In Brand Life #1 we discussed how we define Brand and in Brand Life #2 we shared how we uncover a Brands DNA.

Here, I wanted to share the more emotive side of the process and how we take the research and insights into the creative and strategic thinking phases for any brand related work.

I have tried not to focus on the well documented and important work around defining the audiences, reviewing the stats, qual & quant research, evaluating stakeholder interviews and data dives, understanding the finer demographics of your audiences, their behaviours and working with insight specialists and so on. We all know how critical all this is to bring into the next stage of thinking and we work with individuals, agencies, client marketing teams, behaviour specialists and research & insight teams to pull together all the relevant information that will inform the next stages. 

Don’t get me wrong, I kind of enjoy it all (well I say that, some of it is dull). But, it’s the creative and strategic thinking that excites us. Taking all the ingredients and having that instinct, experience, creativity and collaborative process to turn it into something that we can be proud of because we know it will make a difference.

Creative thinking aligned with strategic thinking based on great research and insights is incredibly exciting. Exhilarating even. Never boring.

So, to start, we will have, ongoing or completed, some, none or all of the following: A brand wheel, values, ethos, BrandDNA report, brand key, brand positioning, brand proposition, brand purpose, vision, mission, brand health check, brand strategy, brand architecture, brand map, consumer profiles, competitor profiles, consumer experience, consumer feedback, stakeholder interviews, consumer insights, insights, category insights, brand essence, brand differentiation, functional benefits, personality and style, relevant trends, more detailed consumer/customer profiling and research both on and offline, historical context, brand story, business plan, objectives and ambitions, marketing plan, digital marketing plan, budgets and some blank pieces of paper.

The blank pieces of paper are really important, but more of that later. I’ll admit many years ago all the information made my brain freeze with imagined chains, barriers and rules and I didn’t know where to start. With experience, the creative thinking process just eats all this up and the benefit of working with a team of like-minded (slightly bonkers) people, allows the opportunity for greater and more diverse thinking. It also makes it exciting and full of energy. It’s a massive buzz.

The team, sub-teams and other more experienced individuals involved work with younger team members collaboratively, feeding off each other’s creativity, ideas and energy. Guided by a creative director, senior experienced marketers or designers who keep it on course with the objectives and challenges in focus.

Some of the team will work through all the information in detail and start to structure it, uncover insights (if not provided), establish key messages and develop it into a relevant strategy, on and offline, whatever is needed. Setting out milestones, timelines and objectives and measures. They will start to scribble it down on their blank bits of paper (see – I said they were important). It will start to take form and something new and exciting will start to emerge.

Other members of the team will take the relevant information and get together with their blank bits of paper to doodle, mind map and scribble to start the creative execution and initial design work. Ideas are put out there, discussed with the strategic thinkers to feed off each other, crafting and keeping that flow of creativity and excitement. We will have paper stuck on the walls, on desks, windows and even in digital format, on shared drives. Slack, Trello, Zoom or whatever is suitable to share and discuss all the ideas, creativity, innovation and emotional energy. Have I said it’s exciting?!

Throughout the process, we have the organised members of the team that can sit in the middle of the creative activity flowing around them. They make sure they have what they need to work with our clients and keep them up to speed with progress, managing deadlines so we can present and discuss developing creative concepts and strategies. These guys look after the individuals working in our clients businesses, keep them informed, involved and hopefully make their lives a bit easier in some way. I used to see their role as sitting in between a rock and a hard place but now over the years, I see them sitting on the rock looking at the creative seas around them watching, observing and taking it all in.

We prefer to complete, present and sign off the relevant strategic and marketing planning before we go into too much depth on the creative, but we do find that the creative thinking can influence the strategic thinking and we do like working on both facets together up to a point. That said, we also work on one or the other alone for various reasons and it will vary slightly from client to client.

We phase how we approach the strategic and creative work. Initial thinking around broader concepts, talking these through with clients and then developing and fine-tuning as much as we need to get to the final agreed strategy and creative executions. Collaboration, or as we say it ‘Better together’ is one of our core values that we strongly believe in based on many years of hard-earned experience.

In the studio, we have gone through the process of creating numerous strategic and creative ideas. This involves emotional investment and energy to create, believe in and craft with absolute confidence. Many of the concepts won’t see the light of day, but we believe in our process that brings out the best ideas and that investment will pay off.

For us, the work is not just a cosmetic exercise it is in our culture to ensure it will add value to the brand by being true to the values and how it engages each consumer or customer.

As a result of this creative process, we have always developed a strong emotional loyalty to our clients. We get upset when we think their brands have lost their mojo or have problems. We want to help wherever we realistically can without forgetting we are a business and even brands that we have stopped working with still have our loyalty and interest. 

You can’t always let go of that emotional buy in and I guess that sums it up. Brand is emotional!

Author: Steve Kyffin, Managing Director.

Steve has spent most of his life in the creative sector with over 33 years at Bluestone360 which he co-founded in 1988 after a few years as a freelance designer working in London and Bristol.

His love of the sea and formative years living in Cornwall made it difficult for him to live more than 10 minutes from the coast. He studied for his diplomas and qualified as a Member for the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers (now CSD) in Cornwall where he sometimes had a distant view of the north Cornwall coast.

A graphic designer and creative thinker at heart Steve spent the early years at Bluestone360 creating everything from logos to leaflets and the odd cool surf T-shirt design whilst account managing and running the business with his fellow directors. As the team grew and the clients got bigger and more demanding so the skills and experience grew. Steve soon took on the role as managing director.

This was an informative and interesting time as strategic and creative thinking were aligned to challenge and meet clients objectives. Strategies, campaigns and creative ideas were produced for an ever growing array of clients. From Allied Domecq’s global launch of Ballantynes, O2’s branded trade marketing communications, Wrigleys consumer and customer marketing needs, to supporting the Danepak brand relaunch and winning a few Grammia brand experience awards for the Ginsters website, the team flourished and constantly learnt.

With his fellow director Steve developed the BrandDNA process that has evolved over the years as a way of defining what the brands personality and values are. This has gone on to be used in many successful businesses and is still being used today.

With the evolution of the internet and the rapidly changing online world, brands had to adapt to consumers’ needs and Steve and the team soon realised that despite the need for sales the internet was an enormous opportunity for brands to reinforce their values and drive meaningful engagement.

Steve and the team at Bluestone360 are always looking to innovate, collaborate, bring energy, creativity and expertise to make brands meaningful and successful.

Steve still lives 10 minutes away from the sea.

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