On Being the Creative Producers of Your Brand

27 Jul 2012

Danny Boyle Olympics

I’ve been thinking about brands recently. It’s something I do often and I always get a kick out of it because brand development is such a creative act.

I recently worked on the brand development for the new National Football Museum. Not the logo. Not the design. Not the guidelines. The brand. Our starting point was re-connecting the team with their passion for football and for museums … and thus their Mission. Then came a process of connecting, understanding, empathising with visitors: their passion, drivers, experiences, aspirations and needs.

What emerged was a detailed Visitor Experience Blueprint; a roadmap that provided the means with which National Football Museum could design differentiated experiences for intended visitors (from die-hard football fans to museum visiting families) that were targeted, relevant, resonant and enjoyable. The Visitor Experience Blueprint served another purpose …

… it became a roadmap for brand.

Taking a step back, my thinking behind this approach was that the arts sector operates in the Experience Economy. Our product therefore is not the ‘art’ per se but people’s experience of it. It follows then that the audience experience is ultimately the brand experience. They are one and the same thing. This is a game changer. Aligning audience and brand experience at the heart of the process at a strategic level creates potential for positive, exciting change at an operational level:

Relevant shared purpose

A focus on brand/audience experience has higher potential to galvanise staff because they are all, in some way, responsible for ‘experience’. Brand becomes professionally relevant for everyone; from Box Office and Fundraising, to Programming and Communications, Engagement and Catering to Retail and Volunteers.

Astute Audience Focus

Rather than messaging the brand (its all about me), the focus changes to shaping brand experiences for audiences that deliver genuine value (its all about you). This brings the audience into the heart of the organisation because everyone is on ‘audience red alert’ as caretakers of their experiences.

The Brand Develops Wings

A fixation on consistency relaxes.  Rather than slavishly adhering to rigid brand guidelines the focus becomes more about managing coherence. Working to a mission-driven, customer-focused experiential blueprint (sorry – that was a mouthful, let’s call it ‘a set of guiding principles’) gives the brand wings because individual staff members have more latitude to shape and deliver tailored experiences to serve the different needs of the audience.

You Become More Creative

Once audience experience is the focus organisational ‘creative juices’ will begin to flow, shifting the culture from compliance to inventiveness. Imagine the injection of energy that would flow from the following core question: “In what ways might we continually deliver the best possible audience experiences to keep our brand fresh and alive?” Rather than being the Brand Police or Guideline Gurus, we all become Creative Producers of the audience experience. Now that, for me, is the most exciting thing of all.

Back to the new National Football Museum, this approach meant – at design stage -  that everyone had their eye on the prize: curators, interpretation specialists, architects, gallery and interactive designers, film makers, marketers, operations and recruitment, retail. Across the whole of the museum there now exists an invisible network of intended experiential threads that will strike a chord, meet the needs of, engage and delight its diverse visitors.Andnow that the museum is up and running each staff member is responsible for delivering on an intended visitor experience that delivers on its brand promise.

Finally … why the picture of Danny Boyle? Well, because today he will be sharing his version of Brand UK by delivering a spectacular global audience experience. I’ll be glued to the set, gunning for him and hoping it lives up to its promise. Just remember, that is similar to what our audiences are thinking whenever they cross our thresholds.


Brand, Experience Design