The last in our series of client Q&As addresses how branding and design can cut through all kinds of thorny challenges – from distilling hugely complex service offerings to navigating the issues of a large, multi-layered group of stakeholders.
Thank you to all our clients and partners who’ve offered up questions!
How can branding help communicate complex concepts?
Matt Hooper, Chief Marketing Officer at Quantexa
When it comes to communicating anything, we like the Saatchi philosophy of ‘brutal simplicity of thought’ (fittingly enough as this is where Tony and Rob first met!).
It’s the job of brand strategy and design to simplify the complex and enable anyone engaging with your brand to navigate to the information they need. And of course it’s far harder to simplify than it is to complicate so putting time and resources into the development of a brand platform with solid foundations is vital.
We like to think about a brand’s communications in layers – starting with the top layer (can you write it on a post-it note?) through to the ‘no holding back’ of a proposal or white paper. It can be a painful process – it’s hard to let go of details that took months if not years of development but believe us that your customers will thank you for it! It’s not about ‘dumbing down’ but rather about stepping away from the jargon and finding a common human language.
Lastly, great design can play a huge part in visualising and illustrating complex concepts. It is design’s job not only to make something look amazing but also to ensure it works brilliantly, enabling users to engage with the right amount of information at the right time.
Is partnering a fintech very different from working with more traditional businesses?
Sally Yates, Chief Marketing Officer at Xceptor
Once upon a time, the distance between the ‘traditional’ finance business and any kind of start up was vast – everything from the structure of the teams, the innovation process and the content of the marketing plan right through to the dress code.
The differences are less stark now but, as suppliers to fintech businesses, we find there’s still a greater need for flexibility. Things change quickly, lead times are often shorter, the pace is different, briefs are often briefer. We’re often working closer to the overall leadership of the business, which means it’s personal.
We also find that fintech as a whole continues to resist being defined in the strictest terms – which inevitably makes for a different experience when working within the sector. There are no set parameters, they are intrinsically disruptive.
Inevitably the marketing budgets are often smaller and need to work a lot harder to deliver on (usually) huge growth targets. We’ve always believed that design should be a tool to improve your business, not a box to tick, so this kind of pressure sits well with us. It’s not for everyone but we love this way of working.
In organisations with multiple stakeholders, what is the key to finding design solutions that everyone can unite behind?
Grant Mobbs, Strategy & Business Development Director at Ferrovial
The key to this is simple: Get everyone involved in the process as early as possible. If the first thing a stakeholder sees is a finished solution, ready to be approved (or not!), you’re running a big risk of them quite rightly feeling like their opinions haven’t been considered.
It should start with the brief – let key people take a look and sign it off; and then get them involved in the kick-off meetings, workshops and briefings – ideally as a collective. We like to get all the opinions on the table so that we can understand people’s views and make sure they feel they’ve had a chance to say their piece. It might take a bit more time but it puts us in a far better place for managing the process towards consensus as early as possible.
It does require a certain authority and tact to avoid the dreaded design by committee. But it means that you can explain how you arrived at your solution, building a strong case that demonstrates you’ve taken key views into account. Experience has shown that people are less likely to dispute the output of a branding or design exercise if they feel that their views have been listened to.
What are the main differences in branding a b2b focused business versus a b2c one?
Ben Moss at Onyx
In the grand scheme of things, we actually don’t think the differences are as big as some businesses think. In the end, when it comes to branding, we find it more helpful to look at each business in terms of the specific challenge or objective they need their brand to address.
One interesting point of comparison is the work we did for High Street stalwart Body Shop versus our project for Sferik, a wholesale toiletries and beauty business that also sold branded products through pharmacies. The fact that their immediate customer was a business rather than the end consumer had very little bearing on what they needed from their brand, and in all important respects, our approach was very similar.
Of course the objectives and challenges may vary significantly, depending on the sales cycle, competitor landscape, decision-making pathways, whether it’s a service or product and so on – all of these (and many other factors besides) are things need to be explored and researched as part of the branding process.
At the same time, b2b marketing has made huge strides in blurring the lines between consumer and business, and the scope for creativity and innovation is no longer limited to the b2c brands.