Pre-seed and seed investment are both early stages of venture capital funding for startups. However, there are some key differences between the two that are important for entrepreneurs to understand.
Pre-seed funding is typically the very first round of funding for a startup. It is used to cover the costs of developing a prototype, conducting market research, and building a team. This type of funding is often provided by friends and family, angel investors, or accelerator programmes (such as SETsquared Bristol). The amount of money raised in a pre-seed round can range from a few thousand pounds to a few hundred thousand pounds.
Seed funding, on the other hand, is the next step after pre-seed funding. It is used to further develop the product or service, conduct more extensive market research, and scale the business. Seed funding is often provided by angel investors, seed funds, or venture capital firms. The amount of money raised in a seed round can range from a few hundred thousand pounds to a few million pounds.
So, what’s the difference?
One key difference between pre-seed and seed funding is the level of risk involved. Pre-seed funding is considered to be higher risk because the startup is still in the very early stages of development and may not have a proven track record. Seed funding, on the other hand, is considered to be lower risk because the startup has a working prototype, a team in place, and some traction in the market.
Another difference is the level of control and ownership that the investors have in the company. In pre-seed funding, the investors typically have less control and ownership in the company because the startup is still in the very early stages of development. In seed funding, the investors typically have more control and ownership in the company because the startup has a proven track record and is further along in its development.
Ultimately, pre-seed and seed funding are both early stages of venture capital funding for startups. It’s crucial that you know what stage you’re at and therefore what to ask for and what the implications are. Even if you get pre-seed investment it’s useful to also consider how seed investment will be different, if and when you go for it.
At Gravitywell, we love working with enthusiastic startups and can help with prototypes, pitch decks, MVPs, conceptual work and investment advice. If you’d like to discuss how we can take your idea to the next level, get in touch.
Young creatives in Bristol have until 16 December to apply for one of the most unique and cutting-edge creative industry courses found anywhere in the country.
Earlier this year, Access Creative College joined forces with Condense and LocalGlobe to create a fully funded Metaverse Development Scholarship Programme, with the aim of bringing more diversity into the tech industry.
With the last few places now available on this course, young Bristol creatives have until the application deadline on 16 December to be a part of a technological and cultural revolution that is changing the landscape of live events.
Within this programme, scholars will be given the knowledge and skills to allow them to create truly live events in real time, as 3D video (also known as video 3.0). This means that, with the aid of either a VR headset, smartphone, laptop, desktop or even augmented reality glasses, people could enjoy a much more immersive experience of, for example a music concert, from the comfort of their own home.
With content itself streamed into gaming engines such as Unity and Unreal, the potential now exists to create entirely new and engaging live experiences within augmented and virtual reality setting and redefine the parameters of live events.
Jason Beaumont, Access Creative College chief executive, said:
“We’ve seen examples, in recent years, of performances taking place within virtual settings, but these have all been essentially pre-recorded and pre-programmed. What we’re talking about here is a revolution in the way we not only create live content within AR and VR, but the way that content is received by the public.”
Condense believe that the ceiling for this kind of technology is truly limitless and that while performing artists are including virtual performances within tours, there are no technological limits to scaling up this proposition into major events such as entire festivals and even major sporting events.
James Tong, Condense’s head of people, added:
“This kind of technology, and educational programmes like this, have the ability to open up the world of live events and culture to an even larger audience. Imagine the ability to attend something like Glastonbury or the World Cup without ever having to leave your home. Not to just watch a recording, but to be able to witness spectacular events and performances in real time, as if you were there.
“This really is a game-changing concept, its not about replacing live events with a virtual counterpart, far from it. In fact this is a means of making live events way more accessible and immersive and it gives event organisers and performers something new and different to think about when their planning tours and events.”
The programme is open to anyone, regardless of their academic background, existing qualifications or experience in the tech industry. By attending this 12 week, intensive, and fully funded course, students will have the opportunity to harness this potential and be part of the bleeding edge of AR and VR technology.
Scholars will learn Digital Graphics; 3D modelling, photogrammetry and textures; Realtime VFX; Plugin integration, in game/ venue scaling and enhancing virtual worlds; Enriching virtual worlds; Interactions, spatial sound, player movement and networking basics.
Successful applicants will also receive a college accreditation and certificate, hands-on experience with the latest technologies and techniques, real world industry skills to support the next step in your career, high level of exposure to local employers, a potential career with Condense and £1500 bursary, dependent on learner performance.
Applications for the course are now open here.
As 2022 draws to a close we’re delighted to be ending the year with top-line growth of +40%. We’ve welcomed major new clients and projects including, Bristol Innovations, Loughborough School of Business & Economics, premium plant-based nutrition brand Vivo Life, Made Smarter Innovation, Medi-Tech innovator Radii Devices and law firm TLT.
