All Posts in Thought leadership

27th June 2024

Transforming Sustainability: The Brand Evolution of Planet Mark

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more.
Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: with guest Steve Malkin, we explore the role of certifications, emphasising the importance of trust and evidence-based data in promoting sustainable practices. The discussion highlights the challenges faced by SMEs in adopting sustainability initiatives and showcases innovative approaches, such as Planet Mark's zero-carbon bus tour, to engage businesses and communities directly. We also examine the impact of branding as an agent of change for Planet Mark's growth strategy.

About: Planet Mark is a sustainability certification that verifies and measures carbon and social data to reduce emissions and achieve the UN SDGs.

Episode Highlights:
What were the, what were the initial challenges you faced when you, when you launched Planet Mark?
  • Initially, we thought our idea was fantastic and that everyone would love it. People love talking about sustainability, reducing carbon, and recycling, but in business, no one wanted to pay for it.
  • We believed reducing carbon and cutting energy would save money, making it cost-neutral or better. Sustainability efforts offer cultural benefits, allowing people to feel passionate about improving the environment and helping organisations demonstrate their purpose and mission.
  • Despite these benefits, businesses were reluctant to spend even a small amount on certification. Many businesses didn't understand the certification or couldn't fit it into their operations, causing significant challenges for us. We had to continue refining our offering and demonstrating its business value.
How do you recognise when your brand isn't fit for purpose anymore?
  • The evolution of our brand has been driven by the demands of communicating in a rapidly transforming sustainability landscape and business environment.
  • External challenges from peers push us to make sustainability more exciting, accessible, and empowering for everyone involved.
  • To ensure it stays fit for purpose, Planet Mark strives to make its work relevant and inclusive so that people feel connected and integral to the transformative journey of certification.
Brand positioning
  • The organisation came to market in 2013 when the sustainability landscape was different.
  • Planet Mark wanted to differentiate from non-profits and charitable organisations in the certification space. It chose to be a for-profit organisation that gives back, particularly through partnerships like with the Eden Project.
  • It needed to be positioned differently from incumbents like Carbon Trust and
    pre-B Corp movements.
 Brand Evolution
  • The evolution of the brand has been driven by the demands of communicating in a rapidly transforming sustainability landscape and business environment.
  • The approach often involves recognising plateaus and moments when the team needs to step back and assess where improvements are needed.
  • External challenges from peers push Planet Mark to make sustainability more exciting, accessible, and empowering for everyone involved.

 

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29th May 2024

VC Insights: Identifying Key Triggers for SaaS Investment, Growth and Scaling Success

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more.
Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: with guest Stephen Millard from Notion Capital, we explore the decision-making process of venture capitalists (VCs) when investing in Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses. We delve into the specific triggers and criteria VCs look for in potential investments, particularly those in the build or scaling stages. The discussion includes insights on what VCs bring to the table, the qualities they seek in entrepreneurs, and the key elements that influence their investment decisions.

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About: Notion Capital invests in next generation of SaaS entrepreneurs, supporting at an early stage, investing in exceptional SaaS and Cloud founders who are at the point of product market fit and are ready to grow fast and go far.

Episode highlights:

How did Notion set out its stall in the VC world?
  • Early on, Notion saw the shift in software to the cloud, from perpetual license to subscription, and so carved out its niche.
  • Evolution from being pioneers in Europe to a brand focused on deep SaaS expertise.
  • Building an impressive portfolio and team.
  • Continual adaptation in the types of founders and companies invested in.
Do you believe that clarity of purpose is essential for success in the sector?
  • The VC community has become very crowed, so there is definitely an emphasis on Notion's uniqueness and value proposition. Differentiation is a necessity in the industry.
  • Stephen believes that Notion's offer stands out based on its inherent value and he isn't too concerned about competitors' strategies due to the firm's distinctiveness and niche.
What are the kind of triggers that you look for in one of the businesses that make it viable as an investment?
  • Notion look for something quite extraordinary in the first instance and seek the potential in something highly improbable and exceptional. Assessing the founder's ability to attract amazing people and build something exceptional.
  • Stephen looks for the "hairs on the back of your neck" feeling, indicating a strong intuitive sense of potential in a founders ability.
  • It's important to evaluate whether the firm can help the business with specific challenges in the start, build, and scale phases. And to recognise that people are the most critical factor in success.

Are you driven by the need of the of the entrepreneur you meet or do you keep focus on the changing landscape around you?

  • Notion operates within a framework of start, build, and scale phases. They take a very structured and organised approach when working with a company. With a focus on making a quick impact and independent assessment of the businesses needs–identifying essential capabilities, goals, and personnel required.
  • They create an action plan for the investment and adapt as needed over time and conduct ongoing learning and adaptation based on company-specific experiences.
  • It's a forward-thinking approach to anticipate future challenges and opportunities, having learned from investing in over a hundred companies, recognising common patterns and reasons for success or failure.

What should someone think about when looking at brand in a bigger context, not just visual verbal expression, positioning category, but also how brand cascades into go-to-market strategies and enables product-led growth.

Start with the Fundamental Essence:

  • Understand and communicate the core truth of the brand—the journey, mission, and promise from the very beginning.
  • While some companies may change their product and proposition significantly, the vision often remains consistent even as revenue scales from $1 million to $100 million.

Revenue Milestones and Brand Evolution:

  • At $3 to $10 million in revenue: Focus on messaging consistency and clarity of language.
  • At $10 to $30 million in revenue: Work on alignment not just internally, but also in customer targeting and service.
  • Beyond $30 million: Brand and storytelling become increasingly crucial as operations expand across multiple channels, markets, and partners.

Early-Stage Investment in Brand:

  • Stephen cautions against heavy early-stage PR spending unless the target audience is consuming that PR.
  • Suggests clarity of message, alignment, and then bigger investment as stages progress.

No One-Size-Fits-All:

  • The process is staged and context-specific, it's not rigid or set in stone.

What advice would you give to founders seeking investment?

When pitching for investment, consider:

  • What do you want people in the (investment) meeting to say about your business when you have left the meeting?
  • What words do you want them to use when they are talking about your idea later to a partner who wasn't in the room?

Remember to do these for a meeting with investors:

  1.   Clearly communicate your main messages.
  2.   Cut through the noise.
  3.   Make sure your essential points stand out.

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29th April 2024

Shojin: Democratising Real Estate with Next Level Property Investing

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more.
Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: we delve into the world of fractional real estate investment, demystifying complexities and exploring innovative approaches with Jatin Ondhia, CEO of Shojin Property Partners. Jatin also discusses Shojin's recent rebrand journey with Structure. So, tune in to discover how Shojin is revolutionising the real estate investment landscape and making it accessible to a broader audience.

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About: Shojin is a fractional property investment platform, its mission is to be the number one global marketplace for fractional real estate investing. Shojin strives to make real estate investing more fair, accessible, and transparent to everyone by simplifying and lowering the barriers for investing in institutional-grade opportunities previously only accessible to the ultra-wealthy.

Episode highlights:

Launching the business: what led to the co-founding of Shojin in 2009, and what gaps or opportunities were identified?
  1. Evolution from Personal Investments: Jatin explains that his background in real estate investment, influenced by cultural attitudes towards property, led him to accumulate a portfolio. Observing interest from peers in banking circles, he recognised a gap: many professionals lacked time or inclination to invest directly.
  2. Addressing Funding Gap: Shojin identified a lack of funding for mid-sized projects
    (£10-60 million), enabling developers to access capital and offering investors attractive returns (20-35% annually).
  3. Global Reach and Impact: Today, Shojin has investors from over 50 countries, spanning from individual investors to family offices, facilitating the funding of much-needed housing projects in the UK while providing attractive returns to investors.
Differentiation: what sets Shojin apart in its approach to shared investing and opportunities compared to others in the market?
  1. Differentiated Approach to Crowdfunding: Jatin explains that traditional crowdfunding platforms merely facilitate transactions without considering investor interests. Shojin, however, takes a more involved approach.
  2. Investor-Centric Model: Shojin prioritises investor interests by actively assessing project risks, monitoring progress, and ensuring alignment of incentives.
  3. Partnership in the Investment Process: Shojin is not just a funding platform but a partner in the investment process, co-investing and closely monitoring projects from start to finish.
  4. Aligned Incentives: The model ensures that Shojin only succeeds when investors do, creating a mutually beneficial and aligned relationship between the platform and its investors.
Education: how does Shojin prioritise education and financial literacy for potential investors, especially in the complex realm of property investment?
  1. Emphasis on Education: Jatin highlights education as a core aspect of Shojin's mission, recognising that not everyone is an expert in property investment. Despite the complexity involved, Shojin aims to demystify the process and empower investors with knowledge.
  2. Addressing Financial Literacy: Beyond property investment, Shojin seeks to contribute to broader financial literacy efforts. Jatin stresses the importance of understanding financial concepts, even at a basic level, given the deficiencies in traditional education systems.
  3. Accessible Resources: Shojin provides a range of resources on its platform to educate potential investors, offering guidance and information to ensure they make informed decisions. These resources aim to bridge the gap between complexity and accessibility, enabling investors to understand the product before investing.
Rebrand drivers: what were the main drivers behind Shojin's recent branding exercise, and what were you aiming to achieve through this project?
  1. Alignment with Current Identity: The previous branding felt outdated and inconsistent with Shojin's current identity, values, and working style. There was a need to realign the branding with what Shojin is today.
  2. Consistency Across Platforms: The inconsistency across various platforms, including the website, cards, and overall branding, highlighted the necessity for a rebranding effort to ensure a cohesive and unified brand image.
  3. Vision and Values: The primary goal of the rebranding project was to align the branding with Shojin's vision, values, and purpose as a business.

How does Shojin's rebranding effort align with its vision of democratising access to real estate investment, and what message does it aim to convey to its target audience?
  1. Alignment with Vision: The rebranding effort reflects Shojin's broader vision of democratising access to real estate investment. By presenting a more modern and accessible brand image, Shojin aims to reach a wider audience and make investment opportunities available to everyone.
  2. Engaging the Mass Affluent: Shojin recognises the importance of engaging the mass affluent population, which includes approximately 600 million individuals. The rebranding effort is aimed at making investment in real estate more relevant and appealing to this demographic.
  3. Professionalism and Trustworthiness: While aiming for a modern and accessible brand image, Shojin also emphasises professionalism and trustworthiness. The new branding conveys a sense of reliability and expertise, essential for attracting investors.
Expectations of the branding process: what were there expectations and experiences during the rebranding process?
  1. Jatin expressed that he approached the rebranding process with a meticulous mindset, often scrutinising each aspect to the 'nth degree'.
  2. Despite the intangible nature of branding, Jatin emphasised the importance of how the branding would make potential clients feel when they interacted with it. He highlighted the difficulty in striking the right balance between appearing professional yet accessible and avoiding the perception of being cheap or overly flashy.
  3. Collaboration with the marketing team, which offered diverse perspectives, was essential to ensuring the branding appealed to various demographics.
  4. His primary expectation was that the brand work would be something he felt proud to present as an extension of himself and the company's values.

What advice would you offer to others considering rebranding or undergoing a similar process?
  1. Give the rebranding process the time it needs and understand that it's more than just changing a logo; it should weave through the entire organisation.
  2. Clarify your objectives and desired outcomes from the rebranding initiative, involve key stakeholders from the beginning.
  3. Take your team on the journey with you, soliciting input and feedback to ensure buy-in and alignment across the organisation.

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Disclaimer: please note the conversations in this podcast does not constitute financial or other professional advice. You should consult your professional adviser if you require financial advice.

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26th March 2024

The Future of Hospitality: Rediscovering the Guest Experience in a Digital Era

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more. Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its profound significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: we are exploring entrepreneurialism in the hospitality sector and are joined by Richard Valtr the visionary founder of Mews—an innovative hospitality management cloud. Richard is not just an entrepreneur; he's a trailblazer with an inspiring journey to revolutionise the guest experience. Richard talks about how his vision of improving check-in led to his founding Mews, which has become a unicorn with a valuation of $1.2 billion following a recent fundraising round.

Listen here:

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About: Mews operates in the hospitality industry, it simplifies and automates operations for modern hoteliers and their guests, empowering them to craft unforgettable experiences while also driving revenue. Richard Valtr, alongside his sister, conceptualised, created, and brought to life the Emblem Hotel in Prague. It was from this initial venture that the concept of the Mews technology platform emerged, scaling from a single installation to over 5,000 of the world's premier hotels. Richard's fervour for technology and service is matched only by his ambition to revolutionise the hospitality industry through cloud solutions, making it more enriching for guests and hoteliers alike.

Episode highlights:

Getting started: what was the inception of Mews?
  1. Richard wanted to transform his family hotel in Prague into more than just a tourist spot, aiming to create a community hub. Initially, the focus was on designing physical spaces to foster community interaction.
  2. The challenge shifted to scaling this concept for every guest, making them feel part of a community.
  3.  Richard realised existing technology couldn't support his vision for the guest experience. He decided to build the technology himself, assembling a team of programmers to develop what would become Mews. The process turned out to be much more challenging than expected. Richard didn't anticipate the need to build such a large company to transform aspects of the industry.

 

Understanding the brand vision: in the early days when trying to reach the hotel audience, did they understand your vision or was a lot of education needed around and did the brand help convey the vision?
  1. In the early days, they were fortunate to connect with like-minded individuals in the hospitality industry who cared deeply about creating great hotel spaces. Those individuals quickly understood the importance of their system and trusted that future developments would align with the vision.
  2. The brand is important because its something to hang your business ideas on. Brands should create 'space' in your audiences mind and resonate with them.
  3. Richard highlights the challenge of encapsulating the vision into a succinct brand, which is crucial for effective communication and success in product delivery.
  4. The importance of storytelling for entrepreneurs and brand builders mustn't be forgotten. Businesses need to craft a narrative that effectively communicates the current vision and service offerings while also leaving room for future developments and expansion. This approach allows for flexibility and adaptation as the brand evolves over time.
Changing your brand: is there a moment when you know you have outgrown your brand?
  1. Richard thinks that the cohesion between brand identity, proposition, and visuals has improved since the early days of the business by working with Structure who brought that cohesion, which was very important to the business.
  2. At the beginning, entrepreneurs or small teams may not have the resources or time to fully develop all aspects of the brand, but finding the right moment to pause, take stock, and reassess the brand's direction is crucial for growth.
  3.  Establishing a solid foundation for the brand allows for future growth and creativity.

 

Brand stretch: was it intentional to allow the Mews brand to stretch for events with various expressions, ranging from playful and colourful to more styled and serious?
  1. Mews strives to live its values, one of which is 'being human', which is core to the hospitality industry. Brand stretch allows Mews to bring this value to life, to be playful while remaining serious.
  2. Richard emphasises the importance of balance, both in team construction and in brand development, to achieve a full spectrum of attitudes which make up and personify the brand.
  3. Your team 'personality' is also your brand. Richard emphasises the need for balance in both building your team and brand development, suggesting that a brand's personality can be created by the tone and attitudes of its team members.

 

The brand evangelist factor: do customers who understand and engage with your brand become evangelists?

  1. Essentially yes they do. In general, embracing a brands allows people to project a version of themselves. There's a certain allure to aligning oneself with a brand that goes beyond mere superficiality; it's about tapping into a deeper ethos.
  2. People are drawn to the idea of affiliating with a brand that embodies a narrative they can relate to. It's about having a story to tell, explaining why they resonate with a particular brand's values. The richer and more profound this narrative, the stronger the loyalty it fosters.
  3. Consumers crave authenticity and depth in their interactions with brands – something that has been carefully considered and crafted.
  4. This is why, despite the complexities of pricing, there's immense value in being able to articulate why you identify with a specific brand.
Advice from an entrepreneur: what piece of advice would you give your younger ambitious self?
  1. Learning is important and can lead to different interpretations and understandings of information over time.
  2. Swallowing one's ego is a lifelong struggle but an important aspect of personal and professional growth.
  3. As an entrepreneur, there is a constant pressure to keep achieving more, which can make it difficult to feel successful or satisfied with one's accomplishments.
  4. Richard emphasises the value of surrounding oneself with people who are better than oneself and acknowledges the tendency to hire oneself out of certain responsibilities, which can be challenging but ultimately beneficial for the business.

 

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11th March 2024

Empowered by AI: Redefining Work and Creativity in the Web3 Era

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more. Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its profound significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: Graham Cooke discusses the transformative potential of Web3 technology, its intersection with AI and its implications for various aspects of society, including business, creativity, equity, and decentralised organisations. Topics covered include the convergence of AI and Web3, the role of decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the mainstream adoption of Web3 technologies, and the profound shifts in work dynamics and creativity.

 

Listen here:

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Episode highlights:

What changes has Graham observed in AI and machine learning?
  1. AI has evolved from specialised tasks like playing AlphaGo or driving cars to mastering language and images, becoming more relatable and human-like.
  2. Language is at the core of our humanity, and large language models (LLMs) like GPT have revolutionised AI, making it accessible through chatbots.
  3. This shift has propelled AI to unprecedented heights, with chatbots and LLMs becoming the fastest-growing software as a service application ever, surpassing giants like Instagram, Facebook (Meta), and Google.
  4. The genius move of transforming LLMs into chatbots has made AI universally understandable, shaping the future of technology.

 

Given the dominance of internet giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, where does Graham foresee the greatest potential for disruption from Web3?
  1. Graham discusses the concept of disruptive innovation, citing Clayton Christensen's 'The Innovator's Dilemma' and the challenges faced by large companies in adapting to new paradigms.
  2. Google's reliance on its advertising revenue model, could be significantly disrupted by the decentralised nature of Web3 and advancements in AI-driven search technology.
  3. Graham emphasises the irony that Google, despite contributing to the development of large language models (LLMs), may face disruption to its core business model due to advancements in decentralised AI and digital twin technologies.
  4. Drawing on the parallels to examples like Kodak, which invented the digital camera but failed to capitalise on its own innovation, Graham suggests a similar pattern may unfold in the tech industry.
  5. While acknowledging that companies like Amazon and Microsoft may be less susceptible to disruption than Google, Graham predicts that the overall trend towards decentralisation in Web3 will eventually challenge traditional business models and lead to a "supply side revolution."

