How Brands Shift to Stay Relevant – An interview with Allen Adamson

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Brands are all around us, but as the times change they need to adapt to keep relevant – if they don’t they’ll soon vanish from the high street. Kodak and Blackberry for example were once leaders in their field, but they failed to shift, becoming irrelevant in a fast changing world.

But how can brands prevent this from happening to them, and how can designers and agencies help their clients shift to avoid pending doom? On this weeks podcast Ian interviews branding expert, Allen Adamson to find out.

Allen is the author of the new book Shift Ahead, and co-founder and managing partner of brand strategy firm Metaforce. Prior to this Allen was Chairman of Landor Associates, a global branding firm, and he also worked in senior management positions at Ogilvy & Mather and DMB&B.

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Allen Adamson Interview Transcription

 

Ian Paget: I understand that you have a new book ‘Shift Ahead’, which is about how the best companies stay relevant in a fast changing world. To give some background for the audience, why would a company need to shift?

 

Allen Adamson: Every day you read about another business that was once a brand that you thought never could go out of business, disappearing. Big companies like Kraft Heinz writing down billions of dollars, taxis disappearing from the street.

What’s become clear, as I was looking at the industry, was that lots of the challenges were not about marketing, such as how do you tell people how great your product is or remind them to buy your product. Lots of the challenges were flipping from communication and telling a compelling story that’s different and relevant – to the product and the category was disappearing, was it becoming irrelevant?

So the pace of change seemed to be increasing. So, I set off with my colleague, Joel Steckel from NYU, and we did a fair amount of research. Is it just us, or are things moving faster? Are more companies going out of business? Are brands disappearing faster?

We looked at all types of organisations, big and small, public and private. We were curious as to why so many companies that know that they need to keep up with the times and stay relevant to their consumer we’re having trouble executing. And so that’s what was the impetus for the book.

 

Ian Paget: One big question I have, from an outsiders point of view, you can normally see after a company has failed that it was obviously going to happen. But when you’re the owner of the company, no matter what size it is, how can you be prepared for that situation so that you can be ready to shift when you need to?

 

Allen Adamson: The first thing we found is that if it was easy, everyone would do it. Part of it is that the theory is easy, so for example, ask consumers what’s changing, and keep your product and service relevant.

The theory is easy, but, appreciating how hard it is, and some of the forces that prevent most companies from shifting and how strong they are. What we found in the research of more than a hundred companies, is that there wasn’t a magic potion of “do these three things”. You had to really appreciate how complex it was, and then do a few things right.

The biggest barrier to most companies shifting is something we categorise from the old television show in the U.S called, Frasier. Frasier had a dad who lived with him, and his dad brought an old chair with him and always sat in that chair. You need to realise that the past is more comfortable. Familiar is more comfortable. We are creatures of habit. We wake up and we do today what we did yesterday.

Rule one is realising that we’re just creatures of habit, and in that world, if it worked last year, let’s do it. I like my traditional chair, so you’re already starting in a difficult place. So rule one is that most people don’t see it coming. They’re just comfortable with the familiar.

Sometimes people just aren’t listening. They become very internally focused. They talk to people that liked their product, but they don’t talk to people that are losing interest in their product.

I remember I was flying out to take my son to college several years ago and we landed at the airport as a family. I started moving towards the car rental counter, and my son looks at me like I was from Mars and said, “dad, why are we renting a car? We’re going to have to take a bus to a car, to park it, I’ve already ordered a Lyft”. And so, part of it is that we’re creatures of habit, and part of it is we’re just really not listening to what’s going on.

 

Ian Paget: So, I know that you own an agency, and that’s where your perspective has come from, and people listening to this, they’re graphic designers or agency owners with similar backgrounds. As an outsider, we can look at those companies and we can see that they need to shift, that they need to make a change. Is there anything that you can do as an agency owner to nudge that company to think about shifting? Because, from my understanding, I would have thought that knowing that they need to shift would first have to come from the company internally?