We moved to a new home in Engine Shed in March, the natural location for our focus on scaling innovative organisations. From here we continue to support leadership teams in this enterprising region which recorded an investment flow of £1.1bn in 2021 – putting it into the top 20 in Europe.
Moving into 2023, we’ll continue to work alongside The University of Bristol, developing its commercial quantum offering, The Enterprise Sessions and other projects.
And our ongoing relationship with Vittoria, the world’s most advanced bicycle tyre company, has also flourished and we’ll continue to support the leadership team on global brand development. Notable achievements this year include supporting the launch of the 5-hectare Vittoria Park next to the brand’s HQ in Brembate Italy and advertising projects including the benchmark-busting OWN THE UNKNOWN campaign which brought about a collaboration with the Velosolutions team and percussionist Ian Chang.
We also captured the spirit of the brand for internal and external audiences with their Manifesto film.
“It’s been a fantastic year for Firehaus. We’ve worked with some inspirational people throughout 2022 who have maintained a visionary approach to the role of their organisation – even in these difficult times. Each of them is changing the world for the better and it’s great supporting them in that endeavour. We’re super-excited about what’s to come!”
Ian Bates – Founder and Creative Partner
With climate change on the agenda at COP27 in Egypt, a major new report has examined the steps different sectors within the UK’s creative industries are taking to reduce carbon emissions and what more needs to be done.
Published by Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, Julie’s Bicycle and BOP Consulting, the Creative Industries and the Climate Emergency study describes the the creative industries as an “economic powerhouse” which delivers £115.9bn GVA to the UK economy, accounts for 2.2m jobs, and exports more than £50bn per year.
The government’s strategy for the UK economy to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 says “everyone will need to play their part”. With the creative industries representing 6% of the GVA of the overall UK economy, the study stresses that it’s vital the sector works with the government to achieve its goals.
The sector has responded dramatically to that call to action with the report highlighting how businesses and organisations of all sizes and in all sub-sectors of the creative industries innovating in production, design and supply to reduce their impact on the environment.
Several carbon calculators have been developed for businesses to measure their carbon footprint, and industry associations are forming alliances to produce reports, campaign groups and other activities to tackle climate change.
There are extensive challenges for all sectors though, the report said, and much more action is needed including government support to encourage and more investment for applied research.
Hasan Bakhshi, director of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, said:
“We are calling for a change to the definitions of research and development (R&D) used by the HMRC for tax relief, which currently excludes arts, humanities and social sciences. Without this we risk under-incentivising creative industries companies who want to experiment with new production and supply methods to reduce carbon emissions.”
The call for R&D tax relief to be extended to the creative industries is also something higlighted by Bristol Creative Industries board member Gail Caig, and the issue was highlighted in Bristol Creative Industries’ recent report on creative businesses in Bristol and the wider south west region.
We found that almost half (46%) of respondents to our survey stated they have not applied for R&D tax credits because they are not eligible.
Another significant barrier is the lack of knowledge of R&D tax credits, the report found. Although these barriers are higher among freelancers, 38% of commercial business respondents believe they are ineligible for R&D tax relief, and 17% admit they lack knowledge.
The BCI report said:
“While progress is being made to strengthen the links between the tech community and the creative industries, we need to raise our game in terms of research and development across the sector. There is a major UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) cluster programme in Bristol as well as the Catapult Network in the South West, but the research shows that these initiatives are not cutting through to BCI members. The challenge is on to build even stronger connections between creative and tech, educate more businesses about R&D and ensure programmes delivered at a national level deliver more for our members.”
Alison Tickell, founder and CEO of Julie’s Bicycle, said:
“For so long we’ve asked what is needed to motivate the political, economic and social change urgently needed. This report provides an answer; culture. Not only do the arts motivate change through storytelling and the unique ability to inspire connection and empathy but on a very practical level; it is these industries that across all sub-sectors are adapting their processes and monitoring impact. We find clear evidence of a willingness to learn and change from CEOs, boards, employees and artists themselves; it is clear culture is ready to prioritise change.”
Professor Christopher Smith, executive chair, Arts and Humanities Research Council, said:
“Climate change and environmental issues are now at the top of the agenda for creative businesses, from international corporations to start-ups. There are dozens of innovative projects and tools to help reduce carbon emissions, and some are supported through UKRI. But there is so much more to do. This report is a starting point and a call to action.”
The full report is jam-packed with useful information on how the creative industries are tackling climate change, the challenges that remain and what needs to be done to solve them. We urge you to read it.
In the meantime, here are some sector-by-sector highlights from the report of net zero schemes and initiatives with links to useful resources:
The advertising sector is largely computer-based work in offices but approximately 20% of its carbon footprint is generated through production. According to the Advertising Association, the largest footprint of a single production shoot was over 100 tonnes of CO2.
The sector also has a significant environmental impact through media distribution including tens of thousands of advertising billboards across the country and a million tonnes of leaflets, brochures and flyers.
