Asking provocative questions of top brands

Cover of Wild Thinking. Image credit: The Clearing
  • Client: The Clearing / Kogan Page
  • Disciplines: Content strategy, scriptwriting, video production
  • Duration: 10 days

I collaborated with The Clearing on a series of videos to promote the release of the agency’s new book, Wild Thinking – 25 unconventional solutions to business challenges, from pioneering thinkers at global brands.

Read more about Wild Thinking on the Kogan Page website…

I developed a content strategy to draw out particularly engaging themes from the book – and conducted piece-to-camera interviews with three key contributors, as well as co-authors Richard Buchanan and Nick Liddell.

Working closely with publisher Kogan Page, I then scripted a series of short-form videos. This included exclusive cuts for LinkedIn and Twitter, posing bonus questions from The Clearing’s ‘Wild Cards’ – the pack of 100 provocative questions that inspired the book.

Selection of cards from the Wild Cards pack. Image credit: The Clearing

Read more about Wild Cards on The Clearing’s website…

Here are three of the videos:

How mediocrity can be a great motivator

CMO John Allert discusses McLaren’s unapologetically uncompromising culture, and why a fear of mediocrity keeps the team sharp.

Why leading from the top is outdated

Former Dropbox PR chief Nick Morris shares his tried-and-trusted collaborative approach for engaging and inspiring a team.

What ‘brand purpose’ looks like in practice

CCO Juliet Slot explains how Ascot Race Course translates abstract brand values into meaningful everyday actions for its employees.

“Nick has a unique offer – he’s a writer, a thinker, an interviewer and a burst of energy. He immediately became part of our team when we launched our Wild Thinking book, driving content and building relationships for our short films. It was fun, and it delivered great results.”

Jules Griffith, marketing director, The Clearing

Rolling out tone of voice for a European bank

HROD logo showing four quadrants. Image credit: 31% Wool
  • Client: 31% Wool / EBRD
  • Disciplines: Copywriting, tone of voice
  • Duration: 9 days

I collaborated with 31% Wool to help roll out a friendly and engaging new tone of voice for the HR and Organisational Department (HROD) of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The verbal narrative is based on four ‘quadrants’ that play on banking terminology, framing all communications in terms of assets, liabilities, risks and returns. HROD might describe people as its “greatest asset”, for instance, or discuss “unlocking returns” for its staff.

Read more on 31% Wool’s website…

My brief was to translate this conceptual approach across a range of materials – from landing pages to onboarding packs – while balancing the need to be punchy and direct, but also warm and welcoming.

Landing pages from HROD website. Image credit: 31% Wool

I also wrote guidelines to help HROD staff maintain this tone of voice across other day-to-day applications.

Tone of voice booklet for HROD. Image credit: 31% Wool

“Nick quickly grasped the intricacies and breadth of the client’s verbal comms, and brought to life some previously quite generic pieces with our new verbal language and a consistent tone of voice. He was happy to turn around some tight client deadlines, and I hope we’ll be working on more projects together in the future.”

Julia Woollams, creative director, 31% Wool

Telling the story of Carlsberg’s global rebrand

Carlsberg’s re-crafted logo. Image credit: Taxi Studio
  • Client: Taxi Studio / Carlsberg
  • Disciplines: Content strategy, scriptwriting, video production, copywriting
  • Duration: 12 days

I collaborated with Taxi Studio, developing a content strategy to tell the fascinating story behind its award-winning Carlsberg rebrand.

Following an in-depth briefing, we agreed to focus on three core areas – the re-crafting of the mark and other brand assets; the holistic design and packaging system; and Carlsberg’s wider sustainability story, in which the rebrand plays a central role.

Working closely with Taxi’s in-house marketing and creative teams, I conducted piece-to-camera interviews in both Taxi’s Bristol studio and Carlsberg’s Copenhagen HQ, then scripted and edit-produced videos that have since formed part of many successful awards submissions.

