• Employee Branding
  • Brand Purpose

Employee Value Proposition: why you need one?


  • Employee Branding
  • Brand Purpose

When we think of brands, different thoughts and feelings about them come to mind. You might think affordable design (Ikea). You might think Cadbury is being very generous with its ‘glass and a half full’ of milk to make extra creamy chocolate. You might think KLM is open and honest about sustainable flying (or are they greenwashing) … anyway… the point is we think of brands in terms of our human needs, what we want, why we need them in our lives and how they deliver. We don’t tend to immediately think of the worker bees at the heart of brands driving the business forward – their employees.

Employees are consumers

Employees think of the brands they work for in the same way consumers do – with an emotional connection. If you have a great experience, you remain brand loyal, if the brand doesn’t live up to your expectations, you leave. It’s not enough to have an external facing presence out there in the marketplace, brand building, owning your space in the world – your brand and what you stand for has to be equally as magnetic inside company walls.

Put simply, your consumer brand and your employer brand come from the same place: from the brand proposition. You should be able to hear the brand voice, how it speaks and acts, whether you’re talking to consumers or to employees. The brand proposition should be able to divide and work for consumers (the consumer proposition) and/or for employees (the Employee Value Proposition, EVP).

Judge whether your brand has ‘stretch’

Even if we haven’t been tasked to develop the employer brand – the brand idea should have that ‘stretch’. (We’ll always have a view.) You should be able to weave it into your corporate DNA. Effortlessly. You should be able to take your consumer brand and evolve it internally. And vice versa. It’s one of the ways we judge our brand ideas. Is the thinking big enough? It should be.

Here’s the reasons

  • It’s your culture. Your EVP defines your workplace culture, demonstrates your commitment to employee well-being and provides a values framework for how people act and work.
  • It’s your future. The employer brand that crafts an authentic narrative about the organisational culture, values and opportunities will be better placed to attract suitable, emotionally invested employees who will help your business thrive. Top talent is drawn to companies with a strong employer brand – 69% of potential hires will reject job offers from companies who can’t offer a compelling EVP experience (statistics from Glassdoor).
  • It’s your employee satisfaction and growth. Not only will you be able to attract top talent, your employer brand helps retain existing staff. Research shows employees are more likely to stay with a company invested in their employee experience, personal development, and work-life balance.

It’s your carrot

Your competitors will certainly be dangling carrots. So yes, it is important to have an Employee Value Proposition to give you carrots of your own. Consider our recent rebrand for Vitacress where we put ‘growing’ at the heart of their business. We worked very closely with our client, getting under the skin of the issues, to define an EVP that would enhance their reputation in the job market and give employees a sense of belonging. We crafted an authentic narrative about the organisational culture, values and opportunities putting the company in a better place to attract the people they needed who could help drive the business forward.

We’re just curious…

  • Can you articulate your EVP?
  • Does it come from your brand?
  • Does your workforce need reinvigorating?

Feel free to get in touch if you’re curious about how we can help.

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    • Tone of Voice
    • Branding

    Your tone sets the tone


    • Tone of Voice
    • Branding

    Tone of Voice is one of the elements that makes up your brand’s identity. Perhaps not as tangibly as logos, colour pallettes and type faces but TOV has enormous power to influence your consumers’ minds. Doesn’t this mean that companies should give a lot more attention to how they say what they say?

    Emotional connection: the holy grail

    A brand that speaks consistently across its touchpoints not only reinforces its personality it builds trust – increasing revenue by up to 23%*. Consistency creates a solid factual base. Your words align with your values making your brand feel genuine and authentic. Customers know what to expect from your brand, they feel reassured and an emotional connection is formed – the holy grail – resulting in brand loyalty. A survey by Deloitte found that 60% of loyal customers were willing to refer their preferred brands to others. Nothing could be more magnetic for your brand than having your consumers spread your words.

    The beauty of an inclusive voice

    Brands can’t afford to be out of step with their clients or their customers or their employees for that matter. (If you’ve identified this as a concern, let’s talk through how we can change that.) ‘Brand/customer together’ cues an inclusive voice – without being too over familiar. (Just to say, we don’t believe in brands being your friends. Warm yes but matey no.) Absolutely, see the world through your clients’ eyes, write from a position of insight, but also use judgement and your knowledge of your client’s business and the people in it to define the appropriate TOV. One overarching rule we have is to stay clear of being authoritarian. Be an authority on what you do, for sure. Your clients want your guidance and know how, but expertise delivered in an imperative voice – do this, do that – or an elite generalising way, will alienate. As mentioned earlier, connection is achieved when you write with an inclusive voice: peer to peer, we, you, us. We had a client that referred to their clients as ‘individuals’– we explained the distancing tonal affect this had on their website.

    Engage don’t slam dunk

    Literalism in language erodes the emotional connection you’ve spent time and money building up. Where a brand takes full control over the reaction or experience that the customer or client is supposed to have – attempting a complete description and explanation and leaving no ‘smile in the mind’. We like to leave room for audiences to construct their own experiences and use words as a launch pad for their own imagination. Empowering audiences to form their own emotional connections with you calls for brands to be brave and creative with TOV. (And use writers with conceptual ability.) Examples that quickly come to mind: Innocent, Mailchimp, Oatly, Monzo, Dove, Octopus energy, Spotify, Apple… consistency is essential, as we’ve described, but a distinct tone engages and becomes the audible signature of a brand.

    How do you figure out your tone of voice?

    Your brand doesn’t have to speak to everyone – just those you have a real connection with – who understand your purpose and support your values. How you speak is informed by your brand purpose; there should be a direct correlation between your vision and values and the tone of your written communications. Branding agencies, like us, write Tone of Voice characteristics to guide you and anyone else working with your brand. This can take the form of a Brand Voice Chart (we prefer not to use those as they can be formulaic). Let’s not make a mistake – TOV does not come from guidelines. It can have a home within a beautifully crafted bible but voice characteristics (and charts) are empty and meaningless without the language examples/exploration bringing the brand idea to life. You need the practice to explain the theory. It’s also exciting, we think, to see your brand personality in action. Talking to you.

    Few last words…


    • Be clear what your personality is. Are you playful or serious, concise or poetic, direct or unassuming? Your personality will dictate the way you act, speak and write.
    • Ask yourself a simple question: does your identity come out through your words?
    • Get in touch if your words aren’t aligning with your values or you want to find your voice.


    • Copy another brand’s tone. You don’t need to sound like Monzo, you need to sound like you.

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      • Branding
      • Naming

      Weaving sustainability into the fabric of your brand


      • Branding
      • Naming

      You know the science, but a quick recap will sharpen our minds.

      Carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels has caused temperatures to rise by 1-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, floods that we are witnessing around the world are caused by this 1-degrees increase. If society, as we know it, is to survive, we need to limit this global temperature increase within the 1.5 degrees defence line (The Paris Agreement). If emissions continue climbing as they have been, we will be adding enough carbon to the air to take us past the 1.5 degrees tipping point in less than 8-years-time. We need to reduce the carbon we have been releasing year upon year – we have until 2030 to half emissions. By 2050, or sooner, we need to be at the stage where no incremental greenhouse gases are emitted. This is net zero.

      Making your purpose more purposeful 

      According to a Nielson Study in 2018, 81% of consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. Which is why it is critical to the success of businesses that the UN sustainable goals are taking firm root at the heart of business strategy – the E, S and Gs (Environmental, Social and Governance). Your consumers (and employees and stakeholders) want to be aligned with a brighter, cleaner and more sustainable future. They want to know you’re caring for the environment, looking out for your employees, supporting local communities, and dealing ethically. Companies that don’t openly and transparently share their values and behaviours and embrace the responsibility of making the world a better place, will no longer be relevant, visible or viable.

      Brand is a powerful ally. Through strategy and creativity, it can embed sustainability into your identity, into your personality and proposition – deepening the emotional connection between your brand and your consumers. And show you’re genuinely committed to driving positive change. It is our belief brand can move us on from mass consumerism and help shape the net zero world we need next.

      How do you sustain your story?

