"Brand authenticity is the value of being who you are, not what you think consumers want you to be." - Rob Wallace
FUSE Calls is a series of interviews where the FUSE team literally picks up the phone and calls disruptive design and brand strategy leaders across the globe - some of whom will be speaking at our upcoming FUSE 2016 Conference in Miami this spring. Dan will also be dialing in to speak with the very esteemed members of our FUSE community. Our goal is to share insight, promote design-thinking and hopefully inspire anyone interested in branding and design as it relates to strategic vision.
In this session of FUSE Calls Rob Wallace shares what it means for a brand to be authentic and why’s that important. He gives examples of authentic brands versus brands that are perceived as being "marketed to" consumers. Rob and Dan also discuss whether being authentic is the same as being honest, and what happens if your brand does not really have an authentic and compelling story.
Rob gives key insights into brand authenticity as well. Highlights include:
- "Today branding is more transparent; people no longer want to be “marketed to”; consumers don’t want products – they want to have an affinity with their brands"
- "Now in order to be successful a brand must have a point
- “Be who you are rather than who you think your consumers want you to be. Call out to your tribe and your tribe will come to you. If you tell the right story to the right people you’re going to have an affinity with your audience and that’s what the next generation of branding is going to be all about.”
To listen to the full podcast, click here.
To download the interview transcript, click here.
Want to hear more from Rob? Don’t miss his session, “Best of Breed Branding Consortium” at FUSE 2016 on Tuesday, April 5th at 3:05 PM in Miami, Florida. For more information about the conference or to register, visit the website: http://bit.ly/1PH40fx
Interviewer Dan Madinabeitia is Creative Director and Brand Advisor at Informa, the Global Information Corporation responsible for facilitating business events such as FUSE 2016.
A brand’s message needs to be relevant and authentic to cut through. “Think different”, a hallmark of one of my favorite brands, encouraged me to change my point of view and gave me a kinship with Apple. So much so that I still stand in hour long lines to buy their products as soon as they are released. Literally the only brand that I’d ever do that for.
Authenticity without relevance does not speak. I don’t care that Ivory was the first soap that floats or that Arm & Hammer has been around since the 1860s.
Relevance without authenticity rings hollow. We may all want ice cream from a European creamery but we all know it doesn’t come from Haagen Daz.
And yet when combined, relevant authenticity makes me care. Check out this ad and tell me what they are selling?
Whatever it is, I’m buying.
This post was originally published on Segd.org.
At their best, design competitions promote innovation, creativity, excellence and sheer possibility. Who doesn’t want to be aligned with those? And winning, of course, brings validation and acclaim. But it’s not all about the glory. There is actually a business case to be made for entering design competitions—whether you win or not.
Sure, there’s nothing better than being called up to the stage, walking past an audience full of your peers, to receive an award for your work. That plaque or statue you posed with is a symbol that what you do really matters, right? That your work is respected and recognized. (Cue up the Academy Award music here….)
But let’s stop right there for a minute. External validation is great, but if it’s the ONLY reason you’re entering design competitions, you may want to rethink the investment in time and entry fees it takes to be successful.
Lonny Israel and his Graphics + Branding studio team at Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (San Francisco) have won numerous awards for their work, and Israel acknowledges that the recognition is sweet. “Distinguished jurors weigh in and critique our work, and we’re very grateful for their acknowledgements,” he notes.
But there are other benefits to putting their work “out there” for evaluation. Perhaps they’re less direct than an actual award, but they’re very real, agree Israel and Michael Reed, principal of Mayer/Reed (Portland, Ore.). Here are a few of them.
Preparing submissions demands that your studio organize, document and articulate the value of your work—and that’s a valuable business exercise.
“When we enter a project in a competition, it requires us to organize and document it very clearly to articulate our client’s goals and our design intentions in a very succinct way,” says Israel.
"The act of preparing a submission for a design competition requires revisiting a project and writing a design narrative that validates the visuals,” adds Reed. “This is often a difficult exercise for designers, but it’s essential in truly understanding the underlying value of design. It’s a real learning experience for us because it hones our communication skills and allows us to reflect on the outcomes."