The videos were accompanied by ghostwritten articles to tell the story in more detail. These became core case studies on the Taxi website, as well as attracting the attention of specialist publications such as The Dieline.

Part one: Crafted to Last

How the rebrand translates across packaging and POS. Image credit: Taxi Studio

We’ve collaborated with Carlsberg on a major global rebrand, unifying its diverse markets with a simple yet versatile identity system that champions the principles of great Danish design.

Following extensive research into the brand’s 171-year heritage, Carlsberg’s famous brand elements have been carefully re-crafted for the first time in several years, striking the perfect balance between form and function...

Read more and watch video on Taxi’s website…

Part two: Danish by Design

Different variants in the holistic packaging system. Image credit: Taxi Studio

At the heart of our global Carlsberg rebrand is a simple phrase: “In constant pursuit of better.” Drawn from the ‘Golden Words’ penned by Carlsberg founder JC Jacobsen, this pledge drives everything from the quality of the brew, to the company’s sustainability credentials, to how its brand is presented to the world.

With no holistic look and feel to tie the regional variants together, or clear set of rules to govern how different assets were used, the Carlsberg brand was presented inconsistently from market to market. Another challenge was to unify all expressions of it as part of a coherent, master brand-led system...

Read more and watch video on Taxi’s website…

“Nick is an excellent writer with a particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career, skills that make him a dream for people like you. Try him once and you’ll be taken. Just like I was when we worked together on the Carlsberg brand – he’s a trusted ‘go to’ for us.”

Spencer Buck, creative partner, Taxi Studio

Arguing a strong case for ‘brand euthanasia’

Image credit: City AM
  • Client: Red Setter / B&B Studio
  • Disciplines: Thought leadership, ghostwriting
  • Duration: 1 day

I collaborated with Red Setter and their client B&B Studio on a provocative thought-leadership article about ‘brand euthanasia’. In the firing line: lazy, slow-moving brands that have lost their relevance, but are kept on life-support by empty ‘brand refreshes’ and nostalgia.

The article argued that old-fashioned brands that no longer cater to a real need or desire should make room for the next generation of challengers – and moreover, that no one will miss them when they’re gone.

Alongside high-street failures Woolworths and Blockbuster – too sluggish to adapt in the age of Amazon and Netflix – this included the counter-example of a heritage brand that has managed to stay relevant: Marmite.

Fuelled by expert insights and contentious opinions from B&B’s senior team – including bylined strategy director Lisa Desforges – the ghostwritten article was placed by Red Setter in the City AM opinion section.

Read the story on City AM

Clarifying an agency’s new strategic positioning

Image credit: Studio Output
  • Client: Studio Output
  • Disciplines: Content strategy, thought leadership, ghostwriting
  • Duration: 3 days

I collaborated with Studio Output on a thought-leadership piece to reflect the agency’s new strategic positioning: specifically, how it helps brands to adapt and thrive in a connected world.

Following an in-depth briefing session with the senior team, I worked closely with executive creative director Rob Coke to translate the agency’s sector-leading creative approach into a long-form article.

Read full article on Output’s website

Here’s an excerpt:

Why your brand must adapt to thrive

The connected world has shifted behaviours and transformed expectations. As consumers, we’re faced with more choice, more powerful technology and more immersive experiences than ever before. In this world, the experience of your digital products is what defines your brand.

Switched-on brands – those that understand the importance of embracing a digital mindset to succeed in today’s world – are disrupting their sectors and dancing to the rhythm of fast-changing demands. They’re not just responding to the future, they’re creating it – by continually pushing boundaries and challenging themselves to adapt to the unknown ahead of their competitors.

Airbnb put the idea of ‘belonging’ at the heart of every touchpoint. Netflix’s design and motion language showcases the content you love. Uber’s recent rebrand unifies its services with a modern, relevant visual system. And trillion-dollar giant Amazon completely re-framed expectations of service and delivery.