      Businesses need to incorporate sustainability as a core value and not a marketing strategy. But this needs thinking about. You can’t just put the words, “We are a sustainable company” in with your other values (well you can but it won’t help you stand out) and say job done. How can you reinforce your commitment to sustainability and bring it to life as a core value and beyond?

      Aside from solid climate-related data illustrating your brand’s sustainability journey, functional facts graphically executed, we think it’s about making you matter to your audience through emotive and memorable storytelling. We are mindful of giving brands an edge, creating an ownable difference with a clear visual and verbal tonal link to the essence of your brand. When a brand knows what it’s about, your tone of voice is clearer and stronger – and your sustainability messages can come across more authentically and consistently. From you. And not as a bolt-on, as we like to call it. Unique and genuine narratives, or brand territories, strengthen a brand’s identity and capture the hearts and minds of your consumers.

      Let’s make this tangible

      Consider our recent rebrand for our client Evero, a waste to renewable energy company. They literally move mountains of landfill, reusing millions and millions of tons of waste to supply sustainable, reliable, affordable energy. A force for good, we increased recognition of the impact they were making by repositioning them as the natural restorers of balance in the world. This strategic and creative ‘reset’ idea was taken right through from look and feel to the logo and naming. Like the Earth on its axis, the logo tilts at 23.4 degrees. And the new Evero name – purposely ends in ‘O’ to reference the circular economy. In effect, we created sustainability branding that reflects the company’s crucial mission of safeguarding our planet for generations to come.

      “Save the planet” everyone’s got the same brief 

      So, this is the challenge. You might find it deeply fascinating for your touchpoints to wax lyrical about your sustainability pillars, but your consumers still want your brand to engage. How do you decrease your impact on the world without decreasing your impact as a brand? Another way, aside from storytelling, is to use your transformative powers to make the journey to net zero easier for your consumers. Rather than looking inward ‘nurture’ them with the positive behaviours that lead to lower-carbon lives. Inspire with your knowledge. Excite with your technology. Invite them to join your initiatives and community. Ask for their feedback. Brands who take the lead on sustainability are the ones who stand out – this is a commercial opportunity to rise above Same.     

      We’re just curious…

      • Are you embedding sustainability goals into your business?
      • How are you weaving safeguarding the planet into your proposition and personality?
      • Have you included sustainability into your values?
      • Do your employees know about your sustainability journey. Do they feel involved?

      Feel free to get in touch if you’re curious about how we can help.

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        • Branding
        • Naming

        Client spotlight: QIG


        • Branding
        • Naming

        To celebrate the launch of our latest project, QIG, we sat down with their head of Marketing, Sarah Foss, to speak about how we bought their brand to life.

        Read the full case study here.

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          • Curious
          • Awards
          • Naming

          Awards Alert: Curious wins sparkling silver at Transform


          • Curious
          • Awards
          • Naming

          What a lovely feeling it is when your hard work is recognised. We are extremely proud to have won two silver awards at this year’s Transform Awards Europe.

          The Transform Awards recognise excellence in rebranding, brand development and the journeys brands make. We’re honoured to be included in this year’s winners. Find out more about the awards here.

          About our winners:

          Best visual identity from the professional services sector:
          Pascoe + Tew

          In Pascoe + Tew’s world, the world of executive search, people often put their trust in a safe pair of hands. But, these firms don’t always have their client’s best intentions at heart. This doesn’t sit well with Pascoe + Tew, in fact, it goes against everything they stand for.

          They came to Curious for a brand refresh that rallies around their purpose and clearly shows their distinction from their competitors. We worked with them to create a new brand strategy, visual identity and tone of voice that we then applied to a new website and brand collateral.

          Our new brand is simple and bold. It’s professional but not cold, adding personality and tone to a rather dull world. It has none of the layers of complexity and corporate fluff that are all too common in the recruitment world; instead, the simple design and no-nonsense copy stand strong. Now Pascoe + Tew can be confident their brand tells clients and customers exactly what they stand for.

          Read the case study here

          Best naming strategy (rename):
          Aeria Apartments

          This brand is still making its way through the studio, so we can’t say too much yet… But, keep your eyes peeled for the brand later this year.

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            • Brand Strategy
            • Sustainability

            From the team: An excellent example of living your truth


            • Brand Strategy
            • Sustainability

            Curious MD Nikki Cunningham talks about how Patagonia lives and breathes its brand purpose and how other brands should take note. (Warning: it’s not easy to achieve).

            In business to save the planet

            Last week, Yvon Chouinard, founder of outdoor clothing and equipment retailer Patagonia, made a surprise announcement that he had donated the company. The entire company. A move that means, after reinvestment, all of Patagonia’s profits will be donated to charities that will fight the environmental crisis, protect nature and biodiversity, and support thriving communities.

            At a time when trust in many forms is low, it’s refreshing to see a brand following through on what it says it believes in. Though that in itself is a problem – why is it we don’t trust what brands say, and what can they do to restore our faith?

            The overcommunication issue

            Brand purpose is regarded with scepticism. Almost all businesses make grand acclimations about their purpose, and only a few live up to their promise. Too often, companies think they can fulfil their purpose by putting out official statements in response to current events. In other words, be lazy.

            In normal circumstances, we’re big fans of communication; it’s vital for healthy, happy relationships. But, when you’re speaking for the sake of speaking, you do your brand more harm than good. Not backing up what you say with actions will make consumers doubt you mean what you say. Inauthenticity is far worse than if you said nothing.

            Patagonia founder Yvon Choinard. Image Tom Frost


            Why does purpose work for Patagonia?

            ‘We appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We’re using the resources we have – our business our investments, our voice and our imaginations – to do something about it.’

            From any other company this might sound like empty words, but for Patagonia, this sentiment guides everything they do. They don’t just talk about caring for the environment – they do something about it. They live their purpose.

            A timeline of action

            1985: 1% for the planet was launched. Patagonia began to donate 1% of every sale to climate charities.
            2007: The Footprint Chronicles is launched. It traces the social and environmental impact of Patagonia’s products.
            2012: Patagonia became a certified B Corporation and registered as a benefit corporation in the State of California.
            2017: Merchandise in good condition can be returned for new merchandise credits. The used merchandise is cleaned, repaired and sold on its “Worn Wear” website.
            2019: ReCrafted was launched. It creates and sells clothing made from scraps of fabric from used Patagonia gear.
            2020: Patagonia suspended its advertising on Facebook and Instagram as part of the “stop Hate for Profit” campaign.
            2022. Patagonia is donated to charity.

            And this timeline doesn’t account for all of the indirect effects Patagonia has had. From funding charities, helping grassroots groups, and the actions of individuals inspired by their films, books and articles.

            Throughout its almost 50 years of trading, Patagonia has always been committed to producing good quality, long-lasting products that don’t cost the earth. They’ve used actions to back up their words. They’ve lived their purpose.

            Will others follow?

            For Patagonia, donating themselves to charity wasn’t as rash a move as it might have initially appeared; they have a long history of action. It would undoubtedly be difficult for other companies to do the same as Patagonia. Their history, structure and employees who share the company’s vision all mean they can enact change much more quickly than a standard business. But, we hope that it encourages others to consider how to go beyond words and act on their purpose. What they actually believe in. Wouldn’t that be something.

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              • Branding

              Celebrating 20 years of being curious


              • Branding

              We’ve enjoyed our curious journey. From Poland Street to Floral Street to Shelton Street to Dean Street, only a mile radius but we’ve come so far. We’re immensely proud of our collaboration with brands local and global. Doing great work means a lot to us. We’ve put our achievements in a video.

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                • Digital
                • Branding
                • Naming

                Client Spotlight: Zyte


                • Digital
                • Branding
                • Naming

                For this month’s client spotlight, we caught up with Zyte’s Head of Marketing, Marie Moynihan to reflect on her experience of their recent rebrand from Scraping Hub, and what she enjoyed about the process.

                What prompted your decision to rebrand?

                We started to create our three-year strategic plan for the business and once that was complete, I started to ask whether the brand was strong enough to deliver on our vision. We went out to the market to find the right partner that could help us answer that question, rather than starting with “we want to rebrand”.

