Pensions Aspects is the Pensions Management Institute monthly magazine that provides technical advice from professionals working in pensions, as well as expert insight from a wide variety of specialists in the industry to over 6,500 members in 32 countries. This month, it was our Creative Director, Ryan Sales, that provided some keen advice to pensions schemes and the top five trends to transform their member communications. This is a copy of the article that featured in September’s issue:
Pensions communications have never been as important as they are now. The decline of final salary schemes and low auto-enrolment contribution rates has created a huge cohort of people who may not have enough money to retire. The pressure is now on to get people saving, against a backdrop of stagnant wages and increases in the cost of living. And that’s without even mentioning the thorny issue of how to help people navigate the baffling at-retirement landscape.
To put it bluntly, the pensions industry has an enormous challenge ahead. Fortunately, there is some good news. Whilst the challenge may be immense, the evolution of communications through new technologies, behavioural economics and financial wellness means it can be overcome. Here are five trends that will transform the way you communicate with members.
1 – Segmentation and personalisation
Segmentation has been around for a while now, but the pensions industry lags when it comes to using it to better engage members.
In a nutshell, segmentation is when you divide your audience up to deliver key messages that resonate with a specific set of people.
At its most basic, this could mean dividing members up by age, or how far they are from retirement. That way, you can deliver different messages to someone just starting their career than you would to someone nearing retirement.
However, other data can allow you to target people more specifically. For instance, you could use contributions data to target those people still saving the minimum, or get HR to deliver specific pensions messages for women about to go on maternity leave.
2 – Multi-channel approaches
Far too often we hear about pensions communications being delivered primarily through snail mail. Letters have their place and shouldn’t be abandoned entirely, but for a lot of people they just end up in the dustbin.
Back in the day, movie moguls used to have a ‘law of seven’, which posited a potential punter would have to see a poster seven times before they’d go to the cinema.
A similar approach works well for pensions communications.
3 – Gamification and animation
Sometime pensions professionals can be wary of things like animation and gamification, viewing them as far too frivolous for the serious business that is pensions. But to most of your audience, the way we discuss pensions is utterly baffling. The jargon is impenetrable and the issues are complex. So many people think visually, and animations can make complex concepts simple and easy to understand. Gamification is another great way for pension schemes to help members overcome the savings paralysis.
You could consider adding game-like elements to otherwise tedious tasks to encourage participation, or allowing savers to learn about saving through fun game-like processes. Understanding how employees engage with online tools and getting feedback from members about what they like and don’t like will become an integral part of the process of making sure people have a positive savings journey.
4 – Behavioural psychology
One of the problems with getting people to save for retirement is that there are several behavioural biases getting in the way.
For instance, behavioural psychology shows that it is very hard for people to save for the longterm, because they find it very difficult choosing gratification in the future over gratification now.
Similarly, we really struggle to compare two things that are not alike. So it’s very easy for me to choose between buying a coffee and buying a magazine, but really hard for me to equate giving up a coffee every week, with putting those savings towards a comfortable retirement. The lessons learned in this emerging field can help us find new ways to communicate with people. For instance, illustrating retirement with pictures of grey-haired smiling people simply won’t resonate with Generation Y or Z.
Tricks such as nudging (as demonstrated by auto- enrolment), offer an obvious solution to driving up contributions, whilst better marketing techniques, such as showing how an employee is doing compared to their peers, can all make pensions savings more real and more relevant.
5 – Financial wellbeing
Once a relatively uncommon term, financial wellbeing has grown in importance as companies look to help their employees better manage their money. And it’s a concept the pensions industry would do well to take on board. After all, it’s all well and good telling someone they should save more, but if they’re struggling to pay the rent you’re just going to seem out of touch and unrealistic.
HR can play a role here. For instance, imagine if you could add up how much someone has saved through other voluntary benefits and offer to put that into their pension?
The retail world has made great strides in this area. There are easy to use apps that allow you to round up your day-to- day spending (on coffees for instance), and put the change into a stocks and shares ISA. Initiatives like this which make it easy to save without even noticing, overcome lots of the behavioural barriers faced by pensions. At Landscape, we put much of this into action when we helped the Bank of England with their pension communication strategy.
The first step in analysing any benefits or pensions portal, is setting out a clear set of measurements to take, linked to criteria that will tell you whether you website is a success or not.
These criteria should not be limited to the standard measures of website success such as traffic, page-time and bounce-rate. You should monitor data-points that align with your company’s goals, not just for the website, but for your benefits or pensions offering in general.
