S2E6: Alex Paquin – How to maximise customer experience with branding

Advertising and branding have been around as long as there have been things to sell. Alex Paquin from Zerotrillion talks to us about what new and innovative approaches brands can use to maximise their marketing impact and deliver solutions that satisfy today’s ever changing customer needs.

Design Untangled | A UX & design podcast in plain English
Design Untangled | A UX & design podcast in plain English
S2E6: Alex Paquin - How to maximise customer experience with branding
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We’ve partnered with ProtoPie, the future of interactive product design, to help you navigate through uncertainty and overcome the challenges today’s unprecedented conditions have brought to the industry. Join us for Season 2 – Designing for a new level of uncertainty.

Advertising and branding have been around as long as there have been things to sell. What new and innovative approaches can brands use to maximise their marketing impact and deliver solutions that satisfy today’s ever changing customer needs and enhance the customer experience?  

How do different cultures affect the approach for creating and marketing products and how does the marketing itself have to change to appeal to customers?

What techniques can be used to explore creative ideas that aren’t necessarily part of a brief provided by a client? How can this culture be embedded in an agency’s way of working?

About our guest

Alex is the Chief Executive Officer, and founder of Zerotrillion, a global creative agency that provides services to organisations in different continents, with very diverse cultures and approaches to marketing. 

Alex has worked at a number of agencies during his career in Dubai, Amsterdam and Toronto. He brings a wealth of experience from his background in criminology and social psychology and applies this to creating experiences for well-known and upcoming brands. 

What you’ll learn

  • What do creatives do in an advertising agency?
  • How can behavioural psychology be used to form part of a design or marketing approach?
  • What is unique about brands and their customers in Dubai?
  • How do you create brands for future looking brands and ideas like sustainability?
  • How are you are brands and marketers adapting to the changes that have happened in consumer the landscape in 2020?

Show notes

Transcript

Chris Mears: I’m Chris Mears.

Carla: And I’m Carla Lindarte.

Chris Mears: We’re two UX designers.

Carla: And we hate jargon. So, we’re here to help you untangle the world of design.

Chris Mears: Cut through the crap and talk about what really matters.

Carla: Yes. Solving people’s problems.

Chris Mears: Welcome to Design Untangled.

Hello everyone and welcome to Design Untangled with me Chris Mears and Carla Lindarte. And today we’re joined by Alex Paquin who is the CEO of Xero Trillian. Who’s or I should say a company which is a global creative agency based in both Amsterdam and Toronto. So, welcome to the podcast Alex.

Alex: Thank you very much.

Chris Mears: Cool, and so we usually like to start by getting a bit of background about yourself and how you ended up where you are today.

Alex: Yeah, I mean I started criminology. I started studying criminology, because I wanted to be a lawyer initially and I went to school for that in the sociology department at Western University in Canada. And while I was there, I found that sort of the most compelling aspects of it to me were kind of you know the psychology and sort of the underlying motivations for why people who are behaving in a deviant way you know behaved the way that they did. I started to sort of find myself more interested and intrigued by human psychology rather than sort of the legal aspect. You know which I guess is the sort of secondary component of criminology sort of like what do we do with these people who are deviant.

You know I tended to be more interested in why were they deviant and you know what created that behavior and how could you maybe change that behavior. So, that kind of led me more into you know the general social psychology discipline and I got sort of deep into that into school. And that ultimately led me to advertising, because it’s sort of the largest mass practice of you know influencing behavior. Let’s say, yeah and so that kind of became the focus of my interest and then ultimately a career. You know after that I joined an advertising agency for a summer internship and this was the time when the sort of big economic recession just happened.

So, you know really any job that you could get was a good one. There was a lot of people who were sort of graduating that year you know with advanced degrees and they were sort of walking around handing out resumes to work for free. And you know you couldn’t get a company at that time to pay your best bus fare let alone a good salary. So, I was very lucky to find you know a job in an industry that was sort of circling my interest and that was in advertising. Working for a company that had the PokerStars account. You know which is sort of the largest online poker site and that was another interest of mine that had sort of stemmed from this area of you know interest in psychology and human behavior as well, which was Poker.

So, I felt really lucky to be able to sort of mix the things that interested me, which was you know poker and the psychology behind that. And then at the same time actually have a job that I could apply that you know thinking in those interests to you know see what we could do to influence behavior on a larger scale.

