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It’s all in the delivery

Daniel Keller, former Director of Brand Strategy and Experience at Orange and now a Global Principal at Wolff Olins, talks about how to make brands real in the world. From both sides of the fence.

When Wolff Olins pitched to me for the brand evolution of Orange four years ago, they also talked about the need for a strategy for delivery – but I wasn’t ready to talk about it. When your head is engaged in getting your board to buy in to your vision, and then locked in to driving towards launching that vision into the world, the detail of how you then roll it out and embed it in the business is ‘something to think about later’.

The problem is that if you don’t have a strategy for how you make your new brand real in the world and in the business from the outset, all your hard work leading up to the launch can fall apart when the tyres hit the road on the day after.  

This is the conundrum that I was asked to help Wolff Olins solve when I joined them this summer. How to bring together strong ambition with operational reality.

My starting point was to define what Delivery isn’t: it’s not the artist formerly known as implementation, nor is it a set of guidelines that we hand over to our clients with a fond wave over our shoulders, and it’s certainly not an event. Rather it is everything we do that gives the work real impact in the world.

This means that three stars need to align: people, time and money. People, because success depends on stakeholder management for buy-in as much as roll-out and on-going management; time because you need to align with the commercial realities and complexity of the organisation along with everything else that might be going on internally. And money, because you need to manage resources efficiently and prioritise.

Understanding this, the most useful way for me to look at how to make our delivery offer real was to chart my journey at Orange from kick-off to activation. Some key things immediately surfaced.

Houston we have a problem.

The problem is that delivery isn’t at the forefront of the client’s mind when reinventing the brand. But ignoring it will come back and haunt you post-launch (and it did). Most organisations will identify a case for change but don’t consider how to make this plan real in the world. And then we are all rabbits stuck in headlights.

Mind the gap

Here at Wolff Olins we want to push on the ambition, produce paradigm-shifting work, using the best people for the job. But at Orange, I needed to make an ambition digestible to all, focus on designing for real world applications for a complex organisation with a range of agendas, motivations and dare I say skill levels. High ambition meets difficult operational reality. The natural tension ambitious leaders invariably face and fertile ground for compromise, unless the right tools and conversations are in place to bridge that gap.

The cost of impact

It’s easy to ignore the budget question of course and in some cases that might even be necessary to let things mature for a while. And it might all work out fine. More likely though it will turn into the battle of the cost centres and at this stage a compromise found might not align well with the priorities of your project. So yes, considering the cost of impact from early on, however hard it might feel, will pay dividends.

Like I said, my head wasn’t in delivery mode when Wolff Olins originally pitched to me, but the elements were in place. Once we both started to match ambition to operational reality, a number of tools came into play like our roadmap for change, governance model and cost of impact analysis. But also signature experience prototypes to energise and inspire people and digital brand management tools to equip them to work with the brand, at scale.

At launch, we needed to create maximum internal and external impact, facilitate operational activation and manage hand over to suppliers. So in addition to launching the strategy and experience, we needed a suite of activation tools and platforms – clinics, learning platforms and so on.

Post launch, we needed to run campaigns, scale experience and advise teams of the new propositions. So we needed innovation platforms, briefing templates and tools. Internally we developed culture change programs for parts of the organisation to evolve the way we worked, shift behaviours.

Applying the learning

And on it goes – the long tail of delivery, all the way through to evaluating the impact of the launch against the ambition, and how we learn and evolve the brand.  For us this is about driving our passion to make our work real in the world, using our experience (the good, the bad and the ugly) to work out the best options, make connections for shared experience and leverage our best people for the job.

For our clients, and ourselves, there are four key learnings:

- Define the desired impact at the outset, agree goals, and most importantly, distribute ownership internally beyond the brand team

- Be clear about the cost of change, and use this knowledge to make conscious choices. After all you can’t do everything.

- Build a roadmap that takes capabilities into account (can you really do the work in a week?) as well as priorities and moments.

- Think governance, and how it evolves from buy-in, to roll out, to managing the brand in the new world.

All of this has now shaped our roadmap at Wolff Olins for enriching our delivery offer in a way which is uniquely us: full creative partners, for the journey.

Illustration by Calle Enstrom