 

What is the relationship between digital twins, data ownership, and the potential for a new business model that values individual data contributions?
  1. Graham emphasises the need for individuals to own and control the data that powers their digital twins, ensuring that they remain relevant and valuable in the future.
  2. He discusses the potential for a new business model where individuals monetise their data contributions, shifting away from the current model where big tech companies hold user data hostage.
  3. Graham envisions a future where individuals' data contributions are pooled together for collective benefits, such as improving healthcare or advancing scientific research. And he advocates for a community-owned approach to data, where the benefits derived from data utilisation are distributed back to the community, aligning with the principles of Web3.
How do you see Web3 impacting the business landscape, particularly in terms of equity and the distribution of economic and health benefits?
  1. Graham highlights the fundamental role of business throughout history and emphasises that while business will evolve, it will remain essential to humanity.
  2. He predicts a shift towards a more equitable business model, with fewer trillion-dollar companies and a proliferation of mid-sized companies.
  3. Graham introduces the concept of the supply-side revolution, where Web3 disrupts how goods and services are created, leading to more cooperative and purpose-driven endeavours.
  4. He anticipates that working less and producing higher-value goods and services will become the norm, ultimately resulting in an improvement in the quality of products and services available to consumers.

 

How does Web3 empower individuals rather than replacing them with AI, and how does it facilitate a better quality of life by leveraging human creativity and knowledge?
  1. Graham challenges the mainstream narrative that portrays AI as a threat to human employment, emphasising instead that Web3 empowers individuals to live better lives.
  2. He suggests that Web3 enables individuals to derive more value from their knowledge and creativity, shifting away from grunt work towards more fulfilling tasks.
  3. Graham believes that even in roles traditionally considered non-creative, there are opportunities for moments of creativity and innovation, facilitated by Web3 technologies.
  4. He contextualises this shift within a broader historical journey, from peak centralisation during the industrial revolution to a more distributed and cooperative model enabled by Web3 technologies and AI.
How does Graham view the branding challenge associated with Web3 infrastructure technologies like DAOs, considering their primary function as enabling tools rather than consumer-facing products?
  1. Graham sees the branding challenge for Web3 infrastructure technologies, such as DAOs, lying in their role as infrastructure rather than consumer products.
  2. He emphasises that for the general public, understanding Web3 will come from experiencing the benefits it enables in their daily lives, particularly as more applications are built on top of this infrastructure layer.
  3. Graham predicts that as AI disrupts the traditional workforce, individuals will reskill and embrace Web3 technologies like DAOs and NFTs, leading to greater equity and value creation in the world.

 

What advice would Graham suggest to those looking to build Web3 or even Web4 products or services?
  1. Graham recommends reading his book "Web3: The End of Business as Usual", which is written for entrepreneurs and business leaders, providing insights into the future of Web3 without technical jargon.
  2. He suggests experimenting and exploring the space, emphasising the importance of curiosity and hands-on learning.
  3. Graham highlights the significance of using AI tools like chat GPT to simplify complex concepts and to enhance understanding.
  4. Overall, he encourages individuals to read extensively, explore, and stay curious about the potential of Web3 technologies.

     

     

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5th February 2024

A Founders Insights: Pioneering Entrepreneurship for Positive Impact

Welcome to The B Word, the show that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more. Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its profound significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: Andreas Brenner, Co-founder and CEO Jua.AI, shares his entrepreneurial Journey story, from turning around Avrios to cofounding the world's first end-to-end machine learning model for weather forecasting, to his ambitions for the future. Design by Structure recently undertook the brand work for Andreas' latest venture Jua.Ai.  We met Andreas while working on his former tech venture Avrios, working on both the brand and website.

Listen here:

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Episode highlights:

Andreas knew Avrios is a great company, but he was driven by the desire for a more ambitious impact in an new venture (Jua.Ai) for a purpose beyond cost reduction.
  1. Andreas discusses his move from fleet management business, Avrios in search of a venture aligned with advancing society through technology.
  2. Meeting co-founder and CTO, Marvin Gabler, during this time was pivotal.
  3. Passion for environmental modelling and atmospheric modelling is the driving force behind Jua.Ai. Both Andreas and Marvin have complete belief in Jua's potential for planetary-scale impact and the augmentation of human consciousness of nature through technology.
Jua's vision of environmental impact through technology: Jua is currently focused on solving a specific micro-problem related to training and high-accuracy weather data.
  1. Beneath the surface of the Jua tech, there is a powerful layer representing a bigger vision of using technology for critical environmental decisions, such as those related to crops and planting.
  2. Andreas emphasises the potential for greater impact by building and commercialising the technology. He believes in entrepreneurship for good, combining a mission-driven approach with a capitalistic approach to improve the world.

Being human and celebrating successes as an entrepreneur: Andreas acknowledges his need to improve celebrating the small successes as an ambitious entrepreneur.
  1. The entrepreneur journey requires many key skills, such as the confidence needed to make those big decisions in business - but it was a learning journey to prioritise his own wellbeing first so he could then be the leader he wanted to be.
  2. The approach to celebration is tied more to meaningful achievements, positive impact, and personal milestones rather than financial gains.
Importance of Purpose-Driven Brands and Branding Process: emphasis on purpose-driven brands and problem-solving is a key driver for Andreas.
  1. Positive experience with the branding process at Avrios, highlighting the methodological approach, competitive analysis, and clarity gained.
  2. Collaboration with the Structure team was valued for its combination of rational (analytical foundation) and emotional (connecting with the audience) aspects of the process.
  3. Unsolicited positive feedback received for Jua's website and presentations, indicates the effectiveness of the recent branding to connect with the audience.

The impact of branding on fundraising and partnerships: The brand adds an aura of authority to the project, helping to convey its potential and future impact–it has been a powerful supporter of Jua's outreach to the market.
  1. The brand, and the clarity brought by building brand pillars, has played a role in fundraising efforts. It has contributed to bringing clarity to partnerships with authorities in the U.S., the UK, and Switzerland, especially in meteorological studies.
  2. Unsolicited positive feedback from stakeholders, including responses and engagement rates, indicates the effectiveness of the brand in outreach efforts.
  3. The succinct messaging and visual identity of the brand are crucial in making a strong impact despite limited content on the website.
A founders perspective on the branding process: take a strategic approach to branding and its alignment with business strategy, and seek expert advice.
  1. Branding is not just about visual identity; it should support the business and align with its strategy. A common approach from some agencies is to focus on visual identity without understanding the strategic essence of the brand.The essence of the brand lies in how it supports the business and positions it to drive revenue.
  2. The key learning is to think strategically about brand and find a branding agency  that can align it with the company's strategy.
  3. A professional and credible brand contributes to the perception of the business -as confident (both entrepreneur and business) and sure of its direction.
Lessons learned: The advice Andreas would give his younger self revolves around staying true to what he wants to do and how he wants to do things.
  1. Openness to feedback is essential, but being confident in one's identified business opportunities and operational methods is crucial.
  2. Over time, staying true to oneself and core beliefs resulted in creating a workplace aligned with personal values and a source of pride.
  3. The key learning is to be open to feedback while simultaneously standing firm in what one believes in, shaping personal character and guiding business decisions.

"When it comes to branding a start-up, invest in your brand early in the business journey"
"Initially, I may have underestimated the significance of brand and design. I considered myself an analytical and rational individual, and struggled to grasp the tangible return on investment (ROI) of branding efforts. However, this process played a pivotal role in broadening my perspective and opening my mind to the value of brand and design."

Andreas Brenner, Co-founder and CEO of Jua.Ai

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6th July 2023

The B Word: How to Create a Category King

The B Word is the show where we demystify everything to do with B2B branding. Every month we invite guests from the worlds' of technology, venture capital, private equity and beyond to discuss what branding is, how it works and why it matters for businesses today.

Episode 1: In this episode, host John Galpin, co-founder, Design by Structure speaks to special guest, Quentin Colmant, CEO & Co-founder of insurtech, Qover, about the creative process for Qover's recent category creation exercise and rebrand. From his initial reservations about change to loving his new brand.

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Episode highlights:

The vision for the future of insurance, focusing on creating a global safety net by making insurance more accessible, efficient, and integrated.
  1. The complexity and lack of efficiency in the insurance industry make insurance expensive and cumbersome.
  2. Embedded insurance seeks to connect the insurance capital with society in a more efficient manner.
  3. The vision for a global safety net involves making insurance invisible but fully accessible, offering maximum protection with minimal cost.
Transforming the insurance market by enhancing the customer experience and addressing consumer cynicism through immediate value delivery.
  1. Enhancing the customer experience in insurance can lead to increased adoption and a change in consumer perceptions.
  2. Immediate value and visible benefits from insurance coverage can drive greater acceptance.
  3. Long-term vision is to distribute €100 billion of protection through leading brands, which would position the company as the world's largest insurance provider.
Defining a new category is essential for clarifying a company's purpose, positioning, and value proposition in the market, making it easier for people to understand the company's business.
  1. The rebranding and category creation were driven by the difficulty in articulating the company's mission and purpose in one sentence.
  2. Creating a new category in the InsureTech space helps clarify what the company stands for and its positioning.
  3. A defined category enables people, both internally and externally, to easily understand the company's business and value proposition.
The rebranding and the creation of a new category have significantly impacted the company's positioning and visibility in the market, resulting in increased inbound interest and invitations to large enterprise deals.
  1. The introduction of the new category has eliminated the need for the company to explain its services, as clients now understand their value and role as orchestrators.
  2. The company has experienced an influx of inbound requests from large risk carriers and brokers, positioning it well in the enterprise space.
  3. The rebranding has led to a rapid shift and pivot toward being enterprise-ready, enabling the company to participate in significant deals (jumbo deals) and partnerships.
The branding process "its a revelation!"

“How is it, after seven years in the business, that I'm not able to label my problem properly?… Defining category is, for me, a very strong way to define what you stand for. By understanding the category you are in a directly, you understand what is your business about.”
Quentin Colmant
Also available on:

About our guest:

Qover was just listed by Tech.EU as one of the 10 European InsureTech companies and its technology has been used to provide insurance cover to over 2.6 million people worldwide.

Quentin Colmant is the CEO & Co-founder of insurtech Qover.

 

 

 

27th June 2023

Making the right choice: what should I name my tech company?

What's in a name? Well, quite a lot actually, it could be make or break for some tech businesses, especially when growing into new territories. You have to consider how the name translates across markets, is it an offensive word, is it easy to say and spell, can we get the domain name etc. in key new territories? There's a lot to consider.

The power of a good name

The history of company names is interesting as they, like everything else, have evolved and have fashions–what's in, what's out. In the past, company names were quite literal or descriptive, based on what people sold, such as the world's oldest tech business, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM, 1896). As time moved on the tech industry changed and grew, literal names went out in favour of single names, such as Sony (1945) and later the more established tech companies turned their names into contractions or acronyms e.g. Apple Computer Company (1976) - Apple and IBM.

The tech industry is ever-changing and, in very recent years, has become volatile. According to Forbes, 90% of startups fail (within one to three years), with only 10% surviving. So, the lesson is, don't let a bad name be a barrier to success.

To rename or to not rename: is renaming a big deal?
Naming or renaming your business should not be taken lightly. Your company name is more than just a label, it's the foundation of your brand identity. It's the first impression you make on potential customers and partners, and it will shape the way they perceive your business. Your name should reflect and make sense in the industry you serve. So, a flippant name that sounds great or PR-able for instance may not work for a serious fintech. Have a look at your competitors to get a feel for what works, but remember your goal is to standout.

A naming service in a branding agency is the process of creating a unique and memorable name for a company, product, or service. It is a crucial aspect of branding that can impact the success of a business. When choosing a name, it is important to ensure that it is available and not too similar to any existing brand.

Choosing the right name for your technology company is crucial as it will be a part of everything you do. A good name will make it easier to build a strong brand and create an emotional connection with your customers.

Investing in a good name for your tech business is a smart move. It will help you stand out in a crowded market and attract the right customers.

Case study: Look for a unique tech company name
A recent brief we undertook, saw the merger of two industry-leading software providers, Compusoft Group and 2020, to create a new global tech powerhouse. The merger enabled the software company to scale and better serve its customers with a global presence of over 2,300 employees and 70,000+ customers across 100+ countries, which all came together under the new name, Cyncly.

Getting the name right was an important task. It had to feel right for the former businesses but also for the future growth of this newly merged business–a unifying banner that everyone in the newly merged company can stand behind. The name is derived from the words ‘synchronisation’ and ‘simplicity,’ bringing together the company’s mission to be the ultimate platform for connecting designers, retailers, manufacturers, contractors, and consumers to make spaces amazing.

The Importance of a good name for your tech business
Naming a tech company can be a daunting task, but it's an important step in creating a successful brand. A good name should reflect the company's mission and values, and also be memorable and easy to pronounce.

One key aspect of naming a tech company is to tell a story. Your name should give your audience an insight into your organisation and what it can do. It's important to find terms with emotional resonance or those which help to highlight essential visions and values for the brand. Naming is part of our service offer and our team can help you brainstorm ideas and find a name that truly represents your company.

Another important consideration is to ensure that your name is unique and memorable. With so many tech companies out there, it's important to stand out from the crowd. Working with a branding agency that has a naming service, there will be a name generation creative process (each agency will have its own format). Following the brainstorm sessions and creating an initial list of potential names, it's important to research them thoroughly to ensure that your top 3 names are not already in use, if they are, scrap them and move on to the next names on your list.

The goal of the name:
  • identify what you’re offering
  • differentiate you from competitors
  • evoke positive emotions and associations 
  • pique curiosity and interest 
  • boost brand recall 
  • inspire and motivate employees

How do I come up with name Ideas for my business?

As mentioned, there is a creative naming process where all factors such as the industry vertical and naming conventions are considered (such as naming after the founder/s), a short-list is drawn up and the one that sticks is the winner. It's good for a client to garner opinion on the potential new name across the team to see how it sits with them. When it comes to potential names for your business there are a series of do's and don'ts. Let's discuss a few.

Do's and don't of naming
When brainstorming for a list of names for a modern tech company, it's important to consider different options such as made-up or founder-based names.  Every branding expert will have their own method for naming and styles they will explore, such as suggestive, descriptive, metaphor-based etc. However, in general, the naming process looks something like this, singular (single word name)- e.g. Meta, coined (made-up name)- e.g. Google, and portmanteau (see below) or compound (joined words) - e.g. Facebook.

The name should be unique, impactful, and easy to remember. However, when naming your tech company, it's important to avoid literal names that describe your specific initial service offering. Instead, try experimenting with industry terms relevant to your business, or make use of a technology company name generator for ideas, but avoid being literal.

Portmanteau Names: Portmanteau names can be a great option for tech companies looking for a simple and memorable moniker. By combining two or more words, you can create a unique name that describes your business in a straightforward way.

When choosing a portmanteau name, consider the following tips:

  • Think about the words that best describe your business, such as industry terms or unique selling points.
  • Experiment with different combinations of words until you find a name that sounds catchy and memorable.
  • Keep the name short and easy to remember, as well as professional and appropriate for your target audience.

Remember to keep the name of your company short, easy to remember, and professional. It should reflect the mission and values of the business, as well as represent what you want it to become in the future. Cool tech business names are great as long as they can go the distance!

At DesignByStructure, we believe that a good tech name needs to evolve with your brand. Consider these five ideas:

Five naming ideas for a tech business

Naming a tech startup or renaming a tech firm can be challenging and everyone wants a great name, but it's a crucial step to establish your brand. Here are five tech name ideas to help you come up with a great name:

  1. Reflect your mission and values: Your name should represent what your business stands for and what you want to achieve in the future. It should also reflect your company's mission and values.
  2. Consider your products or services: Think about the software, products, or services you offer. Your name should be authentic and relevant to what you're selling.
  3. Be unique: With so many tech companies out there, it's important to stand out from the crowd. A unique name will help you do that.
  4. Get feedback: Before settling on a name, be sure to get feedback from your target audience. Their opinion matters as they will ultimately be using your product or service.
  5. Use a name generator: If you're struggling to come up with a name, try using a tech company name generator. It can give you some inspiration and help you find a name that fits your business.

And finally...

We understand the importance of a great name or rename for your tech business. When naming your business, it's important to choose a name that reflects your mission and values, as well as what you want your business to become in the future. Authenticity is key, so consider what type of products or services you're selling and who your customers will be.

Remember to consider these points:

  1. Authenticity: When it comes to tech business names, it’s all about authenticity. Consider exactly what you’re selling and who your customers will be. What sets your tech company apart?
  2. Successful business names: In general, successful business names are simple, memorable, and easy to spell. Avoid using complicated words or phrases that are difficult to pronounce or spell.
  3. To come up with a great name, you can use a tech company name generator or take inspiration from existing technology company names.
  4. Make sure the name is available and not too similar to any existing brands.

At DesignByStructure, we believe that a great business name should be memorable, easy to pronounce, and easy to spell. It should also be unique and distinguishable from competitors.

To ensure your business name stands out, we offer naming services that include research, brainstorming, and testing. We'll work with you to create a name that accurately represents your brand and resonates with your target audience.

Don't let naming your business be a daunting task. Let us help you create a name that will set your business apart and help it grow.  Contact us to learn more about our naming services and how we can help you create a memorable name for your tech business.

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Read more from our brand strategy series:

 

 

 

 

 

8th June 2023

Brand purpose: what it is and how to define it

At Structure, we believe that branding goes beyond just visual and verbal expression. It's about creating a tangible perception that leaves a lasting impression. As a strategic branding agency, we work with transformative tech companies across varied sectors, creating relevant and memorable brands that tell a compelling story and elevate them within their industries.

Our branding process involves an in-depth analysis of the business, meeting with different team members from across the client's business to build out the insights needed in the decision-making process. This deep dive informs every thing we do, from the strategy and positioning, visual identity, website design, illustration style, tone of voice, to the brand guidelines and of course to defining brand purpose.

There is one industry conversation about brand that continues to build and many people are challenging or even dismissing it and that is, brand purpose.  We believe that a brand purpose should be a worthy and meaningful part of your business proposition, inspiring your team and customers to believe and to take action.