Efforts taken by the advertising sector to reach net zero include the Advertising Association’s Ad Net Zero initiative, with several well-known brands, advertising agencies, media titles and industry bodies signing up to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. It also launched a report with guidance for measuring and reducing emissions through advertising, including how to enable consumer behaviour change.
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has launched its Ad Net Zero course.
Like other creative sectors, architecture has relatively low direct environmental impacts due to mostly being computer-based work undertaken in offices.
However, its role within the wider built environment is crucial to the climate agenda. Estimates suggest that the construction sector as a whole contributes as much as 40% of all global carbon emissions, with the production and use of concrete alone responsible for 8% of all emissions.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) launched the 2030 Climate Challenge to support architects to “design within a climate conscious trajectory”. It provides performance outcomes targets for architects in how they design for energy use, water use, embodied carbon etc.
With Architects Declare, RIBA also produced the Built for the Environment report which makes the case that the built environment must drastically reduce its carbon emissions to work towards net zero.
The Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) was established in 2020 as a “network of individuals within architecture and related built environment professions taking action to address the twin crises of climate and ecological breakdown”.
Small scale crafts businesses, such as designer making and jewellery, have a relatively small carbon footprint. It is the creative sub-sector with the smallest economic size according to government figures.
The Crafts Council produced a report in 2010 promoting environmental sustainability in crafts, which remains an active part of the organisation’s programme. The Crafts Council is also part of ‘Ecological Citizens’, a project with the Royal College of Arts and commercial partners such as IKEA, which explores the digital preparedness of the sub-sector for net zero including manufacturing of surplus materials and helping people digitally exchange knowledge and resources.
Research by the Crafts Council in 2020 found that almost 50% of consumers said that buying from sustainable businesses using sustainable materials and local supply chains is important.
Design is not a single creative sub-sector with a distinct value chain, but a set of creative practices and skills applied across industries and contexts. Environmental impacts depend on the type of work being undertaken. For example, graphic design and visual communications is linked to advertising, while product design is associated with engineering and manufacturing.
In 2021, the Design Council launched Design for Planet which “aims to turn policy into practice and allow us to design our way to net zero”.
The Design Council also runs the Design Value Framework, which helps designers and commissioners to identify and assess the wider social, environmental and democratic impacts of their work.
The report said that designer fashion “has almost certainly the largest environmental footprint of all the creative industries”. It added:
“Due to the complexity of international supply chains, estimates can vary widely – one study by McKinsey estimated the entire fashion product life cycle is responsible for up to 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Such is the extent of the problem that London Fashion Week, the UK industry’s flagship event, has been specifically targeted by activists, with high-profile campaigns by Extinction Rebellion for it to be cancelled.
“At the same time, controversies about ‘greenwashing’ and potentially misleading claims from fashion businesses have led to an investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority.”
In 2020, the British Fashion Council helped to establish the Institute of Positive Fashion, with an ambition for the fashion industry to be “more resilient and circular through global collaboration and local action”.
There are various organisations and commitments encouraging voluntary sign-ups such as Textiles 2030. Signatories collaborate on carbon, water and circular textile targets, and contribute to discussions around policy development for textiles in the UK.
Other initiatives include the UN’s Fashion Charter for Climate Action and The Fashion Pact.
The BFI collaborated with BAFTA albert and Arup in 2020 to measure carbon emissions from film and television. There are significant impacts, particularly for big budget productions which are estimated at 2,840 tonnes of CO2 for an average film production with a budget of over US$70m. Around half of emissions are linked to transport, 30% of which is air travel. There is also considerable onset energy consumption, with electricity and gas use accounting for 34% of emissions, while diesel generators contribute 15%.
In 2011, BAFTA launched albert, an online tool that calculates the amount of greenhouse gases as a direct result of a production. The tool has been used by more than 1,300 television production companies, with 7,500 production footprints calculated.
Other tools include the Green Book of Sustainable Buildings which has resources for cinemas, the Independent Cinema Office Green Cinema Toolkit and Green Screen, an online tool that supports environmentally friendly filming in London.
“The environmental impacts of the music industry are probably better understood than the impact of any of the UK’s other creative industries,” the study said.
A study by Julie’s Bicycle into the UK music industry found that the annual greenhouse gas emissions from artists touring in the UK and British acts touring overseas was approximately 85,000 tonnes of CO2e in 2010. Research by campaign group Powerful Thinking in 2018 found that the UK festival industry generated 25,000 tonnes of CO2e (excluding audience travel), created 26,000 tonnes of waste and used million litres of diesel.
Spotify estimated in 2021 that it had a carbon footprint of 353,054 tonnes CO2, and that 42% of its GHG emissions come from listeners streaming.