                What drove the desire to change your name as well as your identity?

                We were bringing a new product to market that would change how our customers would access data. The old name was very tied to the old solutions, so we wanted a new name that would support this new product and direction.

                What was the most challenging aspect of managing a rebrand for you?

                Probably bringing the whole organisation on the journey with us. It was clear to me why we needed to change the name but managing that change internally was challenging.

                What did you find most enjoyable/surprising?

                Once we had decided on the name, the most enjoyable part was seeing the brand come to life. The name is nothing without the brand. This was really fun as we got to build out the personality and look and feel of our new brand.

                How did you communicate the changes to your employees and customers?

                We did this with continuous updates along the journey. The rebrand had a regular slot in all of our town hall meetings, and we got Curious to hold a couple of sessions for staff, educating them on the process we were taking, findings etc. We also had a slack channel for any questions or comments anybody had.

                How do you think your new brand has impacted your business?

                It has really consolidated how we talk about ourself. One of our customers explaining extracting data from the web as ‘Zyting’ was really exciting for us. We also have solid brand guidelines that have helped give us one voice in the market. The rebrand was really well received internally as well which was super important for us.

                Read the full case study here.

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                  • Branding

                  In conversation with Curious: An introduction to consumer archetypes


                  • Branding

                  In our first Conversation with Curious, we introduced the concept of consumer archetypes, a topic so interesting we thought it deserved further discussion. We invited Dr Simon Moore from Innovation Bubble back to discuss; the four consumer archetypes, what motivates them, and how brands can use archetypes to their advantage.

                  Press play for intriguing insights into the way you think. 

                    Our small print: It’s free. It’s for a limited time only, for a limited number of brands.

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                      • Brand Strategy
                      • Branding

                      A Curious guide to conducting a competitor brand audit


                      • Brand Strategy
                      • Branding

                      When it comes to building a strong business you won’t be able to position yourself without conducting thorough research into the competition. Your brand strategy needs to be stress-tested against rivals in order to confirm it is unique. You need to establish what’s in the market, what’s working and what isn’t and understand how your audience is responding in order to set yourself apart.

                      So, here is our five step guide to carrying out a successful competitor audit.

                      1. Start close to home

                      If you don’t carefully analyse your own brand you won’t have the full scope of what others are doing differently. Examine the core elements of your brand – your website, sales collateral, presentations – and work out what should stay and what can go. That way you’ll know what you’ve got to work with.

                      2. Look to the future

                      Consider where your company is heading in the next few years. Are you planning to launch new services? Develop any new products? Open an office overseas? The competitors you face today will change tomorrow. Keep these questions top of mind to ensure you capture everyone in your net.

                      3. Break it all down

                      When it comes to breaking down a rival brand, separate out all of the assets to analyse them more closely.

                      • Which touchpoint demonstrates their brand best?
                      • Which asset best illustrates their visual identity?
                      • Where do they best demonstrate their verbal language?

                      There are countless places a brand can show up, from logo and tagline to packaging, products and brochure via sales literature, ad campaigns, websites and apps. Ensure you are covering them all in your analysis.

                      4. Go both verbal and visual

                      Consider the brand from both verbal and visual angles: a brand may appear on the surface to lack good visual design, but their tone of voice can be quite powerful and hit the mark with audiences.

                      Brand language

                      Examine both the top line messaging across a brand as well as the overall style.

                      • Is it consistent, relatable or ownable?
                      • Is it passive or proactive?
                      • Who is the primary target audience?
                      • If their brand was a person, what sort of personality do they have?

                      Visual identity

                      This refers to everything from logos, colours and typography to iconography, imagery and video.

                      • What grabs your attention?
                      • What feeling does it give off?
                      • Is it consistent?
                      • Is it unique?

                      5. Examine the final picture

                      Once you’ve interrogated all the assets, match them up against each other and add yourself into the mix to see where you sit and where the white space is. This process is called brand segmentation.

                      A few things to think about as you do this final step…

                      • What area/s is each competitor trying to own?
                      • How much does their brand tie into this?
                      • Does their messaging convey their positioning consistently?
                      • How does the overall experience of their brand support this?

                      In summary

                      Once you’ve got this down on paper, you’ll have a clear and objective understanding of not just the competition, but also your own strengths and weaknesses. You can then use this to create a unique brand positioning. Because the truth is if you don’t know what your competition is doing today, how are you supposed to know what to do tomorrow?


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                        • Digital
                        • Branding
                        • Naming

                        Client Spotlight: The Kite Factory


                        • Digital
                        • Branding
                        • Naming

                        In the first of our monthly client spotlight series, we caught up with Emily Underhill, Marketing Director at The Kite Factory on her experience of the media agency’s rebrand from MC&C, what she found challenging and what she enjoyed most throughout the Curious process.

                        What prompted your decision to rebrand?

                        There were multiple factors that led to our decision to rebrand but ultimately, we wanted to create a clean slate for the next leg of our growth journey. We’d spent a lot of time developing our offering and building a new senior leadership team to drive the business forward, but were struggling to agree and communicate what made us different.

                        We also received VC investment for the first time, which allowed us to invest in creating a modern brand that captured the agency’s vision, personality & passion that could confidently go up against our competitors.

                        What drove the desire to change your name as well as your identity?

                        Our old name (MC&C) stood for Mike Colling & Company, after our Founder. The agency was founded in 2001 and given its evolution, we felt that the name no longer represented or championed our people and the collaborative nature of our business.

                        MC&C also had a heritage in charity advertising – a specialism we are still proud to hold today – but we wanted to diversify our client base and knew a new name would give us the springboard to break out of that pigeonhole and have new conversations with different kinds of clients.

                        TKF, Naming, design

                        What was the most challenging aspect of managing a rebrand for you?

                        Managing multiple stakeholders and their opinions is always challenging. Curious did some brilliant investigative work to combat this by getting under the skin of the business and understanding what our agency stood for from those that know it best (staff, clients, partners etc), which left little room for debate and gave us a clear direction.

                        What did you find most enjoyable/surprising?

                        I really enjoyed the naming process as it really felt like our brand was coming to life. Curious came up with some really clever options that all struck a chord, and we were pleasantly surprised at how aligned we were as a team – the ultimate decision was unanimous!

                        I personally love the psychology behind branding so really enjoyed watching the process play out and learning the different considerations and how they all link together. On the surface, The Kite Factory seems a bit of a random name (which does a job in creating intrigue), but I love that it feels considered and links back to our story in a really smart way.

                        How did you communicate the changes to your employees and customers?

                        We knew how important it was to bring our staff on this journey with us and celebrate this new chapter with them and our existing clients. We timed the relaunch to coincide with our move to our beautiful new office which gave us a brilliant opportunity to bring the brand to life from day one.

                        A personal note from our CEO explaining the changes went to our clients and partners, and we sent a branded box of goodies to industry friends and journalists to spread the word. Staff received a welcome box on their new desk with more information on the new ‘us’ and our new surroundings, and we did a big reveal around our gorgeous neon TKF sign in our reception. Launch week culminated with a very boozy party at the office to celebrate with industry friends.

                        How do you think your new brand has impacted your business?

                        The rebrand has been absolutely fundamental in our growth. Curious helped us to discover and develop an authentic proposition that truly represented our agency, along with a stunning new name and visual identity that has created huge interest with new clients, recruits and industry peers. This gave us the fresh start we needed and it’s gone from strength to strength ever since.

                        You can find a case study of our work here.

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                          • Branding

                          In Conversation with Curious: Combatting rival brand attacks


                          • Branding

                          In the first of our In Conversation with Curious series, we delve into the psychology behind brand rivalries with brilliant psychologist Dr Simon Moore from Innovationbubble. Covering #caterpillargate, targeted Google ads, and why brand interactions should follow dating etiquette.

                          See our Curious Guide to Self Defence here.

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                            • Brand Strategy
                            • Branding

                            When brands fight back: How to counter a rival brand attack in style


                            • Brand Strategy
                            • Branding

                            Whatever your business, whether it’s consumer-facing brands or b2b client work, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and getting an edge over the competition is essential. But what happens when the competition plays dirty?


