OnBrand ‘17: Beyond Branding

At Ngrane, we’ll take any chance to get inspired. So naturally, there was no doubt about going to the OnBrand event last week Thursday. A jam-packed day, full of inspirational talks and hugely relevant branding insights. Our main takeaway? It’s one thing to brand something, it’s a whole other to go beyond branding. Finding your calling rather than acting on that of consumers, embedding yourself into culture and weaving innovation into your values.

Ben & Jerry's: Beyond cause marketing: How businesses can be activists and help change the world

Jay Curley
Senior Global Marketing Manager
Ben & Jerry’s

Turns out the geniuses behind cookie-dough ice cream have a lot more on their plate – or should we say ice cream bowl? – than your favourite dessert. Since their start in the eighties; activism has always been frozen into their DNA. And Jay Curley tells us how it’s been good for business, but not the reason why they’re doing it.

Brands should go beyond cause marketing: a customer led approach to ‘doing good’. Which is all about making decisions on what the consumer wants, how you can connect with them emotionally and how you can align your brand with their cause. Nope, Jay tells us that simply won’t cut it. He explains what Value Led Activism is, how instead of the customer it puts the values of the brand first. So, brands should use what they believe in as a starting point, being the change they want to make and inspiring others to take action. In this way, you’re enlisting fans to join social movements. You should feel like part of the ‘people’ not the business suits on the eleventh floor of some building. You’re there on the streets because you care just as much as the people you sweep up with you. And sweeping people off their feet means a special kind of loyalty between them and your brand and product. No matter how sweet your ice cream, you’re just another brand selling stuff if you can’t connect with others in a meaningful way.

We personally loved the campaign Jay Curley showed that was promoting the Paris Agreement of 2015. An immersive video of melting ice cream, that cleverly links what the brand is known for with something they believe in. Check it out here.

Platform 13 Beyond: Thinking outside the box

Leila Fataar
Platform13
Founder

Put street-level know how, a digital devotion and endless experience together and you’ve got Leila Fataar: a London based branding veteran and founder of Platform13. Fataar has put all her cards in culture. She claimed that brands should go beyond just thinking outside of the box. In order to create activity that matters, brands should know the box first.

Traditionally, advertising is embedded in the idea of pushing. Pushing catchy one-liners, pushing commercials and pushing empty messages. The opposite should be the case, brands should be pulling. Organically feeding consumer advocacy and relevance by creating cultural value. You want to be the influencer, not pay a couple of influencers to push a few messages for you. You want to be part of the conversation, slip into the ‘Dark Social’ by naturally being talked about. Having your product as the topic of conversation, in places like WhatsApp – where you can’t advertise – will mean more than any Facebook Ad could ever be.

Fataar points out brands suffer from a severe case of ‘FOMO’ when it comes to digital trends. Popular influencers or new brand experiences are like party boats brands need to hop on in a hurry or else they’ll miss out. The result? Super-generic ideas and executions. Before leaping towards the newest innovation, you have to create a cultural value. That VR stunt will mean nothing unless people are talking about it.

In her words:

“RIP INFLUENCER MARKETING,
LONG LIVE INFLUENCE”

New York Times : Transformation at The New York Times

Sebastian Tomich
Senior Vice President
Advertising and Innovation
The New York Times

How do you embrace change when you’re rooted in 150 years’ worth of tradition? The New York times have turned a new page into their success by thinking less like a print newspaper and more like a creative agency. Sebastian Tomich leads the Advertising and Innovation department, The Times’ T Brand Studio, and they have since taken publishing by storm.

NYT is a perfect example of turning your own age-old legacy into something relevant for our demanding digital age, without deluding what the brand stands for. Traditionally advertising for publishing companies meant selling ad spaces and pages in the newspaper. Now they offer coercive brand experiences, for both the advertisers and for themselves.

NYT is inherently about telling important stories. To translate this to an online platform, Tomich tells us the company had to become a subscription business first, creating content that is worth paying for. This then set them apart from other online sources such as Buzzfeed or Mashable. Moreover, they use innovation to emphasize this identity. For example, they launched a VR app and sent one million Google Cardboard headsets to subscribers, creating an immersive edge to journalism. Or their popular podcasts such as ‘The Daily’; which translates power storytelling into a compact, authentic and well-informed 20 minutes of breaking news.


Ngrane goes to Emerce eDay: what inspired us

With notepads in hand and their finest ‘creative yet professional’ outfits, three of our Ngrane family joined the vanguard of the digital future at Emerce eDay. Together with our friends at Dashmote; Rutger, Jefferson and Jongky had two goals: get inspired and meet like-minded people. Having listened to the future-proof ideas and theories of many different thought leaders, they’re sharing an inside scoop into who and what got them most excited.