Chris Mears: Yeah, so maybe if you can just tell us a bit more about Xero Trillion and the kind of work that you do there.

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. So, Xero Trillion we’re a global creative agency but the further we sort of go down the line the more we become sort of a global conglomeration of various creative entrepreneurial ventures. At our core, we launched as an advertising and branding agency and since we’ve incorporated lines of business that include public relations, media, you know media buying and strategy. As well as a few ventures of our own, we’ve recently launched a plant-based restaurant and we have a sustainable clothing brand that’s coming out early 2021. So, you know Xero Trillion is at its core an advertising and branding agency, but you know it’s becoming so many more things beyond that.

We’re based in Amsterdam and Toronto which gives us really interesting coverage globally. You know with core teams in both places, we can sort of cross as many time zones as we need to serve the clients that we have. Who tend to be in sort of you know far corners of the earth. We have clients in Seoul South Korea, in Santa Fe Norway, in Saudi Arabia, in Dubai, in Texas, in Kelowna British Columbia, in Canada, in Toronto and in London and a few other places. I’m sure I forgot. And so, the way we sort of operate is as a sort of collective of global creatives that move between these offices in these spaces. So, it’s not that being in one time zone or one office ties you to one specific client.

We kind of bring people and the skill sets that they have to whatever client needs them at that time and whatever you know time zone or location that may be. You know we even had a couple employees start earlier this year and you know they asked, okay so I report to the office for the first day of work. And we said, actually do you mind getting on a plane and reporting to Canada for your first day of work. I think that was exciting and thrilling and set the tone of what kind of you know job you were going to have at Xero Trillion. And we want everything to be like that. We want everything to be exciting and thrilling and creative and new because that’s what we’re delivering to our clients.

If we’re not really living that every day, you know then I don’t know how we’re going to stay impassioned and competently deliver that. So yeah, so we’re many things, but at the core we’re creative and we do that for our clients and for the ventures and entrepreneurial projects that we have launched ourselves.

Carla: So, just stepping back a little bit, what does a creative do in an advertising agency? Because there’s many roles right, creative doesn’t necessarily mean design um and obviously you have designers as well etc. So, can you explain a little bit about all the different roles and what does a creative do in an advertising agency?

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think it’s a really good question and to be honest with you, I think if you asked various different sort of people within agencies whether owners or the creatives themselves. You might get some pretty varied answers. One of the things that sort of my close collaborators in the sort of creative industry and I talk about a lot of time is, you know how do you stay a creative person or a creator while also sort of being what is the job title of creative designated as that. You know and so on one hand you know you can be a creative person or a creator that creates in different mediums. Whether that’s you know writing or film or you know whatever that may be. And then on the other hand, you have this sort of idea of the creative as a job you know in which you’re kind of this resource that gets deployed to do different you know creative.

Let’s say I’m doing air quotes here tasks within an agency you know and behalf of clients. What we try to do at Xero Trillion is we try to make it so that you can be a creative resource and work on behalf of our clients. But at the same time we want you to sort of continue to develop the things that you know made you self-identify as a creative person in the first place. I mean that’s why we’re so you know interested in launching our own ventures that allow people to do things that are sort of outside of the typical client scope.

Chris Mears: Cool, and so focusing that a bit on yourself I know you describe yourself as a creative maximalist. Can you explain what that is and how you see yourself?

Alex: Yeah absolutely. I mean to be honest; I think that you know creative maximalism is really just a way to remind ourselves you know that we want to put creativity at the forefront of all of the work that we do. I mean I think the simplest way to sort of explain that is you know if somebody were to ask you to sort of create a piece of communications. You know whether it’s something as simple as a notice about the weather or a change in company policy or information about a product that you want to create. You know you can do that in a very straightforward way. You could theoretically have a white piece of paper that says you know notice our products are now available in these places at this price. But that’s not very compelling.

So, I think that what’s made our industry and when I say industry sort of advertising, branding, design sort of a necessary and emerging practice in a big way is, this idea that creativity adds incremental value to anything that you’re communicating or any experience that you’re creating or designing. I think that that’s clear when you have a company like Apple, with one of the largest market capitalizations of any company on earth. And you know they’re a company that makes products, but they’re essentially just you know design company and you have sort of the characters who are designing those products. Like you know Johnny Ive, who’s a household name around the world and this is a person who’s a designer. And that’s sort of a I would say kind of a new emerging phenomenon you know that we start to get familiar and excited by these people who are creating and designing experiences at companies.