                            We were recently approached by a business whose nearest rival had started a digital campaign against them, ensuring anyone who searched for the business online would find derogatory results, detailing why the rival company was apparently better. Borderline illegal? Perhaps. Immediate action required? Definitely.

                            While not a million miles away from the M&S and Aldi Colin vs Cuthbert conundrum, we thought it was time to put together a 101 on how to fight back when a rival isn’t playing fair.

                            When you’re in a position like this the temptation is to lie low, keep quiet and essentially hope it all goes away. But is that the right thing to do? Absolutely not. Doing nothing shows weakness – or at least vulnerability – and implies to customers and staff that you don’t care. It delays any action that’s needed to get back your edge, and quite aside from being bad for team morale it could seriously jeopardise your reputation long term.

                            We hope you won’t need this but, in the event, you need to fight back in style, here is Curious’s five-step guide to combating rival brand attacks

                            1. Change the conversation

                            If the competition goes for your ‘weak spot’, flip the conversation and redirect people’s attention to your areas of strength. Laying down the gauntlet on your terms will give you the power. Pursue the competitor on these points single-mindedly and call out any diversion tactics as an inability to respond. You can do this with humour, you can do it with humility or you can do it with candour. The key thing is that it gets done.

                            2. Fight fire with the facts

                            If the competition attacks with supposed “proof”, then you’d be wise to put it under a magnifying glass. Now is the time to bring in your own specialists and create a counter-attack. Pick holes in their points, uncover their mistruths and exhibit their naivety. It’s important to stay calm and take them apart in an ice cold fashion.

                            3. Listen and learn

                            Take note and acknowledge that the area of the business that’s under fire is potentially falling short. This is in fact the perfect moment to take a step back, re-evaluate the business’ offering/position in the market and regroup. From here it’s about developing these problem areas and turning them into strengths that can be publicised and offered to consumers.

                            4. Remind the world

                            To be in a position where rival brands need to take a swipe means you must have been doing something right. Remember what makes your brand great and remind the world about it. Communicate with potential customers why you’re such an important asset, whilst reaching out to your current customers to remind them about what you’ve done for them and the industry so far.

                            5. Prioritise digital

                            The world is digital at its core. And as consumers increasingly spend more of their lives online, it will become a key battleground for brands. There are two key opportunities to enhance your brand on digital. The first is to embrace social media and form a content strategy to help educate, entertain and engage consumers. The second is to improve UX design to create a truly seamless online experience for users; making them fall in love with your platform and keep coming back for more.

                            Even the most basic psychology will tell you that if you come under fire from a competitor then they feel threatened by you. Keep this in mind at all times and while it’s crucial you don’t sink to their level, your response will shape how strongly you come out of the encounter.


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                              • Curious
                              • Awards
                              • Branding

                              Awards alert: Curious picks up THREE Graphis Poster Awards


                              • Curious
                              • Awards
                              • Branding

                              Curious are extremely proud to have picked up two Golds and a Silver for our series of posters at the 2022 Graphis Poster Annual Competition.


                              In their own words, “Graphis is committed to promoting the work of exceptional talent in Design, Advertising, Photography and Art/Illustration”, and we’re chuffed to be included in that category!

                              About our winners:

                              GOLD: The Kite Factory

                              Following their rebrand in 2018, we were thrilled to work with TKF again to bring their new company values to life. Our original work was based on the insight that ideas lie at the heart of the agency. And not just any ideas, the sort that deliver measurable, tangible results. Ideas grounded in data-driven insights that are tightly connected to the real world.

                              The charming twist in the design was that the kite itself was never seen. Instead, the string that tethers the kite to the ground was the main feature. It was and is the perfect reflection of the brand purpose: ideas that take flight but are deeply grounded in insight. We used this thinking to inspire our new project.

                              We took the kite string focus even further with this series, extending it from the logo and twisting it into shapes that visually represent The Kite Factory’s values; ‘Aim higher, Think freely, ‘Win together, ‘Get involved, and ‘Stay smart’. The posters are displayed throughout the Kite Factory office to encourage their employees to aspire to these values as they work.

                              See our original work here.

                              GOLD: Fierce Grace

                              To create a brand that felt different from other yoga companies, we stayed away from the spiritual, bowing, meditation and chanting, and focused on the ideas behind the creation of Fierce Grace. Founder Michele Pernetta believes that yoga balances strength, which is the masculine element (Fierce) with flexibility, the feminine element (Grace). This belief informed our approach to the design and allowed us to be authentic to Fierce Grace.

                              We used bold, contemporary photography and delicate typography to portray the balance between strength and flexibility that lies at the heart of Fierce Grace. The posters have been blown up and feature in all four Fierce Grace locations across London.

                              View the full case study here.

                              SILVER: Zyte

                              Zyte opens a smooth pathway to web data, giving businesses a competitive advantage. This is visually manifested with the striking use of the ‘Zyte Z’ and supported by the headline, ‘Is your business missing out?’. We wanted to create a series of posters that were bold and exciting and captured the brand’s energetic approach while signalling the arrival of a new game changer.

                              The Zyte poster campaign encapsulates an energetic new approach for a brand who believes in free-flowing channels of information for all. In a sector that is often dry, this bold approach stands out from competitors and the clean design demonstrates Zyte’s ability to cut through the mysteries of the web and talk to businesses on a personal level.

                              View the full case study here.

                              Find out more about the awards and browse the other winners here.

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                                • Branding

                                Why sonic branding can be a lethal weapon for brands


                                • Branding

                                Sound is immensely powerful. It has the ability to transport you back to a certain moment in time or take you somewhere you never knew existed. It can make you feel alive or even reduce you to tears. It’s a sense that enables communication and facilitates the greatest language of all, music.

                                Sound plays a huge part in people’s lives and is increasingly important in the modern-day world. According to Statista, there are currently 155 million Spotify Premium subscribers, a 25% increase since 2019, whilst the smart speaker market is set to be worth $35 billion by 2025. On top of this, entertainment formats such as podcasts continue to thrive, with Spotify recording a doubling in podcast listening hours in Q4 2020, and the music based social media platform TikTok goes from strength to strength.

                                You’d think based on information like this, audio would be one of the first considerations for brands when it comes to creative execution. And yet all too often sound design is treated as an afterthought and given minimal consideration or budget. The result, a piece of branding or communications that looks incredible, but is compromised when it comes to audio.

                                But what actually is a sonic identity? It’s essentially an audio logo. A soundbite, no more than a few seconds long, that can either complement a visual logo, enhancing overall brand recognition, or work in isolation on audio-only media such as podcasts, streaming platforms, radio or even apps.

                                The question is, do people care about such things?

                                The simple answer is yes. A staggering 60% of consumers believe music used in marketing is more memorable than visuals (PHMG). Whilst recent research by DLMDD and YouGov uncovered one in three adults under the age of 35 (33%) feels more favourable towards brands with a sonic identity than those without. Incredibly the research also revealed that one in three adults (32%) associate no brands with having a sonic identity. In a world that is increasingly full of communications, an engaging audio identity could be a game changer for brands wanting to stand out from the crowd.

                                Consumers’ affinity towards brands that utilise sound is no coincidence; it’s based on science. People react faster to audio than any other stimulus. In fact, it only takes 0.146 seconds for a human to react to sound (Made Music Studio). On top of this, music has the ability to evoke powerful emotional responses in listeners spanning from chills all the way through to thrills (Psychology Today). All this points overwhelmingly to the need for brands – particularly those with a strong digital presence – to ensure as much consideration has gone into their sonic branding as their physical branding.

                                What are the advantages of a strong audio identity?

                                Audio is vital and brands that invest can expect to create a number of advantages for themselves. The first major benefit of sonic branding is an increased level of stand out. Consumers are bombarded with communications every day and can end up switching off to brands. Effective sound design can gain much needed cut through, helping capture consumers’ attention or even enter their minds subconsciously.

