What kind of toothpaste do you use? Which side of the fridge did you return the jam to this morning? How many emails did you flick through and ignore? Do you know for certain? Can you really remember? Do you really care?
Routines make life easier. They’re reassuring, consistent and comforting. They get us through the days. From the little things like the time we get up, to bigger things like the meetings we attend and the way we interact with each other, having a proven way of doing it just makes logical sense. Right?
“Relentless work can also be a form of laziness, because it is work that is comfortable and familiar to us, that we know how to do. And it allows us to avoid the truly hard work and bigger questions about our present and our future: What shall we become? How must we change?”
Who said this, do you think? A great philosopher? A wise, grandfatherly type on his deathbed? An unnamed source on a “Cool Quotes” board on Pinterest? Actually no, it was Arthur Gregg Sulzberger the chairman of The New York Times.
I’ve been slowly working my way through the 97 page New York Times Innovation Report since it leaked last month. It’s high drama akin to reality TV. Reality corporate existential crises are my jam because - like the Kardashians - it always comes down to people. Whether its in a large organisation or a private jet, how people navigate the regulated normality of everyday life to achieve a wider, less tangible ambition for the future is gripping stuff.
Maintaining his Yoda-esque proclamations, Sulzberger also said this, “We need a mindset shift that allows us to invest in things we think are important simply because we think they’re important”. Shift we must, indeed. Here at Wolff Olins, we’ve been working with a client who - like The New York Times - were so busy focusing on their day-to-day, they didn’t know how to begin to focus on their wider goals. They could see their future but not their place in it. Facing EU legislation, changing consumer expectations and new, nimble competitors, it’s no wonder that everything felt important. Our task was to guide them in how best to break it all down, prioritise investment and define a roadmap for transformation.
Making large-scale shifts in these types of organisations can’t happen overnight, nor should it. Of course we helped our client to define their vision and identify their objectives, but we also developed a series of small-scale projects that would signal change and kick-start an ambitious transformation. In short, we enabled them to sweat the big stuff by doing some useful small stuff.
Habits, rituals, routines. Behaviours, processes and structure. They all add up to something eventually. For us lot trying to live lovely, happy lives as well as big organisations looking to thrive in an uncertain future, finding the time to sweat the big stuff now and then is vital. Doing so reassures us that those little things are not only comforting but also meaningful, and that they’re getting us somewhere. “It is easier to do trivial things that are urgent that it is to do important things that are not urgent”. John Cleese said that one. Pop philosophy and a wafer thin mint, anyone?
Camilla Grey is a strategist at Wolff Olins London.
I imagine we’re all pretty familiar with the Quantified Self movement by now and perhaps it’s already helping you sleep better, exercise more regularly and bore everyone with your latest stats on Facebook. So what happens when we make this a communal activity and use data monitoring to inform our broader living arrangements?
Well, we’re about to find out. NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress in collaboration with property developers are creating a “living laboratory” at Hudson Yards in New York. This 28-acre site will incorporate accommodation, retail and other commercial activities. Roof tops will be fitted with satellites and wireless sensors will be attached to anything that can be measured in a useful way…including residents who volunteer to be involved anonymously. Things like traffic flow, pollution and even how many steps its residents take each day will be recorded and analysed. So why’s this interesting?
Well think about it for a minute. Would it be useful to know that if you left your home at 8.03 in the morning your journey time and stress levels would be much lower than if you left at 8.17? What about if you suffer from hayfever and could find out which route would stop your commute from becoming a sneeze-fest. Or if adjusting street lighting throughout the day reduces crime. Or see in real-time how your personal energy consumption is affecting the entire community…essentially easing into the principle of collaborative consumption with all its many possibilities. How much of your data would you freely share on this basis and what would you look for in return?
And what happens when the community starts to adjust its behaviour in response to what it’s learning? What happens if those changes improve health and well-being? How much would you like to be part of a community like this? How much would you pay to live in such a place? What happens when brands enter the fray? Foot fall will be able to detect which stores generally, and which offers or brands more specifically, are most attractive. Retailers will become more responsive, brands will learn your preferences and offers will become far more targeted. As a would-be resident, who would you like to be responsible for your connectivity, your health care or your retail requirements in these community orientated bubbles.
