Tag: company vision

21
Feb

Great brand?? It’s already there…

Unsurprisingly for a branding and design house, we are often asked about the best ways to build a great a great brand?

And we always do our best to keep it relevant to the people we are talking too – ‘your brand should be shaped by your commercial objectives,’ ‘every brand is different,’ ‘branding is an extension of values’ etc, etc…

But more often than not and with the sincere desire to be helpful – we’ll say to people that they probably already have a great brand story and it’s just a case of bringing some more of it to life.

Yes, campaigns can help.
Yes, logos are important.
And yes, tag lines do make a difference.

But it’s the small intangible things that really make a difference and most of the time they’re already there.

Its the stories of great customer experiences, examples where staff went above and beyond, particular achievements, values that you live up to every day, ways that you do things that are unique to you, products that make a difference.

Everybody has these and they are the building blocks to that great brand that you want to build.

Creating great brands is less about set-piece activities and more about capturing the spirit of the organisation.

While compiling The Sustainability Report for Scottish Leather Group in 2016. (An easy task because Scottish Leather Group have outstanding sustainability achievements.) We completed a special feature on the sustainability of the workforce of Scottish Leather Group companies.

John from Scottish Leather Group was celebrating more than 41 years of Service and Social Media definitely appreciated it.

John from Scottish Leather Group was celebrating more than 41 years of Service and Social Media definitely appreciated it.

As we found – at the heart of Scottish Leather Group’s sustainability achievements was the retention of their staff where they have a tremendous record. One page of the report featured John – one of their operators, who began working with the company in 1975, we recorded a timeline of his service showing how he started as an apprentice and is now helping other apprentices.

What was incredible was that we shared this image as a piece to show what the loft could do on LinkedIn and we were inundated with comments and likes each celebrating and congratulating the well-deserved success of a Scottish Leather Group employee. It shows how the small things can truly make a difference.

A wonderful piece of brand storytelling for Scottish Leather Group and something we still get asked about today.

It is the small things that bring a tender to life, makes a presentation memorable and helps a company to build a reputation.

Bring your culture to life and you’ll bring your brand to life and the best bit is that for most of you – it’s already there.

BB

Benedetto is an enthusiastic Creative and Business person.

‘Design with soul’ may be the company tag-line, but to Benedetto, it is also a way of life. He believes that creative and commercial enterprise is about purity of thought, honesty of construction and boldness of execution.

He believes in bringing out the true essence of human endeavour and considers his job of articulating the great work of people and companies an absolute privilege.

His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role as the Founder and Creative Director of the loft, a branding consultancy in Glasgow.

He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.

 

17
Oct

Social Media, A Practical Guide

Social media is quite possibly be the most important part of a company’s brand presence nowadays. Getting likes, being seen and having people engage with you can radically transform your company’s marketing success. A coherent, joined-up and ideas-led social presence will help you attract more clients, staff that share your values and new supporters from all over the world. This is the power of social media.

At the loft, we love social media. We love sharing details of our work, the way we help our clients and also some of the interesting things we get up-too in our studio. We use social media a lot and have therefore picked up some gems that we apply regularly and despite there being many more technical guides online we thought we’d put our feet right in the shoes of those that post on social media to share 10 quick ways to optimise your social posts.

1. Start with the Underlying Message

Before posting, always think… ‘What am I trying to say?’ This is important. Every post says something, consciously or sub-consciously, about your brand. What are we trying to say about ourselves or what we value with the post? We are helpful? We are qualified? We have more experience? Our service is faster?

Marketing is the communication and sharing of values and culture in an interesting way. Make sure what you are sharing displays the values you want it too.

2. A Positive Extension of those Values

As a rule of thumb, the majority of social posts should be sharing something positive! It should be something which people want to read. You have the opportunity to present the best side of your company, your products, your services, your team. Whether it is a client testimonial, something altruistic your team has done in the community or just sharing a very positive benefit of one of your services – more positive posts get more likes and therefore capture the attention of others.

However, more than being positive, consider whether what you are saying aligns with the culture your company is promoting. Doing this will help you be more authentic. Fun posts for fun companies, highly technical posts for highly technical companies, posts about ‘innovation in sustainability’ for companies that value ‘sustainability’ and are innovative around this area. Find the value or the idea and build your post around it. The really great companies do this very well on Social Media.

Everyday Athlete, Glasgow are great at showing their values with every single post.

Everyday Athlete, Glasgow are great at showing their values with every single post.

3. People Love People

Human stories tend to be particularly popular. Celebrating technical attributes or showing thought leadership are both good directions to pursue with social media but human stories such as celebrating ‘service landmarks,’ ‘new-starts,’ or just the good work your team does tend to be more appreciated on social media. Even the most technical companies will have service benefits that apply to human-beings. The more able you are to present the human side of even a highly technical subject – the more likely you are of engaging people with your social posts.