In other words, preparing design competition entries is good practice for presenting your work to clients, community organizations, funders and other stakeholders. Even better, some competitions, such as the SEGD Global Design Awards, require you to describe your work in terms of the client problem/brief and how your design approach solved the problem. When you begin to describe your work in terms of design thinking to meet your clients’ objectives, they will definitely pay attention.
The work can be leveraged for other marketing purposes.
Depending on the design competition, submissions can take hours or even days to complete. Collecting photo assets, crafting a concise project description, gaining client approval to release the material and responding to other entry requirements requires a huge investment in time, especially for smaller studios that don’t have dedicated marketing staff.
That’s why it’s great that your work can do double, triple and even quadruple duty for you—even if you don’t win. You’ve already gathered, documented and written an eloquent project description, right? So make it work for you. Post it as a case study on your website, translate it into a shorter blog or social media post, send out an e-newsletter featuring the project or even use it as the basis for a press release to local and national media. It also represents a tidy media package to present to design publications that may think your project is great (especially if it aligns with an upcoming theme or focus).
It can be a morale booster, motivator and team builder in your organization.
Submitting work to a design competition sends a loud and strong message to your team: "We’re proud of what we do together. We’re so proud, we’re going to show the world." That can be very motivating for the team members involved, especially if you go out of your way to acknowledge everyone in the organization who contributed to the project's success.
If done as a team exercise, working on competition submissions brings even more benefits. In a team meeting, you can contribute and compare ideas about how the work was innovative, powerful or highly effective in solving the client’s problem. Like design work itself, this is definitely a case where shared perspective results in a better outcome. And again, it’s good practice for articulating those values to your clients and potential clients.
Winning = prestige = more clients.
This is the most obvious benefit, of course. No doubt, your ability to add the words “award-winning” in front of your name or project leads to attention, respect and ultimately more business.
Anthony Vitagliano, director of experience design for Digital Kitchen (Chicago) was part of the team that created the architecturally scaled "environmental mediascape" at Los Angeles International Airport's new Tom Bradley International Terminal—the project that won Best of Show in the 2014 SEGD Global Design Awards. Digital Kitchen has won numerous awards for its work, and sees the direct benefits.
“We definitely see more potential client interest and ultimately, more work coming our way due to our awards,” says Vitagliano. “There’s no denying the power of your work being recognized as ‘excellent’ by a highly respected jury of your peers.”
The awards that offer the most credibility and prestige (and promotional punch) are those with established reputations and longevity in a field of design or expertise—such as a professional design association. You may want to be aware of competitions that ask for publication fees in addition to entry fees or communicate a “pay-to-play” vibe. And you may want to invest more in competitions sponsored by respected industry organizations. A client’s business arena or professional association (think healthcare or hospitality design) is also a good source for competitions, especially if you want to win more business in that sector.
Entering means you’re supporting excellence in your field (and that’s good business).
Lea Schuster, graphic designer at RDG Planning & Design (Omaha) says her team has had success in more than one design competition, but they’re selective about which ones they enter.
“We try to be selective by asking ourselves if the award is meaningful,” she explains. “We like to focus on awards that are part of a larger effort by an organization often providing funding for the group. SEGD, IIDA and AIGA are three of the organizations that we submit our work for award consideration. Participating in award programs with those organizations means to us that we are supporting their work to serve the design community through education, camaraderie and elevation of the discipline.”
Pentagram Partner Paula Scher clearly agrees with the idea of being selective. Even though the firm has staff dedicating to preparing award submissions, they recognize the work involved and want to make sure they enter only the competitions that are right for them. She told SEGD recently, "We only enter two awards, the SEGD Global Design Awards and the Type Directors Club."
Recognition not only feels pretty good, but is also a source of connection with your field, your clients and your potential clients.