So, to get started, create a wishlist of data points to measure. It helps if you asking yourself questions to prompt a general direction, such as:
- What percentage of your employee base have only contributed at the minimum level?
- How often and when do members call the helpline or use online tools?
- What times of day does the website see most traffic, and does this impact when you send out updates?
From there, it’s about setting in place the processes to track all of the data needed to answer these questions, whether its:
- Built-in or Google analytics
- Bespoke analytics captures
- Weekly Stat Captures
- And more…
But it’s not enough to just capture the data – it needs to be interrogated and understood, and it needs to be turned into an action plan for improvement within your organization.
- Set weekly/monthly/ quarterly action plan meetings to review the data you capture and dissect what it is saying about your employee base.
- Does an increase in traffic suggest that the awareness of the site is increasing across your organization?
- Has there been an uptake in people making contribution choices other than the default since your revamped the layout of the pensions page on the site?
- What segments or member profiles are more engaged than others and why?
Importantly, you need to then link the findings from these sessions to plans for upcoming communications, helping you to target your employee segments, with their particular needs, and behaviours.
So how do you take that information and insight gained and improve engagement across your organization? Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet that gets to the heart of the problem. What’s needed is a mixed approach, sustained effort and the aggregation of marginal gains in as many parts of a communication programme as possible.
That said, there are definite steps that can be taken to encourage plan members to access online communications, and ways in which to keep them coming, and keep them engaged.
1. Great offline communication
The first step to getting people online is signposting them there with great offline communications. Whether it’s postcards or brochures, email banners or QR codes and a segmented email campaign ensuring you have regular and consistent calls to action to get online across all of your offline communications is key to building momentum and engagement. Marketing theories talk about a ‘rule of seven’, meaning a message needs to be seen seven times for it to be effective.
Making sure that your online communications are accessible, not just in terms of device or filetype, but with design and format, is important for gaining an employee’s attention. Our research shows that members are more likely to engage on personal devices, particularly between 8pm and 10pm in the evening. They will also engage for longer, with tablet users accessing content for 3x longer than on any other device.
3. Rich media
Taking advantage of the varied media types available on any online platform, and communicating with your audience in multiple ways, be it through personalised animation, apps, online tools and modellers, even games, is a surefire way to encourage plan members to engage with your content.
4. Involvement in the process
Personalisation is an important part of any communications programme, as it helps individuals feel uniquely tied to your organisation and the message you’re sending out. Allowing users to self-segment through a profiling questions helps them interact the online experience. Decision making tools and gamified learning all help engage your audience further than off-the-shelf and generic messaging.
5. Access to help/support
Access to help and online advice agents, even if automated in the form of robo-advice, as well as detailed and broad FAQ sections, will further convince your website’s audience of its use.
In partnership with Pension Quality Mark we’ve developed The Good Communications Guide which includes insights, tips and tools to improve pension communications and engagement. Contributors include Baroness Ros Altmann, former Minister for Pensions Sir Steve Webb, former Shadow Minister of Pensions Gregg McClymont, former NAPF Chairman Ruston Smith and pensions lawyer Helen Ball.
The guide covers important topics such as:
- Running a Great Campaign
- Strategy and Objectives
- Understanding Your Audience
- Pension Branding and Creativity
- Language, Tone of Voice and Behavioural Economics
- Communication Planning and Channels
- Going Digital and Social
- Measurement and Feedback
If you are a pension provider, HR professional, pension manager, consultant, finance professional, trustee or working in the pensions, financial services or financial wellbeing industries, this will be a valuable resource to help tackle the communications challenges you face.
We would love to hear your feedback about the website, please drop us a line!
Spring has finally sprung and this weekend promises to be the warmest of 2017 so far – not good for keeping your Easter Eggs unmelted!
Yes, that magical time of the year is upon us, where all of England shuts down to enjoy four days of leisure and far too much chocolate.
We’re kooky for cocoa at Landscape, and not just because it tastes great – studies have shown that dark chocolate can improve overall health and lower the risk of heart disease, as well as make you feel better mentally.
If you fancy sampling some of our chocolate delights, check out the chocolate choices from the sweet tooths in the office below.
1. Chocolate of choice: Cadburys (more specifically ‘Mini Eggs’)
Recommended by: Claire Brooks, Designer.
Reason why: I can never get enough of these little balls of chocolatey goodness. The taste of the milky Cadbury’s chocolate combined with the crunchy texture of its shell always keep me wanting more, and at £1 a bag it’s hard to say no sometimes. If you want to enjoy these with a friend then don’t ask me because if left alone with a bag they will be gone in minutes…sorry.