If cities are the major driver of economies, then living in a city continuously taking the pulse of its community makes sense at a macro level and a micro level. On paper at least, it offers up the tantalising possibility of creating healthy economies and healthier more responsive environments for its residents. Could this be your idea of nirvana or an infringement on your personal space? And is it going to happen whether you like it or not anyway?
As a social scientist, the reality of being to able install surveillance and sensors anywhere you like creates exciting pattern recognition possibilities, as well as various ethical concerns. As a brand advisor, it creates interesting opportunities for companies and brands to find their place in an astonishingly data-rich and driven environment. And to figure out what feels like an equitable exchange between all the parties involved. Something we’ve been thinking about for a while and capturing through a report series, The New Mainstream.
In essence, what happens when we move from the quantified self to quantified communities? Are we ready to move from ME to WE? I’d be interested to hear your views.
The Space, a new creative online platform to showcase the most exciting new digital art, was launched today with the support of artists and tech stars from across the world.
We are proud to have worked with The Space on its new brand. Working within an incredibly tight timeframe we alighted on a simple idea using universally available components; the font Arial, and blue – the colour most closely associated with Internet via hyperlinks. The simplicity of the identity system mirrors the democratic and accessible philosophy behind The Space. It is versatile, efficient and easy to implement but allows for endless forms of animation, play and experimentation.
The Space is where art can meet everyone and everyone can meet art. Like the rest of the digital world, The Space is not constrained within a white cube instead it’s an endless digital landscape that will continue to grow and grow, shaped by the art that sits within it. It’s like a famous landmark that is within everyone’s reach and its collection changes with every visit. Our work reflects that boundless and limitless nature.
The four core elements of the identity – letter form, colour, name and call to action, (‘this is The Space’) - come together to make repeat patterns that can be animated, rescaled, reshaped and activated by artists, artworks and audiences.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and co-founder of the Open Data Institute said, “Artists wake us up to all that happens in the world, The Space can make that happen on the web.”
Digital artist and Creative Director of the Data Arts Team at Google Aaron Koblin is excited to see the concept of digital art being challenged and hopes The Space will further bridge the gap between art and technology: “We live in an exciting time where technologists and artists are increasingly coming together in a new creative age. Together they’re helping to define a new digital world. I look forward to seeing how The Space will challenge the concept of what ‘digital art’ is, and what art can be. Hopefully it will give a voice and platform to artists and technologists from around the world and foster some amazing collaborations between the worlds to bring them even closer together.”
‘Must purpose be good?’ It’s a summer evening in a Victorian library in the Science Museum in London, and I’m on the panel at a seminar called ‘Purpose Matters’, organised Hall & Partners, the research agency. Of all the questions we’re asked, this is the best.
It made me think hard about this ubiquitous buzzword ‘purpose’. Every company seems now to have one. There’s even a book now called The Purpose Economy. But has the idea become valueless? Is it just management feelgood? Once we’ve defined our purpose, can we all sit back and congratulate ourselves? Is ‘purpose’ just the latest version of ‘vision’?
I’m a believer in purpose. I’ve always felt organisations do better when they have a purpose beyond profit. And it’s always been in the DNA of Wolff Olins: we’ve always wanted to help our clients make the world a bit better. But a few recent things have got me worrying.
First, does purpose really help in external communication? When British Airways started using its purpose explicitly in advertising – ‘to fly, to serve’ – its low-cost rival EasyJet countered cheekily with ‘to fly, to save’ – which neatly captured what people actually want. So is purpose always a turn-on for customers? No.
And some of our younger digital client companies are just puzzled when we push them about their purpose. We don’t need a purpose, they say, we just need to be clear what our platform helps our users to do. So is purpose always essential to get a new product off the ground? No.
Second, is purpose powerful enough inside organisations? Tesco, like many companies that have been hit by criticism recently, has defined a purpose: ‘to make what matters better, together’. But as a customer, can you feel it in the stores? No. Is it helping the company grow? Judging by last week’s sales figures, no.
