Brand perspectives

13 Nov 2018 by Brian Slade

City Hall v3

An early brand project risk analysis on all possible perspectives can save a bunch of rework, awkward pauses and electrical appliance analogies! (Keep reading and all that will make sense!)

Working with a regional council a few years ago, we were commissioned to develop an inbound tourism and economic development identity. As part of this we were asked to reconsider the existing council identity that had been untouched for quite a few years.

City Hall generic illustration

After appropriate due diligence, briefing, creative exploration on multiple perspectives, and consultation, we arrived at a solution that was ready to present back to an array of councillors in their regional chambers. In slightly unfamiliar surroundings I pitched the concepts, with the occasional side-ways glance to our direct client to ensure I was on the right path and when finished, opened the floor up for questions.

There was general agreement that the conceptual thinking and ideas were a great leap forward, moving them from a decade or two ago into the future. They could clearly understand and see the visual improvements to a rather dated identity. However one rather mature gentleman took us all back to my opening rationale and challenged the ‘Why’?

Thinking on my feet and after an awkward pause, I used the analogy of progressively upgrading an electrical appliance that’s been reasonably reliable but some of the functions have started to not perform at 100%. The once white lustre had gone a bit yellow and the seal had started to go around the doors. What was once top of the line was now not so flash. The councillor didn’t quite grasp the concept and still disagreed. His perspective was fixed and firm.

The updated visual identity was by no means a radical solution in my eyes. It aligned to the desired outcomes in the brief, yet still this gentleman objects. Yes, it was a departure from the existing identity. But while I saw evolution, he saw something of a revolution.

His objections were dutifully heard and considered, worked through at length within the consultation process and we ended up with something ever so slightly modified. So, what was the issue? 

So, what was the issue?


Regardless of how strong or positive the new visual identity was; regardless of how well it was embraced by local iwi, hapu and the wider community, this gentleman’s perspective was fixed on fiscal responsibility, ROI value and ‘why fix what isn’t broken’ (in his view).

What I had failed to do in my opening address was answer his deep-rooted question of value and benefit. And to be honest, I’m not sure I should have had to. Not at this stage in the process. This should have been addressed a lot earlier by the management team. If this councillor had been engaged enough in the earlier consultations or identified as a potential risk and spoken to one-on-one, his comments may well have been cut off at the pass and less of a distraction to the rest of the presentation.  

At the post presentation debrief, our client informed us that the gentleman in questioned drove a car that was pretty much clapped out, bought decades earlier and was likely to drive it until it collapsed on him! His ‘Why?’ question was clearly less about the council identity and more about his own very deep rooted and personal perspectives on the world in general. Valid, but not identified early enough.

With both the Council identity and the new economic/inbound tourism identity still hard at work for the council today, the lesson I’ve had reinforced by this experience is that it pays to scope all risks and listen to all perspectives to form appropriate responses as early as possible - saving a bunch of rework, awkward pauses and electrical appliance analogies!