Percept in the News

"We focus on finding that one 'Big Idea' to directly connects with out clients' target audience" ~ Brian Pinto, Country Head, I-AM
30 January, 2018

Kapil Mudholkar, Editor, The Hash Mag, got into an exclusive interaction with Mr. Brian Pinto, Country Head, I-AM, a design-led branding agency to know more about its portfolio, core functional areas and roadmap.  

Please tell us more about I-AM and its portfolio.
I-AM is a branding and experiential design firm which creates 360° brand experiences to delight customers, build brand advocacy and drive business performance. The agency uses a six-stage approach to encapsulate the personality of a brand or company which serves as the foundation towards building an accurate performance-based brand strategy inclusive of brand identity, brand expression and brand application.
We offer services, spanning from the creation of Brand Identities, Brand Strategies, Physical and Virtual Environments and even Commercial Interior Design spaces. I-AM is reputed for these services around the world and has worked with various industries across the globe-spanning Fashion, Finance & Banking, Food & Beverage and Real Estate, amongst many more.
We focus on three core areas of service to diverse industry verticals including:
• Brand Identity and Strategy: Spans creating a brand identity, brand mark, look & feel of the brand, logo, strapline, typefaces, a tone of voice, imagery style, brand re-positioning strategy and name generation for new brands.
• Physical and Virtual Environments: Include creating format strategies, interior and exterior design and detailed drawing packs inclusive of digital channels like website designs and apps.
• People and Culture: Creates a strategy for staff behaviour and motivation, internal brand building strategy and cultural development.
Apart from the above I-AM has another arm called ‘I-AM’ Beyond, which specialises in creating launch campaigns, brand awareness and guerrilla marketing. Some of our key clients in India include Flipkart, HDFC Bank (Smart Banking Zone), IDFC Bank, AU Small Finance Bank, Godrej, New India Bank, and Arvind Fashion Brands.
You have such a diverse portfolio. But is there any common point that makes them unique to Percept?
Our offering includes understanding the Consumer, the Market, the Category and the Brand. Thereby leveraging any relevant insight to enable us to arrive at a distinctive consumer proposition which is manifested in the identity and/or the brand experience design. This approach and offering are unique globally. We are the only firm that I am aware of who offer a comprehensive solution to create brand experiences.
Can you please tell us more about the six-stage approach?
I-AM adopts a well-structured approach to the Branding and Experience Design irrespective of the category or the size of the project.
The six-stages comprise:
1. Research: We review and understand the environment within which the brand operates / will operate. Our Design Research is so much more than Market Research. Our in-depth research methodologies are customized to attain comprehensive answers that represent the fabric of the customer experience. The data generated offers us invaluable insights into the gap and potential areas of the project at hand and helps us create unique solutions accordingly.
2. Define: We define or understand the brand positioning and customer journey to arrive at a well defined creative brief. Our aim is to discover and put across that One ‘Big Idea’ that cuts through the jargon and mass of research undertaken to define the brand positioning in a concise, clear, meaningful and memorable manner. This helps to communicate a clear, lucid, unambiguous roadmap to our client.
3. Create: At this stage, we put together the mood boards and the initial construction of the design.
4. Develop: This is the stage when we fine tune the creative conceptualized and presented based on the client feedback attained. We are strong believers in taking a collaborative approach with all our clients and work closely with them to understand the core essence of their brand, what they currently stand for, and what they want to achieve.
5. Apply: This is the actual on-ground execution stage of the creative designed and pre-approved by the client.
6. Evaluate: This is the final stage which includes the post-project review and evaluation against the original objectives. Robust measurement and evaluation techniques are the only way to gauge Results and ROI, and therefore this is a crucial step in our six-stage approach to enable the successful completion and wrap of a project.
With branding as the central point of your offering, how do you deal with different verticals and their requirements?
Smart Branding is critical for any company as that is the impression you leave people with when they come into contact with your company. It’s the unique differentiating factor that makes you stand out from the clutter and ensures top of mind recall. The challenge is to communicate this information in a manner that’s credible, distinctive and compelling.
At I-AM we focus on finding that one ‘big idea’ that cuts through the clutter and speaks directly and personally to our clients' core target audience in a credible, meaningful and memorable way, leaving them with a clear and positive perception of your brand. We take a collaborative approach with our clients and work seamlessly with them to figure out the core essence of their company, ie: what they stand for and what they want to achieve going forward. We conduct extensive research into our clients' markets, their customers and their target audiences.
Our R&D processes are dynamic and stretch and adapt to apply across multiple industry sectors and markets. Our creative teams thereafter take the output from our research and convert it into a visual language that stands out from the clutter to express exactly what the client in that specific industry vertical was trying to communicate. Our designers are experts in the full gamut of brand touch-points, and ensure a unified consistent story across all channels spanning offline and digital.
When it comes to brand, design or user experience, it’s customer who is a centre of attraction. However, the modern-day consumer is much more progressive and advanced than traditional. How do you deal with this shift?
No agency can deliver remarkable service design without authentic customer research and insight. Our Research & Insight team works in depth to uncover answers to a range of customer-centric queries, needs and aspirations with the help of design research methods that represent the fabric of customer experience.