John from Scottish Leather Group was celebrating more than 41 years of Service and Social Media definitely appreciated it.

John from Scottish Leather Group was celebrating more than 41 years of Service and Social Media definitely appreciated it.

4. Image Tells a Story

Make sure the image you use really tells a story about the post itself. This is important.  If you are posting about a particular product, is that product in the foreground of the photo? Does it stand out? If you are posting about an event you are hosting, does the image reflect the nature of the event? One further thing – a more professional, polished image has value, but a slightly rougher image which tells the right story has a greater chance of being understood and properly appreciated by your online audience.

5. Use your Polish Strategically

Despite this, a little polish is definitely going to help. Your posts will grab more attention. Whether it’s some info-graphics to bring a statistic to life, more professional photography of your team members or some video graphics to illustrate a story. Content that has been presented with more care and attention does stand a greater chance of helping you to engage with others. It is worth getting a designer, photographer or videographer to bring some of your content to life for important posts.

However, the real value is in thinking past one post! If you are going to engage a professional – think how you can extend the value of their service? For example, if you hire a photographer to capture the investment your company has made in a new assembly line  – then while the photographer is on site – get multiple images which shows different facilities in a little more detail and instead of a single post – create a small campaign from these 6-8 images. This will help you get a better return on investment and a full campaign worth of content as opposed to one individual post.

Leverage the time you have with a professional photographer, copywriter, animator or designer to create as much quality content as possible. These shots were little additions provided by our photographer Malcolm when photographing the entire team.

Leverage the time you have with a professional photographer, copywriter, animator or designer to create as much quality content as possible. These shots were little additions provided by our photographer Malcolm when photographing the entire team.

6. Use the Loft Social Cheat Sheet

At the end of the day, a lot of this is trial and error – but there are some rules you can use to your advantage. To really help you maximise your posts – we have created a quick cheat sheet which shows the best times, to post, optimal image sizes and character counts. Download this sheet and the information will provide a further boost to your social posts.

The loft social cheat sheet definitely provides a bit of method to successful posting.

The loft social cheat sheet definitely provides a bit of method to successful posting.

7. Headlines should be to the point

If you read our cheat sheet, you will notice that the first few lines of any social post are far and away the most important in grabbing people’s attention. There are definitely some points to be gained by writing a title that everybody understands straight away. Different brands will communicate in different ways but in the absence of any doubt – simple language works best. Understanding over flair.

8. Use all the channels

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc… There are so many different channels now, and it is important to pick the one that works for you. Tools like LinkedIn work well for Business2Business audiences. Instagram or Facebook works better for Business2Consumer audiences. Some are more targeted than others.

However, in all honesty, we recommend using all of the channels all of the time. Once you have picked the right image and drafted the right message – you have very little to lose by taking the time to post in all the channels. Plus, it is interesting how often more light-hearted, authentic, less technical posts are liked on LinkedIn and how often the crowd on Instagram will appreciate something a little more content-rich. Just remember to use the correct-sized images as stretched images tend not to do favours for anybody.  You will get this information from our cheat sheet 🙂

Aggregate softwares such as Hoot-Suite can occasionally be helpful here too.

Technical content can work on B2C channels and light-hearted content can work on B2B channels - give it a go!

Technical content can work on B2C channels and light-hearted content can work on B2B channels – give it a go!

9. Maximise your Content

On that note about maximising all of the channels – make sure you re-use your content too. We spoke earlier on about investing in images, graphics, videos, etc. Once you have these assets, stretch them as far and wide as possible! Get them on your website, use them for your newsletter campaigns. If necessary – use them for print documents such as your annual report or other brochures. This will give you a much greater return for any investment on your marketing outlay.

10. Repeat

Once again, you have invested the time and energy to create content, got a great image and written a strong post. Your postings may be as successful as you want, they may not be. However, you do have the opportunity to have a few more goes. So many people will have missed your post first time round – don’t be shy and give them another opportunity to engage. You may even wish to hone your posts a little – to see if you can make it stronger 2nd and 3rd times round. You have very little to lose and much to gain.

A bit of a whistle-stop tour in how to optimise your social posts – you will find many more technical posts online but we hope that the guide above gives you a practical guide on where to start.

As always if you need any advice…

contact the loft >>>

Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is an enthusiastic Creative and Business person.

‘Design with soul’ may be the company tag-line, but to Benedetto, it is also a way of life. He believes that creative and commercial enterprise is about purity of thought, honesty of construction and boldness of execution.

He believes in bringing out the true essence of human endeavour and considers his job of articulating the great work of people and companies an absolute privilege.

