The surge in innovative online options in recent years has made boardroom executives of the largest and most powerful companies very nervous. The fear is that six months from now, the company might be swallowed up by a competitor whose existence they did not anticipate, as the Airbnbs of this world have shown. Now’s the time for the established order to take charge…
There is a growing realisation that a business model currently being devised in Silicon Valley, for example, could disrupt the entire market in the not too distant future. Management boards need to anticipate, and even initiate, radical innovation. Of course, that’s easier said than done. It’s almost impossible to achieve the agility required to innovate within the established structure and culture of a large company. Things take too long and ideas lose their edge. An established culture does not allow for the emergence of ‘the new’. DNA cannot be changed. Yes, you can produce an improved version, but not one that is fundamentally different.
Best of both worlds
I see a trend developing; large companies that have an idea are choosing to develop it as a startup. That way, they can capitalise on the potential of an agile organisation, intense focus and ambition, high energy levels, quick decision-making, adaptability and relentless determination to overtake the market on both sides. The major advantage that these ‘corporate startups’ have over traditional startups, is that the funding, knowledge and infrastructure are already in place. There is little span-of-control lost in arranging funding. And often, a few bright minds of the parent company are involved. Talented individuals are often keen to rise to the challenge of applying their knowledge in a new way, and in a completely different context. These corporate start-ups also have faster access to the market and to potential customers looking for new, faster and better ways of doing things, as promised by the startup. This comes with the added benefit of having a well-known company in the background.
These defining features make corporate startups very powerful, in fact, far more powerful than ‘traditional’ startups. They really do have the best of both worlds.
Traditional startups have to make business their first priority. They get a cheap logo and develop their own brand and online marketing strategy. They only invest in the brand if the business takes off. And that makes sense. However, if you can get it all right in one go, you can hit the ground running and don’t have to retrace your steps later. For a corporate startup, brand building is as important as ever. In fact, it can make all the difference.
We are currently developing a comprehensive brand identity for two corporate startups. Of course, the fact that the new brand is supported by the parent company is a major advantage. This means that it is not only ‘100% new’, but also ‘powered by’. This inspires confidence in potential customers.
These corporate startups are backed by the parent company (knowledge and funding), yet, at the same time, they are doing something innovative that meets the specific needs of the market. The key challenge is to ensure that this story is sufficiently convincing in terms of the positioning. It’s important to give some thought to how you want to position the startup in relation to your existing brand and the existing digital disruptors.
This process sometimes involves cannibalisation. Companies have to be prepared to accept this. The startup has to be able to pull out all the stops in pursuing its objective. If not, other tech initiatives will take over. Better for you to bite into your own flesh than an outsider.
Opportunity for the established order
We will see a lot more of these kinds of startups in years to come. They represent a tremendous opportunity for established companies. To avoid being trumped by an unforeseen competitor, these companies need to surpass themselves in order to forge new ways to the future.
Corporate startups add significant impetus to the existing organisation, not only in terms of business, but also in terms of the corporate culture. They introduce a new dynamic and innovation that is so vital in ensuring the continued life-cycle of established companies. The secret? Make sure you have a razor-sharp and relevant positioning from day one. And let it be your direction, your leading principle in everything you do, from developing your online platform to branding and (online) marketing. That way you will always be one step ahead of the ‘Silicon Valley’ startups.
This blog is written by Tom Dorresteijn, CEO of Studio Dumbar (part of Dept)
Our Amsterdam Sinfonietta posters have won the Type Directors Award, an If Gold Award and are nominated for the ADCN Awards - we are not complaining. In the meantime our recent identity for NEMO Science Museum has also won an IF Award. So far so good.
a.s.r. introduces a new and improved conversational platform. Instead of asking the visitor to navigate through all kinds of company information; the website puts one simple question at the centre: ‘How may I help you’.
Studio Dumbar was asked to develop an online concept that would reflect the motto of a.s.r.: ‘helping by acting’. In close cooperation a.s.r. and Studio Dumbar developed a clean and easy-to-use website revolving around a smart chat bot, the first of its kind in the Netherlands.
Key point in the whole process was to drastically strip away all complex navigation and inside-out-information that normally dominate a company website. By simply asking “how may I help you”, the website completely focuses on the specific need of an individual client. The bot, developed by Live Presence, will continuously learn and improve based on the feed of new questions.
a.s.r. is one of the biggest and oldest Dutch insurance companies and works closely with a network of independent financial advisors. When it comes to actually buying a product from a.s.r., the visitors are directed to one of the advisors for an appointment.
To stress the importance of the advisors and give the homepage a warmer feeling, we asked photographer Ivo van der Bent to portray a selection of the advisors in a personal way, in their own office.
Overall, Studio Dumbar was responsible for the concept, interaction and visual design of the website. However, building the site to go live was a massive joint effort with the whole of a.s.r. in several scrum teams. Like any online platform, there will be a continuous cycle of new insights, ambitions and improvements. A number of new features is already being planned, such as connecting the chat directly to the independent advisors.
Talk to the chatbot (Dutch only): www.asr.nl
Questions: Wouter Dirks, online strategy, firstname.lastname@example.org
The slogan ‘Open mind, sharp business’ that Studio Dumbar created for Amsterdam has won the international award for best city-marketing slogan in 2016. It was developed by Studio Dumbar together with the new design for Amsterdam’s international B2B marketing.
Studio Dumbar will become part of Dept. With this move, Dept adds to its services package the highest level of quality in the field of brand identity and design. Studio Dumbar will continue to operate under its own label and management, as a member of Dept’s network of agencies.
Tom Dorresteijn, CEO of Studio Dumbar: “We’re delighted to be part of Dept. In our work field of visual identities and design, we’re always engaged with the core of organisations: strategy, positioning, communication. Digital transition is a key theme. With Dept, we are fully connected to the digital mainstream, which strengthens our position. Every form of online expertise is present within the group and it is still growing internationally.”
Founded in 1977 by Gert Dumbar, Studio Dumbar designed the award-winning identities of brands such as the NS Dutch railways, the Dutch police force and Transavia. In the international design world, the name Studio Dumbar is synonymous with innovation and the agency is one of the most renowned in its domain.
Paul Manuel, Dept Co-Founder: “Dept provides all the creativity, technology and expertise any organisation could ever need to give shape to their digital business. In practice, we are often faced with positioning issues which we can now address even more effectively thanks to Studio Dumbar. What’s more, we will be combining a vast spectrum of online and offline design knowledge. I, for one, can say that I’m really proud to welcome one of the most prestigious design agencies to our family.”
The Dept group consists of the agencies TamTam, Expand Online, a friend of mine, Second Degree and Building Blocks. With the addition of Studio Dumbar, the Dept network will expand to 375 employees with a collective turnover of over €50 million, and with offices in the Netherlands, the UK, the United States and Spain.
The Red Dot jury of experts awarded the Red Dot to Studio Dumbar for two individual projects: Transavia and VBMS identity. In total the judges assessed 6,800 entries from 43 countries live and on site, awarding only the best projects.