Lessons from the March 2024 Wellington Brainy Breakfast

The question often sits at the forefront of marketers’ minds. When it comes to creative, should we dine out with external agencies or eat-in with inhouse designers?

At the first Brainy Breakfast in the Central Region for 2024, we had the absolute pleasure of dining out on what three expert panelists brought to the occasion. 

The first of our three “courses” was served up by Amanda Oliver-O'Donnell, Principal Advisor Brand and Design at Fire and Emergency New Zealand. Amanda is a design professional who has actively contributed to some of New Zealand’s most-loved brands including Trade Me, Whittaker’s, Kiwibank, ACC, Z Energy, Radio NZ, and Education NZ.

Challenging the role of brand guidelines, we ponder the role these play in creating consistency in our work. What has evolved from a simple structure of how brand codes can be applied, has now too often become a bind by delving into strategy and rigid approaches for what designers can and can’t do with a brand. It creates consistency often through an inflexible approach to designing a brand’s communications.  Regardless of whether you’re dining-in or dining out, we all need to consider how these guidelines can be simplified to ensure our work is on-brand but evolve this document to ensure we can be flexible to deliver communications that drive effective business outcomes.

Amanda and her team have also taken a proactive approach to working with both external agencies and in-house designers. Work can be led by one team and then evolved by another. Or, in the case of Fire and Emergency’s latest content, AV scripts and storyboards can be created internally and then the team can work directly with producers to deliver outstanding content and results.

Next up on the menu we had Paul Soong, Manager of Design and Marketing at Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Paul has worked both agency and client-side in his 27-year career, starting at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington at 20 years of age and then starting The Church, the world’s first design agency with a structured mentoring programme for young creatives in 2001. In 2014 he began his career client side with Careers New Zealand, the Tertiary Education Commission and currently the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

While echoing many of the thoughts of Amanda, Paul brought to life the challenge of working with a family of brands. In what is coined The-Agency-of-Everything, Paul and his team are managing dozens of sub-brands that all operate under the master brand of MBIE. While working externally with agencies, the in-house design team is the glue that ensures each brand reflects its personality and purpose, while also laddering up to MBIE’s purpose of growing New Zealand's economy and to share the benefits with everyone who lives here. That’s no easy task!

Our final course was a sweet treat cooked up by Roxy Huntington, Head of Design at Snapper Services. Roxy is a creative problem solver and leader with a passion for making life better for people, products, and brands through human-centred design and clear communication. She has experience leading in-house teams, designing for creative agencies and notable clients, freelancing for small family companies, before heading up the design team at Snapper Services.

Leading with her experiences rebranding Trade Me, Roxy presented the challenge of taking an organisation structured in vertical business units and delivering a unified customer experience.  Led by a team of internal designers, with support for external partners, it was clear to see the benefit internal design provides in challenging a highly successful NZ businesses’ external proposition. Taking the learning that customers visited Trade Me to buy a car while also purchasing their favourite classic novel, the internal design team revolutionised the Trade Me IA away from individual sub-brands to a unified Trade Me experience for all consumers.

An outstanding morning, where everyone went away with their minds as full as their bellies.  Marketers learned the value of in-house design, often sitting alongside external partners.  From brand consistency, challenging how far the brand can be pushed, through to modernising a business’ historical view of their customer experience.  It’s almost like design is a marketer’s version of Uber Eats or Deliver Easy…there is often a lot to be gained from eating-in, but sometimes you get an even better result when your work is delivered alongside those dining-out.

Source: Darryn Gordon, Portfolio Lead Personalisation, ANZ & Co-Chair of MA’s Central Regional Committee.