His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role as the Founder of the loft, a design and branding studio based in Glasgow.

He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.

11
Oct

Creating Your Values

Values. They’ll help you hire the best staff, retain the best staff and win tight pitches. They’ll help you make quick decisions and give you the best chance to grow.

At the loft, we’ve worked with several companies – helping them to develop their values. Sometimes with company owners in isolation, sometime with management teams and sometimes with entire organisations. Questioning them, getting to know them and eventually trying to define who they are.

There are many ways to create a set off values, some ways require more time than others, some are more long-term than others.

But for this post, we’re sharing a simple method that will allow you to create your very own – right from the get-go.

Here we go…

1. You don’t have to call them values!

Not everybody likes the term values – or its sister term – ‘Mission Statement.’ If that’s the case – let’s go for ‘Beliefs’ or how about ‘Who We Are & What We Do.’ Different companies will have different ways of speaking to each other. Choose the language that feels right for you and your company.

2. What do you like about your company?

Yes, it is as simple as that. What do you like most about your business? What are the action/behaviours/results that please you the most?

Here’s a real tip – look out for are the simple things that people in your team does.

a) The staff in our accountancy firm always take the time to walk guests back to the exit in the other side of the building even though there are signs everywhere and they wouldn’t have any problem getting out.
 
b) Our creative team always delivers to tight deadlines – always! They actually seem to revel in the challenge of a tight deadline.
 
c) Our IT staff are so helpful to customers that when they’re out on-call, they even fix things that aren’t theirs to fix. They just can’t help themselves.
 
d) The analysts in our software company are usually more on-top of legislation changes than the legislators themselves.

You can have some real fun by writing them down – you may have hundreds of them. Get them down. (Post-it notes and a big board can be a great prop for these types of exercises.) It’s a great exercise to carry out and you’ll love your business even more after this.

3. From behaviour to value…

Once you have your list of favoured behaviours all down – its time to think of the value that person had that has caused the behaviour. This is how we get your values.

a) The staff in our accountancy firm always take the time to walk guests back to the exit in the other side of the building even though there are signs everywhere. (behaviours) = show me don’t tell me (value)
 
b) Our creative team always delivers to tight deadlines – always! They actually seem to revel in the challenge of a tight deadline. (behaviours) = love of a challenge (value)
 
c) Our IT staff are so helpful to customers that when they’re out on-call, they even fix things that aren’t theirs to fix. They just can’t help themselves. (behaviours) = going above and beyond. (value)
 
d) The analysts in our software company are usually more on-top of legislation changes than the legislators themselves. (behaviour) = A pro-dative approach. (values)

If you take the time, suddenly you will have a very impressive first draft.

4. Drafts 2-3-4

Now you have your list – you have to decide which ones are most important to you and how many you want? Most companies have between 5-7 values.

5. Use Them With Pride

The way you decide to use your values depends on what kind of company you are? You can use them on your website, the entrance to your office, the second page of your tender or on the introductory slide of a presentation. They do help you stand out from others and you are more likely to attract the kind of people and relationships you want into your business.

6. Live them and update them

Every company will use their values in different ways and some will take them more seriously than others. Real values-led companies hire/fire/assess staff performance all based on their values. Your values should be updated in-line with the people in the company, within the management team and your own business journey too.

We wish you well in creating your values, we hope you get something out of this post and you know where to find us if you would like some help?

contact the loft >>>

Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is an enthusiastic Creative and Business person.

‘Design with soul’ may be the company tag-line, but to Benedetto, it is also a way of life. He believes that creative and commercial enterprise is about purity of thought, honesty of construction and boldness of execution.

He believes in bringing out the true essence of human endeavour and considers his job of articulating the great work of people and companies an absolute privilege.

His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role as the Founder of the loft, a design and branding studio based in Glasgow.

He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.

25
Sep

‘1000 songs in your pocket’

1000songs

Creating a brand is a never-ending job, there are many things to be done – getting the messaging right, building your digital presence, ensuring there is consistency through all the channels, getting buy-in from multiple stakeholders, etc, etc.

And with each of those questions.

Do we do a new website? Is it time for an E-Mail campaign? Shall we revise the photography of the team? What shall we do with social media?

Where do we start???

At the loft, we believe that the question is usually more important than the answer.

Once you have a clear idea of the question you are asking, you suddenly have a focus and a much wider range of options to play with. And that question is always, always, always better when it starts with people and the type of relationship you want them to have with your brand.

Great questions are the first part of great solutions. Here are some great examples.

“We want to increase our sales with existing customers in Canada because we have the operational capacity to serve more people out there.”

“We have a brilliant opportunity for clients who are looking to scale and we want them to know about it so they can take advantage of it immediately.”

“We want to build a brand so well-known that customers have heard off us before we’ve even finished telling them our company name.”