In 2019, Music Declares Emergency was launched as a call to action backed by more than 3,000 UK music artists. It is now also a campaigning entity that issues guidance, co-produced with Julie’s Bicycle, on how artists and businesses can create change, such as pressing lighter weight 140 gramme vinyl instead of 180 gramme.
LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment) was established in October 2020 to bring the UK trade associations under one umbrella group as a single, united voice. It launched the LIVE Green programme.
All 14 association members of LIVE have ratified its declaration to deliver measurable and targeted action on climate change, with the ultimate aim of reaching net zero emissions by 2030.
Vision: 2025 is a network of over 500 outdoor events and businesses taking climate action.
Smaller independent companies in the recorded music industry can measure their carbon footprint using a custom carbon calculator developed by IMPALA and Julie’s Bicycle.
The Music Climate Pact is a global platform, initiated by the UK’s Association of Independent Music (AIM) and record labels association the BPI, that was launched as a response to COP26 and the urgent call for collective action to combat the climate crisis.
A study by the GLA and the Theatres Trust found that London’s theatre industry generates 50,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions a year, with audience travel estimated at an additional 35,000.
The Act Green report examines audience attitudes towards the role of cultural organisations in tackling the climate emergency.
The Creative Green Tools, developed by Julie’s Bicycle, underpin the Arts Council England’s environmental reporting programme for more than 800 annually funded organisations.
The Theatre Green Book outlines a new standard for environmental action in the performing arts.
Choreographer Matthew Bourne piloted the Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green Touring Certification with its 2018-19 Swan Lake tour of the UK.
The sector’s environmental impact is linked to printing and paper production. The UK produces more than 180,000 new book titles each year (more per capita than any other country), and is home to more than 10 national newspapers, hundreds of local papers and several thousand consumer and trade magazines.
The report said:
“Producing virgin paper from timber for all of these is highly energy intensive, and the print industries are thought to represent up to 4% of global energy consumption. Added to this is the large amount of water required in producing virgin paper – estimated to be 10 litres of water per A4 sheet. Pulp and paper mills, with their extensive use of bleaching agents and other chemicals, are also significant polluters.”
The Publishers Association (PA) has a Sustainability Taskforce, the Publishing Declares campaign and a carbon calculator.
The Sustainability Industry Forum was launched by six publishing organisations.
The video games design sector is almost entirely digital so the environmental concerns are mainly related to the large amounts of energy required for playing games. London software designer Space Ape calculated that 50% (or approximately 375 tonnes) of their carbon emissions are produced by the cloud servers used to operate their games.
The Playing for The Planet Alliance is a campaign group launched by the United Nations that seeks to create change within the global video games industry.
UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) partnered with Playing for The Planet to create the Green Games Guide.
In 2010, a report by the Greater London Authority and Julie’s Bicycle estimated that audience travel accounted for a majority share (56%) of the London visual arts sector’s CO2e emissions. A 2019 report by the Tate Gallery found that audience travel accounted for 240 million tonnes of CO2e, or 92% of the gallery’s total carbon footprint.
The Gallery Climate Coalition has grown from the London arts community to over 900 country-wide members, and an international membership of 20 countries. Its aim is to facilitate a reduction of the sector’s carbon emissions by a minimum of 50% by 2030, as well as promoting zero waste.
If you’re a Bristol Creative Industries member, let us know what you’re doing to tackle climate change by emailing Dan.
What can we learn from Patagonia giving away their firm to fight climate change?
Powerful climate change documentary produced in Bath premiered at COP27
How sustainability is going to change your (working) life
Our predictions (and hopes) for COP27
View image in blog here.
The wealth management sector in the UK is undergoing a significant shift, driven by increasing competition, consolidation, societal changes in wealth distribution and advances in technology. Leading brands are capitalising on the opportunities this changing landscape offers. Many, however, lag behind – stuck in the traditions and mindsets of previous generations.
In this final article in our wealth management marketing series, we’ll summarise some of the key marketing trends and analyse the best ways to stay relevant in this highly competitive, evolving market.
If you missed the previous articles in the series, we’d recommend checking them out. You can read them all here:
1. “The customer is always the main character” – What makes a good brand story?
2. “43% of the global high-net-worth population are women” – Is your story inclusive?
3. “Millennials don’t like being told what to do” – Time to rethink your strategy?
In the previous articles in this series, we’ve discussed how some brands are targeting women and millennials for growth. And for good reason:
We have seen this trend extend across the market, from firms catering to high-net-worth individuals through to the mass-affluent.
‘…in widening the conversation to include new demographics, brands feel contemporary and fresh, chiming with shifting societal attitudes…’
UBS are overtly targeting women at the premium end of the market, and Schroders are addressing millennials in the mid-market, both offering propositions and brand stories tailored to them. But it’s notable that neither feels forced or exclusive of other audiences. In widening the conversation to include new demographics, brands feel contemporary and fresh, chiming with shifting societal attitudes.
