Friday, 5 July 2013


It was with great excitement that Jonathan and our photographer (daughter Polly!) set off to the launch of Ideaworks new Experience Centre on Wigmore Street.
We were introduced to Ideaworks by Andrew Zulver, to work with him to develop the brand positioning for the company as it refreshed to acknowledge its changing focus. Formally called 'Sound Ideas', the members of the company felt that this rather undersold their offer. They deliver the most wonderfully integrated interiors that, frankly, are quite mind-blowing.
Jonathan with Operations Director of Ideaworks, Chris Jones
The directors were a delight to work with, and everyone in the company was engaged, enthusiastic and above all highly talented. Their level of skill and attention to detail is both reassuring and impressive.
We worked closely with the team to realign their positioning and develop a name that linked to their very successful past and would fit them for wider vistas in the future - all about being amazing inside.  Zulver & Co went on to design and implement the inspired identity.
The evening was full of amazingness. In the window was an installation by leading international glass and chandelier designers Lasvit, ‘Superclover’ designed by Michael Young. An apparently living wall of jelly fish and one of the highest specification accessible private cinemas outside of the US, with the 4D effect of rumbling seats,were a couple of the highlights.
However the overwhelming message is one of seamlessness and ease. Rather than being a celebration of gadgetry, Ideaworks is all about empathy and simplicity. Their drivers are about frictionless experience - what sort of light would you like, how would you like your entertainment, what mood do you want to create? They are highly sensitive to individual customers and dedicated to making the user-experience as simple as possible, whilst mood creation makes the 'tech' invisible. Polly's text to me while she was there, "This place is amazing – I’m moving in."
Proud brand strategist and naming guru
Ideaworks will be hosting regular evening events at the Experience Centre, the next being an exciting new installation from Melogranoblu on the 18th July. For more information on the next event please follow the link.

The Experience Centre is now available for viewing by appointment. Please contact should you wish to experience amazing inside.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Flash trending

Feet of a typical Generation X Mum (me) ...Sports Relief 2012
In praise of tomorrow's National Flash Fiction Day (as mentioned in today's g2) I am going to attempt a 'flash review' of Breaking Trends latest breakfast briefing last month.

The example of micro-fiction in today's g2 is reportedly written by Ernest Hemingway and very poignant:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

The Breakfast Briefing was at the Charlotte Street Hotel and, after being welcomed by Alec Howe, founder of Breaking Trends, began with a visual blast of everything that's important to know about strong, weak and emerging trends...

This is my slightly gnomic report, written in the dark, of the Breaking Trends blast:

Soft affluence
Web of things
Multi-channel retailing
Gesture > mind control
Spider lives +
22-30 year old women earn more than men of the same age

And four points Alec thought worth highlighting:
1. Life is overwhelming for Generation X mothers (so help them)
2. How resourceful Generation Y are and how quietly confident they are about sorting it all out
3. How dangerously under motivated the West is as compared to the East.
4. The massive potential for social disruption - Europe up the creek, US companies ready to go - good balance sheets...

Your challenge is to work out how your brand can help people with the knowledge of what is happening. As Alec says, "Fluency with the future needs to be innate in your business." I think what really needs to be innate is your willingness to listen and your energy to respond and innovate in response to what you  hear.

To find out more do get in touch with Alec.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Dedicated to Service

Today the Queen has renewed her vow of service, "In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness." Sixty years since her accession to the throne, her message fits well with the current trend for austerity thinking, big society and a glance over the shoulder at a more responsible view of business.

On Radio 4's Thought for the Day on Friday, Lord Harries quoted the mission statement of what he referred to simply as 'an American company': "The business of business is serving society, not just making money. Profit is our reward for serving society well. Indeed, profit is a means and measure of our service—not an end in itself." What an astoundingly Good (with a capital G) and, well honestly, unlikely corporate motto.

After a bit of digging on Google, I'm not surprised that he was a little coy about who this 'American company' was. It was Dayton's, founded in 1902. In 1969 it merged with the J L Hudson Corporation to form the Dayton Hudson Corporation. In 2000 it took on the name of its discount retail arm, Target. So, the mission statement of Target now is: "To make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional guest experience by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise." 

Not so compelling. Not so memorable. Not so distinctive. And, OK, not so Good. But they do go on, "To support our mission, we are guided by our commitments to great value, the community, diversity and the environment." So not so bad either.

Some companies set up at the turn of the century by philanthropist businessmen do seem to have the potential for retaining a set of values that distinguish them from other, less great, companies. The over-quoted (and now hijacked by the likes of Nick Clegg) John Lewis Partnership's mission is actually spot on. It is so refreshing to see an organisation who maintains its value-led philosophy, "The John Lewis Partnership's seven principles define how we run our business. They are as relevant today as they were when they were set out by our founder, John Spedan Lewis, in our constitution."

The first of those principles is Purpose: "The Partnership's ultimate purpose is the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business. Because the Partnership is owned in trust for its members, they share the responsibilities of ownership as well as its rewards profit, knowledge and power."

In the current turmoil of bonuses, incentives and salaries maybe we should all dwell on the idea of finding happiness through service. And hold dear family, friendship and good neighbourliness.

In this age of transparency...