Several of our clients have excellent purposes, and believe in them, but everyday life gets in the way. Under shareholder pressure, managers understandably go for safety, sameness and revenue, rather than risk, difference and principle. So does purpose – even in those organisations that believe in it – drive decision making? No.
What this all implies is that purpose, on its own, is not enough. And in fact purpose statements, on their own, don’t motivate people, any more than vision statements used to. Mantras help, but it’s the climate that surrounds them that makes the difference.
Externally, purpose needs to become softer, broader, more diffuse: a climate that you could call attitude or angle or even obsession. Unilever’s excellent Jane Buck, a fellow panellist at the Science Museum, calls it ‘point of view’, like Persil’s view that dirt is good. It’s something you can share with customers rather than throwing it at them. It might even be a question you debate with customers.
And internally, purpose needs to become harder – an honest operating principle, or a bunch of them. We can still learn a lot from the Quaker companies, like Cadbury or Clarks, whose founders weren’t philanthropists but tough businesspeople who saw purpose and profit feeding into each other, in a virtuous circle. Organisations now need to talk explicitly about the ROI on ‘purpose’, and to help their people make decisions that are neither idealistic nor rapacious: decisions that make money by making a difference. And if your goal is simply to make money, that’s fine: that’s your purpose.
So the answer is purpose doesn’t have to be good. Externally, it’s not a great idea to boast about your high-minded purpose, about how good you are. And internally, it doesn’t work to pretend to be driven by goodness, to be a kind of NGO, when you’re a profit-making company. Purpose isn’t enough: what’s your point of view? And what are your operating principles?
Robert Jones is Head of New Thinking at Wolff Olins and a visiting professor at UEA.
There are so many important causes in the world – and positive social impact is what drives most of us at Wolff Olins. It’s why I joined. Many of those causes don’t get the attention they deserve. Animal protection is one of them.
This is why we’ve spent the past two years collaborating with World Animal Protection (formerly called the World Society for the Protection of Animals), a global nonprofit organisation with a big ambition to end animal suffering. For over 50 years, they’ve been protecting the lives of millions of animals. Although they make this level of impact they aren’t known on the street. In fact, research showed that only 7% of people surveyed across the world were aware they existed.
How can you motivate people to end animal suffering if people don’t know who you are? How can you move more people to protect animals?
This is what we set out to solve with our partners Collette Collins, Deputy Director of Communications and Pippa Rodger, Director of Communications leading the way.
It’s been an amazing journey – that’s really just starting. We thought we’d share a few of the things we’ve learned, and how you might move the world for your cause.
1. Start with The Why
Animal protection is a hugely important global problem, so how can we get people to care?
Start with purpose – start with what matters to them. The purpose we helped World Animal Protection articulate was ‘We move the world to protect animals’, now the driving thought behind not just their communications but their culture too.
There’s a great TED Talk by Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire everyone to take action by starting with The Why. In this talk, Sinek shares the Golden Circle, a simple yet powerful visual tool for sharing your story. It puts The Why at the center with The How and The What radiating outwards.
We used this tool to frame the story of World Animal Protection and uncover the purpose, looking at:
The Why: Why do we exist? Why does this matter?
The How: How is what we do different to what exists? What makes us special?
The What: What do we do that no else does?
2. Tools for action
The worst fear of any brand team is for your work to sit in unread strategy powerpoints and unused guideline pdfs. Almost everything we create begins with the question, “How can we make this even more useful?”
To that end, we helped them build a set of useful tools for making the story real in and outside of the organisation. Because we view workshops as a change methodology, we facilitated workshops with people across the organisation – from their global leadership team to fundraising, from human resources to communications.
Some of the work we’re most proud of includes helping the organisation shape their culture through the Four Moves – a tool that articulates the behaviours and actions needed from everyone inside the organisation to move the entire world to protect animals. Because we know that culture eats strategy for breakfast, our work is only as good as what people inside World Animal Protection believe in and the actions they take.
The most visible tools we’ve created are around the name and the visual expression. We first recommended changing the name to World Animal Protection. Names are incredibly powerful. I remember one of our principals – Sam Wilson – saying to another client, “Your name is just one of the many tools in your arsenal. Make sure it works hard for you.” Their former name – World Society of Protection of Animals, often shortened to WSPA – wasn’t too long and often a barrier to achieving their ambition of ending animal suffering.
