David Cameron commentary on Al Jazeera

Aaron Shields was asked to comment on the conservatives brand and David Cameron’s efforts to modernise the party. This is an excerpt from the programme that appeared on Al Jazeera prior to the election in Great Britain.

Aaron adds: “The conservatives as still acting to shake off the image of Thatcher and all the archetypal notions that surrounded staunch conversative idealism. While ideologically and fiscally conservative, Cameron has been successfully moving the party closer to the centre. The cultural challenges must be enormous but he has sent clear signals of change well beyond adopting a new logo such as supporting more women MPs, more progressive policies and backing openly gay members. As in any culture, the patterns and habits will take continued action to change, but it appears that Cameron is on the right path. There are two challenges that remain. First, will the party be unified enough in time to lead a government? Second, will a coalition solution put too much strain on the newly emergent culture and tempt the conservatives to snap back into familiar and safe patterns of yesteryear?”

07/06/2010 | Permalink

Article: Taking a holistic view on customer experience strategy

Customer-facing employees are at the forefront of delivery for many kinds of companies, yet all but few take a holistic approach that connects employee motivations to customer motivations. The economic outlook is brightening, but pressure on service delivery will continue to be a factor for 2010. With this in mind, we need to rationalise service delivery smartly, focus on what is really important to keep customers loyal and put companies in a strong position to gain and retain valuable customers as spending recovers.

Initiatives that look to improve customer experience began in operations and much of the same language has carried on to this day. Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing management practices have guided much of the process-efficiency focused initiatives in service-oriented companies.

As a result, the emphasis has been on removing problems like long waiting qeues or increasing KPIs like cross-selling. Despite a flotilla of management consultants speaking about joined up experiences, customer-centricity and grass-roots thinking, the ideal has yet to be achieved for many. There are good reasons for this situation, including:

  1. Budgets assigned by function form siloed initiatives and act to resist joined up thinking on behalf of the customer.
  2. Over-emphasis on process versus relationship that seeks to create an error free transaction versus a loyalty building relationship.
  3. Pressure from departmental groups on front-line staff resulting in narrow targets and inwardly-facing front-line employees.

What can be done to shift this situation and create a more holistic customer service model?

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23/03/2010 | Permalink

A new category of warming fruit drink


Eastern Europeans have been steeping dried fruit in hot water as a warming drink for centuries. We worked with Piramida in Kiev to modernise the drink into a handy tea-bag format for a cosmopolitan audience who is looking for an alternative to tea.

“The traditional drink’s folksy origins suggest an outdoor-oriented and wholesome character.  In the UK or US, these attributes would have likely translated into earthy illustrations and muted tones. But these memes look less attractive in Eastern Europe and a more urban approach was required” explains Niqui Harwood, designer on the project.


The selected design for the identity incorporates symbols from nature and fruit without feeling twee and traditional. The result is a set of ques that support the fruit and wholesome messages and appeals to the aspiring urbanite.

01/03/2010 | Permalink

Newsletter: Autumn 2009


Time to catch up on new work with our teams. We’ve been working in the UK with Scott Wilson - a large engineering and design firm. Our teams have been working in Russia with the much loved national retailer Gloria Jeans. Finally, we have been working across three continents to re-brand the world’s largest Islamic bank, Al Baraka. There are the usual fun bits  and a new regular piece in the top Civil Branding posts we’ve written this season. Enjoy!

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17/11/2009 | Permalink

Evolving the Scott Wilson story


Some engineering projects take your breath away. Scott Wilson is one of the oldest and most successful engineering companies in the UK. They employ 6,000 staff across 80 locations around the world.

The firm began as a partnership and has been transitioning into a PLC structure, shifting emphasis to customer-facing units. This shift required a new vision to help make sense of the change and continue along their trajectory to become a top five global engineering and design company.

Gillian Garner, partner at Brandinstinct adds ‘In visiting the various outfits and in facilitating several workshops, it became clear that team working has always been at the heart of the Scott Wilson story. The new vision is helping the former partner groups consolidate the units and work as bigger teams across geographies and disciplines.’

In anticipation of launching the new brand, we also evolved the brand identity to better support the new ambitious strategy. Print concepts were prepared and a new website is in the making.sw-print01



13/11/2009 | Permalink

Creating the world’s largest Islamic banking brand

Over the past year, our team has been working with the inner circle of senior management at Al Baraka Bank to consolidate the largest number of Islamic banks in the world. The new bank unifies financial organisations across 12 markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.


From our first meeting with Adnan Yousif, president and chief executive of the group, we agreed that a new brand will signal the continuing consolidation of the cultures, processes and products of the dozen different banks in the group.

