About Uri Baruchin

Uri is an international creative strategist based in London, working as Head of Strategy for global design and brand consultancy The Partners. He lectures at the London College of Communications' MA in Graphic Branding and Identity, mentors in a variety of programmes and writes about marketing and culture.

The dance of creative leadership: 5 principles of facilitating flow (uncut version) 

 

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Illustration by The Partners

 


This article was originally published on Virgin’s Entrepreneur. However, as they were looking for a blog post, it had to be cut in half, with the models, one principle cut out and another central idea removed. I’m bringing it here because I think there is value in the deeper stuff.
Read the other version if you want something more top-line or if that to much, here’s a TL;DR:
Creative leadership can be seen as the facilitation of Flow. To achieve it you have to engage the full organisation and carefully navigate conflicting elements/agendas. 

(If you want to publish it on your platform, let me know.)

Another impossible demand?

The demands from leadership have never been higher. The focus on performance is still there, but across many sectors, the environment is more volatile and disruptive than it has ever been. Vision is no longer enough; a leader should instil his or her team with a sense of purpose. Innovation used to belong at the start of a process, now it’s continuous. And, of course, as we shift away from patriarchal views of leadership as inherently masculine, we add emotional intelligence, empathy, intuition, social awareness and so on…

And now there’s creativity, without which there will be no innovation (which, to an extent is the practical application of creativity). While innovation has many models and processes, creativity, which should generate the ideas that drive innovation, remains more enigmatic. How do you manage something so mysterious and ‘fluffy’? Is there a method to it? Is it simply down to the leader being creative, or is it about them leading the organisation’s creativity, or both?

When discussing old-school leadership vs contemporary leadership practices, some stereotypes are very much alive. That’s a shame, because if, when we’re talking about the new demands on leadership, we simply contrast them with a Machiavellian command and control straw-man, we will not push the new paradigm far enough, and we’ll miss the big picture. Instead, we should take a more integrative view.

Here are five principles that draw on both ancient and new leadership approaches.

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Déjà vu: Why B2B brand portfolios are descending into chaos, again.

 

chess

Illustration by The Partners

 

[Sometimes I get asked to write stuff and feel the marketing strategy equivalent of those famous protest signs that read ‘I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit’…]

Nearly 20 years ago, global M&A sprees combined with massive product innovation required the likes of Unilever and Nestlé to carefully assess their portfolios as well as scrutinise any arguments for the creation of new brands.

In February 2000, Unilever famously embarked on a global programme to reduce its number of brands from 1600 to 400 in five years. Coining the term ‘power brands’, Unilever shifted budgets from smaller, local, regional or niche brands to brands like Dove and Persil. It also leveraged the ice-cream Heartbrand to connect local heritage brands (Walls in the UK, Algida in Italy, Langnese in Germany, for example) and act as a platform for international powerhouses (Magnum, Cornetto, Solero, for example) across more than 40 countries.

Telecoms quickly followed suit and we experienced a shift from a world where even an audience-specific mobile tariff would have its own brand to largely monolithic portfolios across the entire sector. Today, you would struggle to point out a non-endorsed sub-brand for one of the major telecom brands.

FMCG companies may not be monolithic, but all the major players increased the prominence of their corporate brand endorsement over the last decade. Nowadays, most of the revenue of Unilever and P&G is estimated to come from a combined group of about 30 brands.

It’s ironic, then, that many of the consultancies behind those famous portfolio efficiency projects are holding increasingly proliferated brand portfolios that are straining not just marketing budgets and internal resources, but the amount of attention they can command in the market. Continue reading

Brand Strategy Returns to Radical Simplicity

simplicity.gifBranding was born to make things simpler. A collection of clear signs, telling a focused story, replacing complicated explanation. It helps your audience recognise you, hire you, and understand what makes your company a better choice. It’s fundamental stuff. Hopefully, the right branding influenced the right brand perception. And, according to Keller’s definition of brand, your brand supports the creation of ‘a mental structure to clarify decision’.

Brand platforms were born to articulate the ideas driving your branding. Your team and your agencies could then understand what it was all about, so they can deliver on it. Create the communications that tell your story. Design experiences that deliver the promise.

But somewhere along the way, things went horribly wrong. As marketing professionals were working on making things clear, consistent and easy to use, for many companies things were getting complicated. It started with something positive – a wider recognition of the importance of brands. Continue reading

The tensions of digital brand identities

tensionsVisual design is a vibrant, ever-evolving world. It always combines timeless principles with new tools and changing fashions. Contemporary design operates within a global culture that has been getting increasingly visual for over a century since the early days of mass media.

