Strategy + Design

Two complementary forces coming together to engage your customers, investors, staff and stakeholders.

First we listen. Next we think. Then we design. Delivering results that accelerate your business.

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Results-driven. Case studies galore.
Our work is our advocacy. These are just six of the many case studies on this site showcasing our work and the results we deliver for clients.
Mercury Rebrand Rollout
Mercury Rebrand Rollout
Meredith Connell Graham Street Branded Environment
Meredith Connell Graham Street Branded Environment
NZSO Marketing Campaign 2018
NZSO Marketing Campaign 2018
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Te Papa's Hinatore Learning Lab branding
Te Papa's Hinatore Learning Lab branding
Watercare 2018 Annual Report
Watercare 2018 Annual Report
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Tamaki Regeneration Company Branding
Tamaki Regeneration Company Branding
Our Expertise. What we do best.
So much more than your name, your logo or visual identity, a brand reflects what you stand for and how you want to be perceived.
So much more than your name, your logo or visual identity, a brand reflects what you stand for and how you want to be perceived.
The best brands are built inside out, effectively engaging and aligning staff perception and behaviour with strategy, culture and performance.
The best brands are built inside out, effectively engaging and aligning staff perception and behaviour with strategy, culture and performance.
We approach digital from a communication, not technical, perspective, engaging audiences online with brand-aligned experiences that are intuitive and rewarding.
We approach digital from a communication, not technical, perspective, engaging audiences online with brand-aligned experiences that are intuitive and rewarding.
Your communication and marketing programmes should be driven by clear insights, engaging audiences towards the desired action.
Your communication and marketing programmes should be driven by clear insights, engaging audiences towards the desired action.
The right environments reinforce brand and culture, drive behaviours and create an engaging environment for staff and visitors.
The right environments reinforce brand and culture, drive behaviours and create an engaging environment for staff and visitors.
Good investor communication is much more than just reporting. A clearly communicated long-term investor brand helps you attract, grow and retain investors and capital.
Good investor communication is much more than just reporting. A clearly communicated long-term investor brand helps you attract, grow and retain investors and capital.
Blog Posts. Thought-leading insights.

Understanding the new

14 Mar 2019 by Steven Giannoulis

A number of recent new business wins have reminded me how much I love working on new clients. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the sort of guys who’s attracted by the ‘newest and shiniest thing’ but I love...

understanding the new steven giannoulis

a number of recent new business wins have reminded me how much i love working on new clients. don’t get me wrong, i’m not the sort of guys who’s attracted by the ‘newest and shiniest thing’ but i love the learning and discovery that comes from building your understanding of a business and an industry. 

new clients, especially those in industries you’ve not worked in before, deliver a level of stimulation and curiosity that you don’t get with clients you know inside and out.

as a strategist, i get to work with many of our new clients helping to deliver the ‘insights’ bit of insight creative. that means a mix of business, communication and channel strategy to ensure that the work we do delivers the results clients need.

i start most new client relationships by reading their annual report. some are better than others but all give me a sense of who the organisation is and what they see as important. the good ones give you a clear sense of the direction they are driving the business and an appreciation of their strengths and opportunities. the style of the report tells me something about the tone of the organisation and their focus on the needs of their stakeholders.

i tend to follow this up with a bit of online research, starting with a media search for the category. this helps me understand external pressures – like consumer trends, politics, supply issues, technology, etc - that drive company decisions.

by now, i have learnt a who lot of stuff i didn’t know about the industry and the business. chances are that i also have a whole lot of questions so catching up with some of the client’s leadership team helps round out the picture. in these discussions i generally focus in on three areas:

  • the value chain to understand how they make money and where growth will come from. after all, our work will be part of how they drive that growth;
  • the audiences they are aiming for, what drives them and the unique value proposition they offer each audience; and
  • the culture of the organisation particularly around decision-making, change, risks and innovation. this gives me a good sense of how far we’ll be able to push our ideas and design.

this process isn’t just about what i enjoy and my learning. the output is a session with everyone who will work on this new client to talk through what we’ve learnt and what that means in terms of how we best work with them.

learning, discovery, learning, new business, business wins, business strategy

Integrated Reporting: Don’t aim for perfection. Just get in the mood and go.