Vice: Brand Building in the age of content

Mark Adams

Vice is at the forefront of millennial engagement, and there’s a lot we can learn from how they get it done. According to Vice Media’s President and head of innovation, building your brand in the age of content is all about earning trust. Trust you say? How does one just gain trust? Well, for starters take away the ‘just’ part, gaining trust means defining every inch of your company, including its culture.

Vice has got youth culture down. Vice lives it. Vice breathes it. Every person that works for Vice, believes in what they stand for and everything that happens within Vice is exemplary for the brand identity. As Mark Adams put it, instead of solely believing in the product or service they sell, “A brand should believe in itself”. Furthermore, he notes the importance of tapping into the target group’s mindset. Vice, for example, is Savvy and Sophisticated while creating content that is made both for and by the ‘youth’.

Uber: Innovate in a fast-growing company

Patrick Stal

Ah, Uber, that company who disrupted an entire industry and isn’t just going to stop there. Uber is all about innovation which became clear in Patrick Stal’s talk about what that means in a fast-growing company. What we loved most is that what he said about how innovation starts and ends with people. How it is more than just Moonshots or state of the art technology but is really driven by talent.

Stal explains that for Uber, innovation has become all about using this talent to solve problems. These problems define what the user wants: which is the ultimate key to using innovation successfully. He said that: “Innovation is a constant cycle. New problems arise, with new chances and new bridges to build to new horizons.” So as long as you stick to your brand identity, solving problems and branching out can be literally endless. Uber sure hasn’t stopped at taxis, take for example Ubereats or Uberkittens or Uberfly they are all reacting to a certain problem while using the same mentality to solve it.

Liferay: Creating and keeping momentum: Proven principles for exceptional experiences

Edmund Dueck

At Ngrane we’re all about that positive attitude. Which is why we loved the talk by Edmund Dueck from Liferay. We’ve seen many different brands crumble in the face of innovation, all because they didn’t keep that momentum they started off with: they became outdated.

First and foremost, elongating your momentum requires a strong sense of persistence, bravery and an eminently positive attitude. From then on you can get a grip on the two pillars that Dueck said were most important. Yep, he puts the ‘moment’ in ‘momentum’.

The first being “Moments of Truth” as a brand you need to make sure that you’re not only innovating just to make shiny new stuff but that you create useful things that relate strongly to the target group. You need to be insightful into the purest form of truth to nail this part. Once the truth is out there and known to the brand the second pillar arises: “Moments of Connection”. Creating a mutual empathy between you and customers will create loyalty that surpasses any sort of time or trends.


Ngrane’it goes live: let’s join forces!

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

Two months ago, I joined the Ngrane family, teaming up with Stephen and David to build the hybrid model for the new workforce: part traditional agency and part freelance talent platform. As an experienced recruiter, I have taken on the challenge to innovate the trade I work in.

The goal now for Ngrane is to create a haven of support and collaboration in which I have become the ‘Chief Of Talent’. Working as an intermediate between digital specialists and the businesses that seek their unique expertise as well as boosting talent acquisition.

The industry asked, we’re making it happen. As the number of freelancers and the demand for their specialized skills is skyrocketing, so is the request to smoothen out this process between the two. We believe that as the way we work has taken a new route, so should recruitment. Which is why we started Ngrane’it as a separate unit from the Ngrane Digital Agency. It is a platform with personality that caters to unique digital talents and couples them with brands in need of their skills, both as flexible freelancers or long-term and on-site.

So far so good, as we’ve got our first success story on our hands: creating a perfect match digital talent and the company, Ernst & young.

Now that Ngrane’it is officially live, we’re looking to join forces. So, is your talent digital? Are you looking for exciting new projects to work on? Or is your business looking for specific expertise?

Send me a mail, call me (+31 614222952) or come over and meet the team!


The tools and tricks we use for top-notch teamwork

We aren’t all born time managing geniuses or Zen masters of productivity but we become them with the help of the tools around us. Exactly the same goes for working as a team; seamless teamwork does not happen overnight. It requires the right know-how and tools. As a digital agency that works with different freelancers, remote and at the office, we have tried and tested different tools to ingrain (see what we did there) a positive workflow into our team.

It’s one thing to do it together, it’s another to do it well.

What

We don’t slack on slack. We get things done (even if it’s a competition on who has the funniest GIF). Slack is like a super-powered version of a messenger app that can be used across multiple devices and platforms. It lets us chat one-on-one to our peers but also in groups across different channels. Yes, including a more relaxed channel, because GIF’s are basically modern-day bonding.

Why

Asking for feedback on UX? Questions about the latest blog post? Deciding on what time Happy Hour should start? Slack has us covered. Slack truly brings our team together, allowing us to split projects or themes in different channels, with only the appropriate members. What’s more, it easily connects with our other favorite apps, adding integrated context to our conversations and creating one passage of information instead of five, or ten. You can also upload files seamlessly, so in essence everything is in one place – possibly the best part.