 

Allen Adamson: Often it does, but often the role of an agency is to help the client see what’s happening when they’re so busy in meetings day to day. They’re not seeing the forest from the trees.

I’ll tell you a story which I have in the book. When I was interviewing for my first job, which was in advertising before I went into brand management at Ogilvy and Mather. Candidates had to go through eight or nine interviews during the day and everyone talked about their thoughts on how to do media planning, or what makes a great commercial, or how they do research, so I was really in the mode of playing back all the stuff that was in my head about how you do advertising, how you do marketing and how you do communications.

I finally get up to see the CEO at the end of the day, and it was a big office in those days, almost a mad men office. The CEO at the time was a gentleman named Ken Roman, and he looked at my CV and asked how the day was, and I said, pretty good. I’m all ready to answer his first question about copy strategy or the importance of promotion and design.. I’m just ready, and all psyched to spit back at him all the facts and figures I had crammed into my head. Then he goes “Alan, why don’t you start off by telling me the last book you read, what you learned from it, and then tell me the last show you went to, and why you liked it”.

And of course I had read books, but too many of them had been about marketing segmentation, so I stumbled through that. I think I said Green Eggs and Ham, trying to buy some time. And he said, “well, tell me about Green Eggs and Ham”. And of course, I realised that he was not a big Dr Seuss fan, so I muddled through that.

Afterwards I went back and asked “Ken, why did you spend all our time talking about theatre, books, culture?”, and he goes “well, look Alan, our job as an agency is to be our client’s eyes and ears. We need to see what’s happening. We need to zoom out and see what’s going on in the world that might change our client’s business, and what’s going on in the world that will keep them culturally relevant. They’re too busy making the fruit loops or distributing the product, or doing the packaging. Our job is to be the client’s eyes and ears”.

I never forgot that lesson because I think too many agencies don’t realise the important role they play in helping the client.

One of the things we found in Shift Ahead is most clients are in a bubble. They’re just looking internally. They’re talking about the business. They’re not out in the marketplace just observing, and just being a little bit of Jerry Seinfeld, which is “you ever wonder why people eat the tops of muffins and not the home of it”. I think a big job of agencies needs to be to make sure that your clients can see what’s going on and the pace of change.

I learned when I was hanging out with my 20 year old kid that anyone under 21 would rather walk than rent a car.

 

Ian Paget: Well, thinking about treating your clients in that way, being in their eyes and ears, I can see how that is totally eyeopening. I’d love to dig into this a little bit more, because I know when you do work with agencies, from a process point of view, how do you go about as an agency, diagnosing that they do need to shift? and are there any interesting processes that you use to come up with solutions for shifting?

 

Allen Adamson: Well, the first is to appreciate how hard it is to do, and not be clever and say, “Oh come on.” Because the first one that we found, it was a major challenge, is that, part of what makes companies struggle with shifting is because the, which way to go is, it’s not clear.

We did some interviews with Toys R Us, before it vaporised, and they come back in some other form. But part of it was that they were not sure what to do. There was half of the company feeling that they needed to compete on price and build huge Costco like stores, and really hammer in an online solution to compete with Amazon, and half the company felt that they needed to go high end. So when you went into a toy store and you asked, “What was appropriate for a seven year old,” you’d have somebody who would say, “Well, I know all about seven year olds, and here are the three hottest toys, and here’s how you…” In other words, so an experience, a high end experience, like an Apple store.

And so there was a business case for both. And part of it, was that they both looked risky. There were issues with both. Nothing was ideal. And so they were caught in what many companies, they’re like a deer in a headlight. They don’t know which way to go, because they’re not used to making big decisions or risky decisions, and all paths forward look risky. So they often get into, “Oh, let’s study it some more and do some research.” So many, many companies are what we call analysis paralysis. And so you need to realise that that is a challenge.

