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Re on Why Design Has the Power to Connect Everything


LBB speaks with Re’s senior leadership team about connecting the seemingly disparate, being a curious business, and why employee experience and digital are vital for every brand

Re on Why Design Has the Power to Connect Everything

As a brand, should your focus be on customers, colleagues, or culture? For Re, a global design business, that’s a trick question. Their answer is quite simple: all three. Re began its London journey in 2017, with the business already established in Sydney since 2009, and Re New York coming very soon. 

Part of the M&C Saatchi Group, Re is under the guidance of a clear and powerful principle - design to connect - which permeates every aspect of what they do as a business. Under the watchful eye of Paul Martin, partner and MD, Darren Bowles,Partner and ECD (who worked together for a decade at Moving Brands), Rana Brightman, executive strategy director, and Lucy Armstrong, business development & marketing director, the company is uniquely primed to address the myriad of often intangible problems facing brands today with innovative, design-focused solutions.

Working at the sweet spot of brand, experience, and digital, Re is applying design thinking in a way that connects elements which seem disparate to one another but are, in fact, part of the same ecosystem. Re achieves this in part by being a 'curious business' in the words of Darren, a natural extension of the 'curious people' it’s made up of. “We’re as strategically strong as we are creatively; as passionate about the craft of the typeface and colour palette as we are about offering clients a digital transformation and a solution that’s going to change their business and their product offering,” adds Darren. While there are certainly companies offering all these elements individually, it is rare to find one skilled enough to bring them all under one roof.

Asking the Right Questions

With the wealth of experience under Paul, Darren, Rana, and Lucy’s belts - and their team of talented strategists, creatives, and copywriters - they have all seen how working with and responding to briefs can be transactional. At Re, the work begins even before the brief, when they help clients to establish “the true complexity of the problem at hand”, according to Paul. “We love the thrill of working out the crux of the problem, seeing where we can simplify things and find a solution, or whether we can solve the problem in a different way. Design thinking helps us find the right strategy, the right team, and the right creative approach,” he adds. Lucy points out that working with Re means working with the senior leadership team from the very start, something that their clients benefit from. “We’re very much a partnership and we offer a personal, tailored approach for each client, which is only possible due to years of experience we all bring to our roles.”

Rana points out that Re can operate as a unit just outside the brand they’re working with or become a team in-house. She says that Re has the ability to be “a little more objective, not rushing to say “yes” to everything - we’re much more business-minded in that way.” Focused on supporting their clients, Re “uses design to touch on experience, digital, service, and a lot of other areas that don’t immediately fall under the ‘branding’ umbrella,” explains Rana.

Darren says that as a business they purposefully seek out challenges and they have the tools at their disposal to meet them. “We’re not taking solutions off the shelf and trying to fit them to a client’s problem. With what we do we can move fluidly, and with curiosity, from strategy and design to creativity and experience.” Versus Arthritis presented one such challenge as the brand merged Arthritis Research UK with Arthritis Care to become one entity, fusing the ideas of care and suffering - not an easy feat - under one cohesive brand. Re spent a lot of time with people suffering with arthritis to create a powerful new look and messaging, starting with a brand new name to reflect the people united together working against or, rather, Versus Arthritis.

Your People Are Your Brand

By looking at the industry and the market through a design lens, Re has identified an area that brands should be paying attention to - but often aren’t: the war on talent. For Re, it’s inseparable from customer experience (another hot topic industry subject).

Rana explains: “As businesses move beyond a superficial understanding of what a brand is, they need to start having a holistic view. The focus has for too long been on the customer experience, but what about the employee experience? Your people are your brand. We’ve all seen businesses invest in attracting and retaining customers; the same should go for talent, and the pandemic has made that even clearer. Brands need to work on ensuring that people feel connected to the purpose of the organisation, to one another, and to the kind of impact that the organisation wants to make. This applies to everyone from graduates through to the C-suite. That's the position we’re developing in line with our ‘Design to Connect’ philosophy.”

Making customer experience a central part of a brand strategy is something Re are helping clients to develop and are also applying internally. They’re keen to lead the way by walking the walk and giving employees at every level a chance to be a part of a constantly evolving business that’s as invested in their evolution too.

Digital and Physical are One and the Same

“How does a brand live digitally?” asks Paul, highlighting another essential area for brands to focus on now and in the future. “It can’t be an afterthought. Having a backbone of service and digital product is really key. We’re thinking about digital products with all our clients and looking for those opportunities if they don’t have them already,” he adds. Darren continues: “It’s the experience of the brand, inseparable from their storefront. Today, 90% of people engage with brands digitally. The bricks and mortar and digital have to be integrated experiences, especially when digital is often the first and sometimes the only customer touchpoint.”

Re is finely attuned to the market’s latest developments, observing that “if you’re not on the bleeding edge, you’re missing opportunities.” Darren adds, “You have to look at the potential that innovation brings. You have to know how the tech works, how things are changing, what’s happening culturally, in order to best advise clients on every opportunity. Anything else and you’re a hindrance to them.”

It’s a tough time for brands, from start-ups all the way through to industry giants. “Everyone is having to do a lot more with less, so they're looking for partners who can be agile, adaptable, but also specialist. In a post-pandemic world, expectations have shifted for customers and employees alike. We’re optimised to help brands create something new or evolve what they already have for a stronger connection with customers, colleagues, and culture,” says Rana.

In a crowded market, Re’s outlook feels particularly refreshing. By looking at the challenges facing businesses today through a design lens, Re is able to connect multiple dots at once, drawing fluid lines between all business touchpoints.

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Re London, Mon, 04 Apr 2022 10:29:00 GMT