“We want our customers to benefit from the full suite of services available with our software.”

“We want to do something to unite our team and show the outside world our company is on a new and exciting path.”

Each of the outcomes above have come from projects we’ve worked on – questions that we’ve developed with our clients.

They’ve come from people and brands we’ve worked with -helping them to build better relationships with their customers, suppliers or staff – helping them to achieve their commercial goals.

Strong and worthy questions based around people can only lead to effective solutions. As a company, we wholeheartedly believe in ‘pleasing results over pleasing methods.’

One other person who believed in this was Steven Jobs, and after having read his book, there are similarities.

What made Apple great in the first place? FaceTime gave people easy face-to-face video calling, the original I-Phone gave people an ‘internet communicator, revolutionary mobile phone and I-Pod all in one device.’

And my personal favourite – ‘A thousand songs in your pocket.’

When Steve Jobs presented the original i-pod in 2001, he had a slide which showed the question he asked his team to answer? How can we make a device that gives our customers a 1000 songs in their jeans pocket. What a great question. One which was relevant, worthy and had people at its core. Unsurprisingly, a brilliant start to what became a completely game-changing product.

Like Apple, solutions also have to be flawlessly executed and there has to be a commitment to answering the question properly but nothing will help you achieve successful outcomes quicker.

Not sure about the answer? Think again about the question.

Or we’ll happily help – contact us >>>

Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is an enthusiastic Creative and Business person.

‘Design with soul’ may be the company tag-line, but to Benedetto, it is also a way of life. He believes that creative and commercial enterprise is about purity of thought, honesty of construction and boldness of execution.

He believes in bringing out the true essence of human endeavour and considers his job of articulating the great work of people and companies an absolute privilege.

His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role as the Founder of the loft, a design and branding studio based in Glasgow.

He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.

28
Sep

10 ways to win and retain clients

A couple of weeks ago my company created a brand–experience chart to compliment a presentation about ‘Branding for the 21st Century.’

It can be found here…

http://www.theloft.co/loft-brand-experience-map.pdf

The chart demonstrated the importance of company culture in creating brands that people wish to engage, and more importantly, continuously engage.

Client/customer/employee loyalty is one of the most important aspects of commercial success.
VW sell close to a half million cars in Europe every year and have done so for a very long time, it is the bed-rock of the company’s success and future growth. Customer loyalty is one of the most fundamental attributes in helping a company to scale.

This can also be true with employer-employee experiences, but this post will focus on the client/customer journey.

Here are some of our top 10 ways to building a brand experience that helps to win and retain customers and clients…

1. Create your own map

As a starting point, for brand experience; start with a single client/customer group. Anything your company does that engages the five senses of the end client is a touch point. Consider direct (your communications and activities) and indirect (press coverage, word-of-mouth, market perception, etc) touch points. Touch points can range from the initial hand shake and swapping of a business card to the client’s viewing of your website, through to your e-mail system (we have a blog coming up on the dangers of poor e-mail campaigns.) There can be thousands of interactions depending on the size of your company; take the most important ones and break them into sub-categories (website – home page, about us, contact form, twitter feed, etc…) or (people – dress attire,)

2. Look out for red flags

Ruthlessly vet your business for hygiene factors throughout the ENTIRE EXPERIENCE. These are interactions that will kill the brand experience in an instant and make it almost impossible to do business with your company in the future. Obvious ones include – slow website, broken web-pages (particularly important with multi-browser compatibility,) overly aggressive sales technique, spelling mistakes, un-expected price hikes or change in ‘terms of conditions,’ any form of over-promise and under-delivery.

There are also some really trivial touch-points which may seem obvious but you’d be amazed – members of the company dealing with the client/customer who may have a limp handshake. A really trivial thing, but along with others, can damage the brand experience beyond the point of no-return before a sale has even been made.

3. Don’t forget in-direct factors

Examples of bad press, poor reputation management or the ascent of your rivals in terms of reputation and perception will reduce the quality of your brand experience. These have to be identified and confronted as quickly as possible.

4. Differentiate yourself

You have to strongly differentiate yourself in the market for anybody to take notice of you. There are mainly four ways to define a brand in the market. How you deliver your product/service, what the product or service is, who the individual in the company is and why the company exists.

How you deliver your product/services | A key differentiator may be a special warranty, Hyundai made great hay when it began offering 5-Year warranties as a symbol of their reliability. It could be a unique client experience; one accountancy firm gave their clients jelly? No I’m not kidding; one of the fastest growing accountancy firms in the country actually gave their clients jelly as part of a zany brand experience. Not everybody wants jelly from their accountants but some did and loved it… However, make sure whatever you do is in keeping with your own culture.

