Smart Business Guardian — print campaign

Smart Business Guardian is a growing and highly successful business administration firm with a focus on start-ups, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, based in Canberra.

In their quest to create their own mindshare in the Canberra’s crowded accounting and business administration services market, they needed a bold and simple communication approach that appeals to businesses that aspire to grow, but are swamped in day to day administrative tasks.

Smart business guardian advertising campaign

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Smart business guardian advertising campaign

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Smart business guardian advertising campaign

By creating a story in a series of ads, forging an identity for the brand without adding any extra colours or visual elements to the original branding ‑which is not designed by me‑, I’ve tried to communicate a plain and simple message to potential clients, without adding extra levels of design elements.

Brand refresh: Owner writing instruments

Field & Country of Origin: writing instruments, office supplies, South Korea, China and Taiwan

Target market: Southwest Asia
Task: Identity overhaul, package design, typography design
Year: 2005 — 2014

Background: In 2005, whenIwas introduced to the project, the brand had about 5 to 6 products in its portfolio. The overall looks of the logo, packages, and copy were so unattractive that improving them by minor changes were impossible.The following is a selection of activities that lead to persuading the decision makers to accept redesigning the brand from scratch — which usually is a very difficult decision to make for stakeholders, considering the significant investments already made in brand positioning, production, advertisement and mind share.

The brand and packaging before overhaul
The brand and packaging before overhaul

Research and defining brand essence: The project began by studying competition; by collecting product samples from the market and creating a virtual store with the competitors’ products to see how our products compete on shelves, collecting competitors catalogues, studying their visual identities, positioning, product range, and by collecting data from their websites, shops (using client’s sales force as surveyors that visited almost all the country’s shops on a regular basis) tried to get an understanding of the competitors brands and their position in market. By creating questionnaires, and studying company staff attitudes interesting discoveries made; for instance, management was stunned when a small questionnaire, asking all the staff to name their own four favorite brands revealed that nobody in the company mentioned their own brand’s name as their favorite, except the sales director. By creating a map of the players in the market, in hope of finding gaps that brand can fill, it became clear that the strongest advantage that the brand had, was being relatively competitive in pricing. It was the least desired approach to communications — So, after studies and discussions with the client, it’s been decided to position the brand as “a brand of good ideas”, by never directly communicating that the brand is cost effective, we stated that we have good ideas for “everyone”.

Position of brand among competitors
Position of brand among competitors

By communicating the friendliness of the brand an emotional connection with the buyers created meanwhile, gave the brand image some extra room for maneuvering because being a friend of good ideas can have many interpretations that can open a world of creative opportunities in design and communication. During the process, any sub-brand name the company used to have dropped, because initially the offerings were too thin and the best strategy was to avoid over-stretching the brand with confusing naming. It took three months to persuade the client to change the logo to the new one, and change the color from black to red. Package design: By creating an honest, transparent-looking design that showed the product just like they are, the connection to brand values communicated. The new packaging system was a success and gave the green light from management to continue changing every package brand had.

Old Logo

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Old Logo

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Old Logo
New Logo

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New Logo

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New Logo

Logo Redesign One of the technical challenges was, due to manufacturing limitations in writing instrument industry, the logo must be very easy to engrave by stamping or laser, print in one color, and etch on very small surfaces like a pen clip.

Outcomes: Due to the positive impact of the brand overhaul, from 2005 to 2010, sales increased 2.5 times and product portfolio increased to more than 100 items. In addition, the brand secured the number one place in mechanical pencil lead sales in the region.

Brand consistency & strategies for reducing time to market: One of the biggest challenges of working on the brand was keeping the message consistent across all mediums and more than 20 OEMs from South Korea, India, Hong Kong and China to create consistent color, layout, and communication, which used to be very difficult for the management. In order to reach consistency, a brand identity guidelines created and distributed among OEMs, PDF used for throughout the entire approvals and production process, all communications done electronically, instead of using air mail, colors proofed using Pantone® system and 3D renderings created for prototypes and used in catalogues for pre-ordering around 6 months before even the actual production began.

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Brand refresh: Hansa

Hansa: Merging 3 brands into one
Field & Country of Origin: Writing Instruments, Promotional Gifts / Hong Kong
Task: Identity overhaul, package design, Typography
Design Year: 2005 onwards
Keywords: product development, package design, bilingual typography, branding, brand refresh

Challenge: Back in 2005, the company that owns the brand, faced tough competition and a fragmentation of its product branding and identity. The company owned three brands, all active in gift and premium market and they all suffered from poor, inconsistent branding communication.

Solution: I got involved with their project when they asked me to design a catalog for Hansa, which eventually led me to persuade them not only to change the branding communication system but also, abandon their two other brands and merge their product lines into one.

Logo, before and after the transformation

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Logo, before and after the transformation

Results: It was a very tough decision for the traditional, family owned company; however, the results were astonishing. After a year, Hansa sales increased by 1.5 times and it became the number one gift brand in the region. The brand has hundreds of products in its portfolio. All package designs were done and sent electronically to various manufacturers in Hong Kong. So, I had to find a way to keep all things in harmony, while keeping the costs down. A two colour (black & silver) uniform design agreed with the client. Some of the items in this picture are sold as low as 1.5 USD, but in terms of positioning, since we changed the brand image, costumers see this brand on par with major premium brands.

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