Grid chief creative officer Nathan Reddy. Picture: Supplied
Grid chief creative officer Nathan Reddy. Picture: Supplied

In a world of parity products and service offerings, every business strives to create either a unique operating model or a distinctive culture, something that not only differentiates the business but provides a competitive edge, in the process moving the needle in a significant way. For advertising agencies this translates to finding an authentic space which they can credibly own in an increasingly competitive environment. 

One agency that has successfully found a unique space in which to operate is advertising and communications agency Grid Worldwide. Grid has adopted a proprietary investment creative operating model it calls “make it mean something” which is permeating all areas of its business, in the process ensuring it hits the right notes in order to connect with the hearts and minds of consumers.

“‘Make it mean something’ is a combination of giving something significance, consequence, substance, implication, gravity and magnitude,” explains Grid chief creative officer Nathan Reddy.

Grid Worldwide CEO Adam Byars. Picture: Supplied
Grid Worldwide CEO Adam Byars. Picture: Supplied

By consciously striving to work meaning into brands, Grid is tapping into what psychologist Viktor Frankl called the primary motivation of all human beings: to search for meaning in life. “Approaching brands and branding in this way allows our work to connect directly with what makes us human,” says Reddy. “Not only is understanding meaning a universal concept, but it’s a vital part of getting a brand noticed, ensuring it speaks in culture and elicits brand love.”

The lens of “meaning-making” accurately and quickly detects the underlying dynamics of a brand by raising key questions. Are values aligned with actions? Do positioning and proposition connect on a level beyond the merely functional? Do they have the power and appeal to attract and the stickiness to retain? Is there sympathetic resonance between the brand world and the consumers’ emotional world – and, if so, can it be built upon? Is there overall positive brand health or brand dysfunction?

“Meaning is the heart and soul of every brand: without some kind of profound meaning in place, people are not going to develop an affinity with that brand,” says Reddy. “In order to successfully grow a brand it’s imperative that its custodians understand its meaning and how it lives in the world today.”

Recognising that meaning is in the eye of the beholder, the agency takes into consideration the inherent subjectivity of meaning. “We’re very aware that though society has shared values, symbols can mean different things to different people at different times. Symbols of wealth, for example, can also be seen as illustrations of greed and conspicuous consumption. A harmless joke can be taken as an insult if the cultural context is misread,” points out Grid Worldwide CEO Adam Byars.

To avoid this, and to ensure that meaning is interpreted in the way it was intended, requires an understanding of both the context and the cultural subtext, as well as the semiotics (the study of signs and symbols).

The big take-out

Grid’s “Make it mean something” philosophy has already stood the agency – and the brands it represents – in good stead.

Both Reddy and Byars have long held the view that every brand has to have a single-minded idea of its proposition, a proposition that is grounded in trust and authenticity, in order to be successful. Grid has a long and successful pedigree of interrogating the heart and soul of brands and their distinctive assets, and then curating a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints.

The agency did this particularly successfully in 2018 when it rolled out Qatar’s first global marketing campaign, which positioned the country as an attractive tourism destination, offering unique travel experiences on behalf of Qatar’s National Tourism Council. The campaign sought to ensure that what is essentially a tourism brand played a role in popular culture, cut through the clutter and disrupted the tourism destination space.

Grid’s “Qurated” campaign successfully introduced travellers to the numerous authentic experiences Qatar has to offer via a campaign that was rolled out to 15 priority target markets across the world on a variety of platforms including TV, print, digital and out-of-home, in the process reaching  250-million people.

The agency’s ability to establish a 360 degree view of the customer experience and to dig as deeply as required in order to create a brand’s philosophy, identity and meaning have enabled it to successfully launch a number of cutting-edge bespoke restaurant concepts in SA as well as the Slow Airport Lounge concept, among others.

“Our goal is to specialise in building brands which successfully intersect at the point of purpose and meaning to become iconic and live in culture,” says Byars. “It’s not about finding either purpose or meaning for frivolous purposes as both have a sound economic and commercial imperative.”