You know I think that that sort of proof of what the creative and design element can incrementally add to sort of any product or communications. So, for us when we talk about you know being creative maximalist or myself personally, it’s really to just always remember that you know the most compelling experience you’re going to create is one that’s driven by creativity. So, that’s always going to be where we lean. It’s going to be that we’ll always try and create the most compelling creative experience that we can for somebody. And that means thinking about experiences that are novel, you know that tap into sort of an underlying, you know motivating need or an emotion that we want to sort of draw out. And you can really only do that you know with creativity.

Carla: So, I’ve been looking at your website and perhaps and also the type of projects that you currently do. You have something called Studio Trillion would that looks really interesting. Can you talk us a little bit about what happens there?

Alex: Yeah absolutely, Studio Trillion I would say is you know an idea as much as it is a department and you know and it’s a philosophy as much as it is a business practice. And really the idea behind Studio Trillian is you know is challenging ourselves to create and make in ways that are unconventional or sort of un-commissioned by our clients. So, you know we see a problem in the world or we see a story that we want to tell and we try and think about what technology what art can we create and who can we collaborate with you know to basically bring that to life. Recent example, we had the sort of realization in the studio that you could control sort of a touchscreen that typically could only be controlled with sort of your finger.

Because it’s kind of creates this you know electrical signal that allows touch screens to pick up sort of the touch input. A lot of the time you can’t do that with sort of inanimate objects, because they don’t have sort of any electrical charge. We realized that you could actually perform that task with a battery, just sort of a normal household double A or single A battery. If you know a part of your finger was connected to or touching the sort of outer casing of it. We found this to be a really interesting thing because we’re living in a time where most of the checkout counters at least in the Netherlands where our headquarters is tend to be touch screens when you’re checking out. And as you know with a pandemic this is something that people are uh becoming weary of.

They don’t want to be sort of touching public you know kiosks where other people are touching them so often. So, we sort of took this idea and we created you know a 3D printed instrument that incorporated a double A battery. And the way that it was shaped sort of made it a useful sort of stylus tool that could be used to operate the checkout machines at caches. We called it the Battery Tap for obvious I guess self-explanatory reasons. We printed the blueprints, posted them on batterytap.nl which was a website that we purchased and explained the product and essentially gave it away for free.

So, that people could you know make use of this kind of design that we had created to solve a problem. That sort of came out of the idea that this is an emerging problem for people and we found a solution so how do we share that. So, you know that’s just sort of the most recent thing that we did. And the idea for Studio Trillian is that sort of take the form of uh you know any media it could be a live installation of art to tell a story. It can be a you know an object that we design or sort of industrial design specifications that we publish. And really, it’s just for us to be able to express creativity in ways outside of the briefs that we receive from our clients.

Chris Mears: So, I mean how does that process kind of start, then are you just sort of brainstorming ideas amongst yourself or as a client come to you with a specific kind of problem. Like how does that sort of initial idea then become sort of like the thing you’ve just described?

Alex: Yeah, the thing for us is and this kind of goes back to your other question as well about what’s a creative in the advertising industry. I really hope that the people that work at Xero Trillion especially in the creative department, don’t only define themselves as creative as a job title. We really hope that those people are self-identifying as creative out in the larger world. Because they have sort of other interests, maybe it’s photography, maybe it’s writing long-form content. Maybe it’s you know 3D printing, maybe it’s making things with their hand’s woodworking. Maybe it’s programming.

So, all of these sorts of different skills and creative endeavors are things that we want to encourage in the people that work here. But we also want it to be a reason that people want to work here in the first place. So, we want to openly encourage sort of you know playing and experimenting and exploring people’s interests, but also areas that maybe they’re not familiar with previously. So, you know we have a couple copywriters for instance right now that are taking courses externally from the agency in 3D modeling. And also, now working in internally as a group to do 3D rendering and 3D modeling and 3D design in software and programs that they were never trained in art school or as they did literary degrees.