“In a somewhat indirect way, it contributes to our reputation,” says Israel. “Recognition provides an opportunity to communicate with the industry, past clients and potential clients.” Attending an awards celebration in itself is a source of connection to the field and peers. And winning an award can often provide the opportunity to reconnect with past clients and new ones.
With that in mind, make sure you leverage your award as much as possible for promotional value. Ask the awarding organization if they provide press releases and if not, create your own. Blast the news on your website or blog, start a social media campaign and whatever else you do, make sure you share the credit where credit is due.
Your clients will love it.
Clients love validation, too, and winning an award not only validates their design choices, but their choice of designer. Being quoted in an industry publication, seeing their name on a project credit list or, better yet, being able to show their boss that a company project has been recognized by others, is a valued achievement for your client. Even just submitting the work to a competition in your own or their field signals that you’re confident and proud of the work you did for them. That can only strengthen your relationship and often leads to more work.
Design competitions are great career-starters.
Ask Katie Bevin, a former SEGD student member who entered the SEGD Global Design Awards with her senior project at Massey University (Wellington, New Zealand). Her urban typographic installation won an Honor Award in 2011, and after attending the 2011 SEGD Conference to claim her award, she found herself in high demand as a junior designer.
“Entering the SEGD awards was definitely a turning point in my career,” says Bevin, who now works at Holmes Wood (London) after a stint with Frost* collective. “I was working as an intern in Sydney at the time I entered, looking for my next internship to move onto, when my teammates encouraged me to enter the competition. Winning the award gave me recognition within the large studio, and I feel this was definitely part of the reason I was offered a permanent job soon after winning the award.”
The same scenario applies to young studios working to earn a reputation in a new field. Entering design competitions becomes a smart marketing strategy and a way to make connections in the community. And there’s no better credibility-builder than an award.
And again, it’s not all about winning.
“We design to solve problems for our clients and not to win awards,” says Lea Schuster, RDG Planning & Design. She admits that the recognition is ultimately helpful to her studio’s financial success, but “it means more than that.”
“Sometimes our clients are looking for designers who think differently in the problem-solving process. Other times a client learns that we bring more to the table than they originally thought. When we win an award it instills a subtle level of confidence in our designers and reinforces for our clients that we will strive to deliver a unique and carefully considered solution to them.”
The pressure to connect consumers and brands is more meaningful than ever before. Those who can make the connection are thriving and those who cannot are fading away.
That’s why we sat down with Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief Design Officer, PepsiCo,, who will be speaking at the upcoming FUSE 2016 conference in Miami this spring on PepsiCo’s culture of design-led innovation. Today, FUSE is the only event focused on design as a strategic force in your quest to build brands and businesses that connect beyond compare with consumers.
Porcini shared his insights into how building better brands can change the world, why it’s important for brand strategists and designers to work together, what exactly makes a design “iconic”, what it takes to build a culture of design-led innovation, and more.
Here’s what Porcini had to say:
IIR: How can building better brands and businesses ultimately change the world?
Porcini: Building better brands and businesses may change the world because these two variables greatly impact the life of any human being, every day, directly or indirectly. But better brands and better businesses don’t necessarily imply a better world and a positive impact: it may sometimes even be the opposite.
Therefore I would rephrase the question in a different way: “How can building better brands and businesses ultimately create a better world?” Design can play a unique role in this. The ultimate goal of a designer is – by nature, by culture and by training – the one of feeling, investigating and understanding people’s needs, wants and desires and then developing meaningful solutions and relevant ecosystems of experiences aiming to satisfy and fulfill them. As such, Design puts the human being at the very center of its universe and constantly crafts products, services and brands that can add moments of joy, of comfort, of convenience, of safety, of peace, of fun, of health to the life of people.
All of these experiences are fragments of a broader global happiness that the entire design community can dream of, design and generate, if we are all joined by this vision and this mission.
Design can design a better world. Design should design a better world. Because Design has all the tools to generate a world that is more sustainable from a social, an aesthetic and an ecological point of view. The business world should engage the design world more and more and give designers the right stage to drive this positive change. But to make this happen, the design world must do a better job of understanding that business world, figuring out how to become a relevant and reliable asset, able to generate value and drive growth. The two worlds need to approach each other more and more, understand each other, work with each other and ultimately learn to love each other.
