Category: Blog

Reading between the beautiful lines

April 9th, 2024 by

Craig Brooks – Art Director

The illusionist, Derren Brown once did an experiment on two creatives from an advertising agency to highlight the powers of subliminal messaging. Popping them into a taxi on their way to a creative workshop with him, Derren hides messages and designs along the route that would seed ideas into their brains. 

Once he has the creatives in a studio, he sets them a task to create a brand-new store, with a company name, strapline and a logo (in half an hour). And the business in this experiment? Taxidermy.  

Derren has already created his artwork, sealed in an envelope and, after the creatives reveal their designs (an illustration of a bear with a harp, outside some heavenly zoo gates with the name ‘Animal Heaven’ with a pair of angel wings as a logo) Derren then shows his design which turns out to be exactly the same.

Smart trick right, bit of magic? Well, this illustrates how we’re all affected by design, consciously and unconsciously. Most designers and agencies are fully aware of the impact and retention that design has on customers and how we’re all generally persuaded by it. In this case the subliminal markers that Derren laid out for the creatives along their journey informed their decisions as they concepted their ideas.

Advertising and Creative agencies have mastered the art of creative persuasion through the power of design, imagery and copy. Such creative visuals, slogans and logos are all part of our daily lives and ingrained into our brains when we make what we consider to be personal decisions regarding our purchases. The effect influences our choices whether it’s our daily grocery shop, buying a car, updating to the very latest tech or some new health kick.

Derren goes on to explain that we all unknowingly register the campaigns and branding around us in our day-to-day lives, so that when we pop to a supermarket, we’ll already have a subconscious familiarity with certain products.

So, knowing the influence of design magic – albeit a subtle persuasion – that creatives have on a customer, does this come with due diligence and a sense of responsibility? 

And not only relating to persuading someone to buy a product, but that product’s cost to the environment; is the packaging recyclable? What’s its carbon footprint planet? Does the company have a strong ethical culture? Is it sustainably-minded, regenerative even? Or has it fallen foul of a spot of greenwashing?

A lot of companies now are trying to accommodate a more sustainable approach, encompassing social change as well as the environment and the economy. Design has a vital role to play in the future of our planet by positively influencing the way we shop – helping us make informed decisions and better choices.

Product designers for example have an obligation to be aware of the vulnerability of our natural systems and that we don’t have infinite resources. Their opportunity is to focus on re-usable goods, circularity and even being able to repair products in the future.

Patagonia are great example of responsible product design; they encourage customers to look after their clothes and extend their lifespan by repairing damaged instead of buying new. They have a ton of DIY repair tutorials on their website so you can mend a garment yourself, plus you can trade and buy used gear. And to top it all off, Patagonia is also powered by 100% renewable energy. Kudos. 

And as well as promoting repair, their creative campaigns also show support for climate action, espousing their mission to ‘Build the best product. Cause no unnecessary harm. Use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.’

They’re bringing our attention to a conversation about real change, leading by example and encouraging us all to take note and perhaps also buy a fleece. But the theme is less is more, think before you buy, what impact will this have to the environment?  

This form of responsible design encourages a more sustainable world for us.

On the flip side we have ‘fast fashion’, where manufacturers churn out low quality clothes at cheap prices, knowing people will discard garments and keep buying more. 

Quick-fire creative fills social media with attractive designs, where the lure of the ‘latest’ garment is on the end of the dangling ‘burnt orange’ carrot. 

France just recently approved a bill that targets fast fashion, banning the advertising of companies like Shein and Temu while increasing taxation. And a touch of Patagonia’s model comes into play with the French government also adding a mandate that fast fashion retailers must display an item’s reuse, repair, recycling and environmental impact alongside its price tag. So perhaps the responsible design approach of Patagonia and others is beginning to have an impact on fast fashion, with politicians not just taking note but finally acting.

Another industry under the spotlight – and rightly so – is e-cigarettes. Here irresponsible design comes in the guise of cartoon characters, sweetie names and childlike designs with bright colours, highlighting just how much the companies creating e-cigarettes are targeting young people. So, while they’re not suggesting that e-cigarettes are good for you, the industry is still masking the harmful health issues with colourful, shiny design to lure young customers in. Here designers and CEOs need to be held responsible for the impact caused to society and our kids, rather than purely focusing on profit.  

But this approach isn’t new, let’s not forget that in the 50’s, cigarettes were marketed as a healthy pursuit, and ‘Just what the doctor ordered’. Responsible design and the moral compass were nowhere in sight back then.

This sort of ‘irresponsible’ design is common. We’ve all fallen foul of what is perhaps perceived as healthy or good for you via the attractive brand design or packaging with models looking happy eating their doughnuts. But once unwrapped the reality is basically full of sugar, cholesterol and regret. Then there’s the copious amounts of packaging that still can’t be widely recycled to be addressed, with many companies and supermarkets, still pushing the eye-catching and colourful designs that can’t go in the recycle bin.

Ultimately being aware of having the designer wool being pulled over your eyes and being subliminally seduced by an unethical brand must come down to our instinct as customers, having faith that we can read between the beautifully created lines.  

On the whole today’s consumers do seem to be looking at brands differently – scrutinizing their ethics and customer responsibilities and paying more attention to what they’re doing to help society and the environment. And if companies are switched on, they’ll do well to prioritize responsible design and be aware of the benefits it’ll have in the long-term creating a sense of wellbeing, trust and potentially increased revenue. 

Now throw AI into the mix, our new superhero sidekick which can churn out creative faster than Derren Brown’s magic tricks. The responsibility of design versus the speed of creating a quick logo, a 300-word boilerplate or the fictious image of Jesus smoking an e-cigarette whilst wearing a Shein smock. Here’s where companies need to tread carefully to manage the onslaught of fast and cheap design, making sure to use AI as a tool rather than relying on it as a droid type of designer.

AI has the potential to introduce more design irresponsibility by blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s fake within marketing and advertising campaigns. AI tempts creative professionals to use shortcuts when up against a deadline through its abilities to bend reality and buy time. The bigger picture of AI is being investigated by the powers that be, but it’ll also need policing locally when it comes to use in design.

So there’s much for us to be mindful of when it comes to responsible design. Creative agencies not only need to monitor and take responsibility for how clients are portrayed through brand and design output, but agencies themselves need to remain transparent on their values and ethics too.

At Future Positive we start by working with organisations that are looking to solve the world’s most complex problems, whether it’s through renewable energy innovations, cutting-edge sustainable technologies or breakthroughs in healthcare and medicine. We steer clear of the companies leaving a growing mountain of e-cigarettes, plastic pollution and discarded fast fashion garments in their wake.

