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.

Today I met the brand icon, Martha Stewart. When I was in my 20s, I was intrigued by her. In my 30s, I learned from her. In my 40s, I envied her. Now, at the wonderful age of 50, I admire her. Why? Because she is fearless.

We’ve watched Martha build an empire, potentially fall from grace and emerge (wearing a stylish and sassy poncho) more bad-ass than ever. I use the term bad-ass with the utmost respect. I think Martha would approve because her drive comes from a deep desire to provide her followers with the very same recipes, home ideas, products and “Good Things” that Martha herself wants to have in her own home and life. When it comes to brand authenticity, there is no better example. In fact, she stated very directly, Martha Stewart the person, the company and brand are the same thing. Martha described what she does as “demystifying the difficult and simple.” Curiosity drives her as a person which fuels the company and the brand.

After the general session moderated by the amazing Christine Mau, we had an opportunity to have a more intimate session with Martha. Thirty of us gathered in a semi-circle with eager eyes fixated on Martha. I wonder if she gets tired of the attention, but she was so kind and patient to indulge all of our questions. 

Knowing this opportunity was coming, I labored over the last few days deciding what I would ask. This was a unique opportunity to speak directly with one of the most successful business women of our time. Excitedly, I asked the very first question. We sat 10 feet from each other, she turned her attention my way and I said, “Martha, thank you for the path you have paved for women in business. You seem fearless. Is there anything that scares you?”

With a little smile, Martha replied, “No. Personally, I’m probably not likely to skydive. But in business, nothing really scares me.” I was not surprised by her answer and I was not surprised that her answer came without hesitation. Martha Stewart oozes confidence and strength. She's been celebrated for her successes and yes, she’s been criticized for being arrogant. She's been roasted and parodied. With no shame or excuses, she even acknowledged that she's been called a b*&#!. Why? Because she’s direct, she knows how she wants her brand managed and she has the highest of expectations. 

As a woman in business, I understand the struggles that come with confidence and direct behaviors. I’ve felt the negativity and I’ve heard the B-word whispered behind my back for the same reasons. As questions swirled around managing this type of situation in the corporate world she said, “It's not a gender thing. It’s not so much about 'leaning-in' anymore. It’s more about doing things your own way with confidence.” It's a fearless behavior and I admire Martha for the leadership. 

In all, spending a few hours with Martha at FUSE today was delightful, educational and inspiring. She shared her perspective on leadership, how she has built a culture that fosters creativity and how she finds inspiration through travel experiences. While on a recent safari vacation with her grandchildren, she made a necklace out of water lily reeds. (Of course she did!) Someday she would love to have a pet Eagle. And when asked about a most significant business decision that she made in the past, she cites the collaboration with Kmart. With strategic vision, Martha worked hard to convince Kmart execs that their shoppers wanted, needed and deserved higher quality towel and bedding products. And boy, was she right. Her products flew off the shelves.  

Thank you, Martha, for sharing your insights with us. And thank you for the past 30 years of demystifying the difficult and simple. As one last fun note, are you curious to know a few of her favorite "Good Things?" When asked, she cited (1) painting garden tools a bright color so you can always find them in the garden beds, and (2) using a beautiful, stylish bottle to hold basic kitchen soap so it looks pretty on your sink. I agree, those are very Good Things. 

I look forward to what comes next from Martha. She shared a bit about a wine club soon to be launched. And I'm more curious than ever about her collaboration with Snoop Dogg. She says he's a really nice guy. Ok, Martha, I'll take your word for it. 😉

Director of Client Experience

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

I have an embarrassing confession! For over 10 years, I’ve been working as a graphic designer, art director, creative director and everything in between. Today was the FIRST time the idea of designing a website as ADA compliant was brought to my attention thanks to the inspiring Steve Gates, global head of design at Citi. As he was enthusiastically speaking about Atomic Design and defining the best steps to develop the most affective brand and digital experience, he casually mentioned that, “the form fields and interactivity needs to be ADA compliant”. I literally sat up straight in my chair and said out loud, “I’m such an asshole”!

How was I NEVER aware of this?! It seems like such an obvious requirement and being in the professional creative world for so long, I can honestly say I’m embarrassed. Public buildings are required to have entry ramps and elevators, busses have lifts, cross walk lights make sound, signs and books are written in brail, ticket booths have audio options, why on earth wouldn’t a website be designed and developed to successfully communicate to those with disabilities? Gates’s presentation did not focus on this topic, but from this second - that’s all I could focus on. 