There’s a lot of noise in the world. Not only do you need a simple and memorable name; you need a visual expression that cuts through. Working closely with the internal team, design director Dan Greene designed a simple visual expression to make it easy for their people to create new things – whether it’s for the website, the office walls or a high level disaster management conference installation .
While these two things might be the most visible, as Collette Collins said “Our brand is so much more than our new name and logo. This is about embedding our purpose into everything we do, so no matter where we are in the world or what we’re doing, people will know who we are, what we stand for and be inspired to join us”
3. Real change takes time
In a world driven by the startup ideology of ‘lean and fast’, it’s important to remember that while it is important to test, try new things and act, that real change takes time – and is hard.
While our original project with World Animal Protection has ended, we’ve continued working with the organisation – from learning to acting as a sounding board to their management team as well as running design clinics.
Like most people when you’re trying to shift mindsets – inside and out, you need to be patient. You need to constantly equip people with tools to help them act. You need to be prepared to evolve your story, to change as the world changes.
Melissa Andrada (@themelissard) heads up Kitchen from Wolff Olins, a school for ambitious leaders who want to build businesses that change the world. Melissa also is a lead strategist at Wolff Olins. World Animal Protection was her first project in the London office. She feels incredibly lucky to have collaborated with such an amazing team.
Thanks to Project Lead and Strategy Director, Richard Houston; Account Management Coach, Beatrice Vears; Design Director, Dan Greene; Designer, Rosie Isbell; and of course our friends at World Animal Protection – Collette Collins and Pippa Rodger.
This is a world of challengers - rethinking, rerouting and popping up. Our love affair with the underdog turns startups into giants and cowers conventional businesses into dark corners.
So what should the underdog do when he slows down, and friskier puppies come nipping at his heels?
Challenging is shining a light on what you do, not humbly asking people what they want, cap in hand for insights. If conventional marketing bends its spine for customers, the challenger stands tall, proud of being new, proud of being unexpected.
It’s a bold position, full of youngblood bravado. But even the youngblood is outrun eventually, outpaced and out of breath, floored by the unseen uppercut.
What happens next depends. Because challengers come in many shapes.
There’s the Insurgent, storming the castle with search engines and business models that make everything free.
The Liberator, democratising what was once protected, making per-second tariffs and furniture warehouses for everyday people.
The Reformer, imploring us to choose a better way, saving the world one rented or electric car at a time.
There’s the Holy Man, who calls its followers to a higher cause, for Smarter Planets and Real Beauty.
The Wildling, who seduces Different Thinking followers to see the world from new and unusual perspectives.
And the Everyman, who reveals the old guard as privileged and out of touch by doing exactly what it says on the tin.
Every one of them is a challenger, and every one of them will lose their energy, feel the pang of age.
Once invincible, the challenged no longer fights with the wild joyful abandon of a kid who has nothing to lose.
Because when you win, you have something to lose. Now you have to think about protecting market share and margin, supply chains and volume. The temptation to preserve the status quo is immense. The one-time author of others’ downfalls begins to settle down.
This is not a time to settle. When Innocent is no longer the only bohemian on the shelf, when Red Bull’s speedy planes look like an airshow you’re dragged to as a kid, when Pepsi isn’t the alternative but an alternative…
Now is the time to go beyond the sheltering sky, jumping out of spaceships and dialling the values up to 11. Giving a cellphone the magic of a Mac. Opening the eyes of the world to Netflix-commissioned shows.
Or don’t. Don’t be nostalgic. Don’t try to be the challenger you once were.
Maybe the Body Shop can only be a shop and being a shop isn’t enough. Maybe Dyson can only design appliances, and standing out in the sitting room is playing too small.
Maybe the clothes you wore as a teenager just don’t fit any more.
Then now is the time to use your credentials to shift. Leverage the equity you have as a challenger to challenge on a new front. Choose a new battle.
The Everyman becomes a Reformer, changing the rules from what he has seen on the ground.