We also do pro-bono work for companies with planet saving initiatives, like RegenIntel (Regenerative Intelligence) a new venture from the environmental pioneers that created Project Drawdown. They came to us to help develop a brand that could represent the goal of activating humanity towards becoming a planet-positive species.

Then through our research, workshops and creativity, we adopt a human-centred approach, concentrating on the end user and ensuring each client’s value is captured succinctly, and any complexity is made truly compelling. Creating experiences with the intention to do good, being fully transparent and avoiding any miscommunication to build trust between the company and its customer.

And we have a responsibility to create original work when it comes to producing campaigns or creating a new brand for our clients, so they can truly stand out amongst the noise and eclipse those companies that are solely interested in profit without considering their impact on people and the planet.

So, if by creating responsible design for our clients and heeding these values ourselves, could we perhaps as creatives, do our bit in making the world a better place?

Accreditations such as B-Corp are certainly helping to encourage businesses to do so, and working alongside a responsible, sustainable company is now an appealing proposition to attract potential clients.

Although this is a positive direction, there’s still a long way to go with accountability within agencies, clients and brands. Here’s hoping that these outdated and somewhat irresponsible ‘masters of persuasion’ (as Derren puts it) become a thing of the past and the more responsible creatives, ‘the purveyors of transparency’ say, become the new norm and forge a better creative and sustainable path.

Craig Brooks is Art Director at Future Positive. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn to chat about using design magic to influence business for the better.

Growing pains? Developing a path to the future

March 1st, 2024 by

Rich Whitehouse – Creative Director

In her TED Talk The Power of Believing that You Can Improve, Professor Carol Dweck discusses ways to think about “a problem that’s slightly too hard to solve.” 

This phrase struck a chord with me. As a species, it feels as if this is what we now face: climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, energy crisis, food poverty… I could go on. We appear to be surrounded by pressing problems that, on the face of it, are just too hard to solve. And, in an era of instant gratification where we’re always looking for the quick fix and the hack, not one of these complex uber-challenges has a fast, simple and cheap solution.

So how should we respond?

Dweck conducted research to observe how students respond when given problems to solve that were purposely just beyond their abilities. She found that the exercise split the group into two camps. The first set realised that extra effort would be needed and, feeling that their intelligence was up for judgement, refused to engage with the problem in the first place. They would actively run from difficulty. Interestingly Dweck found that this had nothing to do with the student’s level of intelligence or talent: it was purely their mindset, which was fixed. “If I can’t solve it now, I’ll never be able to solve it”. 

By contrast the research also identified a group of students with a different, more flexible attitude – students who recognised their abilities wouldn’t always be limited to what they could do on the day. This is where the term ‘growth mindset’ was coined – people who can see beyond the now and recognise that “I can’t do this… yet.” People that can see a path to the future. 

Always on the lookout for the next shiny new performance advantage, the concept of a growth mindset has been embraced by start-ups and large corporations alike over the last decade. Worked into recruitment and corporate culture it promised to create a more adaptative workforce able to succeed in rapidly changing environments. 

The danger, however, with companies developing their own versions of the growth mindset is that personal development opportunities become aligned solely with business goals – with employees encouraged to focus narrowly on objectives that directly impact corporate growth metrics.  

And I would argue that it’s the corporate obsession with continued economic growth at all costs as the number one measure of success that contributes to the problem. It doesn’t consider the room or resources required. The problems we face today are growing with us: both in their scale and complexity. In my lifetime alone the population has doubled while the planet – and its finite resources – has stayed the same size. Now I’m no mathematician but even I can see that those numbers just don’t work if every company grows unchecked.  

As a ‘boutique’ creative agency (and in stark contrast to the size of our clients or the scale of projects) Future Positive comprises a handful of experienced, senior folks with no passengers. We are small. And I don’t just mean that in a small business kind of way. I literally mean fit-around-a-table, get-there-in-a-single-cab kind of a small. But to be successful we must get bigger right?  

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, authors of the New York Times Bestseller Rework don’t think so. 

“Have you ever noticed that while small businesses wish they were bigger, big businesses dream about being more agile and flexible? And remember, once you get big, it’s really hard to shrink without firing people, damaging morale, and changing the entire way you do business.” 

So rather than relentlessly pursuing growth for growth’s sake, at our January kick off meeting we asked ourselves a different question: Why does the world need more FP in it? 

(By the way if you don’t know who we are, we’re a creative B2B agency that “works with the world’s problem solvers to make the complex more compelling, by creating brands and campaigns that truly speak to people” according to our website…) 

Well by our analysis the world is certainly getting more complex. And there seem to be more B2B companies out there making a positive impact that need to tell their story – together these two factors drive our small-but-perfectly-formed agency forward. 

But echoing the sentiment of the peerless Nils Leonard at Uncommon Studio, agency growth shouldn’t be about producing more ‘stuff’: “I don’t want us to do more work, I want us to do greater work”. 

So, our path to the future is not about creating or gaining more, it’s about focusing on more of the good stuff. 

Rich Whitehouse is Creative Director at Future Positive. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn to chat about the good stuff on your to-do list 

Future Five: Turning Positive Impact into Sustained Growth

February 2nd, 2024 by

How can businesses use having a positive impact on society and the environment as a growth driver in 2024?

In the dynamic landscape of 2024, forward-thinking B2B leaders are contemplating the profound question of how businesses can seamlessly integrate positive societal and environmental impact into their growth strategies. This challenge, while demanding in terms of resources, presents an unparalleled opportunity for visionary marketers to not only fulfil the growing demand for purpose-driven initiatives but also to differentiate their brands in a meaningful way. In this instalment of our Future Five series, we delve into the art of transforming positive impact into sustained growth.

Omaid Hiwaizi – Planning and Development Director

  1. Let’s meet the growing demand for sustainable products and services

Meeting the burgeoning demand for sustainable products and services requires careful market research to understand specific sustainability preferences within your target audience. Tailoring offerings to align with these preferences and incorporating sustainability into marketing messages can effectively attract the burgeoning demographic of environmentally conscious consumers and businesses.

For example IBM’s commitment to sustainability shines through in its provision of technologies and services geared towards optimising energy efficiency and implementing eco-friendly practices across diverse industries. From cloud solutions to artificial intelligence, IBM integrates sustainability into its core offerings, addressing the increasing demand for sustainable business solutions.

