The World's Leading Independent Agencies 2010: BSUR Amsterdam

With the best brands, you don't notice where design stops and advertising begins, BSUR says.

The World's Leading Independent Agencies 2010 is a Campaign advertising supplement published for thenetworkone.

Once upon a time, a communications concept was an idea for a TV commercial, and, well, that was pretty much it. This golden age saw a couple of media channels embrace just about everyone: one TV commercial could reach 70 per cent of the target audience. People were easy listeners - all ears and big believers - to a brand message of sloganeering, product placement, and "buy this now, trust us, you'll like it". No questions asked. Job done.

At the same time, designers could sit back and take it easy. A design concept was often no more than a house-style logo, typeface, colour and rulebook. This wasn't developed with advertising in mind and there was no room for play. Except for playing second fiddle to the ad guys.

Fast forward 50-plus years and we're all aware of how much both the media landscape and consumers have changed. And yet, when you look at communication plans today, too frequently they are still based on that old mass market "push" model, relevant to the original moviegoers of Psycho, Dr Strangelove and The Seven Year Itch, but not now, not today.

Many brands have lost what has been one of their best assets - the ability to deliver a clear message to consumers, when they want it and how they want it. More brand directors need to stop automatically ticking boxes and breathing a sigh of relief, having covered the bases. Instead, they need to consider how a brand can truthfully engage with its consumers.

We are living in a visual bite culture. As consumers, we are dealing with a visual overload which has consequently honed our skills in filtering out advertising messages. As an industry, we have been fighting this for the past two decades. At BSUR, we believe that today's successful brands don't fight it - they thrive on it.

After all, consumers are also skilled in filtering things in - if those things are consistent with the world they individually want to create around themselves.

A fragmented, or changed, marketplace does not have to be a disabling factor.

New and diverse channels of communication supplement rather than replace mainstream media: radio survived the movies, just as film survived television, which in turn will not become obsolete due to digital developments. At BSUR, we are not saying abandon the television spot, by any mans. What we are saying is embrace fragmentation.

Embrace the rise of the constantly moving brand, the brand that has one identity but multiple propositions. Think Virgin Trains/Megastore/Atlantic/Galactic. Or easyJet/Car/Hotel/Money/Jobs. Or Apple Mac/iPod/iPhone/iTunes.

These all-terrain brands connect people by adjusting themselves as carefully and accurately as possible to the mood, the frequency, of the community they want to speak with. Not to. With.

Brand consistency is key. An engaging brand can offer many different products and services to consumers in a very active marketplace, if they are all connected by one clear, consistent, coherent identity. This ability to be instantly recognisable attracts as many fans as possible in the most diverse number of ways. The best brands know who they are. They are authentic. It is the brand behaviour which changes, often dramatically.

Let us not forget about the design aspect of brands, which many would argue has become equally (or possibly more) important in winning over today's consumers. At BSUR, we have always merged these two disciplines. We call it Brand Iconics.

This visual manifestation of a brand allows for more strategically designed communication and more communicative design. Forget rigid and boxy design manuals - Brand Iconics is flexible, fluid. The aim is to re-engineer the brand into countless new consumer touchpoints, but always with respect to the past.

Brands with strong visual identities are those which have managed to visually manifest their own heartbeat, so that they communicate their values almost subliminally. As consumers, we feel these brands and more instinctively understand who they are, what they are about.

In the lifestyle business especially, advertising can, in fact, be one of the weaker brand cues. Think of Apple. How much of its popularity is driven by design, and how much by advertising? With the best brands, you don't notice where design stops and advertising starts.

Brand Iconics helps brand platforms to cross borders, in terms of both media and territories, with coherent brand visuals. This maintains global consistency while allowing for local expression. Managing these kind of dynamics and consistency in a multinational company takes focused, creative leadership with an intolerance of image-compromising details. To avoid analysis paralysis and simply get the process started, it is paramount to define and fix the most important brand cues first. Sometimes, it may not be your ad that is holding you back.

Of course, you don't have to be a multi-product superbrand to benefit from Brand Iconics thinking. Our approach enables single-industry brands to better reach their target audience. We apply Brand Iconics thinking to our work with Mini. With Wrangler, doing beats telling when seeking to build credibility. By delivering hundreds of design and communication messages a year throughout Europe, each visualising Wrangler's unique identity, the brand's structural decline was turned into a substantial growth.

We all tend to make the most important choices based on what is worthwhile and true to us, because our sense of identity is based on being authentic - who we are. When a brand is secure in itself, when it knows who it is, it is able to consistently broadcast its values across any medium. This allows us, as consumers, the best opportunity to take active ownership of, and interact with, that brand. Without feeling like we have been "marketed to".

If there is one thing BSUR would like to enable a brand to be, it is the best, most authentic and consistent version of itself. Unlock your values and visualise your mentality. Be As You Are (BSUR).

Joost Perik is the chief creative officer and founder and Jan Rijkenberg is the chief executive and founder of BSUR




Jan Rijkenberg, chief executive and founder; Joost Perik, chief creative officer and founder



What would you like to see more of in 2010?
Too often, creativity and entrepreneurship are seen as opposing entities. Iconic brands have an agile "trial and error" mentality, so they learn faster and connect better with consumers. Let's have more creative entrepreneurship

Which country's creativity (other than your own) do you most admire?
We have stopped thinking in countries. Top creativity is found in agencies in which talents from all over the world work together and inspire each other to the highest level