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Yellowwood Future Architects: Andy Rice, Kay Nash & Ivan Moroke

Creativity meets strategy in this team’s use of marketing tools to uncover business solutions.

Juliet Pitman

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Andy Rice, Kay Nash & Ivan Moroke of YellowWood Architects

In a business environment in which the marketing function is under increasing pressure to maintain credibility and remain relevant, one company is proving that marketing can deliver hard-nosed business solutions.

Yellowwood Future Architects positions itself as an expert marketing consultancy that uses marketing to solve business challenges. “Our point of departure is always the business problem which a client will present to us. Our approach is to use a combination of research,business insight, marketing, branding tools and design to solve this problem,”explains Kay Nash, CEO, who merged Yellowwood and Future Architects in 2004 and later took on partner and group managing director, Ivan Moroke,. ‘Solving business problems’ and ‘beinginformed by a client’s business strategy’ are claims many marketing specialists make but something few are able to actually deliver. Yet when asked to detail exactly how Yellowwood puts it into action, Andy Rice, Yellowwood’s chairman, is not short of words or examples.

“Exclusive Books consulted us to help them grow beyond their normal organic growth rate. The company already has by farthe lion’s share of the bookshop market and a huge national footprint, and can therefore only really open new stores when new malls open – this was the challenge,” he explains. Yellowwood’s solution was to help the retailer uncover a new, previously untapped market segment and in so doing delivered additional incremental volume and new business growth. Rice explains:“Traditionally, Exclusive Books was a store for book lovers but we realised that we couldn’t get this core market to spend much more on books than they were already doing.

“However, our research revealed that there are a lot of other people who are not regular book-buyers but who nevertheless have a passion for something and will spend money on books relating to that topic. Informed by such market research and insight into Exclusive Books’business, we used creative marketing tools to introduce this new market segment to the brand, sending them the message that the store has a book to suit their passion – be it fly-fishing, cooking, motorcycles or travel.”

Answering a business question in this way through marketing and branding requires far more than an understanding of how to apply marketing tools in different ways. As Nash points out, “It requires a rigorous commercial understanding of both the general and brand-specific business landscape, a company’s competitors, its challenges, where its industry’s going, what product developments might be relevant in future – and, of course,a thorough familiarity with all aspects of the company itself.”

Moroke adds: “It’s for this reason that our projects always start with interviewing key people inside our client’sbusiness. This includes the CEO and senior people in finance, operations,marketing and systems. Our goal is to really understand the business and this is our starting point. So when we deliver a marketing solution it’s one that has already taken into account all the different things that affect and drive the business – and it has the buy-in of the people at the top.” The trick is to deliver business solutions that are not one-dimensional or naïve, as Nash puts it.

And this means having experienced people on board. “It’s very easy to give a client a solution that sounds great but is not sustainable, so we focus on employing people who have a good track record of business experience,” she says. The Yellowwood  team comprises a powerful research team that drives the company’s understanding and insight into clients’ business needs; a creative design team that has a comprehensive understanding of strategy; and a strategic team that draws on the research and works with the design team to deliver solutions.

“One of the strengths of our team is the fact that it’s so diverse,” continues Nash, “Part of our strategy is to champion differences because it’s in doing so that you are able to make unlikely connections. The more diverse our team, the greater the depth of whatwe’re able to achieve because different people approach problems in different ways. So we don’t prescribe what an ideal designer, strategist or researcher looks like.” The company also prides itself on delivering individual solutions, as Moroke explains. “We don’t have a suite of products – we tailor-make all our solutions to the specific business challenge of the client.”

It’s an expensive business model but it’s one that works, and as Moroke concludes, doing things differently is what sets Yellowwood apart.“While we have the wisdom that’s required from a business perspective, we are nonetheless creative thinkers and I think it’s the combination of the two that helps us uncover unique solutions, solutions informed by unconventional wisdom.” Contact: +27 11 268 5211, www.ywood.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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