The other challenge, and it’s a major one that you need to be cognisant of, I worked on many, many years ago, in the Mad Men days, is Kodak, and I always thought Kodak just didn’t see the digital revolution coming. That they, they were just asleep at the switch, asleep at the wheel. And we went back and we spoke to lots of people who worked at Kodak around the time that Kodak was “King of the Hill” and disappeared, including several people from their strategic planning department. And the first surprise was that they had predicted the eclipse point, the tipping point, where digital would pass film and kill the cat, six years in advance, to the quarter.

So they knew, they saw that train coming down the track as clear as anyone in the category. So that led to the other question, “So if you saw the train coming for six years, couldn’t you get out of the way?” And the reason is because film was so massively profitable, that anything they did other than sell film, reduced their profit margins. Digital, they were losing a ton of money on digital. They were spending some money in research, but film was… And the margins were 80%, and Wall Street every quarter said, “Well how are you going to keep the numbers going up?” The film people said, “We need to sell more, and discount it, and I need my bonus.”

And so they couldn’t move money from the very profitable film business, to the very unprofitable nascent digital businesses. And that happens to a lot of companies, because almost across category, what we found is that if you’re trying to shift to something new, it’s going to be less profitable than what you’re doing today. So not only does gravity keep you, and inertia keep you, more comfortable with yesterday, but the business model of pleasing Wall Street and making money, drives you to do what you did yesterday, which you can optimise, than to try something new, which you’re likely going to not be as profitable.

And so I think making sure you understand this is not like, the client doesn’t want to do this, but the fact that the which way to go is anxiety producing. And no matter which one they choose, they’re going to lose more money. Even back to Toys R Us, if they built a big online presence to compete with Amazon or big stores, that was going to cost billions of dollars. If they rolled out the experiential stores that was going to cost billions. So there were two bad choices for them. And so, just keep in mind that it’s easy on the outside to say, “Oh, why don’t you build electric cars.” Really hard for general motors to build electric cars when they make a good amount of money on building a car just like they did last year.

 

Ian Paget: It feels like some companies are destined to fail.

 

Allen Adamson: Yeah.

 

Ian Paget: Like that Kodak example that you spoke about then is, if they did make that change, they’re going to make a dramatic loss, and the company is going to go down hill anyway. The easiest thing to to do surely would be to start something from scratch on the side?

 

Allen Adamson: Well, they could have, they were making enough money on a film, they could have made a decision to say, “Instead of reporting to Wall Street, we called it the golden handcuffs, that we made $10 billion, we’re going to say we made tow billion, but we’re going to be around tomorrow.” And a lot of entrepreneur owned companies today, where the founder has a chequebook, whether it’s Amazon, or Elon Musk, are able to do that because they can say, “We’re going to lose money for five years, eight years. I don’t care, but I know what I’m building is going to allow me to shift and change the whole market.”

 

Ian Paget: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, I know in your position, I assume that when a company recognises that they have that problem, that they feel that they need to shift to be relevant, and they know that they need to make some kind of change, but they’re in this situation where it’s they literally don’t know what to do, that’s when I would assume that they would reach out to a company like yourself or another branding agency. That’s a challenging problem. How would you as an agency go about helping them to find a solution to that challenge?

 

Allen Adamson: So one way an agency can help a client who needs to shift is, to create future states and prototype them, so a client can see what a future might look like, or particular direction might look like, and then frame the implications. So you create one scenario where you do this, and you push on service and you innovate here. You create another scenario where you push on a different variable, and you bring that world to life by prototyping it, showing what the brand might be, showing what the new retail experience might be, showing what an online experience might be, showing how their competitors might be. And you create a world that they can see down the road, and that becomes a way you can help them get comfortable with making decisions.

And then you talk about, well if you choose door one, you’re going to really need to be focused and great at this. If you choose door two, you’re going to have to do this to succeed, because success in different future states is going to be different. So you can help them, by helping them see around the corner, and see what may be coming down the road, and bringing that to life. And if you do that, you can enable them to prevent themselves from falling into analysis paralysis.