2. Chocolate of choice: Lindt Excellence Caramel
Recommended by: David Hughes, Senior Designer.
Reason why: 1. UTZ certified, and really that should be the only reason anyone needs. 2. I haven’t actually tasted it but have you seen that price point?! 3. Actually, and truthfully, I would have to say that Lindt Excellence Caramel with a touch of sea salt is my favourite. Really for three reasons: The base of Lindt’s signature dark chocolate (a contender on it’s own terms surely – or at least a bustling, crowd favourite, quarter finalist); the caramel chunks which are frankly O.M.G. and just the right amount of chunky; and finally, the sea salt… and it’s not just any liberally or god help us loosely applied quantity of sea salt… it’s a touch… the kind of touch that only a fully, and deeply trained (or perhaps preternaturally blessed) swiss chocolatier could apply. It’s like God’s own salty alpine snow, drifting slowly (but purposefully) from heaven’s outer rim, falling like a virgin’s kiss on an already quite delicious (and widely available) chocolate bar. I like it.
3. Chocolate of choice: The Grenada Chocolate Company
Recommended by: Johnathon Ryder, Client Services Director.
Reason why: A favourite of mine is the nib-a-licious bar as I just love the difference in the texture from the cocoa nibs and the additional flavours they offer. I’d certainly recommend that one. Love the international award-winning story, from ‘tree to bar’ a well-respected cooperative chocolate company using the power of solar, sourcing their beans from their own farms, where local people benefit from making outstanding chocolate, yum yum.
4. Chocolate of choice: Bounty
Recommended by: Luke Nutkins, Project Manager
Reason why: I’m coconuts about Bounty bars. Like me, coconuts are empty on the inside, and far too hairy on the outside. The chocolate bar itself is one of a kind, and arguably one of the healthier bars around – I’m sure I read somewhere that coconuts were fruit?
5. Chocolate of choice: Kokoh Chocolate
Recommended by: Nicola Cull, Director of Communication Strategy and Change
Reason why: It tastes amazing, it’s handmade and the bars are just the right size – you don’t feel greedy eating a whole one. They say on their FB page ‘Handmade Artisan chocolate bars and chocolates created with a passion for the finest quality chocolate and a sensational taste experience.’ I can’t dispute that. And challenge anyone to. The best thing is, if you are facing angry commuters at Woking Station (very regular occurrence) you can buy one of each type at the FCB Coffee shop on platform 2. When I am not fancying chocolate, I’ll commute from Worplesdon, where the early morning drug of choice is the best cappuccino in the UK, made by Alex, (Demis Rousoss look alike) from what was the former gents’ toilets. But I digress, my apologies. Back to the ‘sen-sa-tional’ Kokoh Chocolate. If you like the sound of Chilli and Lime, Wattleseed and Coffee, Himalayan Pink Sea Salt or just Noir or Milk you won’t be disappointed. They do Easter Eggs too, of course.
6. Chocolate of choice: Nestlé
Recommended by: Silvia Coronado, Digital Marketing Executive
Reason why: I always say that the best food is one that evokes memories. This is what happens to me when I eat Nestle. It reminds me of being by the sea with my grandparents when I was 7 or when I was studying for my exams and that one piece of chocolate was a reward for hard work and a welcome break. What more could you want?
The results of our eye-catching interactive data map at Employee Benefits Live are a fascinating pulse check of HR manager’s thoughts and plans for communications in 2017. It represents approximately 650,000 employees, and we can now reveal the top 10 insights from our map.
>> Click here to discover what’s hot and what’s not in employee communications.
We believe there’s good news out there – with improved focus, constant creativity and remembering to keep it simple we believe the majority of employees are keen to make the most of what their employer has to offer.
This is the first in our series of insights from our pulse check. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be digging deeper into the findings and revealing the journeys our respondents wanted to tackle and how they wanted to take them.
We hope you find it as interesting as we do!
At Landscape we love making the complex simple. Creativity is at our core and we apply it to content, data and technology to deliver award-winning employee communications.
Maximising engagement and changing behaviours are our passions. We love the challenge of designing tools that inspire employees to take action.
We can help you win hearts and minds by helping employees:
-Make the most of your employment offer.
-Learn and grow while they’re with you.
-Understand what’s important to your business.
If you need to engage your employees in your new strategy, get them excited about pensions or create an emotional connection with your employer brand, we’re the people to talk to.