  1. Boost trust in your brand through transparency

As consumers and businesses increasingly scrutinise the ethical and environmental ramifications of their purchases, brands must become bastions of transparency. Communicating sustainability initiatives openly and consistently, whether through marketing channels, social media, or eco-friendly packaging, fosters trust and fortifies brand reputation.

The iconic clothing company, Patagonia, focuses on transparency in its supply chain practices. Patagonia not only discloses detailed information about factories and suppliers but also provides a comprehensive overview of the environmental impact of its products. This level of openness has established a bond of trust with discerning consumers who appreciate the brand’s commitment to environmental responsibility.

  1. Your unique sustainability approaches make you stand out

In a market saturated with options, differentiation becomes paramount. Elevate your brand by emphasising unique sustainability propositions, whether it be groundbreaking eco-friendly products, innovative sustainable practices, or a robust commitment to community engagement. Such distinctiveness not only attracts customers but fosters unwavering brand loyalty.

Notably Tesla’s revolutionary approach to the automotive industry goes beyond electric vehicles. Tesla’s commitment extends to renewable energy solutions, such as solar products and energy storage solutions. This comprehensive approach has set them apart in a fiercely competitive market, appealing to consumers who prioritise a holistic view of sustainability.

  1. Strengthen B2B relationships with your key partners through shared values

In the realm of B2B relationships, aligning with partners who share a commitment to sustainability is increasingly pivotal. Showcase your dedication to environmental and social responsibility to create mutually beneficial relationships. Highlighting shared values and goals creates a foundation for stronger, more enduring partnerships.

A great example is Interface, Inc., a global flooring company, which prioritises sustainability and actively collaborates with suppliers and B2B partners who share their vision. By aligning with like-minded partners, Interface strengthens relationships within the supply chain and contributes to the collective goal of building a sustainable and circular economy.

  1. Join the generations of innovators for a greener future

Investing in sustainable innovation propels businesses towards growth avenues that align with environmental consciousness. Developing and promoting eco-friendly products, embracing circular economy principles, and integrating sustainable technologies into operations not only attract eco-conscious consumers but also position businesses as catalysts for positive change.

A great example is Siemens, the multinational conglomerate, which has embraced sustainable innovation, particularly in the field of energy. Siemens provides solutions for renewable energy, energy-efficient technologies, and smart infrastructure. Their commitment to sustainable technology solutions not only contributes to a greener future but also positions Siemens as a trailblazer in driving positive change.

By embracing these strategies, businesses not only align with the surging importance of sustainability but also position themselves as leaders in positive change. Meeting consumer expectations, differentiating from competitors, and fostering long-term growth become intertwined with a genuine commitment to societal and environmental well-being. As Simon Sinek says, it’s not just about what you do, but why you do it – and in this era, purposeful impact is the key to unlocking unprecedented growth.

Future Positive works with the world’s problem solvers, helping them communicate their value in ways that their current and future customers will find more understandable, valuable and engaging. If you’d like to collaborate creatively with our small but highly experienced team to help unlock your next technical brand or marketing challenge then do get in touch. From microbiology to new energy, we’ve spent decades making the complex more compelling for companies the world over.

Planning & Development Director Omaid Hiwaizi is a systems thinker (which was drummed into him while studying mathematics at Cambridge). He revels in navigating complexity – from leading marketing at Augmented Reality platform Blippar, through branding of Natural Language Processing company Deep Learning though to making sense of the universe of startups and scale ups using Tokenisation and Blockchain.

Future Five: Turning Complexity into Opportunity

November 1st, 2023 by

As B2B marketers, we’ve all wrestled with complexity. It’s the demon that sneaks into our dreams, whispering data streams and buzzwords. But what if that complexity was our way of winning? At Future Positive, we roll up our sleeves, dig deep into the most complex and convoluted details, and transform them into compelling narratives which create opportunity. Our Future Five series collects insights and advice for B2B businesses to embrace and realise their potential. In this edition, we asked our LinkedIn B2B marketing community “What do you have on your mind?” and we explore how that complexity can become opportunity.

 

Omaid Hiwaizi – Planning and Development Director

  1. AI & Automation: Technology’s gift to business is not just about convenience; it’s about amplifying our reach

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation are undoubtedly game-changers in B2B marketing. Leveraging data analytics, predictive algorithms, and chatbots, AI promises to streamline processes and enhance customer experiences. However, with great power comes great complexity. The challenge is to harness these advanced technologies while maintaining a human touch and ensuring data privacy. Why? A McKinsey report found that AI can lead to a 6.3% increase in company profits by 2035. (Ref: McKinsey’s Report).

Navigate Complexity:

To address this issue effectively, marketers must invest in AI-powered tools to automate repetitive tasks, analyse data, and personalise interactions. Integrating AI with a human touch is vital, where automation handles routine tasks, allowing your team to focus on building authentic relationships with clients.

Create Opportunity:

Data analytics on steroids, predictive prowess, and chatbots working overtime while you sip your coffee. Automated processes liberate us from the mundane, but balance is key. Companies like Sephora use AI for product recommendations but retain the human touch in customer service. Predictive analytics refines lead targeting, while chatbots like Drift serve clients round-the-clock, pushing your brand to new heights.

  1. Sustainable Marketing: Green isn’t just a colour; it’s a commitment

The call for sustainable marketing practices is growing louder. Consumers and businesses alike are demanding environmental responsibility, but incorporating sustainability into marketing can be complex, from supply chain logistics to branding and messaging. Indeed a Nielsen study revealed that 66% of consumers would spend more on a product if it came from a sustainable brand. (Ref: Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report)

Navigate Complexity:

Start by assessing your supply chain and identifying sustainable alternatives. Communicate your sustainability efforts clearly and transparently in your marketing materials. Consider eco-friendly packaging and energy-efficient operations to reduce your carbon footprint.

Create Opportunity:

Embrace planet-friendly practices that future-proof the businesses. Audit the supply chain, embrace the green and flaunt your eco-credentials, but be transparent about your journey. Savings aren’t just in costs; the real ROI is in aligning with the conscious values of the modern business.

  1. Lead Generation: In the digital age, finding your lead is like finding a needle in a haystack – but with a magnet

Lead generation has always been a challenge, but the digital era brings both opportunities and complexities. The vast amount of data available and the multitude of platforms for reaching potential clients can make lead generation overwhelming. SiriusDecisions reports that organisations with aligned marketing and sales achieved up to 24% faster growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three-year period. (Ref: SiriusDecisions’ Aligned Growth Study)

Navigate Complexity:

Start by creating a comprehensive lead generation strategy that leverages digital marketing channels such as social media, content marketing, and SEO. Segment your target audience to tailor your approach. Use data analytics to refine your strategy continuously.

