Role Model #3 – Finding our authentic selves, with 12 Miles North

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You may have noticed the extent to which organisations and brands have taken to this word ‘authentic’. I chose the word myself over the word ‘traditional’ in the positioning of my furniture venture Teer & Co 

Authentic, is a word that resonates when I browse the website of a design business I know not well called 12 Miles North. Established by two experienced people that know their way around the business of design, this is a young company that I have found myself pointing my clients towards as a great example of how to tell your story and communicate your proposition in a calm, confident and compelling way. Their purpose is clear – they talk of taking brands further and helping them find their authentic selves.

So why do we resonate with ‘authenticity’, and gravitate towards things with provenance and soul?

In its literal definition, ‘authenticity’ concerns the truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions. It’s something that has depth and speaks of being trustworthy, genuine, honest and believable. It feels wholesome and exudes a certain quality. Perhaps it resonates because it’s quite an aspirational thing.

One could say that being authentic makes allowances for any imperfections, and keeps things real. Perhaps ‘authentic’ matters because in the human context it can ‘set the tone’, helping us make real connections with people.

And what can ‘authenticity’ give us?

Well getting back to 12 Miles North, which came into the world in January 2015 as a boutique consultancy run by Creative Director Nick Birch and Brand Strategist Karen Woodhead, I would say their storytelling and tone of voice gives out an impression about them that’s reassuring, that draws you in, that you’re in safe hands. What you read can make you feel you’ve found an agency that offers the potential to take your business ‘somewhere’. Somewhere exciting perhaps, somewhere significant, somewhere that should help you resonate with your audiences.

When you visit their website you could be forgiven for interpreting them as copywriters. The founders Nick and Karen declare themselves to be ‘fanatical wordsmiths’ – it shows.

12 Miles North won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. For me though, they become a Role Model design business for the way their website communicates their story in a pared down, considered, authentic way. You know they are experienced from the outset – from their tone of voice and elegant use of words that set them apart from other design agency websites. They articulate ‘why’ they exist, you get a sense of their values, what inspires them and what type of client they are most suited to working with. Their writing style helps Nick and Karen achieve a level of differentiation in a crowded market.

At times we all need to stretch ourselves and go twelve miles further. In doing so, we may just find that authentic thing in the way that 12 Miles North has and so eloquently communicates its authentic self.

Role Model #2 – Anomaly

Defining succinctly who you are and what it is that makes you ‘special’ is a challenge for anyone in this industry. However, a clear positioning can deliver much-needed clarity in a time-starved world and saturated marketplace.

Whether in advertising, media, research or design, those agencies that have enjoyed the most consistent success have powerful intellectual content – they’ve developed models, tools, structures and processes that demonstrate and articulate their beliefs. In making clear statements of these ideas, they not only position and differentiate themselves, they also create a culture that attracts like-minded employees and clients.

A good example of how this has been done well is Anomaly in the US, which called itself a ‘new model agency’ when it set up (originally in the US) in 2004 with a totally different remuneration structure to the normal agency. Anomaly worked on the basis of a share in profits in ‘true partnership’ with clients. The agency launched with these principles at its core, and I believe has stuck by them. Today Anomaly has offices in New York, London, Amsterdam and Toronto.

For me, Anomaly seems to want to be an example to others, and is an agency that doesn’t seem afraid.

I find myself pointing agencies towards them as just a great example of a creative firm doing things differently. This is how we build reputation, make ourselves memorable, engaging, and become recognised by clients and seen as valued collaborative partners.

Refs: Help clients understand what makes you special

Introducing…teer Role Models

teer Role Models has been introduced to emphasise the importance of finding effective ways to communicate with and nurture our contacts and potential new clients on the new business journey.

Nurturing in a meaningful and constructive way is a balance between the right level of contact and having something of value and relevance to share.

In a time starved world, communicating brief insights on those we see in our industry that serve as role models – whether for their behaviours, actions, tools, intellectual property they create, etc – is one way of constructively expressing ourselves, communicating some value, standing out, and building positive perceptions.

Driven as-and-when by observations, inspiration and day-to-day experiences, teer Role Models can evoke thoughts, provide useful guidance, and become a valuable tool from a new business perspective. Designers may want to consider how to apply this thinking in their own outreach.

I’ve chosen strategic design agency Good to kick-start teer Role Models which will aim to become a regular feature for designers.

Role Model #1 – Good

So how do designers demonstrate or explain the value of design, that Achilles heel and well-trodden road?

For me, Good takes the best possible approach to demonstrating the value of design and presenting their work for clients, by allowing some tangible ‘facts and figures’ to figure prominently in their case studies. Explicit evidence of the positive impact their work has had on their clients’ business.

Actually, a great website overall…clear positioning and persuasive tone of voice. Long may Good maintain this focus on how they present their story, and the value of design.

Refs: Outcomes at the outset

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