So, I started researching and found old news from 2010. Seven years later. Thanks Steve - really, thanks Steve - for saving me from further years of embarrassment. In September of 2010, The Department of Justice published the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design which says that all electronics and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities. We know the Americans with Disabilities Act became a law in 1990 and that it prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities in jobs, schools, transportation and all public places.

Of COURSE websites, apps, and everything else digital should be easily accessible to everyone. I was hoping I was the only designer living under a rock and not yet taken this into consideration with digital design planning, but as I’m sitting here trying to find research about how the ADA influences graphic design and development, I sadly can’t find much information or articles. Are other designers as unaware as I am? If so, we all need to be better.

The most helpful information I could find was in an article from I learned that the ADA applies mainly to businesses with over fifteen employees, which made me feel slightly better about my lack of knowledge as I work with small companies, but I still feel awful on a personal moral and consideration level. The article went on to say that small companies and freelancers can benefit by complying because they can potentially attract more clients and liabilities will be limited. The article also provided a digital criteria list from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If your website or digital design meets everything on this list, then it most likely is easily accessible to people with disabilities:
  • Every image, video file, audio file, plug-in, etc. has an alt tag
  • Complex graphics are accompanied by detailed text descriptions
  • The alt descriptions describe the purpose of the objects
  • If an image is also used as a link, make sure the alt tag describes the graphic and the link destination
  • Decorative graphics with no other function have empty alt descriptions (alt= "")
  • Add captions to videos
  • Add audio descriptions
  • Create text transcript
  • Create a link to the video rather than embedding it into web pages
  • Add a link to the media player download
  • Add an additional link to the text transcript
  • The page should provide alternative links to the Image Map
  • The <area> tags must contain an alt attribute
  • Data tables have the column and row headers appropriately identified (using the <th> tag)
  • Tables used strictly for layout purposes do NOT have header rows or columns
  • Table cells are associated with the appropriate headers (e.g. with the id, headers, scope and/or axis HTML attributes)
  • Make sure the page does not contain repeatedly flashing images
  • Check to make sure the page does not contain a strobe effect
  • A link is provided to a disability-accessible page where the plug-in can be downloaded
  • All Java applets, scripts and plug-ins (including Acrobat PDF files and PowerPoint files, etc.) and the content within them are accessible to assistive technologies, or else an alternative means of accessing equivalent content is provided
  • When form controls are text input fields use the LABEL element
  • When text is not available use the title attribute
  • Include any special instructions within field labels
  • Make sure that form fields are in a logical tab order
  • Include a ‘Skip Navigation' button to help those using text readers
(via U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

While this list is helpful, it’s smart to ask people with disabilities test your website and report back with changes and improvements. Moving forward, I will be taking ADA compliant design into consideration and making a creative plan of how to work this stage of design and development into the workflow process.

Thanks for opening my mind, Steve Gates.

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.

"Everything is people-centered."

The first day of Fuse is nearly wrapped up, and it's clear that everyone's focus is on one thing: creating memorable experiences for people. Not consumers - people.

Taking that to heart, below you will find easy and digestible summaries from a few of the presentations so far. Think theSkimm but with more uses of the word "innovation".

Christian Martinez: Communication In A Mobile-First World

Overarching point: Our desire to connect is what makes us human, and though the methods we use to communicate change dramatically, the desire for trust and community will always remain constant.

Key takeaways + stats:
-One minute of video is equal to 1.8 million words to our brains.
-It is estimated 75% of all mobile data will be video by 2020.
-90% of the information that we receive is visual.

So...what does this mean for me?
Visual language, particularly video, is essential for brands to make real connections with their audiences.

Memorable quote: “There is an expectation to take people with you on an adventure - our desire to connect is what makes us human. It has always been about trust and community.”

Vince Voron: Leveraging In-House Creatives to Inspire Innovation

Overarching point: Pay attention to all of the interactions a customer makes with your brand, and focus time, money, and resources into making those enjoyable and memorable.

Key takeaways + stats:
-Look for ordinary moments and make them extraordinary.
-Systems are needed to keep a company's design strategy in line.
-Individuals within a company can effect big change.

So...what does this mean for me?
Designers need to take a seat in the boardroom as well as invite the C-Suite execs into the design studio.

Memorable Quote: “Empowering passions in your company can lead to inspiring innovations.”

Brian Robinson: A Tale of Resiliency, Imagination, and the Power of Curiosity

Overarching point: Failure leads to resiliency, resiliency leads to creativity, and creativity leads to innovation.

