Social media brand activation

Activating brands and connecting with customers has seen a dramatic change in recent years, certainly with large corporations now understanding that the battle for consumer hearts and minds is now in their pockets. Where at one time a brand was created, its assets and guidelines provided to advertising agencies, they then created campaigns to be advertised through conventional channels, today it’s a different story. People now view posts from their phone or computer through their social networks, they watch videos created by community colleagues, purchase and then review. Their first physical interaction is when it is delivered to their house, and from here they review and post online – a new cycle for consumer engagement.

Today, and I say today as I know this is changing rapidly, but right now the influencers are building the connections to big brands, they are what sells products and services. What has been proven is that much smaller investment into influencers via social media channels has much bigger impacts on profitability than vast amounts of investment into advertising.

This is interesting, it means right now people trust what people are saying on social networks, it means that these are powerful opportunities for brands to connect in cost effective ways. Of course, this can only last as long as people trust that they are being sold products from genuine opinions, and that the influencer isn’t being ‘influenced’ by funding, no matter what that payment would be.

Of course, there are lots of micro (or macro) influencers, the local blogger, the mum who purchased a new child water bottle that she loves and tells all her friends. But what this means is that the influencer, as long as they have few followers, are the ones that people will start to trust, and then of course people will be looking for opinions based on a small amount of followers. Of course this is complicated, and there are many things to consider, for example, there is a whole new spate of brands not using social networks and influencers to promote their products, but actually to create bad publicity for their competitors – wow, yes it is complicated and even rather dark.

The learning here for me though is this; connections to consumers has changed, and it will continue to evolve, however what is imperative is honesty, trust and the need for virtuous brands that live and breath what they are about, as above the effect of social influencers is brand, and brand start from within, they effect the product, the innovation path that a product takes, it effects staff, experience and eventually consumers opinion, and when brands get it wrong, if they have clear consciences, it becomes simply taking back learnings and make things even better. The result is a better brand, better experiences, better consumer opinion, better reputations, bigger profitability, greater shareholder value.

Idea generation

Sometimes, all a problem needs is some lateral thinking, and it can be amazing what happens when you put designers, tech-heads and strategists into a room full of business leaders, that’s when problem solving gets interesting.

The trouble most of the time is that companies start out with visionary entrepreneurs excited about the future, however over time they sell out and new people come on board who are more about the numbers, stripping back and making leaner systems in order make bigger profits. The downside to this is that over time they stop building customer relationships and start to compete on price, which inevitably weakens markets and eventually the company itself. However, sometimes, bringing in a creative team at board level can generate new and interesting ways of looking at things.

Wayfinding & signage

Wayfinding is a left side of the brain design function with logic and legibility being at the heart of its role. It requires knowledge of human reason and attention, you need to spend a lot of time getting to know and understand geographic details and plans and get to the heart of a problem with clear and simple detail. That said, it is also a touchpoint to engage people, to express a companies standards, it plays an important role.

There are many varying approaches to wayfinding, from bespoke to off the shelf modular systems, from external to internal fro back lit, top lit, base lit, and there is an art to assigning and specifying its use.

There are many considerations, such as material use and longevity, safety, manufacturing and installation, weather and wear and tear, lighting and ambiance, surrounding landscaping, historical influences, planning, the list goes on. However we have managed to create a template for our thinking, allowing us to approach a project with an open mind and a clear path for effectiveness.

Retail Design Agency

Out of every industry, retail design is going through the biggest transformation, there is a lot of negativity around the changes that have been happening, however, there are some amazing opportunities to be explored. With the likes of Amazon, eBay, Apple, Asos etc, high streets have become difficult places for traditional retailers to survive, and with the vast amount of retailers going out of business, it is easy to see first hand the impact this is having on high street retail.

However, now is the time to take advantage of the shuffle that is happening, and although it may seem tough, the answer lies in understanding customers and what they want and need. At the end of the day, they still want to socialise, they still want to engage and they still want entertainment, the end has come to many of the traditions, but in the place of BlockBuster there is Netfix, in place of traditional cinemas there are cinema dinners, in place of book shops there are café shops selling books, or the the other way round. And what used to be shoe shops, is now experience stores for the likes of Nike, or dog hotels or popup shops selling unique products.

Essentially, the world of retail has changed, and now is the time to flourish or die, and it is understanding the landscape for retail and what is happening and why, and also what could be round the corner, brings confidence in decision making. As we have been working in the retail space for over 20 years, we know what and why things are happening, we have worked and created disruptor brands within the retail space, as well as the long standing retail brands, all of which provides us with powerful insight.

Additionally, we have a series of tools that we use that can build insight, as well as testing techniques that help us check solutions along the way.