Patagonia

Patagonia is often lauded for its brand purpose.

What is brand purpose?

Building a brand is crucial for any business or organisation. A brand is the identity of your company, it is what sets you apart from your competitors. A strong brand can help you establish a loyal customer base, increase your market share, and ultimately, drive revenue growth.

But, building a brand is not just about creating a logo or a catchy tagline. It is about developing a clear purpose that resonates with your target audience. A purpose-driven brand is one that is focused on making a positive impact on society, and it is one that more and more consumers are increasingly drawn to as a differentiating purchase decision point.

Brand purpose is the reason why your company exists beyond making a profit. It is the core belief that drives your business and the impact it wants to make in the world. You will see examples of purpose across different consumer categories, beauty, automotive, clothing and energy for example.

To define your brand purpose, start by understanding what your company stands for and what difference it can make in the world. Your brand purpose should align with your values, mission, and vision. It should also be authentic, relevant, and unique to your brand.

Remember, your brand purpose is not just a statement or a marketing campaign. It should guide your business decisions, actions, and communication.

By having a clear brand purpose, you can differentiate your brand, build trust and loyalty with your customers, and create a positive impact in society.

Dove

Dove is commended for its commitment to highlighting and supporting women's issues.

The benefits of a purpose-driven brand

A purpose-driven brand can have numerous benefits for your business. Here are just a few:

1. Increased customer loyalty: When your brand has a clear purpose that aligns with your customers' values, they are more likely to believe-in and remain loyal to your brand.

2. Differentiation from competitors: A purpose-driven brand sets you apart from your competitors and helps you stand out in a crowded market.

3. Improved employee engagement: When your employees feel that they are working for a company with a clear purpose, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated.

4. Positive impact on society: A purpose-driven brand can have a positive impact on society, which can help improve your brand's reputation and increase customer loyalty.

Knowing the benefits let's discuss now how we might define our brand purpose.

Defining your brand purpose

To create a standout brand, start with a purpose. Your purpose is your reason for doing what you do and what you stand for. It's what your customers can expect of you. Successful companies all have one thing in common: they focus on the 'why' – why we do what we do in our sector and what impact it has on society and the world.

To define your brand purpose, consider your brand's greatest strength and how it can make a difference in the world. As EQ International suggests, answering these key questions can help you define your brand purpose.

Having a clear brand purpose can bring numerous benefits. As The Branding Journal explains, brands that have a purpose stand up for a belief that adds value to their consumers, society, and/or the environment. They create a strong corporate culture with a clear vision for the brand's long-term mission.

The steps to building a purpose-driven brand

Building a purpose-driven brand requires a clear understanding of your company's values and the impact you want to have on society.

Here are some steps you can take to build a purpose-driven brand:

1. Define your purpose: Start by defining your company's purpose - what are you about, what difference are you making in your sector and how does that set you apart? What impact do you want to have on society? What values do you want to uphold?

2. Align your purpose with your customers' values: Make sure your purpose aligns with your customers' values. Conduct market research to understand what your customers care about and how your purpose can align with their values.

3. Communicate your purpose: Communicate your purpose through all your brand touchpoints, including your website, social media, and marketing materials. Make sure your purpose is clear and consistent across all your comms, both internal and external.

4. Live your purpose: Finally, and importantly, make sure you are living your purpose. Make sure your actions align with your purpose, that you are making a positive impact on society. Don't just talk about it, live it.

You must build a strong brand from the start

You need to think about your brand from the outset not as something to do down the line. It's the tangible perception you want to leave behind. As a strategic branding agency, we work with brands across varied sectors, creating relevant and memorable brands that impact their market and elevate them within their sectors. Here are some best practices for building a strong brand:

  • Define your brand's purpose and values: Your brand's purpose and values should be at the core of everything you do. They should guide your decision-making and help you create a unique identity that resonates with your target audience.
  • Develop a compelling brand story: Your brand story should be authentic, engaging, and memorable. It should communicate your brand's purpose, values, and unique selling proposition in a way that resonates with your target audience.
  • Create a consistent visual identity: Your visual identity should be consistent across all channels, from your website to your social media profiles. It should reflect your brand's personality and values and be instantly recognisable.
  • Build a strong online presence: In today's digital age, having a strong online presence is essential. Your website and social media profiles should be optimised for search engines and designed to engage your target audience.
  • Monitor and measure your brand's performance: Nurturing your brand is the key to success. Regularly monitoring and measuring your brand's performance will help you identify areas for improvement and ensure that your brand is resonating with your target audience.

And finally...

Building a purpose-driven brand is essential for any business or organisation. A clear purpose can help you stand out in a crowded market, increase customer loyalty, and have a positive impact on society. By following the steps outlined above, you can build a purpose-driven brand that resonates with your customers and drives business growth.

Defining your brand purpose is crucial to creating a standout brand. Start with your 'why', consider your brand's strengths, and think about how you can make a difference in the world.

By following these best practices, you can build a strong brand from scratch that resonates with your target audience and helps you achieve your business goals.

To learn more about how we can help you build a strong brand and for further reading check out our other articles on brand.

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13th June 2023

Understanding the importance of brand Strategy for tech start-ups

This week saw the start of London Tech Week, so, it's a good time to discuss brand strategy 101 for tech start-ups.

Tech start-up brand journey

The Tech Start-Up Brand Journey

Starting a tech venture is exciting, but it can be overwhelming with many plates spinning at the same time. You have to communicate your differentiation, the thing that makes you stand out from competitors as quickly as you can to give your business the edge. A clear brand strategy is essential for long-term success. A well-rounded brand strategy should include research & insight, positioning, strategy & TOV, a design identity system, brand guidelines and the deliverables (e.g. website, sales deck). There are other facets built into a brand such as brand sound and brand culture etc., and they are guided by the brand positioning.

Brand strategy is built on a platform of differentiation. MarTech magazine suggests that a company should use its value proposition to create competitive advantages and satisfy customer needs. The key to long-term success is using brand strategy to define your market position in order to create market share and revenue growth.

Culture and employer value proposition form another facet of a well-rounded brand strategy. A brand agency can help you curate your startup's culture to ensure a clear articulation of its purpose, as well as a unified identity. A well-rounded brand strategy should be your north star, from which you can create a strong foundation for your tech start-up's brand journey and its future.

Why Brand Strategy is Important for Tech Start-ups

A well-crafted brand strategy is crucial for the success of any tech start-up. It helps to create a clear articulation of the company's purpose and a unified identity, that can be expressed for both internal (culture and employer value proposition) and external communications (all brand touchpoints your customers see and engage with).

Developing a strong brand strategy helps businesses identify long-term growth goals. It enables entrepreneurs to move towards their achievement in a clear way, and also to track their progress against key objectives. A comprehensive brand strategy keeps them updated on whether they are moving in the right direction. For a tech start-up, having a clear brand strategy will help you stand out in a crowded market and attract the right audience from the start!

Brand Strategy Vs Marketing Strategy

Most start-ups will have a business plan which is the roadmap which defines your company's objectives and goals, covering the activity plan to achieve its goals and key milestones. The business plan should cover your marketing, financial, and operational needs. Each with its own strategy to fulfil commitments and key activities.

However, a brand strategy and a marketing strategy are two different things that are often confused with each other. They are not the same thing, one informs the other. Branding is the process of creating a unique identity and persona for a company, while marketing is the tactics used to attract, engage and promote products & services to a specific audience, to converting that audience from one-time purchasers to loyal repeat customers.

A marketing strategy produces a set of go-to-market tools to reach and align with consumers' needs. It includes digital marketing, content strategy, advertising, PR, and more, and can change based on customer data, budget, and trends. On the other hand, a brand strategy focuses on how a business positions itself within the market and category. It is a fluid, long-term strategy that requires nurturing and being revisited based on its success and changes in the marketplace.

Brand managers implement brand awareness strategies, assess customer perception, track sales progress, and create sales and marketing strategies to increase purchases and revenue. For many start-ups, a brand manager may not be an option early on, so founders may have to wear this hat among all the others they wear in the early days.

Small teams in the early days of a start-up's journey.

What is included in a brand strategy?

A brand strategy is a plan that outlines how a business will present its brand to consumers and position itself in the marketplace. It is an essential component of any successful marketing strategy and should include the following key elements:

  • Brand Positioning: A unique value proposition that differentiates your brand from competitors and resonates with your target audience.
  • Brand Purpose: A clear and concise statement that defines why your brand exists and what it stands for.
  • Brand Voice: A consistent tone and style of communication that reflects your brand's personality and values.
  • Target Audience: A detailed profile of your ideal customer, including their demographics, behaviours, and pain points.
  • Brand Identity: A visual representation of your brand, including your logo, colour palette, typography, and imagery.
  • Brand Guidelines: A set of rules and standards that govern how your brand is presented across all channels and touchpoints.

By developing a comprehensive brand strategy that includes these elements, you can establish your business, attract your target market, and effectively articulate how your business differs from competitors.  As you go through the brand journey and creative process, your brand story will come to life.

Crafting Your Brand Story

Your brand story is the narrative that defines your company's values, goals, and mission. It's the tale of how and why your brand operates in the way that it does. Every interaction your customers have with your brand, whether in-store or online, is set by this story.

A compelling brand story is essential to building a successful brand. It's the foundation upon which all other brand strategies are built.

Crafting a brand story involves defining your company's origin story, fundamental values, and mission. It should captivate your customers by relating to their experiences or aspirations. A well-crafted brand story can make your brand marketing more effective by evoking an emotional response from your audience. It is something your customers can identify with and believe in.

Branding Design: Creating an Identity for Your Business

Brand design involves creating, redesigning or refreshing a distinct identity for your business, one that distinguishes it from competitors and makes it recognisable to consumers. This includes key design elements such as the logo, colour scheme, typography, and other creative components.

A successful branding design strategy should align with your brand's mission and promises to customers. It should also be consistent across all platforms and communication channels.

Branding design is a crucial aspect of a business's brand strategy. It involves creating a visual identity that represents the company's personality, values, and philosophy. This includes the company's name, logo, fonts, and colours, which should be consistent across all marketing materials. A comprehensive brand strategy also includes building rapport and favorability within the market, becoming memorable in the eyes of the consumer, and creating a chosen image of the company in the minds of its customers.

Successful branding design can help build brand equity, which is a particular feeling or opinion about a company that drives buying decisions. Equity is achieved by creating positive experiences for customers that encourages them to stay loyal to your business. Emotional engagement is difficult but once you have it, it's hard to break.

Brand strategy - organising all the elements

How to Emotionally Engage Your Audience with Your Brand

To create a strong emotional connection with your audience, your brand needs to be more than just a logo or a tagline. It should be a reflection of your company's values, personality, and mission. Here are some key points to keep in mind when crafting a brand that emotionally engages your audience:

  • Define your brand's personality: Your brand's personality should be consistent across all channels, from your website to your social media profiles. It should reflect your company's values and mission, and resonate with your target audience.
  • Tell a story: A great brand tells a story that resonates with its audience. Your story should be authentic, compelling, and relevant to your target audience.
  • Create a visual identity: Your brand's visual identity should be consistent and memorable. It should include your logo, colour palette, typography, and other visual elements that reflect your brand's personality.
  • Engage with your audience: Engage with your audience on social media, respond to comments and messages, and create content that resonates with them. This will help you build a loyal following and create a strong emotional connection with your audience.
  • Stay true to your values: Your brand's values should be at the core of everything you do. Stay true to your values, and your audience will respect and trust your brand.

And finally...

In conclusion, a well-crafted brand strategy is essential for the success of any tech start-up. It helps to create a clear articulation of the company's purpose, a unified identity, and attract the right audience.

At Design By Structure, we understand the importance of both brand strategy and marketing strategy in creating a successful business. Our team works closely with clients to develop a unique brand identity and create effective marketing tactics to reach their target audience.

We can help you create a brand strategy that sets you apart and drives your business forward. Whether you're starting a new business or looking to refresh your brand's image, our branding design services can help you stand out in a crowded market. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you create a brand that resonates with your ideal customer base.

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8th June 2023

Brand Strategy – What it is and Why every Tech Company Needs One

What is brand strategy?

Brand strategy is a long-term plan typically developed by a company to establish and manage its brand in order to achieve specific business goals.

It involves defining and aligning various elements of a brand, such as its purpose, positioning, messaging, visual identity, and customer experience. The ultimate aim of brand strategy is to create a unique and compelling brand image that resonates with the target audience and differentiates the brand from competitors.

And it doesn't stop there. A well-defined brand strategy also helps guide other activities within a company. From inspiring prospective employees,  to codifying how a company behaves and how it injects personality into a technology product or service, brand strategy when executed well should inform all touch points within a business.

Mailchimp's sweaty finger

Mailchimp's early brand was the antidote to big, bland and bloated corporate email tools. It was about helping small businesses grow and its quirky character personality reinforced this at every touch point.

Great brand strategy serves as a roadmap for decision-making and provides guidelines on how to consistently convey the brand's essence, values, and promises across different channels and touchpoints.

Why do technology companies need a brand strategy?

Tenzo

Technology companies need a brand strategy for several important reasons:

Differentiation: The technology industry is highly competitive, with numerous companies offering similar products or services. A strong brand strategy helps a technology company differentiate itself from competitors by defining its unique value proposition and positioning in the market. It enables the company to stand out and attract customers in a crowded marketplace.
Our brand positioning work for Tenzo enabled the company to define a completely new category that makes its solution a must-have as opposed to a nice-to-have.

Building trust and credibility: Technology products and services often involve complex and technical concepts. A well-crafted brand strategy helps simplify and communicate these concepts in a way that resonates with the target audience. It builds trust and credibility by establishing the company as an expert and reliable provider in its field.

Qover

Our successful branding working for Qover enabled them to completely change the way their industry perceived them and create many new business opportunities.

Apple's Think different

Creating emotional connections: Technology is not just about functionality; it also has an emotional component. A brand strategy helps technology companies connect with customers on an emotional level by defining their brand personality, values, and purpose. This emotional connection fosters brand loyalty and creates long-term relationships with customers.
Apple's brand story became synonymous with the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. The people who see the world differently.

Attracting and retaining talent: In what could be called a war for the best talent, attracting and retaining top talent in the technology industry is crucial. A strong brand strategy helps position the company as an employer of choice by communicating its culture, values, and opportunities for professional growth. It enhances the company's reputation and makes it more appealing to prospective employees.

Mews

Our branding strategy for Mews centred around enabling hoteliers to make the guest experience remarkable, and has helped it grow its employees and customers to become one of Europe's fastest-growing companies

Long-term sustainability: A well-defined brand strategy provides a long-term vision and roadmap for the technology company. It helps the company stay focused on its core values, purpose, and target audience, even as the industry and market conditions evolve. A strong brand strategy contributes to the company's long-term sustainability and adaptability.

Eurowag

Our branding strategy for Eurowag helped it redefine its purpose to crystalise exactly how it could impact its industry for good – by making it clean, fair and efficient.

Financial value and competitive advantage: A strong brand strategy can have a direct impact on a technology company's financial value. A well-known and reputable brand commands higher customer loyalty, market share, and pricing power. It creates a competitive advantage that can drive revenue growth and increase the company's overall value.

Telecity Group

Our successful branding strategy for TelecityGroup helped it becomes one of Europe's largest technology companies before its $3.2bn acquisition by Equinix Inc.

In summary, a successful brand strategy is essential for technology companies to differentiate themselves, build trust, create emotional connections, attract talent, drive adoption, and achieve long-term sustainability and financial success in a highly competitive industry.

How does business strategy relate to brand strategy?

Business strategy is a high-level plan that defines an organisation's goals and should make this actionable in terms of how a company will achieve them. It involves making strategic decisions and setting a direction for the entire business.

A technology company's branding strategy is a subset of business strategy and should support the company's overarching goals and objectives.  Both strategies are important and interconnected, with brand strategy serving as a critical component within the broader business strategy.

Many branding agencies tend to include purpose, mission and vision within a brand development strategy but we would argue this is a more fundamental exercise which should live within an overall business strategy and drive the organisation's goals and their associated KPIs.

Why does it matter? It matters because purpose matters. For an organisation's purpose to have meaning and value, it should drive everything that a business does. If purpose, mission and vision are not rooted in a business's overall strategy it is unlikely to be truly meaningful.

What makes an effective brand strategy?

An effective branding strategy includes several key elements that must work together to create a strong and successful brand. Here are some important factors that contribute to an effective branding strategy:

Clear brand identity: An effective branding strategy starts with a clear and well-defined brand identity. This includes a distinct brand purpose, values, personality, and positioning that sets the brand apart from competitors. A clear brand identity helps establish a unique and recognisable brand image that resonates with the target audience.

Deep understanding of the target audience: A successful branding strategy requires a deep understanding of the target audience. This involves conducting thorough market research, analysing customer demographics, behaviours, needs, and preferences. By understanding the target audience, a brand can tailor its positioning, messaging and brand experience to effectively connect with and meet the needs of its customers.

Consistency: Consistency is a crucial element of an effective branding strategy. All touchpoints and channels should be aligned with the brand's identity to make the  experience memorable and build trust and recognition among customers.

Differentiation: An effective branding strategy focuses on identifying and communicating points of differentiation that set the brand apart from competitors. It highlights the unique value proposition, competitive advantages, and benefits that the brand offers.

Emotional resonance:  By understanding and tapping into the emotions, aspirations, and values of the target audience, a brand can create a deeper and more meaningful relationship with its customers. Emotional branding helps foster brand loyalty and advocacy.

Authenticity: Authenticity is crucial for building trust and credibility. A brand must be lived by an organisation for it to be authentic. From the feeling a product experience provides to how employees conduct themselves when interacting with customers, how a brand behaves is an important ingredient in how effective it will be.

Alignment with business strategy: An effective branding strategy is closely aligned with the overall business strategy and goals of the organisation. It supports and reinforces the broader objectives of the business, helping to drive growth, market share, and profitability. Branding strategy should be integrated into all aspects of the organisation's operations and decision-making processes.