What you do | Do you do anything that your rivals don’t? EE, for a very limited space of time, are the only provider of 4G phones in the UK. This differentiates them. ‘Law At Work,’ one of the fastest growing legal firms in the country, is a legal brand that only operates in the area of ‘employment law,’ this exclusivity of service re-defines their expertise for a very specific type of legal work. They are perceived as specialists in a market full of generalists.

Who you are | People defined brands, brands with superstars that front them up – including all of the following – Jamie Oliver, James Dyson, Mary Portas, Gordon Ramsay, Richard Branson but more interestingly many companies/individuals still pledge allegiance to the partner as opposed to the firm in professional services.

Why you do what you do | The big one! Why do you exist as a company? What is your purpose beyond profit? The most intangible of differentiation points but the most potent. Apple are defined by ‘thinking differently,’ Google are defined by ‘indexing the worlds information,’ and the Ritz for providing the best customer experience in the world.

This may seem a bit flowery to some but it is unbelievably important to driving client/employee loyalty.

The companies that can define themselves in this way are the ones that will create a real bond with their clients, customers and staff.

I suggest that you take a piece of paper. Make a set of axis and create 4 quadrants – why, who, what and how; list all of your rivals down and see if there is any great differentiator in a clients mind between yourself and your chief rivals.

5. Watch Simon Sinek, ‘Why great leaders take action.’

For more information on creating your differentiation by ‘why you exist,’ I really advise watching Simon Sinek, ‘Why Great Leaders Take Action.’ It is a 20-minute TED talk which beautifully explains the importance of your purpose beyond profit.

6. Find out why existing customers/client choose you?

Really drill down into WHY your company wins business. Is there a real compelling reason? Is it a logical or emotive reason? Most importantly, is that reason present throughout the entire experience? A contradictory competitive advantage or brand experience pretty much kills any chance of a second sale. People struggle to trust brands that contradict themselves so finding that out should be a matter of priority.

7. ‘Walk the talk’

For existing clients/customers, failure to ‘walk the talk,’ is critical. Any form of broken promise pre-sale will be punished when it comes to product/service renewal. Whichever feeling you decide to invoke in ‘sales/marketing’ has to be consistent throughout the experience. You must ‘walk the talk.’ If you’re selling safety as the differentiator in your service, this has to be evident throughout, if you’re selling a commitment to people or social justice, this can never be contradicted throughout the entire experience. Even if there is short-term pain, a betrayal of values damages the brand, brand authenticity and relationships with clients/customers and staff.

8. Build the emotional case

For marketing and sales, I briefly mentioned technical and emotive information. People make decisions based on emotion and then justify them with logic. That doesn’t mean that logical information such as price, location, delivery of service, size of company, etc will always be overruled by pure emotion. But if all logical elements are comparable, people will make decision based on emotion and gut-feel. If a brand can invoke some kind of natural feeling, this will help considerably in getting the company over the line in winning competitive pitches or tender against their competitors.

9. Work out your ‘purpose beyond profit’

Companies with distinctive cultures and ‘a sense of mission,’ will out-perform those that are purely ‘results driven.’ They allow for more consistent brand experiences which in turn drives loyalty, companies with genuine culture have an authenticity and ‘real-ness’ that people buy into. Furthermore, evidence of a unique or strong company culture will become the best marketing collateral that you will ever have. Don’t just have values, create a set of behaviours to sit beside the values and tell the whole world about them.

10. Build the brand from the inside out.

Think of your brand as a method actor/actress. 90% of what we communicate when speaking to others is in body-language not words. When actors/actresses have to depict their roles on stage, they naturally find it impossible to control every single part of their body language and also recite their lines at the same time. This is where method-acting comes in, the actors/actresses immerse themselves in the characters to become them in their own minds’ this allows the performance to flow and create a more natural and authentic performance.

For anybody with staff and particularly those of you that runs larger companies with potentially hundreds of thousands of touch-points, you aren’t going to be able to micro-manage every single interaction – like the method actor trying to control every part of their body language, it is impossible. The only way to allow for some kind of consistency of brand experience is to immerse your staff and suppliers, into the company culture. Define your culture strongly and then communicate it internally with as much rigour and gusto as you would with external communications.

These are just some of the main ways that you can build a brand experience that helps your company to win and retain clients.

For any further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us…

Benedetto

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Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the branding consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotive brands.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design and strategy work to build emotive brands.

24
Apr

The West Wing Effect

It took about 10 years of my friends telling me ‘You have to watch the West Wing, you’ll love it.’ for me to take their advice. I know the first West Wing was shot in 1998 and the final one in 2006, so I am about 15 years late to the party. But a couple of months ago I got the box sets and before I knew it I was on to series 6. I got to admit, my friends were right- what a show! Packed full of drama, great personal and political stories and from what I understand- a reasonable insight into what life is really like inside the White House.