 

Ian Paget: You mentioned then about prototyping, and I understand that, that’s kind of like predicting things, but when you say prototype, what is it that you’re actually putting together, and how are you showing that to the client?

 

Allen Adamson: So if you were going to prototype a world of how you sell eyeglasses to an old, or an existing retailer, eight years ago or five, you might have created a prototype that showed a different display experience like Warby Parker has. You might have talked about a sales interaction that was different than the traditional person behind the counter handing you glasses. So prototyping is not just, here’s a new logo and here’s a new and improved thing. Prototyping is showing the brand, or the offer, the service, in a future state and bringing that to life. And because technology allows us to really create phenomenally realistic things without building a new store, without redesigning the package and actually doing it, you can help them see further down the road, by creating artefacts that show what their world might be like if they made direction A come to life, or direction B come to life.

 

Ian Paget: So in terms of the actual thing that you show the client, is it just more like telling a story?

 

Allen Adamson: It’s a concept board. It’s usually, although often can be 3D too, because for certain products, you can now with laser printing actually put something they can feel in their hand. If you can you imagine if your phone looked like this, or can you imagine if your toothbrush looked like this? So there’s no easy way to help a client, but one way is to create future scenarios.

Another important way, is that one of the reasons, we found many reasons that shifting ahead was so hard to do, but one of them is, that there is a lack of diversity in thinking and perspective inside many clients. That diversity’s, not the traditional stuff, but they tend to all hire from the same schools, and people had the same experience, and they all view the world through the same lens. And often times agencies, no matter what type of agency it is, be it digital agency, media agency, promotion agency, design agency, tend to attract people that see the world very differently. They’re just cut from a different cloth. And having multiple perspectives, people looking at the same set of facts, and seeing completely different things, who are a little bit… Having that multiple lens approach, you can help your client, because your team will see the facts and the world as you walk down the street, differently, than a client team, and sharing that with them. And I can give you a few examples of that as we talk.

 

Ian Paget: I think we’ve got a good understanding of shifting, and as I know that you do have your in agency, Metaforce, I’d love to speak to you a little bit more about the way that you work. I spent a little bit of time looking through your website, and one thing that really stood out for me as interesting, and you might do this based on what you just explained there, but I noticed from a team perspective and a management perspective, that you’ve got your three leaders, yourself and two others, and then everyone else is a partner.

I’m curious to find out a little bit more about the reason why you work like that. Because I guess traditionally, the way that I understand most businesses work, is they’ve got their CEO, and then they’ve got their management team, and then they’ve got employees, and everyone works in the same office and so on. So when you use partners, how are you working with them? Are you using partner as a way of saying employee, or do you literally from a strategy perspective, when you need something, do you reach out to certain people as and when needed? Is that the way that that works in terms of partners?

 

Allen Adamson: One of the observations that we had before we started Metaforce is that, too many clients do many, many things averagely. They do a pretty good job on a website, a little bit of product design, a little bit of digital communications, and it’s all good but not great. And in today’s world where social media, word of mouth, is a very important, or maybe the killer channel, no one shares ordinary, no one shares, “Gee, I flew to this city, and the flight got there sort of on time, and no one spilled anything on me.” It’s invisible, if they do an average job, if they do something terrible, and they land in the wrong city and lose your bags, you’ll be sure to tell every friend you possibly can. But if they did something extraordinarily different and powerful, you really want to share it. You want to tell that story.

