How our ‘helpful’ technology is getting in the way.
Getting the tube every morning is a monotonous experience, so any small change to the routine is discernible. An increase of signs (as above) posted near ticket barriers, warning against ‘Card Clash’, has caught the eye recently.
Card Clash occurs when commuters tap in using their Oyster card but also have a contactless credit card in the same wallet or sleeve. It can result in punters paying extra, confusing the machines and causing queues to build up, especially in rush hour, when time means money and the platforms are crowded. It is not a new issue, but for TFL it is an increasing concern with the rising prevalence of contactless cards.
This prompts several questions about our reliance on helpful technology.
Technology, conventional wisdom presumes, makes our lives easier and run more smoothly. TFL’s Oyster card system is a great example of excellent service design which does this (even if the technology’s hastening of ticket office closure has been met with industrial action). Contactless card payments and transport apps, whether CityMapper or Hailo, do the same.
We carry more and more of this technology on our bodies at all times. Oyster cards, smartphones (connected to sensor-enabled thermostats like Hive and Nest), FitBit and FuelBand, contactless credit cards and building or key fobs. We carry so much that it can become a physical and financial hindrance, as with Card Clash. People can be put out of pocket from this, but there is a larger issue at play here.
Many of these services which we now keep so close to ourselves in fact come under the domain of fundamental, infrastructural utilities and sectors. These are absolutely necessary to the fabric of a society. For FitBit or FuelBand, read Health, for Oyster read Transport, for Nest read Energy and so on. Much of this is held together by smartphones, for which we would traditionally have read Telecommunications, even if all-pervasive software has disrupted how we conceive of communication.
It is debatable whether this is a positive social phenomenon, with our tacit acceptance of the transferal of responsibility to individuals from institutions on issues like health, energy savings, and public transport. Is it helpful to have your thermostat in your hands at all times? Or, as suggested recently on this blog, is mobile ‘on point’ better than ‘always on’? The technical ingenuity of a remotely-controlled washing machine is not in doubt; rather, could we not be spending our time doing something that has a bit more meaning?
However, that people seem so willing “to take control”, as the rhetoric goes, of these aspects of their lives reflects a loss of faith in our institutions. This surely presents an opportunity for brands in these fundamental areas of people’s lives to do something uniquely positive and helpful, not exploitative and cynical.
We should shoulder some responsibility for allowing ourselves to be duped into taking on the work of companies and institutions under the glistening veneer of technological progress. Rising fares, bills and unconnected, frustrating customer service whenever anything goes wrong do not suggest at progress or empowerment.
Health, communication, transport and energy are vital to people’s lives. Brands who take responsibility and pride in this over anything else stand to build something quite remarkable for themselves and for the people who rely on them. Three starting points could be:
1) True customer-centricity (e.g. flexible billing structures which adapt according to usage)
2) Implementing effective two-way services which allows for inevitable errors in the system and doesn’t leave customers stranded twice
3) A focus, where relevant, on the real and collective benefits which technology can bring on a structural level, not the clandestine transferal of accountability to the individual customer
There are many great initiatives and features companies have created which harness the benefits that emerging technology can bring. Some may even bring happiness to millions of people. However, whilst they remain predicated on shifting the work to the customer, the concern of people living in a utility-seeking, always-on and individualistic environment persists.
Dan Gavshon Brady is a strategist at Wolff Olins London, you can follow him @DanGB88
Are you an ambitious future leader at the beginning of your career?
Our global COO, Sairah Ashman, is offering career advice this Friday as part of International Women’s Day 2014. Tweet us, Facebook us or post your question as a comment below any time before Friday 7 March at 2pm using #IWD2014.
Sairah finally settled on a career in branding back in 1994 after testing out a few alternative paths. Since becoming global COO in 2010, Sairah has written and spoken extensively about the need for more and better role models to inspire people at the beginning of their careers. In 2013 Sairah hosted a TEDxWomen event as part of the global event TEDWomen and launched her series, Five Questions, which explores the worlds of female business leaders.