Create Opportunity:

A global marketplace ready for the taking and precision targeting is your ally. Leverage platforms like HubSpot to segment, tailor, and analyse. By marrying AI with strategy, the digital haystack doesn’t stand a chance – quality leads and conversions await.

  1. Talent Acquisition & Retention: People aren’t your biggest asset; the right people are.

Recruiting and retaining top marketing talent is a crucial but often underestimated challenge in B2B marketing. The dynamic nature of the industry and the need for multi-skilled professionals make it a complex issue. Gallup found that companies with highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. (Ref: Gallup’s Report on Employee Engagement)

Navigate Complexity:

Invest in your team’s development by offering training and growth opportunities. Foster a supportive and inclusive workplace culture and ensure competitive compensation packages and benefits to attract and retain top talent.

Create Opportunity:

Make a dream team that propels you forward, develop it through growth opportunities, coupled with a culture of respect. But don’t skimp on benefits – a stellar team doesn’t just manage the complexities; they transform them into opportunities. 

  1. Strategic Alignment in Today’s Dynamic Market Context: In a world where change is the only constant, adaptability and alignment aren’t just buzzwords; they’re the lifeblood of success

Aligning B2B marketing strategy with the strategic direction of the business, ensuring that all efforts align with organisational goals and market dynamics and demonstrating ROI, while flexing resources and strategies to meet the demands of ever more dynamic market forces. A study by the Content Marketing Institute highlighted that 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy, emphasizing the importance of alignment with overarching goals. (Ref: Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 B2B Content Marketing Report)

Navigate Complexity:

Collaborate with all key stakeholders to review and refine the marketing plan and have a clear focus on both internal and external drivers. Agree the holistic metrics which define success vs. the company strategy – go beyond only what’s easy to measure and include both. 

Create Opportunity:

A unified front, where every marketing effort dovetails seamlessly with the broader business strategy, ensuring optimal ROI. It starts with a blueprint – a clear, documented strategy that outlines objectives, channels, and metrics. Regularly reviewing this strategy against market changes ensures you’re not just active, but also adaptive. Perfect alignment isn’t just about streamlining; it’s about amplification. When marketing moves in harmony with the broader business vision, every pound spent, every campaign launched, isn’t just effective, it’s exponential. 

Conclusion

In the dazzling chess game of B2B marketing, complexities are your moves waiting to be mastered. True marketers aren’t just reactive; they’re visionary, seeing opportunities where others see dead-ends. Time to turn those intricacies into your playbook. Embrace the game.

 

Planning & Development Director Omaid Hiwaizi is a systems thinker (which was drummed into him while studying mathematics at Cambridge). He revels in navigating complexity – from leading marketing at Augmented Reality platform Blippar, through branding of Natural Language Processing company Deep Learning though to making sense of the universe of startups and scale ups using Tokenisation and Blockchain.

Future Five: Unleash the Power of Collaborative Creativity in B2B

August 21st, 2023 by

Future Positive works with the world’s problem solvers, helping to make the complex more compelling. We help them communicate their value in ways that their current and future customers find understandable, valuable and engaging. Our Future Five series collects insights and advice for B2B businesses to embrace and realise their potential. In this edition, we focus on collaborative creativity.

 

Omaid Hiwaizi – Planning and Development Director

In the dynamic world of B2B businesses, the ability to innovate and think creatively is a key driver of success. Embracing collaborative creativity as part of your culture and business processes can lead to groundbreaking solutions, enhanced customer experiences, and a competitive edge. Creativity also plays a crucial role in unlocking complexity within your organisation, paving the way for streamlined operations and efficient processes. We’ve collected some examples of creative processes, some of which you may already use, and some which you might consider: 

  1. Embrace Cross-Functional Brainstorming:

B2B companies face complex challenges that require innovative solutions. Embracing cross-functional collaboration is a powerful creative idea that can unlock the full potential of your organisation. By bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise from different departments, you create a fertile ground for innovative thinking and problem-solving. This creative approach not only fosters a sense of unity within your company but also enables you to tackle complexities that may have been otherwise elusive.

With cross-functional collaboration, you break down silos and encourage open communication among teams. As each team member brings their unique insights to the table, the collective brainpower becomes a driving force for transformational ideas. This creative technique sparks synergy, encouraging individuals to think beyond their immediate domain and explore possibilities that may have been overlooked in a more isolated environment. You can do this by:

  • Regularly hosting cross-functional brainstorming sessions.
  • Encouraging open communication and active participation from all team members.
  • Fostering a supportive environment where diverse perspectives are valued.

For example IBM, a global technology giant, adopted cross-functional collaboration through their “Design Thinking” approach. By bringing together experts from various domains, IBM developed Watson, an AI platform that has revolutionised the healthcare industry by providing personalised treatment plans based on a patient’s unique genetic profile. This collaborative effort enabled IBM to unlock complexity in processing vast amounts of medical data, leading to a groundbreaking solution that benefits both patients and healthcare providers.

  1. Enable a Culture of Experimentation:

Innovation often thrives in an environment that encourages experimentation and embraces the idea that failures are stepping stones to success. Fostering a culture of experimentation is a creative approach  that empowers many companies to take calculated risks, explore uncharted territories, and uncover hidden complexities in their operations. By fostering a culture that celebrates trying new ideas and where learning from failures is encouraged, you create a powerful engine for creative problem-solving and continuous improvement.

In a culture of experimentation, your people are inspired to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. They become more receptive to exploring new possibilities and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Fear of failure is replaced with a growth mindset, where each setback becomes an opportunity to learn and evolve. Why not try:

  • Creating dedicated spaces or time for employees to experiment with new ideas and technologies.
  • Implementing pilot projects to test new concepts on a smaller scale.
  • Encouraging post-project analyses to retrospectively identify learnings and apply them in future endeavours.

A great example is Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which exemplifies a culture of experimentation through its “X” division. By embracing failures as learning opportunities, X has developed numerous groundbreaking projects, including Project Loon, providing internet access via high-altitude balloons, and Waymo, an autonomous vehicle technology company. These ambitious projects involve solving complex technical challenges, and the culture of experimentation has been pivotal in unlocking new possibilities and driving technological advancements.

  1. Focus Creativity on the Customer:

The heart of any successful business lies in understanding and meeting the needs of its customers. Customer-centred creativity is a powerful concept that puts clients at the core of your innovation efforts. This enables you to uncover complexities in your clients’ operations and design solutions that address specific pain points and challenges.

