Designed to Innovate is Good Design’s first interview series. It aims to highlight insights, case studies and future trends by means of interviews with some of the thought leaders in the world of design, advertising and branding; Good Design will seek to discover what will shape the social innovation scene in 2013 and beyond.
Designed to Innovate: Kathleen Enright
OgilvyEarth UK Director
Working across all the Ogilvy disciplines, Kathleen provides senior sustainability counsel and responsible marketing expertise to major clients such as Kraft, Unilever, Nescafe and the European Commission. In the two years since launching OgilvyEarth, she has brought together an expert team, building a reputation for challenging clients on their strategic commitments, and helping make sustainability compelling for mainstream audiences, whether they are consumers, stakeholders or employees.
A pure player in the sustainability space, Kathleen has a decade’s experience in marketing and sustainability consulting in Europe, Asia and North America. Before joining Ogilvy, she was Senior Consultant at Ethicity, a Paris-based consultancy where she developed sustainability strategies for clients such as P&G, SCA, LVMH and Danone. Before that she was a founding member and head of marketing for Alter Eco, France’s first mass market Fair Trade brand.
In your own words, what is your definition of innovation?
In one line… for me, innovation is about connecting the dots.
If you look back at the etymology of innovation, the word derives from the Latin word innovates, which means ”to renew or change”.
I think we’ve mistakenly come to think of innovation as creating new things.
Instead I believe we should think of innovation as looking at things in new ways – seeing connections where there were none, re-purposing, re-imagining.
For me, innovation is as much about re-enchanting people with the world, objects and ideas around them as it is about creating new things.
“Innovation is as much about re-enchanting people with the world, objects and ideas around them as it is about creating new things.”
Illustration from Ogilvy Earth’s Manistream Green report GD
Do you believe that design has the power to change the world, and if so, how?
I think it’s up to design and the creative industry as a whole to show that we can help solve the big hairy problems.
It’s not just that we can put our hand up; it’s that our hand is worth putting up.
When you think about what defines a great creative, it’s the ability to look at problems and situations in a different way, to bring a fresh perspective that leads to surprising solutions and perhaps most importantly, to create emotional connections. The sustainability movement needs all of the above if we are to get people unstuck and inspired to act.
Do I believe design can change the world? Yes
Do I believe that’s the case today? No
Much of the best creative talent is today concentrated in the communications sector, but we need creative thinkers everywhere! We need creatives in government, businesses need to rethink how they evaluate talent and as a society we need to stop thinking of ourselves as just consumers and see ourselves as creatives in our own right.
Kathleen is on the jury of this years D&AD White Pencil Awards – Celebrating creative ideas with the potential to effect real and positive change in the world GD
What are the key attributes that brands will need to survive in the future?
At the risk of sounding controversial, my answer would be ‘bold marketers’.
One of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is re-learning how to lead rather than follow consumers.
Putting a stake in the ground and saying ‘we’re over here, this is what we stand for’, is something that’s easy when your brand is built on purpose. But it’s a sizeable challenge when you’re a well established brand trying to integrate sustainability attributes into the core brand proposition. It takes courage.
We’ve perfected the art of asking consumers what they want and delivering that – which I equate to following consumers. But I believe the brands of the future will be the ones that lead consumers.
I love this David Ogilvy quote and I think it rings truer today than ever: “I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”
We need bold marketers who will build brands that lead consumers. And we need a better understanding of how marketers can make sustainability attractive to mainstream consumers – something we have tried to answer with our Mainstream Green research in the US, UK, and China.
“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”
David Ogilvy’s quote is more poignant today than ever – We need bold marketers to build brands that lead consumers. GD
Which challenger brand currently on the market really demonstrates an engaging experience of sustainability through design for the consumer and why?
I think Help Remedies, ‘Help I want to save a life’ bandages are a really inspiring example of how a design experience can engage people with sustainability.
The idea is beautifully simple.
The Marrow Donor Registry in the US desperately needs more people but registering as a marrow donor is a complicated and confusing process. When all you really need to do is send in your name and a couple of drops of blood.
Help Remedies had the genius idea to catch people while they’re already bleeding. They put a simple marrow registry kit into a box of over-the-counter bandages, and turned an everyday act into a chance to save a life.
Since the product launched the number of marrow donor registrations has tripled.
How can design create engaging experiences that can inspire real behaviour change?
I’m a huge believer in the role of design to create ‘incidental effects’. This is a covert approach where the good behaviour is essentially buried within the product so that we’re not consciously asking people to do things differently but simply facilitating.
There was a great example a couple of years ago of a washing machine that auto-dosed how much washing power was needed based on the weight of the specific load (Bosch i-DOS Automatic Dosing System). This poses an interesting challenge for product manufacturers who have vested interests in people using more of their product whilst also having sustainability targets to meet.