So marketing is being driven by doing a few things really well. Now, why is that challenging? I worked at Landor, which is a branding firm, within WPP, for many years, and a big challenge that existed in the WPP holding, and even in Landor, but other holding companies as well was, if you asked, “Who was the expert in branding?” Everyone’s hand came up at a meeting, even the caterer’s hand came up. If you said, “Who was an expert in advertising?” Everyone said, “Oh, we do that too.” And it became clear that, to us that, to do a few things, great, you needed to get a team that really were experts in them, not just, “Oh, I read a book on how to do digital social media, and so I’m going to do it.” And because without that expertise, in life, if you’re redoing a kitchen, you don’t want the floor person doing your cabinets, you don’t want…”

And so we wanted to get back to that, doing a few things really well. So we put together a team of people that were really strong, even at the leadership level, the core partners. I didn’t want to have five people, which goes back to something else we talked about earlier in our conversation, I didn’t want to have five branding experts lead the firm, because they all look at the world through a branding lens. I wanted to have our team be able to have a media expert, a research person, a person who has a creative mind in writing, a person who has creative mind in art direction. To be able to look at a problem through multiple lenses and figure out, A, what’s the right solution? Because if you can’t do everything, the biggest next challenge is, if you’re not going to do everything averagely, what are the one or two things you’re going to do extraordinarily. And that’s really hard, because most clients are risk averse and they want to do everything. Let’s have a website, let’s do social, let’s do…

And part of success we felt, was saying, “Look, there are eight things you could do. We’re going to do three things, and we’re going to do them extraordinarily. So to be able to figure out what those three things are, I wanted partners who had a different lens on, so we could all sit together and say, “Here are the three target things because precision matters. And then once we pivot to activation, have somebody who was a true expert in media, or a true expert in strategy, or a true expert in design, to be able to flip from, it looks good on a PowerPoint deck, to can they make it extraordinary in market.

So in that sort of model, we have the core partners, who share in the business, are in the first tier, and there are both founding and regular partners. But they are all in, and their role is to help diagnose precisely what bet you want to take. And then there were a broader set of what we call, activation partners, who we call on if we need to do a film, or if we need to do a website build, we want to make sure that once we propose to a client that they have to have the most extraordinary mobile experience, that we have people that, that’s all they do. They are phenomenal mobile designers. Not someone who’s done a little of this, and a little of that.

So those dimensions came in to forming it, and one final one without chewing off your ear, which I’ve already done, is that, part of success is also having your, I forget what the movie is, having your head in the game. Lots of work in agencies, it’s not, big ideas don’t come to you, or they didn’t come to me when I was sitting at a screen reading emails. Big ideas or good ideas come to people when they’re all in, their heads all in, and they’re thinking about it when they’re running in the park, they’re thinking about it when they’re walking down the street. And so we wanted people who were, when they engage with a client, we’re not saying, “Well, I’d be available between two and four, to do some thinking. I’m pretty busy today.” But once they dug into a client problem, they were all in, because doing a few things extraordinary well requires people that are all in, not sort of, they’re doing a little chatting and then moving onto the next project.

I hope that ramble helped.

 

Ian Paget: It did. Fantastic. It’s a really interesting way to work, and I don’t know if other agencies work in that same way. But it sounds like you have a relatively small permanent central team, and because of the way that you work, so with the strategy and being able to identify these problems, you can pretty much do anything, and pull in someone who is a real expert of that particular skill set. And what that means is that, from your perspective, when you do help your clients, you’re not just, I guess, creating an out of the box solution that your internal team can cope with, you really are basically using the very best people, that’s at your disposal, as and when needed, without having to employ them full time. It’s a clever way to work.

 

Allen Adamson: Right, so we can be a little more efficient, or a lot more efficient, because also when you have one shot to do it right, you want a really seasoned team to do it. If you’re going to go in for surgery, you don’t want to have someone who’s just finished reading their medical school books to do the surgery. It’s like when I fly, going back to… I really love when the pilot comes out of the cockpit, or gets on and says, “I’ve been flying this jet for 20 years and I flew fighter pilot, I was a fighter pilot for 10 years before that.” Yeah, and even though the younger pilot may be equally qualified, there’s something reassuring about somebody who has done this before.