The Wildling becomes the Holy Man, bringing the passion of the crazy to the cause of the many.
The Insurgent becomes a Liberator, throwing open the castle doors so that what she captured can now be everybody’s.
Challengers don’t die
Our reach should exceed our grasp. Reach further.
Morgan Holt is a Principal and Senior Director at Wolff Olins London.
We have a fantastic opportunity to join the new business team, supporting the Europe/Asia Head of New Business in all aspects of lead generation, as well as the maintenance and management of a pipeline of new business opportunities.
You’ll draw on your background in sales, new business and marketing to generate a pipeline of potential clients with the right profile, manage and mobilise internal resources to deliver responses to enquiries, detailed proposals, pitch presentations and other supporting materials, all the time building the right perception of our offer in the minds of our future clients.
This opportunity will ideally suit someone who is business and relationship minded, organised, focused, persistent, collaborative, flexible and driven to support new business activity. For a candidate who learns quickly and can autonomously manage the core duties, there are fantastic opportunities to grow and get more involved under the mentorship of senior new business professionals.
For more information email Xander Hough (HR Manager) putting New Business Manager in the subject line.
The disintermediation of healthcare could mean we begin to use comparison sites to manage our health in the same way we manage our holidays. Pharma companies must consider this future now to develop their brands.
When Bluetooth was launched in the late 1990s an email circulated about how BrownTooth was a new technology enabling your breath to securely unlock your phone. The date was April 1.
Today, technology can analyse your breath to indicate if you have cancer, TB or any number of ailments before any symptoms manifest themselves enabling early, effective treatment. Diagnosis, once the preserve of the wizened doctor, appears destined to be the preserve of the machine first and the physician second.
And if the machine can do the diagnosis – how long will it be until you trust smart tech to prescribe and constantly assess the treatment that is right for you? Perhaps the diagnostic tech will provide a choice of options – with each options’ likely side effects, its efficacy and price. The choice and trade off will be up to you. To help you make those initial choices you’re likely to rely on patient peer-to-peer reviews, on ratings and star systems, and the reputation of the brand that provides (or pays for) the treatment. As your treatment progresses, your wearable tech will constantly monitor drug efficacy and proactively suggest alternatives.
The era of price comparison sites and peer recommendation for health choices is close. So what does this mean for the Pharma companies and their marketing approach? A key channel sidestepped, total patient transparency and choice, product brand superseded by owner brand, active data-driven churn recommendations, efficacy claims measured and rated in the real (not controlled) world by patients with variant lifestyles (and a terrifying propensity not to take their drugs).
In this world the parent brand suddenly really, really matters.
It matters because patients, once they have filtered treatment choices for availability, price and efficacy, will make the choice based on reputation, familiarity and value added services. It matters because it’s no longer just a B2B brand – it needs to have mass appeal – it needs to build a relationship with patients to secure the license to treat – it needs to have the permission to influence lifestyle to improve their patients’ efficacy ratings – it needs to humanise – and essentially build trust.
Furthermore, it matters because society needs big pharma to prosper. Society needs privately financed research and development of medicines, and this increasingly requires scale given the cost of bringing effective drugs to market. But big, without absolutely clarity on social aims, usually means bad and ultimately doomed. Stealing from Mark Carney’s, the Governor of the Bank of England, perspectives on capitalism… “Prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital but investment in social capital.” What is true of capitalism is true for Pharma.
The good news for Pharma is that they have time to breathe deep and build relationships with consumers. The regulator, a fiend and a friend in equal measure, will likely delay tech prescription pushing it offshore and to a niche rather than the mainstream – but nevertheless it’s a future they must build their brands to withstand for all our sakes.
Charlie Stott is a Strategy Director at Wolff Olins London.
When the people at How Design asked me to give a talk at their Live conference I was honored to say yes. And about 3 seconds after I said yes, I was terrified.
But as it turns out, designers are a pretty receptive bunch and the topic “How to build the next creative team,” which took a behind-the-scenes look at the Wolff Olins studio and the processes, people and skills it takes to do game changing work, seemed to hit the spot.