So, in this process of sort of exploring your own creative outlets as well as learning new creative skills and thinking about the things that are impactful and meaningful to you in the world. We try and look at that intersection and say, you know okay you know what could we realistically do here. One of the things that came to mind was this idea of the Battery Tap. Another thing that’s come up recently that does an example of this is we have sort of one of our newer creatives a copywriter that’s joined us only a few months ago. She brought this idea that she’s very passionate about and that was that, there’s so much plastic waste being created at the supermarket.

In the Netherlands, there’s not so many supermarkets there’s only two or three major ones that the majority of the population shop at. So, in this case the Studio Trillium project was led by her and the idea was to start a bit of a movement. And this movement was called Plastic Post or reversed in Dutch, the name. And the idea was that you know we were basically going to take and we did this sort of on earth day, launched it then but it’s continuing now. We’re basically going to take all of the plastic waste that the members of the agency had accumulated over the week from sort of single-use plastic that we got at the grocery store. And we basically packaged it all up and we sent it back to the headquarters of the supermarket chains.

We posted a standalone page on our site where you could automatically print the location of the headquarters nearest you that we sort of programmed into the site of your local grocery store chain. And we encouraged other people to go on our site, make use of this sort of postcode finder for the addresses of these places and then download stickers that they could print at home to literally take the supermarket bag. Which is made of plastic filled with all of their single-use plastic, put this sticker on it and send it back to the headquarters of these chains. So, you know it’s a mix of a bit of you know environmental activism. It’s you know artistic in a way. It’s starting a movement and it’s using creativity to compel people to do something that is good for society, good for them and good for their local businesses.

And that’s sort of not being paid for by any client, that’s led by the interests and passion of the creatives that work at the agency. And you know we see that as a way to design a better world let’s say. So, those are the types of things that we hope Studio Trillion can contribute to us and to our community.

Carla: That sounds really interesting. I always wondered because obviously in digital product design, we very focus on like human centricity and we base a lot of the you know new products services that we create on like lots of research and testing etc. You’ve been mentioning obviously creativity and different skill sets and technology. But how do you guys obviously apart from common sense make sure that your creative ideas actually are solving a human need and how you kind of test that that’s actually the result that you have at the end of it?

Alex: Absolutely, I mean I think that’s a great question. And I think the answer to that is actually one that’s evolving with technology and with sort of common behaviors that we have today. I think that we look in a similar way to sort of you as human-centered designers do at sort of what are the tools that we have to gain an empathetic understanding of our audiences. You know and that goes back to things as simple as a depth interview, where we might sort of identify people that are part of the cohort. You know who we’re trying to create or design an experience for. But that also goes to sort of more you know modern tools that are only made possible by the behaviors that people are naturally doing themselves.

And what I mean by that is things like social ethnography, social media ethnography. So, as where it used to be that you’d have to sort of follow somebody around in a supermarket and see how they actually behave you know or maybe witness them trying to use a product or use a product in its sort of normal environment or at home. We can now you know search hashtags on Instagram and see you know what are the sort of natural behaviors and sort of images that people are posting and what are they doing in the image and what’s in the image with them and who’s in the image with them and what is the relationship between those people you know. And what values are they signaling in the captions that they use.

So, there’s a lot of ways that I think you know we can do things that are sort of traditional views on how to gain an empathetic understanding when we’re trying to sort of design around experiences for people. But I think that there’s new ways to uncover those things. And I think that that’s you know important part of our process as well. You know there’s a lot you can glean from looking up how people behave in social media without sort of ever having to leave your house. You don’t have to commission an expensive study to do that. You can learn a lot from sort of identifying what groups are interesting to you and seeing what behaviors they’re exhibiting online. And it just takes a little bit of sort of sleuthing and social media to find some of those things out. and then to test them as well.

So, I think you know deploying with a small media buy, you know a preliminary splash page of a concept that you have. You know sharing around a small hashtag and seeing if people actually use it and adjusting if they don’t. So, I think that there’s you know again being in the digital world not only do you have new inputs you know into your sort of empathy mapping or however it is that you sort of create your inputs for your design. But you also have faster and more responsive ways to test your design outputs. So, that your process can be not only iterative as you design it and create it internally with your stakeholders, but also iterative beyond launching it. I think one of my favorite examples of that is you know in the online gaming world. And you know Fortnite is this hugely successful game.

