Brand new world – connecting to a sense of place

Back in April we grappled with the emerging Covid situation trying to quickly adapt to the emergence of a ‘new normal’ of working from home, teaching the kids multiplication tables (and finding an even deeper respect for teachers), all the while keeping a close eye on the household levels of toilet roll. The days blurred into each other and it was hard to think and plan beyond next week. 

What has become clear some six months later is that, despite all the difficulties, necessity really is the mother of invention and innovation. The human capacity for problem solving, thinking outside the box and pitching in to reach a common goal is actually quite remarkable. Community groups were set up, business models changed, and physical environments adjusted to allow for new ways of interacting with each other. 

We have heard that phrase “the new normal” repeated so many times, as we open yet another video conference call window and try to remember popping a face covering in the bag before heading out. But of course, the new normal doesn’t have to be just a set of circumstances that we find ourselves having to adapt to, it’s easy to forget that we have the power and influence to play a part in creating, and helping to shape what we want this new normal to be. 

Polling by YouGov showed that only a very small percentage of Britons wanted a return to exactly how things were before the pandemic. 

While businesses need to prepare and react to the future, we can also be part of actively transforming it.

Going through changes

Pandemics have historically acted as drivers of change and pushed societies forward in leaps that would, under normal circumstances, have taken years. They force societies to face up to how they deal with things like sanitation, marginalised groups and the environment. 

On a smaller scale, going through any type of crisis often makes you look at things in a new way, gain a different perspective and learn about yourself. 

Both businesses and individuals have had to scale back, it’s been challenging and may continue to be for some time. But those challenges also often mean refocusing on the core values, taking things back to basics, being nimble in decision making and it is our belief that those who manage to come out on the other side, will do so with renewed purpose and direction. External circumstances change but having a clear long-term vision and knowing what you stand for makes it easier to adapt and pivot where necessary. Can parts of what your business offers be experienced online? Do you have the necessary software, technology and assets to bring your brand to life digitally?

I recently listened to Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb, recount how at the start of the pandemic they had 1 billion dollars’ worth of cancellations. Their business dropped by 80% in 8 weeks. 

They adapted quickly to offering discounted stays for frontline workers. Then, as people started to come out of their homes, they saw a huge surge in people travelling to rural areas and booking longer stays. Chesky sees this as a fundamental shift, a travel redistribution. People are choosing to travel closer to home rather than getting on a plane and not crowding to the same landmark destinations. There is also a large segment of people who are realising that working from home, means that you can work from any home (as long as the broadband allows it). As a result, Airbnb’s numbers are now, by the end of the summer, back to similar levels as those of last year, which offers hope to operators in this sector and shows that having a solid, reliable online platform builds trust and keeps customers coming back.

Connecting with a sense of place

Some of the positive outcomes of this time have been around connection - be it with family, nature or the local community. Lockdown had us as a family, exploring the immediate area we live in, finding new paths for our daily walks and runs and I think for many, finding a renewed appreciation of place. 

This sense of place is something that we find is often integral in telling the stories of the brands we work with. Children’s trails designed for the National Trust, quite literally open a gateway for families to get outside and explore their woodlands, gardens and grounds. It comes to life in the visual branding developed for Tre, Pol & Pen farm shop, inspired by the three elements of the name - homestead, pond or lake and headland or hill. Their brand also reflects the history and the importance of 'place' in the gathering of people, the handpicked food and in the enjoyment of the customers within the landscape and space.

In the time we spent working with Padstow Distilling to help launch their first gin ‘St George’s Well’, we explored the ingredients foraged from the banks of The Camel Estuary, and with such a distinctively beautiful coastline we put nature and topography at the heart of the design. Like nature distilled.

The Gendall way of working

As an agency it is our aim to help the brands we work with succeed in achieving their objectives. We do this by connecting the four pillars of; Strategy, Creative, Design and Technology. Effective design can help to transform businesses and can achieve clear, measurable results for companies and organisations. With targeted creativity, we change the way customers think, behave or believe and give our clients a competitive advantage.

 As communities start to welcome guests back, we will continue to assist our clients in the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality sector to build and rebuild those relationships and connections to their audiences. Taking brands, products, consumers and visitors to brave and exciting places, be it through their screen or face to face. 

Keep an eye out for future content about how to build online relationships with your audience using innovative technology, strategy and design @gendalldesign on social media or drop a line to greg@gendall.co.uk for a free consultation.