Everything before Slack is like a blur of inconvenience. I’d had to work my way through a maze of emails, WhatsApp groups, Imessages and never really end up finding what I was looking for.

Annabel van Eijk

What

Pure high-fidelity goodness: Invision is a presentation tool that lets you seamlessly create interactive mockups for your design ideas. When your genius idea is all mocked up and ready to go, you can share it with your teams and/or clients.

Why

We’re creative people, if we may say so ourselves, and this app is clearly made with our kind in mind. It looks damn good for starters and makes our ideas look just as good as we dreamt them up. It’s also super easy to use and can really bring your ideas to life. You’ve got a comment on that slider? No problem, you can have the discussion right in the app instead of starting another trail of dreadful emails/WhatsApp messages/unwanted phone calls. All that saving time means we’ve got hours left on our hands to actually work on implementing the feedback in our projects, instead of just receiving it.

As a designer, I’m all about the visuals. Invision is perfect because it lets me visualize each phase of the project and split boards up in different units: making the process a breeze to follow.

Jeffrey Goodett

What

Trello is like the Beyonce of to-do lists or the Pinterest of planning. Glamorous yet approachable; it is a visual way to manage your projects effectively and become a boss in being organized. It uses a cloud-based software that lets you dissect your projects into different boards with multiple people.

Why

To-do lists are tedious and uninspiring by nature, unless you’re one of those bullet journaling sharpie-loving types. We like things digital and this app lets you move around boards as though they are old-school sticky notes with all the online convenience; digitally shareable, searchable and come with handy reminders. In just one quick glance you can see who’s working on what, what has been finished and when something is in process.

Trello works perfect with today’s agile methodology. The only thing I need to know is what are we doing the coming 2 weeks, what is in progress, what is ready to be reviewed and what is done. That’s it.

David van Delden

A whiteboard and marker

Ah, those good old days. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to switch off anything that buzzes or receives emails and get back into brainstorming. All you need is your team, anything big to write on and a marker. All those digital tools are super-efficient but it’s good to balance it out with some human-to-human contact. Yep, actual talking instead of typing.

Our stand-ups are also unmissable for effective teamwork, in which actual standing is a must. In 15 minutes, we all say what we’re doing that week and what we have done. No discussing, just the pure bliss of clarity.

A deeper emotional connection simply can’t be sparked through apps, no matter how great they are. That’s why I find it important, no crucial, to switch off our phones and come together in ‘real life’. It builds trust and gives spirit to collaboration, using all our senses to communicate. It’s not about time management, it’s about energy management.

Stephen Garcia


The dawn of a new day: how David is leading Ngrane's rebranding

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

From subdued to vibrant, from sturdy professionalism to a unique persona: we talk to David about how he’s freshening up the Ngrane branding.

As they say, old ways don’t open new doors and Ngrane has never been the type of digital agency to get stuck behind a closed door. After a long process of evolving and adapting to the changes of the industry, it was time to freshen up the branding. As a co-founder of the agency and all-round creative force, David van Delden was more than ready for the task. In the midst of this rebranding process, we talked to him about the path they are taking and why, as he told us, “There were so many changes happening within Ngrane and in the industry, it was time to go back to the drawing board and reveal our new identity to the outside world.”

 

How it Began

When Stephen and David started Ngrane, things were a little different. The tech industry, their playing field, was more white collar than white sneakers. David tells us “10 years ago I started to brainstorm with Stephen about building our own digital agency, we looked up to the big tech players of that time. They looked serious, they looked sleek and they’re branding reflected their monotone suits. Our logo was a direct reflection of the inner and outer workings of the industry: sturdy, professional and efficient.”

“The seeds for a modern and creative work mentality were already planted, but the branding was not yet in full bloom.”

 

Disruption in the tech industry

The tech industry had been shaken up by brands like Google and Facebook, but it was only at the second generation of start-ups like Uber and WeWork that Ngrane started to really turn things around. “The seeds for a modern and creative work mentality were already planted, but the branding was not yet in full bloom,” says David. The whole culture shifted towards a ‘love what you do’ mentality with the perks of freedom and flexibility as its main driving force. That mentality was embedded into every aspect of the tech culture, “What was once all about being professional now became all about personality; app instructions sound like friends, service is more personal than in stores and Chatbots are more alive than ever.”

 

From corporate to co-working

Ngrane, along with the industry, went from corporate to co-working. David tells us that “The personality, the service, the deep rooted connection were already there but now we’re finding ways to bring more light to our strong features. The rebranding needed to reflect that sense of community and passion.”

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

“The rebranding needed to reflect that sense of community and passion.”

The Rebranding

No detail is left behind in this process, from typography to accent colours; everything needed a little freshening up. Together with Ngrane’s in-house Graphic Designer Jeffrey Goodett, David has been working on updating the Brand Identity. Giving it a new spin that is friendlier, more inclusive and crisp, without losing the slick sturdiness of the branding that came before it.

