One of my earliest memories of school is being sent home early because of a bomb scare. They were always hoaxes by older kids whom I guessed wanted the day off school. We were all thankful. But there were other warnings, in the city center, that weren’t. And later, the black mourning flags in every window for Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers.
I lead an unusual company. Lippincott, part of the highly analytical management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, is the creative force behind the ubiquitous red-and-white Coca-Cola swirl, Samsung’s global identity, the Starbucks logo, Walmart's rebranding, and the Infiniti concept, name and brand. We have experts in stochastic modeling and strategic choice analysis sharing workspaces with graphic designers, linguists, and architects. Each of our disciplines has its own perplexing vernacular, industry associations, dress codes, and even workday start times. Yet, somehow this unique blend of skills has managed to sustain itself in this way for 70 years now.
With a client list that includes 3M, Delta Air Lines, Hyatt, Samsung, Starbucks, and Walmart, Lippincott has spent the last seven decades combining strategy and creativity. (The recent brand face-lifts of Stanley and eBay? All Lippincott.) At the helm of the firm, which is part of Marsh & McLennan-owned Oliver Wyman, is Rick Wise, who oversees innovation in Lippincott’s design and strategy practices while also advising clients on their branding issues. The Wharton alum made time to chat with us about some recent Lippincott projects as well as his branding pet peeve, what’s on his desk, and why the Taj Mahal never gets old.
It’s been seven decades since J. Gordon Lippincott and Walter P. Margulies set up shop as Lippincott & Margulies, and the brand strategy and design firm, now known simply as Lippincott and part of Marsh & McLennan-owned Oliver Wyman, is both celebrating its septuagenarian status and using the occasion to get introspective. In the below video, directed by Matt Kalish with creative director Brendan Murphy, the firm looks to its past and its future to ponder the eternal question, “What is a brand?”
The panel at last week’s Lippincott “Experience Innovation” event was packed with more talent than a Dancing with the Stars finale: reps from Google, UNIQLO and Kiehl’s answered questions from senior Lippincott partner James Wright about creating a truly unique experience for the consumer.
It’s tough being a marketer these days. Trust in institutions has plummeted and company life cycles are compressed. Through social media, consumers can expose and accentuate company flaws, while at the same time consumers crave relationships where businesses really “see” them as individuals. This is the Human Era.
You’ve innovated the car, now how about the buying experience? From the early 20th century, automakers have focused on one overarching imperative: lead the industry by differentiating on the latest technology. But this game is getting harder to win. With automotive technology advancing, today’s breakthrough innovation is tomorrow’s standard equipment. As a result, product innovation alone is not enough to establish a lasting competitive advantage.
In 1985, while flipping through German Vogue, I discovered Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons. I immediately began to love all Japanese fashion. The way these designers established a sense of belonging and redefined beauty is still unmatched by anyone in the field. With them came a world of visual expression that created a total immersive experience, which we mostly take for granted today.
"The path down is almost always faster than the path up,” says John F. Marshall, senior partner and global director of strategy at Lippincott, in an email. “Why? A brand at its core is about trust. It is a promise. As in any relationship, that takes a long time to build, longer to rebuild.”
It is not a new observation that people’s attitudes toward companies and institutions have irrevocably changed over the last few decades. Trust in institutions had declined precipitously, replaced by empowered consumers who increasingly rely on each other for decision-making. Perhaps not surprisingly, connected consumers are turning away from impersonal, policy-driven, product-first companies, often in droves.