• Transform magazine
  • September 22, 2018

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Craft and strategy of brand development at Transform Conference Europe

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At the Transform Conference Europe, speakers explored sensory branding, brand experience, creative innovation, language and typeface design and much more

Transform Conference: The morning sessions

The Transform Europe Conference morning sessions, one stream of which was held in the Brewery’s King Vault room, were eclectic to say the least. From branding motorsport, to typography, to the power of language in branding, the conference attendees enjoyed a programme that encompassed the breadth of brand experience – and fundamentally addressed why branding relies on clear communication strategy.

For first speaker Nick Podmore, founder of brand language consultancy Schwa, brand engagement is most clearly achieved through language. Selecting the right words, language patterns and tone of voice provides clarity for customers often overwhelmed with all manner of confusing brand offerings. It’s key, says Podmore, to remember that making the offer sound valuable, creating a sense of loss aversion and phrasing an offer around a pre-commitment are just a few of the simple steps for brands to secure uptake and, crucially, buy-in.

Krista Radoeva, senior type designer at London-based type foundry Fontsmith, demonstrated why font choice, despite often being overlooked, is crucial to a streamlined brand offering. “Typography is voice. It’s the context of your story,” says Radoeva. It’s important that typeface is designed and tested in a way similar to how the recipient brand wishes to use it, and that the typeface design is authentic to the brand aims. Notions of authenticity were also reflected in the preceding Transform Tales slot, during which Lene Nielsen, managing director of brand consultancy Greenspace, explained the drive towards completion of its truly global Kibo motorbike brand. Planned in Holland, assembled in Kenya and designed by the London-based Greenspace, the bikes ease the burden of travelling along Kenya’s sometimes dangerous off-road tracks. Its final design reflects how collaboration and research between countries and organisations can create a result unique to its country of operation.

And in a morning defined by the importance of developing effective, authentic brand experiences, a perhaps standout insight came from Steven Aspinall, head of design at sustainable racing organisation Formula E. Aspinall’s talk, bookended by insightful discussions on effective user-centred retail design by Alessandra Mariana, strategist at brand consultancy Fitch, and Laia Zanon, director of creative production at Wildbytes respectively, demonstrated why creating a brand experience that aligns with a brand’s core purpose is fundamental to its future success. With around 320 million viewers annually and sustainability at the core of its offering, Aspinall demonstrated how, through an immersive and family-oriented brand experience, Formula E successfully differentiates itself from its historic cousin, Formula One. It also tied well with the earlier place branding panel session - the design team takes each Formula E host city, explains Aspinall, and designs the brand experience around what it has to offer. This creates events tailored to each audience according to location and allows Formula E fans to feel truly integrated into the brand.

Before breaking for lunch, delegates were treated to another Transform Tales, courtesy of Gregg Finlay, partner at brand and marketing consultancy Prophet. Displaying his team’s award-winning strategy behind the rebrand of Austrian banking group Addiko Bank, Finlay’s core message lay in the power of research and development. It’s not enough, says Finlay, to simply stay put and assume the preference of those who use and work in the bank on a daily basis - designers must spend time in the markets. Using this hands-on approach, Prophet ascertained the importance of physical banking, particularly in Addiko’s key market of Serbia. As a result, it was able to create a brand that resonated with customers and staff alike, focusing on Addiko’s strong community relations to develop a new name, identity and marketing collateral around the theme of authenticity and problem-solving.

Transform Conference: The afternoon sessions

Following a diverse set of speakers and topics in the morning sessions at the Transform Conference Europe was a focus on audiovisual branding and the power of a creative idea.

Two speakers discussed the ways in which brands work with audio communications. For Alexander Wodrich, managing director of audio branding agency Why Do Birds, developing a sonic brand requires more than simply addressing a sound logo. He discussed his work with Siemens in which an audio logo was merely the centrepiece of a wider brand strategy. Siemens used human voices, technologically inspired sounds and Siemens own brand equity to develop an audio gradient and full sonic brand. The new brand launched with the ‘Siemens Ringtone Challenge’ in which employees created their own versions of the Siemens audio brand on various different instruments and apparatuses.

Thom Noble, co-founder of CloudStrata, also discussed the impact of audio through an interactive session. He explored the ways in which different voices and manners of speaking can influence users interpretations of the brand. Voice allows people to conjure up their own images, he said, thus brands should be careful when selecting the right voice for their brand.

The afternoon sessions also examined the ways in which creatives can select the right imagery for the brand, to great effect. In the first of two case studies, Majid Ashgar, MD of brand agency Bell, discussed his work with the University of Reading. Bell was tasked to “Transform an institution that many students considered a second choice. We needed to transform it into a clear first choice university,” he said. “It meant we had to think very differently about education and how we can market to students.” The biggest challenge Reading faced was its unknown status. But it turned out to be an advantage for Bell, as it was able to develop a student-centric, colourful and bold strategy that ignored the competition and focused instead on an individual approach Reading could take. The results were strong. Brand familiarity increased by 11%, there was a 21% increase in applications and a 17% increase in open day attendance.

Finally, Gilmar Wendt, founder of brand agency GW+Co, talked about his work with ThornEco, a lighting brand that was in the dark, brand wise. With a stroke of genius, and maybe a bit of irreverence, someone suggested to give all of the lighting company’s products a human name. The client responded, “This is a revolution!” The shift in thinking led to a change in the conversation around the development of the product family. Instead of positioning them as simply a type of light, they had characteristics and personality developed around them, giving ThornEco a new way of marketing its range. Like Reading, the results were immediate proof of success. There was a 301% increase in sales, but also a 350% increase in wholesalers picking up the products – a key metric in the trade-driven market.

The conference also featured two separate streams on branding in the charity sector and branding in the legal sector. For more coverage, see transformmagazine.net.

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