The culture of the group management team is conciliatory, so the approach for consolidating the strategy of the group took on a highly consultative nature. Leaders from banks that had been operating successfully in markets for over thirty years needed to be brought into the vision development for the converged bank.

“The time and effort we spent listening, adapting and inching toward a shared vision paid off in spades when we needed to quickly implement the brand. Once agreement on strategy was reached across the twelve markets, we were able to implement at lightning speed” says Aaron Shields, partner.

One of the major dilemmas we tackled was bringing the 30 year old Islamic banking narrative up to date without diluting the original values that emanate from Islamic texts. Ethical and religious principles were what attracted staff and customers to the bank. Yet, no matter how much scholars argue over the details, all Islamic banks tend toward the same principles and therefore appear relatively undifferentiated to customers as a group. We needed to stand out from other Islamic banks, but being ‘more Islamic’ than other banks was not the solution.


‘Partnership’ was selected as the subject for the new narrative, both for its nod to participation-style values and for its forward-thinking notions. ‘Your Partner Bank’ resonated with both staff and customers. We found the new story to tell and management was eager to begin telling it.

In response, we created the launch campaigns and guided the production of all launch materials with local agencies. We continue to work with Al Baraka launching the brand in each of its twelve markets.


The new brand is being launched consecutively beginning with Bahrain, South Africa and Lebanon. Staff feel immense pride in the new brand and there has been a big increase in new dialogues with retail and commercial customers. In all, the brand has been a big success.

Thanks to the financial crisis, more conservative and more ethical banks like Islamic banks and cooperative banks are thriving. Al Baraka is taking advantage of this golden age by continuing to expand their presence in Asia and Europe.


06/07/2009 | Permalink

Rapid development for fast fashion


Founded in 1988, Gloria Jeans became the leader of kids and teenagers fashion apparel in Russia. They’ve grown rapidly, including during recessionary times, and have been active in global markets since 2003.

Key members of our team have a new-media background so we knew exactly how to launch the first version of the fashion website. We also emphasised transferring our knowledge to our client, believing it is crucial for brands to be able to manage their on-going dialogue and interaction with their audiences independently.

The first step was a concise planning stage, focusing on information architecture. We helped scale the team’s needs in a way that allowed a quick launch but also created a platform that could continually develop at the live-state once it’s on the Web.


We created a design that is consistent with the heritage of the brand but also seeks to take advantage of the opportunities the web platform provides to innovate and delight. The look & feel of the site is consistent, but it is designed to change seasonally to complement the changes of the “fast fashion” merchandise and to engage the brand’s many fans.

Finally, for the often dreaded development stage, we partnered with open source wizards Linnovate. The benefits of the open source platform, Drupal, enabled the creation of a highly scalable site with a powerful content management system at a fraction of the time and cost of similar endeavours taking the propriety software route. We’re excited to see where they take it.



29/05/2009 | Permalink

Newsletter: Spring 2009

We’ve just launched a new effort called Civil Branding and we are so proud. Civil Branding is all about harnessing the power of mass communication for social influence and brand difference. It’s about putting a socially progressive narrative inside the primary message of the brand. We founded our company around these ideas six years ago and it took us this long to distil the idea into a well formed brand management tool, put a few rounds of research into the field to confirm what we already suspected and generate a swell of interest from the marketing community. Now that it’s launched you can expect to hear a lot more about it. We look forward to hearing from you through our blog and in conversations.

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29/04/2009 | Permalink

A whole new family of cards


It’s not every day that you get to redesign a whole new family cards for a bank. The new cards for Budapest Bank communicate the identity we recently designed in a monolithic but fun way.  The logo and key identity elements feature prominently on all the cards no matter whether they are for entry consumers like students or for high net worth clients. We designed a total of 13 cards and all have been launched in the Hungarian market.




02/04/2009 | Permalink

The road ahead for Paltel


We have been working with the largest company in Palestine, advising on new strategic directions for the brand as they welcome competition into the market. As one might imagine, operating a telecommunications company in Palestine has unique challenges. Telecom masts have been detained at the airport for months while illegal competition from Israel mobile operators perforates the border. The West Bank and Gaza are more or less completely cut off from one another, making travel and moving of goods and services impractical. There are interesting security dimensions that harm and help business. Did we mention there is war on?

The team at Paltel take these incredible challenges in their stride and are focused on growth, community and innovation. The same people who are leading the company are leading social change in the community and for the nation. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the leading minds in Palestine, who are vocal in business and the political sphere. We will continue to advise them on their brand as competition enters the market.


02/04/2009 | Permalink