Overall, an effective branding strategy creates a distinct and compelling brand identity, connects emotionally with the target audience, communicates points of differentiation, and aligns with the overall business strategy. It builds brand equity, loyalty, and market presence, contributing to the long-term success of the brand.

Explore how Structure's brand positioning and brand development work has helped accelerate our clients' growth.

How do you build a brand strategy?

The 9 steps to branding success.

Building a brand strategy involves a structured process that combines research, analysis, and strategic decision-making. Here are the key steps to build a brand strategy:

1/ Define brand purpose and values: Start by clarifying the purpose and values of your brand. Determine why your brand exists beyond making a profit and identify the core principles and beliefs that guide your brand's actions.

2/ Conduct market research: Perform market research to gain insights into your target audience, competitors, and industry trends. Understand the needs, preferences, behaviours, and pain points of your target customers. Analyse your competitors' brand positioning and messaging to identify opportunities for differentiation.

3/ Identify target audience: Define your target audience by creating customer personas based on the research findings. Segment your audience based on demographics, psychographics, behaviors, and other relevant factors. This will help you tailor your brand strategy and messaging to resonate with your ideal customers.

4/ Positioning and differentiation: Determine how you want your brand to be perceived in the market. Identify your unique value proposition and competitive advantages that set your brand apart from competitors. Develop a positioning statement that clearly communicates your brand's unique selling points and the benefits you offer to your target audience.

5/ Brand personality and voice: Define the personality traits and tone of voice that reflect your brand's character and values. This will guide the way you communicate with your audience and help create a consistent brand image.

6/ Create a visual Identity (or brand identity): Develop a visual identity that includes elements such as a logo, colour palette, typography, and imagery. Ensure that your visual identity aligns with your brand's personality and resonates with your target audience. Consistency in visual branding is crucial for creating brand recognition and recall.

7/ Messaging and communication: Craft key messages that convey your brand's value proposition, benefits, and unique attributes. Develop a brand story that emotionally engages your target audience and communicates your brand's purpose and values. Create guidelines for consistent brand messaging across various communication channels.

8/ Brand experience: Define the desired brand experience at every touchpoint. This includes product design, packaging, retail environments, online platforms, customer service, and interactions with your brand. Ensure that the brand experience aligns with your brand strategy and reinforces your desired brand perception.

9/ Implementation and monitoring: Roll out your brand strategy across all relevant channels and touchpoints. Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your brand strategy over time. Gather feedback from customers and track key performance indicators to assess the impact of your brand strategy on brand awareness, perception, and customer loyalty.

Remember that building a brand strategy is an ongoing process. Continuously monitor market trends, customer needs, and competitive landscape to adapt and refine your brand strategy as needed to stay relevant and connected with your audience.

Where should your brand strategy live?

Your brand strategy should be formalised alongside the creative attributes of the brand within your company's brand guidelines. This is important as it gives the brand meaning.

Typical brand guidelines contains:

Brand overview: Provides an introduction to the brand–history, mission, vision, and core values. This section sets the context for the brand and helps readers understand its essence.

Brand Identity: Defines the visual elements that represent the brand, including:

a. Logo Usage: Specify clear guidelines for logo usage, including size, placement, colour variations, minimum clear space, and what not to do with the logo (e.g., stretching, distorting, altering).

b. Colour Palette: Present the brand's primary and secondary colour palette, specifying colour codes (RGB, CMYK, and HEX values) and providing guidelines on how and when to use each colour.

c. Typography: Specify the fonts and font styles to be used consistently across brand materials. Include guidelines for headings, subheadings, body text, and any additional typography considerations.

d. Imagery and Photography: Define the style and tone of imagery and photography that should be used to represent the brand. Specify guidelines for image selection, composition, mood, and any specific treatments or filters to be applied.

Brand voice and tone: Defines the personality and characteristics of the brand's voice, including the appropriate tone, language style, and messaging guidelines. Provide examples of how the brand should communicate in different contexts (e.g., formal, casual, informative).

Messaging and copywriting: Offers guidelines for creating brand messaging and copywriting. Specifies the brand's key messages, taglines, and preferred writing style. And, provides guidance on tone, grammar, punctuation, and usage of brand-specific terminology.

Application examples: Showcase real-life examples of the brand applied consistently across various touchpoints, such as stationery, packaging, digital platforms, advertisements, and other marketing materials. This helps illustrate how the brand guidelines should be implemented.

Brand usage: Outline the dos and don'ts of brand usage, including rules for brand placement, clear space, and any restrictions on altering the logo or visual elements. Specify how the brand should be presented in different contexts, such as print, digital media, and social media.

Actual brand applications: Depending on a branding project's scope a guidelines document may also include templates for specific applications such as stationery, business cards, letterheads, email signatures, social media profiles, website design, and any other relevant brand touchpoints.

In summary

To sum up, a strong brand strategy is crucial for technology companies. It helps differentiate them, build trust, create emotional connections, attract talent, ensure sustainability, and drive financial value. Key elements of an effective brand strategy include clear brand identity, understanding the target audience, consistency, differentiation, emotional resonance, authenticity, and alignment with business objectives.

The process involves defining purpose and values, conducting research, positioning and differentiation, developing brand personality and visual identity, crafting messaging, designing the brand experience, and monitoring results.

The brand strategy should be documented in brand guidelines to ensure consistency. Continuous monitoring and adaptation are necessary to stay relevant. Ultimately, a successful brand strategy contributes to the long-term growth and success of technology companies.

//

Read more from our brand strategy series:

8th June 2023

Working with a Brand Design Agency can add Value to your Business

Add value to your business with a strategic brand partner

At Structure, we believe that branding goes beyond just visual and verbal expression. It's about creating a tangible perception that leaves a lasting impression. As a strategic branding agency, we work with transformative tech companies across varied sectors, creating relevant and memorable brands that tell a compelling story and elevate them within their industries.

Our branding process involves an in-depth analysis of the business, including insights from customer service teams and customers themselves. This deep dive informs every thing we do, from the strategy & positioning, visual identity, website design, illustration style, tone of voice, to the brand guidelines. Building and maintaining a brand can be a complex process, but with this sort of understanding of how a brand works, it is possible to make the complex simple to ensure your brand is working hard for you and your bottom line.


How Branding Can Boost Your Bottom Line

The word brand and the concept of branding is a well-worn conversation. The arrival of social media and influencers has diluted the meaning of 'brand' and 'branding' somewhat - what it is, what it means, how it works and how to nurture it - because it is over and incorrectly used. There is more to it than being a one-channel hit. Branding is a strategic process that takes time and research and nurturing.

"Your brand is more than just a logo
or a tagline".

It's the perception that your customers have of your business. It's the top-of-mind thought a person has when they see or hear about your company/service. A strong brand can help you stand out in a crowded market, build trust with your audience, and ultimately, boost your bottom line.

It starts with choosing the right brand partner to work with on your creative journey.


Choosing a Brand Partner

There are many different types of creative agencies, which offer different strategic and creative services. When approaching branding agencies, it is important to gain a good understanding of their level of experience in your sector, their capabilities and the extent to which their service offerings can meet your business brand design needs.

Start by identifying your business needs and goals. A design agency or more specifically a branding agency can help you on your journey to set your business apart by providing a valuable consultation. Structure suggests that brand strategy is just a business strategy in disguise, moreover it's a subset of business strategy and should support the company's overarching goals and objectives.

Therefore, a brand expert will have a good understanding of all the ways your brand threads through your business, reaches audiences and influences decision-making.

Partnering with a branding agency can provide you with proven and unique expertise. A branding agency is made up of specialists in a variety of fields, and their experience becomes your own, i.e. part of your NB/marketing team.

When choosing a branding agency, it is essential to consider their experience, expertise (you can look at agency ranking info), and proven track record. Look for an agency that can provide you with a tailored approach that aligns to your business goals and values. An agency team who not only provide brilliant design services, but a team that you like on a personal level, you may be working with then for some time!

"A branding agency can help you with your brand communication, digital design needs, and to create a brand that resonates with your target audience and sets you apart from the competition in a noisy market."

The aim is to become an extension of your marketing communications team. Your partner will bring a breadth of experience and cross-industry expertise, to help position your brand within a relevant marketing space and surmount any challenges that come your way. So, let's discuss the brand design process.


How do you start to create a strong brand?

So, you have your agency partner, what next? It starts with understanding your audience and what they want from your business. A branding agency can help no matter what stage your business is at, from start-up to established, it will help you identify your position in the market, your unique value proposition, and help to develop a brand strategy that resonates with your target audience. Bear in mind you may not need the full service offer and that's ok, a good brand agency will work within your business' strategic needs.

Every branding agency has its own process, but many will have a breakdown similar to this (often called the 4 Ds) which covers:

1.Discover (research & Insight)

2.Define (positioning & strategy & TOV)

3.Design (identity system, brand guidelines)

4.Deliver (creative outputs–website, sales deck etc.)

It all starts with research to help you build out a strategic plan. Research covers due diligence on your market, your competitive set, pricing (what will the market tolerate), scale and growth possibilities, your audience demographics etc.

Once you have a clear positioning & brand strategy in place, it's time to bring it to life via design. A branding agency can help you with this process, to create a brand that reflects your brand values and communicate your message effectively. From your logo to your website design, every element of your brand should work together to create a cohesive and memorable experience for your customers.


Creating branding consistency across customer touchpoints

But branding isn't just about aesthetics. It's about creating a consistent and an authentic brand experience across all touchpoints. This includes everything from your social media presence to your customer service interactions. By delivering a consistent brand experience, you can build trust with your audience and create loyal customers who will keep coming back.

In an era of fierce competition, building a brand that resonates with customers is crucial for business success. To achieve this goal, businesses need the support of a branding agency that can help them create unique brand identities and distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace.

Businesses need to ensure that their branding strategies are up-to-date with the current market trends. A branding agency can assist businesses in achieving their branding goals by providing insights and expertise on how to develop an effective brand strategy.

Moreover, branding is not just about visuals, it's also about creating an emotional connection with customers. A branding agency can help to create meaningful connections with customers through brand messaging and storytelling. Branding has become a necessary tool for businesses to succeed in the market, and partnering with a branding agency is an investment that can yield long-term benefits.

But, to deliver a consistent brand experience, it is essential to have a clear understanding of your business.

Consistency in branding is not just about using the same logo or colour palette across your comms. It is about creating a cohesive and memorable experience that resonates with your audience. This requires a deep understanding of your target audience and their preferences. So, finding and working with the right branding partner is crucial.

Your brand partner will ensure consistency, with clear brand guidelines that outline how your brand should be used and represented across all your channels – website, social media, packaging, and advertising – helping you to create a strong and consistent brand experience.


Boosting Your Bottom Line

Branding is about creating a unique identity/experience that sets you apart from your competitors. It’s an essential part of any business, and getting it right is crucial for successful growth. A well-defined brand can take your marketing to the next level and ultimately boost your bottom line. However, for many leaders/founders, the world of branding can be a mystery and somewhat daunting.

Working with a brand partner is key to the bottom-line growth because they will take the time to understand your brand, your business, your challenges, your customers, and your competitors. They will help to create a unique brand programme that aligns to your business goals, built on research and data insights that contribute to a brand activation strategy unique to your business needs.

Our work with Cyncly was hugely complex, it covered the merger of 13+ company brands that required a brand strategy and repositioning under a new brand name to create a new global powerhouse brand. A sensitive and intricate task for the business leaders, they approached us with a creative brief covering renaming, branding and a website design and build. The creative process involved an in-depth analysis of Cyncly’s new culture and personality as well as a deep dive into its transformative business model.

Measuring ROI: the benefits of investing in a brand partner.

Investing in professional branding services can yield significant returns for businesses. However, it is important to measure the return on investment (ROI) to determine the tangible benefits of branding efforts. Here are some ways that branding agencies create business value:

1. Increased brand recognition: A strong brand identity can help businesses stand out in a crowded marketplace. By creating a unique visual identity, messaging, and tone of voice, a branding agency can help businesses increase their brand recognition and awareness. This can lead to increased sales, customer loyalty, and referrals.

2. Improved customer perception: A well-crafted brand can help businesses build trust and credibility with their target audience. By communicating a clear value proposition and brand promise, businesses can improve their customer perception and reputation. This can lead to higher customer satisfaction, retention, and advocacy.

3. Competitive advantage: A strong brand can differentiate businesses from their competitors. By creating a unique brand positioning and messaging strategy, businesses can stand out in their industry and attract new customers. This can lead to increased market share and revenue growth.

4. Consistency and efficiency: A branding agency can help businesses create a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints. By developing brand guidelines and templates, businesses can streamline their marketing efforts and save time and resources. This can lead to improved efficiency and productivity.

5. Long-term value: Investing in your brand with a branding partner can provide long-term value for businesses. A strong brand can withstand market fluctuations and changes in consumer preferences. By investing in their brand and reputation, businesses can build a sustainable competitive advantage and secure their future success.

And finally...

A branding agency can help your business no matter what stage it's at. It can create significant business value by helping your business increase brand recognition, improve customer perception, gain a competitive advantage, achieve consistency and efficiency, and build long-term value. By measuring the ROI of branding efforts, businesses can justify their investment and make informed decisions about their marketing strategy.

Investing in effective branding can help your business stand out in a crowded market, attract new customers, and ultimately boost your bottom line.

Don't hesitate to get in touch with our experts at Structure to learn more about how your business can benefit from our strategic approach. We're here to help you every step of the way and serve as an extension of your marketing team.

//

Read more from our brand strategy series:

4th October 2022

Branding 101: Discover


The C-suite’s Guide to
Brand Transformation

Part 2: On the road to discovery 

Get the ball rolling for brand transformation. Gathering information about your brand is the first step of a project. So, what methodologies should you choose? How far should your branding team go to materialise the correct answers and define a plan of action?

 This article explores the common approaches you’ll find generating insights for your brand-building journey.

Project accepted. Brief written. It’s time to mobilise your branding agency team.

When embarking on a branding journey, the first step is the most important. At Structure, that first step is discovery – we spend a lot of time and effort finding out more about your brand and business, including your challenges, context, customers, competitors, products and more.

So, there are two questions that determine the shape of this first stage and therefore the likelihood of success of the overall project: How deep do we go? And how broad do we go?

Your outcomes are only as good as your inputs. So, the more you allow us access to (resources, stakeholders etc.), the better the business outcome. But reality dictates that a business can’t share everything (or involve everyone) with its branding partner. So how do you optimise to get the right insights? Tie your laces and consider the following…

Depth: start on the right foot

Many branding projects fall short because the right people aren’t included in the process to give you the correct information. You must travel high and low to find what you need within a company.

First place to look? Start at the top. Branding without leadership’s support is doomed. Leaders determine the direction of the business and drive organisational culture. When your brand reflects the vision of where the business is going, it creates more impact – and helps your leaders galvanise teams to go the same way.

Moreover, leadership is critical for gaining insights since they have the most comprehensive perspective of goings-on throughout the business and have the closest understanding of performance.

That said, consider involving and interviewing people at the metaphorical coalface of the business – the people selling the story to customers, managing the files and formats, and perfecting the product. You’ll find their experience and understanding of the business and brand may conflict with that of management and leadership, who may be less directly involved in the day-to-day.

Breadth: travel far for diverse insights

Leadership drives and makes decisions about your brand. Even though gaining input from every person can be impractical, securing buy-in across your organisation is critical, too.

Besides digging for facts and perspectives, the discovery stage considers the politics and emotions of people and how they can shape your brand. After all, they must live with and use it.

This is relevant to customers too. Advocates and detractors, longstanding and recent, can provide useful perspectives you may not have been aware of otherwise. And customers will stand to gain from helping your brand improve.

The answer? Your discovery should include and involve a diverse range of views to get a more representational and more accurate input – and therefore a more favourable brand outcome.

Consider your methodologies

There are plenty of research techniques to gain brand insights. Some agencies can do it all. Elsewhere, boutique studios offer their own unique specialisms for market research, audience insights and beyond.

Traditional qualitative and quantitative research techniques yield insights you couldn’t get otherwise – focus groups, surveys, journey mapping, etc. Even academic techniques such as ethnography or semiotics are increasingly common approaches that might be right for your business.

The path to discovery

Let’s pick up the pace. Your brand discovery balances both who to involve and what methods to use.

Here are five rough groupings for the different layers that comprise a thorough discovery session (they all helpfully begin with 'C').

  • Conversation

Starting on the right foot and gaining diverse insights is most critical here. Most brand transformations build from critical conversations: what’s working, what’s not working, the brand’s history, the ins and outs of people’s roles, business strategy, how the product works, what the future holds–the sky’s the limit for questions and what could end up being relevant.

Most research conversations start with a guiding questionnaire. But going off script is common and usually teases out the good stuff. Your branding team will look for contradictions and consistencies in interviewee responses to get to the gold that supports your brand transformation.

Conversation approaches vary. One-on-ones, groups, and workshops unearth rich answers, test assumptions, and clarify understanding in different ways. Decide what’s the best use of time and engagement for your team.

  • Competitors

Competitor analysis for branding is about evaluating other brands’ verbal and visual identities (how the brand talks and looks). From desktop research to fully immersing your team in competitors’ product samples, brand experiences, mystery shopping, retail safaris etc. – it’s important to know what’s being done out there. One good reason is so your brand doesn’t end up doing the same thing as someone else, which can weaken your credibility.

Your analysis reveals insights about the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, and what makes your own brand different or distinct. Commonly your competitors are industry players. But other types of brands deemed threatening to your bottom line or pertinent in your audience’s minds can be analysed to help discover change opportunities.

  • Customers

This is where your customer interviews or other audience insights play their part in shaping your brand outcome. Some businesses like to work with personas – customer profiles that represent a generalised and idealised depiction of who interacts with your brand, directly or indirectly, to help your business generate revenue.

B2B and B2C brands alike have their own complex motives, challenges and conditions that influence how they buy and engage. Your customer insights help capture details that help inform the next stage of the brand-building journey.

  • Category

No brand is an island. Every brand exists relative to another, whether that grouping is clear and well-defined, such as a specific industry (e.g., a niche IoT semiconductor start-up) or something more abstract (e.g., a personal financing solutions app).

