By: David Jenkinson, Creative Director, Elmwood

Well, there we have it. The summer of sport has been and gone, and between the football and the Olympics, we got to see some of the world’s biggest brands compete for the attention of a global audience.

While it was interesting to see how brands were flexing their design assets in a bid to stand out from the crowd, not everyone was going for gold. A poll by tech firm RadiumOne, which asked 1,000 people in the UK about their associations in sport, has revealed that six of the top 10 brands most associated with Euro 2016, weren’t even sponsors of the tournament…

Nike came in at number three in the poll, which is fascinating. The fact that it’s not a Euro 2016 sponsor demonstrates the strength of Nike’s position as a brand that is synonymous with sport in the minds of consumers. Talk about knocking other brands out of the park.

So, how do you pull together a team of brand assets to make sure that fans remember seeing you at the stadium?

Play your biggest stars

Universally recognized, simple in form and truly iconic. That’s the power of the two simple curved lines that comprise the famous Nike ‘swoosh’, or ‘tick’ as it’s more commonly known. An asset most brands would give their right arm for.

I once heard that one of Nike’s key communication rules is “Don’t f*** with the tick”. While I’m not convinced this is entirely true (although I kind of hope it is), I love the spirit of this statement. To me it says – here’s a brand that understands the power and immediacy of an asset that has remained practically unchanged since its creation 40 years ago. It’s an asset so firmly embedded into our psyche, that it speaks directly to the athlete within us all.

Next to the tick, Nike’s power lies in its ability to attract iconic athletes to form the face of the brand. To coincide with Euro 2016, they released their longest brand film yet – 5 minutes 57 seconds. During “The Switch” we see Cristiano Ronaldo swap lives with a young ball boy, alongside cameos from a host of other well-known footballers. It’s a nice piece that effectively reinforces Nike’s ‘Find Your Greatness’ campaign.

Make the right signings

Mexican beer brand, Tecate, were on the ropes. The Heineken brand was tied up with associations of old-fashioned masculinity – which they needed to break free from if they were going to appeal to a younger audience.

Instead of throwing in the towel, we crafted a new identity that stayed true to Tecate’s roots and elevated their iconic ‘Eagle’ symbol. It was showcased on May 2, 2015 to a worldwide audience during the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight. The ‘Eagle’ took center stage and was admired by viewers from across the globe.

For Tecate, throwing their hat into the ring has paid off. The rebrand has helped improve their visibility and increased sales across the franchise by 18.6%. In fact, the fight was such good exposure, that Tecate has decided to continue to align itself to legendary boxing matches and – for the first time in the brand's history – will endorse an individual boxer, Canelo Alvarez. He’s set to wear Tecate-branded boxing trunks in the ring during 2016 to promote the brand’s “Born Bold” campaign.

Practice makes perfect

In today’s world, brands are playing to a tough crowd, and traditional advertising and touch points keep getting the yellow card. As brands start to give it 110%, and make the leap into brand experiences, they need to flex the key design assets and superstars they’ve worked on and established over the years.

Returning to the poll I mentioned earlier, the brand that unsurprisingly topped the table, was Coca-Cola – the key sponsor at this year’s Euro 2016.

For over 100 years, Coca-Cola has understood the importance of key brand assets, protecting them almost religiously. Their long-standing assets include the iconic shape of the bottle, the swoosh, the word marque and, of course, the famous shade of red.

Coca-Cola’s design assets are so strong, they give the brand scope to introduce new equities and new visual languages relevant to the event or experience in question – while still being unmistakably Coca-Cola.

For Euro 2016, we drew on our experience to find insight, before getting creative and making a suite of assets that put Coca-Cola at the heart of the action. We created an extensive visual identity system that covered all participating markets, with a flexible palette of assets that matched each country's needs. The system was designed to work across merchandise, TV idents and in-ground activation to ensure the brand experience was maximized from store to stadium.