What I like most about the West Wing is the culture within the organisation, the human tales – the energy, the sense of purpose, the sense of unity. I must admit it reminded me very much of my time at Alfa Romeo nearly 10 years ago. Awake at 6AM, in work for 7AM, incredible energy, incredible passion, fierce debate, a little bit political. You seldom left before 7PM, you’d regularly still be around at 9, midnight and beyond was never out of the question. It’s probably the hardest I’ve ever worked and it was a combustible mix of passion, energy and chaos fuelled by espresso of course. Working hours were horrendous, pay was incredulous but it’s one of the experiences I look back on with the most fondness. I think it’s why I’ve enjoyed The West Wing so much. One is design, the other politics but the fundamental attributes of passion and a clear ‘sense of mission’ is evident in both.

Alfa Romeo and the President of the United States are two very emotive causes. Its crystal clear what you’re working for, the sense of mission is evident and these organisations have people that put the cause before their own needs.

Why?

Not because they have too. But because they want too.

It’s the invisible force that drives people to do better that I’m fascinated with- finding it, unlocking it, releasing it and letting it grow to let companies do better, to let people do better. To outperform the market. It’s evident in sport too. I was fascinated and delighted that Iain MacRitchie, chairman of Hobbs, at a recent dinner agreed with my question that companies could use sport teams as examples to endow their people with a sense of pride in the organisation. If you play for The All Blacks or Manchester United, you play as much for the jersey as you play for yourself. I have friends that work for companies such as Nike who are endlessly reminded of what it means to work for such a great company as well as being aware of the company values, vision and culture.

This sense of purpose.

This sense of cause should be at the heart of every organisation. Brand communication has a true role to play. To communicate a vision, you must firstly have a vision. It has to come from the management team. The people at the top must understand, live it and buy into it before anybody else can. Thereon in afterwards, it’s about telling and re-telling that story – to staff, to clients, to prospective clients, to suppliers, to investors. Getting buy-in from each of the individual stakeholders is what will propel your company forward. It will be the invisible force that enhances sales, client loyalty, client satisfaction, productivity and overall happiness in the workplace. It will be the passion that fuels new thinking and innovation.

We are officially launching a service – initially for large law firms- called Loft Legal. Long term, we’ll work with other service providers. We know that most top firms have a culture, but all too often it is hidden away. We intend to bring it out and turn it into something that can motivate, educate and inspire people to do better. Everybody knows what they do in a professional services firm and how they do it. But many just need to be reminded a bit more often, why they do what they do. Call it the ‘invisible force’ or the ‘West Wing effect.’ Given the right place, it can help to drive your company forward.

Benedetto

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Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.

25
Mar

out of your head…

‘Hierarchy of information’

Remember those words.

Yes it is pretentious ‘designer-speak.’ But it is also one of the pivotal factors in the success of your website or digital presence.

Why, what, how?

Who, where and when?

These are all questions that must be considered when building new digital communications. One of the common questions we get asked from clients before building their websites is please justify the added expense of doing this activity. What’s the ROI? A question that once had me hiding underneath the table in worry is now one that I take delight in answering.

Whilst working with professional service firms I tend to notice that the partners tend to have good conversion rates when sitting in front of a prospective client. Their technical expertise and professionalism will usually win the day when speaking with new clients. Conversion isn’t as much a problem. Something I hear more of, is that they just don’t receive enough new qualified leads to convert.

And this really is the tricky bit.

This is where the company’s overall marketing and brand communications holds greater significance. Getting the right message to the right market gives you a better chance of getting more leads. And obviously your web presence is a pivotal part in this. We also find, when speaking with prospective clients, that if you ask any good accountant, lawyer, broker, advisor etc how they’ve helped their clients in the past. They’ll have wonderful and nuanced examples of how they’ve worked with different clients in different ways.

Call them ‘great stories’ or ‘great case studies,’ they have undoubted value to the people that are browsing your website, blog or LinkedIn profiles.

Where can you find these great stories?

Unfortunately they seem to live only in the heads of the people telling them. This clearly means that nobody, with the exception of those that know them or deal with them regularly, are going to know of the additional and specialised expertise.

A potential client almost certainly won’t.

Not only should they be online but they should be easily accessible too. Most people talk a good game but at some stage you have to show more.

Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?

Hierarchy of information means that you are brutally selective about the layering of information on your website or any communication platform for that matter.
Let’s be honest, we all try a little bit harder on a first date don’t we? We don’t show the other person absolutely everything on day 1 do we? Well not at the start anyway. We put our best foot forward and hope we build enough of a rapport for them to want to learn more. So why would you not approach your digital presence with the same attention to detail.

People in business are mightily busy.

