A web of difference

Pressures of a digital-first strategy can leave a trail of cookie-cutter websites: perfectly functional, but lacking in vision. How to avoid? Challenge your agency to ask “why”…



“It’s the classic marketer’s dilemma,” explains Sarah Frederickson, marketing director at Savoir. “We needed a strategic and creative approach, but the urgency of digital meant our brief was to create a more functional website. We discussed a brand redesign, but as a secondary project. Without flipped the brief, and said they couldn’t do the website redesign before the strategic rebrand. And it made sense.”

This is why so many websites look the same. Creative agencies are quick to accept the client brief for a redesign without questioning it. There’s the level playing field to consider, too: any design studio worth their salt can build a slick and functional website (booking and sales integrations, tracking, SEO and load speeds – these are hygiene factors). Strategic creative agencies, on the other hand, ask “why”? When everyone requires the same foundations, the house becomes less important. Instead, it’s what’s in it that makes it special.

With a strategic creative agency, design happens in collaborative stages, beginning with an original idea that represents the business. The team then develops ways to express this visually, verbally and behaviourally. A website, built on these principles, attracts and converts customers by showing what makes the brand like no other.

We learnt that it takes up to 120 hours to make one Savoir bed by hand (the “About” page became the story of a bed’s construction, told in an innovative way through a digital hourglass sand timer). We learnt that choice was limited to four designs, because Savoir focuses on making the best, not the most (naming and characterising each bed became fundamental to the brand strategy).

“The funny thing is, when it came to the pitch, Without showed the least amount of work, compared to the other agencies, whose presentations were very much web-driven,” Sarah continues. “Without put a proposal forward – it was their instinct and approach that we bought into. And because we did the brand piece up front, the website redesign became a very smooth process. It saved us – and Without – from a lot of pain!”

Similarly, Marcus Wareing had approached us to create a website to pull his restaurants together under one roof. But as we spoke to him, it became clear that his frustration was directed elsewhere. From the philosophy of the food to the highly-skilled, award-winning team, what set the group apart wasn’t getting through to customers.

So we stepped back from the original brief and presented a different vision. When a restaurant becomes a group, it needs an identity – something to tell the story when the famous chef can’t be in the kitchen. Working with the team revealed a consistent relationship between tradition and modernity. Marcus’ restaurants are serious in output, but there’s lots of play, too. So we began to build around a brand philosophy (not a website template): “comfort in the familiar, hunger for the new.”

Sure, you have to know what you’re doing when you design a website, but what agency doesn’t have the technical knowhow? From the mandates of technology to the demands of Google, what sets your site apart is what you choose to communicate on it. That’s why your story becomes so important; it’s the only thing that’s different.

“Our website relaunched in 2019 and it’s still the same,” Sarah concludes. “It has longevity because it was built from the strategy up.”

Without create brands that make a difference. Receive our Defining Your Difference pocket guide to your inbox or if you’d like to discuss how your brand can connect with today’s consumers, get in touch on 02070999080 or [email protected]

This article first appeared in The Brief, a monthly email with conversations and provocation for leaders and founders of brands . Just sign up here to receive it directly to your inbox – and join the debate.


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