By effectively incorporating existing brand assets into a fresh, vibrant design, we helped Coca-Cola achieve their ambition of being the most talked about, and most recognizable non-apparel sponsor of the tournament.

Go big or go home

Another of this year’s Euro 2016 sponsors was Chinese electronics giant, Hisense. It was the Championship’s first ever sponsorship deal with a Chinese company in its 56 years of existence. As one of the fastest-growing Chinese brands in Europe, the deal was Hisense’s chance to make a big impression on a Western market. But without any iconic brand assets, Hisense was relegated when put against brands such as Adidas and Coca-Cola. 

While sporting events offer brands a real chance to develop their personality and create some memorable experiences, if there are no recognizable brand assets, you’re going to get knocked out of consumers’ minds very quickly. So, the game plan? Make sure you warm up and stretch your most iconic brand visuals properly before entering the competition. 
By Niamh Deehan, Writer, Elmwood 

As the first signs of Spring promise a break from our box sets, blankets and fireside tipples; holidays are the subject of choice in boardrooms, as well as over brunch. My recommendation? Ibiza.

I went for the first time last year. I’d been hoping to switch off, but between the sunscreen and the cocktails, I found myself soaking up lessons on branding along with my dose of sun. Everyone laughs when I say the trip was good for work – but hear me out.

Every summer, around two million people take an annual pilgrimage and flock to Ibiza. It’s no ordinary tourist destination. If you thought Milton Glazer’s ‘I <3 New York’ campaign was good destination branding for the Big Apple, well, the white island is something else. It manages to inspire an almost cult-like following in both returning visitors and those who have never stepped foot on its shores before. Putting the notoriety for illicit activities aside, it’s some clever branding that makes the island so alluring.

Previously snubbed as a hedonistic haven for 18-30 type holidays, Ibiza has undergone somewhat of a rebrand to compete with the rising popularity of places like Marbella, Malia, and even Las Vegas. Today, you’re just as likely to meet some stockbrokers from New York, as you are a bunch of lads on a stag do.

The only new hotels are 5 star, and the list of top restaurants and beach clubs just keeps on growing. Away from the back alleys of San Antonio, Ibiza has repositioned itself as a luxury destination, full of hidden treasures – that just so happens to be the ultimate place to party too.

So, how does this relate to branding? Given everything it stands for, an association with Ibiza could be the perfect endorsement for brands in certain markets.

In a world of ad-blockers, traditional marketing doesn’t always resonate with audiences. Brands need more than a nice logo to earn our affection. If marketers want people to ‘live’ their brands, they have to go where the life is – and Ibiza is the liveliest playground of them all – full of opportunities for brands to make an impression.

That said, taking your brand to Ibiza is no walk on the beach. You’d think it would be an easy place to promote alcohol brands – but it’s also rife with gimmicks. Marketers should think twice about how they splash their cash. After all, nobody remembers what was on their beer mat – but a brand that takes part in, and adds to your holiday, can be recalled for years to come.

Within a week, I had two very different encounters with Absolut Vodka. The first was with some Absolut ‘brand ambassadors’ – a group of scantily-clad girls, all dressed in Absolut’s signature shade of blue and towering high heels. It was awkward to watch as they tottered around the Ocean Beach Club trying to hand out lanyards and sell the occasional shot. Given the heat, it was a pitiable sight that really killed the party buzz.

I had Absolut down as an edgy and forward thinking brand, but I was left wondering what I was supposed to take away from this particular promotion? I went to the bar and promptly ordered a Smirnoff.

In comparison, when I visited the nightclub Amnesia, I was greeted with an Absolut branded LED wristband that reacted to the music and created a light show I won’t forget in a hurry. In total contrast to my earlier encounter, the wristband put the brand in my memory for all the right reasons. According to their current #AbsolutNights campaign, the brand are about ‘the nights memories are made of’ – and this felt right on-brand. It just goes to show how much better brand experiences are when they’re designed to relate back to the brand’s core proposition.