Categories imply convention, a set of rules or trends that reinforce an individual’s belonging to that grouping. This works at a business level as well as a brand level. There are certain qualities your business must get right to be taken seriously or understood. Untangling what’s hygiene (must-haves to be in business or earn recognition) and what’s unique (what nobody else is doing that’s valuable and worth claiming) helps brand builders figure out how to drive change in your brand.

And that means knowing which rules to break and what must remain constant to get your brand ahead. This ties into…

  • Culture

Technology evolves. People move. Politics intensify. The way we work, play, live, eat, and buy is all subject to change, macro, and micro, obvious and subtle, but all of which impact your organisation and its goals.

A killer branding team has a keen awareness and understanding of shifts in culture, the key trends relevant to the brand and where the opportunity lies.

Knowing about broader changes in behaviour and activity in the wider world means your branding team can make sound recommendations on how to evolve your brand. So, make sure your team has their finger on the pulse.

Discover what’s next

Gathering insights and commissioning research can only take you so far in your journey. It’s the professional guidance and experience of a branding team which guides and helps leaders go down the right path to achieve the best brand outcome.

...

Next up, the second stage of the process, Define. Moving from gathering insights to articulating the strategy.

Author:
Senior Strategist // Design by Structure.
Structure creates relevant and compelling brands for next-generation tech companies.

...

About this series

Your guide to brand transformation

Most branding projects are like taking a journey with an experienced tour guide. Over the years we’ve developed our own outline for running a project, which takes your brand from insights to strategy to creative execution. 

In our Branding 101 series, we’ve mapped out our methodology as a sequence of articles that correspond to different stages of the branding journey: The 6 Ds Process.

Article #1: Diagnosis: Your organisation might face challenges unrelated to your brand. A typical scope of work is informed by the pain points clients encounter regarding their business and brand. This can be a very revealing process for the client, unearthing things they may not have seen or even considered previously.

Article #2 Discover: Project accepted, we then dive into interviews, insights, research, competitors, categories, trends… The start of every project begins by unearthing the findings that determine how to make the right changes to your brand.

Article #3 Define: From insights to strategy. We examine how findings distil into a plan of attack for your brand – a positioning that articulates the problem to be solved. Then we explore the frameworks, messaging approaches and useful concepts that make the case for change.

Article #4 Design: Translating strategy to creative. The ideas of the strategy get expressed with copy, logo, design language and other elements that represent the brand. We explore what it takes to build your brand identity and formalise rules as guidelines for partners and teams to use.

Article #5 Delivery: You’ve got your assets and artwork. Now go forth and start branding. We explore some of the key outputs where your brand identity gets applied, such as your website, sales decks and launch campaigns. 

Article #6 Discipline: Branding isn't a one-time thing. It's an ongoing health check to ensure that everything remains consistent, clear, and change-ready. In this final article, we explore brand management and maintenance - how to stay on top of your brand's potential and identify opportunities to keep your brand competitive and compelling for your audience.

...

If you’re a business leader ready to embark on a journey of brand transformation, then get in touch.

 

26th July 2022

Brand: Sound and Vision

Multi-sensory dimensions

There are precise sounds to the platforms and the tools we use every day, the whoosh of the sent email. The incoming ping. The click of the lock on your smartphone. These sounds are carefully created to reach right into the core of your consciousness to embed themselves as signals of activity that demand your attention. And they work– ‘Drop everything’. ‘Pay attention’. ‘Look over here’.

Like all things, the good and the catchy ones stay with you, and the intrusive or alarming ones fail or flounder. Remember the depth charge on the BlackBerry… indeed what happened to BlackBerry?

But what if we went further than the functionality alone. We can explore how a brand might sound. We know what it looks like, even how it animates, moves, and speaks when scrolling through a webpage or listening to a podcast. But what might a brand feel like to the touch? What might it smell like if we were to visit? What might it be if it were item of clothing?

As we move away from business cards and books, what is the opportunity for the remaining pieces of tactile collateral? Can it play a part in a wider role?

The 'new' office 

There is an opportunity for the office to be more special and for the objects around you at home (that relate to your work) to be more representative of your brand.  Coolly minimalist, white and steel interiors. 'Oh, you must work for Apple'. Wood and bamboo? 'Are you with Aesop or Hermes or LVMH?'  What might laser-cut recycled metal or 3-D printed objects say? Maybe you’re in manufacturing, in F1, or you’re interested in tech and work for a SaaS.

And about the objects that surround you. What are their codes? Oxygenating plants, we’re a lifestyle business. Books, we’re thinkers. LP’s, we’re in media. Old computer’s, we love tech. What do these treasures at the back of your video call say about you, how you want to be perceived and the kind of person you are. They all matter.

And how might your brand smell? We know of a famous designer who won a contract for a luxury hotel not by adding more rooms or a swimming pool in the basement, but by creating a fragrance for the whole chain. Genius. So, when, on the (rare) occasion, someone visits your office for an actual meeting, think about how to make it memorable. What might the scent in the meeting room be. Is it bespoke? Did you commission it?

And think about the spaces you occupy too. Build an office around a kitchen. What kind of coffee. What handwash in the bathroom. Fruit or candy. Free bagels or free croissants. Have a library. What kind of books? All these choices send signals about who you are. What company you keep. How you behave and what you will be like to work with?

Ties or no ties. Trainers and sweatshirts or shirtsleeves and loafers. It all matters, especially as the war for talent hots up. So, next time you think about your brand, add a physical and multi-sensory expression dimension.

Beyond the brand

Take a moment to think about the brand you are and the brand you want to be. And stretch that idea of brand beyond the channels of social media and emailers (important though they are) to think about the tangible perception you want to leave behind. Premium brands do. Maybe now, in this time of new normal, it’s time for every brand to think about the impression it wants to make beyond both visual and verbal expression.

Let’s be remembered for every aspect, across every touchpoint.

 

Written by: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder.

21st April 2022

Branding 101

BRANDING 101:
- The C-suite’s Guide to Brand Transformation -

Is your brand holding you back?

What makes your business successful? Maybe you have disruptive or highly competitive products. Persuasive and productive teams. Visionary leadership. 

Such virtues can help propel a company onwards and upwards. But some founders and CEOs of successful businesses will find that the engine sometimes runs out of steam: the charm, tenacity and innovation that once fuelled growth and managed momentum no longer makes the same impact.

In a world where change is the only constant, it pays for astute business leaders and
C-suite execs to take a reality check and change their perspective on how their business is perceived.

If your customers, teams, and partners all have different understandings of your company – and if you struggle to articulate your value and justify your relevance to your market – then you might just find that your brand could be the very thing holding you back. 

That’s when it’s time to change.

Recognising pivotal moments

As businesses thrive, they become more and more visible. More people discover what your brand offers, what it looks like and what you have to say (that’s different to or distinct from your competitors). 

So, when key elements of your brand – such as the story, proposition, and perceived image – aren’t joined up effectively and don’t reflect the truth of the business, any inconsistency, friction or lack that your brand expresses turns off potential prospects. 

This applies to every business or organisation, whether a hot new start-up or an established market leader. Leaders must recognise when their brand doesn’t match reality and can no longer support objectives. Business strategy and brand strategy must align so that any change you communicate makes sense to everyone – in your organisation and outside of it.

This is especially true when businesses reach pivotal moments in their journey: expanding into a new market, undergoing a merger or acquisition, transforming from start-up to scaleup, readying to sell or buy, and even selling new products or the same products in a different way. 

 The only constant in life and in business is, change. And it is leaders who have the power to set things straight.

Not knowing is OK

For many leaders, the world of branding and how to harness it for a fruitful outcome can be a mystery. We have seen countless occasions where a company’s leadership embarks upon a quest to correct their branding – but some struggle to articulate the brand challenges they face. That’s OK, that’s where we come in. Branding isn’t a dark art, it’s an integral part of the business, and getting it right is part of a successful growth strategy.

And so, we want to help business leaders understand more of our world with a quick crash course on branding. Welcome to Branding 101.

Your guide to brand transformation

Most branding projects are like taking a journey with an experienced tour guide. Over the years we’ve developed our own outline for running a project, which takes your brand from insights to strategy to creative execution. 

In our Branding 101 series, we’ve mapped out our methodology as a sequence of articles that correspond to different stages of the branding journey: The 6 Ds Process.

Article #1: Diagnosis: Your organisation might face challenges unrelated to your brand. A typical scope of work is informed by the pain points clients encounter regarding their business and brand. This can be a very revealing process for the client, unearthing things they may not have seen or even considered previously.

Article #2 Discover: Project accepted, we then dive into interviews, insights, research, competitors, categories, trends… The start of every project begins by unearthing the findings that determine how to make the right changes to your brand.

Article #3 Define: From insights to strategy. We examine how findings distil into a plan of attack for your brand – a positioning that articulates the problem to be solved. Then we explore the frameworks, messaging approaches and useful concepts that make the case for change.

Article #4 Design: Translating strategy to creative. The ideas of the strategy get expressed with copy, logo, design language and other elements that represent the brand. We explore what it takes to build your brand identity and formalise rules as guidelines for partners and teams to use.

Article #5 Delivery: You’ve got your assets and artwork. Now go forth and start branding. We explore some of the key outputs where your brand identity gets applied, such as your website, sales decks and launch campaigns. 

Article #6 Discipline: Branding isn't a one-time thing. It's an ongoing health check to ensure that everything remains consistent, clear, and change-ready. In this final article, we explore brand management and maintenance - how to stay on top of your brand's potential and identify opportunities to keep your brand competitive and compelling for your audience.

...

If you’re a business leader ready to embark on a journey of brand transformation, then get in touch.

About Author:
Senior Strategist // Design by Structure.
Structure creates relevant and compelling brands for next-generation tech companies.

26th May 2022

Branding 101: Diagnosis

 

Part 1: Diagnosis – what’s your brand problem?

You may think a shiny new branding strategy can help put your organisation on the right path to success. And it can, when implemented correctly as part of your business plan. However, the most effective way to find out how it can help is to explore your challenges fully with a capable branding partner. This article explores common pain points, examines how they affect your branding journey and considers the traps of thinking your business problems are always linked to your brand….

To use a medical metaphor, when you get sick, your symptoms help doctors identify your condition, how severe it is and what the cause might be. Then comes the right treatment to help you thrive again.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to claim that branding is as complex and critical as a medical evaluation. But drawing upon the similarities: both involve asking questions and looking for key clues and insights to define and solve problems that come knocking at the door.

Diagnosis helps both experts in brand and businesses in need figure out if partnering will help correct the business problems that surfaced.

A pandemic of problems

Perhaps your business isn’t hitting growth targets or you’re attracting irrelevant sales leads. Maybe you and your colleagues can’t accurately or consistently articulate what your business does. Maybe your systems for making creative assets aren’t fast or effective enough (or you have no system at all). And maybe the communication assets you have (such as your website, sales decks, etc) simply aren’t well executed.

We see many prospects and clients share the same challenges. Sometimes such problems are due to poor organising between teams and the need to upgrade standards. But sometimes problems are bigger, more abstract and may require many changes business-wide to make them right.

Before you seek help from the outside, connect with managers and executives across your team to gather insight about what works and what doesn’t (your symptoms, if you like). It might be a few difficult conversations, but it needs to happen to build the case for change. Not only does this help your colleagues or investors co-operate and support any new branding investment, but it also helps your agency to help you the best they can – the more information you supply the better the outcome.

Identifying your branding partner

When you approach branding agencies, make sure you gain a good understanding of their capabilities and the extent to which their service offerings can really serve your needs.

Agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are laser-focused on a sector or competency (digital, experiential, sales promotion etc.) while others offer broader, interconnected services, from employee engagement and management consulting to cutting edge 3D motion graphics and web3 asset expertise.

Nothing is more effective than a proper diagnostic conversation with an expert to determine what you actually need. You may start out thinking you need a better logo and finish realising that naming, revised architecture and a new sub-brand are the real antidotes to your challenges.

Mapping the brand journey

Let’s skip the sales approach as every agency and client has their philosophy for how to manage new business, participate in pitches and create proposals.

You’re on board. Time to start your brand journey. Every brand journey follows some kind of plan usually known as a scope of work: an agreement on the order of steps to take together in building your brand and on what is delivered. It helps anchor expectations and keeps teams on track.

How you decide what goes in, at what price and how quickly varies based on your agency’s capabilities, capacities, talent, and other competitive variables.

Most agencies will have their own process or methodology for how they carve up the journey from input to outcome. Our next few articles will dig deeper into the creative process stages that we use at Structure: Discover (research and insight), Define (positioning, strategy, tone of voice), Design (identity, system, brand guidelines), Deliver (key outputs e.g., website, collateral)

The bias to brand

The big question is whether branding can actually solve your problems.

When you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. More important than recognising when branding can help is recognising when branding definitely isn’t the answer. There are some problems that branding simply can’t fix.

It’s true that often a new brand can flatten reputational crises and help rationalise chaotic business decisions. But a company with a toxic culture won’t U-turn morale or performance just because you changed your name. Sexy rebrands alone can’t overhaul common understandings of notoriously poor customer service.

Furthermore, if ‘it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Don’t decide to change your brand lightly. This is particularly true for brands living with price extremes or fanatical audiences, such as luxury fashion where the brand itself represents the most value. Your perception of the problem may be a short-term goal and there could be a risk of undoing years of positive progress

The best way to figure this out is to ask a branding expert.

Start with a valuable consultation

There’s a saying that brand strategy is just business strategy in disguise. Component brand experts will have a good understanding of all the ways your brand threads through your business, reaches audiences and influences decision-making.

It pays to choose a partner with this practical experience to diagnose your true needs – whether it’s with them or another specialist.

Author:

Senior Strategist // Design by Structure.
Structure creates relevant and compelling brands for next-generation tech companies.

...

About this series

Your guide to brand transformation

Most branding projects are like taking a journey with an experienced tour guide. Over the years we’ve developed our own outline for running a project, which takes your brand from insights to strategy to creative execution. 

In our Branding 101 series, we’ve mapped out our methodology as a sequence of articles that correspond to different stages of the branding journey: The 6 Ds Process.

Article #1: Diagnosis: Your organisation might face challenges unrelated to your brand. A typical scope of work is informed by the pain points clients encounter regarding their business and brand. This can be a very revealing process for the client, unearthing things they may not have seen or even considered previously.

Article #2 Discover: Project accepted, we then dive into interviews, insights, research, competitors, categories, trends… The start of every project begins by unearthing the findings that determine how to make the right changes to your brand.

Article #3 Define: From insights to strategy. We examine how findings distil into a plan of attack for your brand – a positioning that articulates the problem to be solved. Then we explore the frameworks, messaging approaches and useful concepts that make the case for change.

Article #4 Design: Translating strategy to creative. The ideas of the strategy get expressed with copy, logo, design language and other elements that represent the brand. We explore what it takes to build your brand identity and formalise rules as guidelines for partners and teams to use.

Article #5 Delivery: You’ve got your assets and artwork. Now go forth and start branding. We explore some of the key outputs where your brand identity gets applied, such as your website, sales decks and launch campaigns. 

Article #6 Discipline: Branding isn't a one-time thing. It's an ongoing health check to ensure that everything remains consistent, clear, and change-ready. In this final article, we explore brand management and maintenance - how to stay on top of your brand's potential and identify opportunities to keep your brand competitive and compelling for your audience.

...

If you’re a business leader ready to embark on a journey of brand transformation, then get in touch.

 

7th December 2021

Does AI Have a Positioning Problem?

Artificial intelligence (AI) was first coined by American computer scientist Prof. John McCarthy in 1955, he said, ‘Our ultimate objective is to make programs that learn from their experience as effectively as humans do.’  In the 66 years since AI has only come into its own, particularly in the past decade, where the technology has caught up with the theory. In 2016, Amazon, Apple, DeepMind, Google, IBM and Microsoft formed the ‘Partnership of AI’ to set societal and ethical best practices for artificial intelligence research.

So, where is AI today?

AI in the 20s

IBM’s definition of AI is, ‘Artificial intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.’ The reality, widely accepted, is that true AI doesn’t exist in business yet. What does exist are AI applications, which learn from interactions and make recommendation-based responses based on those learnings, namely;

  • speech recognition, (such as Siri, Alexa),
  • virtual agents, (Slack, FB messenger),
  • recommendation engines,
  • and self-driving tech.

The uptake of these *applications grew during the pandemic as people were forced to become more connected during the lockdown.

AI has made inroads into enterprise technology, streamlining workflows etc., and while there is a big ambition for the adoption of AI, the reality is its uptake among global companies is not where it should be according to Forbes Insights. A KPMG report (2020) suggests that there is an AI 'trust gap', which has ‘prevailed amid a lack of quality data and an ensuing reluctance to hand critical business decisions over to machines’. This lack of data is perceived as a barrier to adoption. Similarly, the 2021 McKinsey AI report, suggests that its findings show no increase in AI adoption’.

What’s the problem with AI?

As a branding agency working in the technology sector, we have seen many AI-driven propositions in our time, interesting and cool stuff that isn’t accelerating as fast as perhaps it should. It seems to us that AI has a bit of a positioning problem in the following three areas:

  1. Language – exclusive and not very clear.
  2. Perception – fear and distrust.
  3. Clarity – what is the problem being solved?

1. Language 

AI is sometimes positioned as a silver bullet or a panacea, but that doesn’t make it real for end-users who aren’t clear about how it works or what problem it's solving. The word ‘artificial’ doesn’t evoke trust or security and has not changed since its inception in the 50s. There are many definitions as to what AI is, again confusing, and on top of that, there are subfields (machine learning and deep learning) often used in conjunction with AI which muddies the water even further.

AI washing in marketing

This isn't helped by the many products and services that claim to use AI but simply don't, a marketing practise known as ‘AI washing’. We see much of this kind of activity in FMCG, where a fast turnaround is often driven by ‘new and improved’ messaging in a bid to shift more products.

For example, in 2019, an ‘AI’ toothbrush was launched, claiming to track brushing and supply feedback, it was sold on the marvels of new AI tech. Does the brush decide the brushing technique based on what it has learned? No, it doesn’t. This type of activity can confuse consumers about the reality and capabilities of AI.

