Defining and iterating a strong brand image is more important than ever. However, brands need
to flex according to the changing demands of their audiences and the times.
The days when the voluminous brand guideline manual was the source of all knowledge are gone. Instead, brands are opting for a more agile approach that allows them to exist beyond a set of restrictive guidelines and respond to change.
Agility in marketing communications was the genesis of the establishment of Rufus Leonard 25 years ago. Frustrated with the limitations of the corporate branding work they were doing for clients, Neil Svensen and Darrel Worthington set up an agency that didn’t simply hand over brand guidelines to a client and walk away.
"We were creating a brand but not implementing it," Worthington says. "The excitement of launching a brand and embedding it in the first influential period is what we wanted and felt was important."
This does not mean doing everything, but rather a more active engagement to ensure the brand is coherently delivered. To achieve this requires a trusting relationship with other agencies. In rebranding Lloyds Bank after it divested its interest in TSB, for example, a collaborative approach with Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, MEC and Proximity saw the agencies engage in "show and tell" at roundtable discussions.
With digital an integral part of communications, achieving a unified brand presence online and offline is paramount. However, many brands are in the foothills of achieving this, Worthington believes.
"It is surprising how many brands are still digitally immature," he says. "For some, it is the first time that they have had brand guidelines. They’ve muddled through so far."
In the past, some clients have not been able to buy brand and digital together due to internal structures.
But this is changing.
Creating a brand that covers all channels requires an agency with diverse skillsets. Since its early days, Rufus Leonard has developed digital skills in-house that enable it to produce a complete brand package.
"We’ve moved from working with third parties to employing people with these skills so we can better manage every aspect of the product," Worthington says. "Now, with adaptive and responsive technology, we’re moving again. Web and mobile are now truly embedded and you need a single approach to all access methods."
That the agency sits in the top ten of both design and branding agencies and design and build is testament to its strengths in both areas, he says: "We are not bolting anything on – it has come through organic growth. We have experts in all areas, as well as T-shaped people with wider capabilities."
In developing these skills, Rufus Leonard can claim a number of firsts, such as creating the first e-commerce site selling cars online for Smart, BT’s first web presence, Royal Mail’s track-and-trace app and Bupa’s first responsive diagnosis site.
The agency also has a strong record in service development. Charged with delivering blue-sky thinking for British Gas, it created its first sub-brand, "me". Utilities are not high on the list of priorities for the millennial audience British Gas wanted to engage, and the company wanted to develop a service at speed. So its product, marketing and technological teams moved into Rufus Leonard’s Farringdon office.
Using a collaborative approach with rapid prototyping and testing, the team iterated and refined the offer from concept to beta in six months, and to completion in ten. Listed in the "ones to watch" of the 2013 Most Contagious Report, "me" is considered as innovative as the likes of Nike+ FuelBand.
With brands emerging from the downturn, there is a greater appetite for innovation. Worthington says: "We are seeing clients with projects that demand digital transformation after some years of it just being work that needed to be done. Now they are looking to take a chance."
To this end, Rufus Leonard has a head of innovation tasked with scanning the latest trends and technologies. The approach is summed up in the agency’s stated aim of creating inspired futures – helping to articulate the future of where the business is going in a way that the customer understands, regardless of the channel.
Consistency may seem a dull word compared with some being bandied about in relation to marketing, but it is the bedrock of brands. Without a strong and adaptable brand vision, marketing will flounder. Get it right, and the magic will follow.
When Lloyds Bank had to spin off TSB last year, it was an opportunity to revisit the brand’s identity in line with changes to customers, perceptions of banking and the feelings of its employees.
Working with Lloyds’ above-the-line agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, as well as MEC and Proximity, Rufus Leonard helped create a softer, more ‘lifestyle’ feel, with staff embodying a culture of helping rather than selling.
Internal engagement was key to success and feedback has been positive, with Lloyds’ marketing chief, Catherine Kehoe, crediting the brand refresh with helping to get the bank back into the black.
Rufus Leonard is now working on Lloyds’ 250th anniversary for next year.
Williams was managing 19 different websites to reach its multiple audiences such as fans, sponsors, media, investors and suppliers.
Rufus Leonard produced a responsive solution that brought the Williams ‘family’ under one roof with a single platform. Access is through any device, with the site automatically formatted accordingly.
The team is easily able to update the site with real-time information wherever it is in the world, helping to create a closer link with fans and a seamless brand experience. Built-in social media feeds mean fans don’t need to go off-site to see Tweets, and the site aims to reflect the excitement of the build and duration of the race, as well as the post-race atmosphere.
John Lewis has 91,000 employees and a strong culture of collective identity. However, it has disparate intranets for various parts of the organisation.
Rufus Leonard’s research and workshops revealed how each group used the intranet. As a result, it created a single solution that put individual users at the centre and provided them with a view of the entire organisation while still recognising the importance of personalisation.
With around 80 per cent of staff on a shop or warehouse floor with no access to a screen, Rufus Leonard also allowed access from home and on the move. Online tools enabled people to collaborate, communicate and vote. It has been hugely useful in breaking down walls since it launched at the end of 2013.