That’s been out for almost three years maybe even longer than three years now and it’s still technically in beta. It’s one of the biggest games in the world and I think that that’s something that companies and products are getting more comfortable with is to be able to sort of go out with a product and say, this is a work in progress. And the way that your customers you know or the users interact and behave with it after the product’s already gone to market is going to openly influence where they take the product next. So, I think just you know being aware comfortable with that concept in the first place and being aware of the tools at your disposal to then be able to sort of gain garner value from that process is sort of a modern way. I guess of looking at how do you bring empathy and designing for people into today’s sort of workflow.

Carla: A lot of those tools actually used as well for designers to test concepts and you know test propositions etc. It’s interesting how you guys focus on a lot of data and social media behavior which is obviously all the tools that are available out there to understand people’s behavior. So, yeah thank you for that. Moving into more like your experience. So, you spend a bit of time in Dubai, didn’t you? Yeah, so it’d be interesting to know what the difference in culture played a part in your approach to branding over there?

Alex: Yeah, that’s an interesting question because I didn’t expect that it would be so different. You know I’ve lived in a few different cities in my life and I think that Dubai has this sort of unique approach that needs to be sort of applied there. And you know I’ll explain what that is a little bit. Dubai is a place that you have sort of yeah, many different cultures, sort of co-existing at the same time. And it’s really a very small population of local people that are actually there. I think that that’s you know maybe the difference of being someone who is you know either an expat or an immigrant in America for instance. You know you’re joining a very strong overstated culture that’s exported all around the world.

So, if you’ve never been to America you can probably guess what it’s like based on what’s going on TV. You know when you arrive there um you know you get sort of immersed into it right, that’s why they call it a melting pot. I think Dubai is a really unique place because you know they’ve really created a framework where everybody can sort of continue to exist as they were in in the places that they came from. You know and sort of coexist with their cultures. And what that creates for you know what the scenario that creates from a branding and advertising perspective is very interesting. Because you’ll have a lot of people who are communicating in usually English and it’ll be their sort of third or fourth language often times.

From a branding perspective, what that means is typically you’re communicating in English. You know typically you’re creating creative ideas or advertising in English. But you’re doing it for a mix of an audience who come from many different cultures. Some western, some eastern who very often English is not their first language. So, what you really need to do is sort of go a layer you know below the sort of quippy you know headlines that advertising is known for, right. In advertising and in branding, you’ll find a lot of play on words. You know you’ll find a lot of sort of metaphors for things or you know aspects that are left implied. And that’s almost one of the tools in advertising that that makes advertising engaging.

I’m sure you’ve seen a good Ad where it was sort of like they gave you one plus one and then when you figured out to yourself you kind of have a moment of, oh that’s interesting. And that’s what makes that ad engaging. You know there’s less ability to do that in Dubai, because you know again a lot of people will be operating in from a baseline of less English or you know less common language or even less sort of common turns of phrase and things like that. So, you kind of have to boil things down to expressing a feeling an emotion or simple language that evokes what you want it to evoke and you have to be able to create that you know through a very sort of distilled you know communication strategy.

And so yeah, so it’s a unique place. It teaches you how to speak precisely, you know how to not lean too much on things that you might expect other people to know. And it teaches you to sort of focus on drawing out a particular you know outcome that you want, but you know a bit more of a direct line there. So yeah, it was a really good experience I think because it sorts of forced you to hone some of those skills.

Chris Mears: Do you think it affected or changed you, if you even have a typical process like the typical process you would go from getting some kind of brief to some kind of outcome? Do you feel that you had to do that differently in Dubai versus how you would do it kind of now or in any other of the different places you’ve worked?

Alex: Yeah absolutely, and I think again going back to that sort of you know human-centered design process, I think that a lot of those inputs of from people go into how you think about creating advertising or creating branding in a place like Dubai. You know if you’re from London born and raised let’s say or you live there for a long time, you may have this intuition that you have a good idea of what this audience wants or what they expect. I think that you know being in a place that’s not your own country and you know of course we work in countries all around the world, I think that it forces you to sort of second guess everything that you think that you may know. And it forces you to really dig deep find those audiences talk to them in depth.