As well as answering your questions about how to get ahead in branding and how to become a leader in your field, she will share tips and insights gained through her own professional journey.
Technology disrupts. Obviously. It changes the internal tools and external ways that you deliver your business. But it also changes the way you organise the people who deliver it. Yesterday’s org structure probably won’t work when you deliver a different product to a different customer across a different bridge.
So when do you change your organisation? Not yet.
At some point you may to make a case for change. Maybe you need to release budget to build a new experience around a new brand, or gain permission to launch a disruptive new product, or make a shift from cost centre to profit centre, or convince an adjacent department to share the cost (and glory) of a new strategy.
But you have to prove the value of the market first. You can’t simply reshape everything based on a bet. A disruptive new player in your market might be chipping away at your business model, but your response to that - and you have to respond - will feel like a leap of faith at best, or playing with toys at worst.
A dramatic organisational redesign needs proof, and you don’t have it yet.
So you create virtual teams, small working groups of talented and enthusiastic individuals who balance their day job with the new task at hand.
Yet often the virtual team is delegated to a mid-level operational person, someone who ‘naturally’ seems like the best person to be held accountable. A fast-rising product lead, or an analytics expert, or a head of HR.
Here’s a reason an innovation team has to report into the COO.
A colleague recently pointed me towards some organisational thinking by Zofia Krokosz-Krynke, the director of the Polish-American MBA school.
Krokosz found that industries with large distance in power (from the CEO to the shelf-filler) were only successful when they had high levels of specialisation.
It makes sense. If you know what you’re doing, you can create rules and procedures for everyone to follow. Sure, it suppresses individualism but that’s okay because the customer understands what you sell and wants more of it.
So a ‘high power distance’ works well when you are a successful specialist in a well-understood market. It’s good for companies that know what they’re doing and are growing doing it.
But it’s not good for companies whose product is still in development.
Technology is disruptive. So businesses that want to use technology to spur growth are by definition moving away from their traditional specialisms.
Which means the old processes cannot be expected to work, the skills aren’t instinct yet, the partners aren’t there, the tension is too great between making new things and rewarding old things.
Innovation cannot be acted upon effectively when its centre of gravity lies deep within the business. So if you are going to innovate, you have to make the distance shallower.
Not by redesigning the organisation (not yet, anyway) but by creating a virtual team with accountability to the highest law in operations, the lieutenant who balances existing resources and new models - the COO in large organisations, the MD in smaller ones.
Keep innovation close. The future is too important to delegate.
Morgan Holt is a Principal and Senior Director at Wolff Olins London.
Elisa joined Jive at the beginning of the year in a global role responsible for strategy, branding, marketing and corporate communications. Elisa has over 20 years experience in leading marketing positions with companies such as Microsoft, Skype, Yahoo and Sun Microsystems. She’s a passionate advocate of being ruthlessly customer focused, never mincing her words and helping the next generation to flourish.
What are the most significant shifts influencing your business?
The biggest shift by far is all the new ways in which people are working to get things done – across companies, regions and partnerships. That’s why being at Jive excites me. We’re able to offer tools that facilitate instant collaboration and it feels like a natural step for me from Skype.
I just love that a few simple tools can help you work better, faster and have more fun doing it. It seems magical and it’s infectious. Once you’ve experienced this way of working, you just don’t want to go back.
I think this represents an enormous shift generally, but also for companies culturally. It’s a really big deal when you can make things more connected and transparent. It feels right for the times and how the world is evolving.
What do you see as the key growth accelerators for you over the next 12 months?
Lots of companies are using tech in different ways today, but few are really using technology to join things up across their entire business. It’s a huge opportunity when you think about the time and money saved.
Imagine how productive and seamless things become when you’re joining up functions, like sales and marketing, and also working across borders, whether it’s divisions or geographies.
Businesses that get this right are really going to reap the benefits. And the technologies we’re using today are so intuitive and social. They’re changing how we do things and how we engage with each other, not just what gets done. It’s exciting.
What role do you see brand playing in this?