A customer-centric approach prioritises the discovery of  customer insights, as clients’ needs and drivers reveal valuable perspectives that inspire creative problem-solving. By being open to feedback and actively involving customers in the product development process, you’re making sure that your solutions are tailored to meet their evolving needs. Ways to do this include:

  • Conducting customer journey mapping to understand clients’ experiences and pain points.
  • Actively seeking feedback from B2B clients through surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
  • Co-creating with customers by involving them in the product development process.

HubSpot, a B2B marketing software company, places a strong emphasis on customer feedback and insights. Through ongoing customer surveys and interviews, HubSpot continuously enhances its products, ensuring they meet the evolving needs of B2B clients. By creatively addressing their clients’ marketing challenges and aligning their software to customers’ workflows, HubSpot unlocks complexities in the marketing landscape, driving success for businesses of all sizes.

  1. Actively Collaborate with External Partners:

In the interconnected B2B world, collaborative innovation with external partners can be a game-changer. By working creatively with third parties, you open doors to fresh perspectives and breakthrough ideas that can unlock complexities in supply chains, technology, and market access.

Collaborating with partners allows you to leverage complementary expertise and resources, accelerating your innovation journey. By pooling together knowledge and skills from different organisations, you can tackle complex challenges that may be beyond the scope of a single entity. You can do this by:

  • Cultivating close strategic partnerships that align with your business objectives.
  • Collaborating on joint R&D projects to explore innovative solutions.
  • Leveraging complementary expertise to unlock complex market opportunities.

A great example of collaborative partnership is that between global technology and engineering company Siemens, and leading aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, to develop an innovative manufacturing process for lightweight aircraft components. By creatively combining Siemens’ expertise in additive manufacturing and digital twin technology with Airbus’ knowledge of aerospace engineering, they unlocked complexities in material selection, production efficiency, and quality control. The partnership resulted in complex 3D-printed parts using advanced materials, leading to lighter yet robust components for Airbus aircraft. This breakthrough allowed for improved fuel efficiency and environmental sustainability, showcasing the power of B2B collaboration in driving innovation and overcoming industry challenges.

  1. Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Continuous Improvement:

Encouraging a growth mindset within your company will foster adaptability, resilience, and creative problem-solving. By cultivating a culture where employees embrace challenges, view failures as opportunities for growth, and seek continuous improvement, you unlock complexities in your operations and drive innovation.

A growth mindset encourages employees to take ownership of their learning and development, empowering them to explore creative solutions to complex problems. This creative technique creates a positive and forward-thinking organisational culture that celebrates progress and values effort over immediate results. This is achieved through:

  • Encouraging continuous learning and professional development opportunities for employees.
  • Recognising and celebrating employees’ efforts and resilience.
  • Setting stretch goals that challenge employees to explore creative solutions.

Case Study: Microsoft’s transformation from a software-focused company to a cloud-based services provider was fueled by a growth mindset. By empowering employees to learn and adapt to new technologies, Microsoft successfully transitioned to a cloud-first business model, attracting numerous B2B clients to its Azure platform. The growth mindset within Microsoft unlocked complexities in cloud computing and positioned them as a leader in the tech industry.

Creativity is a vital (and often overlooked) catalyst for B2B business success, regardless of industry or size. Embracing cross-functional collaboration, enabling a culture of experimentation, focusing on the customer, actively collaborating with partners, and cultivating a growth mindset for continuous improvement are essential elements for harnessing creativity. By integrating creativity into your culture and business processes your organisation can stay ahead in a competitive landscape and thrive in an ever-changing business environment.

Future Positive works with the world’s problem solvers, helping them communicate their value in ways that their current and future customers will find more understandable, valuable and engaging. If you’d like to collaborate creatively with our small but highly experienced team to help unlock your next technical brand or marketing challenge then do get in touch. From microbiology to new energy, we’ve spent decades making the complex more compelling for companies the world over.

Future Five: AI applications driving growth in B2B

July 20th, 2023 by

Our Future Five series collects insights and advice for B2B businesses to embrace and realise their potential. In this edition, we focus on AI.

 

Omaid Hiwaizi – Planning and Development Director

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, harnessing the power of AI has become increasingly crucial for B2B businesses seeking to stay competitive and drive growth. 

In fact, according to Gartner, 85% of B2B leaders believe AI is crucial for future success1, with 79% already implementing it. AI adoption in B2B brings substantial benefits, including increased efficiency and productivity. Accenture’s study shows a 40% cost reduction and 60% productivity boost2. McKinsey reports a 50% improvement in decision accuracy through AI-driven analytics3. AI streamlines processes, automates tasks, and enhances customer service. Juniper Research found a 70% improvement in response times with AI chatbots and a 95% reduction in manual errors for improved efficiency4.

However, many businesses shy away from taking steps in this direction, concerned about the technical complexity and potential operational risk in trying new ways of operating. We think every business should at least consider the opportunities available to them, so we’ve collected some examples around key business areas for you to consider:

Following we outline five key AI applications for B2B businesses and the platforms which can simply be deployed – many without the requirement for deep technology integrations.

  1. Customer Support and Chatbots:

It’s never been more important for businesses to provide efficient and personalised customer support. Perhaps the least complex of AI solutions to implement, AI-powered chatbots require training to give customers helpful guidance. However, this is an iterative process, and businesses can implement the software quickly to deal with basic queries, then expand their remit. Platforms including Tars, Acquire, and Chatfuel automate responses, handle customer queries, and offer personalised recommendations, focusing human intervention where it’s most valuable and improving response times. Whether it’s resolving issues or offering product suggestions, AI chatbots enhance the customer experience while minimising support costs.

  • Tars (https://hellotars.com/) – AI-powered chatbot platform for customer support, automating responses and enhancing customer experience.
  • Acquire (https://acquire.io/) – Customer support platform with AI chatbots to handle queries, personalize recommendations, and improve response times.
  • Chatfuel (https://chatfuel.com/) – AI-powered chatbot builder for creating conversational experiences and automating customer interactions.
  1. Sales and Lead Generation:

Every business needs to generate quality leads and optimise the sales process – and there is an established field of lead management solutions out there that many companies use. Integrating these platforms into the business operation however can be complex – due to data integration issues but also the opportunity (or challenge!) to rethink how marketing and business development work together. Embracing an AI-enabled platform could maximise the benefit of machine learning to analyse large datasets and identify high-value leads, predict buying intent, and recommend personalised outreach strategies. AI platforms such as Node, Lusha, and Seamless.AI excel in this domain. By harnessing these platforms, you can streamline your sales efforts, boost conversion rates, and optimise your lead generation strategies.

