Established in 2002, the zigbee alliance is a global membership organisation developing universal, open standards for the connectivity of the products now shaping our lives.

With over 400 member businesses, the alliance pooled their expertise to create the world’s first open IoT language, which would work across all protocols. We were asked to give it a brand.

Translating technical
We helped zigbee alliance executives articulate their role in the world and from this strategic foundation, developed a visual language. It was inspired by emoticons as well as the grammar of Morse code. It made the complexities of the IoT feel simple, and we called it dotdot.

“The emoticon language references the way language is evolving today”

Forest Young, Head of Design, Wolff Olins

By moving away from the technical and towards the emotional, we created a system that resonates with manufacturers, retailers, influencers, users and developers.

“The logo makes perfect sense and is remarkably effective in answering a complicated brief.”

BrandNew

The mark itself is a visual abstraction of the technology stack and exists dynamically in several forms. It can be rendered in code through a GitHub repository and can be typed as :|| in SMS. Through its accessibility and usability, dotdot is open to everyone, truly democratising the design language of the IoT.

 

Not just a pretty face
The new identity was launched at CES in January 2017. zigbee alliance members reported record numbers of new orders and positive interest from a range of businesses across the IoT spectrum. The work received a Fast Company Innovation by Design Award, and made the Cannes Lions shortlist. It has also appeared on hardware, like the recently launched Amazon Echo Plus.

Dotdot creates a new vocabulary for the IoT that simply did not exist before—a language that connects devices, dissolves barriers into the IoT, and ultimately just works.

By providing a viable alternative to piracy, as a start up Spotify achieved a cult-like status in its native Sweden and much of Europe. Since it entered the U.S. market in July 2011, it has made a splash in the U.S. But like many music acts, if Spotify is going to have a significant impact on the music landscape, they need to grow the American audience and educate the market about what’s on offer beyond Apple.

“We want to bring music to every single person and bring it to every moment of their life”

Daniel Ek - Founder, Spotify

Getting to the heart of it
To continue their rapid growth and efforts to win the hearts, minds and ears of the American mainstream, our task was to help Spotify define how music played a defining role in people’s lives.

Building on existing segmentation work, we designed qualitative research with our partners, customer insight agency C Space. We studied the music habits and preferences of two user groups in four typical markets.

In parallel, we mapped the user experience: from a search on Google, to landing at the website, signing up, downloading and using Spotify, and through ongoing product experience and customer service interfaces. We identified the points that could be improved along the way.

Lastly, we spoke with employees and industry experts to precisely define Spotify’s unique position in its category. Why was it different from competitors, and what was its real reason for being?

Based on our insight, we redefined Spotify’s position around the idea of ‘the right music for every moment’. This created a clear a sense of their audiences and echoed the central part music plays in all aspects of their lives.

Branching out without selling out
We worked with the leadership team and over 100 stakeholders to build the brand and its supporting experience principles. In less than six months, we galvanised key teams in the business, ensuring buy-in and understanding of the strategy from the outset. We ignited a wave of people-centric innovation across product and marketing.

The brand now serves as a strategic lens. Every internal team – from the Leadership Group and User Insights to HR and Operations – is using it as a starting point for their thinking.

In March 2013, Spotify confirmed they had acquired over 4 million new users and 1 million subscribers, keeping it on track to bring in more than $684 million in 2013 from subscribers alone. Having also recently confirmed over 6 million global subscribers and over 24 million global active users, the brand has grown up. It’s become accessible to a huge new audience, without ever losing its cool.

When Virgin Media approached us, there was no overall visual system in place so the experience lacked coherence. We set up sessions with agency partners and internal brand, marketing, and HR teams and audited around 6,000 pieces of print and digital output. These sessions helped Virgin Media’s people to air their concerns, which in turn helped us to form a stronger picture of exactly what needed fixing. Our thoughts grew into a brief that asked three questions:

1) what was the attitude that ran through Virgin Media?
2) how could we enable them to respond quicker and in the right way?
3) how could we bring that to life in VM’s applications?

The Virgin Media attitude needed to be present in everything it did, and we worked to articulate it as open-minded, fun and generous, or ‘OMFG’. This playful acronym identified the ingredients for future briefs. They’d all be present in varying degrees, and brought the brand closer to the identity of Virgin Group, which hangs on the idea: “don’t just play the game, change it for good”.
A bit of us, a bit of you
To express the attitude, we created a flexible visual identity system. We described it as, “a little bit of us and a little bit of you”. Some direct marketing situations called for more focus on the customer, and less on Virgin Media (“more of you, less of us”); at other times, with billboard advertising for example, this balance would be reversed. We tested thinking against live, incoming briefs. This helped us keep budgets lean and refine based on real proof points.

“Wolff Olins are a hugely valuable partner. Passionate, smart, warm and committed to change for good. I enjoy working with them. No matter what challenge we face, we deliver”

Adrian Spooner, Head of Brand, Virgin Media
Communicating with focus
Virgin Media are already using their new system to communicate with more focus. They’re able to talk about themselves and what they stand for when required, and can allow their identity to be more responsive when talking directly to the customer. The business is also now able to take communications to market in a quicker and more efficient way.

In 2007, USA Today ranked AOL 4th in a list of 25 things that shaped the internet. An early tech pioneer, they had provided premium internet service to millions in the late 90’s and early 00’s. For many, AOL was their first gateway to the World Wide Web.

But the media world had changed – from one-way broadcast to conversations that were fragmented, non-linear and niche. Stuck in an outdated model, AOL found itself suffering from a decline in subscriptions, revenue, morale and brand image. Following an unsuccessful eight-year merger with Time Warner, they planned to spin-off and become a separate public company.