Mightily busy.

So to just get a hearing, you have to remove every possible stumbling block between a prospect and what you can do to assist them.

I have said this before but Winston Churchill once apologised to his audience for a speech being too long because he just didn’t have the time to edit it for their ears.

You can forgive him.

He absolutely had the right idea. It’s YOUR responsibility to ensure that people get to see the right information, the information that can make a difference to them.

The information that justifies your fees.

It’s no good in your head when hundreds of people visit your website daily.

Well actually it’s really our responsability because that’s what we already do for all our clients. Hierarchy of information: layering the information in just the right way to help generate more sales leads. It takes time, intelligence and understanding but will make a significant difference.

How many client accounts do you have to win to justify the additional price of the website?

Yes, you’re right. It’s an absolute bargain.

Benedetto

About the Author

BB Profile Pic Small
 
Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.

14
Mar

The 3-Word Challenge

Those of you that read last weeks post would have noticed that we’re talking with various legal firms about their brand identities. I did a quick-snap poll of a few business people that I knew whether they could tell me what a couple of various firms stood for?

Why they would maybe use them?

Unfortunately, nobody could give me a reasonably consistent answer for one firm. It got me thinking about the whole challenge faced by all professional service firms in this climate. They may be very good at what they do and quietly do an effective job for their clients but if the clients can’t meaningfully describe why another person should use them then they have no means to refer, no real message in the marketplace. Unfortunately it means they have a very weak brand.

In addition to what I said last week – the vocabulary we use as designers – vision, values, brand, culture, DNA etc may not be the language everybody uses to discuss their companies. But, everybody both internally and externally should instinctively know what their firm is about and why people should engage them.

‘They’re the great corporate firm.’

‘They’ll look after you.’

‘Boy they’re expensive but worth every penny.’

‘They may be lawyers but they party hard and you’ll enjoy their company.’

‘They are ruthless.’

‘They are technical wizards.’

Don’t be fooled. These conversations are going on at dinners, at events, at networking breakfasts etc all over the country.

What do you think they’re saying about your firm?
Are they saying anything noteworthy?

I don’t really go for one-size fits all theories or process diagrams that tar everybody with the same brush but I have always said that there are two fundamental rules to branding.

1. Strong message
2. Consistency

The message has to be unique in the marketplace. If I hear another lawyer or accountant tell me they want to have a relationship with me or that they’re trustworthy and have integrity I am going to scream. No thank you, that’s the least of what I expect from another professional. Tell me something more interesting??

And consistency?

Well if you tell me your firm is ‘X’ and I buy in for that reason. When I meet somebody that also requires assistance with ‘X’. I want to make sure that everybody in your firm is going to provide ‘X’ kind of service.

Otherwise I am going to be let down or can’t refer.

Great brands are pre-dominantly one thing and are known for that one thing. And please don’t think only multi-national companies have brands. They may use different terminology but it’s as applicable to your favourite restaurant as it is to your firm.

The challenge is in the message. Who has the time to read war and peace when selecting a professional? We’re all busy people. So think of the perception you want people to have about your firm. Keep it brutally simple and work backwards from there.

This is where you really have to do some work. It’s you that wants the business isn’t it?

If it’s a paragraph, it’s too long and you’ve failed.

If it goes over a sentence you’ve failed.

If you can sum it up correctly in one word, you’re a genius.

But let’s say three words!

Give yourself three words to describe why anybody should engage with you. Short, concise and easy for people to remember you by. You’ll have to go through one hell of an exercise to get it down to three words. Those three words really have to be all-encompassing and appropriately meaningful.

But you’re smart people and it’s worth the pain. Ours is ‘design with soul.’ A huge amount of work went into those three words. A momentous effort with endless trials and errors.

But those words underpin everything we do as a company

– The way we work
– Who we recruit
– What services we develop
– Who we work with
– Selecting strategic partners

Its one of the key reasons we chose not to develop services such as online marketing, web-development, web hosting, etc. Even though they may seem like more natural fits to a company that’s most popular service is still web-design.

That doesn’t mean those exact words are used when people talk about us.

But…

‘passion’ is,
‘boldness’ is,
‘excitable’ is…

Work out how you want to be perceived and work backwards from there.

Or even better, give us a bell and we’ll work on it with you.

Benedetto

About the Author

BB Profile Pic Small
 
Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.

10
Mar

Passion and Innovation

I think in a few years time when I look back on the loft and its journey; this last week will be one that lingers in the memory. There were SO many important events this week I wouldn’t even know where to start. But I am going to select three and try to join the dots as I go along.

On Monday, I had a very interesting meeting with a partner in a large law firm. We are working more and more with professional service firms and starting to create individual propositions to them each that better serves their needs. Loft Legal will be a specialist brand communication service for law firms looking to strengthen their brand in the marketplace. At this stage, we’re still talking it through with different people and seeing where our services can fit.