                                The next advantage is enhanced mental recall. Just like other distinctive assets such as logos, brand mascots, colours and slogans, sonic branding can help build memory structures. This essentially increases the likelihood of consumers remembering a brand, which is particularly crucial when it comes to the consideration phase in the purchase funnel.

                                Brand personality is also an area that will benefit greatly. Just as a strong tone of voice on social can humanise a brand, or a consistent visual style can become warmly familiar, sound can also enhance a brand’s character. Fleshing out a brand’s DNA into the world of audio will help create a deeper and more authentic entity, which will help build trust with consumers.

                                Focussing on audio is also an opportunity to have some fun as a brand and experiment creatively in a whole new arena. Developing this area can boost consumer engagement and has the potential to become something they enjoy listening to and even recreate.

                                So, how does a brand go about creating an impactful sonic identity?

                                Begin with research: Conducting a review of the competition will allow brands to avoid any crossover and help produce something truly ownable. It’s also a good idea to analyse any previous audio that has been used for the brand historically, which could act as inspiration.

                                Know the audience: Consider your target consumers and what will resonate with them. Key questions include what kind of sounds will appeal to them most and what platforms they will be using when they engage with the audio.

                                Pin down an emotion: This all stems from the brand’s personality and how it wants to make consumers feel. That could span from pure excitement or happiness, through to a feeling of calmness and serenity.

                                Blend simplicity with originality: The key to success will be down to creating something that is unique enough to stand out in the market, whilst being stripped back enough to be effortless, catchy and, most importantly hummable.

                                As technology evolves and humans become increasingly plugged into it, sound design is going to become a huge part of creating authentic media experiences. As this shift takes place it is vital that branding is viewed as a multi-sensory platform that appeals to consumers in a multitude of different ways. Brands that embrace this approach and invest in audio will find themselves centre stage, with an audience that wants to listen.

                                This article was originally featured in Shots 

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                                  • Brand Strategy
                                  • Digital
                                  • Branding

                                  How can charities rise from the ashes of Coronavirus?


                                  • Brand Strategy
                                  • Digital
                                  • Branding

                                  From the ashes, a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring’ –  J.R.R. Tolkien

                                  The pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Industries, from travel all the way through to entertainment, have been severely affected by Coronavirus. But none of these have been tougher to witness than the impact on the charity sector.

                                  What has been so concerning is that as the pandemic has worsened, demand for charity services has increased but overall income has fallen. A vicious loop which has led to charities in the UK losing an estimated £4.3 billion (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) already, whilst 60% more people are now dependent on essential charity donations (Charity Today). In short, charities have never been so needed and yet they have never been so vulnerable themselves.

                                  However, sometimes out of the darkest moments comes the brightest of lights. The British public never fails to support a good cause and donated a staggering total of £5.4 billion to charity between January and June 2020 – an increase of £800 million compared to the same period in 2019 (CAF). There was a surge in volunteering and inspirational figures such as Captain Sir Tom Moore stepped up to raise money for NHS charities.

                                  In spite of these heroics and the kindness of the nation, the situation has unfortunately remained bleak with analysis by independent charity Pro Bono Economics predicting that out of the UK’s 170,000 charities, one in 10 could face bankruptcy, with smaller charities being most at risk. Even high-profile names such as Children In Need and Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal have been hit, with both experiencing declines in overall donations.

                                  In uncertain times like these, dramatic action is needed. Charities must be hard on themselves and identify even the smallest of weaknesses that could be holding them back. Weaknesses must be turned into strengths and used to help them grow. If a charity can rise out of the pandemic, it will never stop.

                                  Rising from the ashes: 4 focus areas

                                  Strengthen the brand

                                  The way a charity represents itself to the public is crucial. A strong brand positioning creates differentiation in the market, enables a connection with consumers and ultimately helps build trust. It also helps increase income as consistent branding across all channels increases revenue by 23% (Forbes). A brand DNA consists of everything, from the personality and tone of voice, through to distinctive assets such as a logo, typeface and sound design that will build mental recall with consumers. By re-evaluating their brand make up and ensuring consistency across communication platforms, charities will have a strong foundation to build upon moving forward.

                                  Utilise the power of data

                                  According to a recent survey carried out by Loqate and Acevo, a shocking 66% of charities aren’t confident in their own data. Areas such as analytics, consumer experience, campaign management and reporting all risk being damaged, which can directly impact an organisation’s efficiency and reputation. With data decaying by 20% year on year, it is integral that charities implement a data driven culture to ensure they don’t damage their brand, infringe on GDPR regulations and lose out on revenue. The key is to identify what data you need, then establish how to collect it and ultimately how to use it effectively.

                                  Engage new audiences

                                  For brands, targeting the correct consumers is fundamental to success both in terms of engagement, but also profit. One tactic to increase profits is to diversify when it comes to audience and look outside the box for future donators. Charity target audiences have traditionally been made up of older demographics. However, a report published by Blackbaud revealed UK Generation Zers and Millennials are in fact the most generous givers. Charities would be wise to open their arms to younger potential donators and explore how to appeal to them moving forwards.

                                  Harness digital channels

                                  The world is digital, and for that reason, it is crucial that charities utilise key touchpoints to engage with their audiences. The website is an important place to start as it’s seen as the hub. Simplicity wins in this domain particularly when it comes to the donation page, with over a quarter of web users (26%) dropping out if there are too many fields to complete (Loqate). Email is also a key channel and still ranks best for ROI. Emphasis should be put on email engagement journeys, using compelling imagery and the power of personalisation. Social media, on the other hand, offers charities the chance to experiment with content such as Instagram stories to communicate a narrative and drive donations.

                                  Embracing these areas will allow charities the chance to strengthen their brand for the future and rise once and for all.

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                                    • Branding
                                    • Naming

                                    From the team: Did you ever have a nickname?


                                    • Branding
                                    • Naming

                                    MD Nikki Cunningham writes about the value in brands’ names and how you just can’t force a nickname.

                                    Last week consumer goods giant RB – formerly Reckitt Benckiser and owner of brands such as Dettol and Cillit Bang – announced it was changing its name. Again. Back to Reckitt, in recognition of their founder, Isaac Reckitt. Why? Because nobody knew what RB meant or stood for. The nickname didn’t stick.

                                    So that got me thinking…where do nicknames even come from? And what makes them last (or not)?

                                    I’ve always wanted one, but the fact that my actual name was already viewed as a nickname made it a little hard. I suppose I wanted one to feel cooler. Obviously, I couldn’t pull that off and I accepted the fact that my surname was never going to reap the sort of street cred I was after. I moved on.

                                    But I’m fascinated with how nicknames even come about. One boy at my school somehow managed to get the nickname ‘Fish’. Even the teachers called him it. I don’t even recall his real name. There’s no logic as to how this guy got the name in the first place, but that was his label forever.

                                    And that’s the thing with nicknames. They sort of just…happen. You can’t force them even when you try, as I discovered. An episode of First Dates was on the TV the other night and a guest on it said she was desperate to be known as GiGi. Her name was Genevieve. But she so desperately wanted GiGi to be a thing. She introduced herself to her date stating her name was Genevieve but ‘you can call me GiGi’… *holds breath*

                                    “Hi Genevieve, nice to meet you”

                                    Oh, how disappointing.

                                    Why is it that sometimes, despite your best efforts, names just stick?

                                    The apparent need to get the ‘cool nickname’ doesn’t stop with myself or Genevieve. Companies too, seek out that gratification of being known in shorthand. A few years back there was definitely a trend going around for brands to do a ‘name drop’. Dunkin’ did it. So did HuffPost. Or should that be HuffPo?

                                    But the trouble with this tactic is that brands are still held accountable to the same rules as people. If it doesn’t feel right – if it’s not an acknowledgement of how they are perceived by their customers – it just won’t happen. KFC is KFC because that’s what we all called it anyway. Same goes for Apple (Apple Computers) and HP (Hewlett Packard). But name drops or adaptions can only really be a reaction to a widely held view of the brand before it changes. It can’t be forced.

