MAY 2020 DOUG JENNER
Success, as it says on many a fridge magnet, is a journey – not a destination. And what a journey we are all on at the moment. It’s fraught with uncertainty and it’s sometimes hard to know what our best course of actions should be. And yet, we can also feel a sense of security in knowing that some things will always be constant. In this context, it’s interesting for our business, Idea Group, to reflect on the company brand book we published just before the Covid-19 crisis hit us all.
Going back to the ‘success as a journey’ metaphor, we’d certainly view our rebranding work as a success; we can measure it in quite a few ways. One is the way it has brought a tighter brand focus to the work of our team, carrying over to a discernible sense of heightened team morale. The process we’ve undertaken over the past year has enabled us, as a business, to reflect not only on where we have come from, but also on how we arrived at where we are now.
What we have now is a book which is an accurate and detailed snapshot of where we are now as a company. But the fast pace of change is the lifeblood of our industry, and what we don’t ever want to do is to sit back and expect today’s brand book to necessarily be an accurate snapshot of where we are in a year’s time. That’s also the benefit of the process we have started – to be a strong part of those forces of change within our industry.
On the surface of it, the journey we have travelled over a period of 20 years, from almost pure consultancy to almost pure systems house, represents quite a transformation. Even so, what we have actually made aware of are the consistent threads that have been running through this entire journey. In all of this time, none of us have really ever talked about values, or about our USP. To be honest, these were not actually on our horizon. But – as we can now clearly see – they were there, and these corporate values have always been a part of what we’ve done. Having them written down and published now adds so much power to our offering, enabling us to build our marketing within quite powerful parameters.
A process like the one we have undertaken could have started from any of several places. We started by imagining our business as a person and agreeing on some key personality traits. Male/female, introvert/extrovert, formal/informal, and so on. The traits we identified were put under the microscope. OK, we all, instinctively or intuitively, agreed on these traits. But how were they borne out in the practice of what we did? This was hard, ‘brain-ache’ stuff, but how rewarding to see how our gut feelings were validated in what we came up with. This enabled us to take things a step further. If this is how we operate, what does it logically imply about what we believe to be important? This produces many different statements, which we could bring together – first under broad headings, then as separate sub-statements that tell, in practical terms, about those beliefs or values.
These were of great help in defining our place in the market and analysing our competitors. Understanding not only who we are, but who we are not, gives a clearer picture of the share of the market that our competitors are more ideally placed to pursue, and the share of the market we are best placed to retain and pursue. But perhaps the most inspiring element of our core values work was in better understanding how our core values enabled us to deliver greater value for our customers.
We were able to identify four areas and then develop each of these in some detail: niche industry presence (a quest to develop newer, better ways of working), superior products (solutions to complex problems should be as simple as possible), highly skilled developers (a ‘can-do’ creative and lateral thinking mindset) and respect (a spirit of openness and transparency).
Such clarity of vision, purpose and belief naturally informs all of those things that many people still think of when they hear the word ‘brand’: tone of voice, strapline, colours, fonts and logos. We have come to a much more profound understanding of ‘brand’. The work we do for our customers is constant. But the all-important factor is the ‘how’ – and this is what brand actually means. While we undertook an exhaustive process to arrive at our main company strapline time to do more, other factors fell more easily into line. These included our ‘tone of voice’ guidelines. How we communicate is very much determined by ‘what we believe’. And so it was with our colour palette, our fonts and our logo.
As the current social crisis has shown, things can turn upside down overnight. Certainly, much of what is in our new brand book may be out of date very soon. But we know we should actually celebrate that and also be aware that some things, despite so much uncertainty, will remain constant. And those things are our USP and what we, as a corporate entity, believe. These are our core values.