The mass-affluent end of the market is also burgeoning, with brands like ABRDN broadcasting a broad, inclusive and sustainable story to attract volumes of investors.
Other brands are following suit. St James’s Place has just rebranded, with the objective of showing they are “an inclusive, responsible and contemporary business”.
Sanlam have announced a name-change (Atmos) and imminent rebrand, which they say will reflect “a strong internal culture of collaboration, inclusivity and diverse perspectives.” The firm aims to become a leading, digitally enabled, hybrid wealth business.
Digital transformation is at the heart of many wealth management businesses’ strategies. Digitally enabled service is no longer the sole preserve of millennial demands. It is expected by a large proportion of society under 60 and has been accelerated by the challenges we all faced during lockdown.
‘… digitally enabled service is no longer the sole preserve of millennial demands…’
But it’s not only the service end of business that’s undergoing a digital transformation. The marketing function is becoming digitally enabled to create, disseminate and track marketing communications at scale, through a proliferating number of channels, across all stages of the prospect and customer journey.
Typically, these marketing machines have, at their heart, a CRM and marketing automation system linked to the firm’s website. These systems form the engine that drives the creation, delivery and tracking of results.
A digital asset management system will store all of the comms components – imagery and copy, blogs etc. – to enable consistency and efficiency.
A print-on-demand system may enable the online creation and ordering of personalised print communications. This is particularly relevant for firms who have a national network of offices, allowing for local marketing activity that’s governed centrally for brand consistency and budgetary control.
The ecosystem is constantly changing. For example, cookies – for a long time the industry staple for tracking and targeting data – are being phased out. The new version of Google Analytics (GA4) offers the way forward, using first-party data to connect all components of the marketing machine’s engine.
View image in blog here.
“…the new version of Google Analytics (GA4) offers the way forward, using first-party data to connect all components of the marketing machine’s engine…”
In the first article in this series, we analysed both the message and channel strategy of a number of wealth management brands. We saw that the winners projected a consistent brand message over an extended period of time, committing a significant investment into the activity.
“…the channel mix differs depending on the segment of the market being targeted…”
That’s not to say that direct response marketing doesn’t have its place – St James’s Place have built an enviable position using predominantly direct marketing tactics. However, for affluent audiences in this competitive market, brand associations hold more weight.
The channel mix differs depending on the segment of the market being targeted. For example, ABRDN have invested heavily in TV to cut through into the mass-affluent market. UBS have used a mix of premium print and audio advertising. Online channels provide opportunities for niche targeting of millennials and women’s interest groups. Postcode targeting on the Sky Ad smart platform enables TV advertising based on mosaic profiles.
Ambient advertising can build awareness around local offices. Whatever the mix relevance to the audience, the benefits are only seen if the message is co-ordinated and consistent across all channels, and executed over an extended period of time. In fact, it takes at least six months for any brand building to take effect.
Undoubtedly, these are turbulent times for wealth management firms. Technology is disrupting, society is changing and market competition is getting fierce. Through the course of these articles, we’ve seen how a number of brands are evolving and gaining advantage through a broader, more inclusive brand story, concerted and consistent investment in brand advertising and the smart use of technology. It will be interesting to see who else follows suit. The winners will undoubtedly capture larger chunks of the market. Those stuck in the past may well be consigned to history.
Want to get ahead of the curve? Keen to make your messaging matter to millennials? Have questions about inclusive marketing? We’re here to help.
Get in touch with us at [email protected]
JonesMillbank, Bristol-based video production company, were commissioned by leading engineering consultancy firm Hoare Lea to celebrate the arrival of the National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF).
As unseen stewards of communication, man-made satellites keep us safe, informed and entertained, and their voyage into space demands phenomenal technical skill at every stage.
World-class science research, expertise and innovative testing transports them from concept to lift-off, and the unique design of the NSTF’s ‘cathedral-like’ facility means the chaos and challenges of space can be recreated here on earth.
Specialist equipment shakes, bakes and blasts satellites in the final phase of their ground development, testing them to their limits and arming them with the best preparation possible before their final journey into the unknowns of the cosmos.
JonesMillbank worked with Dr Jackie Bell, PhD, an aspiring astronaut and theoretical physicist who featured on BBC’s Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?, whose own journey through the space industry has tested her in every way imaginable.
The film was shot on location at the facility in Oxfordshire with support from RAL Space.
Visit https://jonesmillbank.com/work/hoare-lea/national-satellite-test-facility to view the film and https://hoarelea.com/2022/11/03/the-national-satellite-test-facility to find out more about the project.
JonesMillbank are a passionate full-service video production company
They work in-house with a talented team of multi-disciplined creatives, all the while telling authentic stories long before it was cool for a range of clients such as University of Bristol, IDLES, NHS England, The Royal Mint and Battersea.