For me, brands fundamentally fuel growth and they do it by providing a sense of purpose and clarity. We’re lucky because love for our brand is off the charts amongst those who know us. Once you use Jive, you just wonder what you did before. It unlocks the potential for people to work together effortlessly wherever they might be. The bigger challenge for us is helping people to find it and use it in the first place. Anything new takes a bit of time and learning before it’s fully embraced. Brand can help us overcome that initial reticence and build confidence quickly.
Who inspired you in the early years?
I’ve always been inspired by the opportunity to work with people who have passion and vision. People who really want to change the world and are prepared to take risks. It’s magnetic and motivating.
The biggest takeaway from the best people I’ve worked with and experiences I’ve had, is this idea of ‘falling forward’. We might fail, but we’ll support each other, learn from it, become stronger as a team and never feel like we’ve taken a step backwards.
What advice would you pass on to others just starting out?
Do your homework. When someone is prepared, has a point of view and knows what they want from you then I’m really happy to give them my time.
Have passion. Don’t find yourself in a position when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy or don’t believe in. Life is too short.
Build relationships. Spend time with different people. Build things together. Invest in each other. A career is a pyramid not a ladder. Make sure you have a strong and supportive base to work from.
It struck me one grey winter’s morning at the end of last year: is my whole way of thinking wrong?
We’re starting a new business at the moment in Wolff Olins – a kind of school of branding. We’re getting advice from the experts in start-ups. And on that winter’s morning, the advice arrives, in black and white: don’t think about vision or strategy or any kind of Big idea, but get something out there fast and learn from it. Just do something small that will prove the concept. Make a product, any product, of the minimum viable kind. Big ideas are just a distraction, a kind of procrastination. The way we all instinctively do things at Wolff Olins – sort out the idea first – may just be wrong.
We followed the advice and, as the winter comes to an end, we have a real business, with real paying customers. We’ve learned a lot. The advice has worked.
Which has made me think about the drawbacks of traditional brand thinking. Is what a lot of us do too theoretical? Do we too much live in a fantasy world where we set out beautifully clear, idea-led futures for our clients that are a million miles away from their daily reality? Are we – as Liz Moor suggests in her book The Rise of Brands – control freaks, imagining we can turn our clients’ world into neater, better things? Do we kid ourselves that brand is at the centre of the universe? Are we too perfectionist, and too slow?
Maybe, in fact, there two completely different ways of looking at the world: the brand consultant’s view, and the start-up expert’s view. One is about thinking, the other about acting. One is idealist, the other realist. It’s one big idea versus many small ones. It’s designing versus making. It’s neatness versus impact. Cleverness versus usefulness. Control versus chaos. Brasilia versus Lagos. Anxiety (‘we must pin everything down now’) versus trust (‘it’ll work itself out’). Apollo versus Dionysus. One is like an architect, the other a handyman, a bricoleur. One sees brand as the cause of everything, the other sees brand as the eventual result.
As a neatness-loving control freak – like most people who’ve worked in corporate identity – I find myself challenged by all this. I teach a lot about brand-led innovation and brand-led change: are these ideas illusions?
And yet… There was one moment over the winter when our new business took off. It was when we decided to name it not Wolff Olins Academy – the obvious name – but Kitchen. Two of us were talking at the green armchairs near my desk, and the name just seemed right. Very quickly, a whole story about kitchen flowed. This would be a school that metaphorically took customers behind the scenes of Wolff Olins, from the restaurant into the kitchen. Its style would be like sitting round a kitchen table, not a lecturer addressing a theatre. And it would be totally practical: we’d be making something good. (Plus it might get a bit messy.) In two or three minutes, we’d defined our experience principles. We quickly spread the word. Colleagues began to get it, to want it, and to sell it to clients.
And that was a brand moment. It was a (fairly) big idea. So brand, whatever exactly that is, does have a value, even in a start-up. Brand thinking has a role. It wasn’t just the name, but being clear what you want to stand for in people’s minds. Somehow, that changed everything.
So brand may not be the centre of the universe, but it somehow gets the planets moving. And – to switch metaphor – our practice needs to ricochet constantly between architect and handyman.
