Not standing still

Most businesses know that to stand still is to go backwards, and in marketing especially, reinvention is an on-going necessity. Marketing messages need to remain relevant to both old and new audiences. And those audiences are constantly changing ones.

Businesses need to learn to promote their brands through new channels without alienating their existing audiences.

Charities face the difficulty of managing such change whilst remaining relevant. Large national charities have marketing expertise and professional fundraisers to work with but smaller charities seldom have that luxury. Yet move forward and adapt they must.

Recognising that this skill is not available in house is one thing, investing in developing it is another. A charity committed to fundraising, must not rely on luck to secure funds or obtain large donations from rich people. They must see the activity as a key part of their business and must treat it as an integral part of the infrastructure.

One such charity is Muirfield Riding Therapy, a charity close to my heart as I started out there as a hands on helper many years ago. I have watched this admirable charity grow and develop and never stand still. The decision was taken to rebrand many years ago, using the word ‘Therapy’ in the title, despite some spirited opposition. The vision of the rebrand was to broaden their appeal and their ability to raise funds. I assisted with the re-brand and developed brand guidelines to ensure clear communication with everyone involved.

Recently Muirfield Riding Therapy has invested in a new campaign, including a campaign logo, the objective of which is to develop the social media marketing, in addition to broadening its appeal, especially to the younger audience. Although using new channels, the traditional routes have not been forgotten. Sub-campaigns have been planned and the charity has worked with specialists to develop and target these campaigns. The website has undergone a ‘refresh’ to reflect these changes.

Muirfield Riding Therapy is a charity that many businesses could learn a thing or two from: engaging, inclusive, good communicators and compassionate. And never standing still.


Mind the Gap

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One thing about being a designer is that you never fully switch off from closely observing brand identities, packaging, menu designs, website, signage, and every kind of typography. And of course any display, exhibition and interior as well.

Which of course means basically everything that is communicating a message around us, all of the time. Fortunately the observation is sometimes almost subliminal and you let it go, other times you get that old ‘wish I’d done that’ feeling and then other times it just jars, badly.

One of the latter experiences was recently when we were at a hotel on holiday, and the gap between a brand identity and the actual proposition was huge. Normally when we stay at hotels I have a quick peek at the website if I wasn’t the one that booked it. This time I hadn’t had time to look at anything to do with this particular hotel in advance.

As we approached the area I was a bit dismayed, as although it was in a good location for what we needed, the town was quite unappealing and the exterior underwhelming.

The hotel brand was old fashioned, fussy and gave the impression of a typical small town, rather run down, older establishment.

Therefore I was completely surprised when we walked in to a bright, white, spacious and contemporary interior, with an open outlook embracing stunning views of the sea.

The entire hotel had been thoughtfully and carefully designed, in a minimal, yet comfortable way. Cool interiors with interesting furniture and well thought out bedrooms. The exact opposite of the overly fussy brand identity, staring up at me from the lift carpet.


Of course, better that the hotel was smarter than the brand identity, rather than the other way around, but considering the owners had paid such close attention to detail it was sad that they had got the visual identity so wrong.

I was itching to start designing, but then again I was on holiday – did that really matter?



Nike – 20 Years On

Air Jordan

When I worked as a design consultant to Nike UK and Nike Europe from the late 1980’s for almost 12 years, I was always in awe of what the company had achieved in terms of establishing great brand values and of it’s determination to reinforce them in everything it did.

Now, in 2015, I listen to my son, who is about to complete a one-year internship with Nike Golf, in the Netherlands and I realise how far the Nike brand has come since those early days.

Everything that those pioneering Nike marketers envisaged, a quarter of a century ago, has not only been brought to fruition, it has been surpassed.

The quality of the products was good then but it’s unbelievable now and the teams that Nike has put together over the years has, layer on layer, ensured that this world famous brand, will never be sold short.

The corporate philosophy that my son is now preaching to me, speaks of focus on quality in everything Nike does. It speaks about care and consideration for its customers, its suppliers and its employees. He talks about how he and his colleagues are ‘Nike people’ who live the brand.

I remember all of that because it existed back then but it has developed into an unbelievably positive, powerful entity.

In my early days in business, I was told that a company standing still is going backwards – Nike can certainly not be accused of that.

John Slater

18 August 2015