19 Feb 2019 by Mike Tisdall

I see too many clients hesitating to get on the integrated reporting bus. Often because they perceive that there’s a lot of internal change needing to happen before this is possible. Sometimes it’s because...

integrated reporting: don’t aim for perfection. just get in the mood and go. mike tisdall

i see too many clients hesitating to get on the integrated reporting bus. often because they perceive that there’s a lot of internal change needing to happen before this is possible. sometimes it’s because they’re waiting for leadership and board to make such a far-reaching decision. but equally often it’s because they don’t know quite where to start. this article is designed to help you conquer all of the above and get started on the journey anyway.

certainly, if the aim is for a fully-fledged, assurance-quality integrated report, then a lot of ducks need to be lined up, and the board needs to make an active and mindful decision.

but here’s the thing: the <ir> report is not an absolute. so you don’t need to tick all their boxes to get started. even if you use the framework as it is intended – as a framework – to guide your approach, you’ll be on the bus. personally, i spent too long thinking of the <ir> principles as ‘must haves’ in total. i’ve since learnt that while this comprehensiveness is an end-game goal, it’s the ‘notion’ that has the most power. and the iirc (international integrated reporting council) themselves will applaud you for just starting on the journey, because they know you’ll only get better from there, over time.

i have <ir> clients that don’t call their report an integrated report but are starting to apply some of the core principles to their approach. they know that when they grow up they want to be a ‘real’ integrated report. but they also know that this is a game that you can’t master overnight.

so think about starting the integrated reporting journey as <ir> on trainer wheels. perhaps you can’t yet join all the dots between the various action streams to cross-credit cause and effect. perhaps you haven’t quite got the board across the line yet. but those things aren’t a barrier to applying the integrated reporting lens to your report.

so, where to start

the following are very subjective views on what principles you should include in order to start on the journey. a purist may well disagree – after all there are a whole 19 requirements in the <ir> framework, and some are more onerous than others. but what’s important here is the spirit - and in the spirit of ‘extended external reporting’ and using some the framework ideas in <ir>, here’s where i’d be thinking:

  1. tell the story of how you create value over time. this shows you understand your business drivers, how your business model makes money and has the right impacts on people and planet. if you do that right, the story should be unique, separating your company from others you’re competing with – for capital, for talent, for distribution, for consumers.
  2. purpose beyond profit. as soon as you start thinking about the impacts you’re having beyond money-making, somehow the ground shifts and you start thinking differently about business. the really strange thing is that the research shows that companies that think more broadly and apply systems thinking to their entire operation, end up making more money and lowering their cost of capital. go figure, but the facts speak for themselves.
  3. risk. being aware of future, potential, latent risk is the first step towards resilience to it. that’s making your business sustainable. and that’s my definition of ‘sustainability’. whether that’s competition risk, supply chain risk, talent risk, climate change risk – if you’ve got a plan to mitigate it, you’re more likely to survive. your capital providers, talent pool, suppliers and consumers tend to like survival.
  4. future focus. closely linked with risk, but also looping in opportunities, looking ahead and having clear strategies to optimise on both provides comfort and trust.
  5. strategy. lay out your core plan. what activations are you planning to achieve your purpose, mitigate risk, minimise harm, assure future sustainability, meet your stakeholders most important needs, and make the desired profit. belief equals trust.
  6. materiality. i have a far too simplistic view of materiality, i acknowledge. but where possible, i like to keep things simple. the big benefit of knowing what your stakeholders hold as most important means that you can focus your strategic plan around those – and here’s the free set of steak knives: you only need to report on those, keeping your report concise.
  7. connectivity. now we start to get a bit more woolly, and some things you do over there may be hard to prove affect what happens over here. but others are much easier to connect. if sanford don’t look after the ocean environment and fish stocks, for example, they may have trouble with their product volumes in a few years with kick-on risks in talent acquisition and regulatory controls among other fatal problems. so where you can show multiple impacts on your business strategy from a particular stance, initiative or policy, join the dots in your report.
  8. frank and balanced. openness and transparency is what’s expected now, whether it’s an integrated report or not. the whole notion of ‘extended external reporting’ is to build trust in the organisation through disclosure and transparency.

