• Transform magazine
  • April 22, 2018

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Insights: Every branding problem you can think of – in one client

GW+Co - gilmar wendt.png

Over the last two years, we’ve worked on just about any B2B branding problem you can have – with one client, in one field. The client was Zumtobel Group, one of the largest players in the global lighting industry.

The challenges were many. How do you turn a white label business into an own label brand? How do you launch a disruptive services startup in a product focused environment? How do you rejuvenate a brand that lost its innovative edge? How do you get a UK brand ready for international expansion? And how do you launch a value product into a commoditised trade market? Last but not least, how do you find a platform to present multiple brands together when that’s what the market requires?

Personally, I relish these types of assignment. It allows us to get under the skin of the business and while doing so, combine what we learn from people with an outsider’s perspective to shape vision and goals, and to then make it happen.

But in this day and age, bringing in a solution from the outside is not enough. Management need to be convinced, sure, but no business will thrive if you don’t engage its people in the process of transformation. True collaboration is required, and intensely so.

As lead creative agency, we worked closely with the global marketing team, the brand managers, HR, PR, strategy and research teams. Our programmers aligned with Zumtobel Group’s IT team. We created visual systems that allowed the in-house designers and local agencies to create their own brand assets. We built up a coherent story from the elements of multiple initiatives. None of this is easy, and it requires openness on both sides that can be difficult to find in a traditional client/agency relationship.

But when it works, it can work wonders. I’m all the more delighted that we have won awards for three of these projects at this year’s Transform Awards. As a set, they show how powerful our core communication tools – ideas, visuals and language – can be when paired with strategic thinking, customer focus and a collaborative spirit.

Here are three takeaways:

First, the right visual property can turn something grubby into something utterly appealing.

Reiss makes lighting for extreme environments where failure could be catastrophic. We created its new logo as a light and exposed it to the most extreme treatments: fire, water, gas, ice and falling rocks. Captured with a high-speed camera and played in slow-motion, it looks serenely beautiful and gets the message across; when lighting gets tough, our lights keep going.

Second, the right creative strategy can make a massive difference to the bottom line.

Thorneco is a new trade brand for the replacement market. There are hundreds of similar products at similar prices, with similar names. Our disruption was to humanise them. We gave them real names (which also works well across the 17 global markets they’re sold in) and human traits. It made them memorable, and charming. Because our client team believed in taking a different approach, they were rewarded with an incredible growth of 300% in sales in just three months.

Finally, the right language can give a business’s local roots a global appeal.

When one of your values is ‘we laugh, fight and stick together like a family’ you can expect some emotion. We experienced all of it, and playing on the northern English roots, turned the essence of what that means into a language that can be understood, appreciated and even loved by people thousands of miles away from Lancaster, so the business can stay true to its roots and still trade with the world.

In collaborations, when a project is completed, it’s often the little things that stay in the memory. My favourite moment was when we sat in a meeting for Thorneco and I suggested the naming idea. After a short pause, a guy called Charly got up, exclaimed, “This is a revolution!” and left the room. 10 minutes later he returned and said, “I have spoke to the product mangers, we’ll do it!”

There were plenty more hurdles to overcome, but I knew at that moment we jointly had the enthusiasm and drive to make it happen. Which I’m glad to say, we did.

Gilmar Wendt is principal at GW+Co