Be more Jack's Gelato
Lachlan Williams, head of business transformation, Europe at Anomaly discusses the transformative power of brand thinking and why creative companies could hold the key to success
Alongside the tragic human toll, 2020 also took a sledgehammer to many industries and business models. But, like all periods of great change, it has also created significant opportunities.
There has never been in fact, a better time for innovation and transformation. To truly take advantage of the opportunities presented however, will require capability and creativity - not just running the ‘new-normal’ playbook.
The best place to build from is a deep understanding of the role your brand plays in people’s lives.
If you’re ever in Cambridge, stop by Jack’s Gelato. Don’t let the formidable queue put you off, it moves pretty fast and it’s worth the wait.
If you don’t believe me, ask my four-year-old, she’ll set you straight. Jack’s has done pretty well out the pandemic. In fact, it is probably doing better than it was before.
This is in large part because it was able to redesign its customer experience to be both more efficient and equally delightful.
By creating a more efficient service model, without losing the joy that is getting ice-cream, it has managed to increase demand while simultaneously increasing the volume of customers it can service in an hour.
This has allowed Jack's to invest in a national distribution initiative, taking it from a Cambridge favourite to a brand that can be in homes all around the UK.
Jack's managed to build a better customer experience and brand experience by reimagining the magical ice-cream experience, rather than trying to simply recreate what it had before. Simply, it thought brand-first and thought creatively about its business.
Jack’s is a delicious example of the challenge most businesses face right now - how to operate in new conditions.
I believe that one of the keys to getting ahead is to put brand-thinking at the centre of your new approaches to businesses.
By putting the emotional relationship, you want to have with your customers, employees and partners at the centre of your thinking, you stand a better chance of competing against companies who will simply run the ‘new normal playbook’.
It’s tempting to take the easy path, but if everyone has the tools to get to the ‘right answer’, then the only way to be competitive is to find a more ‘interesting answer’.
To get there, you need to get creative. And the best creative thinkers still live inside creative companies.
Creative companies can bring marketing-thinking, brand-thinking and creativity to your biggest business problems.
Creative companies understand brands and the role they play in people’s lives. Their livelihood depends on their ability to keep up with, or even better, stay ahead of culture.
They have all the right skills and expertise to do business thinking through the lens of brand.
They make stuff. With various mixtures of writers, designers, engineers, technologists and artists, creative agencies can make as fast as they think. Plus, it’s easier to convince the board to buy change when you can see it and hold it.
The end of creative agencies has been heralded for the last decade, their existence said to be threatened by client in-housing and the march of the big data-driven consultancies, among others.
Yet, while the ecosystem they operate within is certainly changing, I think it’s fair to say that they are not dead yet, just in desperate need of a rethink and reorg.
There’s a chance that the pandemic was the stimulus they needed to realise their true value. While the big consultancies are taking big chunks of opportunities, as long as creativity is seen as an optional service, they won’t be able to do what companies who put creativity at the centre of their business can do. After all, smart business is a creative pursuit.
The World Economic Forum lists ‘creativity’ as the third most sought-after skill (behind ‘active learning and learning strategies’, and ‘analytical thinking and innovation’).
So, if creative agencies can expand the application of creativity both further up-stream in businesses and to more places across the ecosystems of businesses, they will be incredibly valuable partners in building the futures of ambitious companies.
To take full advantage of this opportunity, creative companies need to look at their own models and see what changes they need to make in order to grow what their clients expect of them.
Interrogating the business models they are built on to ensure their business is optimised for creativity and innovation, not just the billing of time and the utilisation of their people.
They need to follow through on the promises they made in 2020 around diversity and inclusion - building better cultures where everyone can thrive. Because when you welcome different perspectives, you open more possibilities.
Plus, they need to ensure that creativity isn’t simply a department, an execution or even a person. It’s the most valuable thing they can offer and is everybody's responsibility. Ultimately, creativity needs to grow up a little bit and form a serious relationship with delivery and business acumen.
Why? Because it’s creative companies who study the big maps, who are actively built for agility with more entrepreneurial operation models that stand a better chance of leading the post-pandemic renaissance.
It’s they who can be the sort of partners that clients desperately need right now - willing and active collaborators who can more easily flex their creative muscle to a wider range of problems.
So, follow Jack’s churn-tastic example and focus on the role you play, your purpose and your values to guide your business decisions.
Think hard about what forces have impacted your business and pick tools you can use to build something better that lives your values and delivers on the promises you make to your customers.
Think carefully about the partners you need with you on your journey and what they can bring that you don’t have. Make your brand the foundation and obsess about the people you serve (customers, partners AND your own people).
Most of all, take a bet on creativity, because it’s better to be interesting, than simply right.