Despite their core business being design, branding is an underdeveloped area amongst architectural practices. But AWW is breaking the mould, unveiling their new brand identity across all media, including their website.
You could be forgiven for assuming there was a professional disdain for branding in the architectural industry. Brand identities are largely limited to the practice name in a 70% black Helvetica font, and most new business drives are solely reliant on relationship marketing.
Like most architecture firms, AWW’s old brand took a back seat to their reputation. Indeed, the key to AWW’s survival during the difficult recession period was their excellent record and a high proportion of repeat business, a reward, as they see it, for their commitment to client service.
Philip Bevan, Director of Marketing at AWW explains: “Our work has traditionally come from the widest range of sectors and our broad expertise. It still does. Our focus on client relationships and Director level sector expertise means we have an excellent understanding of how our client’s industries are changing, and this helps us to identify new market opportunities.”
Many architecture firms position their firm’s ‘brand’ as a collection of capabilities. However, because a firm’s offer can be easily and quickly replicated, a capability-based brand strategy is unsustainable and potentially ineffective in differentiating a practice from its competition.
Until now, AWW has relied on client recommendation and its reputation for pioneering delivery of Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM is a 3D modelling system that involves data sharing between every contractor on a project to create a digital model that can be used from early design stages right through to completion and subsequent performance monitoring. AWW has a competitive advantage with level 2 BIM used on all projects and a BIM Futures team currently researching and promoting BIM Level 3.
However, the latest NBS National BIM Survey shows that almost 40% of construction professionals are now using BIM Level 1. So, while AWW remains ahead of the curve, it’s inevitable that other architects will eventually follow suit. Whilst AWW remain, at least for the moment, at the forefront of technical innovations in BIM, sustainability and design, they realised they would also need to be forward thinking about their brand.
Bevan continues: “As we emerge from one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, we want AWW to be a recognisable brand, nationally and internationally.
“We knew from our high level of repeat business and testimonials that we had an excellent reputation in the South of England, but we also knew that to maintain our competitive advantage we needed to engage in brand development.”
“We engaged strategic brand communications agency Colour & Thing to review AWW as a business and help us transform the way we present ourselves to the market.”
AWW commissioned Colour & Thing to update their brand and web presence, with a brief to express AWW’s personality and creative energy as more than just an architectural firm, retaining any brand equity but also providing room to expand their other design capabilities.
AWW and Colour & Thing already shared a belief in the importance of collaboration and in the value of customer participation, so as a ‘people-powered’ firm, the journey to a new brand had to start close to home.
As Dom Lane, who leads strategy and content at Colour & Thing, explained: “Like all great businesses, AWW had a very clear perception of who they were, but it’s impossible to look in the mirror and gauge how others see you, so we began the rebranding process by taking a snapshot of how the world perceived them.
“Alongside the more traditional competitor analysis we interviewed a number of their existing clients and key members of the firm’s team to understand the dynamic between internal and external perceptions of AWW.”
Bevan added: “For the past few years AWW had been marketing its capabilities, collaborative skills, reputation for delivery and pioneering technical capabilities. But somewhere along the way the fundamental nature of AWW as a creative entity had been hidden. It might seem obvious, but by not communicating this message through branding and brand communications, relying on our portfolio of work, we were telling our clients and prospects ‘We get the job done’, rather than celebrating the exceptional work we were justly, but quietly, proud of.”
Matt Seaman, Creative Director at Colour & Thing, takes up the story: “AWWs new brand celebrates a harmonious spatial relationship, and reintroducing uppercase brought back a sense of authority, while also acknowledging the original identity from years gone by. The logo was created to be part of the overall visual identity and therefore creates a strong set of rules to play with, including angles, symmetry and clean lines.”
Xavier Keeling, Colour & Thing’s Technical Director added: “We’ve extrapolated these principles across a new website. Neat, dynamic functionality delivers a more bespoke user journey through a rich selection of case studies. The use of hero quotations from clients and team help reintroduce personality and highlight the collaborative spirit at work on a daily basis at AWW.”
Bevan concluded: “By investing in our brand, AWW has flicked a switch which shines a brighter light on how a real focus on the client means our collaborative approach to architecture, masterplanning and interior design delivers inspired environments in every sector.”
AWW’s new brand and website was launched on 26th September 2013.