E is the CEO and cofounder of Fora, a startup based in Lagos whose purpose is to make university more accessible to millions of young people in Nigeria. He’s 22 years old, but has both the heart and hustle of folks far greater than his age.
We spent an afternoon gorging on croaker fish, jolloff rice and pepper soup at Terra Kulture, and of course discussing what it means to start something in Nigeria. This is just a snap shot of our conversation.
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur in Nigeria?
“For most people in Nigeria, entrepreneurship is not a choice. It’s a necessity to put food on the table.”
Coming from SF and NYC, where entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Jack Dorsey are often perceived as our generation’s new rock stars, this struck me.
The Nigerian entrepreneur is the woman exchanging currency for better rates than the banks, the hawker selling water in jerry cans to homes without running water. They’ve identified a clear market need, but the problem is scale. From the lack of a stable banking system to the absence of an investment community to government regulations to the fear of getting robbed, the barriers to starting up a business that scales are high.
“Part of what I want to do is change the way entrepreneurship is perceived in Nigeria. To view is it as the first choice, not the last.”
How can you start a business that scales with so many social, political and economic barriers?
“It’s pretty tough. The key thing to learn in a society with a lot of problems is there are tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities. Outside of Nigeria, it’s important to look at the problems around you as opportunities.”
What problem are you solving?
“I started Fora because there was huge challenge in the education system that I felt like I had the experience, will and drive to solve. The big problem is in the lack of quality education that can scale. To give you an idea what the issues are, there’s 1.7 million who write entrance exams, but universities in Nigeria are only able to take less than half a million of them. This basically means that 20% of the kids who apply to university who should be in school aren’t in school. For me, we came here to solve this question: how can we scale quality education using technology quickly?”
This is a series of conversations and essays about entrepreneurship in Lagos, you can also read about them on Medium.
Melissa Andrada (@themelissard) heads up Kitchen from Wolff Olins, a school for ambitious leaders who want to build businesses that change the world.
Strategy has come to pervade every aspect of our lives but its roots are in fact in the language of war. Sir L. Freedman, a professor of war studies at King’s College London, recently wrote a big book about this big topic: the history of strategy.
As it is always good to understand the roots of your profession, I went to a discussion of the book at the RSA to see if there are any relevant learnings for a brand strategist in the 21st century. And there were:
1. Live with uncertainty
According to Freedman, strategists have always tried to eliminate uncertainty and control the future by making plans that lead them to an aspired goal. However, this excludes an important aspect: Human beings and their nature of acting unpredictably. As Mike Tyson puts it: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”. So making plans is important, but constantly adapting and updating them to a changed environment even more so.
2. Be ironic
In the talk Freedman mentioned irony as a way to deal with uncertainty. This means thinking about potential failure and the consequences thereof.
Strategists definitely spend too little time thinking about scenarios where a strategy would fail. We do this as it is more convenient, there is too little time or because we simply want to ignore certain facts that don’t support our argument.
Dealing with these scenarios and exploring the weaknesses of a strategy will make a more flexible and future proof.
3. Never stop
Most war strategists worked towards a final goal, the victory in a ‘decisive battle’. This thinking neglects that reaching a goal inevitably opens up new questions and the way the goal was reached influences the nature of these new challenges.
Way too often, brand strategy is still seen as one-off project with external support and a defined end. Instead, clients should see brand strategy as an ongoing task for which they sometimes need external support and sometimes they don’t.
4. Form coalitions
Freedman sees coalitions rather as a secondary option if one cannot dominate or outsmart the competitors. This may have been true in the past centuries, but in today’s complex and fast moving world it is illusionary to be dominant in all relevant business areas.
In brand strategy it is absolutely crucial to identify the few areas where a brand can be dominant. However, it is maybe even more important to identify the right partners to extend the reach and capabilities of a brand, which often is the smartest way to reach your goals.
Freedman’s 750 pages are not a must for every strategist, but his main insights can help us to avoid the mistakes that were done in the past and are so easily repeated.
So let’s expect to be punched in the face and prepare a plan to get up on our feet!