A new wave of 21st century companies is emerging. These 'vanguard companies', a term coined by Rosabeth M. Kanter in 2008 at the Harvard Business School,  'are market leaders that are able to change themselves and the world because they put values at the center of their enterprise.'

The importance of values driven philosophies can never be underestimated. Our recent work with companies on engaging their (brand) customers with their 'corporate story', the obligations they have to deliver reports on CSR and sustainability, developed unexpected outcomes - rather than sustainability being purely a duty, a dragging anchor, it can become THE catalyst for innovation. So brands from companies committed to a wider view of their place in the world, a real commitment to genuinely making the world a better place, can also be those brands that are at the bleeding edge of inventing the future.

At the core of every successful, engaging brand narrative are a few empirical requirements: purpose, transparency, innovation, authenticity and provenance. The work of innovating around sustainability objectives can deliver solutions that both deliver tangible improvements in working practices and supply chain as well as customer benefits in branded products. For example, it is easy to see how goals of lighter, faster, cleaner can be both brand and sustainability benefits.

In this era of transparency every brand, every organisation, must constantly seek permission to exist from their customers. The concept of sustainability needs to shift from the green agenda to the agenda of good business. Where every other conversation includes 'responsible capitalism' how can we not be looking more holistically at our brand strategy and creating the responsible brand?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Trends spotted

The idea of being awakened to trends, as though knowing what's going to happen allows you to instantly exploit your marvellous insight, is always very appealing. But actually the point of trends is that they are happening, and things you notice happening to yourself are often because you are indeed in the midst of, or at the the start of, a trend. Trends are not predictions. Trends are happening now, and often continue for quite some time, and continue to build in the public sphere well after they've been spotted. Here's a few of my own observations (rather than the ones gleaned from trendspotting sellers...):

Interventionist practices are gaining in popularity
I didn't know what this meant either, but having been enrolled to help my son write an essay entitled "The role of participation in interventionist practices" I am now a bit wiser. Just think Occupy, and then Arab Spring. These are the broad brush illustrations of what's going on closer to home. My two examples are the Seedbombfactory starter kit I saw at home this week. An invitation to become a Guerrilla gardener. Which I love. Secondly, my discovery of PARK(ing) Day, which I am seriously considering participating in this September 21st. Watch this space.

British heritage with a twist
This one has been lurking up for a while, but like many good trends carries on getting bigger after you think it's done and dusted. Alexander McQueen have always been masters of this, Vivienne Westward is of course Grand High Witch of the dark magic and indeed even the likes of Boden play at it. The ones we've spotted lately are Grensons. Having been bought by Tim Little in 2010, an ex-advertising chap who set up his own shoe label in 1997, he is now CEO and Creative Director and injecting a certain flair into the product line. Heritage is having its moment in the fashion limelight, and, as Tim says, on LDN fashion,  'Heritage has always been important as it means authenticity. Recently it has become a fashionable word but really all it means is that “these people must know how to make a decent product as they have been doing it for a long time'. What starts making it cool is his eye for detail and the mixing of traditional materials like British Millerain wax cotton and soft Italian calf leather on the Glenn Military Boot.

Made in Britain
Not dissimilar to the trend above, but a more general pride in hand-made and British-made. Inspired by the economic downturn, everyone wants (for some of the time) to support British makers, tap into a little bit of 'post-war' patriotic warmth, buy things that have value beyond 'instant gratification' and feel part of a growing wave of artisanal products offering quality, taste and individuality. As Jane Parker writes in her article on The Foodie Bugle about Starch Green, 'Their website and blog are the apogees of that quiet, stylish, simple genre of "Made in Britain" arts and crafts for which the nation is increasingly gaining global recognition.'

i-connected machines
That sci-fi idea of machines that talk to each other and do everything for you - not so far away apparently. I remember, whilst working at BT in 1996 or so, talking about the increase in the amount of 'information' every individual would soon be receiving in 5/10/15 years, being quoted the likes of doubling every year, month, minute... We had no idea what we were talking about. Internet was essentially dial in, websites were in their infancy, no google, no Facebook, no twitter, no youtube. Now almost every piece of technology I deal with daily talks to each other. iCloud has enabled my phone to synchronise with my MacBook Pro and in turn my iPad. My diary synchronises with my colleagues' wherever they are, my email is available on all my devices - look no wires. The future sneaks up on you and you're living it - you don't need to know how. I received an email from a friend last night that signed off, 'sent from my dishwasher'.

The trend here, apart from everything now looking like 'Hockney trees' or 'Hockney iPad drawings', is art you can look at, enjoy and understand. It's about looking, drawing and painting. It affects you emotionally, viscerally. On the wave of illustration that has been growing over the last few years with the likes Rob Ryan, Jonny Hannah, Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton, ably fanfared by, for example, St Judes, Mainstone Press and Webb and Webb, figurative imagery is fast gaining traction. David Hockney's eye for colour, his draughtsmanship, obsession and prolificness is inspiring, breathtaking and, most significantly in this context, influential. Get down to David Hockney: The Bigger Picture at RA as soon as you can. And don't be surprised if you break out in Hirst-pox, too. Every Gagosian is full of every Hirst spot painting for the next month, as is the window of Uniqulo. More Hirst at Tate Modern from April.