Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds Well I don’t want add up the number of years that we’ve collectively been working in branding because it is a large number. Almost 100. Almost 100 years. And I thought it’d be fun just to have a chat about how we’ve seen branding practice change in the last ten years, even more. And then where it might be going. But just to kick it off if you– just say a little bit about your career in the world of branding. Just in a sense of [INAUDIBLE] kick off. Sure. I started off as a designer, studied industrial design. And kind of floated around the world into various places– had my own studio, started a magazine, creative director of Swatch in Milan.
Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds Until I was convinced to join this company called Wolff Olins in San Francisco. Fell in love, and haven’t been able to leave since. And how long ago was that? That was in 2000. Ok,Sam? So, my first job after art school was to be a graphic designer at Wolff Olins, and this was 1995 I think, ‘94 or ‘95. And I didn’t even know what branding was at that point, I could barely turn on my computer. This was before emails were a commonly used tool in the office. And really found a place I think, where I felt like I could bring all of my strengths.
Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds I love language, I love design, I love solving problems, and it was a place where I could bring all of that together. So you’ve done everything then? I’ve kind of played every position, and tried just about every industry on for size so, yeah. So we’re getting into the subject here, but Brian just tell us a bit about your career. Well, I’m going to go back to before I joined Wolff Olins, because it’s significant for me in terms of where I’ve ended up and where Wolff Olins has ended up. I’d studied architecture for six years, and I wasn’t great at it– or as good as I wanted to be. And I met Michael Wolff.
Skip to 2 minutes and 12 seconds And Michael Wolff then was running a company which was– I think what I’ve best described as intelligent design. So it was designed, but it was very smart design. And it was design which was created to quite radically shift the perceptions of how things were in the world. And this is the late ’60s, which in London certainly was a time of whole change, and you can change, and you can do what you wish. So what I found there, was somewhere where I could use my sort of idea– sort of construct– together with what things looked like. And I valued both of those.
Skip to 2 minutes and 50 seconds And Wolff Olins gave me, even then, a sort of framework for ideas being given form, and form being based on ideas. Which is still certainly at the heart of how I think about things. OK so there’s some things that are consistent all the way through that period, and that still are true and central to what we do. I think so, yes.
Skip to 3 minutes and 12 seconds Although I agree with some of that, I think the way that we’re working today is less– at least the way I’m working today– is less of linear argument and more of– of course we do our homework, get the insights we need to in any project But then we’re doing now prototyping the future so develop– Prototype the future– –Prototype the future. So instead of thinking of things in a linear fashion I think– we use to do our work which is all about you do your homework, you get some insights, you do an insight presentation, you walk up, you present that, hopefully everyone claps, then you go away.
Skip to 3 minutes and 54 seconds Then you do the branch strategy presentation, and your whole self worth is wrapped up in being right. Because you create this argument of– you want them to go fantastic you’re smart and if not, then there goes your margin. On top of you not being right and feeling badly about it your margin goes down. And I think we’re shifting now into a business which is less about a linear logical sequence and more of possibilities. And we’re creating– increasingly we’re designing experiences that create outcomes. So we may work with a leadership team over the course of several days at an off-site as an example, with the idea that we’re going to unite and excite them around a common– future a common vision.
Skip to 4 minutes and 43 seconds One of the things I remember, which you’ll remember, is that we had a presentations departments. So the mode of interactions with clients was 35 millimeter slides. And you just presented. And you’ve got reactions and you went away. Or Overhead projectors. No, the Kodak, the Kodak carousel. So instead of that kind of almost one way conversation, it’s now a much more complicated interactive process, but kind of messier. I think it’s an entirely different focus. I subscribe. What it is, is output focused as opposed to input focused. I think where we were then was we were gathering input– either from the in the client’s world and from our own interpretation of it– and putting that down.
Skip to 5 minutes and 31 seconds As opposed to giving them something which they could do something with. I think it’s also worth saying that on the prototype– future idea– it always kind of blows my mind that many companies create their strategy based on PowerPoint– charts, graphs, words. All that stuff can be interpreted so many different ways. So, building it out visually, and creating narratives around what role that brand is going to play in somebody’s lives and marrying that then up with the implications to business model, value curve, things like that, gives you a holistic picture and gives you the ability to evaluate the whole thing.
Skip to 6 minutes and 7 seconds And I think the other the thing that we’ve– at least since I’ve been in the company– believed, is that brand is about a lot more than just logos and the way things look. That it’s a thing that really drives every dimension of an organization. And we’ve worked so hard over the years to try and help clients understand that. And connect the dots between all of the things that they do, and the way that they motivate their people. It’s just as important as what they’re saying out in the world.
