The future of branding according to Wolff Olins CEO, Ije Nwokorie

We recently watched Wolff Olins global CEO, Ije Nwokorie, encouraging designers and strategists to make a mess before arriving at their creative decisions. The discipline of branding has evolved and no longer relies on individual super-stars such as Wally Olins with more of a shift towards teams, hackers and collaborators.  The alterations in technology and values have seen branding repositioning in a move far from corporate strategy and communication. Today there is a focus on innovation and services. Ije creates his own marketing mix from organised chaos.

Place – We learn how the creative space should not be controlled. It’s stressed how you always get more creativity from a messy space rather than a regimented environment, “peoples desks have to be a manifestation of themselves.”

To be successful, you must get into the places that brands exist in – observation seems to be key. Designers and strategists should be perceptive of how a customer interacts with a brand. Ije uses the Wolff Olins Skype example – he discusses the reality, the imperfections, the messiness of using Skype and how you need to understand that to relate to the market it provides a service to.  The Wolff Olins research is done so well that the language is much closer to the product and experience than most advertising messages.  It’s evident that Ije considers the place where people experience the brand is as important as what the overall branding embodies.

Process – Ije moves away from the ‘place’ by justifying that the process is done away from the office. Great product and service designers are not sitting in offices. In order to succeed the process must be carried out by developing and designing the brand where it is used in people’s lives.

What Wolff Olins do in the branding process is inject inspiration and create some start points for people to make a product or service. Listening to their EE example shows how inspiration is key. The success of EE is thanks to Wolff Olins sewing a seed for other teams to create the brand. “We’re advisors, helpers, partners and collaborators of these brands.”  What Wolff Olins seem to do is use design as an instigator, a disrupter and encourage people to break the norm to do something different; “The most powerful thing a brand can do is inspire people in the organisation to do something new.”

Products – Ije explains the notion of creation in the branding world and how you must put products into hands to begin the conversation between the brand and the customer; “you need to create a forcing mechanism to get people’s perspective.’

Wolff Olins are currently rethinking the Orange brand for the 21st century – their future growth is forecasted for Africa. Ije shows their video for Orange which is loosely based around a mysterious box with a switch.  Their starting point is not just about mobile services but a much broader idea. We follow their creative research process behind a product. The results see an empty box sent around the world capturing people’s imaginations and the answers were inspiring. Some consider the switch/box to provide teleporting functions, life remedies and the option to retain precious life moments. This outcome inspires Orange to analyse the consumer through human interaction – “we strive to communicate the reality of an organisation and the customer.”

People – The second to last P discusses human involvement in the creative process. Wolff Olins strive to be open and collaborative and Ije advises us to create a brand that people can get involved in and adopt. Getting more and more people involved in the branding process is clearly critical to their success. We can forecast the future of branding to be teams of hackers, collaborations and instigators who help their clients become something special.

Problems – Finally, there seems to be an attraction to messy problems in the branding process. We learn there needs to be an understanding that systems don’t always work. There has to be a natural inclination to design around the system. To design and solve, we need to be able to see things from a different perspective. If you want to work at WO you have to love a challenge and use tools to help society think through those concerns. One of the great Ije examples is ‘Little Sun’, which is a solar powered lamp that aims to create light for the 1.6 billion people worldwide who have no access to the electrical grid.

The overall message from Ije’s talk is ’embrace the mess’. It’s obvious from their results that organised chaos has achieved endless opportunities!

Check out the full video here

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