We apply eight techniques to engage your audience:
- Creativity – branding and design expertise
- Simplicity – using plain English, avoiding jargon
- Gamification – creating emotional connections
- Behavioural science – shifting people to new behaviours
- Learning styles – engaging people through their learning preference
- Consumer grade – creating an experience which meets the demands of mobile, busy individuals
- Profiling – using self-segmentation and profiling to target the individual
- Change management – applying its principles and approaches.
Check some of our lovely projects:
Engaging and educating pension scheme members with KPMG
Developing a market-leading tool for CIPD members
Recognising reward with Actelion
A campaign in multiple languages and locations for Zurich
We are honoured to have had the opportunity to interview Yu-Kai Chou, widely considered to be the leading global gamification pioneer.
Hello Yu-Kai and thanks for your time today! So, let’s get going with our questions…
Landscape: How do you describe gamification?
Yu-Kai Chou: It’s a craft. It’s a design philosophy. It’s a way of thinking. It’s about human-focused design as opposed to function-focused design. Most systems are function-focused, meaning they optimize on efficiency and usability. Human-focused design is different. It looks at feelings, motivations and insecurities and optimises for these. We need to remember that games are voluntary – the moment you don’t enjoy the game, you leave it to play something else. We can really learn from games how to do human-focused design well because of that nature. There are many technologies and tools that are based on gamification. Some tools are better than others and many take the “let’s add some game elements to the product” approach and miss the point. Fundamentally, gamification is a way of thinking and designing.
L: What do you think of the term “gamification”?
Y: The term gamification is a blessing and a curse. It is long, imprecise and just doesn’t sound like it should be in business. On the positive side, it unlocks the imagination and stands for fun. Games at the beginning were targeting little boys. When products like Farmville, Nike+, and FourSquare became popular with people like my Mom, the world started to recognize that the power of games can really motivate everyone.
L: What are the great examples of gamification at “play”?
Y: The lazy way is to add games and badges to your website to give the user points. This has harmed gamification. When we design gamefully we need to think of who the user type is. I see serious games as part of “explicit gamification” since it is learning from games to solve a real world solution.
Foldit is a great example of a serious game that enables users to contribute to important scientific research whilst also making it fun and exciting, and it solved a HIV virus medical research problem that had eclipsed scientists for 15 years in less than two weeks. Autodesk, the 3D-imaging software launched a marketing game called “Unchartered Territory” with gamified free product trials that have increased their sales conversion by 17%.
Ebay is another early successful gamification experience. Many people don’t realise that competitive bidding, getting different coloured stars and eventually levelling up to become a Power-Rated Seller with many benefits are examples of gamification.
L: Do you play games? What do you love?
Y: Yes, my work and my life are a game. When I saw them that way they took off! I also play games as research for friends. I see my role as being like a wine expert – I can taste the wine, but I can’t get drunk!
L: What do you see as the key drivers for pushing gamification into business?
Y: You have to look at how people are motivated. My Octalysis framework describes what I see as the 8 Core Drives of gamification. If none of those 8 Core Drives are there, there is no motivation and no behavioural happens. Therefore, if there are none of those 8 Core Drives, there is no motivation to try gamification.
Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity is a prevalent driver towards gamification among professionals, many of whom are gamers. People who like games wonder about how it can be implemented into their workplace. Appealing to this is a good way to catch people’s attention – but since Core Drive 7 is a Black Hat (meaning it will drive short-term obsessive behaviour but users may burn out in the long run), your gamification strategy needs to offer something more or they will switch off.
Equally, a true communications pioneer will be motivated by the driver I describe as Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling. They will be drawn to gamification because it is a higher vision that they believe in – essentially where the world is moving towards it.
The key route that usually gets gamification into the business quickly is appealing to Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance. Organisations will move forward with something if they are going to lose out to competitors or if they believe they will become like Kodak, Block Busters, or Borders if they don’t use it.
Think back to when companies started having websites. At first companies felt it was a distracting fad, and they were uncomfortable with websites. As more companies adopted websites eventually they became a competitive necessity. Today, most companies believe that you aren’t even a real business if you don’t have a website.
L: What is the value of workplace gamification?
Y: It allows people to do their work in a creative, collaborative, and joyful manner. Most employees do not like their work. They do the grind so they can have their weekend. They moan about the boss. This happens the world over. In the Octalysis framework their getting up and going to work motivations are “ownership” – getting a pay check and “loss avoidance” – not getting fired. Gamification can bring “epic meaning” as another perspective to their working lives.