Interior design

Environments are where brands are lived and felt more than anywhere, from restaurant interiors, retail kiosks, supermarkets, airports, office environments, forecourts and roadside retail, cafés, banks, just about any space is an opportunity to engage and inspire consumers. The current state of high street retail has meant that retailers have had to find more engaging and inventive ways to keep customers returning, partnering with relevant and associated complimentary offers, like books in café’s or coffee in book shops, café’s in fashion retailers etc.

A fundamental aspect to interior and environment design is planning, space design and flow, and simple improvements to flow can exponentially improve sales, equally there is lighting, as lighting can dramatically influence mood, it can improve flow, increase sales and in general create a more engaging environment. but there are other aspects, like sound, not only music, but subtle ambient sounds below the conscious level has proven to increase sales, as does scent, imagine introducing the smell of fresh cut grass to the tennis section of a Nike store, or fresh baked bread in the kitchen setting of an Aga store.

Digital design

We’re living in a digital world, with many people shopping, communicating and sharing daily on digital devices. Invariably, the first place people go to when they need information is the internet; either via a computer, tablet device or mobile phone. In fact it has become hard to operate these days without some form of digital connection, even our cars are becoming linked up to satellite systems for their onboard computer diagnostics systems as well as satellite navigation.

Today we live in a digital first world, more people shop on their mobile these days than ever before, with current figures telling us that many more people now spend money on their mobile than desktop. But it doesn’t stop there, people spend more time engaging on social media than any other activity, the first and last thing they see every day is predominantly their mobile devices and as such, every aspect of retail life has changed. The impact on high street retail has been huge, and the face of retail and social is now a different space.

Add to this the newer evolution of YouTube entertainments, starting with our children being activated through these channels, sold to by these channels, engaged by these channels. What was once a simple video sharing tool, isn fast becoming a whole new game changer, new content created from home, new hero’s and personalities, it’s changing and its changing fast.

Point of sale

Point of sale is where key prominence and price play a major role, and it’s a fine balance retaining a space that is pleasurable to be in and still sell products. Often spaces are developed with the best of intentions, but go too far and actually become too sterile, or the opposite and become too price driven.

The channels for delivering point of sale have also changed in recent years, and will continue to evolve as retail adapts to the new experience age. What used to be price based posters, has now become interactive experiences, all designed to engage the consumer, bringing them experiences that are memorable and build strong recall.

Branded Campains

The front line for brands is often the campaign, and is certainly where most companies gauge how consumers feel about them, making campaigns align to a brand is paramount to a companies success and getting this right can be a challenge, and a challenge that you need to get right from the outset. Branded campaigns is where brands come to life, it’s where all the hard work gets to be seen, and it’s where the thinking in the brand strategy is activated, and when a brand has been grown from the beginning with the right approach, when it comes to campaigns, things become simpler and far more effective. An often mistake is when a companies brand foundation is miss-aligned to the campaign, with the campaign focusing on price or technical tones, starts to make the company feel disjointed, where as if a brand is aligned all the way through, the campaign ie=s effective and the experience with the brand feels more together.

Campaigns focusing on product pricing may help raise short-term revenue, but if you want to capture the consumer’s heart, you need to stop selling, and start talking. Brand level advertising allows you to make a real connection and build trust, leading to a longer lasting relationship. If you want your customer’s loyalty, you have to get them to care about you, if they have your trust you have their hearts, if you have their hearts you have their loyalty, if you have their loyalty, you have a world of friends endorsing your whole organisation. This then means several things, it means you raise your profitability, in both the short and the long term, it means you have string recall,

Internal communications

Brand engagement has always been the soul of a brand, it is the artery to brand, feeding every aspect to a brands DNA. However it is seldom done well, and although traditional desk drops and beanbags have a place, unless the internal culture of a company is addressed, it’s not long before the beanbag of engagement becomes the dusty reminder of resentment.

There has been a trend in recent years to fill companies up with corporate toys of all shapes and sizes, all of which is great and should long continue, however simply turning a company into a nursery doesn’t drive success. In reality, it is important to think through the business at every level, making sure staff are engaged, active endorsers, brand ambassadors at every level, they need to have figureheads, and mentors, they need a chain of command, they need to be excited, driven, ambitious and motivated, therefore brand engagement needs to be activated from the outset.

It is also virtuous, from the moment you promote for a new role, to the training of staff, to the team building and promoting knowledge sharing, through change and change management and how you manage data through a change programme, every detail should be managed with attention to detail.

So drive unique culture, build richer conversation, manage change, inspire new leaders, build growth from the soul of a company.

Print design

Over the years we have heard people often say print is dead, but just like high street retail, print isn’t dead, it has just evolved. With less time than ever before, people want instant connections and experiences, so print needs to do several things, it needs to be thought through, with clear content structures, it needs to be playful enough to keep the reader engaged.

In fact, many brands over the years have based their success around the tactile experience that the consumer gets from print itself, the opening, unwrapping, turning etc. Yes of course digital has become highly important, but print still has a vital role to play with consumers, and is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.