Everyone is desperate for life to return ‘to normal’. This is particularly critical for business leaders and employers most seriously affected by the lockdown. I share that impatience!
But, let’s also remember what this ‘normal’ was for all of us: a tough, boom-and-bust rollercoaster of a decade that I’ve written about before. There have been good and unbelievably dire times amid this supposed period of growth and stability. The truth is, turbulence and unpredictability is nothing new. Many have written about the swift pace of change in our working lives in the last months, but what seems to be happening concurrent with that is even more noteworthy.
All the work we’ve done and clients we’ve talked to over the last three months point to one thing: we’re living through a fast-forward period of intense digital revolution. Inevitably, I am embracing every aspect of these changes — albeit in the hope that what emerges afterwards feels stable and sustainable.
EVOLVING DIGITAL PRIORITIES
In the past, when we found ourselves in economic stormy waters, design was the first, easy cut. The old mantra ran: cut all non-essential expenditure. Investing in a new website or brand was decidedly expendable. In truth when the lockdown happened in March, I was braced for a very tough period. Various clients called and paused projects. But then, something unexpected happened. With businesses globally working remotely, needing to communicate digitally became an immediate priority. How your business website looked and operated became not just important — but vital.
I was fascinated to see retail guru Mary Portas discussing on the BBC about the many smaller retailers who had nimbly pulled together sophisticated digital offerings with local deliveries — in very short order. In particular Mary highlighted what a sea-change this was, that these businesses can compete and that people, with a new local-first focus, won’t quickly forget those businesses that ‘got them through’ by delivering against the odds.
My experience echoes this. In recent weeks we’ve seen clients approach us to work on projects that, at a time of most-stress and with pressures on their cashflow like never before, they now view as business critical. This goes to the core of my ‘digital revolution’ theory. Our challenge is to meet those high expectations with bright ideas to make their money go even further than they imagined, excellent brand design and most ideally of all, to do our best to ensure those new digital offerings start to pay for themselves in short order.
CLIENT COMMS TO THE FRONT OF THE QUEUE
One thing that’s abundantly clear is that every business has had to level with their customers. Whether that’s a case of simply not being able to meet in person for a regular meeting, to needing to reimagine an entire event within an online platform. Everyone has had to compromise or rethink often entrenched business practices. These are often handbrake turns, sudden shifts that have happened because all parties involved have had to communicate urgently and agree the best way forward.
It seems to me that the businesses that have had the presence of mind to radically rethink how they deliver their product, give back with an extraordinary generosity, or find new ways of working that seemed unimaginable just weeks ago, are worthy of the highest admiration. From a purely technical perspective, I’ve been struck by the ways these companies have communicated what they are doing. How saying what you are doing is imperative. If people are receiving all their news online, all delivery mechanisms that work successfully are good ones. To impart this information, it’s led to a revival in a medium I thought had not just faded but even been vilified: the e-newsletter.
Back in 2015 or 2016, we did a lot of work around designing and laying out attractive newsletters. But then came GDPR and many companies, faced with the complexity of following new, stringent privacy guidelines simply gave up. But: there’s no doubt that they’re back. In recent weeks we’ve been asked to complete a series of projects asking web users to sign up for newsletters which then aggregate those addresses and deliver a regular newsletter — which we’ve also designed.
Finding the right medium is key — even if it’s one you hadn’t thought of for a while. A digital revolution can mean using old tools in a better way. There’s no substitute for good, clear information, delivered attractively.
IN A DIGITAL REVOLUTION, GOOD DESIGN COMES FIRST
It’s long been my belief that those businesses that consider every aspect of their brand as a seamless flow from one to another are the most successful. During the past few weeks we’ve had the good fortune to work with some amazing people who have trusted us to work remotely and deliver on the design brief they gave us.
One of the first of these was our business logistics client MovePlan. They’re a global business who have faced real challenges over the past months, but now have first hand experience on how an economy releases from lockdown safely. Their Hong Kong hub in particular has been managing business return to work programmes. And they’ve been doing that with a strong, refreshed brand. We launched their dynamic new website in April and have already expanded the site to respond to the evolving business realities we all face in the weeks since.
During the lockdown, our longtime client Oxford Investment Consultants decided to wrap work on the film about their work that had been shot, but not completed. Working with their video production company, we added a short ‘looped’ version of the film to a new homepage design and added the full film as an easy-to-play option. The film is outstanding — and, in explaining the scale and ambition of their work acts as a superb extension of their brand.
We were halfway through a brand and web design project for LiNa Energy, a startup based at the University of Lancaster. Working with photographer Andy Rose, we’d shot the imagery for the site at the end of 2019. With this visual arsenal, we designed and built the new site entirely working from home. It was a great experience — perhaps because their team are inventing the future of battery technology, they’re not afraid of reinventing their brand during a pandemic!
I take my hat off to these companies for their fearless approach to this new working world we find ourselves in. They trusted me and my team to deliver work in unique circumstances. Good people making bold decisions that set them up for the future. I hope once this year of turbulence has passed, we find ourselves in a period of growth that feels like it has a long-term, more sustainable future.
IS YOUR BUSINESS TAKING PART?
There’s never a bad time to step back, review your approach to branding and how you communicate with your client base. If we’re living through a digital revolution, now is the moment to take part.
Call us on 020 7351 4083 or email us direct to discuss a collaboration.