Five minutes with David Kimpton
David Kimpton is the founder of London-based Kimpton Creative. His design consultancy won big at the Transform Awards Europe 2022, scooping up two golds, a silver, a bronze, and the prestigious Grand prix award for its work with creative recruitment consultants Mustard. David explains his thinking behind the project and what its success means for his firm.
This whole project hinged on the idea that the creative recruitment industry has changed. How was that so, and why was Mustard’s brand therefore deemed insufficient?
Mustard had been 12 years or so in business and had noticed that the industry had just become so much more picky. It's our nature as creatives to be picky I think anyway, but what [Mustard's director, Ian Coulson] was saying was that the requests were just getting more and more extreme. So, for example, not only looking for somebody with packaging experience, but they also needed speak Italian as well. It's about finding a good pool of people that have crossover skills, which is challenging. Inevitably it means that he's got to find as many people as he can to be able to build this pool for himself.
And that was really where he was. He had a campaign and a brand image over a period of time that he felt had gotten a bit worn away. He'd done everything he could with it that was mustard related; pots of mustard and all the phrases that related to hot mustard and so on. He felt he had exhausted that and needed a new kind of impetus.
This idea of pickiness became a strong theme, and I could see what that meant as a designer because, of course, we're designers. We knew our audience very well and that gave us a great opportunity, I think, to go a little bit off-piste because the other thing is that Ian, as a person, is quite different. He's quite a character, he's very personable and you don't forget him in a hurry. To be given the opportunity to go off-piste - to position them outside of the normal mould of recruitment consultants - was just one of those ideal briefs you get as a designer.
How does that translate to the nuts and bolts of a branding project, such as the logotype, copy style and colour palette?
It started with mulling over how pickiness works and what that means as designers. Initially it started with the logo because we saw the word 'must' in the name mustard. We'd already been throwing around phrases that express the same sentiment that it's an absolute must that people get recruitment right. From that, it led to other words almost like the Ten Commandments. You know, 'thou shalt', 'you can', 'you must' and so. We could see a kind of language there which I rather liked and that there was a power in those words.
I think with the colours we realised that it was important as a part of this brand to do something that was well crafted. This is partly because, as a designer, when you pick up a mailer on your desk it either feels like a leaflet and goes straight in the bin or it feels like something that's beautifully crafted, has a sort of weight and texture to it and so it's about how you interact with it. We felt that we wanted to go down that road and we pushed Ian to spend the money in crafting. He very much became part of the conversation about colours because he works with quite a lot of contemporary design agencies, and I think he wanted it to have a little bit of a surprising feel with an interesting combination of colours. That was nice for us to be able to explore.
The project was very provocative. Did you ever doubt the strategy along the way and how it would be received, given it was so bold?
Yes! We road tested it - which we don't normally do - but because of the nature of our audience here, as in colleagues, associates, peers, we felt comfortable sharing it with some of our friends. We asked them some questions about it: "were they offensive or would you take it in the right way?" For instance, one of [the brand messages] said something like, 'We love anal'. The idea was obviously that it draws you in and when you read on it immediately becomes clear that, when you refer to anal, you're referring to being anal and the importance of concerning yourself with all the detail. It's immediately clever in the sense that there's a double meaning, but it's also risqué in the sense that some people just think, "Oh, they're just using rude words." But most people responded very well to it and were relaxed with it.
Does it feel like your agency has now pushed onto another level following your work with Mustard and the feedback it received, not just from the client but from the creative community as well?
I hope so! I think it's fair to say that that was a highlight of our Kimpton Creative career, a sort of moment in time that I think we can look back on, take pride in and trumpet because that is not an insubstantial achievement. I think recognition from marketing directors from the industry, as opposed to designer peers, is more important. The question then is, where does it take us? I guess time will tell what that does for us.
Do you feel the nature of branding projects is changing and calling for bolder, louder messaging? Or was the Mustard project a rather unique situation which called specifically for that approach?
I think they are. The whole sort of branding process has become more sophisticated than it used to be, which I think is brilliant. I find keeping it objective rather than subjective in the branding process is really important to me. Constructing the goalposts, if you will, means we're pretty good at scoring the goals if we know where the goalposts are. I think that has become part of the process of defining what they're about, then we have clarity. What I hate is scattergun. If a client says to me, "I don't know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it," I would run a mile because, from experience, I just know that that's a nightmare.
The power of what we do is to recommend several options that we know work. There are different nuances from each but they're all going to work as far as we're concerned. I think that boldness and power is certainly where we're coming from and, as we've matured, perhaps we've seen more in our own thinking that this is right and to filter things down, to distil them down to something simple brings power to this message. I think that's certainly what I see as a strength and I reckon good work is recognised for that, that you can sense there is a kind of consistency in application and a coherence in the message. With Mustard this is what you've got, isn't it? It's been narrowed down to a sort of single, bold style and there's flexibility within that to communicate different things, but it's a recognisable family. I think that is where we're at with branding now.