumer journey does Apple stop being a product manufacturer and transform into a retailer?

To use the well-worn comic device: ‘How many marketers will it take to change a lightbulb?’.

‘Possibly none.’

Not a joke, though; potentially a truism.