Marketers may be guilty of feeding the mistrust when they launch products that appear to be AI-enabled and future-forward, but which in reality are simply tech-enabled devices. Therefore, the power of language is important, and so is how brands use it to hit cues of connection and understanding with consumers. If we examine other categories, such as the car industry and self-driving cars, we can see genuine strives in the AI arena, where the tech is looking at and reading situations to make decisions. One of the big players in this sector is Tesla with its Autopilot technology.

Tesla’s use of ‘Autopilot’ is interesting. It’s a word we all feel familiar and even safe with (from our experience of flying), but in this context, Tesla cars always require a driver. Following well-documented Autopilot crashes, the need for clarity of information on what the tech actually does is more important than ever. The brand has been warned about this–a German court found that Tesla’s ad copy misled consumers and has banned the car company from using the terms, ‘full potential for autonomous driving’ and ‘Autopilot inclusive’, in its advertising materials.

In conclusion, the importance of clear language is paramount for safety and understanding because when consumers read about crashes and misinformation, this is when fear and distrust set in.

2. Perception: fear and distrust

A global survey by Statista revealed that only 23% of UK respondents said they trust AI. There are many reasons for this but some of the distrust is fuelled by what they read about AI and their perception of what it is doing or going to do.

People trust mainstream media to supply true and faithful narratives, it's where they often source their information as ‘fact’ and therefore it shapes their perception. But the Media is also guilty of sensationalism, so, while people are unsure about AI, they are acutely aware of when it goes wrong, with headlines such as Tesla’s driving-assisted cars involved in fatal accidents or a Microsoft chatbot spewing racism or smart speakers caught recording and analysing private conversations. All of which have a negative impact on trust.

AI has been the subject matter for many fantastical movies, which always seem to take a fatalistic POV, think about Terminator or Transcendence or AI, where the human is always being persecuted. In the real world, it also doesn’t help either when industry leaders such as Elon Musk, publicly fuel the misguided fear that AI will quickly evolve from being a benefit to human society to taking it over. He is quoted as saying, ‘mark my words… AI is far more dangerous than nukes. The irony of the Tesla owner's remark hasn’t gone unnoticed.

There are some very cool and interesting developments in AI and its subfields, which are being undermined by the negative impact of sensational press stories and pop culture, which are shaping a skewed narrative that is damaging to both the perception and understanding of AI.  We need to challenge this by being clear about what it is, what it does and how it helps us... and we should celebrate those stories.

3. Clarity - what is the problem being solved?

Are humans being augmented or are they being replaced? There’s a big difference between the two. Given that AI is unproven as a replacement for people, we think it would be wiser in the near term to position AI as an aid rather than a replacement e.g., it’s about helping humans do something better.

Currently, there are too many unknowns, therefore defining a clear narrative on AI and the implications and limitations of adoption will increase the chance of success in the long term. We need to talk about AI as an aid, not as a decision-maker or as something that takes control away from us. We need to market AI as something that enhances our choices and decisions, this could help drive adoption and ultimately move us to a place where AI could become fully autonomous in a way that would be more acceptable to the masses. Marketing should focus on addressing the consumer pain points rather than the technology itself, such as ‘park assist’ – i.e., a useful tool for a specific problem.

Moving forward

To reposition AI, we need to rethink the terminology and how we talk about it to make it accessible and transparent. The solution pivots around a people-first approach to AI-enabled tech with a clearer definition of what it is and what it isn’t.

Let’s make it feel more real, not fantastical, it's about using smarter technology to speed things up, enhance performance, and drive better outcomes faster.

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*Uptake in speaker ownership is 38% in the UK, up from 23% in 2018, citing the pandemic as a purchase driver. (UK Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report 2021 by VoiceBot, 2021)

John Galpin is a Co-Founder at Design by Structure.

This article was first published in Top Business Tech.

6th December 2022

Using a branding approach for employer brand management

How can we 'supercharge' employer brand management today? Nicole Clemens, CEO at Design by Structure, explores the best employer branding tactics for both attracting and retaining talent.  By Nicole Clemens, CEO

Nicole Clemens

Nicole Clemens

The Covid crisis has changed how we work, setting a precedent for a new work ethic and talent expectations, whether businesses were ready or not. Every week a new employment ‘trend' hits the headlines, such as ‘the great resignation’ or ‘quiet quitting’, it’s clear the war for talent is on.

But it’s not just about recruitment alone, it’s also about attrition. So, in one of the most challenging times for employers, how do companies supercharge their employer brand management (EBM) strategy to attract, recruit and retain talent?

Taking a branding approach  
A solution is to treat your EBM as a branding brief, and like a well-conceived brand strategy, a well-planned EBM strategy will give your company a competitive advantage in the war for talent.

Your EBM strategy should dovetail the marketing plan (with input from HR), focusing on your reputation, promoting your company as the place to work, supported with a messaging strategy with employee value proposition (EVP) at its core. And just like the business proposition, the EVP must be unique, relevant and compelling – supporting both staff retention measures and engagement measures for attracting new talent.

Brand perception and storytelling 
As a branding agency, we develop successful brand strategies for our clients. By learning everything we can about their business, products, customers and people (stakeholders), we help them to differentiate and cut through the noise of their markets.

Companies must employ similar processes for their EBM strategy. You need to know the perception your audiences (employees, recruiters, new talent) have of your company and how it stacks up against your competitors. Then translate that information into meaningful messaging and communications activity.

Attracting the right calibre of talent needs the help of a good reputation. However, you cannot build a good reputation unless a solid EBM strategy is in place, and it’s led from the top down. Take an external view of your business–what reputation does it have, and what are people saying about it? As you would your businesses brand, ensure you continually monitor your EBM and use consistent messaging across your channels, which means devising a communications plan for your:
• Careers webpage
• Social media channels
• PR activity
• Employee EBM guardians
• Employee newsletter
• Recruitment events

In the war for talent, an effective EBM strategy is one of the most important things in your armoury. A well-conceived one will give your business a competitive advantage by positioning your business as a ‘destination employer’. Employ branding tactics to learn about your business, to devise a narrative and, to tell your employee experience story to attract, recruit and retain the best talent.

To discuss the above-mentioned points in-depth drop us a line.

11th October 2021

Celebrating Failure in Tech’s Golden Age

 

John Galpin

It’s been an incredible 12-18 months for the tech sector with exponential growth. The UK tech VC investment hit a record high of $15bn in 2020 despite the challenges of the pandemic, which has fast-tracked the uptake of tech in both our personal and professional lives – there’s an app for everything.  Its widely debated whether we have or have not entered a golden age of technology, many experts believe it is down to geographical innovation as to which point in the age individual nations are at. There’s no doubt however that technology is remaking the economy, its role during the pandemic is evidence of that.

Then, echoing our love for space in the 60s, there is the advancements of space tech and the space race 2.0 by a handful of billionaires who are looking to democratise space travel - within days of each other Bezos and Branson have both successfully gone into orbit this summer.

It appears that we are innovating and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible again. Like his tech peers, Elon Musk is also determined to buck the trend for zero innovation in space travel. He believes we need to act ‘with extreme urgency’ when it comes to innovating the sector.

While we laud techs 2020/21 success stories and live-stream the low orbit flights, when it comes to the developments in tech there is something else we are witnessing – the joy of failure.

In recent years, there has been a shift in mindset away from the harmful negative connotations of failure to something accepting and even celebratory. That's something worth discussing.

In Western Europe, people tended to find failure difficult to accept and even more so to share or talk about. Whereas in the US it’s a badge of honour -  it’s expected to have several failures before you make it – and people are more open about it. The idea of ‘move/fail fast and break things’ (devised by Zuckerberg) recognises that failure is also a part of the journey to success.

What we have witnessed is that 'failure' has been rebranded and repositioned.

The repositioning of failure

 "If things are not failing, you are not innovating.
Elon Musk

'Failure' has leagues of followers, fans, and devoted communities online, where people share their successes and failures with an equal sense of pride. Failing is about learning and moving on and then sharing those learnings so everyone can innovate, develop and grow. Space X’s Starship launch failures were live-streamed as the teams tested, learned and iterated as part of the innovation process. Musk understands the need to work at pace to maintain innovation, and that failing faster is better in the long game, better for the entrepreneurs and investors alike. Failure makes us ask, can it work, can it scale?

What’s this shift about?
Changes to the perception of failure:

  1. The heroes of failure - the people who are prepared to fail.
  2. Sharing failure - people who share failure.
  3. ‘The mindset leveller’ - if you don't fail you don't learn.

1.The heroes of failure

If we look at some of our biggest tech success stories, we uncover heroes of failure. Tech titans such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are part of this positive shift in attitude to failure. They are on the record discussing the failures that helped them achieve greatness.

But the shift is bigger than just the big players, it’s embraced by the small and big players alike. Where did it start? This openness and sharing mindset is relatively new. In a post-WW2 world shrouded in secrecy, iron curtains and walls, the 90s generation wanted to open barriers and tear down borders in the interest of transparency and growth, which was expedited first by mobile phone technology and then the arrival of the internet.

The advent of social media in the 00s said sharing was good. And so, the heroes of failure were born and given a platform to tackle the negativity aimed at tech geeks and stargazers, who embraced the tech to share the failures and the journeys that allowed them to succeed. In a refreshing change, where once there were coverups, now failure is a TedTalk playlist.

But social isn’t just for the big players to discuss their failures. It’s where the nerds and geeks coalesced, and they brought tech failures to a whole new level – FailArmy has 15+M YouTube subscribers with a dedicated channel to tech fails.

‘When we are developing a new product or service or experimenting in some way,
and it doesn't work, that's okay. That's great failure.’
Jeff Bezos

 

2.Sharing the journey

Technology itself became the facilitator of failure shares. Sites such as YouTube allowed people to film themselves trying out home developed tech, which invariably leads to smashing, crashing, and blowing stuff up. Importantly, it has allowed communities to build a cultural movement of sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of innovation. The proliferation of new channels from 2005, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tock etc., allowed these communities to reach and build new audiences, launching the ‘follower’ era –a thumbs up for failure.

Social media has created some tech failure stars, such as Simone Giertz who is famous for being the ‘Queen of Shitty Robots’. Giertz has a league of devoted fans and followers, has done TV appearances and has recently done a successful TedTalk about celebrating failure.

Similarly, there is a whole army of YouTubers and other channels following the innovation in the Space industry, with live streams of test flights, launch infrastructure construction and daily general progress updates. People delight in the crashes and burns (unmanned) as much as successful flights.

3.The shift in mindset

The adage, ‘if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again’, couldn’t be truer in the sense that not everyone gets it right the first time. The difference is that you hear about this more now than ever before, and not in a derisory way, but because people recognise that it is part of the entrepreneurial journey - some ideas fly, others don’t. And there are many reasons why things don’t succeed – timing, being best not first, or not letting perfection be the enemy of progress and so on. For every success story, there are 80% of businesses that we never hear about and that fail in the first year. This is increasingly becoming the natural order of things. But the flip side is that it is better to try something and fail fast rather than continue blindly. The agility of fail-fast innovation, while counter-intuitive sounding, helps people find success. It’s also about knowing when to stop, Sir James Dyson’s ambition of building the next-gen electric car (with £2bn planned investment) bailed after £500 million because it wasn’t going to be ‘commercially viable’. However, from the ashes of his failure has risen advancements in car battery technology.

The combination of the heroes of failure and the openness and transparency of sharing their stories are behind the shift to accepting failure as part of the road to success. Seeing others, both big and small players from industry and back gardens alike, try and fail has opened the door for acceptance.

Conclusion

“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Bill Gates

The three points discussed come back to one thing, Technology. It’s not failure that has changed, but how we perceive and respond to it which has. It is the normalcy and accepted expectations that a certain number of failures will take place before the eureka moment. The thing about tech is that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s fine.

In 2021, the open attitudes to how we achieved our success, built-in with an expectation of failure is simply refreshing. And when someone such as British-American entrepreneur, Astro Teller, talks about the joy of breaking things to foster an environment where it is safe to fail (X Laboratories (Google)), it helps to take the pressure off someone who is starting out with just an idea. Knowing that there are platforms where you can share and discuss your ideas safely without judgement is a support system for innovation, because if you are afraid to fail, you may not try anything at all. Imagine living in that world. The message here is that it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all–celebrate your triumphs and your failures.

John Galpin is a Co-Founder at Design by Structure.

This article was first published in Top Business Tech.

26th May 2021

The Joy of Space

- Moving office during a pandemic - 

 

A Q&A with Nicole Clemens, CEO.

The lease on Structure's former office came up for renewal, this presented the perfect opportunity to review how we align a new space with the changing needs of the business and our clients.

Why a shared office space?
We knew we wanted to stay in Shoreditch and looked at different options, traditional and modern. Our new office (Fora in Shoreditch) provided the perfect combination of shared and private space. It is also located on Great Eastern Street, which is where our previous office was, so we thought it would provide some familiarity for the team and clients while providing the least amount of disruption for the move.


Why did you choose this space, what did you hope to gain?
The Fora building offers a variety of options and while the physical office space we occupy is much smaller than our previous one, access to the surrounding open spaces provides a superior offer to where we were.

The space enables our team greater flexibility, the freedom to choose an environment that is the most conducive to producing great work based on their needs – spaces to collaborate and connect, to work alone for deadline-driven tasks, spaces with open light and plants for tranquillity or inspiration, even outdoor areas for sunshine and a change of scene.

The terrace at Fora Shoreditch.

Through the move we were able to review current methodologies, we left our printer behind and moved to digital ways of working, how we review creative work for example.
We set the team free with their own laptops so they could enjoy and make the most of the space – while working with digital channels like Slack so we could still stay connected. We reviewed our archive and took the material that would continue to add the greatest value to the future of the business moving forward.

How did you make the office transition, were there any pitfalls?
We moved in March 2020, within weeks lockdown happened, with a directive from the Government to work from home. We were fortunate that we had already started to embrace different ways of working that could be adapted to working from home with the least amount of disruption to the team or our clients. The Fora team was also extremely proactive and implemented safety and social distancing procedures including hand washing and sanitising stands on reception, checking everyone’s temperature remotely on entering the building and capacity restrictions in certain areas.

What's your experience been – what have been the pros and cons of shared space?
We are still navigating how to get the most out of a shared office space. Having worked from home for the best part of a year we also wanted to connect with the team about what working in the future might look like. We conducted an internal survey to get a better sense of how many days a week the team would ideally want to come into an office space, was having a regular desk still important, what were the benefits of working from home and in an office space. We wanted to make the most of our lockdown experience, to build on positives and lessons we’ve learned as a business – the goal, to create a hybrid model that can make the most of each environment for our team to let them produce the best work possible for our clients.

The shared space certainly feels more like a community. A hive of people trying to grow their businesses, which seems especially important right now. We have shared office facilities – kitchens, dining spaces, breakout spaces and phone booths for quiet calls.  We are also fortunate enough to have a large terrace which runs the length of the building which means in the summer months we have the additional option of working outside, during a time where distancing remains important the ability to sit in the fresh air is a huge bonus.

We have embraced sitting next to (socially distanced) complete strangers in the communal office areas. It is actually interesting to speak to someone outside of your sector experience and get insight into how they work, it helps us to stay agile and continue to review our own approaches.

What have you learned from the move and the pandemic?
The new office space has made us completely rethink how we use and appreciate space and manage certain aspects of our business activities. It forced us to reinvent processes and become more digital as a team, to improve our green credentials in a meaningful way which is important to us as a business.

The pandemic has enabled us to become more agile, we don’t need to book large spaces for workshops we run these digitally with our client where traditional static material is now all on screen.

We are excited to get back into our space and reset as a business in this new hybrid model which will enable us to create a new working rhythm, so we can balance the benefits of working from home and working in an office for the team. We will continue to reassess our needs over the next year and look to conduct a new survey in 2022 so we can grow as a business and continue to create an environment that meets our evolving needs.

Moving into a shared space certainly changed things for our business for the better.

Design by Structure's new office life in Fora Shoreditch.

 

Content from this article was published as part of a Business Reporter special for The Economist.

20th April 2021

How does Tech help Banks to Help People?

 

A Q&A with Jesse Swash, Co-Founder.

Twelve months on from the start of the pandemic and the first lockdown, have banks embraced technology enough to accelerate digital transformation to better serve customers, especially the underserved?

Jesse Swash

Jesse Swash

The most powerful thing about technology is its incredible ability to reach seamlessly deep into every aspect of our lives. Harnessed in the right way it can be an incredible force for good.

Just think how easy it is to now book a taxi, grocery shop, book a flight or pay for your TV license. Can any of us imagine returning to queuing in a post office or standing in a long line at Tesco?

Technology thought of in this way is an incredibly powerful way to reach everyone, the over-served and the underserved alike. Technology can make services, that were previously relatively arduous and sometimes downright in-accessible, easier to access, understand and use.

This kind of digital transformation through the application of technology works best when it’s aligned with the needs of the user or in this case the customer.

Want an example? Just think about the new banks. A significant part of their allure is in their ease of use. Back when we could all meet for dinner splitting the bill was a headache. Monzo, recognising a real customer pain point, solved this problem with a swipe of a thumb, and with impressed colleagues and friends rapidly becoming new customers and advocates, it drove further adoption and reach for the disruptor bank brand.

The new brands, downloaded, clicked, and swiped, are the key to reaching everyone. In many ways this change has already happened and is accelerating in the times we’re all living through right now – and will continue to live through for the near future.

Harness technology in this way and the question is then, what are you trying to communicate and what action do you want them to take? Because reach and access are no longer a real problem.

11th May 2021

The New Normal for Brands

A Q&A with Jesse Swash, Co-Founder.

Jesse Swash

Jesse Swash

What does the new normal mean for brands?

It's been a year of restrictions, lockdown, working from home.  As the world changes faster and faster, brands need to do more to keep up, to stay ahead, to survive and to succeed.

For brands, it's time to go faster.

It used to be 'survival of the fittest'. Then it was ‘too big to fail’. The new normal has put all that aside. The new rules are ‘survival of the fastest’.