Key takeaways + stats:
-An unbridled imagination is at the heart of innovation.
-We need to learn to be courageous and test new ideas.
-People respond more positively when they see resiliency in others rather than acts of "winning".

So...what does this mean for me?
If you want to build resilient teams, empower them to get knocked down.

Memorable quote: "It’s time to lose. It’s time to get knocked out so you learn to fight back. And it’s time to innovate at your most vulnerable moment."

Gillian Ferrabee: Engaging Your Audience Through Play

Overarching point: Play is necessary to grow and learn.

Key takeaways + stats:
-Humans are the only animal that play after adulthood.
-The stakes need to be at a comfortable level, because if they are too high we go into survival mode and creativity stops.
-When you're having fun and engaging in play, your brain remembers more and you are more likely to learn.

So...what does this mean for me?
If you want to learn and grow, both individually and with a team, there needs to be a comfortable environment to try new things.

Memorable quote: “Think about what you liked to do as a kid and try to do that thing for the rest of your life.”

The theme for FUSE this year is Change by Design. Change seems to be a recurring theme within a lot of general conversations. Why? Because change is inevitable, necessary and we as human beings like/need to talk about things that scare us. Change is scary. And as Clark Scheffy from IDEO stated, change is also hard. Today’s speakers collectively addressed the topic of Change by Design from very different experiences. It was a day filled with inspiring lessons learned from Facebook, Dolby, Coke, Apple, Citi, Kiehl’s, Kellogg’s and new to FUSE (I think), DreamWorks Animation and Cirque du Soleil. My main takeaway from today is what I am calling Ring Lesson #2 – Fight with Anxiety-Inducing Creativity. (I shared Ring Lesson #1 prior to the conference. You can see that here.)

Here's what pleasantly surprised me today. You see, as a design professional, we expect to hear about design, design-thinking, design leaders, design, design, design day-in and day-out at these events. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, right? Well, not so. A common thread coming through today was less about Design and more about creativity and play. Did you notice that one of our gathering rooms is even called the Learn and Play room? I spent a lot of time in that room today. 

On creativity, we were reminded loud and clear that we live in the days of experimentation and need for flexibility. The world moves so fast that we need to be able to adapt and overcome, constantly. Further, Stephen Gates, the gregarious Global Head of Design at Citi very directly stated that companies want creativity. Design is only one of the many outputs of creativity. If we only focus on design, we become a commodity. We know there is always someone who can "design" faster and cheaper. Creating an environment that fosters creativity produces something so much bigger and more valuable. Change the way a company thinks, you’ll change the way it behaves. It sounds like Gates has had great success in helping Citi leaders recognize the need for creativity and ultimately loosen the reins that had constricted the brand in the past. Leading with creativity.

Brian Robinson of DreamWorks Animation shared his history of risk-taking for brands including Target and JCP. With tremendous energy Brian shared how his past failures created resiliency. Brian had some harrowing, anxiety-inducing experiences. These experiences, losing and feeling failure is what leads the most innovative brands toward success. Similar to Stephen Gates' perspective on unleashing creativity, Brian leads by empowering a team to get "knocked out." Failure allows space to grow and learn. It's ok to lose (contrary to what helicopter parents tell their children!). When you get knocked out, it's time to fight. Courage breaks the boundaries of innovation.

Gillian Ferrabee, former Director Creative Lab at Cirque du Soleil brought it all together for me at the end of the day. Energy exudes from Gillian. (I am thinking about inviting her to my next girls weekend. She'd be a blast.) Toward the beginning of Gillian's talk she said, "the most sustainable relationships are based on creativity, wonder and play." Yes! When we use creativity to design experiences we have opportunities to engage, pull people in and create a bond. Gillian pulled me in to her talk through her creativity and storytelling. She commanded the FUSE stage and I now feel connected to her as a person. Whatever she's selling, I'm buying. 

Leading up to FUSE, the Capsule team has been digging in to the disturbing statistic that people wouldn't care if 73% of the brands in their lives disappeared. Again, to be in that 27% of brands that people hold dear, I say, it's time to fight with anxiety-inducing creativity. Make some mistakes and come back even stronger. 

With all of this in mind, I am looking forward to meeting Martha Stewart tomorrow. She knows a thing or two about "knock-outs," resiliency and coming back stronger than ever. 

Until then, I'll see you at Fontainebleau for some FUSE cocktails.

Director of Client Experience



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