To disrupt their respective sectors, these four all understood one thing: the power of experience as a differentiator. They take people on a journey that conveys their brand values and personality at every touchpoint... [more]

“Nick has a knack of capturing the magic of an interview and distilling it into attention-grabbing copy. He’s easy to work with, makes the process enjoyable and meets his deadlines. What more can you ask?”

Rob Coke, executive creative director, Studio Output

Capturing the magic of BBC 2’s award-winning rebrand

20 different ‘mood’ based animations for BBC Two. Image credit: Superunion
  • Client: Superunion
  • Disciplines: Copywriting
  • Duration: 2 days

I collaborated with Superunion to help tell the complex story of its multi-award-winning BBC 2 rebrand in a clear, compelling way.

Rather than focussing on each ident individually, Superunion’s innovative new branding system curates the entire experience between programmes, effectively turning the junction into an extended ident.

Each trailer is assigned a ‘mood’ – such as ‘escapist’, ‘intense’, ‘revelatory’, ‘visceral’ or ‘anarchic’. These weave together in a seamless narrative, leading the viewer on a stimulating journey of discovery. The mood animations vary hugely in style and tone, but all feature the exact same curve motif at different points – which subtly hints at the outline of a ‘2’.

In the weeks leading up to the public launch of the new identity, I worked with executive creative director Stuart Radford and creative director Kath Tudball to craft punchy, engaging copy about the creative process to contribute towards case studies, awards entries and more.

The project won an impressive haul of awards, including Best of Show at 2019’s Brand Impact Awards, and Yellow and Wood Pencils at D&AD.

Repositioning Computer Arts to appeal to pro designers

  • Client: Future
  • Disciplines: Content strategy, editorial, publishing
  • Duration: 3 months

I led a major cross-platform redesign of Computer Arts in 2013, following the launch of Computer Arts Collection, its premium sister title, two years earlier.

From its ’90s origins as a tutorial magazine for hobbyists, my content strategy completed the brand’s transition into a reputable industry title pitched squarely at professional designers and agencies.

CA’s redesign issue cover (centre), flanked by sister titles CA Presents (series of practical handbooks) and CA Collection (premium collectable title). Image credit: Future

Step-by-step tutorials were replaced with peer-to-peer project ‘diaries’ going behind-the-scenes on live client briefs, to reveal how top agencies solve familiar creative challenges.

With a bold new tagline – Design Matters – the repositioned CA delivered thought-provoking opinions, in-depth industry insights and fresh creative inspiration every month. This included a long-running series of exclusive video documentaries, filmed behind-the-scenes at the UK’s top agencies.

Read other video production case studies

At the height of the digital publishing boom, the redesign featured a fully-bespoke, interactive iPad edition that went on to win Best Art & Design Magazine three years running at the Digital Magazine Awards.

Five special issues of Computer Arts from 2014. Image credit: Future

And to elevate the premium feel of the print edition, innovative covers produced in collaboration with leading print finishing specialist Celloglas brought creative concepts to life in playful and compelling ways, celebrating the unique tactile potential of print.

Four special issues of Computer Arts from 2015. Image credit: Future

These included glow-in-the-dark, heat- and light-reactive inks, scratch-off latex, diffuser foils, textured embossing, playful die-cuts and more.

Watch making-of videos of CA’s special covers on YouTube

The strategic repositioning of Computer Arts proved crucial for the launch of the Brand Impact Awards in 2014, which has gone on to become an unmissable fixture in the professional awards calendar.

I edited CA until 2018. During this period I also launched the UK Studio Rankings – an annual peer reputation survey of the country’s top design agencies – which I continue to manage as an independent consultant.

Contact me to find out more about the survey.

“Nick’s enthusiasm for the re-imagining of Computer Arts was infectious. His unwavering desire to put the needs of the audience at the heart of every decision was truly heartening, and undoubtedly a key reason the project was a huge success.”

Declan Gough – then head of Creative & Design Group, Future