Recognising its inflection point, AOL hired new management. Their goal was to create a company with a strong strategy and mission: to inform, entertain and connect the world with extraordinary content experiences.

“AOL is in a turnaround situation. It will take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to make it successful.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
Identity as a platform
AOL asked us to help them become a ‘media company for the 21st century’. First, it needed to signal that it was more than an access provider. It was a future-forward, creative and cultural force that delivered extraordinary content. It needed an identity that could act as a platform, so we created a simple, confident logotype revealed by ever-changing imagery.

“Our new identity is uniquely dynamic. We plan on standing behind the brand as we take the company into the next decade.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
An internal and external reboot
Working closely with the leadership team, we helped define and translate their vision for the business. We developed a brand architecture with a clear sense of how past and future acquisitions connected to AOL. Internally, we helped build confidence in creativity and originality, and externally, we activated brand-led initiatives. These included MAKERS: Women Who Make America and AOLartists.com (930,000 unique visitors in the first 6 months), as well as the AOL Originals with Chuck Close and 25 for 25 grants programs.

“The Internet needs better quality content. This is an ambitious mission but we are hiring, developing and encouraging the best creative talent in the world.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
Brand-led reinvention
Within the first year of the spinoff announcement, 40% of users described the AOL brand as ‘creative’. By the end of 2010, AOL was the only major brand to have a better ‘buzz’ score than major online brands such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo!, according to Brand Index. In 2012, AOL was dubbed by some “the hottest tech stock in 2012”.
The identity won prestigious awards from both AIGA and the Cannes Lions and was named ‘Best Identity of 2010’ by influential identity blog Under Consideration.

Today, AOL has successfully reinvented itself as a brand-led company that invests in experiences that align with its mission. Home to a world-class collection of premium brands, it creates original content that engages audiences on a local and global scale.

Microsoft were a siloed organization, communications were inconsistent, experiences felt disconnected and the masterbrand was under-leveraged. There was a a massive opportunity to breathe new life into the expression.

One Microsoft
To live up to this ambition to be “One Microsoft”, we renewed the propositions and purposes for the key players in the portfolio.

Windows was the obvious place to start, since for its billions of users, it’s synonymous with Microsoft. Windows 8 represented a bold change to the ubiquitous operating system. Its modern aesthetic and fierce reduction of elements serve up a surprising perspective. It was confident and completely engineered around what mattered to users, so we reflected this in the identity.

“Wolff Olins disrupted the status quo, reimagined us as a user-focused organisation and empowered all of us”

Tony Bates, CEO Skype & EVP Microsoft

After Windows, we explored Office, Skype (a long-term partner of ours), and the Microsoft store experience. We created and launched the Surface brand, taking the company successfully into hardware.

We brought each brand to life through a set of robust identity systems we called the Brand OS. Working across product and store experience simultaneously, we developed expressions that were unique, but closely related to one another.

Full experience for full effect 
Our work spanned every possible touchpoint. We developed the end-to-end experience, including naming, architecture, digital, print, packaging, retail, non-traditional, motion, sonic and product.

In the process, we created tools that saved money and time, and ultimately delivered more brand consistency around the world. Immersive training brought the new brand to life for key stakeholders within each business unit.

“One Microsoft” is now recognizable no matter the product and has laid the groundwork for generations of products to come. It’s also had a significant impact on the value of the brand.

These Google experiences stay true to the beat of the brand rather than emulating the conventions of the categories they’re entering. With this in mind, we’ve helped reimagine buying and selling through Google Store, Google Shopping, Google Express and Google Retail.

We also supercharged the concept of an internet service provider through Google Fiber, which promised to be 100 times faster than competitors. (It was piloted in Kansas City and adopted in 89% of homes, surpassing expectations.)

New relationships, new ideas
We’ve developed partnership strategies to improve the organization’s relationships with retailers like Best Buy, Android handset manufacturers, and creative collaborators.

We’ve helped marketing to become a source of platform and product innovation, whether creating software to personalize retail environments, or developing the Live Cases customization platform to drive adoption of premium accessories in Android. 

Our partnership requires very deft handling of the Google ecosystem, and sometimes it involves evolving the Google brand itself. 

Skype were a rare kind of business when we met them in 2009 – they had 100 million users but were yet to turn a profit. They were a phenomenon, founded on an amazing product, and growing fast. They needed to get ready for a possible IPO in a way that preserved their spirit.

Their ever-widening range of products and features posed a challenge. They needed to make sense of the offer, in a way that would guide activity internally and drive revenue by helping users navigate beyond free video calls.

Together, apart
Up until now, Skype had viewed their role as ‘enabling the world’s conversations’. We saw a broader benefit: ‘doing things together, whenever you’re apart’. We developed a set of principles to guide product development and marketing activity: ‘Universal, Useful, Wonderful’.

“We needed to understand how to help customers make sense of our widening product set.”

Neil Stevens, Vice President and General Manager, Skype

A path to growth
By now Skype had a powerful, central idea and we were their trusted creative partner. We built a brand workbook and website, helped simplify the portfolio, and structured innovation for immediate results.

We didn’t just change the expression. We affected the way engineers built the product and the way sales charged for it. We also led the re-organization of Skype’s marketing function, establishing a clear and compelling role for this department in a previously product-focussed business. We even acted as Skype’s CMO for 6 months.

“Their work and thinking continue to sit at the heart of our business today.”

Neil Stevens, Vice President and General Manager, Skype

New hires were trained up quickly and growth continued. Over the duration of the project, Skype doubled their monthly active users, while also seeing a large increase in the activity of existing users

Shortly after our partnership, Microsoft bought the company for $8.6bn. We continued our partnership long after this sale, which you can read about in the Microsoft case study.