• Transform magazine
  • June 20, 2018

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Insights: Creating legacy matters

Lene Nielson.png

At the Transform Awards MENA 2018, the best in rebranding and brand development was celebrated. Greenspace is one of this year's winners

Short-term thinking has two major evolutionary advantages: it helps us to escape danger (‘I’m being chased by a lion – quick, jump into that thorn bush.’), and it prompts us to exploit available resources (‘Winter is coming, eat cake.’). But it can have consequences (‘I’m covered in thorns;’ ‘I feel sick.’). The problem with short-term thinking is that it’s uniquely suited to the short term. Jump into enough thorn bushes, eat enough cake, and life becomes uncomfortable.

Climate change, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, public underinvestment – we are living with the consequences of short-term thinking on a grand scale. But there are signs the mood is shifting. At Greenspace, we work with organisations and brands that want to create lasting beneficial change for the society and sectors they are in or entering. When meeting a new client, our first question is always, ‘What is the legacy you would like to create?’ It is an unusual question, but a fundamental one. To help answer it, and to create a clearly defined legacy strategy, we have developed a simple five-step tool called ‘creating legacy.’

Creating legacy understands that at the heart of your organisation is an enduring idea. An idea sparked by an observation about a way in which the world could be better. This founding vision generates commitment from directors, employees and customers. It drives a brand’s purpose, continued relevance and success. However, the daily challenges of running a business can obscure the clarity of its original mission. This limits the effectiveness of strategies intended to improve your business’s future, and wastes opportunities to create beneficial change.

Step one of creating legacy is to get to the ultimate destination of your brand’s journey. We do this by asking the vital question, “What is the legacy you are aiming to create?” The answer retrieves its original purpose. We are currently working with Kibo, a social mobility startup in Kenya that makes safe, reliable motorbikes. When we met Kibo’s owner – a Dutch social entrepreneur – he expressed the legacy he aims to create as, “Unlocking opportunities by providing access to safe and reliable mobility to as many people as possible.” This led straight into a brand strategy, communications and Kibo’s launch, and we are now working on a flagship store in Nairobi. Kibo is a thriving organisation, peopled by a passionate workforce, and is creating a positive legacy for the community it serves.

Long-term thinking is the hallmark of all our projects, including a legacy-driven rebrand and website for architectural legend Zaha Hadid. We worked hard to put every building, model or sketch she ever made into a huge online archive, available to all. At Heineken Greenspace, a project to which we gave our name, we created a brand experience whose impact, both for Heineken and the city of Valencia, lived on far beyond launch night. Ambitious lateral thinking and research saw us work closely with Valencia’s urban regeneration strategy, transforming the derelict warehouse into a much-loved cultural venue that lives on 15 years later.

On an even bigger scale is our work with Toyota and Al-Futtaim Motors in the UAE. Appointed to create the interior for Toyota’s flagship showroom, instead of saying “How can we create a nice-looking design for this?” we sought to understand the long-term ambitions of those involved, the market and the local culture. This resulted in a pioneering experiential showroom that celebrates 60 years of history with a future-focused retail flagship leading the way for automotive brands in the region.

Creating legacy prompts real conversations and creates ideas that genuinely move people. It gets to the heart of what drives people in their work, the desire to create positive and lasting value.

We advocate rediscovering the original impetus for your business, identifying the legacy you would like it to leave, and forming a strategy that embodies these positive values. Doing so will propel your business forward, and benefit the markets your brand moves through.

View your organisation and the world with a long-term mindset. Build a lion sanctuary. Invent healthy cakes.

Lene Nielsen is managing director at Greenspace