Solving the Tricky stuff

With Radiation having had a successful and enduring presence in the branding landscape since 2000, what was the idea behind starting Tricky in 2018?

Brinsdon: Tricky is a response to understanding that brands can no longer tell their stories via marketing message alone — the customer experience has to measure up.
Until now, delivering on this new reality involved a multi-agency response across design and storytelling, as well as people, performance and customer experience. Tricky has been set up to deliver and inspire response, all the way throughout a business’s ecosystem.

Radiation has since been repositioned to specialise in complete communication and content activation, so it can take over after Tricky has put everything in place. Responding faster to consumer needs is Radiation’s focus. To achieve this, we’ve brought in associates such as Tania Rowland, a highly regarded digital strategist and coach, to support newly appointed general manager Karin Hall and the rest of the Radiation team. This gives Tricky the clear air to work with clients on writing and designing stories they can genuinely deliver on.

What does ‘brand’ mean to Tricky?

Brand might be created by the business owner but ultimately, it’s the customer who decides what it is, via the experience they have with it. Take Cadbury’s announcement of downsizing its family chocolate block, for example. The vitriol splashed across social media and all over the news was the customers’ negative response to the Cadbury brand, not just the manufacturing decision. Meanwhile, their global agency is whipping up some stunning brand ads, telling the press that they’ve dumped a positioning of ‘joy’ with one of ‘human kindness’. Unfortunately, the customer will remember the first part of this story, not the second! So these days, brand is the sum of all the parts – the marketing is important, sure, but it can’t convince anyone of anything unless the brand’s behaviour, offer and environment all reflect the same story.

What can organisations do to be realising this?

Align their efforts better internally. Talk to each other. Understand each department’s contribution to creating that healthy, cohesive brand relationship for the customer.

Tricky’s team is both strategic and creative. Why is it important to be both?

There are two unique stages to developing brand story – figuring out the best thing to say, and then figuring out the best way to say it. We are all intrinsically visual creatures; we want to be shown, not just told.

I knew we needed to shift our design output to the next level – cue Denise Faraco and Luke Morreau, who joined me as partners. On the strategic side, we have myself and Penelope Sellers-Barr. Penelope has spent the majority of her career on the client side, so she can quickly understand the dynamic in a category and what the business is dealing with in real-time. She’s almost forensic in her approach – it’s incredible! Meanwhile, I’m very culturally intuitive and engaged. Brand story needs to embrace every dynamic in play, visually as well as in messaging.

The three partners include yourself, and two designers — Luke Morreau and Denise Faraco. What do you each bring to clients?

Denise and Luke have both had robust careers working in Europe at large design agencies; they actually met each other working at award-winning brand design agency, Design Bridge in Amsterdam.  They bring a very structured and disciplined approach to a hugely creative process. I’m in awe of it. Whereas, I’m driven by finding the most persuasive and sustainable way of connecting the best of the client with the unmet needs of their customers. Those guys set my words on fire every time!

How do you approach your work with a client — what’s the first step? Getting to know them and what their real issues are.

Getting to know their customers and future customers. Getting to know their business category and competition. For brand story to be sustainable, we need to be connected to the whole organisation.  The Tricky process involves interviewing all key stakeholders; leadership needs to be committed to the authenticity of the output, or it won’t stick. We’ve also developed really creative ways of creating staff engagement via our proprietary workshopping process Think. Again.

Who hires Tricky? Is it still marketing?

Leaders hire us — people who want to solve the tricky stuff.

Those leaders are sometimes in the marketing function, but not always. If there’s a new product launch which needs a name, story and design identity, marketing definitely appoints us here.

But regularly, we are also being appointed by CEOs or others in the C-Suite, including chief marketing officers and cultural or people leaders. For example, we’re about to launch a large future-focused health sector project, which is run by the CMO, but is most definitely inspired by the CEO.

We were appointed by healthcare entrepreneur Dr Liz Berryman to help launch a new personal wellbeing and cultural health app for organisations, called chnnl. Already successfully piloted with both Middlemore and Dunedin Hospitals, it’s a real idea for this time; a new space for employees to safely share their feedback, and employers to gain unprecedented insight into the collective health of their company culture.Via a short daily interaction on their smartphone, each employee provides unique and wholly confidential insight into their daily wellbeing, producing robust real-time data that can assist leadership to beffer understand the wellbeing of their entire organisation.

We created the name, messaging, design identity, photography and website and have worked closely with both the client and app developers, Roam, to ensure brand consistency. We’re so convinced chnnl has success written all over it, that not only have we become shareholders, but I’ve also been appointed to the advisory board.

If you could see organisations do one thing now, what would that be? Share the responsibility of keeping their brands healthy, across every part of the business. Constantly connect their brand’s behaviour​ – how the customer experiences it – with what the brand is saying in its marketing comms.

This article is part of a content partnership with Tricky.

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