Stefan Emrich is a senior strategist at Wolff Olins London.
This role will support the US Head of New Business in all aspects of lead generation, as well as the maintenance and management of a pipeline of new business opportunities, and the coordination of all aspects of proposal and pitch preparation to secure new client partnerships for the firm.
Under the guidance of the US Head of Business Development, and with a rigorous focus on qualifying the right opportunities for Wolff Olins, the Director will initiate and lead external conversations as well as manage and mobilize internal resources to deliver RFP responses, detailed proposals, pitch presentations and other supporting pitch materials.
IDEAL CANDIDATE PROFILE
The ideal candidate is an aggressive go-getter with an entrepreneurial spirit and a relentless focus on targeting new opportunities and winning new business. He or she is also a ‘hands on’ individual with a high degree of initiative and dynamism.
New Business Development & Outreach Requirements:
- Experienced business developer with a minimum of 5 years of experience in successive business development roles (analyst/coordinator, manager) with a strong foundation in strategy
- MBA preferred, but not required
- Strategic and analytic thinker with the ability to quickly assess and survey a broad range of new opportunities and develop a prioritized and rational action plan
- Demonstrated strategic and business acumen with the ability to quickly and incisively diagnose a client’s biggest business and brand challenges
- Demonstrated skill at consultative selling with an ability to uncover key insights through ongoing conversations, discussions, and Q&A to guide prospects to an understanding of WO’s capabilities and the firm’s ability to design effective customized client solutions
- The right communication and presentation skills necessary to convey the Wolff Olins vision in prospect meetings, at events, etc.
Internal Selling & Communication Requirements:
- Ability to quickly synthesize and communicate salient points and recommendations regarding new opportunities to Wolff Olins leadership
- Ability to build a rapport and establish internal partnerships with all disciplines in the organization – creative, account management, strategy, and production
- Ability to ‘sell-in’ new opportunities and rally internal support
- Ability to credibly communicate and present the overall new business strategy and new opportunities on an ongoing basis to key Wolff Olins stakeholders and across the company
- Strong project management skills and ability to juggle multiple large projects simultaneously, coordinate internal teams, generate and sustain team momentum, and manage delivery of proposals and presentations against tight deadlines
Please note: While we appreciate everyone’s interest in Wolff Olins, due to high number of applicants, we can only respond directly to those who best qualify and meet the specific criteria and standards of these roles.
ABOUT OUR INTERNSHIPS Each of our interns is considered an integral part of the team. We expect you to contribute to all work, engage in projects and treat this as a real job. While doing this, you will learn from some of the most brilliant minds in branding. You’ll end the internship with real-world experience working with current and prospective clients at one of today’s boldest brand and innovation firms.
HOW TO APPLY: Email: Please send your resume and cover email to firstname.lastname@example.org Subject Line: Intern_“INSERT TYPE FROM LIST BELOW”_Summer 2014
Please note: While we appreciate everyone’s interest in Wolff Olins, due to high number of applicants, we can only respond directly to those who best qualify and meet the specific criteria and standards of these roles.
ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT (NY) We’re looking for an energetic, one-of-a-kind account management intern to work with our team in our New York City office. Working under our top account managers, you’ll support a range of client projects and gain real perspective on the many ways we help clients achieve their business and brand goals. You’ll get to: • Creatively problem solve a diverse range of challenges, from keeping projects on-time and on-budget, to helping brainstorm and pin down that next ‘big idea’ • Collaborate closely with an eclectic group of experts in design, strategy and production • Manage the many, many details that need to come together to create big impact
ACCOUNT/STRATEGY HYBRID (SF) We’re looking for a kick-ass strategy/account management intern to work with our teams in San Francisco and New York. You’ll work on a range of internal and client projects, experiencing firsthand how brands are created and evolved. This internship is based in San Francisco. You’ll get to: • Research into clients worlds and their competitors • Look at macro trends • Work with teams, helping to keep them organized and developing itineraries • Provide background information and research to support new business pitches • Help to identify potential partners here in the Bay Area
You should be: • Super resourceful • Tidy minded and organized • Really likes people and working with people • Happy to throw themselves in and roll their sleeves up • Curious about what is happening in the world • Ideally has some knowledge of the Bay Area
DESIGN NY and DESIGN SF (specify location) We’re looking for two crazy, innovative, digital savvy design interns, one in NY and one in SF. There are no “junior” designers at Wolff Olins. Even our interns require a certain instinct and raw skill from the start. The work we aim to deliver is bold, ambitious and different. The primary role for an intern is to explore. This is the creative position freest from other responsibilities that come with longer tenure or seniority at Wolff Olins. Design interns should see this as an opportunity to learn and grow through collaboration and exposure to others on their teams. During the internship you’ll get to experiment and contribute to design solutions for a number of different clients.
