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.