Got a product. Still relatively new to the market, when is the next version going to be ready? Got a platform. When is the next update? Selling software, when is the next feature going to be added… And that’s just the product side.

You’ve built a brand. You’ve built a powerful proposition. You understand the competition. You’re on top of your routes to market. You get the channels. You know your customers. You’ve connected to your prospects - or so you thought.

Someone just hit the fast forward button. Be on the website all the time, not just one time. Build campaigns twice as fast. Send emails every other day, not just on Tuesdays. Be on LinkedIn all the time and Twitter even more if you can, and try out the new social platforms.  Because the competition got fiercer.

Technology allows you to be everywhere, wherever you are. Own a dance studio in Weybridge, you can sell classes in China. With technology, you simply ‘can’. Opportunity is all around. Technology can empower, unlock and unleash. But it can also take away, hide and remove. Overwhelm.

When it comes to your brand. The only way to succeed is to continue to re-invent, re-think and learn new techniques to reach the lifeblood of any business - your customers. Keep connected to them, listen to them. What are their needs and how does your brand meet those needs. You need to do this faster and faster and faster before your competition does.

In short, live in your brand. Update your messaging. Keep agile. Keep ahead and keep connected.

Because in this new age of ‘normal’ only the fastest will survive.

 

 

 

 

23rd March 2021

The Concept of Digital Brands

A Q&A with Jesse Swash, Co-Founder.

Jesse Swash

Jesse Swash

What is a digital brand in 2021?
A digital brand is one that lives and primarily functions on every screen you own from your monitor to your iPhone and everything in-between. What would we do without alerts on our iWatch?

In reality, almost every brand is a ’digital’ brand. What is different is how digital a brand is. This is, or should be, driven by the needs and demand drivers of the core users and target audiences.

After all, we’re all digital now.

A digital brand, like any well thought through brand, has to be standout and distinctive for the right reasons. Digital or not, the brands that succeed and survive are those that are sure of their purpose, of why they exist.

Solve a problem and you will always succeed.

A truly digital brand looks and thinks about everything it does through a digital lens, embracing digital channels and methodologies to communicate with and engage with its target audiences.

Succeed by being digital-first.

The great digital brands are at the forefront of transforming how we work and live. Their offer, driven by better UX and well thought through service lines, spread through organisations rapidly, changing the way companies behave and operate.

Join in or be left behind.

What are the current innovations in digital brands?
The innovation is where these brands are seen and found, in new channels, with new ways of reaching consumers and prospects with new forms of content and messaging.

Being new now is what matters.

The leading digital brands are driving profound behaviour change. We work, collaborate, and live online. We may be at multiple locations, but we’re increasingly accustomed to working together in this way.

Change is one step at a time.

The real innovations are only just starting. There is a tsunami of AI, AR, and VR developments just around the corner, waiting for us to accept the next stage of virtual connecting and working. Hold tight it’s almost here.

With the impact of COVID-19, what trends have you seen in digital brands?
We have seen huge shifts in the willingness to engage with people we have only ever met on digital channels. The power of the handshake has been replaced by a smile on a video call. We have quickly let go of the need to meet people physically to work with them.

Technology and access to digital brands is now seen as more than a necessity. It’s increasingly a fundamental part of our lives, delivering the tools we need to get on with our job.

Digital is now a must-have, a human right.

In the first two months of lockdown, we believe we saw two years of change. Businesses and organisations adapted to the new blended digital and physical normal to survive. This trend will continue beyond this moment. Who wants to go back to the daily commute?

What are the benefits and challenges of having a digital brand?
Digital brands and services can transform experiences. Just think of something as simple as booking a restaurant via an app, all from the comfort of your sofa. This is the benefit of convenience, something everyone likes and wants and possibly demands and craves.

This is never going away.

The ease of use comes with the requirement to log in or supply data. The data in turn gives brands the ability to target their audiences with pinpoint accuracy. This is the ability to create markets and segments of one.

Making everyone feel like a VIP.

Digital brands also have the power of agility and responsiveness. Be in total charge and control. But open that door and the energy and pace required to sustain the communications and reach is a full-time task.

The best digital brands employ Jeff Bezos’ ‘Day 1’ strategy to stay ahead. They behave like a start-up even when they are years old. Because the side effect is that new isn’t new for very long anymore and the disruptors are being disrupted faster than ever.

When it comes to digital brands what is the best strategy?
Digital brands, like all brands, need to respond to pain points and challenges that need solving. The best solve a problem for a poorly serviced audience who can and want to be reached in a new and meaningful way. Find a problem, show you understand it and deliver the digital solution.

Many of the brands we speak to have grown so fast, they have lost touch with what their customers need. For digital brands being ruthlessly user-centric is key. Do this by following the data and constantly trying and testing things to see what works. In the world of digital brands, the data never lies so take all the insights and use them to give yourself a competitive edge.

Money is a precious resource, but time is more valuable. Brands need to be effective in where and when they invest their time to get their biggest return. As digital channels grow, all brands need to be strategic in where they deploy their effort.

How can organisations get the most out of being digital?
For organisations to get the most out of digital they need to be truly immersed. The senior leadership team needs to get behind the digital strategy and be seen to be truly living it.

The best organisations encourage adoption and don’t force it. If everyone comes to it open-minded it always has a better chance to succeed.

Finally, embrace the idea that digital is a continual journey to improvement. Understand that it never stops, be open-minded and it will always be a success.

22nd July 2021

When is it time to rebrand?

By Jesse Swash, Co-Founder.

Surely a business owner is so close to their brand, they will instinctively know when to rebrand, won't they? But this isn't the case. Some businesses let an outdated brand limp on and then wonder why they are losing customers, engagement and ultimately money. So, how do you know when it's time to rebrand?

Jesse Swash

Jesse Swash

The brand lifecycle covers introduction to market, growth and maturity. The product lifecycle includes two additional stages, 'development' at the start and 'decline' at the end. While there is a distinction the terms are often used interchangeably.

In truth, it's not as linear as this, the best and most successful brands are continually refining, nurturing, and campaigning their brands to keep them fresh and top of mind. Here are some signposts that it may be time to rebrand.

Consider the three ‘Ps’ – Push, Pull and Positioning – are you clear about where you are in your brand activity?

The moment you feel your business has grown, your brand needs to:

  • reflect that your business model has changed and your brand needs to catch up.
  • acknowledge that your audience engagement may have changed.
    – therefore, who you were selling to, may no longer be who you are selling to.

Push and pull considerations
Push factors are the negative factors influencing your market, and subsequently your business, and pull factors are considered the positive or opportunistic drivers for your business.

Push includes things such as when someone new comes into your space and your brand looks dated, or a competitor has innovated, and you look a step behind, or when the market has changed, and you look like you haven’t.

Now look at your pull strategy, is it doing enough and still reaching (pulling) the right audience/customers to your product/service?

When it comes to positioning, do you occupy a distinctive place in the mind of your target market (audience), how are you different and how do you set yourself apart from your competitors?

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, there are other considerations for a rebrand such as a merger and acquisition or preparing for sale, but starting with the above points will require a brand review and may lead you to a rebrand to get you market-ready. Like Bezos said, ‘Brand is what people say about you when you are not there’.

...You always need to be aware of what they are saying.

To discuss the above-mentioned points in-depth drop us a line.

9th March 2021

Technology Enables Innovation

Technology enables innovation to happen – but it is not why innovation happens.

Thousands of businesses have the capability to ‘innovate’ – to create something new, or something better. What separates successful businesses is not whether they can do something, it’s whether they know why they are doing it. There is a huge distinction here, let’s look at that further.

The most successful businesses deliver more than linear, incremental improvements that make something better, faster or smoother. Instead, they harness a deep understanding of their customers, not just observing how they currently behave but revealing and understanding their pain points, interrogating what really matters to them and identifying new opportunities to create meaningful change for them.

These businesses can rethink the sector/customer problem, approaching it from a fresh and original perspective, reframing the context and transforming expectations of what ‘better’ means.

As the classic Henry Ford quote goes, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. He could have bought the fastest horses, bred them to be even faster and become rich. He didn’t. Why? Because he understood that, although his customers might not have articulated it directly, the problem wasn’t just about speed – so the solution wasn’t just about being faster. Instead, he built a new mode of transport that exceeded expectations and transformed the landscape forever – and he became extremely rich!

In short, technology enables innovation, but the smartest innovations are driven by insight – and so too are the smartest businesses.

It can be easy to forget or overlook this, not least when businesses are running full speed to improve and when there seem to be more options for improvement than ever. The most ground-breaking innovations are not remembered because of the technology, they’re remembered because they transformed businesses, cultures and industries.

We need to think of technology and innovation as having a symbiotic relationship in business. Insight is the catalyst for this change. And by putting it at the heart of every decision and using it to constantly challenge and rationalise why they should do something, businesses can streamline activity, optimise resource and align every action through a clear purpose.

The interconnectivity of tech and innovation
Technology and innovation are interconnected they need each other to thrive, let’s look at some examples.

What’s the biggest frustration people experience with customer services? Feeling that they are not being understood or listened to. Having to go through the same conversation, the same complaint, over and over again because they’re speaking to a different agent. We all know this pain.

Dixa, is a SaaS business currently transforming the customer service experience by making it more personal, intelligent, and data-driven., it puts people at the core of its business and addresses this particular pain point – frustration.

Dixa could have used technology to reduce waiting times or increase accessibility. Instead, they looked at the problem differently and unlocked a fresh way to innovate in this industry. The service combines every customer interaction into one seamless conversation by unifying all contact points – phone, email, chat and messaging. Therefore, changing the landscape by removing the frustration of having to explain yourself again and again to different customer service agents.

It has used technology to create a seamless, ongoing dialogue that has transformed expectations of customer service forever.

Mews is another business blending insight and technological innovation to revolutionise the hospitality guest experience.

Rather than think about how to improve the traditional property management system that dominated the industry landscape, Mews decided to drive its innovation from a different angle – the human experience of both hoteliers and customers and asked what are their pain points?

By adopting a customer-first perspective, Mews developed customer-first tech that identifies how and where to simplify or automate hotel operations – from booking engine to check-out, front desk ritual to revenue management.

Small scale improvements would not have been enough to compel hoteliers to switch from the established incumbent – but a new way of thinking brought to life through technology, has created wholesale change and encouraged hoteliers and guests to imagine more.

What both these business example show, is where technology was used to deep dive into a real problem, to fulfil a gap in the sector where meaningful change could innovate to the benefit of the end-user – the customer. Both of these solutions tackle specific pain points, and instead of an easy fix, have come up with an idea that can shake a sector and really challenge sedentary thinking. That’s the beauty of tech, it can realise a business idea and elevate a sector with innovation.

A final word of caution, too often businesses create or adopt technology for technology’s sake. They realise they can, so they do, but they don’t stop to ask ‘why?’. They should. When you unlock ‘the why’, you unlock the insights.

It is the insight that unlocks innovation – and technology that makes good on the promise.

 

This article was first published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

6th April 2021

You’re Special, so Special.

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

How we engage with and expect to access the services that underpin our lives has changed forever. It was happening already, but the structural changes we are living through right now have only made it more pronounced.

We can see that in the almost predictable decline of businesses and brands that failed to keep up or re-invent themselves, the high street stalwart list is a long one. But it’s worth reminding ourselves that for every retreat and closure story there is another business and brand that prospers and succeeds. The truth that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction has never been truer.

This change has swept through every part of society and has affected aspects of our lives and parts of our economy usually seen as impregnable. Who could have imagined previously prosperous high streets closed and now peppered with To Let signs?
But as with all things, and here I must confess to being optimistic by nature, there are silver linings in the clouds of furlough and bailout.

Re-imagine your offer.
For anyone who seeks to succeed, a mantra of continuous change and re-invention is absolutely key.  Because playing catchup is becoming too hard, change is moving too fast. This truth, this new reality applies just as much to a retail brand as a banking brand.
So, what are the opportunities? There are certainly quick wins, such as better customer experience (CX) and a focus on employee experience (EX). Getting employees motivated and inspired, and getting customers feeling that refreshed energy are a definite starting point. After all, when was the last time anyone looked forward to a call with a bank?

But there are other, bigger prizes on offer. Shifting customers to digital, redefining the interactions and relationships with them, and rethinking the ‘phygital’ world is here – yes, it is a thing, physical plus digital – fewer but better branches and more home video calls. Digital experiences that are as easy to navigate as Spotify and Netflix for example. Because one thing is certain, we still need to have the option to talk to someone. We still need to communicate. We still need to discuss.

Seize the opportunity.
Banks and the services they provide have a special place in our lives and our society. Their services are relied on every day by all of us in some capacity. A generation ago we only had the bank branch (with restricted hours), weekend closures and if we were lucky a phone number we could call to facilitate our banking needs. Remember how revolutionary First Direct felt with its shake-up of the sector – Britain’s first ‘virtual’ bank, with no branches and no bank managers. Now we have apps and online banking that work whenever we need them and to complement the remaining branches.

Age is not a differentiating factor either for the retail banks with a sharp adoption of digital services in customers over 65 in the last year (thanks McKinsey). So, when do we need to speak to someone, when do we want to meet in person? Those in the know suggest it is when issues are more complex, when we need to understand a complex financial product or when we are making a significant transaction. And there is the opportunity.

Re-think service.
Retail banking needs to be a re-thought presence in our lives. Destination premises in the locations where they are most needed. Reimagined premises with different kinds of usage spaces for customers. Places where important and meaningful conversations can happen, not for joining the queue to pay in a cheque. More informal or more formal spaces depending on your needs. Maybe one day soon your bank might be more like an Apple store or a hotel lobby, with places to sit and talk over a well-made coffee and a friendly ‘genius’ to guide you through the more complex choices.

The important point is that everything stems from the customers’ needs. We need to implement a user-centric, customer-first mantra, just like the apps and websites we rely on. The right levels of personal engagement in the right spaces, E.g., digital engagement in the right channels for the right kind of transactions. Not a tidying up of what is there already but a fundamental re-think of why we exist and how we deliver the right kind of services to the right people… I’ll bet you’re already planning to click, swipe or even visit.

Make experience count.
We know there is a right place and right time for different kinds of interactions. The next step is for retail banks to make those conversations matter. Can they behave more like they know their customers and are on their side? After all, they know our spending, they know how much we save, they see where we shop and how often we travel and go on holiday. Can they harness this data much like other businesses might suggest a jacket to go with a shirt or a movie to follow the one you just watched? Can a series of transactions trigger a better type of product, or a promotion at work, a different kind of saving account? Can a bank even initiate a conversation, can it think about a person’s life stage and match needs to circumstances and products to milestones? At its core can a bank show us it knows us, and it cares about us? Yes.

Built around you.
Now you, the customer, are the most important person in the room or on the screen. Now your experience is as you choose it to be, on the channel you choose, and when you choose it. Feel comfortable discussing your pension on a video call. Why not?  Rather visit the new branch for a one to one. No problem. Want to check your balance on your mobile? Of course. Happy to get alerts for products that match your new spending habits. Sure, send them over.

Suddenly your old bank has become your new bank and is on your side, it has your back, not just your wallet. The new bank recognises that you are unique, and you are special. And what do customers do with the brands they love, with the brands that treat them as though they matter, as though they are special? Yes, you guessed it. They spend more, they buy more products, and they stay loyal.

And ultimately isn’t that what every business is searching for? So, banks here is your opportunity. Treat customers as the most special thing you have. Give them access to products and services they need when they need them and where they need them, and you will succeed and prosper. The choice is yours. Our tip. Special wins every day.

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

7th December 2020

The Times, They Are A-Changing. That’s for Sure.

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

We are living through an extraordinary moment; it's been said so much this year. Years of change brought on in a matter of weeks: no time to catch your breath; continually on video; everything remote; everything in the cloud. It’s not a question of embracing it, it’s just the new reality.

How we work. How we communicate. How we meet. How we pitch. How we convert. How we deliver. How we grow. How we innovate. And crucially, how we (in business) survive.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s this – if you weren’t already doing it – you must put the user, the client, and the customer right at the heart of everything you do. You need to continually drive better services. That means being brave enough to test, fail, and learning to improve all of the time.

This behaviour, attitude and way of being, is as relevant to the future of banking as it is to any and every other business that wants to survive and thrive. But what’s the point of simply surviving. In fact, it is the businesses that are built on these behaviours and cultures that are the new giants. The very companies we now rely on to exist in this new normal.

What if banks allowed themselves to adopt some of these agile SaaS tactics, allowed some of that energy, drive, and desire to create rich, useful and meaningful user experiences through their doors. Not all at once, obviously, but to start the process of change.

Granted, it's easy to say. Harder to do. And risky to get wrong. And if there’s one sector with a low appetite for risk, it’s this one. So where can banking brands access ideas, inspiration and parallels and also de-risk adoption?

Parallel lines. Parallel sectors. Learn from the successful. Those who are re-thinking the way they and their sectors behave. Look to the brands that have succeeded and prospered. Look at the mistake’s others have made along the way. Look at how they have transformed their industries and take, take, take and learn, learn, learn.

Like it or loathe it. Amazon sets the bar pretty high and is littered with clues. Start with its total clarity of purpose, of why it exists, an understanding that it exists to deliver. Whether it’s must-have items, groceries, information from the corner of your room with Alexa, movies on your TV with Prime, hosting the websites you surf on AWS, or cargo and trips to the moon with Blue Origin. It’s all about 'delivery'. Problem-solving of 'every day is the first day' despite being one of the largest companies in the world. With daily stand-ups. Problem-solving in agile blended teams. And mix in an obsession with making everything user-centric with the customers’ needs always first and the door is wide open to add services, dominate competitors, and to take market share.

Amazon - 'every day is the first day'

The path to change

Change offers opportunity. To reach more customers means more opportunities to sell. Asking more questions such as, what can we do better? means adding new services and product lines which in turn allows you to drive further sales loyalty and ultimately success. Those banks which re-think the right parts of their business and re-think their offers are the ones that will go further.

A recent client of ours, Mews, is a prime example of a business driving fundamental change in the hospitality sector. On the face of it revolutionising the sector with its technology. But actually, all driven by a deep-rooted desire to transform the guest experience for the better forever.