Studies show companies that have engaged employees are 2-3 times more likely to retain employees than the average company. If you love your work and culture you will stay. Training and recruitment is expensive and therefore good gamification can massively affect the bottom line, both on the productivity front, as well as the HR front.
L: Is there a difference in the types and approaches of gamification in real games and work?
Y: Gamification is a combination of a few difference disciplines – UX, UI, behavioural economics, motivational psychology, marketing and neuroscience, all connecting to business systems that generate an ROI. If you think about it, you need all of the above to create a good game, besides the last part: business system that generate an ROI.
The difference between games and work is how mandatory they are. Games are fun and as long as people stay in the game, they are successful. Gamification must increase business metrics. If it does not increase business metrics to generate an ROI, it is a distraction and must be taken out.
I always tell clients that when they have ideas about gamification they need to consider how does this motivate user towards the desired action? It’s not enough for it to be a fun, cool idea. It must motivate them towards behavioural that increases business value. The metrics must be quantitatively increased and the results delivered must be clear. If your numbers go up, the gamification design was successful; if not, it fails and we want to be accountable. Many clients didn’t plan to track this and my team usually enforces it. It’s important for our credibility.
L: Is gamification only for Millenials?
Y: That’s a big misconception. Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity, the gambling core drive, is a core drive for people of all ages to explore games. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and competent and the reward aspect of games is widely valued.
In fact, Baby Boomers are actually more motivated by gamification design than younger people (unless they know it’s called “gamification”, then they say “ah that’s for kids”).
Millenials are spoiled with their core motivational drivers being satisfied – they play games all day long. When they get to work they find it boring. Chances are, whatever you try, you won’t match what they do outside. Whereas babyboomers are more likely to engage if put in an environment that delivers on their drives of regularly feedback, appreciation from peers, meaningful choices, and epic meaning. Everyone’s brains crave these Core Drives and they will be more motivated.
L: What are the key challenges companies face that gamification could assist with?
Y: As long as it is related to motivation, we can improve it. These include productivity, sales, social sharing, training, and revenue. Sometimes gamifying your workplace can even improve your customer sales. For example, Zappos created a happiness culture where employees are happy and passionate about their mission. Tony Hsieh makes it clear that they are not a shoe company, but a happiness company that happens to sell shoes. When you bring fun and happiness to your customers, they begin to love you as avid fans.
L: Can anything be gamified – in order to influence or change behaviour?
Y: As long as you can define a desired behaviour, we can improve motivation towards that behaviour through Octalysis Gamification.
However, there are two limitations. Firstly, we cannot make computers smarter. If your images are loading slowly or queries aren’t coming out, sorry, we can’t help you. Secondly, we cannot get people to do what they don’t know what to do. We can’t get someone to fly a plane across the Pacific Ocean because they simply don’t know how to fly a plane. We can, however, motivate them to learn how to fly a plane.
L: Is gamification manipulative?
Y: The simple answer is yes. However, much in life is manipulative. We accept and expect it. Parenting is manipulative! Saying “please” is a mild form of manipulation. I wasn’t going to do something for you, and you said “please,” so I agreed to do it for you, even though nothing about that transaction ahs changed. Often, saying “thank you” is also an emotional reward. People not only accept these things, they expect it.
The question is how can we be sure gamification is ethical? Firstly, gamification must be opt-in. People accept that you will try to influence them, “I will allow you to pitch to me.” They do not have to agree to your persuasion, but they agree to being persuaded. Secondly, transparency is critical. The user needs to know what your goal is. For example, hypnosis is a form of manipulation with full compliance. However, I opt-into being hypnotized and there is transparency in what you want me to do. Gamification not mind control but nudging people on the fence towards a direction.
L: We find that our clients in the communications world are enthusiastic about gamification. They see the value. The problem is in convincing business leaders to endorse it. Any tips?
Y: You need to appeal to “social proof.” Demonstrate that this is the norm and that serious companies are using gamification. This is why the 90 Gamification Case Studies with ROI Stats I showcase on my website is popular – it addresses the logical brain of the senior executive. There are other materials out there showing that gamification works. Gallup has studies that are useful. Often, at end of day when a budget holder commits to gamification it’s because of Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance. They have to feel ‘if we do not do this we will fall behind competitors’. That’s the key thing to work on.
L: How might perceptions need to shift about gamification?
Y: I think the biggest issue is that there are a lot of companies talking about gamification. I’ve been doing this for 12 years. When I started out, it was uninteresting and people thought I just wanted to play games.
