• Transform magazine
  • June 15, 2021

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Success can no longer be measured by bottom line

Simon Wright

Simon Wright, managing director of design agency Greenwich Design, argues that brands can no longer measure success purely on commercial values, but must consider new elements including sustainability, diversity and inclusion and the environment.

Working on the visual identity for 5G RuralDorset has been a fascinating project, not least because when we were briefed, we were told by the client that success wouldn’t be determined by traditional attitudes to commercial success. For years, commercial brands have been measuring success based on the bottom line, but for a public service sector project like this, success can come in a number of different forms. For 5G RuralDorset, the objective is to research the ways in which 5G connectivity can help people live safer and more prosperous lives, even in rural communities. Whilst it might be true that good brand awareness can attract project extension funding, it is the effect of the brand on the community and their perception of the work being carried out that is important.

As designers, our challenge then was to create visual communications that would engage the people of rural Dorset and demonstrate how 5G could benefit the community, allowing them to understand and feel comfortable with the research the project is undertaking. The demographic of the target audience was broad – from students to octogenarians – but what they all had in common was their Dorset ties. It was this human element that inspired our creative route – the connection between the Dorset people, the dramatic Jurassic coastline and the colours of the rural landscape. Our visual identity felt modern, transformative and optimistic, yet maintained the essence of the local community, while representing the possibilities of 5G.

We worked on a similar project for the natural energy company, LNG Canada. LNG wanted to engage local tribal communities to help them understand how they could benefit from the commercial development of natural gas fields on the west coast of Canada. While some may have seen the potential, there was a danger that visions of refineries and smoking chimneys would cloud people’s thought process. Our purpose was to create a brand identity that focussed on the community – being friendly, and creating a conversation that would appeal to a broad scope of people.

Again, the use of colour and the local geography was key in creating a visual identity that resonated with locals. It was important to create a brand that was open to connecting with the community, to be part of it, rather than talking at people. Success was based upon how many people we were able to engage in the discussion, rather than the final outcome. Before the brand was created only 50% of the community were turning up to the local town hall to find out what was going on. After our branding project, that engagement increased to 85%.

It’s an approach that I think many businesses can and should consider. In the post-Covid-19 world, consumers are becoming even more socially conscious. Brands are under pressure to influence change on environmental and social issues, so measuring success based purely on commercial values is becoming less relevant. Every business case has to consider new factors, such as sustainability, the environment, and diversity and inclusion – things that are likely to cost the business money rather than make money, but that make that brand more appealing to consumers. Success can no longer be based on the bottom line alone but rather on how a business meets its broader goals. 

The preservation of the Amazon rainforest is an extreme example of how a socially conscious approach could pan out. If we look at it through the lens of a ‘traditional’ business model, the rainforest only has a commercial value once you start to develop it. However, we now know the environmental impact that development has on biodiversity and the loss of carbon reduction in the atmosphere when we cut down trees. Perhaps it’s time to put a price on preserving the environment – Brazil could potentially charge the rest of the world a large sum of money to keep the rainforest intact. It could become a sustainable commercial venture by literally doing nothing – a solution that takes into account the local community, whilst also preserving the environmental needs of the planet.

This balance between serving the needs of local communities whilst also considering the future, brings us back to 5G RuralDorset. We’re pleased to have created a visual identity that allows the people of Dorset to feel part of the research being conducted into the future of connectivity in the region. We consider it a success for Greenwich Design, even more so after receiving our Transform Award shortlist nomination for the work!