Last week Elmwood headed to one of London’s secret spaces to talk about how brands can prepare for the future by applying 'agile long-termism'. Literally underground in London’s famous Postal Museum, we invited some of Elmwood’s closest friends and partners to the first in a series of get-togethers to celebrate the power of design in a rapidly changing brand landscape.
Sarah Dear, managing partner of Elmwood’s UK business kicked off the evening with the power of design, the centre of everything we do at Elmwood. We want all businesses to put consumers at the heart of their organisation and driving meaningful emotional connections.
She also announced the imminent launch of our new business accelerator, Elmwood LaunchPod Our new accelerator which aims to help businesses grow through creative innovation in this rapidly changing world. We also revealed our new project: Iconistics, a world-first, multisensory end-to-end neuro-design process, and offered an invitation for brands to pilot the scheme with us. 95% of decisions are driven by our non-conscious minds.
“We love to think of ourselves as very rational, but most decisions are based on the way we feel, so your brand needs to occupy a piece of real estate in the hearts of consumers,” – Sarah Dear, Managing Partner
Sarah stressed that design is more relevant today than ever, thanks to the pace of change: “It has the power to make you one of a kind, to be transformative, to exceed expectations, to transform lives and culture,”
The Contagious Way of Thinking
Next up, head of trends at Contagious, Katrina Dodds. Contagious are true experts in the practice of ‘agile long-termism’ – the need to be flexible and responsive without losing sight of long-term vision.
Katrina pointed to Contagious magazine’s annual ‘Genius Survey’; an opportunity to round up some of the most interesting thinkers around the world, and to ask: “What is the biggest challenge facing businesses and what should we do about it?” The answer might surprise you…
‘Speed’ came up again and again from this year’s survey.
Research from the likes of the Yale School of Management, too, has shown that the average life expectancy of a business has undergone a ‘precipitous’ fall in recent years. “This perpetual need for speed is actually a struggle for survival”.
Survival entails a focus on the long-term as well as the short term, of course, yet too many businesses are focusing excessively on short-term metrics at the expense of longer-term brand building.
Agile long-termism requires a ‘sustainable’ set of values and an ‘organising principle’, before pointing to a number of examples – the most famous being Amazon – a company which has entirely reimagined the retail experience while always focusing on customer centricity, on convenience and speed. “Everything it does talks to those values”
Cut your red tape
Katrina from Contagious also warned that, in order to adopt an agile, long-term mindset, real-time learning must be embedded into an organisation. Traditional, hierarchical structures and permission-based cultures need to be questioned,, in case ideas are becoming outdated faster than they can be actioned, which risks choking the ability to be responsive and agile. Too often, there is a tension between tactical thinking and adaptive thinking, while agile organisations, on the other hand, strive to empower, to enable, and to allow autonomy.
She urged brands to think about what their company stands for and to focus on where they can cut red tape and on what is truly mission critical.
Elmwood’s own chief provocation officer, Greg Taylor, stepped up to outline what all this actually means in real terms for brand design. “Always think about what’s possible, but be ready to play that long-term game,” calling on us all to ‘continually surprise and delight with design experiences that are worth sharing’ and explaining that ‘we are all hardwired to notice what’s different’.
“No-one remembers average,” – Greg Taylor Chief Provocation Officer
Brands need to build mental availability, by which we mean brand assets that are ‘iconically always new’ rather than leaning heavily on category norms. Assets need to work ‘in the blink of an eye’, with a design fit for the short-hand digital world but also the long-hand analogue one.
By investing in iconic design assets, whether graphics, colour, typography, platforms or interfaces, brands can leverage canvases that can build emotive interactions which are truly memorable. Technological innovations now allow brands to dimensionalise their stories and experiences in a way that was never before possible, with AR and VR, for instance, allowing for entirely new ways of storytelling, and packaging which can transform into a piece of technology or an interface.
On top of all of this, agencies need to understand clients’ business challenges and clients need to upskill their design understanding, he added, so that they can work together in a co-creative collaborative way, ‘running together rather than baton passing’. This trust is a sure fire way to inspire confidence in a more long-term vision.
Of course, we won’t let anyone walk away from an Elmwood event without a little playtime. Which is why our partners from Framework Creative were on hand to show attendees what’s possible for brands in augmented and virtual reality.
Using the latest VR headsets, brands got a little taste of how they could easily create a memorable, fun experience for audiences. It has been predicted that by 2019 over two billion people will be using AR apps on a regular basis, so brands need to be thinking about their long-term positioning with this tech.
At the end of the evening, the lovely folks at the Postal Museum allowed us all to hop on their amazing underground mail train. After a quick whizz around under the streets of London, we continued exchanging ideas over drinks.
Brands can start harnessing the power of design in multiple ways, right now to cement the future of their business. However, it can only start with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
Elmwood What The F*ture, was the first of, hopefully, many events where we will be exploring design thinking. If you are interested in attending one of our future events, feel free to contact us and get learning. Click here for images of the event.