Now gamification is popular – points and badges are everywhere – including in many failing games. That’s not what makes games work. The real risk is populating the world with bad gamified designs. This will mean companies will say we’ve tried gamification and it doesn’t work. That’s why I am so committed to aligning gamification with business objectives and data, and in making ourselves accountable as gamification experts.
L: What is the future of gamification?
Y: Firstly, I believe it will continue to grow and become an integral part of every business – whoever adopts it early will become winners in the new economy. Social media was a distraction seven years ago. Now companies believe that if you’re not on social media as a organization you become irrelevant. I see gamification as that next wave.
Secondly, there is a view the term ‘gamification’ may change. I do like the phrase “Human-Focused Design.” “Gameful Design” and “Game Thinking” are other contenders. I didn’t create the term gamification – it happens to be the marketing term everyone in this area goes under at the moment. Even if term disappears – as long as our brain stays the same, the ability to motivate people towards desired behaviours will always be useful. Also, games will always be around, in one form or another.
That concludes our interview. Thanks so much Yu-Kai – it was an absolute pleasure to talk to you.
At Landscape, we often talk about telling a story. We use it when describing the narrative of a campaign or brand. We become storytellers when we outline a user’s journey through an online experience, or when organising a client presentation to ensure our work is coherent and robust. And our early Monday morning catch-ups over the kettle often turn into elaborate stories as we describe our weekend adventures, be it a wayward journey home on Saturday’s sunrise, a disastrous trip to IKEA or the secret to perfect pork crackling.
I’m currently reading a book set in 1066 (check out ‘The Wake’ by Paul Kingsworth, it’s fantastic). In the Middle Ages ‘gleomen’ would wander from hamlet to hamlet, telling stories and bringing news to villagers who have yet to discover the miracle of high-speed broadband. Tales were recounted, expanded and embellished. But the storyteller was thought of highly and circles would form quickly, villagers hungry to hear of skirmishes in other counties.
The best musicians are also storytellers. Minstrels and troubadours used to sing songs and recite poems to high society and royalty. Fast-forward and Hank Williams laments American mid-west hardship, Bob Dylan rues missed opportunities and Adele warbles the regret of lost love in ‘Hello’. These are stories that we listen to over and over, though we know how it ends. In our Vevo and MTV enriched world, music videos add another layer of richness or complexity to the narrative.
Storytelling has always played a key part in the creative industries and in particular advertising, from Ridley Scott’s ad for Hovis in 1973 to the current Nike ad ‘The Switch’ featuring Ronaldo. The battle for our Christmas disposable income has become the battle of the story, the culmination of months of research, scripting and craft to create life-affirming tales delivered in a standard 30 second format (or an epic 3 min ‘Directors Cut’ that is premiered on YouTube). The modern gleomen are John Lewis, Sainsburys and Mulberry. And we love it – there is currently 30 million views of Mog’s Christmas Calamity.
Great brands start with a great idea that tells a good story. And their universal relevance is what makes them so powerful. These stories help create simplicity out of complexity by defining a single route through a maze of possibilities, explaining why this product solves your problem. As John Williamson from Wolff Olins said, “Great brands are like novels that you can’t put down.”
Consistency and integrity are key messages for brands in their narrative (well, who wants to be called a fake?). So is there a place for ambiguity, should we trust storytellers implicitly, and does it matter if we don’t?
We can go back to the most famous story of them all, one that has defined civilisations, brought people together and ripped them apart in equal measure. The books in the Bible tell accounts of events that occasionally contradict each other. They focus on different characters with contradictory interpretations. In film, this is now known as the ‘Rashomon’ effect, named after the film by Akira Kurosawa in 1950. It’s a plot device whereby characters provide alternative, self-serving and opposing versions of the same incident. These inconsistencies could make you doubt the legitimacy of the story, but it also adds plausibility – we are notoriously unreliable in recalling events. We fill in the gaps with unrelated recollections, we join dots that shouldn’t be. Christians argue that is what make the Bible more honest.
The first season of ‘True Detective’ for HBO was largely based on this construct. Two cops (Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey) who seemingly dislike each other, separately recall a past case in which there are different views of what happened. Their stories overlap and contradict, highlighting a sense of doubt that permeates through the whole story. Their distrust of each other makes you question the veracity of actual events themselves. Who’s telling the truth? Should we believe them? Does it matter? No, it’s excellent viewing.