Brand identities, specifically, now spend a large part of their lives in digital environments. These environments offer both opportunities and challenges, but are we really seeing the amount of innovation we’d expect? The kind we’ve seen in product design or interface design. What are the key factors shaping brand identities in digital environments? Continue reading

Between your Brand and your Employer Brand

employer brandBusinesses are always looking for new competitive advantage and have started to catch on to the employer value proposition (EVP) as an attractive differentiator. This is a powerful tool for attracting and retaining talent, but is fraught with problems if handled badly.

However, there are really only three aspects of successful EVP that need considering:

The EVP must work together with your brand strategy

Just like a successful brand strategy, a successful EVP doesn’t just reach out, it reaches out to the right audience, so you can engage not only with the best talent, but the right talent that is best for you.

The war for talent, however, isn’t won on recruitment alone. For your existing workforce it serves as a reinforcement that they are at the right place; and it fuels their commitment to a long term career with you. With the cost of finding and replacing senior talent easily matching twice their annual salary, a strong employer brand is not just a nice to have, it’s an essential investment.

Your overall brand strategy already defines what your company is about. It taps into your history and culture and leverages your tone and points of difference. If you develop an EVP independently of your brand strategy, you will essentially split your brand in two. Instead, create a platform consistent with your brand strategy that clearly communicates what it means for talent. With multiple strategic frameworks involved it can get tricky. Continue reading

3 Marketing Trends for 2017

3+marketing+trends.gifIt is most likely that the universe and its trends don’t really care that the calendar digits have flipped over. That being the case, here are some wider trends that I believe we saw starting in 2016 and will go into 2017 and beyond.

Inter-agency collaboration making for better marketing, and also making marketing better

With the rising importance of interconnected media on the one hand, and budget pressures on the other, clients are expecting agencies to work together.

At WPP it’s called ‘horizontality’. Ad agencies join forces with their clients’ technology partners and digital agencies. Media agencies, using their scale, have tried to make the most of this trend by building in-house planning, creative and digital capabilities. However, more often than not they find themselves as the hubs of cross-agency collaboration. In a few cases large integrated marketing and PR agencies, are heading that way too.

As they go through those changes, all agencies also need to collaborate with growing in-house teams of tech people, designers and content people – partly due to clients looking for agile and efficient ways to respond to the market. I wonder if agencies have done enough to put in place cost-effective, agile response mechanisms.

An unexpected but positive side effect to this trend is a return to radical simplicity in brand strategy. The basic principles of most brand platforms and frameworks are the same, but agencies working to differentiate themselves give rise to superficial differences with models evolving into increasingly questionable metaphors. Onions, Temples, Keys, Keyholes, Bulbs, Fish, you name it. Worse yet, they are often clumped together, forming chimera-like creatures combining the ugliest, most scrupulous aspects of both marketing and organisational politics.

A method-salad starting point doesn’t allow agencies to stay focused and work in concert. As agencies and clients both now have to keep multiple teams on the same page, they are forced to go back to the fundamental elements that everyone can agree on and understand. This creates a natural distillation process that is very healthy for brands as well as for marketing as a discipline.

Social media is finally maturing

After a period of social media overhype, that work is being refocused around pragmatic goals and accountable measurements. As social media becomes more ubiquitous, the market stops seeing it as an end-all-be-all shiny-new solution that you either buy into or no. Continue reading

Are career paths still relevant?

People used to think career paths are to be selected like a holiday from a stack of brochures, now it’s clear we must forge our own

image by: The Partners

 

According to that old-fashioned approach, your career path was something you chose, like selecting a holiday from a stack of brochures. Maybe things were once this straightforward; maybe it’s all a cultural myth. Nonetheless, this type of model hasn’t been applicable for the last couple of decades, and the way careers are shaped now, it’s likely to move even further away from it in the future.

In today’s work environment, and in the foreseeable future, your career path is something you have to forge. There are many reasons behind this change. Let’s start with the digital tools that have become prevalent in the corporate world — word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software and general information management. A new base business literacy has emerged: everyone is expected to master these tools. It’s no longer enough to be able to work with and on multiple platforms: these tools constantly develop and change and employees are expected to adapt quickly to the new software.

The pace of technological change is compounded by the financial volatility we’ve seen over the last two decades. The cycles of boom and bust are becoming shorter and whole industries are experiencing disruption to their business models. Many of us will encounter instances of working for a business that goes under. And even if your company survives, redundancies are common: many will know the feeling of being made redundant by a changing business, despite strong personal performance.

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