So, we really want to make sure that when we engage with a client, we don’t pass it down and say, “Well I’m the leading partner, but you’ll be working with Debbie and John, and they’ll be your day to day team, but if you need me, I’ll be involved. I’ll be looking over their shoulder.” And lots of the challenges of a big agency is, you have the senior people going out and talking to new clients, and the junior people figuring out, “All right, now what did the senior people promise and how the heck can I do that?”

 

Ian Paget: Well, I’ve been in companies where, as the senior graphic designer, I’ve been on that sales process, and then it just, like you said, gets passed on to someone with less experience, and I think, from a customer point of view, that’s not exactly what you would expect. But I do like that you do have that incredibly experienced top level tier of people that you’re working with, and then people that can come in, are experts, as and when needed. Can I just ask about those individual people, are they basically contracted? So they work freelance or they run their own business?

 

Allen Adamson: There is sometimes contracts, sometimes small agencies we hire. But often the people we work with, we do multiple projects. So we become, usually 70 to 90% of what they do.

It’s just they don’t know which client they’re going to work on, and we have enough velocity. But if I need phenomenal packaging, I have two or three solo practitioners, if it’s a small job. If we’re doing a bigger job for a larger company, I have a few small agencies that where I’ve actually have worked with the principals, the leads, and then we’ll bring in a small agency that’s laser focused, and all they do is consumer packaging, and fast food, work for Colgate, or work for Proctor. So they are just really good. There’s not somebody who’s done some packaging for Sony, going in to talk to Colgate about how to do a shampoo.

It’s really more of a curated, once we decide that the three things they need to do is win on this, this, and this, I want to make sure that the team that we bring in, be it an individual person that I’ve worked with, or we’ve worked with as a group for many years, or a slightly bigger, but they’re usually small agencies under 40 or 50 people. Usually we don’t go to a huge global agency because it doesn’t allow us to be precise, in saying, “These four people have done this and they are great at this type of packaging, or this type of video, or this type of digital experience.”

 

Ian Paget: Yeah. That clarifies one of the questions I was going to ask, because I was going to say, if they are like the best out there, and they’re working for themselves, and they’re a solo practitioner, they’re quite likely booked out several months in advance, and I was wondering how you get around that situation? But you’ve clarified my question.

 

Allen Adamson: Yeah. Because we have enough work for them that, if they’re working on something, it’s usually another project for us.

But we also have a pretty deep bench. And we offer, the other thing that we try to do, which used to be more common than the old days, is we would just add a client, doing a strategy first step, where we talked to the leadership and interview the CEO, and we bring the creative team that we intend to use, we think we’re going to use, two or three of them with us, because I want them to drink the Kool-Aid.

I want them to get their head in the game, want them to see how these people talk, what their business is, what their passion is. No, they’re not going to write the strategy, they’re not going to figure out necessarily which lever do we push. But they’re going to have their head in the game earlier than when I was at an agency, and the client people did all the… Right? And then finally went into some creative team’s office with a piece of paper saying, “Here’s a brief.” And that never worked.

 

Ian Paget: Well, I mean for me, it’s quite comforting, because in the creative space, brand strategy is becoming this buzz word, and every designer, any creative person, is feeling like they need to become a strategist. But actually when there are agencies like yourself, that are specialising in that, you’ve experts in that, that’s your real skill set, it’s nice to know that you can really focus on your craft and perfecting your craft. And there are agencies out there like yourself, and I’m sure there’s plenty of others, that will reach out to the person who is the best at that thing. And still use that person in that way, without them having to do all the complex strategy work, which is what you’re doing.

 

Allen Adamson: Yeah. Exactly.

 

Ian Paget: Now, we’re near the end of our time. So there’s one last question that I’ve got, and I understand that you have done some teaching, and there was something that I read in a previous interview, that you said, “That a lot of your students tend to struggle with the ability to focus, to listen, and to apply critical thinking to a problem,” and everything that we spoke about in this interview requires that. You have to listen, you have to understand, and by understanding, only then can you actually provide some kind of proper solution. So because you’ve faced that problem so many times, and you have worked with students, what advice have you been giving or what approach have you taken to help those people improve in that area?

