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.
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.
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.
Posted by benbordone / Comment, News
I have toyed a great deal with this phrase over the last couple of weeks. You see, I am in the process of writing an e-book at the moment. And the title has changed so many times now, I am thinking of just leaving it blank. The e-book will explain the importance of branding and giving some advice on the subject. You see, when I am writing, the subject continuously return to ’emotion.’ Now this is a difficult one. We in the west of Scotland, are not known for indulging in the ‘e’ word a great deal, and its probably a bit too ‘heart-on-the-sleeve’ for anybody that isn’t American as well. That’s before even considering how to discuss the subject amongst calculating business people.
Now, the draft title may change but one thing that remains central in the e-book is that generating an emotional response is central to the branding process. In fact, its the most important thing. When I began to learn about branding, one of the first things I learned about was psychology, understanding the brain and how it works is critical to understanding why certain brands work and why some don’t. I always loved great design but was eager to learn more. Some elements of design worked better commercially than others and I was desperate to work out why. Commercially, the main reason for a strong brand is to be both recognisable and memorable. To build a successful brand long-term, the emotional responses to the brain (not the heart, as many would think) should be consistent. Very few people will take the time to learn your business intimately so like a Shakespeare Sonnet, you have to make the largest impact in the shortest space of time. The only way to achieve that is through creating an emotional response in your communications; be it excitement, happy, joyous, informed, energised etc. The great brands understand what emotional response they want to create and create both products and communications that will convey this emotion. The ones that do it really, really well will know what they are doing and charge you extra for your pleasure (Apple, for example.). The problem is that most tend to fall short, make lots of noise, give lots of mixed signals without consistency and they therefore struggle to gain any traction regarding their brands. And anybody that has a business has a brand, it may not be a heavily marketed effort but anything from your local chippie to you multinationals have a brand. Its just that few would define it as such. The ones that are rock-solid in their consistency are those that develop the best results for their business. The companies that consistently deliver the same emotional response will be more memorable and easier for people to index in their thoughts. Its why engaging an emotional response is the easiest way to build a great brand.
It is as true of personal brands as it is with corporate brands. And interestingly, people may not realise they know this but they tend to be able to feel something that isn’t quite right. I think the perfect example is David Cameron, the man who still struggles to convince a nation. Why? Well, there is no politician in recent times that has conveyed such a mixed range of messages – none of which define him. And for this, people struggle to believe and follow him. Nobody is buying into the Cameron brand because nobody knows what it is. I doubt he does himself. Boris on the other hand is entirely consistent which helps massively when you need a group of people to buy into you. Liking him or believing he would make a good PM is a different question, but a huge number of people buy into brand Boris.
Returning to business. The funny thing is that design is king in all this. The consumer will have made their mind up about your product/service in milliseconds. Having seen your website, met your sales people, or seen your promotional material. The emotional side of their brains will have decided whether it wants to engage with your company before the logical bit even has time to process it. That means you have mere milliseconds to engage. Only the very best understand this and can design accordingly.
Fortunately, we just happen to be one of the few companies that can do this. If you would like to know more about how your brand can engage an emotional response to help your business give us a bell…
Oh and I think I will risk ’emotive-branding’ as the e-book title. Rule no1, be authentic even if the terrain is hostile or is that rule no2?