Ibiza’s promoters and club owners are masters at crafting fully branded experiences. From the first release of flyers, to the season’s closing night, every event is given its own unique suite of iconic assets. And when the season has been and gone, these assets live on both online and in-stores, while tickets to experience the next event first hand are actively sought out.

Another brand I came across on my travels was The Skinny Kitchen. Dubbed Ibiza’s no.1 ‘FitFam Foodie Spot’, everything from its partnership with protein brand PhD, to the café’s aesthetic, and its ‘eat clean, rave dirty’ tagline, taps right into the subcultures you find on the island. Visitors flock in droves to check in on Facebook and Instagram their ‘Gojipolitan’ cocktails and protein pancakes. The food may be so-so, but what could have been just another café, has managed to leverage Ibiza’s status to elevate their brand and epitomise a taste in lifestyle. Born in Ibiza’s west end, there are two branches in the UK already.

My final lesson from Ibiza was one on complacency. I was fortunate enough to visit the Ibiza’s legendary nightclub Space before it closed its doors for good. It wasn’t just the end of the season, but the end of an era – and a brand that had built itself up over 27 years. The announcement caused shock and outrage, social media cried out with screams of “what went wrong?” According to the grape vine, organisers didn’t have their feet on the ground, and decided to split some of the major events across two days. The result? A huge drop in atmosphere. Space was no longer delivering on what it had come to be known for, allowing the competition to take over.

So there you have it. With brand lessons like this to learn, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m trying to get Elmwood to fund a further research trip – we’ll see how that goes…

Thursday, April 20th | Karen Hershenson social links

lost in thought
with Karen Hershenson

Leader, The Clay Street Project,
Proctor & Gamble

I'm inspired by my kids.

To me, brilliant is work that is both emotionally meaningful and strategically effective.

When I'm having a creative block I lie on the floor and flip through my old notebooks or new magazines.

The best advice I ever received was to stop apologizing.

The very next thing on my to-do list is to finish my blog post.

My dream collaborator is Arianna Huffington.

At least once, everyone should try a physical challenge they never thought they could do.

The best way to unwind after a long day is singing loudly in the car.

If I had a one year sabbatical, I would try on different lives — a dealer in Vegas, a yoga teacher in Fiji, travel blogger in South America and perform in a play.

The most overused word in meetings today is pivot.

At the moment, I'm obsessed with "Hamilton: An American Musical."

I lead by asking questions.

The next stamp on my passport is Costa Rica.

Find out more about his participation in FUSE arrow © 2017 IIR Holdings, LTD. All Rights Reserved.
As design and brand leaders, we never outgrow our need for inspiration, new ideas and new connections.

The producers of FUSE: Brand Identity and Design are excited to announce that we’ll be bringing you the cutting-edge content and speakers to keep you connected to what matters year round. The FUSE webinar series takes you beyond the in-person event, and is curated for those with a relentless focus on creating design-led organizations. Each quarter, the FUSE team will bring you a 3-part series the will empower you to think and act differently.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017 – 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST
A recently Nielsen study showed that nearly 60% of product decisions are made at shelf.
Are you confident that your packaging design will not only stand out, but make that oh so important consumer connection? This 3-part webinar connects you with brand and packaging leaders who’ve find the magic formula for cutting through the clutter and standing out on shelf.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 – 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST
Savvy organizations must leverage purposeful design to drive social change and create a value-based identity- from sustainability to healthcare to education - and consumers are taking notice with their hearts AND their wallets. This 3-part webinar helps you drive an authentic narrative around social impact in order to build your next generation of brand advocates.

By: Karen Hershenson, The Clay Street Project, Procter & Gamble

I’m heading home from a weekend retreat of yoga, meditation and walks in nature. I have a new sense of clarity and focus. The mismatched ideas that have been bopping around in my head are now forming into tangible creative executions. It’s like when finally given a little space from the frenetic pace of my life, these stray ideas can self-organize into coherence.

