Short for Defence Science & Technology Laboratory, Dstl is the UK’s technical centre of excellence for all things defence-related. However, it was better known to many as Porton Down, a link back to its wartime role in developing nerve gases.
Partly in the light of this erroneous perception, and at a time of considerable change following the Salisbury Novichok episode and the appointment of a new CEO, we were asked to undertake a project to help better define the Dstl brand for both internal and external audiences.
Our work took us to interviews with staff at different locations, meetings with Dstl’s ‘parent’, the Ministry of Defence, and talking to senior clients across Government and the Armed Services.
What emerged from this was a rather disjointed spectrum of views, ranging from perceptions of Dstl as more of a ‘backroom supplier’ by some within Government, to very positive views of them as a highly valued and uniquely skilled partner by the Armed Forces.
With a clear need for these perceptions to be re-balanced, the project culminated in a new brand strategy, positioning and proposition – focussing on Dstl’s position as a proven national asset, and its role in giving cutting edge defence advantage to the UK across science, technology, cyber and information.
In pursuit of that new strategy, we developed a set of some 30+ recommendations for internal and external changes around brand management, communications, tone of voice, target audience priorities and touchpoints.
Aon is one of the world’s leading professional services firms – uniquely qualified to offer advice and solutions in risk mitigation and calculated business opportunities. Today this covers areas such as cyber protection, IP, M&A, new market entry and capital generation – subjects that are of particular interest to C-suite decision makers.
With market perceptions of Aon lagging behind today’s reality, in late 2018 we were asked to assess what it would take to shift perceptions of Aon from the ‘insurance broker’ of the past, to the global and strategic advisory business it is today.
Analysis of a brand strength study previously carried out by Interbrand, plus internal and external stakeholder interviews and audits, quickly revealed just how big the gap between perception and reality really was.
Working with the Global Head of Brand and liaising with the company’s senior leadership, we set about developing a more future-facing articulation of the brand that better reflected Aon’s capabilities and its relevance to senior leaders in the business world.
In late 2019, we then helped Aon select a global communications partner, and have worked with them and Aon to develop the internal and external communications around the brand’s new proposition.
The complexity of the project was heightened by the announcement in March 2020 of a $30bn bid by Aon for Willis Towers Watson (their closest competitor). This meant further work for us in assessing the match between the two brands and how they might best align. The merger however stalled, and then collapsed for regulatory reasons in July 2021. We were then tasked with rapidly re-assessing the launch of Aon solus, under a single future brand.
Implementation of the strategy and communication of the new brand went live in September 2021.
‘GREAT’ is the UK’s global campaign showcasing this country as a desirable destination for travel, study, investment or trade. The campaign is run out of Downing St. and the Cabinet Office with a budget of around £60m per year. With multiple stakeholders and numerous global, national and local expressions executed by many different agencies and partners, the complexity of managing the campaign and keeping it on brief was immense.
Butterfield Harris were asked to undertake an in-depth brand audit and communications review to assess the campaign’s effectiveness, and make recommendations for how it should evolve.
We helped clarify and redefine the proposition, identifying key audiences and messages, and the optimum communications vehicles and channels. A key recommendation of this review was the need for a substantial shift in the campaign’s tone of voice to enhance the UK’s appeal in a post-Brexit world. Implementation of the recommendations was supported through the development of communication guidelines, partnership strategies and training programmes.
STRATEGIC HM GOVERNMENT DEPT
In 2016, Butterfield Harris were briefed to undertake a ‘root and branch’ advice project to develop a coherent internal and external brand for a key Government department. That department had never previously embraced brand thinking systematically and operated within a closed world alongside partner agencies – largely out of view of the public.
The challenge was to lead a team of senior stakeholders, many unfamiliar with branding concepts, to a consensus on their brand’s positioning. Initially, our work involved extensive interviewing with the directors of the organisation, and of the partner agencies with which it collaborates. First thoughts and constructs, were then shaped through a series of collaborative meetings and workshops to deliver a clear brand proposition and narrative. These were supplemented by recommendations for external communications and messaging, expression of values and culture, and strategies for recruitment, inter-agency relationships, visual and verbal identity, and tone of voice.
THE CHILDREN’S SOCIETY (TCS)
The Children’s Society is one of the UK’s leading children’s charities, supporting and campaigning on behalf of young people facing severe and multiple disadvantage. With funding in the charity sector under immense pressure, TCS faces fierce competition for share of voice amongst potential donors – but more importantly for getting vulnerable childrens’ voices heard by society.
Our brief from them in 2017 was to identify, define and verbalise a compelling and creative core idea and narrative that would unite TCS people, supporters, donors and beneficiaries and provide them with an agreed platform for communications and campaigning.
Research with each of these groups, and a series of workshops with a senior TCS team revealed divergent views amongst ‘frontline’ and head office based employees about where the emphasis in communications should lie.
Using key insights we identified from the research, we developed concepts in the contrasting areas of ‘change’ and ‘togetherness’. After further research, the latter was selected as the preferred and unified route, encapsulated in the thought of “No child should feel alone”.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER
A major project in 2017 for this leading UK and global brand seeking to rapidly build their highly profitable Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division. SVO’s initial launch in 2014 had seen considerable success, but growth had out-paced the brand’s original positioning. Furthermore, the brand’s expression in areas such as vehicle naming and badging had become confusing both internally and externally.
On the back of past work for Mercedes AMG, Butterfield Harris were appointed to develop a new brand positioning and strategy for SVO that would provide a strong framework for the marque and facilitate global growth and expansion going forward.
Following a thorough review of customer research and after interviewing extensively within the JLR world and amongst prospects, we worked with the CEO and CMO to develop a set of recommendations for the brand and its relationship with its two parents – Jaguar and Land Rover.
Our recommendations encompassed brand architecture, positioning versus competitors, proposition and key messages – all wrapped in an SVO ‘Brand Manifesto’ that would govern all forms of communications and implementation, and flow through to new model introduction strategy and naming.
Mindful Chef is the UK’s leading healthy recipe box brand and has grown rapidly since its launch in 2015 with the support of venture capital investors and crowd-funding rounds that have often been oversubscribed.
Butterfield Harris helped build the brand from scratch – guiding the founders through the development of its proposition and key messages, and helping bring real clarity to target market definition and communications strategy.
Leslie Butterfield sat on the Board of the company since day one. He has helped guide Mindful Chef strategically and advised on potential growth opportunities, brand extension and third party collaborations within the healthy eating and wellness categories.
In December 2020, with revenues now approaching £50m annually, Mindful Chef sold a majority stake to Nestle – a tribute to a five year success story for the brand.