  • Node (https://www.node.io/) – AI-driven sales and lead generation platform that identifies high-value leads and predicts buying intent.
  • Lusha (https://www.lusha.com/) – Sales platform leveraging AI to find contact information and enrich lead data for effective outreach.
  • Seamless.AI (https://www.seamless.ai/) – AI-powered lead generation platform that provides accurate contact data and helps optimise sales outreach.
  1. Marketing & Personalisation

Successful marketing is the right mix of efficient reach with accurate and personalised targeting. While it can be simpler to focus on reach, and complex to focus targeting and messaging, incorporating AI-driven marketing automation platforms like Blueshift, Emarsys, and Segment offer the best of both. They incorporate machine learning algorithms to analyse customer data, behaviour, and preferences, enabling B2B companies to deliver targeted and tailored marketing campaigns across multiple channels. By providing relevant content and personalised offers, you can use these platforms to enhance customer engagement, increase conversions, and drive revenue growth.

  • Blueshift (https://blueshift.com/) – AI-driven marketing automation platform for personalised marketing campaigns across multiple channels.
  • Emarsys (https://www.emarsys.com/) – AI-based marketing automation platform enabling businesses to deliver personalised experiences and optimise customer engagement.
  • Segment (https://segment.com/) – Customer data platform that utilises AI to analyse and activate customer data for personalised marketing campaigns.
  1. Supply Chain Optimisation:

For businesses that  produce physical products, efficient supply chain management is critical – particularly across borders and in scenarios where components are sourced from multiple manufacturers. There are a number of well-known solutions that  require significant financial and technological commitment – complex to implement and manage. A simpler way to progress on the supply chain optimisation journey is to implement AI and machine learning platforms that predict demand patterns, optimise inventory levels, and provide real-time visibility into shipment tracking and logistics – including ClearMetal, Locus and LigiNext. By harnessing these technologies, you can enhance supply chain efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure timely delivery, ultimately improving customer satisfaction.

  • ClearMetal (https://www.clearmetal.com/) – AI-powered platform for optimising supply chain operations, predicting demand, and providing shipment tracking visibility.
  • Locus (https://www.locus.sh/) – AI-driven supply chain optimization platform offering intelligent route planning, fleet optimization, and real-time logistics visibility.
  • LogiNext (https://www.loginextsolutions.com/) – AI-powered platform optimising supply chain operations, providing last-mile delivery optimization, and real-time tracking capabilities.
  1. Financial Fraud Detection:

In our digital world it’s critical for every business to focus efforts to protect financial transactions and customer data. Navigating this complex scenario can be made simpler  using platforms that use machine learning to analyse vast amounts of transactional data and identify tell-tale anomalies that can indicate potential fraud – including Simility, Forter, and Feedzai. These platforms provide real-time monitoring, fraud prevention, and authentication solutions, enabling you to safeguard operations, prevent financial losses, and maintain trust with your customers.

  • Simility (https://www.simility.com/) – AI-driven fraud detection and prevention platform offering real-time monitoring and authentication solutions to safeguard financial transactions.
  • Forter (https://www.forter.com/) – AI-powered fraud prevention platform providing real-time monitoring and protection against fraudulent activities in financial transactions.
  • Feedzai (https://feedzai.com/) – AI-based fraud detection platform leveraging machine learning to identify anomalies and prevent fraudulent behaviour in financial transactions.

Future Positive works with the world’s problem solvers, helping to make the complex more compelling. We help them communicate their value in ways that their current and future customers will find more understandable, valuable and engaging. If you’d like the benefit of our small but highly experienced team to help unlock your next  technical brand or marketing challenge then do get in touch. From microbiology to new energy, we’ve spent decades making the complex more compelling for companies the world over.

Sources:

  1. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2021-02-23-gartner-survey-shows-79–of-b2b-buyers-prefer-remote-human-interactions-or-digital-self-service
  2. https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-83/Accenture-AI-Built-To-Scale.pdf
  3. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/the-state-of-ai-in-2021
  4. https://www.juniperresearch.com/researchstore/fintech-payments/ai-in-customer-service

Force of Nature

June 17th, 2022 by

Nature is all around us. The air we breathe, the grass we walk on, the (endless) rain that falls from the sky. Hardly surprising then that its power, strength, shapes and hues provide equally endless inspiration to artists, designers and creative thinkers the world over. Close your eyes for a moment and picture a car – notice how animalistic that front grill is? Ever seen a staircase that looks like the inside of a shell? A stadium, cut not unlike an oversized bird nest? Or, ahem, a personal favourite – that chocolate bar designed to look ever so much like a mountain..?

Craig Brooks

As the sweet spot where engineering, chemistry and biology collide, biomimetics takes things one step further towards the incredible – through the synthesis of systems and materials to mimic the natural world. Imagine finding a natural alternative to plastic via the genomes of sea creatures; or how the kingfisher’s beak inspired Japan’s famous Bullet Train. And then of course there’s the direct harnessing of nature – the way that gusts of wind, sunshine, tide movements and river flow are all transformed into renewable energy.

Over the past year or so Future Positive has been working with clients in this inspirational field – companies making a difference with initiatives like geothermal energy, clean hydrogen production and sustainable lithium mining. And for me, nature has been a key source of launch and return when ideating logos, branding and end-to-end concepts.

For one client that’s pioneering sustainable, lower-impact lithium production, (a much-maligned material which is pivotal to decarbonisation through its use in electric vehicle batteries), we looked to the colours of natural settings where lithium is found – verdant green plains, lakes and arid desert – from which to draw a colour palette that went on to play out across architecture, staff clothing and stationery. To accent this an impressive mirrored sculpture of our proposed logo created a dramatic contrast by simultaneously reflecting its surroundings. These complementary factors allowed lithium production sites to blend harmoniously into their environments, appear almost hidden (unlike mines and evaporation ponds), but still retain an element of the wow factor. In my mind the result is not unlike a top-secret base worthy of any James Bond villain.

Another client produces underwater LiDAR technology which inhabits the deep blue, and offers precision capture of details on the seabed, as well as the chance to document shipwrecks and long-flooded ancient ruins. We looked at underwater sea-life for inspiration with the logo, specifically the humble jellyfish with its smooth dome shape, trailing tentacles and directional movement.

We also wanted to create a feeling of synergy between the company and its underwater workplace, so we called on a colour palette based on the ocean depths; from the froth of the surface to the dark blues of the deep. Even without thinking, we use circles when showcasing the colour palettes, the most natural form there is.