The tech industry is fascinating from a brand perspective. Its growth has been so fast, disruptive and organic, with so many quickly expanding start-ups, that it has barely had time to pause and draw breath, let alone ponder what role brand might have to play in its future. When your numbers are good, something like brand scarcely seems to matter. Most companies have thrived despite, rather than because of theirs. But the hour of reckoning may be near.
In all industries there comes a point when it isn’t enough to have a great product or service to build a successful business. Knowledge spreads and grows. What once was groundbreaking rapidly becomes standard, imitable, improvable… the marketplace crowds and alternatives proliferate. Your ability to communicate your difference and your real value becomes ever more important as competition intensifies. Which is what makes the current situation in tech, digital and data analytics so interesting. With a plethora of similar-looking brands that use familiar language, the sector has evolved into a homogeneous playing field. The overwhelming sense is that everyone looks and sounds extraordinarily similar. That, for the wise, presents a far bigger opportunity than a few more lines of groundbreaking code.
It’s easy to see how things have come to be the way they are. All that mattered at the outset was the innovation. Companies started small and agile. Many really struggled to keep pace with their own success. Brand was often lumped in with digital marketing, handed to less senior people to take care of, and frequently seen as superficial – “just a logo” – and therefore low priority. The great thing about digital marketing from a digital company’s point of view? It’s easy to measure. Brand, which is bigger in every way, less so. All this is understandable: companies had people to hire, products to develop and customers to deal with. Even many who understand the importance of brand have simply put it off.
But now the situation has evolved. Many of those companies that started with two or three people now number twenty or thirty or substantially more. Now internal purpose, morale, discipline, decision-making and behaviour weighs heavier: bigger overheads, bigger clients, bigger responsibilities… each new step carries greater implications. How do you keep this ever-growing number of people together as a meaningful entity? Who exactly are you, as an organisation? What do you actually stand for?
The questions keep coming. How will you thrive consistently in the tech big battleground that is the fight for talent, when demand outstrips supply? What’s going to make high quality people choose you, instead of a close rival, for their next job, so you can maintain the high standards of the work you do as it scales up? Your good name and future business rests on it. And how, when you know that your product is better than your lookalike rivals out there, are you going to convince potential customers of that? How will they know who to believe? What’s going to get you the market share your innovation undoubtedly deserves?
Decisions going your way is the answer to these questions – and all of the great myriad of micro-influences that lead to that. But it’s easier said than done. The science of decision-making is fairly well documented. We’re not such rational beings as we’d like to believe, with up to 90 percent of the choices we make based on emotion… and later post-rationalised. This is just as applicable to tech as it is to buying chocolate in the supermarket or choosing a house. Instinctive decisions are made before we even know it ourselves. And this is where a brand – when it’s done well – comes into its own.
A brand isn’t simply a logo, a strapline, colours, imagery, fonts – it’s the sum of how all these are orchestrated, plus the behaviours and feelings that this leads to. It’s the whole experience of your organisation at every moment it has contact with someone. It’s the sum of every gesture and action by every employee as well as every facet of every piece of communication. A smart brand is alive to possibilities not just online or through marketing but anywhere there is engagement or the opportunity to bring its big core idea to life. Why can’t you make someone smile when they least expect it, in – say – the company car park for example? A brand is how you make your customers (and your own people) feel, which influences their behaviour towards you. And that’s why it’s a key strategic tool. The right thinking now can shape big, big decisions later. This is not a slap of paint.
To return to the tech sector in particular. It tends to be the case that tech companies focus intensely on what they have developed. It’s what they know, it’s where they feel comfortable. But what do they – or you – really know of the person who says yes or no to you, the key decision-maker with the final word? Or of what goes into that decision? Are you sure the technology itself is even within the grasp of this individual? Does it even need to be? Perhaps what matters for them is simplicity, ease of use, an instant sense of reliability and effectiveness: impact. Often, it’s not until much further down the line that verification of the tech offer is sought – usually by someone else, long after the important decision has been made. It’s no coincidence that so many tech businesses only thrive when they become human, literally, in the form of a meeting or presentation. If that’s the only time your “brand” is alive – then you don’t have a brand at all.
The fact is that many businesses in the tech sector focus their communications around dry, technical language set against a visual backdrop of technology cliches or familiar-looking process diagrams. Whilst it might be a necessity to articulate the nitty gritty of a technology, platform or service somewhere, this is often given priority at the expense of the wider, more human and beneficial story. Complexity stymies simplicity. Many businesses are missing the opportunity to connect their brand with customers in a much more powerful way.
So what can (great) branding do for you:
— Revolutionise credibility
— Influence the big decisions people are making about your company
— Improve your talent acquisition
— Support your business strategy
— Radically alter morale and engagement internally
— Increase business leads and new business / revenue
— Inform strategic decisions
— Bring stability and reassurance through demanding times
— Drive IPO or sales valuations higher
— Change the future.