 

Allen Adamson: No easy challenge. First is that I do my best to, I’m not teaching right now, but when I was a couple of years ago, to have a laptop’s closed, no computers, phones down, classroom. Because prior to that I would be lecturing up front, and I would see a sea of laptop screens, back of them, facing me. And of course when I wandered to the back of the classroom, if half the class wasn’t on social media, and the other half of the class was on Amazon. So yeah, part of it is helping them free themselves from day to day distractions.

The other is a bit of the, getting them to engage in something interesting. And so part of it is, if we do a case study, bringing that case study, whether I bring in an executive from the company who demos a product in front of them, whether there’s virtual reality glasses, or a corporate product. But making it more real than, read these four paragraphs and be prepared to talk about which toothbrush is the best toothbrush. So I tried to choose cases that were, where I could get speakers from the company, or the brand group, to come in, and bring it to life. Because if somebody is there and it’s their life, they’re talking about how they spent the last nine months optimising a toothbrush for Colgate, students tend to, maybe not check in on Instagram, it’s more engaging.

 

Ian Paget: I think based on that. It sounds like students are more switching off because it’s a classroom environment, and I guess the teaching needs to change in the way you have done, and hopefully doing what you’ve done, when it does come round a real world situation, I’m sure they’re a lot more alert, aware, listening and so on.

 

Allen Adamson: And I really try to, one of the things that I often do to get better solutions is, this notion of a critique, where you put an idea up, and then have several people say, “How would you make it better?” Not, “What’s wrong with it?” “I don’t like blue. I don’t like…” And I often do that. I say, “Look, here’s an idea that I’m working on right now, or we were working on a year ago for Sony, and here’s the challenges. How do you do it?” And force them to get out of the listening mode, into the doing mode, and force them to start talking about, “Well, they don’t like that, or they don’t like that, or it’s not that interesting.” But, all right, I hire you, you have to go speak to the CMO of Sony tomorrow. “What do you tell them?” And force them to realise how hard it is to be positive in critiquing and shaping an idea, and how important it is to do that, to get to a better idea.

 

Ian Paget: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I loved that response, and especially for people in the logo community on Facebook, you get a lot of people that will share some work that someone’s done, and they’re like, “What do you think of this?” Actually questioning or framing the question in the way that you’ve done then, totally changes the way that you’re thinking about it. So, I think that’s fantastic.

 

Allen Adamson: And it’s really hard. It’s easy to say, “I hate that. That’s terrible.” What’s harder is to say, “Well, it would have been stronger if they did this.” And for the creator of the idea, getting comfortable with everything that comes out of your head, is not perfect. And if you are a closed thinker and saying, “Well this is perfect, and I’m just going to put my head down and try to sell it,” versus open to getting perspective from other people to help you be stronger, and not feeling you are the ultimate identity, and logo creator, and these three type faces are precious, and I spent six months crafting that R, don’t tell me to change that R. Sometimes that’s important, sometimes you get better work that way, but more often you don’t.

 

Ian Paget: Well I think that’s a really good way to close off the interview. So Alan, thank you so much for your time. It has been absolutely fascinating, and thank you for your understanding with the technical issues.

 

Allen Adamson: And I’ve enjoyed talking with you. And if, when you put it together, it feels like there’s too much duct tape, and it looks like… Then let’s schedule a time and I’ll do it all again.

 

Ian Paget: Oh, I’ll make it work. I don’t think we need to do that. Thanks so much. It’s been really great.

 

Allen Adamson: Take care.

 

Thank you to the sponsor, FreshBooks

 

I’m incredibly thankful to FreshBooks for sponsoring this episode of the Logo Geek Podcast! FreshBooks is an online accounting tool that makes it really easy to create and send invoices, track time and manage your money. You can try it out for yourself with a free 30 day trial.

How Brands Shift to Stay Relevant - An interview with Allen Adamson

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