In the end I was just overwhelmed – in a good way – with all of the questions you asked and, because we didn’t have time to cover them all that day, I thought I’d revisit a few here on the Wolff Olins blog.
Talking about our design process, I mentioned the idea of SWAT teams, in which we camp out in the clients’ office working with their in-house creatives. Many of your questions were focused on how SWAT teams work in practice: “Do internal creative teams get threatened when you cohabit with them?” and “Is this a new model?”
More and more in-house design teams want to be part of the co-creation of the visual brand, rightly so, as they are going to be implementing it for years to come. But often they are so busy with the day-to-day demands of their business that they aren’t able to dedicate the time it might take.
Relocating our project team to clients’ offices and being there for a week, a month, or longer, wherever they are in the world, allows us to have working sessions on a daily basis and make the work and get real-time feedback.
I’ve only ever seen in-house teams be hugely receptive to this and excited that they can really contribute along the way instead of the old-school big reveal presentation which can often leave in-house designers feeling less ownership over the work.
I don’t think it’s a new model, just something agencies would have previously resisted for one reason or another. The rise of the in-house design teams just keeps on getting better because the quality of client side professionals we’re working with is equal to, or in many cases better than agency side, from Apple, Google Creative Labs to the amazing designers I worked with at USA Today and Nixon Peabody. This makes for a really exciting collaboration.
A lot of you were interested in how we make sure our teams are as diverse as possible. Wolff Olins is a real global melting pot made up of 150 people and 21 different languages, we come from all over the world and are represented across the 4 offices.
Our project teams are a mix of strategists, designers and account managers. Even in NY where the design team is more guys and the girls at the moment and the account team more girls than guys, the project teams never feel that way.
We’re aware of a good mix of diversity and are continually a work in progress. As my colleague, Karl Sadler said “I don’t care what color someone is or whether they wear a bras, or prefer whiteboards to Xcode, it’s about getting best vibes out of a team, its no mavericks… get the team inspired and cool shit will happen.” He’s right!
A couple of you rightly had your eye on how to develop your careers and were keen to understand we look for when hiring.
The truth is there’s no perfect formula. At Wolff Olins we haven’t all taken the conventional path and got a graphic design degree. More and more we’re interested in people that are more unconventional or multi-skilled in order to produce the work that helps us disrupt and reinvent our clients categories. We look for people that are on the team that look at the problem from and completely different, experimental way.
For us it’s all about talent and more talent, it doesn’t matter whether you’re quiet or loud, no one should be the same. Just curious about the world and brimming with ideas! Owen Hughes, who is a creative director in our London office, puts it like this (video).
Some of you were interested in my career path and even what do I do in my free time.
I interned three times before Browns in London took me on after six months, my boss played a cruel trick on me at the time handing me my leaving present which was my business cards, but I never forgot that! After that I worked for them for five years before considering my next move, I’d gone as far as I could with that company and there wasn’t really anywhere for me to grow to. After that I wanted a different challenge and saw an ad for a Design Director at the V&A’s design department… and decided filling out the crazy, long application might be worth it.
Going in-house at a museum couldn’t have been more fun and introduced me to a whole new set of challenges, working on exhibitions and with different curators was exciting, but after two years of using the same typeface I wanted a new challenge and a friend introduced me to a Scottish design agency, Marque Creative, who were looking for a Design Director in NY. I’d always wanted to live abroad, and made the leap in 2007 and have never looked back.
Since then I’ve flirted with the West and had the pleasure of working for Moving Brands in SF, but New York beckoned me and I returned to work at Wolff Olins and have been very busy ever since. Over three years I’ve been a Design Director, now a Creative Director. Every project I’ve been lucky enough to be part of isn’t like the last one, they bring a whole new set of challenges and we think of surprising and magical ways to solve them, it’s what get’s me out of bed in the morning.
Free time, what free time?!?! Actually Wolff Olins is the first place I’ve ever worked that actively encourages all of its employees to have a life beyond the office walls. If I weren’t into art, fashion, film, music, travelling and actively seeking these out, my work wouldn’t be the same. If you just sit a computer and look at blogs all day long and don’t have experiences, how are you going to design unique ones for your clients?