When Design Manchester descends on the city each year, creative influence and inspiration takes hold of the M1 postcode. Aimed at giving a voice to established and emerging designers, the 10-day event is filled full of opportunities to seek out a diverse range of exhibitions, workshops and showcase presentations.
At Glorious, the festival’s calendar makes for a key part of our year. Its events are chance for us to take stock of Manchester buzzing design talent, and recharge our own ideas and concepts.
An exhibition with significant inspiration for us this year was Lend Me Your Ear, a collaboration between music photographer Andrew Cotterill and illustrator Ben Tallon, in association with Young Urban Arts Foundation and CALM. Showcased at our neighbours PLY, Northern Quarter, this series of images gives a stage to celebrating the individuality of human energy. Described in the programme’s introduction as ‘a love letter to self-expression, depicting music artists who never attempted to hide the true essence of their character, succeeding because of it and inspiring millions along the way’.
In the collection, Cotterill and Tallon have managed to capture what happens when true identity becomes a brand, a signature move. When the pace of modern life can bring with it so much external influence and pressures, brand identity has begun to feel more malleable and a lot less fixed than perhaps it used to. Tallon explains that ‘in today’s world, our feet don’t touch the floor and it’s easy to forget that we each have a unique journey that is valuable, interesting and worth celebrating’.
From the Prodigy’s late great Keith Flint, to Pink’s iconic androgyny. From Ian Brown and the Stone Roses, to the Gallagher’s Manchester born and bred Oasis. Cotterill’s photographs resonate with passion and performance, illustrated over by Tallon with lyrics of both profanity and preaching. ‘At a formative age, these musicians showed me why expressing our truest self is crucial if we are to make sense of the world. I want to share that. Creativity is undervalued when it can help people in so many ways. There are no better examples of that than in music,’ says Tallon.
For brands looking at ways to secure the future of their business, they could learn a lot by looking to the style and practice of the musicians featured in the exhibit. Being unapologetically authentic is something that resonates with consumers in a climate where they’re being exposed to so much of the same. Finding a brand proposition that harnesses individuality (and creativity) is key to success; companies should audit their brand, to ensure it can be clearly defined and effectively communicated. It is the brands that have done this, who find themselves with the personalities comparable to the characters of leading artists.
Take IKEA for example, their clean, no-nonense product-centric marketing makes the essence of their brand recognisable even without their trademark logo. Their deep-rooted and thorough understanding of identity makes for consistent and confident design outputs, that never deviate from the brand values. In the same way that Jonny Marr has delighted crowds over the decades armed with only his guitar and top-buttoned shirt, there are no distractions. Only the promotion of a brand ethos that has long outlived changing trends and tastes, each time a product (…or song) is released it’s only a different iteration of what fans know and love. The steadfast brand loyalty is born out of trust and familiarity.
It’s the same confidence that Nike exudes, although it’s executed with a difference. Rather than have a stream of similar content for their product releases, Nike work largely in campaigns. Threaded throughout the outputs is the consistent ‘Just Do It’ brand ethos, but with each iteration its message becomes tailored to the climate. In 2018, Nike enlisted former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who gained fame outside of sports for kneeling during the national anthem in a stance against police brutality and racial inequality. The Nike campaign demonstrated that sports icons can do more than break records, they can break down prejudice too. It’s all done to the hum of a consistent brand vision, but molded to reflect a certain time.
This meant it was Croyden’s own Stormzy who we thought of in a similar light to Nike. Unafraid of spotlighting issues such as the Grenfell Tower fire and the country’s knife crime epidemic, Stormzy has made his politically-charged platform part of his brand identity. In his 2019 Glastonbury performance, he appeared on stage wearing a stab-proof vest, an emblem of in his personal brand that lies in confronting difficult issues.
As an awarding-winning design agency in Manchester, it’s our responsibly to clients to ensure we’re at the forefront of emerging trends and technologies. But Lend Me Your Ear reminds us of the magic of remaining true to yourself, a steady and certain force in an ever-changing landscape. At Glorious, the work of Cotterill and Tallon rings true with our own guiding principles. Everything we do here, starts with the brand. The brand workshops we run are all geared towards understanding the true internal essence of our clients as best we possibly can. The more we uncover about what makes your business truly unique to you, the better we are at helping to achieve your commercial and marketing objectives. The detailed report that we produce after the workshop, covers brand vision, mission and positioning with the recommended brand strategy, promise, tone of voice and target audience.
Regardless of scale or sector we aim to create brands that resonate with their intended audiences in an imaginative, compelling and relevant way. When we listen closely enough, each of our clients chimes with their own charisma and character, they are individual and their own. Being able to support in bringing this to the surface and help to communicate that to consumers is one of the best parts of being a creative agency; a medium for self-expression, originality and uniqueness, that if invested in, can stand the test of time.
So for anyone looking for a bit of inspiration, personal or professional, look no further than the local haunt, PLY. Until January 31st serving celebration of true identity alongside their pizzas. And instead of taking to Instagram for a life-comparison session, ponder instead what true you-ness looks like. You won’t find that anywhere else.
Need help with discovering your business’ ‘true essence’? Find out how we can support.
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