We all know how hard it is to create from an overwhelmed mind and yet it is often our reality. There is a growing expectation to create on demand and pull from what feels like a dwindling source of inspiration.

In our work at the clay street project, we have guided hundreds of people through the creative process –- creating the conditions for them to find space and inspiration during business demands and pressures. Over the past 13 years, we have seen time and time again the power of mindfulness on creativity. At first, we thought you needed a lot of time – like my weekend retreat. But we are seeing that it is possible to build in creative bursts and clarity in even your busiest days.

Here are a few mindfulness approaches that are working for our teams at P&G:

Before consumer research, JOURNAL. Set a timer for 3 minutes and write down a prompt like “Right now I am…” or “What I’m most curious about with this research is…” Then write whatever comes to mind – don’t edit and don’t stop until the timer goes off. This practice will make you more aware of what is pulling your attention from the present moment and primes you to be more open to new insights.

Before the big pitch meeting, BREATH. Take 5 deep, full breaths. This will activate the vagus nerve, which acts as a balancing system to stress and increases calm – helping you think more clearly.

During a day of ideation, LEAVE THE PHONE AT HOME. Your ideas need time to incubate and connect. Every glance at your phone is an interruption to this process.

Our challenge we have given to ourselves, is how can we create the sense of space. But more and more, it’s harder for teams to take the all here in the “retreat-like” separation from the daily demands. Over the past 13 years, we have worked with teams for 3 months, 2 weeks and yearlong programs,
For those of you who attended, we hope you enjoyed FUSE 2017!

With help from our friends at Flood, we finished the executive summary in record time, so we wanted to share it with you. Download it here: 

Earlier this month in Miami, the best in branding and design share their vision for the future, revealed the challenges that you must be prepared to face and provided you with strategies needed to succeed in this new reality.

Read the FUSE 2017 Executive Summary: 

Stay tuned for updates on the 2018 event: 

We hope to see you next year!

The FUSE Team

By: Monica Boeger, Owner and Creative Director, MonicaLauren design

After years of research, humans realized that animals, plants, and other elements of nature have always been solving human production problems and hold the secret to survival. Here are some examples of biomimicry in our world today: 

Monica is the Owner and Creative Director at MonicaLauren design based in Denver, Colorado. She has over ten years of professional experience working with clients from New York to L.A. in music and entertainment, travel and tourism, interior design, health, and apparel industries.

"Design fearlessly."

Ron Burrage, the head of design at the Hershey Company, closed his presentation with the above statement. Along with design thinking and creating innovation, being fearless in design has been a part of every conversation at Fuse in one way or another.

In a Q & A session, Kitty Hart asked brand icon Martha Stewart if she was afraid of anything. "No," she replied. "I don't really have any fears."

There are many ways that I am nothing like Martha Stewart, but this is at the top of the list: I can not imagine not having any fears. The call to "be fearless" does not make any sense to my 22-year-old self. "But what if I fail?" I say. "What happens if a client hates my work? Or if one of our designs becomes the subject of a negative article? Or if we lose money?"

It's easy for all of these successful people to tell me to be fearless, I grumble. They work for Hershey! And Universal! and Facebook! They have everything figured out already!

I, however, am just learning what Watson is.

But as I have more conversations and gain more experience hearing from notable professionals, I am realizing an extremely freeing principal:

Everyone that I admire has fears. Lots of them, probably. But they move beyond fear. They embrace it, rather than let fear paralyze them.

What I tend to forget is that the road to companies like Disney, Pinterest, and Kiehl's is paved with many roadblocks. Many moments of confusion, frustration and inevitably, failure. Even Martha Stewart, one of the most iconic personal brands, has had fear at some point.

Brian Robinson, EVP of Creative, Design, and Development at Universal Pictures, shared yesterday that people admired his resiliency more than they admired acts of winning. "It's time to lose," he said. "It's time to get knocked down so you learn to fight back."

Thanks, Brian. I will.


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