We’re looking for someone who: • Has strong graphic design and typography skills and experience in Adobe Creative Suite. • Really, really, creative! • MUST have strong skills in MOTION (animation, 3D, film/editing) and/or digital prototyping a HUGE PLUS • Curious about the world and passionate about brands • Energetic and enthusiastic • Collaborative and fun • Experience in After Effects is a huge PLUS.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT (NY) The business development intern will assist the US-based business development team with various projects, supporting the revenue generation plan for North America. The intern’s primary responsibility will be to identify and vet opportunities through research and analysis of companies in the news, as well as new business inquiries, and other in-coming opportunities. The intern will learn to craft an opportunity analysis to allow management to quickly and confidently assess promising opportunities, and then package research findings concerning qualified leads into a briefing kit for the pitch team. This individual will also help prepare sales collateral (for outreach and responses to requests for information) by creating and/or aggregating assets that leverage the most relevant content available in order to position Wolff Olins in the best possible light. Finally, based on the needs of the WO business development team, the intern will be assigned a project to complete in collaboration with interns from other disciplines. Requirements: • Some knowledge of or exposure to business development in an agency environment or other professional services category • Highly motivated with a passion for identifying new opportunities • Knowledgeable of the general business landscape • Analytic ability demonstrated by research skills • Interpersonal skills, sociable, confident • Self starter, resourceful and able to work independently • Proficient at using the entire Microsoft Office Suite especially PowerPoint and Excel • Reliable, organized, detail-oriented • Able to prioritize quickly and to readjust priorities throughout the day
MARKETING (NY) We’re looking for an intern to work with our team in New York and liaise with counterparts in San Francisco and London. In this role, you’ll focus on creating content and contributing to social media platforms. You’ll gain hands-on experience creating, writing and promoting our thinking and work related to brand, business, technology and design. You’ll get to: • Work with our global content manager on social media community management • Partner with members of our marketing, new business and strategy teams to write and develop content for our owned channels (e.g. blog, newsletter, social media) • Provide background information and research to support proactive media outreach
We’re looking for someone who is: • Super resourceful • Self-starter and proactive • Strong writer • Well versed in social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook • Curious about what’s happening in the world of business, technology and design • Passionate about branding, marketing, business or communication
STRATEGY (NY) We’re looking for a digitally-minded strategy intern to work with our team in New York City on a range of client projects. You’ll play at the intersection of brand and technology, experiencing firsthand how brands are created and brought to life. You’ll get to: • Contribute to the development of brand strategies • Explore emerging technologies and help build new brand experiences • Research and analyze markets, trends, and behaviors • Develop new business pitches and proposals
We’re looking for someone who is: • On the pulse of technology + culture • Fluent in the language of entrepreneurship + experience design • Curious about the world + passionate about brands • A clear + analytical thinker • A great storyteller + strong writer • Collaborative + fun!
Additional: We’re also interested in what you find interesting (beyond the bottom of your resume!), so if you have a blog, Twitter feed, portfolio or something else of that nature, we’d love to see it!
How does an Indian company make the leap from a homegrown, national entity to an internationally recognised player? This was the question (and challenge) posed to us by Indian business leaders at our CII/IBF breakfast workshop on Tuesday 18 February.