  • Cloud-based. Tick.
  • Easy to use for guests and hotel professionals alike. Tick.
  • Solving a user problem, eliminating long check-in queues, allowing weary travellers to get to their rooms faster, adding buyable services at online check-in, and removing the check-in desk entirely allowing the owners, designers, and architects to make use of premium space in better ways. Tick.

What is the secret? It's a familiar tale. Behave as though every-day is ‘the first day’. Agile ways of working. Blended teams from inside the industry and outside solving the problems that matter. Technology deployed to service an enhanced customer experience, not the hotel’s business admin needs. The net result, staff who can focus on their guests who in turn spend more and enjoy more. Everyone’s a winner.

So, take these three simple methods and apply them to the banking sector:

  1. Understand why you are different.
  2. Find that energy and love of what you do to behave as though this is a great day,
    if not 'the first day'.
  3. Make the customer experience remarkable and memorable.

And even if banking is essential it doesn’t have to be tedious. Keep your eyes open to parallel sectors for inspiration. Think about what can you learn from using Netflix or Spotify for example and apply ideas to your banking app?

These ideas will help your offer to be different. For the right reasons. Drawing insight from outside can help shift your thinking outside of the norm of your sector.

But. And it’s a big but. Do it slowly at first. Fools rush in. It takes time to change the direction and course of a super-tanker. But a series of small changes can make for huge changes over time. Take time to bring everyone with you. An aligned team enthused at the opportunity will go further than a half-committed reluctant group.

The upside is huge. Get started. The times they are a-changing… but at your pace.

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

29th October 2020

The Chosen One

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

The lessons for the future lie in the past. The same truths still hold. This time the story is the consumer, technology is the agent of change and the tale is the customer purchase journey.

The world keeps changing – we can’t change that. Online growth has accelerated, fast-tracked during the pandemic, and from now on only going to grow. Instore continues to shrink – no surprise there. But in truth, it was struggling before lockdown and is unlikely to recover to its hay day.

The truth is that customers are still shopping. The lesson is that how they shop and how they pay is and always has been changing. Learn that lesson. Be on the right side of change. That means embracing the change agent. Embracing the ‘change technology’ enables the way we all shop and, for the purpose of this story, pay.

Instore. Online. Omni-channel, multichannel or, blended. However, we want to describe it there are two key choices. Physical or virtual. Place your bets, allocate your resources, email with offers, entice in-store, catch your customers however you can. That race is on and has been for some time.

But there is another race happening too: behind the scenes; in the pocket; in the wallets and smartphones of your customers and prospects. This race is, with whom will they will pay?

For the customer, the method of payment is becoming increasingly important. There are traditional credit cards. There are the disruptors such as Revolut and Monzo. There are the new(ish) arrivals of PayPal, Apple Pay and Google, who in turn are being challenged by the even newer and free-thinking Klarna.

So, the big question is, as a payment brand how to make sure you’re chosen by and loved by consumers and which brands do retailers lean on and learn to embrace. Decisions. Decisions.

Payments as an industry continue to grow (global payments revenues totalled $1.9 trillion in 2018 alone (McKinsey)). A market that big, no wonder non-banks and non-traditional players are entering to grab their share. The opportunity to disrupt and carve out market share lies in joining the dots in the customer journey. It used to be a channel choice to connect to the retailer. Now it’s a channel choice to the retailer then a wallet choice at the terminal.

The ability of consumers to opt for a brand at the point-of-purchase, to pay with a brand they choose or even love, changes the connection to the bank or financial service provider in a way many fail to grasp. The ties that connect the customer to the brand and weaker and weaker.

The Retail Disconnect
So, imagine you’re at the checkout page or in the store at the till. For a bank or payment provider, its name on the screen or the payment terminal is the key point of connection with you, their shared customer.

Don’t assume you’ll be the chosen one. When the customer can choose the payment provider that offers the best vouchers and rewards, will they choose you? When they can simply wave their phone or ‘Smile-to-pay’, when they never see your logo or brand, how do you build that relationship that keeps them by your side?

The answer always lies in the lessons of the successful brands and businesses from the past and focussing on the customer needs. Stores used to make you queue. The agile and customer focussed introduced self-checkout. The free-thinking added roving assistants that come with their own till. And the really clever took advantage of online to shift or blend their offer and drive huge fortunes.

Now take an extra step, instore or onscreen, work hard to re-invent and re-position your brand so you’re on the terminal or by the confirm purchase button.  Think what message this sends the customer. We’ve thought of you. We’re on your side. We’re your friend. We’re changing to suit your needs. Choose us. Stay with us.

Becoming ‘The Chosen One’
Some brands will be leaders, some innovators, but not all will survive. They never do. But none of those that seek to succeed can afford to avoid the cracking landscape of payments that is happening within banking.

The winners in the transactional world of retail and consumption need to be customer-focused, more responsive, and deliver the services their customers actually want. This is always the start of our advice to every FinTech we work with and help.

Make sure what you offer keeps adapting. Make sure your offer is driven by customer demands. Be relevant. Keep up with Apple and Google. Have a view on Klarna. In short, make sure you’re the chosen one, however, your customers want to pay.

Because the lesson the past teaches us this time. Only the chosen will survive.

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

1st October 2020

Experience Counts

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

Challenges and challengers. There have always been pressures and change forced upon banking as an industry and retail banking specifically. In just the last few years think of the heavier financial regulation, government-backed customer switching and ever-diminishing customer-trust. Add to this the threats of new entrants from outside the sector, with giants such as Apple and Amazon dancing around banking services and the emergence of digital-first disruptors such as Monzo and Starling – the secure world of banking, is looking ever more vulnerable.

The disruptors are the change agents. With brand new business models that place customer experience and engagement at the core of their thinking, they are eroding the loyalty (the cornerstone of any bank’s ability to retain and charge its customers) customers felt to established banks.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on where you stand, every SaaS success story has to have a loser too. And that SaaS success also tends to accelerate towards a point of no return, a tipping point where change moves out of the reach of an incumbent.

In banking it’s the ease-of-use where the transformation really lies. It’s no longer enough to have different kinds of accounts or interest rates and account charges. Now, sky-high consumer expectations built on experiences from other sectors are the driving change. Managing your money at your fingertips, facial recognition and payment without contact are just some of the new battlegrounds where damage is being inflicted.

It doesn’t stop there, traditional banks are being attacked from other angles too. Their very structure and set-up make it hard for them to compete with the agile service providers that are built around making life easier for consumers. There is concrete evidence of this change already happening. The ‘big five’s’ share of personal current accounts was 80% in 2016 and has dropped to 63% in 2019 (Centre for Economics and Business Research). Following decades of slow change, customers have voted with their accounts by switching to new banks that seem to better understand and serve their needs.

Taking all this into account, it is clear to everyone (who wants to see it) that the winners of the next round of banking will be those with services specifically around customer expectation and need. Now more than ever it is 'experience' that counts the most. It’s a harsh lesson that the retail and transport sectors have been forced to learn and the music industry before them. And as a sector which has a retail face, it’s something the established banks should embrace, quickly, genuinely and wholeheartedly if they are to continue and to prosper again.

But all is not lost and there is still much to play for. There are ways the banks can design and build their way to a more stable future. Here are the three pillars of experience as we see it.

Experience counts - listen and learn from the legendary.
Transforming an industry means collaborating with experienced people who understand and have a deep-rooted passion for the opportunity in the sector.

Disruptors will always come to market with newness and energy as their currency. They can see an industry differently and do things in a newer and sometimes better and more agile way. But even they can’t do it alone. The legendary innovators, from Gates to Jobs all surrounded themselves with people who had talents they could absorb and learn from, that would help them not to just continue to ‘think different’ but also to continue delivering and growing and building. This works both ways. The established players can just as easily listen and learn. The shortcut is advice.

Experience counts - borrow great ideas from other sectors.
The second lesson is to take and adapt the best customer experiences from other sectors and replicate their successes in your sector.

If you’re in ‘retail banking’ bring ideas and innovations from successful retailers, digital and physical to your operation. Why not be the first to have an advisory ‘style council’ like
Mr Porter or the stylist experience at Selfridges but for your banking needs. Or an Apple Genius Bar, which provides concierge-style support for Apple customers if you still have to have branches. Put the customer experience at the core of your business activity and their success can be yours too if you’re open to it.

Experience counts – live in data, it never lies.
Banks sit on a vast vault of customer spending data. What does it tell you, what can you learn, what can you do better?

Banks can leverage that data to make more informed decisions to build better experiences and products for their customers. Look at rewards programmes run by retailers with the vast amounts of product consumption data, which is used to provide seasonal rewards or preferred brand vouchers. So, have an idea, a theory, build the test, try it. Trust in the data. It will tell you what to do, what colour to change the button too, which page needs the most work on your new website. Success comes from hard work, analysis, and lots more hard work. But with data on your side, it will work.

Show them you know them.
So, how do you bring all these elements and ideas together to create a better experience for your customers, which keeps you in the game? It all distils to the same idea. Show your customers that you know them. Show your customers that you understand them. And most importantly, treat them as if they are your most important possession.

Experience counts. Experience and expertise will take you far. Learn from the legends of your industry and the SaaS successes around you. Learn how they are shaping customer expectations and experiences. And learn from what you already know, the data you have within your organisation.

Harness all these elements in the right way and you can win the experience battle. Because for your future to be a success, experience counts in large amounts.

 

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

7th September 2020

The Future of Banking is…

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

In the time of great change we’re living through, this ‘new normal’, where every service we used to visit physically can now be accessed with a swipe, a tap, a click or smile, it’s easy to think that something as established as banking could and should have changed far more than it already has.

Yes, there has been change but as with much of the disruption around us, whether food delivery or taxi-hailing, the reality is that the future of banking will still be banking. What will be different is it will not be banking as we know it and it will not be with who we thought it would be with. All the angles and services, where we borrow money from, where we deposit it, whom we pay via, and transact with are all areas ripe for change.

The very concept of banking, at its most basic, a safe place to hold your hard-earned cash and a means by which to make financial transactions, feels like it’s been around largely unchanged for an extremely long time. In reality, there has always been ‘change’ as people moved cash from their pay packet into bank accounts and on to cash machines and credit cards. Banks rode these kinds of change well, it suited them as they still had a grip on the source and the distribution. They grew into big companies and became significant, trusted brands, a dependable cornerstone of modern society.

In this way, technology has been a friend to these landmarks of our high street. But this time technology and its disruptive twin, customer experience, are back and this time it’s different. This time change is going further and right to the core.

The cracks in the foundations.
Disruptor brands have been picking away at the foundations of the commercial offers to customers, carving out successful niches with narrow service offers on our screens and our phones. This is what the first stage of disruption looks like, a niche player like Monzo promising to not just look after your money but also to ‘make life easier’. And it works. The millennials voted with their feet, well with their smartphones, with 4,544,716 of them (to date) signing up. Think early Virgin Atlantic, Tesla with only the model S, or even earlier Apple with a shiny new iPhone but no app store and you can see the parallels. Now comes the flood.

The difference this time around with this second wave is how we, as consumers, want to engage with and ‘consume’ the products the banks offer. Digital transformation of the existing banks up until now has been about replicating a service in a new channel. This time the driver is in rethinking the service offer completely. The winners in this space are B2C brands like Monzo, Atom, and Starling. B2B brands like iBanFirst and HiPay are already starting the process, fulfilling customer needs with new innovative products and service offers and ever more meaningful and user experience led ways that make the incumbents look like, well just that, incumbents.

Multiple choice.
Now for the future-gazing. What comes next is a seemingly sudden shift, that in reality has been seeded by the change in other industries, away from the idea of your financial needs and products all in one place, delivered by just one or two banks or building societies. Let’s call this the multiple-choice phase. It’s an important moment. The next generation has been conditioned to want more, better, faster and easier in all their services. Money is no different. It’s their money and they want to access it and use it in ways that suit them. And worryingly for the banks, they don’t care where they get it from and they’re happy to have it stored in multiple places. If you’re shaking your head, just remind yourself that a TV from John Lewis and a TV from Amazon is the same, but one is cheaper and will be delivered faster. And we all know who is winning that battle.

Once the idea of having some money here, some money there or an investment here and an investment there takes hold, the doors are open for new entrants to arrive and offer alternative destinations. At this point, we pass a tipping point where new feels exciting, and it gets harder for the established brands to respond.

New entrants, old friends.
Next to go are the sector lines. Businesses you already know and trust start to dip their toes into finance and payment with new products and offers, building on the loyalty their customers feel to them. It’s already started to happen, our friend or foe (depending on how you see it) Amazon has launched its credit card with rewards and benefits for use on its retail platform, and tech giant Apple’s card is expected to launch in the UK this year with a promise to re-think how we use credit cards. And we haven’t even brought up Google, Tesla, or even Nike. All these brands approach this market in the same way they transformed how we use and engage with their products. The effect of their presence will be profound, fundamentally changing the way we interact, think about, and access and use our money. The not so secret ingredients are trust, loyalty, and creating that feeling of belonging to a better tribe. Mixed and served correctly they will go a long, long way. For Apple, it’s even created the world’s most valuable company.

The smart money won’t be betting on the incumbents to win this competition. After all, how can you compete with an offer that doesn’t look or behave anything like yours? This won’t be a level playing field.

Power to the people
The final shift is in the power of the customer. This is where the acceleration happens. Once the idea of security and trust in established banking names is gone. Once the drivers are firmly established as a convenience, ease of use, and expectations around experience – ‘If I have a good experience financing my car, why not get a home loan from the same company?’ Once it’s clear that what matters is the quality of the product and the ease of experience in usage the doors are wide open. And once the doors are open and the reviews, posts, and ‘refer a friend’ tactics kick in, it’s very hard to see how anyone can compete with that...

After all, you can bet that the Apple credit card won’t be posted in a letter with a glue dab, that with a swipe or a smile you’ll be able to do things banks haven’t even thought of and that it will lead to multiple additional services with rewards and offers the established players can’t get close to.

Out-thought, out-imagined, and outmanoeuvred. That is what this change looks like.

All change
So, where does that leave banking? It will be a fragmented arena with accelerated change with the winners pivoting toward rich, meaningful customer experiences. Competitors are not likely to be traditional institutions, but brands from other sectors, such as retail, with a vested interest in owning consumer financial transactions. We are already seeing global giants, such as Amazon, making inroads into finance. It is comfortably fully immersing itself in people’s lives – shopping, home entertainment – and now the means of payment. With an experienced toe in the water, the opportunity to offer more financial products is an easy transition and an open invitation for others to follow.

Banking brands will have to raise their game and fight to remain relevant when customer loyalty is eroded, rich user experience is rewarded, and innovation and new service offers are expected. In times of great change, only the bold survive. The evidence of what can happen if incumbents don’t respond fast enough is all around us and the competition is experienced and motivated.

The future of banking will be banking, but not as we know it now and unless the established act quickly, not with who we use now.

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

11th November 2020

New Healthcare Tech Supports Covid 19 Crisis

–The new health chatbot, which puts people at its heart–

A new healthtech chatbot, Ask Ave, has been making a meaningful impact during the pandemic. While it was originally created to assist those with Cancer and their families, due to its flexible design it has been adapted quickly for use to tackle people’s concerns about Covid 19.

The health chatbot, which puts people at its heart, has played a huge role in NHS Scotland, supporting over 110,000 Covid-19 messages from concerned people during its soft launch alone.

Connecting during Covid
The power of talking is encouraged, especially right now during Covid-times. However, for some people, talking face-to-face or over the phone about illness can be difficult. Not only in terms of discussing their symptoms but getting the words out to describe how they feel. It’s about Human Equity, connecting with people is part of being human, but so too is the need to help those people who can’t.  It was on this basis that a new piece of health tech has been created and built– a platform that breaks down the barriers by allowing anonymity.

The chatbot has been so successful in engaging with those that would otherwise not want to discuss the situation that it is now being rolled out to deal with Flu immunisation and vaccine queries on the NHS Inform platform in Scotland.

The tech has revealed some interesting successes. It has been able to extend its reach to those that the NHS has struggled to engage with previously  These are people who are often usually lost in the system or would not engage and they are now better informed and able to protect themselves by simply have the ability to ask questions on their terms day or night.

Speaking about the new application Avril Chester said, We’re so pleased that we’ve been able to support our NHS colleagues at this difficult time, using concepts from our cancer chatbot to help people affected by Covid-19. Working with our technical partner Amido we have applied our joint learnings from working with Cancer Central and NHS Inform to drive growth, efficiency and innovation to Ask Ave to provide  people with a new way to quickly access reliable medical information.’

Rooted in support
Ask Ave is the brainchild of Avril Chester, who founded Cancer Central in 2018 following her battle with the disease. Avril noted the disparate channels to find support for practical issues and services such as local societies or taxi hire to deeply personal ones such as financial, hats or wigs. She founded Cancer Central, which won the Digital Leaders HealthTech innovation ward 2019, as a ‘cominovation’ platform: a hub where community and innovation gather to help cancer patients and their carer’s. To support this initiative, Ask Ave was created as a conversational search – a virtual assistant, which learns as it interacts with people.

Founder Chester said, ‘At conception stage of Cancer Central we ran a ‘hackathon’ with lots of bright minds in the technology industry asking: where shall we start and how best do we achieve the vision? A number of teams recommended to build a solution with a conversational search as people wish to ask questions during a time of need – the Cancer Central chatbot Ask Ave was born.

 Why Ask Ave? Ave is my nickname. I still feel very uncomfortable naming our chatbot after myself, but my board and advisory panel encouraged me to do so.’

Ask Ave is launching in December 2020 under its own brand which was created by Design By Structure. The agency was briefed to evolve the brand’s visual identity, modernising its aesthetic, making the logo so it’s more readable. Provide a clear proposition/ high level messaging so that people can understand what the service is about and an endorsement mechanic, ‘powered by’ lockup when it is licensed to a 3rd party. The chatbot was created with pro-bono support, engineered by Amido, hosted by Microsoft, and supported with SMS texts by Twilio.

This story first appeared in Health Tech World.