IIR: Why is it so important for consumers and brands to connect?
Porcini: Because we live in a society where people are consumers of stories more than of products or services. A product is like a body, but a body without personality is just an empty shell: the brand is what marketing has invented to give a personality to that product. Designers have the ability, the culture and the training to take that personality to life, in this social media driven society, through visual language and storytelling focused on users and consumers’ needs and wants.
IIR: Why is it important for brand strategists and designers to work collectively?
Porcini: In the past, the design asset was a “nice to have” for the business community. In a world where TV advertising had been the key asset to build brand personality through its controlled content, communication was a one way street. That era is over. Today, the age of social media is radically changing the rules of the game: brands are on stage 24/7, broadcasted every second millions of times a day, and their personality is a topic of conversation – more than a simple one way message.
Additionally, brands are now defined by the synergy of every single touchpoint, from product to packaging, from digital to events, from retail to service. The presence of these multiple touchpoints becomes an incredible asset to build unbelievable and unexpected experiences, especially for smaller and easy-to-control business ventures. They can, however, also become the worst marketing nightmare if a brand doesn’t have a consistent and believable personality. Quite simply, these touchpoints will expose schizophrenic behaviors and any lack of authenticity. In our hyper-connected society, visual language has become the most powerful and intuitive way to convey a meaningful, straight-to-the-guts, memorable message for our brands. And Design – as a discipline, as a function and as a community – generates, manages and controls the brand’s visual language and therefore the meaning associated with it.
The world has changed. In just the past few years, it has become evident that for businesses to survive and strive they must promote a new alliance within their organizations: Design and Marketing must become co-conspirators and need to learn to co-lead the invention, the launch and the management of the brands of the future. That’s Marketing 2.0. And that – also – Design 2.0.
IIR: What makes a design “iconic”?
Porcini: Iconic design is beautiful, memorable, timeless, relevant and meaningful. All of these variables are people-related: you become iconic when people like you, when they remember you, when they don’t get tired of you, when you play a role in their life and when that role gives some form of sense to their life. To be iconic you don’t need to change the world, you may just add some fun to it, some comfort, some taste, some convenience, some safety. Post-it is iconic. Pepsi is iconic. The Apple iPhone is iconic. The traditional Italian Moka Coffe maker is iconic. A Dyson vacuum cleaner is iconic.
IIR: Knowing how consumers will react can be an art and sometimes involves clairvoyance. How have you developed this skill?
Porcini: I love the word you use: “clairvoyance”. I love it because clairvoyance is not a job: it’s a fine blend between a gift and an art. The dictionary defines clairvoyance as, the supposed faculty of perceiving things or events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact and the alleged ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through extrasensory perception.
I remember being fascinated at school by an early clairvoyant: The Cumaean Sibyl. She was the priestess and prophetess – indeed what we would call today a clairvoyant – presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples in Italy. Her prophecies would inform kings and heroes, guiding them in their decisions. When asking my literature and philosophy professor how that was really possible, she gave me an answer that I kept inside my (future) designer’s heart until today. It was about 25 years ago, but she told me something that I like to remember sounded like this: “She was probably an extremely sensitive person and an extraordinary observer of people, facts and events. That was her real gift. On the basis of her perceptions and her observations she then developed the art of crafting believable truths and scenarios of a possible future.”
Well, isn’t that what a designer does or is supposed to do in our everyday life? Observing reality, feeling people, understanding their needs, envisioning their aspirations, and then generating possible solutions. But to really do this you need to be a designer 24/7, not just at work or during a project. One must always be on, senses alerted, antennae up, inner eyes open, hungry for learning, thirsty for experiences, constantly absorbing facts and events. Sooner or later your instincts, assumptions and knowledge will lay a meaningful foundation and provide the ability to transform your projects and your life’s work. Designers must act as a modern-day Cumaean Sybil. That’s a gift and it’s an art. It’s in you, it’s in your life, it is your life, and it is not a job. And you need to nurture it every day. Every single moment of your life.