When an entity (whether that be a place, an organisation, even a person) is something of a mystery it’s a natural human reflex to resort to basic visual or sensory cues – colours, smells, images, style – to interpret and make sense of what we’re seeing. The result is a string of unhelpful, clichéd adjectives that don’t necessarily reflect reality but bring us a degree of relief for being able to put that ‘mystery’ to rest.
In the same way, when we think of India a specific image is conjured up informed by a narrow slice of content that is peddled out on the cultural, media roundabout. At best - colour, Bollywood and spice. At worst - chaos, poverty and corruption. Whether true or not, they’re either conventional or misinformed answers. And with little to counter these perceptions, they become unquestioned truths – dangerous and superficial. And it’s not just India. From Taiwan to Poland, many markets find it difficult to combat the raised eyebrows provoked by the ‘Made in [place]’ tag.
So how do you begin to unravel these perceptions and assert a new and more accurate reality? Historically, the first global ‘national champion’ brands from a country often bring their country’s baggage with them. But over time, they can leverage perceived strengths about their country, and also redefine how their country is perceived. For example, Sony and Toyota built their global brands in the shadow of perceptions that Japan was a producer of cheap, copycat goods that could only compete on price. As the two companies went upmarket they redefined themselves, and Japan, as benchmarks for engineering excellence and innovation.
Such brands nudge and push perceptions but also do something even more powerful. They stand for something. They rise above the clichés, the stereotypes, the prejudices and the cynics to answer global needs that they are uniquely placed to address. They are valuable and recognised because they play a significant role and enrich the lives of customers and our culture, society and systems.
For example, Toyota brought reliability, design and safety to an industry lauded over by American GM muscle. More recently it has done it again by pioneering sustainable automotive innovation. Similarly, HTC shifted perceptions of China’s ability to design and make intuitive, smart, mobile products. The HTC Desire was one of the first serious contenders against Apple and, amongst most die-hard techies that know their stuff, the preferred option. Other examples: Samsung from Korea, Uniqlo from Japan, even the likes of TweetDeck and Song Kick have arguably shifted perceptions of Great Britain and put the silicon roundabout on the map.
However, the hitch here is that these are all consumer-facing brands – higher profile and innately consumer-centric. Their value, innovation and contribution are far more visible. But it’s not impossible – GE’s Eco-imagination has captured the hearts of consumers and business customers alike.
Back to India. It’s multilayered, multi-faceted, multi-everything. So, what are the truths about India that Indian companies can champion and represent? What is it about their Indian origins that make them uniquely placed to play a particular role in the world? Here are some thoughts.
Firstly, The Indian market is dominated by B2B – their main international exports are machinery, chemicals, outsourcing services, transportation equipment, building materials, and pharmaceuticals. Critical, systemic products and services that are play a significant role in industries, societies, and economies.
Secondly, India is a market where need is not only great it is overwhelming. As such, there is an innate social consciousness that runs deep in Indian businesses. For example, Dr. Reddy’s – an Indian pharmaceutical company – was created to bring generic drugs to the Indian market at a fraction of the cost. Today, they are at the forefront of generic drugs and biosimilar innovation that few can keep up with. Fuelled by need they have designed an approach to pharmaceutical creation and manufacturing that makes social and commercial sense.
Thirdly, the frugal movement – Jugaad – has gone from being a technique used my Indians everywhere to improvise solutions in the face of glaring necessity, to a lean, management technique adopted increasingly by Western companies. The likes of Infosys and Wipro have built their entire offer around designing disruptive outsourcing solutions so you can literally buy and insert Indian ‘jugaad’ processes into your own company.
That’s just a starter for ten. There is much that an Indian company can leverage about their origins to be a respected, valued and loved brand both at home and abroad. The key point is that Indian companies don’t need to borrow, steal or imitate the paths of other companies who have successfully internationalised. They can adapt, adopt, advance and forge their own path.
And it won’t be long until ‘Made in India’ – conceived, crafted, engineered, and implemented – will quicken pulses rather than raise eyebrows.
Yelena Ford is a Lead Strategist in Wolff Olins London.