One of the key findings from our own Mainstream Green research (on how to close the value-action gap for sustainability) was that we have all spent a lot of time focusing on how we communicate sustainability at the expense of thinking creatively about how we deliver it.
Essentially, we make choices relatively, not absolutely. In the case of sustainability, we found that convenience takes on equal importance to messaging. Design is therefore absolutely central to boosting convenience.
Great design can help sustainability feel more mainstream.
A Siemens washing machine using the Bosch i-DOS technology GD
Prior to being appointed the first UK practice head of OgilvyEarth you worked in the fields of both sustainability and fair-trade. What key things did you learn about social innovation during this period and how do they inform your work at OgilvyEarth today?
Working for a Fair Trade start-up in the early days of Fair Trade I learnt the hard way that with social innovation, sometimes you’re just ahead of the curve. And that this is great, but that being too far ahead of the mainstream consumer audience isn’t!
That was a really important experience that I have carried with me and it is what drives the strategy and planning work we do to understand how brands can lead consumers – not by getting ahead and waiting for others to catch up but by taking consumers on a journey.
Working after that as a sustainability strategy consultant, a lot of my work involved challenging clients on their business models and helping them consider product to service shifts. I came across the ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ by professors Kim & Mauborgne and that was a revelation! The two key take-outs for me that I still apply today are:
– Innovation is a process that everyone can embark on, not a flash of genius that some lucky individuals are blessed with
– Do some market research yourself and talk to people who don’t buy your products, you’ll learn far more about how to innovate
“Innovation is a process that everyone can embark on, not a flash of genius that some lucky individuals are blessed with”
EU Ecolabel – An amimation by Ogilvy Earth & Nice and Serious – communicationg sustainable innovation in an engaging way for the consumer. GD
A strong internal work culture is vital in creating real innovation. Can you give us some examples of how your internal culture at OgilvyEarth helps innovation to flourish?
I’m really proud of the reputation we’ve built around asking the big questions. We’ve achieved this by avoiding ‘off the shelf solutions’ and approaching every new brief by asking what we would do in an ideal world. Sometimes that means exploring routes we have never taken before, it often means building a bespoke team with unconventional experts, and sometimes it means going back to the client with a solution that we think would be amazing but that we can’t deliver.
We also have an amazing range of Ogilvy tools to play with, developed by some very smart people. Part of our challenger culture has involved using these and repurposing them for sustainability. So we’re also challengers internally.
We also have an internal culture built on ‘curiosity’. That means allocated training and discovery time for subjects that interest us as individuals rather than subjects that align with our work. It also led us to set up a series of internal ‘on the couch talks’ to raise curiosity around sustainability. We wanted to show our Ogilvy colleagues that sustainability is a design and creativity opportunity rather than a constraint.
An innovative idea has the power to be world changing. But it is no use if it cannot be scaled. Can you name any examples of big ideas scaled well? Or are there any scaling up approaches that you would like to see applied more to achieve change on a mainstream level?
The big ideas that scaled well are the ones that don’t even feel like ideas because they are simply part of everyday life now.
These range from the Pepsi ‘Refresh’ community engagement model, to product refills, right through to initiatives such as M&S’s ‘schwopping’.
What all these ideas have in common is that they are destined for a mainstream audience. I do not believe that an idea is scalable – even if it is economically and physically scalable – unless it appeals to a broad audience.
Sustainability design and marketing has too often focused on appealing to the green niche, thereby limiting appeal because not considered normal and not able to inspire an emotional connection if people are not already engaged with the cause.
10 years from now what major changes do you hope to see as a result of sustainable and social innovation? What is your vision of a better future?
At the risk of sounding like a care bear, as a result of social innovation and great sustainability communication…
I hope to see us better connected to food supply chains with an understanding of where food comes from and how long it’s taken to make. I think that if we learned to place a value on food beyond price and calories that we could go some way to reducing obesity-related health problems and building more support for the small-hold farmers who are vital to feeding a population of 9bn.
I hope to see design innovation in the tech sector that creates emotional durability so that we love our gadgets for a little longer, reducing electronic waste and mining for minerals.
“I would love to be able to say that I helped ban the word ‘sustainability’ from brand and consumer language!”
Illustration from Ogilvy Earth’s Manistream Green report GD
When you retire, what world changing innovation would you like to leave behind or say you have contributed too?
I would love to be able to say that I helped ban the word ‘sustainability’ from brand and consumer language!
We need a new visual and linguistic discourse for sustainability. The one we have is tired, meaningless and belongs in board rooms and corporate reports.
In its place I would love to see beautifully designed products and services that make sustainability mainstream.