For starters the colours have become more lively, giving off a friendlier and less masculine appeal. Along with liveliness comes a diverse palette, which reflects back into the diversity of the people behind Ngrane. “Our colours used to be very minimal, we changed this around completely. To stand out from the tech crowd and add a little feminine friendliness we opted for a pinkish red as our main colour. This welcoming and warm red is combined with a bolder and brighter blue, for a unique result. This same signature red gives our logo a whole new dimension and energy, which is why we chose to keep the shape the same.”

Along with new colours the two branding pro’s chose to opt for more illustrations rather than photography. “A photo leaves no room for imagination, an illustration can reach more people by being open to interpretation. We are a diverse and imaginative agency and that is key in our new communication,” he says.

The evolution of Ngrane’s logo. Drag left/right and see for yourself.

“We are a diverse and imaginative agency and that is key to our new communication.”

Rebranding is a natural part of any business but it’s not always the easiest. It takes time, a lot of thought and nitpicking, like choosing between two almost identical colours. Rebranding is more than just choosing colours though, every aspect and every detail is equally important. “We’re breathing new life into every aspect of our agency, from a more energised tone of voice to a kick-ass website and stronger social media presence. It’s not one or the other its a process that evolves as a whole,” says David. As we watch this whole coming together we’re excited to see the result of a revamped Ngrane identity. Until then, no rest for the ‘rebranders’.


Oiling the wheels of a new workforce

Ingraining personality into a platform that smooths out the freelance lifestyle. One independent worker at a time.

The digital evolution is turning efficiency into freedom, with specialised freelancers now on demand more than ever. Work experience has been redefined and Ngrane’s managing partner, Stephen Garcia, has got a few great ideas up his sleeves regarding this evolution. Lots of ideas actually, which he will try to explain in a nutshell but always ends up being more like a TED Talk. Combining personal experience with in-depth research, he devised a new platform strategy that works as a hybrid between traditional and modern work values. We haven’t got an actual TED Talk but we talked to him about his ideas and vision for the platform with personality.

The workforce has taken the fast lane when it comes to flexibility and freelancers are officially becoming the norm. Stephen has noticed this trend first hand “There is so much more demand for new specialised skills, such as user experience designers, app developers and digital marketing experts. This new workforce is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds and skills, more high profile and attractive than ever before,” he says. As a Digital Agency, Ngrane works with both freelancers and full-time employed staff, as Stephen puts it the agency is a “crossover between the modern workforce and traditional values.”

“This new workforce is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds and skills, more high profile and attractive than ever before”

Living an autonomous and independent lifestyle does not come without a few downsides. Often freelancers miss a sense of belonging, a community and personal contact. These values, linked to traditional workforce, are lacking in many platforms, including those that pair talent with business. According to research done by JPMorgan Chase, one in six online platform workers is new every month and 50% stop within one year. Stephen tells us that a lot of this stems from the demise in human connection “Platforms should address the lack of engagement with existing workers, and recognise and meet their diverse motivation and needs. One size just does not fit all. The market is expanding rapidly with the increase of freelancers and other trends. The current platform models are lacking 3 factors that research shows are crucial for long-term success. Therefore Ngrane will focus on these 3 areas; personalisation and coaching, premium service and tools, and collaboration and community.”

“It’s in our name, Ngrane comes from ingrain, we’re in the business of creating deep-rooted relationships.”

The new hybrid model

Ngrane will become a hybrid model for the new workforce: part traditional agency and part freelance talent platform. It will bring back meaningful and long-lasting connections into the digital arena. “It’s in our name, Ngrane comes from ingrain, we’re in the business of creating deep-rooted relationships,” says Stephen. The model acts on both a physical and digital environment. The physical will build on human connections through co-working spaces such as WeWork, organising events, personal coaching and by creating a sense of comradeship between freelancers. Instead of working at home on the couch, Skyping everyone or spending your hourly rate in a busy Starbucks: a co-working space can add a little traditional comfort to your trailblazing lifestyle. Stephen goes on to tell us that, “Whilst the digital platform model will serve for efficiency in attracting, organising, developing and managing talent. Freelancers will have the space to work on their own goals, maintaining their personal freedom, without compromising on social belonging. This model will foster happiness, creativity, productivity, and social connections. Fostering even better results.”

“We are a collective of unique individuals”

Ngrane’s new model will take user experience beyond just the digital arena. What we often forget is that user experience is about much more than just being efficient, a personal connection can weigh in just as much. “We elevate the unique skills of each individual,  tailoring our service to each freelancer and giving them more room to pursue projects that inspire them and fuel them creatively,” says Stephen. Yes freelancers can have it all and Ngrane is going to make it happen.