                                    So going back to RB and the move to revert back to their old name. Why didn’t it stick? The reason is pretty much the same as why I never managed to get one. It was too forced. It wasn’t a natural evolution. The adoption of the initials was based purely on the fact that the original was “a bit of a mouthful”, according to former CEO Ranesh Kapoor. But that just isn’t a good enough reason. If the equity of the brand is in its heritage and you remove that label in the name, you’re removing value from your brand. And the fact that most people familiar with the company still referred to it as Reckitt after the change to RB, kind of solidifies the point. Just like GiGi, it wasn’t convincing enough.

                                    Names aren’t everything when it comes to brands, but they do hold a particular amount of power if you treat them right. Acknowledge what you’re known for and play into that. Don’t try and leap ahead because people won’t buy into it. Instead, listen to your customers, recognise when a change is needed and react.

                                    I am, however, still waiting for the day that McDonald’s changes its name to Maccy D’s.

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                                      • Brand Strategy
                                      • Branding

                                      You can’t shake hands through Skype: How can you build trust online?


                                      • Brand Strategy
                                      • Branding

                                      Our favourite Brand philosopher, Simon Sinek, has suggested that trust requires a uniquely personal touch that cannot be replicated through technology. His firmly held belief in the need for in-person interactions led Sinek to assert that the video call would never replace the business trip.

                                      In 2021 this is not our reality. With all travel more or less cancelled, not only has the video call replaced the business trip but also the 9 am office meeting.  Which makes now the perfect time to revisit his argument and ask ourselves some difficult questions about trust:

                                      • What do we need to know about someone to trust them?
                                      • Can you trust someone you’ve never met?
                                      • Do we have the same trust with people as with businesses?
                                      • Is Sinek right to suggest that as a society we trust less than we used to?

                                      What is ‘trust’?

                                      For the sake of simplicity, we will use Sinek’s own definition of trust: a feeling that comes from a set of mutual values and beliefs which allows us to be able to be vulnerable and take risks.

                                      From a branding perspective, trusting a brand often means choosing to spend your money with them over the competition. The risk you take is financial, and you are vulnerable until the company has completed their part of the transaction, hopefully to the standard you expected.

                                      Is it like Simon says?

                                      Sinek’s definition is built on the idea that shared values bring about trust. He talks about trust as if it is simple. Something that, if all the conditions are correct, almost naturally occurs. However, the truth is that trust is not as rational as he makes it sound. 

                                      People make subconscious decisions about whether to trust others based on irrational signals. Psychology experiments have shown that people tend to agree on whether others look trustworthy. But there is no evidence to suggest that those who ‘look trustworthy’ are more trustworthy than average. Read more here

                                      Source: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00160/full


                                      And, Sinek underestimates the amount of underlying trust people have in the world around them. Without even thinking about it, we trust pilots to be sober and alert, drivers to stay in their lanes, and your alarm to wake you up in the morning. It is often not until this trust is broken that we start to question what, why, and who we trust.

                                      Think about it, when you were a child trusted implicitly; you had no reason not to – and it suited your parents and teachers if you believed everything they said! It’s not until people begin to let you down or betray your trust you became wary and sceptical about where to place your trust.

                                      Can we influence trust?

                                      Even if trust is illogical, there are still ways to influence it. The psychology behind trust is evolving, but one theory suggests that possessing particular attributes make it more likely that others will trust you, such as:

                                      Ability; can you do what you are promising? This is situation-specific; you might trust your accountant to do your tax return but not to babysit. 

                                      Benevolence; do you have our best interests at heart? This attribute might explain why you keep trusting unreliable friends.

                                      Integrity; do you have a set of values you live by? And do we share these values with you? 

                                      We don’t explicitly ask ourselves these questions when deciding whether to trust someone. We do not often consciously consider trust at all. Instead, we pick up subconscious signals that result in the gut feeling we can choose to act on.

                                      You can’t shake hands through Skype

                                      If we accept that these attributes can encourage trust, then we need to look at the situations in which they can arise. For example, can you get a sense of someone’s integrity through a video call, and can we sense them in non-human things such as businesses?

                                      There will always be some element of human interaction that doesn’t come across online. Although, as we get more used to online calls, we will improve our ability to be authentic online. This will help us to read the people we are talking to and build relationships with them.

                                      Besides, you don’t need in-person interactions to pick up on attributes that influence trust. Ability, benevolence and integrity can come through in actions as well as conversations.

                                      In brands, we trust

                                      Just as with people, we get a feeling from brands about whether we can trust them.  Strong brands, guided by purpose, have distinctive personalities, tone of voice and values. If their marketing and communications teams are doing a good job, their audiences will pick up on these and build closer relationships with them. 

                                      Patagonia is an excellent example of a strong brand. Visit their website or scroll through their Instagram and it’s immediately clear, sustainability is at the heart of what they do. Their whole brand is built around letting people enjoy natural environments in a way that doesn’t hurt them. They talk about this more than they do their clothes and, importantly, sustainability is something that they practice as well as preach. 

                                      Source: https://eu.patagonia.com/gb/en/home/


                                      The importance of following through

                                      Both brands’ rhetoric and their actions contribute to trusting relationships with their customers. Saying ‘you can trust us’ is not enough. Companies need to demonstrate their values and allow them to guide their decisions. If their actions do not match up with what they say, it can damage their reputation and the level of trust their customers have in them

                                      Take McDonald’s as an example of this not going to plan – when people learned that their recyclable straws weren’t in fact recyclable, they lost that trust from their audience that they were trying to ‘do good’. Though they talked about reducing their environmental impact, McDonald’s’ actions showed this was not something they truly cared about, which damaged their integrity. However, other brands have been more successful in demonstrating the characteristics required to encourage trust.

                                      Who does this well?

                                      The finance sector is reliant on trust. Unless you’ve channelled your inner pirate, and have buried your valuables, your money is looked after by financial institutions. This is a risk because the decisions they make could cause you to lose a lot of money: you are extremely vulnerable to them. The level of trust required to deposit your life savings with a bank is much higher than that needed to try a new restaurant or buy a new TV. This means that businesses in this sector need to put more work into being trustworthy.

                                      When Cashflows’, the payment solution company, asked us to develop their new identity, we knew that we had to build a brand that their customers would trust. A brand that shows they can deliver the simplified solutions they advertise. And that clearly explains the benefits of their services to their customers. The visual identity we created, focused around creating business flow, helps to develop this. Read the full case study here.

                                      It’s up to Cashflows to maintain their brands’ integrity. They can do this by being consistent in their offering, putting their customers first, and continuing to let their purpose guide their actions.

                                      Our verdict 

                                      It’s not as simple as Simon says. Trust is a complicated concept, many factors influence it, some of which are out of our control. Having said that there are things you can do to make it more likely that others will trust you. 

                                      Sinek’s suggestion that business will never move online has been disproved – in a way none of us predicted. But decreased human interaction doesn’t have to result in a decrease in trust. People, and brands, who continue to demonstrate ability, benevolence and integrity in a manner that is authentic to them can maintain trust without in-person communication.

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                                        • Brand Strategy
                                        • Branding

                                        From the team: Is resensitising a word? Because it should be.


                                        • Brand Strategy
                                        • Branding

                                        MD Nikki Cunningham shares her thoughts on some of the extraordinary work that’s come out of this unusual time.


                                        Google: Did you mean desensitising? 

                                        The other week I shared the stunning masterpiece that was the new Macmillan advert and as I searched for a way to express the reason why everyone needed to watch it immediately, I found myself googling whether ‘resensitising’ was a word or not. 

                                        Turns out, it technically is (you’ll get 14 points on Scrabble) but given the little red underline as I type it out, and Google’s insistence that  I mean desensitising, I guess it is a word but not one that’s regularly in use.  

                                        Here’s the thing: it definitely should be. In fact, it should be up there with the very best words. You know the really good ones that are just lovely to use. Like sumptuous or miraculous. Something that immediately captures what you feel in that particular moment.  

                                        But it’s not, and that’s probably because its older sibling is too busy throwing itself around. 

