From managing design at one of the world’s most beloved brands to building his own agency, Nicknack, Nick Price is no stranger to the benefits of branding. An old friend of MetaDesign, we had the pleasure of connecting with Nick at our San Francisco office for a week while he was traveling from his home in Australia. Read on to learn his story, branding trends in Oz and three tips on making a brand stand out.
Tell us your story. How and why did you create your company Nicknack? How is it different from other brand and design agencies?
Nicknack was born in Sydney in 1998, after I moved back to Australia from a designer role at Star TV, Hong Kong. Having worked with Nike on a freelance basis, I now began delivering projects for them. After about 10 months, I was offered a full-time Design Manager role at Nike’s world headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
That year saw me managing Nike’s retail initiatives across the Asia Pacific region, which gave me tremendous insight into the process and philosophy of strategic branding. I put this knowledge and experience to good use when I reopened Nicknack; this time, in my hometown of Adelaide. While we continued to deliver work for Nike, other international clients like Getty Images and Sesame Street also came on board. Working on these brands significantly enhanced our understanding of strategic branding as a tool for replicating brand success across cultures, languages, markets and of course, organizations and product categories.
Since strategic branding is a discipline-neutral tool, we’ve been able to apply it quite successfully to areas beyond traditional branding and design; like advertising and media strategy. I guess that’s what makes us different and valuable as a partner – the ability to blend strategic and creative services across a spectrum of disciplines so that our clients get access to an integrated service offering instead of a fragmented one.
What inspires you about branding and design?
No two companies or brands are the same; each one has its individual nuances and specific challenges. This serves to keeps things interesting and requires a constant rethinking of the creative problem solving process.
What are the trends you see happening in Australia and the United States?
Branded content is pretty big at the moment with brands trying desperately to sneak promotional messages into everyday content. If done tastefully (e.g. Coke’s happiness factory a few years ago) that can work very well. But more often than not, it turns out to be nothing more than product placement; which as a strategy is debatable. I think many brands have woken up to the reality that social media alone isn’t the answer to their marketing worries! I see many brands using Facebook and Twitter (even Pinterest) as a listening post for audience concerns and that’s great. I find the growing number of ads on YouTube annoying. It’s become the world’s largest TV station, with the added facility of skipping – a nightmare for media planners I’m sure!
What does the new era of brands look like?
The new era for brands is that being local is no longer a geographical limitation but a marketing choice. Previously you could be an international brand only if you had the resources to be in multiple markets. Today, all you need is a great product, a website, an efficient courier, and of course, people who are excited about your product. The model has changed from marketing push to product pull. This means that audiences are actively looking for products that defy convention. The market for ‘quirky’ is at an all time high!
What are three ways a brand can stand out?
#1 Create uniqueness and excellence at every organizational level.
This creates a compelling story that is built into the fabric of the brand rather than relying on points of difference in advertising only. Brands like Apple and Ikea are great at this.
#2 Define niche audiences to build tribes and communities who are passionate about an activity in your brand’s space.
Nike is a classic example of this, marketing to a whole spectrum of athletes; from runners, golfers and swimmers, to tennis players, cyclists and yes, even skateboarders. Each tribe is radically different from the next. Yet they are united by common values that find resonance with the brand.
#3 Be politically incorrect.
Be brave enough to confront the cultural zeitgeist with a point of view that is radical in its philosophy yet attractive in its appeal. Cases in point: Harley Davidson and FCUK.