Great design can 'unstick' brands
Momentum really matters for any business. Whether you’re a tiny start-up or a massive household name, if your business has momentum it’ll be generating fresh ideas, dealing with change, working innovatively, exploiting growth opportunities, and galvanizing colleagues and customers
Losing momentum happens to every brand. It’s frustrating and potentially damaging. It can result in indecision or paralysis, delaying or even derailing projects and raising the spectre of losing customers or colleagues.
But what has any of this got to do with design? Much more than just surface graphics or aesthetics, great design can solve problems that hold brands back. Design thinking defines a problem and quickly cuts to its core. It starts with observing and understanding, immersing yourself in the physical brand world and gaining a real understanding of the issues. In a nutshell: design can help build brand momentum.
As designers and design thinkers, we naturally synthesise complex information and make sense of it in a human, accessible way. We’ve used design thinking to solve all sorts of problems, from complex brand architectures or improving shopability, to bringing real meaning into day-to-day life in a care home.
Designing better care
We’ve also used design thinking to galvanise a team – starting with a simple change of job title. For our client HC-One, a major care home provider, we saw a change to the role of activity co-ordinator as crucial in helping it to deliver its new purpose. The name activity co-ordinator suggested that organisation was the key trait required for the role, whereas our suggestion, Wellbeing Club Leader, introduces Wellbeing Club as a brand-within-a-brand and gives people doing that job the scope to think about Residents’ holistic wellbeing.
But how to operationalise it? We created a toolkit that includes a set of principles to work by, a calendar divided into morning and afternoon slots, and a deck of 100 inspirational activity cards. HC-One challenged us to come up with ways to make Residents’ personal spaces reflect their personality, whether they had the support of family members or not. So, we developed a tool called the Sunshine Scale to help wellbeing leaders assess rooms and figure out how to enhance the environment for Residents.
Designing out complexity
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by information when approaching complex business problems in a conventional way. There’s huge value in using a creative process that understands the business challenges and addresses them with a fresh perspective, untangling issues and giving people something to get excited about in a way that dry strategy sometimes can’t.
We help our clients find better ways of working, improving their processes and streamlining the way they operate. To do this we collaborate closely, working both face-to-face and via online tools. And guess what? Collaboration builds momentum.
Sometimes we find that the root cause of lost brand momentum is a lack of identity and ownable difference. Over time, older brands can drift, forgetting what once fuelled their enthusiasm. When you lose focus on who you are or who your customer is, outputs become generic and lose traction. And when that happens, brands quickly lose energy.
From a design perspective, this manifests itself through numerous incremental changes and a gradual drifting away from the brand’s DNA or heritage. It’s no surprise that this can dilute the passion of those who work for the brand. If the fire beneath a brand goes out, teams lose motivation.
But great design can reignite that fire, showing people a vision of the future that gives them hope and inspiration. It brings real clarity and makes the brand compelling again, helping to throw a spotlight on that big idea that can create genuine excitement and inform every single design decision and touchpoint.
Consistency is key – just ask Costa
Once the big idea is identified and everyone’s behind it, all the design assets must line up to deliver it. When there’s a lack of consistency momentum can stall because energy isn’t channelled, and focus is lost.
But getting it right means that wherever and the brand operates there’s a consistent set of assets that creates a coherent customer experience. So, when Costa Coffee asked for our help to build consistency in the way their iconic Costa Red colour was used around the world, we went much further than just defining the colour.
We also painstakingly worked out how it could be faithfully replicated across all sorts of different materials – woods, metals, door handles, external signage, our iconic coffee cups…everything. Then we produced a colour toolkit book that could be used across the business to ensure perfect consistency.
It mattered that Costa could move on with its brand globally. It needed something tangible for the team to coalesce around. We helped Costa to maintain momentum at a critical time.
Deb Caldow, Head of Coffee Innovation, Costa Global Marketing, says of our involvement: “ODA thinks about whole customer experience and works back from that, considering every detail.This combination of incredible attention to detail and strategic thinking that they brought to the project made it a huge success.”
The power of great design
Some long-established companies are nervous about interfering with their heritage. They feel they ought to bring themselves up to date but they’re unsure about how to move forward. At the other end of the brand lifecycle, young rapidly-growing companies can stall at the point where they need to make a move to the next level. They know they must change – but how?
Working through our design process and finding creative solutions can provide clarity and reignite passion. Great design moves people and has the power to engage the unengaged, whether they work for you or they’re your customers. It helps to bridge any gap between your brand and your company culture. When a good design agency takes the time to understand your company culture, it helps bring your brand to life and ensures it represents the spirit of the company.
The causes of lost momentum can be complex and intertwined and difficult to unravel without taking a step back and looking again with a fresh perspective. But great design has the power to give you that perspective and help regain that elusive momentum.