if you believe you can tell a story around most of the above eight points, then you’re well on your way to being able produce a report that’s in the right spirit. over the years, your company’s thinking will mature, the performance data will become available, your thinking and reporting will become more sophisticated, and one day you may feel comfortable to label your report an integrated report.

don’t wait until you can tick all 19 boxes before you start. use the <ir> framework as a principles touchstone and to shift your mindset, and get going at whatever level is right for your company.

integrated reporting, getting started on integrated reporting, , insight creative

Principled brand decisions

19 Feb 2019 by Steven Giannoulis

Developing a brand strategy means making a number of significant decisions that drive multiple aspects of an organisation. Working with clients, my aim is to agree brand principles upfront that help leadership teams...

principled brand decisions steven giannoulis

developing a brand strategy means making a number of significant decisions that drive multiple aspects of an organisation. working with clients, my aim is to agree brand principles upfront that help leadership teams and boards make sound, and consistent, business decisions.

developing a brand strategy is often seen as developing the brand model – sometimes called the brand pyramid or brand onion. the model defines what you want to stand for and it includes things like brand essence, proposition, personality and the customer value proposition. being clear on what you stand for informs your visual identity, marketing and communication strategies, product and service, culture programme and customer experience design.

but the brand model isn’t allof brand strategy. it’s just one of a number of significant decisions that will define the success of your branding programme. and that’s a good starting point for decision making. what will brand success look like and how will it be measured? being clear on this will inform many of your later decisions.  

a key starting decision is whether to take a single brand or multiple brand approach. both have pros and cons and work better in different markets and circumstances. because an approach can’t be perfect for all situations, many companies start with one approach and then adapt it over time, sometimes resulting in a confused hybrid. 

and of course, if you make the decision to go single brand – which brand will it be? which of the current ones or something new? if you are going multi-brand, what are the brand lines?

and then there’s brand architecture. these are decisions about how your brands are organised under an overarching approach. getting this right impacts brand equity, brand confusion and the cost effectiveness of your marketing activities. there are a number of organising approaches to consider from pure single masterbrand, to brand extensions, sub-branding, co-branding and brand endorser requirements. at this level we are also making decisions about language and naming conventions.

as one decision often informs the next, where possible i look to develop a decision tree to help drive the process. brand decisions often involve many decision-makers with their own business needs to fulfil. to help make consistent decisions, i always look to establish and agree a series of principles that can become the foundations for decision-making. these principles say something like “our brand must…” and generally come about by examining six key areas:

  • business strategy– where will future growth come from? what’s the strategy for realising  growth? the vision and purpose of the organisation and market forces.
  • audiences– who are the audiences and what are their physical and emotional needs the brand must appeal to?
  • competitive differentiation– how differentiated is the market and what are the opportunities to create a unique proposition?
  • strategic strengths– what competitive advantage does the organisation have that can be leveraged?
  • customer experience– what’s the experience customers expect and you want to create for them?
  • culture– what does the organisation value and what behaviours does it encourage?

often we end up with 10 – 12 principles. the trick is getting decision-makers to buy into these, and then stick to them. when we achieve this, everyone is aligned in their thinking and complex brand decisions can become pretty straight forward.

branding, business strategy, brand strategy, brand architecture, clear brand thinking
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