American Express is a global company that strives to constantly generate innovative solutions for its customers, to suit their financial and lifestyle needs.

In order to create the conditions for creativity, they have set up internal innovation labs: cross-disciplinary teams, resourced globally and based in London. The team was tasked with creating new products and services aimed at the point where online and offline behaviours, and the distinction between merchant and customer roles, converge.

From idea to prototype
The challenge was to help the lab progress quickly and efficiently from a long list of ideas to a working prototype in 3 months. We worked as part of the American Express team in their space, facilitating innovation sessions, creating decision-making tools, working up visual ideas rapidly, guiding consumer and merchant research, building support internally and helping coordinate the launch of a live product.

Together we took one idea forward to test on the market: a mobile app called LOCL that gives merchants a platform to send relevant messages directly to customers who are local to their shop or restaurant. We built the brand – including name, strategy and visual identity – for LOCL around the opportunity for a new tool that lets consumers hear directly from merchants.

One for now, more for later
We worked through 15 ideas, tested 6 with consumers and merchant, and kept 10 for the future pipeline.

LOCL was launched in the App Store in beta form in August 2012. It is the first tool in their global suite of products that puts marketing power directly in the merchants’ hands. It also takes American Express to a new, younger market: an audience who value utility over advertising, and information over credit.

We partnered with Barclays at critical stages along this journey. In 2010 we helped Antony Jenkins, then leading the bank’s retail business, to define and share a new vision for retail banking. It would focus on the bank’s role in a customer’s life, using the idea ‘lives made much easier’. The following year, we helped unify the whole bank, dropping the Capital, Corporate and Wealth names.

We helped shape a new purpose, around outcomes for customers: ‘to help individuals, companies and economies to make progress’. We designed a digital, animated communication style, built on an aperture that opens to show a better outcome, which can vary in style to work for each of the bank’s different customer groups.


“They evolved our brand identity into one that delivered on our strategic vision, in a simple, fresh and contemporary way, perfect for digital”

Michelle McEttrick, Former Managing Director Brand and Marketing, Barclays

A strong start
Antony Jenkins’s vision for retail had a rapid and spectacular impact on performance, and on how customers viewed the bank. Customer satisfaction scores in the bank’s call centres rose by 20%.

Our 2011 work has been implemented across the bank, which now has a more contemporary, distinctive communication style. It is unified but not uniform. In 2012 Antony Jenkins became CEO of the whole bank, and – without our help this time – evolved our work into a new, more strongly ethical, purpose: ‘to help people achieve their ambitions, in the right way’.

The journey is not yet complete, but Barclays is making a serious shift from focusing on its own ends to pursuing customers’ interests.

We were asked to be creative partners to help define the organisation and bring it to life for customers. We looked at the target audience – young people making their first big life decisions. We started to create a bank with them. Rather than the usual top-down hierarchy, we made them co-founders and built a community around them.

We integrated the whole person into our thinking. Of course, we were concerned with an individual’s financial life – their bills, mortgages and student loans – but we were also interested in their lifestyle, holidays, family time, and the causes that were important to them.

After agreeing on the new name, changing Open Bank to Tandem, we created the visual identity and ran workshops with co-founders to co-create the experience principals of this new bank.

“Our first meeting confirmed our hunch about Wolff Olins. We met an impressive team who came across as really together on wanting to change things with us.”

John Alderson, Experience Design Director, Tandem

From 100 to 10,000
When Tandem launched it had 100 co-founders. Within a year the number had grown to 10,000. It has challenged consumer apathy towards the banking sector and encouraged them to change where they bank. We took a tech-led experience and made it feel hand-crafted and collaborative.

 

Allianz Global Investors (AGI) is one of the world’s leading asset managers, with over a trillion euros under management. Its parent, Allianz, targeted asset management as a core activity in 1998 and grew its presence by acquisition.

Consistency to drive growth
AGI, therefore, consisted of a number of independent asset managers, many of them, such as PIMCO and RCM, extremely well known in their markets. Having completed cost and performance restructuring programmes, the company recognised that good returns were not driving the growth they wanted. They needed a value proposition across the group to drive preference and sales behaviour, and to improve consistency.

Focus on client needs
Wolff Olins began by understanding the needs of AGI’s clients –institutions like pension funds, the consultants who advise them, and the intermediaries who advise individual investors and pension holders. These needs turned out to be different in important ways from what AGI had thought mattered most. Out of all this, we built a new value proposition and shared it with AGI’s top management.

We developed a sales academy and training programmes to teach AGI’s salesforce to deliver these needs. We built the value proposition into appraisal mechanisms and recruiting profiles. We developed communications strategies that drove preference, and we built criteria for new services that AGI would offer to financial intermediaries. We also set up a system to track the delivery of the value proposition across the firm.

A new mindset
The mindset internally has changed from a singular focus on financial performance to one where the client’s performance is central. The business was inevitably hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, but its new approach has given it resilience, new distribution channels and a new confidence in its future.