IIR: What is the biggest challenge about designing for a brand?
Porcini: The biggest challenge is to maintain the brand’s authentic personality while keeping its behavior consistent, sustainable, believable, and yet evolutionary to keep up with the times. The specific challenge of our current age resides in how to be relevant in a hyper-accelerated society without betraying your nature and your heritage. We must grow brands like a person, but dealing with the fact that person is also – or at least aspires to be – a celebrity on stage 24/7 and his ambition must be to engage and never alienate his beloved consumer. As both that person/brand and his consumer are evolving and maturing, but at different paces, in different cultural and geographical contexts, each of them in different stages of their lives.
IIR: What does it take to build a culture of design-led innovation?
Porcini: Your company needs to develop a space for design to exist and express itself in deep integration with the business units but with the right empowerment and freedom. Isolation in ivory towers is the worst mistake. Central to this is the principle of co-leadership between marketing and design, to drive brand building and innovation. Whereas the business leader is the ultimate owner of the brand destiny, marketing and design must be deployed together to create, develop and manage the brand vision and strategy.
To make this happen in a non-design-driven culture, you need both a top down push and a bottom up effort. A top down push requires sponsorship and protection from the CEO or a top executive, while a bottom up effort, integrated across the company, allows the entire body of the organization to own the new design culture and drive it with you, project by project, brand by brand. In order to accelerate effectiveness, you should always hunt for some quick business wins to prove the value of this new culture. This endeavor will sometimes mandate taking shortcuts or compromises and ignoring some chapters of the book of the perfect designer, putting the bigger picture in front of you. Once you acquire the right credibility, trust and a seat at the table within your organization, you will then have time to consolidate all your efforts for the perfect design vision and finally deliver sustainable innovation and long term business results.
To drive all of this you need design leaders with the right characteristics to strive in such situations. Remember: the quality of your design leaders is the most important asset you need and it trumps any process or framework. You need design leaders with knowledge, vision, passion, resilience, optimism, empathy and curiosity. Without them, don’t even start.
IIR: What are you most looking forward to about FUSE 2016?
Porcini: The positive collisions of personal experiences, individual point of views and collective visions of senior design leaders and young creatives. The cultural debate about the past, the present and the future of Design in this hyper-accelerated society, between business experts and design thinkers.
Want to hear more from Mauro Porcini? Join him at FUSE 2016 April 4-6 in Miami. He will be presenting a keynote session, “PepsiCo’s Culture of Design-Led Innovation” and hosting a fireside chat. To learn more or to register for the event, click here: http://bit.ly/1K2zvyJ
Happy New Year from FUSE! Ring in 2016 by saving $650 on FUSE 2016 in Miami!
It's a new year and a new FUSE for 2016, so join us in sunny Miami, FL April 4-6. This year's conference will be held at the beautiful Nobu Eden Roc. The Eden Roc brings all things alluring to Miami Beach - yet never without a dash of the unexpected. With its Collins Avenue location, this resort flawlessly blends tropical Miami style with decades of timeless glamour.
Join these great speakers in Miami!
· Why Beauty Matters: Stefan Sagmeister, Co-Founder, Sagmeister & Walsh
· The Evolution of Do-Good Marketing: Ellen Gustafson, Author, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder, FEED
· PepsiCo’s Culture of Design-Led Innovation: Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief Design Officer, PespiCo
Download the brochure for a complete list of speakers: http://bit.ly/1ZPR9Pl
FUSE 2016 is the only event focused on design as a strategic force in your quest to build brands and businesses that connect beyond compare with consumers. Filled with inspiring sessions in an exciting and vibrant location like Miami, FUSE 2016 is sure to ignite your passion to create iconic design.
Save $550 with code FUSE16EM5. Plus, use code FUSE16LI for an additional $100 off. Register today: http://bit.ly/1ZPR9Pl
We hope to see you in Miami this spring!
The FUSE Team