You know uncover themes that you think are important to them. And then double and triple check those with other multiple other sources and then sort of put it through this lens of does this achieve what we want it to achieve from the brand’s perspective and does it make sense to the people that it’s for. You know and it seems obvious but you don’t realize how much of that you can intuit when you’re working in a place that you’re quite familiar with the culture. You know when you have to second-guess all of those things, it forces you to be a lot more rigorous in devising those inputs and uncovering those insights. I think it trains a certain you know aspect of yeah, rigor there.

You know it forces you to be more thorough in that and I think that even when you go back to other markets where you maybe are familiar, I think those are good habits to carry with you.

Chris Mears: Yeah, awesome that’s really interesting. I guess I had a similar sort of question really, I know you’ve done quite a variety of different things. So, recently you’ve done some stuff with a plant-based restaurant and sustainable fashion. I’ve seen you’ve also been working with a cannabis company as well. So, I’d be interested to learn a bit more about, how the branding approach needs to be kind of tailored to those? I guess they’re sort of newer markets almost, so you’re not just selling you know TVs or shoes or whatever. You’re almost selling like an idea or a lifestyle. I’d be interested to your thoughts about how you have approached those kinds of clients differently, if you have.

Alex: Yeah, so the plant-based restaurant is actually a venture of ours. We launched you know with a partner, a plant-based restaurant in Toronto and this is a concept that we devised and launched ourselves. As well with the sustainable fashion brand, this is one of the sorts of ventures that Xero Trillion has launched from the passions and interests that we have here at the team. The cannabis brand is a client of ours in Canada. You know we pitched for the business in the sort of the normal sense and you know we’re really excited about working with them. Because as you said it’s an emerging industry as well with a client of ours in Seoul, South Korea Proto Pi.

They’re in this very sort of interesting space where they’re helping people get their ideas out through high fidelity prototyping. Another client of ours is a company called Enchain, which is basically leading the sort of blockchain adoption at the enterprise level. So, helping businesses integrate blockchain into their operations. So, you know the thing that all of these very different industries have in common is they’re all you know very feature facing. They’re all new and exciting ideas that we hope will change the world. I think that this is really the idea behind Xero Trillion. You know the name Xero Trillion, it’s a strange one we always sort of get funny looks when we tell people the name of the agency.

But the meaning of it is something that’s meant to remind us of why we created it in the first place. So, the meaning of it is you know we should either be aiming for a Trillion aiming for the stars or we shouldn’t be doing anything at all. So, that’s why we’re really excited by and we feel really at home with clients who are essentially blazing trails and pioneering new industries. Like Blockchain or prototyping or cannabis or sustainable fashion or plant-based eating you know and many other spaces as well. Because this is really where we feel the most at home. We feel that if we’re you know if we’re going to create a company that’s going to make any difference at all, you know it’s going to be focused on those kinds of ideas that are going to be changing the world in the future.

And the name of the agency was to continually remind us that that’s why we set out to do it. So, in of itself it’s actually designed the name is you know is actually a mechanism that’s designed to influence the behavior of the people that work here every single day, if that makes sense.

Carla: Yeah definitely. I mean obviously you’re talking about companies that are trying to change the world and the world is changed so much in such a short time frame. So, I’m interested to know how you’ve been working with these brands? How different you’ve been working with these brands throughout the pandemic and what kind of challenges you’ve been facing? How are you helping them navigate this you know very high uncertainty that is happening at the moment?

Alex: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean it’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot. I think that the way that people are used to planning for business is they look at the year ahead and they say this is what we hope to accomplish this year, these are the resources that we’re going to deploy. We have an expectation of you know what revenues are going to come back to us as a result of deploying these resources, and we have a plan for how we’re going to then you know deploy that revenue as further resources towards further ends. You know that formula, it doesn’t really exist for any business at the moment. People have a really hard time understanding you know how their customers are going to, how the relationship with their customers are going to change.

Now that the sort of world is a little bit different. Businesses are having a hard time you know knowing where their new customers are going to come from. And they have a hard time planning on how they deploy resources when you know the way that you interact with businesses is changing. One day you can go to a restaurant the next day you can’t. So, I think that you know these are all things that I think every business is grappling with. And I think the way that we’ve really been talking about it with our clients is has been a good one so far. I think that there’s a balance that needs to be struck. So, on one hand, I think that you need to think a lot more deeply about anything that you’re going to do.