                                        Desensitisation isn’t a difficult concept to understand. In a similar way to tuning out your mother remonstrating against your untidy teenage bedroom, anything repeated too often without adding any value – i.e. an interesting thought or a different opinion – the inevitable effect will be that it no longer holds attention. It becomes unimportant. Uninteresting. And just all round ineffective.

                                        In the worst cases, it actively works against you. A good example is the plinky plonk piano soundtrack that must have been purchased by every major corporate brand back in March who just weren’t quite sure what on earth to do. The Zoom mosaic was also a personal favourite, as was, of course, the ‘now, more than ever’ rhetoric we all know and love so much. 

                                        With every appearance of one of those elements, our minds switch off. Why? Because we’d had enough of it. And that was just two weeks into it. Enough of the disingenuous claims of care. Enough of the lacklustre efforts to pull at our heartstrings. Enough of seeing brands pop up who hadn’t spoken to us in years and suddenly exclaim their love and support of ‘us’. It sort of felt like an ex-best friend sliding into your inbox to ask how you were doing, only to follow with the usual request to stay at your flat for their long weekend in London that they didn’t tell you about. It was lazy. And above all else, fake. And that’s a curse I wouldn’t wish upon any brand. 

                                        So how do you combat that? How can you keep your message of the moment…interesting…fresh? How do you stop the desensitised state of the world post-pandemic?  

                                        It’s simple – do what MacMillan did. Resensitise. Breathe life into the screen. In that advert, every moment counted. Every note of the soundtrack was thought about. For goodness sake, even the microwave ‘bing’ gave me chills because it was so accurate. So horrifyingly true. And so effortlessly simple to convey. 

                                        Brands need to think about something that for some reason felt alien to a lot of them up until very recently. Be a little braver. A little more honest. Maybe a touch more human.   

                                        Remember who you’re talking to, and most importantly, remember what you’re selling. This isn’t about going for Braveheart emotion if you’re selling sofas. There are other ways to engage on a more human level. Don’t insult audiences with false messages if you don’t mean them. We’re more sophisticated than that. Give credit to them and be a bit bolder in a way that makes the most sense. 

                                        Try to make resensitising a thing. 

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                                          • Brand Strategy
                                          • Digital

                                          The kids are online: The importance of brand in the digital space


                                          • Brand Strategy
                                          • Digital

                                          Through the lens of retail, we take a look at how advancements in technology have shifted business online and what this means for brands going forward.

                                          What’s been going on with retail?

                                          We’ve been hearing about the declining footfall for years. It’s on the news, and it’s in the boarded-up shops of our local high street. Improvements in technology have meant it’s now so much easier to buy something online than to go to a shop to find it. Even before Coronavirus forced us all indoors, many of us were choosing online shopping over popping to the shops.

                                          Will Covid be the nail in the high street’s coffin?

                                          Non-essential shops have been closed for much of the last year. Any items that can’t be found in supermarkets, garden centres or hardware stores had to be bought online. This has forced people who wouldn’t normally consider online shopping to rely on it. And, now that they’ve tried it, many people will continue to shop online. According to BrandWatch, 73% of people who bought clothes online during lockdown will continue to do so in the future.

                                          But before we condemn in-person shopping to the past, we should consider why it has survived up to now. There are two main reasons people still visit stores.

                                          The first reason people might prefer shopping in person is if they don’t feel comfortable shopping online. Those of us who didn’t grow up with the technology for online shopping might not feel confident using it.

                                          The second reason is simply that people enjoy going shopping. It’s fun. And sometimes we want to see the items we’re considering in real life before we buy them. Even though Gen-Zers are twice as likely as millennials to shop on their phones, two-thirds of them still prefer to shop in person (BelVG).

                                          What will shopping look like in the post-pandemic world?

                                          We predict that, when they can, most people will go back to physical shopping (always or occasionally). After all, we saw how busy the shops were before Christmas.

                                          But, online shopping will have won new converts as more people than ever have tried it. After the initial wave of excitement of the relaxation of Covid restrictions dies down, highstreets will once again see a decline in footfall as the convenience of online shopping wins beats the excitement of shopping in person.

                                          In the medium to long term, we predict more closures. The casualties will be shops that can’t turn shopping into the experience that consumers crave. Retail parks and shopping centres that offer other activities alongside shopping are better placed to do this. Even pre-pandemic, they had a higher footfall than high street shops (British Retail Consortium).

                                          What’s it to us?

                                          So, the internet is going nowhere – that shouldn’t be news to anyone. The increasing reliance on the digital sphere in business will affect all industries, not just retail. To be competitive, companies are going to have to grow their digital offering. But it’s important to remember that technology won’t be what sets them apart. Everyone will be able to offer similar things. What will make companies stand out is how well their online experience encapsulates their brand. This is where we come in.

                                          What do you need to consider when looking at your digital presence?

                                          On top of a seamless UX/UI experience, companies need to make sure their brand is consistent and optimised to every platform the consumer interacts with. There should be no disconnect between how a brand feels and presents itself online and in person. A bad experience with either could mean a consumer completes their purchase journey elsewhere.

                                          Interested in finding out more about what makes a great digital experience? Read our interview with Curious’ Digital Creative Director.

                                          To deliver a consistent experience, businesses will need to know themselves and their customers. Understanding their purpose and personality will influence how they use technology and present themselves in the digital space. Doing this well will set them apart from the competition. Learn how to uncover your brand purpose here.

                                          The receipts

                                          Tech is already changing retail. If the trends we’re seeing continue, retailers will rely more on online sales and have fewer physical stores. There will be less opportunity for in-person interaction which means digital touchpoints will need to work harder and embody the brand in a more meaningful way.

                                          As companies continue to explore what technology can do for them, they must not lose sight of who they are. Not all companies will use tech in the same way – and that’s a good thing – differences create interest. The companies who understand their purpose and harness technology in a way that amplifies their brand will be those who benefit most from the opportunities technological advancements provide.

                                          With this in mind, now is the perfect time for companies to reflect. Ask fundamental questions about their business and consumers. Go back to basics and consider why they do what they do. With a strong sense of identity and purpose to guide them, businesses can harness technology in a way that is authentic to their brand and feels natural to their customers.

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                                            • Curious
                                            • Awards
                                            • Branding

                                            Award alert: Keeping our creative juices flowing with Graphis


                                            • Curious
                                            • Awards
                                            • Branding

                                            Winning isn’t everything.

                                            But when you do win it sure feels good! We’re delighted to have won not one but TWO awards for the 2021 Graphis poster annual competition.

                                            Our clients Crossborder and iQ both took home some bling for the rather bright and colourful poster designs we created. We loved the challenge of using a traditional medium to bring the brands to life and show how visually they can stand out against the crowd.

                                            In their own words, “Graphis is committed to promoting the work of exceptional talent in Design, Advertising, Photography and Art/Illustration.”

                                            …we’re chuffed to be included in that category! You can find out more about the awards and browse the other winners here.

                                            Now, off to go and find some champers to celebrate – socially distanced in our slippers of course.


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                                              • Brand Strategy
                                              • Branding

                                              Navigating a rebrand? How to build something that will last


                                              • Brand Strategy
                                              • Branding

                                              “Change is inevitable, growth is optional”

                                              Nobody likes change. It makes most of us feel uncomfortable. But it’s not the word itself that troubles us – it’s the idea of the unknown. We’re creatures of habit. It’s a universal trait that we all share. Imagine if, for example you suddenly switched to a new brand of toothpaste with no prior warning, or someone sat in your seat at the kitchen table? Or, even worse, you were asked to add the milk in before the hot water to your cup of tea (yikes). The world would simply end, wouldn’t it?

                                              And yet, as the well-used saying goes, change is the only constant in life. It’s unescapable and it will always, always happen. There’s no doubt about it – like it or not, we all have to embrace change.

                                              When we apply the subject of change to branding, it’s no surprise that at one point sooner or later, the question around whether or not your brand might need to change will come up… Is it still fit for purpose? Will this new offer change how we need to speak about ourselves? Or the one we all tend to dread…how do we compete with these new competitors that have suddenly appeared? The list goes on.

                                              So, how on earth do you go about answering these questions?