We are flawed. We lie, deceive and are self centred. To err is to be human. And of course this often makes the best stories. So brands will always fall short in communicating a narrative that is truthful when they only focus on one form of truth. Yann Martel describes his book ‘The Life of Pi’, as ‘Life is a story… You can choose your story… A story with God is the better story’. Do you want to believe the story about the boy, the tiger and the boat? Or the alternative version that is more plausible but less inspiring?
Volkswagen’s PR firm will talk of ‘managing’ the story of fake emissions. BP failed to grasp the ‘narrative’ of Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill. Both crippling corporate mistakes. But, and ironically in VW’s case, at least they are truthful.
Bids can be a tricky beast to handle. Even the most accomplished bid manager needs occasional help, given the tight timelines and wealth of work that accompanies most bids.
As a creative partner to many organizations, we’re frequently drafted in as a pillar of support to help our clients better communicate their proposition and thoroughly impress their bid targets.
But it’s not just about putting a fancy wrapper around existing content, nor is it about setting up grids, choosing colours and picking the right font.
Bids are notoriously complex – they contain GANTT charts, project methodologies, in-depth discussions of approaches and more information than you can shake a stick at.
So what help does a creative agency bring to the bid process?
A fresh pair of eyes.
An agency can take the complex, and make it simple. Make it engaging. Make it “pop”.
We should know – we do it all the time.
How does the story usually play out though? In our experience, it tends to go like this:
Louise is a good bid manager – she’s great at her work, managing the team and getting things done. Sometimes though, it can get a little overwhelming. There’s so much stuff to write (and she does write brilliant stuff!), but when it comes to the design of the document, it seems that she and her team don’t have the time or skills to work on it.
Louise knows that to really outdo the competition, to stand apart from her peers, she needs to inject some WOW Factor into her bid. She needs to partner with a responsive and idea-filled creative team, who can make suggestions for turning her predominantly word-based content into something compelling.
She needs a bid partner who can work closely with her team, right up to delivery, supporting their complex information and transforming it into a thing of beauty, encompassing:
- Creative Graphics
- Compelling Animations
- Engaging Visuals
- Interactive Presentations
- Bindings and Finishings
- Dynamic Infographics
- Mobile Apps
- Built-in Analytics for Measurement
By engaging an agency to assist with this, Louise and her team can focus on the content and hitting those tight deadlines, with the agency applying their expertise in bringing the bid to life.
At the end of the day, it’s what gives a bid that extra oomph in edging out all other bids, and separates it from any competition – and at Landscape, that’s what we do. We are experts in helping you engage your clients through the development of creative and effective communication solutions. We make the complex, simple and we partner with you from conception to delivery of your bid.
For those of you who are not so shamelessly enamoured with gaming as I am, Ludonarrative Dissonance is a term that was coined by Clint Hocking in 2007, in a blog post in which he discussed the video game Bioshock. A compound of ludology and narrative, it refers to the intersection of ludic elements (game mechanics or dynamics) and narrative elements within a piece of media, and in particular, the conflicts found in this intersection.
Hocking’s post, found here, focusses on the way that Bioshock actively promotes self-interest through its gameplay, but promotes the opposing theme of selflessness through its narrative, being based on Randian Objectivism (and the existence of an equal parts Utopian/Dystopian underwater city!) Having recently replayed Bioshock, I thought about how this challenge of ludonarrative dissonance is something which Landscape and myself help our clients tackle on a daily basis.
Most people understand that wearing the right football boots will not magically make one a great footballer. They’ll also know that listening to Opera will not suddenly teach them to sing or speak Italian. Often though, organizations speak to us thinking of gamification as a secret ingredient that can be added to any existing task in order to improve performance.
It’s this belief that has led to the proliferation of barely interactive “games” that incorporate gamification-style scoring and reward systems in order to drive productivity and push users through a training experience. But adding points randomly to a learning management system will not motivate employees to spend untold hours exploring the ins and outs of the hundreds of courses you have loaded onto the system. It will not propel an individual through tedious, contextless content that someone somewhere believed everyone should know without the reason why.
Why don’t these approaches work? Ludonarrative dissonance! There’s an impassable aesthetic distance between the interactive element of the gamified solution, and the passive. For example, badges and leaderboards imply competition, but if we were to talk about the key messages of any organization’s learning and development programs, they would likely refer back to cooperation, personal excellence and self-actualization – a far cry from beating Bob in accounts on the finance level of the LMS.