So, normally if you said okay, we’re going to launch this product or we’re going to create this campaign where we’re going to communicate whatever it may be. You need to look at it from so many different angles now. So, you need to think about all the possible scenarios and outcomes that can happen, given the range of emotions that you know are being experienced on a mass scale by people out there. so, if you put a product out right now. Are people going to think that that’s in some way insensitive? Are people going to garner some specific benefit to it from it? Are you going to have a situation where you may have to pull that product off the market if something changes in the legislation or you know in the rules of how COVID is being managed? You know is your product dependent on an industry that’s you know affected by COVID? Are you somewhere in the sort of you know chain of hospitality?

Are you somewhere in this chain of travel and tourism? Are you a product that people may not see as a necessity as their tend to be less and less jobs? So, there’s so many aspects to think about and I think that it’s important to do that exercise. But then ultimately, have a contingency plan for whatever you decide to do. Knowing that the wind can blow one way or another politically from COVID regulations perspective or even from a consumer psychology perspective. How people feel is you know on mass scale is changing so differently even day to day these days. And so, I think that thinking about all those things but then once you have a decision and you have your contingencies to actually go forward.

Because I think the trap that you see is a lot of companies don’t know what to do and so they don’t do anything at all. So, they’re afraid to make a decision or don’t know how their customers are going to react, so they choose to do nothing. You know I think the balance that I was talking about earlier that you need to strike is, what are we going to do what are all the possible ways that this can this outcomes can vary based on the you know the very dynamic situation that we’re in. Now that we’ve made a decision of what we want to do, how do we actually go ahead and see it through. Understanding that it’s not gonna go to plan. That things are going to change; we’re going to need to adjust but being comfortable with that.

You know because I think that the paralysis that a lot of companies may be facing now, it you know is something that can really hurt your business if you don’t recognize that you can’t just wait indefinitely for this to be over. I think that we can all agree if on nothing else there’s no obvious definitive end to the state of the world at the moment and striking the balance between good rational thinking about the possible scenarios. But then actually mobilizing and doing something is where I think companies are going to find success. I think that that’s where our clients have really valued this partnership. Because we were able to talk through these things together from the scenario planning to the action plan to altering the plan if need be.

So, that’s sort of how we’ve been working with our clients and so far. We’ve been very fortunate that our client’s businesses continue to grow. They have very smart people at the helm who have helped them act quickly and adjust where needed.

Carla: That’s really good and I think that’s also a blessing of working with new brands or at least you know brands are easier to flex and adapt to change. Then you know the big all brands that obviously are bigger and harder to move around. So, thank you for that. That’s really great answer. Unfortunately, we’re running out of time. But before we go, I want to ask you a question we always asked guess, sorry if I put you on the spot over there. But if there is, any books podcast blogs or anything or someone to follow that you can recommend to people to help them. know more about creativity and branding and you know obviously what advertising means in the context of design and human centricity as you just talked about? If there’s anything that you know you would recommend our listeners to have a look at, would be great.

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. I mean there’s so many. I’d like to maybe just mention a couple authors that I think are very compelling. The late Wally Olin’s, you know he’s written a few books over the decades on branding and I think a lot of people would sort of consider him one of the godfathers of branding. I think that you know even his most recent books, they’ve taken a very modern approach to the view of branding in sort of a globalized world. I think those are very interesting for anybody who’s interested in the global branding effort. So, branding places, airlines travel tourism, all that kind of stuff very compelling. The other I would say is Ben Horowitz. Especially now, you know he’s more of a business author I would say.

He’s sort of you know a venture capital guy and former leader of companies. You know some are in the creative and software space and others are in different spaces. But I think that given the sort of uh nature of the business climate and the creative atmosphere and the way that just people feel right now. I think his books are really compelling, because you really you know especially there’s one called uh the hard thing about hard things. And I think there’s just so many lessons in that that sort of help you navigate as a business the way that the world is now. You know because you know more than ever there’s no smooth sailing.

I think that any sort of literature that can sort of get you comfortable being uncomfortable will be extremely value to anybody sort of in the creative entrepreneurial space right now.

Chris Mears: Cool awesome. Well, thanks for sharing all that. We’ll link those up in the show notes and yeah just thanks for your time. It’s been really interesting and hopefully we’ll have you on again soon.

Carla: Thank you Alex.

Alex: Yeah, thank you Chris, thank you Carla. Great speaking with you.

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