JonesMillbank, Bristol-based video production company, worked with Matter to help launch a Kickstarter campaign for their product, Gulp; the world’s first microplastics filter for washing machines.
Every time we do our laundry, up to 700,000 microfibres are released from our washing machines and pumped into our waterways.
Gulp captures these microplastics before the ocean does.
It’s the first, sustainable, long-lasting solution, with zero additional filter costs and no disposable parts.
JonesMillbank worked with Matter’s team, including Founder Adam Root and Product Director Lucas Horne to bring Adam’s story and Gulp’s technology to an audience across Kickstarter and social.
“Working closely with the team at Matter was a great experience; it’s always nice to work with a client who are open to and trustful of your ideas” said Russell Jones, Director at JonesMillbank, who was also scriptwriter and assistant director of the production.
“The fact that the story and product is green-purposed and aligned with our strategy and net zero credentials was a benefit to boot”.
Lucas Horne, Product Director at Matter said “JonesMillbank did a fantastic job in pulling together a compelling creative that really told the story of Gulp and Matter’s development in a captivating way and the campaign was fully funded in under 30 minutes.”
You can view and back the campaign at www.kickstarter.com/projects/aroot/gulp-self-cleaning-washing-machine-microplastic-filter and view the campaign content at jonesmillbank.com/work/matter/gulp-kickstarter.
JonesMillbank are a passionate full-service video production company
They work exclusively in-house with a talented team of multi-disciplined creatives, all the while telling authentic stories long before it was cool for a range of clients such as University of Bristol, IDLES, NHS England, The Royal Mint and Battersea.
Lately, it seems that creatives everywhere have been doing double takes as AI-powered tools start to seep into mainstream media. With DALL-E creations hot on the heels of graphic designers and free copywriting sites like Jasper looming over busy marketing teams, now’s not the time to stick our heads in the sand. Instead, we want to find out whether this new wave of computer-controlled craft is really a cause for concern – or if we can make it work in our favour.
First things first: When talking about AI potentially replacing us creatives, it’s worth examining what creativity really means. Albert Einstein defined it as “seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” Many, including a lot of us here at saintnicks, are in agreement, viewing creativity as inventiveness, as our inherent ability to use imagination to originate something new. In fact, the Cambridge English Dictionary’s definition of creativity is “the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas.” This human ingenuity is difficult to replicate – and the reason why icons like Beethoven, Maya Angelou, Matisse, the Wright brothers, or Wes Anderson are so revered.
On the contrary, others (like Steve Jobs, for example) view creativity from a more practical point of view. Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” That implies creativity is just a skill that can be learned and developed over time using reference points as inspiration. If humans, therefore, only build on what they have learned and what others have done in order to be creative, then it’s easy to argue that AI, too, can be creative. Because that’s essentially what AI does – it takes existing information (data) and, using clever algorithms, generates fresh, new content. But we’ll get to that a bit later.
In the defence of creatives, I believe there’s more to it. Sure, creativity is original, inventive, ingenious – maybe even learned. But it’s also intentional. It’s emotional. It’s contextual. As a copywriter, for example, I’m able to write with foresight and intuition. I know that an audience is likely to prefer one tagline over another, or laugh at a certain word, or be touched by a speech, simply because I share the same human experience as the people I’m talking to. I’m sentient. I consciously want my readers to feel something, I can intend for my words to elicit a response.
As humans, our thoughts, our memories, our physical sensations and the environments that surround us play huge, important parts in our lives. It’s our creativity that enables us to make connections between these things. When we create art – and I mean art in its loosest sense here, i.e. anything that’s an expression of creativity – we are either trying to discover something about ourselves, make sense of the world, affect our audience or express our thoughts and feelings. We have an innate human desire, an urge to create something meaningful.
A machine can’t do that. It doesn’t have the capacity for free thinking, nor does it have emotional intention. It can’t look at its audience and think, “I want my art to make you laugh or cry, I want to start a discussion around this topic, I want to comment on the state of the world.” Even the smartest AI can’t independently create art with meaning.
So, how can AI still be a threat to creatives if it can’t have an intention? Well, let’s look at the world of visual art for a moment.
Those who recently attended Glastonbury Festival may have crossed paths with Ai-Da, an artist who created portraits of the four headlining acts during a live painting demonstration. Although ‘live’ may not be the right word for it. You see, Ai-Da is a robot. The world’s first ultra-realistic artist robot, in fact. She uses cameras in her eyes, AI algorithms and a robotic arm to draw, paint, sculpt and perform poems. For years, she’s travelled the world, displaying her artwork in galleries, talking about her experience as a humanoid artist. You can even follow her on Instagram.