                                              Here at Curious we spend our days doing just that – answering the questions that surround the changing world of brands. And interestingly enough, there tends to be a pretty robust approach to dealing with these upfront questions.

                                              Written below are the key questions and top tips we’ve gathered over the years to help ease you into the process…

                                              It all starts with why

                                              Do we really need to change?

                                              Acceptance is the first step toward change. But it’s also often the hardest step to make. Unless there is a clear and urgent need, it’s far easier to sweep things under the carpet. We always know when something isn’t quite right, but if we can’t easily fix it, it’s forgivable to admit to crossing your fingers and hoping everything magically becomes ok.

                                              Businesses experience the same issues with their brand. The first question people will ask is “why change?” if they are comfortable and things are going smoothy. So spending time understanding the reasons behind needing to rebrand is without a doubt the first hurdle to overcome in the process. But sometimes it can be hard to pin it down to one thing – often companies sense a change is needed, and sometimes that’s steered by a very obvious shift, but other times it can be a whole host of small updates that add up to something needing to happen.

                                              Source: Bulletproof via Brand New – Under Consideration

                                              The main reasons to rebrand:

                                              • Your business has changed its offer
                                              • Your existing identity is out of date
                                              • An increase in competition
                                              • A shift in audience behaviour
                                              • You are entering a new stage of growth
                                              • You need to better reflect the values within your business
                                              • There is a market opportunity to take advantage of

                                              Although the above list isn’t exhaustive, it certainly covers the majority of issues a brand needs to address. You can read more about these reasons here. From the above however, it’s possible to group the reasons to rebrand into two categories: proactive and reactive.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out what separates the two, but it’s worth clarifying in order to understand the initial motivations behind undertaking a rebranding project.

                                              Proactive branding is driven by opportunity. It happens when a company realises a gap in the market that a new brand will help to fill.

                                              Reactive branding occurs through necessity. Either because of a merger or acquisition, a shift in offer or a need to rebuild a reputation.

                                              Both are valid initiations of change, but they take the form of different degrees of change.

                                              Working out your appetite for change

                                              How much do we want to change?

                                              So, you’ve identified that your brand needs to change. That’s a big step in itself. If we’ve guessed right, chances are it’s likely because of one (or more) of the reasons listed above, and it’s either a proactive change or a reactive change. Either way, the next question to ask is “How much?”

                                              Picture this. You’re in your local hairdresser. They’ve offered you a tea or coffee and you’ve even lucked out with a nice biscuit. Hooray. Next up is the classic question: “So, what are we doing today?” You take a sip and contemplate.

                                              Will it be just a tidy up? Or are you feeling more adventurous?

                                              Switch back to the world of branding and it’s a similar scenario. A full rebrand or just a refresh? Working this out might be very straightforward, depending on how you answered the previous question of why you need to rebrand. But getting an agreement on how far you want to change from all stakeholders of the brand is imperative. After all, nobody walks around with just half their head shaved off. Unless you rock a mullet. In which case, we salute you.

                                              Always be prepared

                                              Where do we begin?

                                              When it comes to carrying out a rebrand, your level of success will be dictated by how robust your planning is. Diving straight in and cutting corners without taking stock of what it ultimately needs to achieve won’t do anyone any favours. Think about it in the same way as going on holiday. In order to enjoy that cocktail on the sun lounger, you’ll need to spend a bit of time sorting everything out before you take that first sip. Unless you like to plan your holidays similar to Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach that is.

                                              Here are a few steps that cover the basics…

                                              1. Brand audit – This is needed in order to understand everything you’ve currently got going for you and address any non-negotiables upfront.
                                              2. Research – Understanding the landscape in which you operate is essential. This should cover both competitors and audiences.
                                              3. Strategy – A fundamental step to working out how the brand should be positioned, this stage involves translating your business objectives and company culture into a creative brief for the brand.
                                              4. Creative –Sometimes referred to as ‘the exciting part’, this can only happen after the previous steps have been carried out. It involves exploring a number of possibilities in order to answer the creative brief in just the right way.
                                              5. Guidelines – We all need to abide by some form of ‘rules’ to make sure we don’t go crazy. The same applies to brands. The guidelines should be looked at as the most sacred handbook for your brand, mess with them and beware. (In fact, we think these are so important, we wrote a little more about them here)
                                              6. Implementation – At the end of every branding project, the question ‘what’s next?’ often gets asked. This is where every element of the brand toolkit gets brought to life and applied across the brand in any number of assets including website, brand videos, literature and other communication materials.

                                              Doing your homework

                                              What do we need to know?

                                              Turns out your teachers from school had a point. As with any investment, undertaking solid research before ploughing ahead is essential to know what lies in store…

                                              What’s already out there? What’s performing well? Change to ‘Which of our competitors are we envious of and why? How are our customers behaving? Is this likely to change in the next few years? What is driving that change? How can we get ahead?

                                              These are just a few questions we hear from clients on a regular basis. They naturally come up at the beginning of projects and if they aren’t fully investigated then, when it comes to further down the line, issues will likely arise. If you spend the time to carry out consumer research, you’ll ensure the new brand speaks directly to the intended audiences.

                                              But above this, keeping an eye on the competition is just as important. Beyond the obvious need to avoid anything that could be considered ‘too close for comfort’ from a visual perspective, identifying what the opposition does well can be just as beneficial. Instead of letting this annoy you, why not work out what it is that they have going for them and find a way to use this to your own brand’s advantage?  After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, hey?

                                              Getting to the heart of the matter

                                              What’s the big idea, anyway?

                                              We’ve touched on how important getting the right approach and doing the research is for a successful rebrand, but what needs to happen between that and doing excellent design work?

                                              The answer to that is simple. We need to work out why you exist in the first place.

                                              …ok, so perhaps it’s not so simple to answer immediately – it is a pretty big question. But while most companies wrestle with the latest way to describe ‘what’ they do, it’s the businesses that can articulate ‘why’ they do it that ultimately win.

                                              The reality is, until you can answer this, you won’t have a meaningful brand. Because that is fundamentally what your clients will be asking of you. They need to know why they should buy into your offer, instead of the countless other companies they could choose from. And they need to get this message translated to them fast – unfortunately we as a collective aren’t naturally blessed with patience. So, the brand proposition needs to be sharp enough to get their attention.

                                              The good news is, it can be relatively easy to reach the answer. By working through the overall goals of the business, assessing the research, understanding where you’ve come from and most importantly where you need to get to, it’s possible to define an incredibly strong brand positioning.

                                              Reaching this does require a level of open mindedness and ensuring you involve the right people in the company, but with the correct approach it will become a very effective piece of work which can then be used to guide the creative process.

                                              Bringing it all to life

                                              How do we know what’s right?

                                              The question on everyone’s lips. Knowing what the finished brand will look like is always the thing you will be most anxious to find out. But the truth is this won’t be revealed until the creative stages start to shape it. However, so long as the previous steps have been followed and we have a strong brand positioning, the creative will fall out of this. All of the work that will have been carried out leads to this point so that your business objectives, client messages, company culture and future ambitions are translated into a visually compelling and strategically sound brand.

                                              Two Brand Guidelines

                                              However, there’s never one approach for the visual identity. When you enter the creative stages of a rebrand, the aim should be that you’re spoilt for choice. Multiple ‘levers’ need to be pushed and pulled in order to test and examine the right tone and direction of the brand. As well as taking guidance from the previous strategic stages, the visual style will also have a lot to do with those closest to the brand – the internal audience. So, cultivating a close relationship between branding agency and client is crucial. After all, how can you expect to get a brand that taps directly into the heart of your company if you don’t believe the people attempting to do so ‘get you’? Like walking into a new home, it has to feel ‘just right’.

                                              Rome wasn’t built in a day

                                              As much as the creative output is the main deliverable of a rebrand, it’s merely the result of a long stream of steps leading up to launching it – get these wrong and risk having a brand that just doesn’t hit the mark. But, get it right and you should have a brand built to last.

                                              If you’re thinking of taking another look at your brand, why not get in touch. We’d be curious to learn more.

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