The meeting on Monday was hugely significant. When asking the legal partner about the company vision and values; not only did he know them off by heart but gave individual examples about how he had applied them in his legal work. This was fantastic, I was impressed by the passion and resourcefulness- my only question, as an aside, was why these examples weren’t more evident on their web-presence but I’ll get back to this part of the story later.

Onto the next related event…

Tuesday saw the release of the awe-inspiring ‘LaFerrari’ at the Geneva motor show – outrageous, dramatic, truly-beautiful. There are no words. I love the design of this car; Ferrari has made more ugly cars than beautiful ones in the last twenty years but this one is stunning. Above that the engineering is breathtaking. They’ve built a semi-hybrid powered car that will go to 60mph in less than 3 seconds, weighs less than 1300 kilos and laps Fiorano, the Ferrari test track more than 5 seconds quicker than its predecessor the Enzo. At first I thought, this car is 12 years in the making. But no it’s more than that – the pulling together of all the resources and expertise of a company means this car is 66 years in the making. 66 years of moving the game forward. Of using its pedigree in racing to build faster cars.

How do they continue to do this?

Innovation.

What fuels this innovation?

Passion.

Ferrari is a small company, tiny on the grand scheme of things. They do not have limitless resources. But Ferrari behaves more like ‘a cause’ than a company. Everybody at Ferrari knows what the company is about and they do a fantastic job of getting this vision across. One of the great aspects of small companies is the compactness of the organisation. The sense of a shared purpose. ‘LaFerrari’ has one or two big innovations but the main body of work is in the details. Thousands of small, iterative details that have been lovingly created to build something out of this world. Collectively they all combine to help form something incredible.

Its innovation and passion that lies at the heart of a number of companies – those are also the ones that happen to have the strongest brands in the marketplace.

Coincidentally, this was further confirmed on Thursday when Paul Fletcher of Edinburgh University put together a strong presentation on that very subject at Thursday mornings Comms Breakfast. He spoke of the problems with companies being overly-results focussed and why ‘innovation’ is the only way to climb ourselves out of difficult times. But he also spoke of the issues with innovators – difficult to manage or control, disruptive, etc. He even went as far as stating that nobody in the room would have had the patience to deal with a young Steve Jobs in their companies.

Difficult to believe as that is.

Innovation in itself is difficult to do but I was delighted that he agreed afterwards with my analysis that innovation is fuelled by passion. And that it has to be fostered from the people at the top. The relentless march of progress is driven by people that love what they do and strive for better. It’s present in all of the great causes of our time and is the invisible hand that enables people to drive companies forward.

Which takes me back to Monday’s meeting.

I am afraid to say that I was unsure if the legal sector would be a good fit for the loft. I was delighted to hear that there are culturally aware firms that were enacting on their vision. I have been saying for a long time that to build stronger brands; Behaviour is more important than words. In this meeting, the passion was evident. Passion which is sometimes difficult to see with legal firms. Imagine the possibilities if you could leverage the entire workforce – all of the junior associates, trainees, partners, managing partners, strategic partners to innovate on behalf of a company’s vision and values? Furthermore, imagine if you could leverage the entire company to communicate this online or offline.

From a ‘brand’ point of view. what can be stronger than a passionate 200-300+ brand advocates enthusiastically articulating the company message at events, dinners, when speaking with family and friends, online?

Call it advocacy, call it internal marketing, call it whatever but it’s a tremendous opportunity. I only realised on Monday that we may have an opening for ‘Loft-Legal’ and it lies in this area. Having vision is important but it has to be articulated properly. It has to be crystal clear – it’s what the likes of Ferrari do very well. But not just big multinationals you’ll find this sense of purpose in restaurants, engineering firms, charities, etc. They may not use our words – brand, vision, values etc but it’s definitely there. This is an area we can definitely help.

My company is ‘design with soul.’ But what is becoming apparent is we need the ‘soul’ bit to come from the client to do great work. What was most exciting about Monday was that we can build a service and proposition with the loft potentially innovating on our own vision. Doing something innovative and delivering something of additional value to clients. Traditional design channels work remains incredibly important – photography, fonts, graphics, motifs, messages etc. We’re amongst the very best at it but I realise that we operate in a hugely competitive marketplace and we must continue to innovate to build a better business.

Through the Finance Gap, we’ve got designs on advocacy too. But that’s a story for another day. Like I said, it’s one of those weeks I think I’ll look back on as a significant turning point. Loft Legal has the potential to make an impact for both legal firms, but other professional services too.

Watch this space.

Benedetto

About the Author

BB Profile Pic Small
 
Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.