While, at first glance, Ai-Da could be mistaken for something from the year 3000, the AI she uses to create her art is quite simple. Allow me to get a bit technical here. You see, there are two different types of algorithms that can be used to create images through AI. The first one is Neural Style Transfer – where AI applies the style of one image to another. The Mona Lisa recreated in the style of Kandinsky. A photograph of an avocado re-styled as Warhol’s pop art. A pencil sketch turned into a Picasso. In order to function, the Neural Style Transfer needs both images as reference points to create its final product. This is what Ai-Da does, too. Using her ‘eyes’, she receives a reference image which she then replicates in her own, pre-programmed style. To really wrap your head around it, you can think of Neural Style Transfer as a fancy Instagram filter. Still with me?
Then there’s Generative Adversarial Networks – or GAN, for short. Unlike Neural Style Transfer, GANs can create original images from scratch. Well, sort of. GANs work by predicting an outcome based on a certain prompt. Using a set of data, they generate new examples that could plausibly fit in with the original data. So if the dataset is Van Gogh’s 900 paintings, the GAN would generate a new original image that looks like it could fit into a Van Gogh collection.
The results of GAN are pretty successful. So successful in fact, that, in 2018, Christie’s became the first auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm – which sold for a whopping $432,500. The artists behind Edmond de Belamy, as the artwork is called, are French collective Obvious. Using a dataset of 15,000 portraits from WikiArt, painted (by humans) between the 14th and 20th century, Obvious’ GAN created a new piece of art depicting a somewhat-blurry gentleman.
DALL-E is currently not available to the public – but the concept quickly took on a viral life of its own when Boris Dayma, a machine learning engineer, created the more accessible DALL-E mini (now called craiyon). Trained on much smaller amounts of data than DALL-E, craiyon’s machine learning improves day by day based on information inputted by its millions of users. For now, the resulting images are, at best, suited to meme culture – but as these technologies develop, it’s easy to see how they could become a part of everyday professional life. Print ads, book covers, blog headers, social posts, stock imagery, web content… the possibilities are endless. So where does that leave us?
I think the answer lies within the execution. All of these technologies, from DALL-E to Jasper, rely on prompts. They require us – the humans – to do the big thinking before they can switch on and start churning out their art. And it’s within the prompt that true creativity really lies. It’s not the machine that came up with the idea to have steampunk teddies go grocery shopping, it’s the person. The prompt satisfies both our aforementioned definitions of creativity – it requires imagination, and an ability to come up with something original, but it also requires a connection to be made, as Steve Jobs said. AI is the executioner, the maker, but we are the originators, looking at things differently, thinking up unimaginable things. To find the perfect image, you need to provide the perfect prompt. If AI can’t originate, then we creatives are still needed.
Now that we’re safe in the knowledge that AI, for the time being, isn’t going to come for our jobs entirely, we might even be able to look at how it can enhance our work and make us better. As OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman described it in an interview with the New Yorker, AI can – and should – ultimately just be treated as “an extension of your own creativity.”
In agency life, a lot of time can be wasted during the original concepting phase when all you really want to do is spit-ball ideas and get your clients’ reaction. Tools like DALL-E can be a great help to you if you’re short on time but want to present a few visuals to illustrate an idea. Even if it’s just a word on a shop front or a puppy wearing a hat. It gives a lot more power to the “What if?” when suddenly that question can be answered in minutes, rather than having to mock it all out on photoshop for hours. Plus, you’ll never have to trudge through a stock image library ever again.
One of the most remarkable features of DALL-E is its ability to make edits to an image it has already created. Want to see what a flamingo would look like inside of the pool rather than next to it? Just tell DALL-E to move it around. Boom. Little tweaks that can take up annoying amounts of time can be executed with a few verbal prompts.
Writer’s block can be one of the most debilitating experiences for someone whose livelihood depends on how many words they can get down in an hour. AI tools like Copy.ai can act not only as a timesaver when deadlines are looming but also serve up inspiration when you’ve been staring at a blank page for far too long. Using a link, a couple of words or a simple description, Copy.ai can generate headlines for Facebook, brand mottos, meta descriptions and more. It even lets you rewrite existing text in a different tone. The output is never final-product worthy and definitely needs a human eye – and hand – to finish it off for a client, but it’s a great tool for getting that pesky first draft out of the way. Full disclosure: I actually used Copy.ai myself recently to come up with some alternatives for a Call to Action button – and it worked a treat.
So, there you have it. Whilst AI might come off as a bit of a scary, magical beast at first, it can actually serve as a handy little tool to keep our creative juices flowing. And no, I don’t think it will be replacing our creative team anytime soon. We’re far too much fun in the office.
To chat with our team or learn more about saintnicks, head to www.saintnicks.uk.com.
In episode 13 of WithinDigital, Adapt’s Nick Livermore is joined by Joel Strohmeier, Senior Accessibility Consultant at Bristol Strategic UX agency, Nomensa.
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Together they discuss…
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