The conceptual roll-out of this project nods to nature, while respecting the environment that the client works in, which feels like a responsible approach for a company working so closely alongside Mother Earth.

So, the synergy of nature, technology and design continues to be ever-present in Future Positive’s work, particularly as we continue to collaborate with clients that are pushing the boundaries of science in harmony with the natural world. My research constantly reminds me what a precious resource our natural world is, and how, as a species we still have so much to learn from, and be inspired by.

So as you go about your business today, just take a moment to notice just how much nature has inspired some of your favourite products, packaging, transport and, if you’re anything like me, chocolate bars, too.

8 Things about Creativity that The Beatles Reaffirmed for Me

January 5th, 2022 by

Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly making my way through The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s epic 7-hour Disney+ documentary, made from 60 hours of beautifully restored, fly-on-the-wall footage originally shot in 1969.

Rich Whitehouse

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the music – and putting the drama, politics and social history aside – it offers an unparalleled immersive window into the creative process of one of the world’s most successful bands as they write, rehearse and record new material.

While there’s a lot to take in, here are eight key points about creativity that were reaffirmed for me by the film.

1 Get the environment right

Don’t be afraid to go somewhere else entirely if the creativity isn’t flowing. Get Back begins with The Beatles working on initial ideas on a huge set they rented in Twickenham Studios since the original intention was to perform new songs there as part of a TV special. However, it’s clear after a while that the space just isn’t working (Ringo later refers to it as “too big”) and so partway through filming the whole production relocates to Apple Music HQ in London’s Saville Row. Here the group immediately seem more comfortable making music. Never underestimate the importance of place in what you produce.

2 Find a way to document ideas

There’s one sequence* during the seven-odd hours of footage where Lennon and McCartney get into a tangle over the correct order of parts in a new song; finally agreeing things would be easier if they wrote it all down. It may hark back to the duo’s early songwriting days when they didn’t write things down on purpose: the thinking was that if they couldn’t remember a new song the next day then it wasn’t memorable enough to be a hit. But what you do notice is that as soon as they begin recording songs onto tape at Apple and listening back to them, they get a more concrete sense of what they’ve created, what’s working and what isn’t. Finding a way to document ideas or record creative progress – whatever form it takes – makes it much easier to improve.

*Ironically I can’t recall which song this was as I didn’t write it down myself…

3 Everyone feels intimidated sometimes

A period of success can result in creative egos that get in the way, so it’s reassuring to hear a multi-million-selling group talk about other musicians they consider more talented than they are, as well as bands of the time with better songs than theirs. At one point Peter Sellers turns up (working on a movie project with Ringo), and the members of the biggest band on the planet don’t seem to know how to connect with a fellow celeb; leaving him to awkwardly wander off after a while. My take home was that even those considered at the very top of their creative game are subject to the same insecurities as everyone else.

4 Make room for the mundane

In today’s era of on-demand global entertainment choices it’s easy to forget that, here in the UK, the collective evenings of the nation were once shaped by the schedule of just three television channels. And the Fab Four were no exception. For all their superstar friends and party invitations, we still hear them come into their workplace in the morning and discuss what was on TV the night before. “Did you see that sci-fi on BBC 2 last night?” asks George before going into a lengthy description of the plot. But in the ordinary they still find inspiration to create the exceptional: Harrison arrives one day with the beginnings of a song called I, Me, Mine with a melody inspired by the incidental music from a film he’d watched the previous evening, played by an Austrian brass band.

5 Know when to stop

Tempting as it can be to smash through a project, especially when you’re on a roll or, more often than not, up against a serious deadline, it’s just as important to take time out. Yes, a break can be about tired people having a rest, but there’s also the need for creative types to ‘refill the well’ with other activities and time away. Even when faced with a seemingly impossible live performance deadline the band draw a line at working every day of the week. By insisting “I’m happy to work Saturday but not Sunday too; you need at least one day” McCartney is protecting his bandmates and the quality of their music.

6 But also, never stop

We see McCartney playing the same basic riff over and over again while Ringo listens and yawns. Other parts are added as it’s revisited during the sessions and the riff magically grows into the title track Get Back. As well as illustrating McCartney’s work ethic, it’s fascinating to see one of The Beatles’ creative techniques firsthand: rather than waiting for the right lyrics to magically appear, fully formed, or halting the process they preserve momentum by singing headlines from the newspapers lying around or even gibberish. At another point Lennon helpfully suggests to a stuck Harrison “just sing cauliflower”.

7 Take time to play

For many years 1969 was seen as a fractious period in Beatles history that led to their demise, but Peter Jackson’s cut reveals a lighter side to events. Even among the boredom, obvious frustrations and, at one point, Harrison actually quitting the band, there is evidence of much fun being had. Whether it’s singing entire songs in comedy voices, Lennon’s quips or McCartney’s young daughter imitating Yoko Ono screaming into a mic, the ability to laugh together remains a critical part of being in any creative team.

8 Let things evolve

Uncertainty is ok and you may end up in a completely different place than you envisaged. The early song idea we hear Lennon strumming in the sessions with the lyrics ‘On the road to Marrakesh’ eventually becomes Jealous Guy from his 1971 solo album Imagine. Even the filming itself originally began with the intention of creating a TV special and concert before it evolved into a documentary film and rooftop concert. And while you choose where to stop, nothing creative is ever truly ‘finished’, as Harrison says about the Beatles songs – when we play them live, we change them…

Of course, everyone will take something different from finding the time to watch Get Back. At the very least you’ll gain a new perspective on the music that these people, still in their twenties, created over 50 years ago and how, when they really needed to, they came together.

To see the part that creativity plays in every Future Positive project you can access our 3-step approach here.

Image generated using artificial intelligence at Wombo.Art using ‘The Beatles and Creativity’ as a prompt

Festive Playlists

December 1st, 2021 by

Tired of the same old seasonal soundtrack? At Future Positive we’ve chosen some alternative Christmas music playlists compiled by Spotify users. From Brass Band to Bossa Nova — our gift to you is a range of styles to freshen up your festive listening.

DAY 24: Trap (NSFW)If your Christmas is all about the bling then this selection of remixes and reworkings should be right up your street

DAY 23: TijuanaCan anyone else hear trumpets? This playlist adds a decidedly-kitsch sound to your musical mix that’s as 70s as a polyester space hopper

DAY 22: ReggaeLet the sunshine of Jamaica warm those chilly December days, as the Rastafarian red, gold and green replaces gold, frankincense and mer..mur..er, the other one…

DAY 21: Punk (NSFW)Feed your inner rebel by pogoing around to these spiky seasonal numbers. And remember, it’s not everyone that can pull off accessorizing with safety pins.

