Not the end, nor the beginning of the end.

From setting up in the shadow of the dotcom bust, to growing a team during the 2008 crash, in our 15 years of designing brands we’ve seen our share of ups and downs. But spring 2020 is different. 

We’ve built our business with ambitious, progressive brands in retail, leisure and hospitality. For every client, we asked, how do we create brands that consumers love? How do we deliver unique experiences? How do we earn loyalty? The one question we didn’t ask was, what if people can’t access your product?

For us, it started in Milan, in February. In a project update for a membership app we’re building for a European luxury hospitality group, we heard rumblings of a shut down at their Italian outpost. In the space of a few weeks, Belgium and Germany had followed, and the project was paused. (Ironically, a dedicated channel to communicate, reassure, and deliver value directly into customers’ homes would now be more useful than ever.)

Then London, where our friends and clients across the board took the sensible action of closing operations in the face of prevarication and confusion from the government. (“Pubs can stay open, but no one should go to pubs”?!). It was amazing to see how the sector reached consensus, closing doors en mass, a full week ahead of the government’s decision. More inspiring was our clients’ action to protect staff and livelihoods – all this, well before the furlough scheme was announced. (All credit to the Treasury for what is a lifeline to the sector).

And in the immediate aftermath, we helped with hugely impressive efforts to pivot, to keep businesses and operations alive and to continue being relevant in consumers’ lives.

Now, with what seems like an age of hindsight (it’s been less than 2 months), we’re all looking ahead. The crisis has highlighted longstanding issues – the financial power of landlords, routes to markets, value delivered to customers, direct channels to consumers. And the fallout begins.

In the coming months, we’ll be sharing insight from our network. We’ll look at the view from ground zero, tentative learnings in the immediate aftermath, and expectations of where we go from here. A lot has been said about customers’ spending when they come back (see story below), but as is clear from the Far East, the experience will be different.

Amongst the topics we’ll examine in the Unlocked Series are…

_How we establish our brands as the first port of call when restrictions are lifted.

_The challenges in delivering brand experience under restrictions and changed attitudes.

_How brands can innovate to increase resilience in anticipation of the next disruption.

 

As an agency, what occupies us now is not just how we design to convince, but how design can expand opportunities to connect. Our work spans marketing to packaging, e-commerce to spaces. Now more than ever, it’s about how every channel can improve connection with customers (Hint – Deliveroo may not be your friend. As with Class Pass, Hotels.com, Amazon Market Place, let’s be clear what price we pay to these middle men.)

Retail, leisure, hospitality, these are sectors and communities which we know and love. If there is anything we’ve learnt, it’s that humans are social. That hospitality and spaces build community and society. It would be a travesty to see our urban environment hollowed out by rent seekers and online middle men.

Let the rebuilding begin.

unlocked