• Transform magazine
  • September 22, 2019

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Five Minutes With Fiona Florence

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As the managing director of design agency JDO, Fiona Florence has experience working for brands people live with on a daily basis, including Dove, Ponds, Budweiser and Peroni. She discusses challenges, sustainability and best practice in working with consumer brands

What are the biggest challenges in designing brands and products for day-to-day use?

The world has changed massively. We have always been working with fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands, but there are a lot of challenges for all at the moment. Even we at JDO had to truncate our process. Clients want results in warp speed and we just have to respond to that without compromising our strategic thinking, or the creative quality of the work that we do. We have to find shortcuts. If it fails, it fails and we move on. As a general rule of thumb, don’t keep throwing money at something if it doesn’t work; the market is moving so quick you just have to adapt or die.

How do you approach discoverability with consumer brands? How can you craft a brand that stands out?

Branding doesn’t stop at purchase. Many clients today are asking to see a product in harmony with the rest of the brand world, and never in isolation. Agencies now work together to try and create a brand world where you get the experience, the resonance, the standout. It’s a much more holistic way of thinking now. Be it pre-tail, retail, post-tail, you must find that relevance, and digital strategies play a big part in that. And once the customer has actually made that purchase, they still have to feel some of that experience too.

How important is to take risks in consumer branding, and why?

When you work with big brands, you have to respect a number of guidelines and visual assets you are provided with. But there are certain touch points you can be riskier with. Some brands have adopted limited editions and signature editions, which turn the waters without massively upsetting the master brand. You can’t always be brave, but you can still have a safe rebellion within some quite restricted guidelines: Jack Daniel’s, for instance, dares a bit more with advertising and digital campaigns, but you can’t touch the brand’s packaging. Of course, independent brands are always gonna be braver and take more risks. But we always try to push, because you can’t afford to look ‘too safe’ today.

What are the best steps towards sustainable design and packaging?

Sustainability is at the top of every brief, at the moment, and it’s a great moment to work towards it. As an agency, we have to keep looking at the trends and keep an eye on what’s out there. A lot of sustainable partners come tell us how we can work with different organisations towards sustainability, and some historic competitors are collaborating as well; Pepsi and Coca-Cola are working right now on a few sustainability initiatives, and it feels great to see some of them united for a bigger purpose.

How do you develop a strong creative strategy?

We start every project with strategic thinking. It’s all the preparation we need before we get going. Don’t underestimate the importance of a brief: once you are completely unequivocal on the direction you’re going to, you know you have good evaluation criteria. And you can set those criteria with your client. Avoid cold client-agency relationships; design is collaboration. Collaborative and strong, robust rigorous strategic thinking at the outset can lead to great results, when paired with conscious immersion in a brand.

And manage your expectations. You are not going to get to a solution in the first few days. You’ve got to respect the design process. We will go as fast as we possibly can, we will put seniors and very experienced people on the project, but we thrive on collaboration and the feedback we get from clients to get to the final result – a better, stronger solution than the one we had at the start.

What is the best example of innovation in consumer brands you have seen in recent years?

Today, authenticity, transparency, social purpose and sustainability are high on everyone's agenda – and for very good reasons. A growing proportion of the population is simply living values more consciously and looking for them in the products they use. As designers, we are problem solvers that have the power to change the world for brands who want to be brave. To that end, we at JDO collaborated with Shell in designing its Loop lubricant range in refillable vessels, which launched last month.

Loop is a new system, a groundbreaking global platform that enables FMCG brands to shift from a disposable supply chain to a durable one. The result is a convenient and reusable structure, that is also quite simply brave, minimal and gorgeous.

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