DAY 20: Peaceful PianoIf you’ve ever wanted to have your own private pianist then this playlist is just for you. Now sit back and sip a sherry as they tinkle their ivories enthusiastically in the background

DAY 19: OrchestralChristmas gatherings can be a tight squeeze at the best of times, without having to find space for a tuba player. Thankfully the whole symphony orchestra comes packed into this seasonal playlist

DAY 18: MetalIf you prefer your Jingle Bell Rock with an extra portion of rock, how about a little Twisted Sister with your turkey? Just make sure you turn your speakers up to 11

DAY 17: Lo-FiIn contrast to the standard fare of polished Christmas pop songs, this playlist serves up a selection of crackly, slightly wonky and more laid-back tracks

DAY 16: LGBTQ+This Christmas why not invite everyone along to celebrate their individuality under one giant rainbow banner of awesomeness? We’ll bring nibbles…Click for your fabulous festive LGBTQ+ playlist.

DAY 15: K-PopProof that you can Christmas-ify just about any music with a sprinkling of sleigh bells and chimes – it’s a tried and tested festive formula. Click this link of a K-Pop playlist of seasonal songs.

DAY 14: FunkKeep the central heating switched off this Christmas. Instead invite James Brown and his Famous Flames around – they’re scientifically proven to keep things toasty. Here’s your Funk Christmas playlist.

DAY 13: ElvisAside from the three kings of the Christmas story, for some there will only ever be one true king: Mr Elvis Aaron Presley, the King of Rock and Roll – click to open today’s Graceland-laced Spotify playlist 

Day 12: EDMWho said the festive season has to be a sedate affair? Try some banging beats to add a club vibe to your Christmas festivities – start listening to your Electronic Dance Music playlist here

Day 11: Dubstep It’s often said that Christmas just isn’t Christmas until PhatCat drops their Trap Remix of Sleigh Bells. Click to hear your Dubstep Christmas playlist

Day 10: CroonerClear a space around the Christmas tree and stand well back: it’s time for these cats to start swinging! Enjoy your Crooner Christmas playlist at this link

Day 9: Cosy JazzSwitch off your mobile as you settle gently down onto a mince pie the size of a beanbag, accompanied by a dollop of the smoothest jazz… click to open your Spotify cosy jazz playlist

Day 8: Country –  Swap the Nativity for Nashville and suddenly the holiday season becomes a line-dancing, six-string-strumming extravaganza… here‘s your Country Christmas playlist

Day 7: Chip TuneA seasonal salute to the original 8-bit generation and anyone that’s ever had to wait an hour for home computer games to load from a tape deck…your chip tune Christmas playlist is here

Day 6: CelticImagine the sedate ‘I Saw Three Ships’ reimagined as a foot-stomping, fiddle-driven jig, and you begin to appreciate the unique character of your Celtic-style Christmas playlist

Day 4: Bossa NovaReady for a slice of seasonal samba? Serve hot, followed swiftly by Brazil nuts

Day 3: BluesIf a freak meteorological event results in a Blue rather than White Christmas, you can still console yourself with the perfect soundtrack…

Day 2: Ambient – Bring the words ‘calm’ and ‘Christmas’ closer together with these atmospheric, laid-back seasonal tracks.

Day 1: Acoustic – Get ready to unplug everything (except perhaps the kettle) as you enjoy this electric-free selection of Christmas songs!

Keeping it symbol 👍

October 8th, 2021 by

A picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage in many languages, a lofty way of saying that complex ideas can be better conveyed by a single still image than a long stretch of words. For a visual person like me, – phew.

Craig Brooks

While I myself am a champion of this saying, it was first coined back in 1911, when the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club held a banquet to discuss journalism and publicity. In an article in The Post-Standard covering this event, the author quoted Arthur Brisbane as saying “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.

Roll on 110 years and it’s not just me that prefers pictures to words. Turn on any device or social media app and our reliance on using a picture to convey a story or a message has been boiled down to something most of us could never have predicted – the worldwide phenomenon of the emoji.

From hearts to worried faces, and every weather and alcoholic beverage symbol in between, having a chat with your mate (or a colleague) has never been easier.

A joke shared 😂, a presentation delivered 👌, relationships formed ❤️, emojis are on hand to help us react in this fast-paced world with little more than the tap of a key.

Now happy icons are not a new thing. The first smiley face was designed in 1963 by Harvey Ball, an American graphic artist, to raise the morale of employees at an insurance company currently feeling fatigue of the courts 😔.

The smiley face was then hijacked by the American counter-culture of the 70s, before crashing back into the popular consciousness of the acid house scene in the late 80’s. Even a chap called Pac-Man got in on the action.

But SoftBank, known as J-Phone at the time, released the SkyWalker mobile phone in November 1997, with the world’s first known original emoji set designed by Shigetaka Kurita. This set included 90 distinct emoji characters, among them one of the most iconic to date; the humble poo 💩. These emoji designs heavily influenced Apple’s original emoji alphabet and those we all use today.

In 1999 Kurita went on to to create 176 more characters and was challenged to keep these within a 250-max limit of software restrictions at the time. Conveying such an expressive set of emotions in a short way within these limitations was a truly impressive achievement.

Big brands are now using emojis in advertising; we use them to communicate quickly in Teams meetings; and even clients react to work with a thumbs up or a clap mid presentation.

Beyond the ease of showing an emotion, immediate praise and the humour of a cleverly timed eggplant 🍆, this ever-evolving language has also been a rich source of ideas for groups and organisations. It’s becoming part of a more widespread conversation to tackle taboos around gender, discuss race, and raise awareness of endangered species, with the inclusion of skin tones, lgbtq+ representation and even animal welfare icons.

This modern style of semiotics pays close attention to how the icons are used to impart meaning to their intended recipients (be it humorously) effectively, and emotionally. Shigetaka Kurita’s emojis have become powerful manifestations of the capacity of design to alter human behaviour. Another excellent example of making the complex more compelling.

Now with 107 new emojis scheduled for release in 2022 (taking the alphabet to a whopping 3,460) the artform looks unlikely to disappear into the shadows. While some might herald this as a new age in copy, others might argue we’ve done nothing but come full circle – utilising nothing more than very modern (and yellow) hieroglyphics. Whether you ❤️ them or really couldn’t give a 🐀🍑, I think we can all agree, Shigetaka Kurita deserves a 👍👏🎉.