Hi my name is Simon Morris and I own a strategic band agency called Musubi.
Through a lens of Japanese design principles we create and design brands, workplace culture, workspaces and digital environments.
I have been in the industry for over 26 years. I set out to own my own agency and to learn as much as possible from every type of agency I worked for. To learn what works within the agency and what doesn’t. To learn if the promise of the agency is delivered to the client throughout their organisation. To learn how to weave amazing creative talent around complex corporate problems to produce powerful and enduring whole of business solutions.
BUT, i must tell you that over that time, there are a few things that really annoy me about the branding industry. First, there is toxic masculinity which stifles diversity, big egos in the agency management that stifles amazing ideas rising up from the juniors, the bloated fees or proposal structures that hurts client agency relationships, the disconnect between agency teams and the client organisation, and the myopic view of the branding sector.
However, the thing that annoys me the most about those in the industry of creating brands is their simplistic approach. That poses a dilemma. Should corporate decision makers demand a simplistic design approach or should corporate identity consultants push back and focus only on deep dive and organisation wide investigations and tailored outcomes?
The fact is that organisations are created to achieve objectives that can only best be met collectively. This means the sequence of activity necessary to achieve the objectives are too much for one individual and they must be cut up into “sequential units” that are manageable by human beings. These sequential units are often compartmentalised into silos and those silos are often myopically managed by middle management focusing on their limited KPI’s.
In order to develop a new and complete brand ready to face the future; it can not be created in isolation from all of the different disciplines, silos, and subcultures spread throughout the organisation.
Over time, all of the parts and silos of the organisation build unique individual knowledge that, when collected, adds to a deeper and richer voice of the organisation to better and authentically attract talent and can also communicate a marketing advantage over competitors that is enduring and powerful.
I have learnt that branding should never be imposed onto an organisation. When we work with progressive clients, we make it clear that we are not interested in helping to develop an overpowering manipulative brand.
The power of a complete brand is that it helps as a beacon across the organisation to align and improve individual competence, commitment, self-responsibility, and become fully functioning individuals to be active and vital across the organisation. Sharing viable knowledge and ideas.
Alignment of internal and external commitment to the brand is often weak. Marketing and branding managers focus their strategies on the customer. In general, employees are usually the last to know about the latest marketing campaign or have not been appropriately trained in the brand values. Leading brands (and our clients) come to understand that an internal culture supportive of the brand strategy has a far better chance of delivering a consistent yet differentiated experiences. Human Resources are tasked with managing the employee life cycle and administering employee benefits often in isolation to marketing strategies. Consequently, building a chasm between the internal values and brand values. Both need to be aligned in order to shape the organisation’s culture and embed the core brand purpose.
The true test of a leading brand is whether employees’ commitment to the brand is high, as that will help keep customer commitment high. If those who make and sell the brand are not committed to it, why should anyone else be? In other words, those who live the brand will deliver the brand.
Critically, an over simplistic approach to brand development between the brand agency and their client leads to the brand becoming a veneer to the business and not becoming part of the organisation’s muscle memory.
A brand is both the memory and the future of its products and services. How the brand is managed and should be managed across the organisation helps the brand build memory that, in turn, helps each department and teams develop solutions that contains the brand programming for all future evolutions.
Musubi defines and develops a Central Organising Idea that serves as the fuel for the branding. It is developed in conjunction with the organisation as a whole. When staff help develop the branding they come to better understand the brand’s Central Organising Idea and core programming. Thereupon, they have brand licence that will help teams to grow ideas beyond the products and services. It also has another function: to create long-lasting references guiding consumers along all of the brand’s points of touch.
That is the reason a company should never turn away from its identity development and management. Staff and customer loyalty is created by respecting the brand features that initially seduced them and through bringing the brand features to life throughout their onging experiences with the brand.
If the products or services slacken off, weaken or show a lack of investment and thus no longer meets customer expectations, then it signals a vulnerability within the organisation. A vulnerability competitors will eagerly exploit.
Maintaining the brand agency over the longer term and having them work alongside key divisions helps to better meet brand alignment challenge and organisational culture expectations. Our clients have learned that in order to build customer loyalty and capitalise on it, brands and internal teams must stay true to themselves and unambiguously clear to the power of the brand and untapped potential of the organisation’s talent. This is called a return to the future.
Musubi work around the world with future focused CEOs seeking to challenge status quo. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your challenges.