So then, rather than look at gamification as a process we apply to training curricula, we ought to recognize that business processes, and in particular, learning and personal development, have latent, game-like qualities which are waiting to be unlocked. We ought to recognize that the narrative of learning cannot be divorced from any game mechanics we wish to introduce to it, for fear of making any gamified solution look a little forced.
After all, no-one likes a try-hard!
In its seventh year, Pick Me Up Graphic Arts Festival returned with a brilliant line-up of designers and artists from all over the world with plenty of vibrant and fresh ideas. They came with their best designs, drawings, prints and illustrations featuring animation, typography, screen prints and more.
The creative team at Landscape enjoyed all the things there were to do, see and buy.
We loved all the designers that were at the festival, but these were our favourites:
Ryan Sales, our Creative Director, really liked Camilla Perkins’ illustrations. Playing with bold and bright colours, she used human bodies with fauna and flora textures. We bought a print of her ‘Dandy’.
David, one of our designers, found Corin very impressive. Based in London, she excels at hand-drawn letterforms and large scale typographic murals that are influenced by traditional signage.
Silvia and Claire were both amazed by 3D animator and illustrator Jack Sachs. His sense of humour and unique aesthetic really shone through in his ‘Inside Yo Body’ collection. We also bought a print from him too!
Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress
Just outside the main show was an exhibition on Alan Kitching. Well-recognised for his letterpress typographic design and printmaking, Alan uses wood and metal to create his prints. The exhibition included some of the posters he generated promoting workshops at the Royal College of Art, where he layered shapes and letters blocks at different sizes to create texture and meaning. His later work is bolder and generally uses larger letter forms, such as the example below. The use of colour is striking.
Upstairs, we saw a variety of illustrative techniques and pop-up shops and eventually we couldn’t resist the temptation, so finally, we bought a fantastic hand-made poster genially created by Peso Press. The letter-pressed piece will take pride of place in our studio as a reminder of a great trip and our love of all things creative.
To find out more about the exhibit click here.
When was the last time you read a book or a magazine? How long have you been living without that habit?
On 23rd April, we celebrated St George’s Day but also, World Book Day. You are probably surprised and you may be wondering why? The 23rd of April is a symbolic date for world literature because in 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other renowned authors, such as Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov and Josep Pla.
Evidence suggests that people who read not only perform better in different professional areas, but also develop a better understanding of other cultures. On the 15th of November 1995, the UNESCO general Convention, held in Paris, said that books had historically been the most powerful tool for the diffusion of knowledge, helping mental stimulation, knowledge, vocabulary expansion and focus, and memory improvement so, one of the best ways to promote this “reading” culture was by creating “International Book Day”.
At Landscape, we love reading and developing all our creative skills by being part of all cultural environments, so we don’t want to miss the opportunity to recommend some books to you.
1.100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design
Authors: Steven Heller, Veronique Vienne
Recommended by: Silvia Coronado, Digital Marketing Executive.
From the technical to the expressive forms of graphic design, this book covers everything influenced by visual design ideas. It helped me have a good overview of the most important aspects of design, functionality and use of color.
2. Know Your Onions
Author: Drew De Soto
Recommended by: Claire Brooks, Designer.
This book helped me to understand the ins and outs of a design studio and the challenges a designer faces when I had little experience of my own. De Soto has a subtle sense of humour and I benefitted from his no nonsense advice. I regularly go back and read certain chapters when I am feeling stuck on a particular project.
3.Kind regards, the Lost Art of Letter-Writing
Author: Liz Williams
Recommended by: Nicola Cull, Director of Communication Strategy and Change.
This book was given to me by one of the best writers and communication consultants I know. It was great to know that she valued my writing. It is a quick read with useful examples of good short letters as well as interesting facts about the history of letter writing and famous quotes and insights. Being a quick read is important – we’re all so busy.
Author: Ayn Rand
Recommended by: Luke Nutkins, Project Manager
It’s a bit controversial, as she is largely derided in the philosophical community, but as a stereotypical Gen Y man, her defence of selfishness is particularly appealing. Rand’s entire project involves the liberation of the individual from the yoke of collectivism and creating the social, moral and political conditions in which we can all live a full actualized life. Reading Rand provided me with the moral and intellectual ammunition to stand up to those claiming to own a piece of me and to take control of my own destiny.
Author: Thomas Heatherwick
Recommended by: Ryan Sales, Creative Director
A true visionary ‘Designer’, applying creative thinking to everything from Christmas Cards, to sculpture, buildings and buses.
If you love reading, or want to take it up, these are our suggestions. What about you? Is there a book that inspired you or changed your life? Tell us which book you would take to a desert island!