We use a variety of qualitative user-research methods to define the integrated user experience that can be customized and offered as solutions to our clients’ customers. These range from in-depth interviews to experience maps, customer needs analysis, customer experience analysis, customer journeys, contextual enquiries, participatory design, behavioural observation, experience mapping service design, strategy service design and audit design.
I-AM can help brands understand how their customers navigate their retail experience, how to improve their design accordingly; identify problem areas in the customer journey where brands don’t perform as well as they could; offer new and innovative digital service solutions, and measure the impact of a recent design overhaul.
Our range of services and skills ensure that we can conduct a wide range of investigations tailored to any client’s specific ‘pain points’. These studies focus on individual channels (a physical store, an online transactions portal, a mobile app, a call centre), as well as offer a holistic review of the clients combined customer offering. Our research processes have till date generated invaluable insights that have allows our design teams to quickly offer tailor-made designs and solutions to bring all our clients service channels in line with their customers’ dynamic, shifting needs and aspirations.
You also deal with guerrilla marketing. Would you like to share your thoughts on the same?
Guerrilla marketing is only offered by our London team. We have done some fantastic guerrilla marketing work for globally-renowned brands including Vero Moda.
You work with different industries. Would like to know more about branding and user experience from the perspective of Financial Sector?
From brand strategy and brand design to interior design and banking products, I-AM has created unique customary experiences across the Financial Services sector with innovative and fresh thinking for some of the largest global and domestic financial Institutions. The work includes branch design, interior design, brand naming, brand strategy, brand identity, and brand design and employee engagement. We have so far successfully handled the branding mandate of HDFC Bank, IDFC Bank and AU Small Finance Bank.
For AU Small Finance Bank, we introduced localization and built the brand promise in its branches across markets pan India. We carried out an extensive audit of the competitors while also researching various best-in-class examples across categories. Leveraging the brand promise of ‘Lets Progress Together’ along with the concept of, ‘Meri Branch’, or ‘My Branch’, I-AM designed the environmental graphics for the various branches across states.
We capitalised on the insight that consumers equate landmarks with locations while taking pride of ownership in these landmarks which led us to create the concept of using heritage sites in the visual language. I-AM created a contemporary illustration style for AU Small Finance Bank which included illustrations of core Indian heritage landmarks from specific cities and states. The visual language depicted was indicative of a welcoming, informative, warm and responsive environment while building on the localisation and familiarity of the brand.
We designed the revolutionary IDFC Bank customer journey and branch design which revolved around the principles of being fresh, professional, friendly and approachable. In a market with well-entrenched players, IDFC Bank needed to cut through the clutter and position itself as a true financial services provider by keeping the needs of the customer first.
We were also engaged by HDFC Bank to bridge the gap between their offline and online platforms by creating a seamless experience zone for its digital-savvy consumers. This was done to tie in with the Bank’s “Power of Banking” and”#Godigital” initiatives. I-AM conceptualized a Smart Banking Zone and handled the entire mandate of layout nomenclature, creating a Smart Banking identity, conceiving the Visual Language, designing the branch experience, and mapping the customer journey. The electric blue multi-tone hue exemplified the qualities associated with HDFC Bank viz. productivity, expertise, tranquillity, security, stability, integrity and loyalty.
It is always important to maintain a balance between physical and virtual appearance. How do you approach this balance?
I-AM’s core strength is creating Omni channel brand experiences. Omni-channel is about building complimentary yet seamless brand experiences by profiling the consumers across channels and by leveraging the strengths of each channel. Consumer profiling is self-explanatory while the latter quite simply means each channel has its own merits. Online is used generally for browsing the entire range, pricing and convenience.
Brick and mortar outlets provide a multi-sensorial product and brand experience. These differences should be capitalized upon while creating an omnichannel experience. There are multiple cases of online brands creating a brick and mortar version to build on the strengths of the offline platform, and multiple cases of the reverse from offline to online. Some of our exemplary omnichannel projects include the brands OdeaBank and Garanti.
Do you think while working with a variety of verticals, experience or insight from one vertical proves helpful to another vertical?
I-AMs Cross-category experience helps leverage strengths of each category and apply the learning across different categories. Normally, most brands want to emulate what the market leader or the trendsetter is doing within the category. It could so happen that what the market leader is doing is flawed. Anyway, this approach neither creates differentiation nor does it build uniqueness in a brand experience.
With consumers evolving and most shopping online for convenience, offline spaces now need to engage with consumers at the brand level. Leveraging cross-category insights only helps in building consumer affinity across the brand experiences we create.
Would you like to share your roadmap with us?
I-AM is getting international recognition for the calibre of thinking and creative application across our projects. Clients we have engaged with are proud to recommend us. Having worked with huge Indian brands as well as start-ups we can now leverage our credentials to encompass projects in the corporate branding space while we increase our share of office branding and fashion brand experience design.