Skip to 6 minutes and 36 seconds And I think that’s honesty become just even more important now, and people are starting to understand that as the way that people engage with brands becomes a lot more fragmented and complex. And there’s more channels, and everyone’s trying to figure out how to keep them all connected. I think we kind of in a way, feel like maybe this is now our time– Finally. –Because what we’ve been saying for years is now– I have to say though, we weren’t always saying that. Because I think there was– when we talked earlier that 20 years ago what there was a very pivotal moment before that– from maybe be 1985 to 1995 our mantra was corporate strategy made visible. Strategy made visible. Corporate.
Skip to 7 minutes and 20 seconds Corporate strategy made visible. –Made visible. So our focus was entirely what the corporation was doing and getting a way of expressing that. As opposed to a way of the organization behaving with the world. And so the client really was the top of the company. Because the visibility they wanted was what was on their business cards and their stationary. So that was the obsession they had. As opposed to, what does this business mean in the world. Well, I also think– So it was very much an internal view of what the corporation was about.
Skip to 7 minutes and 54 seconds And I think the shift– which and it was a bit of a tussle to get to being about brand was– what we need to be looking at it is first of all, what is the place of this organization in the world. And that took us into broadening it from these things and lots of guidelines, into communication. So this is your place in the world, and this is how you communicate. Then I think it was, you can’t do that properly unless people inside are signed up. So we went into internal communication– Wolff Olins Smythe. We set up a business to address it. It’s interesting now that the progression is led– not even necessarily by us– being led by consumers.
Skip to 8 minutes and 36 seconds Because consumers are obviously so well informed and connected that now brand is experience and product, more than it is communication. We would say that brand is the connective tissue of all those things. And I think it’s fascinating that on the client side companies– it’s really, nobody really owns the way things connect. In fact they’re rarely structured incentivized and measured to create that connected experience. And I think that’s where we’re finding our opportunity now. Because it’s nobody’s job really, to invent in a connective way on behalf of the customer. Everyone I think it has understood for quite a while that brand is experience, and brand is products, as much as communications. Very few people have been able to do it.
Skip to 9 minutes and 29 seconds And I think– one area that I think is worth– that we’re exploring and will continue to explore is how we equipped organizations to actually deliver it. Because it’s really a hard thing to do. We’ve gone from communication to experience, and I like this notion of the connective tissue. And the connective tissue isn’t tied back to the strategy of business, it’s tied back the purpose of the business. I think that’s a very significant shift. And the connective tissue of brand is delivering the purpose of the enterprise. When you mentioned the last few days Carl, that’s because we’ve been talking a lot with a bunch of other Wolff Olins people about the future of a brand consultancy.
Skip to 10 minutes and 7 seconds So a kind of final question, does it have one? Will there be brand consultancies in another 10 years. There will be brand, yes and there wont be consultancy. There won’t be consultancy. No, they’ll be making. They’ll be Making. And we’ll be making things to help people make and deliver brands. And the people who we will be helping to make and deliver brands, won’t necessarily be the enterprises or the corporations. Won’t necessarily be. We might be doing it with their permission, but we will be doing the delivery via ether their front line people or their customer’s. So I don’t see brand businesses going to go away but I think consultancy on it’s own definitely. On it’s own.
Skip to 10 minutes and 51 seconds Yes, certainly in the form that we currently exist. I can imagine there may be pieces left 10, 15 years from now, and philosophies for sure and beliefs about how we can help people move businesses and brands forward. I just think as Brian says, we’re going to be executing and delivering that in a completely different way that we haven’t quite figured out yet. It’s true. So let’s meet again in 10 years time and play this film back and see what it looks like from the future. Great, Thank you very much, inded. Thank you. Thank you, Robert.
How practice is changing at Wolff Olins
In this film, made in New York in September 2013, you’ll see four of the most experienced Wolff Olins people talking about how their practice has changed in the last 20 years.
They talk about three shifts:
• from a linear method, based on presentations to clients, to something more interactive, based on workshops
• from expressing a client’s strategy to driving its activities, a shift from ‘corporate identity’ to ‘brand’
• from designing communication items to connecting the dots in the client’s whole customer experience.
And at the end, they offer some radical thoughts on the future of brand consultancy. How far would you agree with their analysis?
(Since this film was made, Karl has moved on from Wolff Olins to work at Apple.)