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AMA keynote notes: Owen Hughes, Wolff Olins

Categories: Events, Inspiration, Learning things, Useful/interesting

Being a newbie to the AMA Conference, surrounded by people who all work in the same field – one very different from mine – meant I was a wee bit daunted, but this keynote could not’ve been more comforting.

Owen Hughes of Wolff Olins talked to us about what makes a game-changing brand.

Quote from the Wolff Olins website.

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A sustained relationship with your audience comes from honest and open communication.

Long gone are the days of the hard sell. (People just don’t accept or respond to this anymore. More on this at the * …)

Brands must:
be clear about their purpose
be relevant to stakeholders
be shareable
be transparent
be a helpful guide

KNOW YOUR PURPOSE. [I’ve deliberately ‘shouted’ that bit as it’s super important. And, as with all the best advice, it’s simple.]

Understand how your stakeholders experience your organisation.

DISRUPT! [Yes, another important one. And familiar to us, with our branding and web work with Droplet.]

Be nimble; be unconventional; take risks.

*There’s a new mainstream, and these people are:
more connected
more demanding
more active
less acquisitive
less predictable

Apparently there are currently more over 50s than under 30s using social networks. I know! Whodathunk? [I don’t have the source for this stat.]

People want relevance; usefulness. And they no longer trust institutions. (Zoiks.)

People want platforms for self-expression and tools for sharing.

There’s no longer one way to do things, but as many ways as there are people in the audience.

People want the things they want, when they want them. Importantly; not when you want them to want them.

Brands need to move away from communications being ‘summoning’ to a more fluid
approach. From voice to visual. From synchronous to asynchronous. People want, and expect, things now.

People want to be able to change things themselves – and inventiveness thrives in difficult times.

People have changed – audience segmentation needs a re-think.

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Owen talked us through several case studies, the clearest and I think most appropriate of which was Macmillan. (They also branded London 2012 but we don’t like to talk about the ‘endorsement shard’ around these parts – see the big pink blob over the nicely designed leaflet at the foot of the IDFB case study *winky face*)

Macmillan Cancer Care logo, and photos of fundraising kit which includes a sticker pack, collection box and branded balloons

Wolff Olins developed the Macmillan brand to be human – deliberately looking a bit handmade – approachable and flexible. For example: promo packs sent to fundraisers are a kit of parts which allows people to customise and adapt the identity as they see fit. Having fundraised for Macmillan in the past, I can confirm that the packs do indeed put the fun into fundraising for people who’re organising events. There’re stickers and everything.

I guess my only hesitation in bigging-up this brand too much is the fact that very few arts organisations have access to the sort of funds it’d cost to commission this level of branding from a world-renowned agency. Still; I do believe there are plenty of transferrable ideas about keeping a brand open, playful, adaptable – and focused on a defined key purpose – which apply to any and every organisation.

The main things to remember:
Be clear about your purpose. If you don’t know what you’re all about, how’s anyone else supposed to understand?

People want to feel, and to actually be, part of things. Be open and give them that opportunity.

Re-think audience segmentation.

And this is my favourite self-penned soundbite: Don’t preach – help people to navigate culture for themselves.

*UPDATE* I amended this post on 23/07/13 to correct the non-fact that the Macmillan work was done pro bono. It wasn't; however I am reliably informed that it was great value! So, another thing to add to my 'The main things to remember' list: Double check your facts. (And then check them again!)

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