Fresh, sustainable branding is on the menu for Fishworks


We’re super-excited to see our branding come to life in Fishworks’ new Covent Garden restaurant.

Taking them from traditional to contemporary – from the ocean-inspired colour palette to the premium-feel menu – the new identity blends three things Fishworks is known for: freshness, enthusiasm and authority. And it’s all brought together with our line, ‘From sea to plate with passion.’

We designed the artisan-style logo to reflect their expertise, incorporating subtle curves to mimic the sea. In addition, we created flexible sub-brands for the various areas of their business, from the front-of-store fishmonger to the wine merchant inside, so each could continue to thrive and evolve as they move forward.

Customers will order from beautifully tactile foil-blocked menus, containing evocative stories about freshness and provenance. They’ll see patterns based on abstract ocean topographies. And they’ll buy fish from the fish counter wrapped in beautiful branded bags. All the while enjoying everything one of London’s best seafood restaurants has to offer.

We look forward to seeing it roll out across their other venues and channels too. As clients go, they’re quite a catch.





Sean Dwyer

Sainsbury’s introduces a smarter way to shop


When we visited the Amazon Go store back in January, we were excited for the possibilities of till-free retail, and it hasn’t taken long for the idea to spread across the pond. Four weeks ago, Sainsbury’s opened the UK’s first till-free store, right in the heart of London.

As you can already use the SmartShop app in 100 branches of Sainsbury’s, we wondered if this is a novelty store, existing purely to promote the app; it’s certainly received a lot of media coverage. (Even the Queen has voiced an opinion, commenting on a recent visit to the Sainsbury’s 150th Anniversary store, ‘That’s an interesting tool.’)

But the fact that Sainsbury’s chose a busy, existing store made us think that perhaps this is something more than a PR exercise, signalling the beginning of our new retail reality.

There was only one way to find out!

Stopping traffic

The store does a great job of advertising to passers-by, with a wall vinyl in the trademark orange branding stretched across the store front, delivering snappy, impactful copy. You can’t walk past without getting the message.

On the day we visited, the store was heaving with shoppers, even though it’s a small store with only two aisles, and many of them were taking photos just like us. This suggests people were mainly visiting for the novelty factor, rather than doing an everyday shop.

However, Sainsbury’s were well prepared for any shoppers who were unaware of the SmartShop concept. As soon as we walked through the doors, we were approached by staff who were happy to explain the concept and ask if we needed help.


Making it look easy
Inside, the messaging was just as visible as outside. We loved the simplicity and directness of the line ‘Scan and bag as you go’. This was the most prominent message, visible everywhere from fins and woofers to wall vinyls and bunting.

There was even a table by the entrance, piled with leaflets instructing shoppers how to use the SmartShop tech. The phone-shaped flyers were particularly effective, with simple, reassuring copy: ‘It’s easy’ ‘It’s speedy’ ‘& you’re in control’.

The tech itself is easy to use, as promised. You download the app, shop and then scan a QR code (so Sainsbury’s knows you’ve finished) to pay on your phone.


Sign of the times
With only two aisles, the UK”s first till-free concept feels like a test store rather than a format Sainsbury’s are going roll out across the country – and we think that’s smart.

While it’s tempting to think of the self-service till as the mini disc to SmartShop’s iPod (a stepping stone to the next, more enduring innovation), there will always be shoppers who resist it, or who are unable to use it.

It’s telling that, despite being heralded as the UK’s first ever till-free convenience store, there was one till (called a help desk by Sainsbury’s) after all, just in case anyone had trouble using SmartShop. Even more telling? The new Amazon Go store in New York has announced that it will accept cash too.



Sean Dwyer

WHS Carpet: 5 lessons brands can learn from the Twitter parody account


If you’re not familiar with the WHS Carpet Twitter account, think of disgruntled/highly amused Brits sharing photos of their shopping experiences.

Named after the blue carpets of a certain retail brand, the account was created by an anonymous Twitter user, who thinks that said brand is letting standards slip, and it’s since grown to include other retailers too.

The same grievances crop up again and again – most of them easy fixes, causing unnecessary hassle for the shopper and bad feeling towards the brand.

With the so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ looming ever nearer (or already happening, depending on who you talk to), brands can learn a few important lessons from WHS Carpet.

1. Always look presentable
Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 3.50.21 pm
Gaffer-taped flooring; shelves propped up like cars with stolen wheels; and hand-written signage on lined paper: a scroll through WHS Carpet proves that customers do care about superficial details and they will share them on Twitter – so it’s false economy to ignore them.

People want to root for the brands they’ve grown up with (remember all the nostalgic lamenting on Twitter when Toys R Us folded?) – that’s why they’re so critical when their expectations are not met in store.

2. Be clear with pricing
Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 3.50.30 pm

Would you rather have two bags of chocolate buttons for £2, two for £3 or one for £1.29? If you’re in a rush, the answer is probably none at all. Busy shoppers don’t have time to work out complicated pricing; it’s better to have no offer than a confusing one.

This could be remedied by implementing a clear pricing strategy and empowering staff to to stick to it e.g. No discounts less than x% and Only one ‘x for £x’ offer per product.

3. Strive for synergy

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 3.50.39 pm

A common feature of the WHS Carpet account: products supported by a completely unrelated campaign, like the Easter campaign above, being used to promote a mishmash of household products.

Other examples: a book store’s ‘Everyone’s talking about’ message, probably designed to promote a singular, popular title, being used to highlight various baby board books; and bottles of spirits in a supermarket, accompanied by a ‘Dry January’ campaign.

If staff are continuously having to push products unrelated to the campaign created by an agency or Head Office, then perhaps it’s time to introduce a few generic themes to use in emergencies.

4. Stay up to date

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 3.50.39 pm

Christmas promos in March, annuals for years gone by, merchandise for now-defunct boy bands… there’s something so unsettling and uninspiring about seeing out-of-date stock and comms.

Retail is all about meeting customer needs; if the time for needing it has long since past, it shouldn’t really be on sale.

5. Don’t make them laugh

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 3.50.54 pm

One sarky Twitter post from a disgruntled customer might not make much noise, but a post from a highly amused customer who has spotted a clanger? That’ll spread like wildfire.

When it comes to comms that could be misconstrued, brands could give stores a list of all the products it must not be used with.

The heat is on for the high street

When there’s a new story every week about retail businesses going into administration, brands are under immense pressure to justify their presence on the UK high street, and to prove that they’re doing enough to avoid closures and job losses.

From holes in the floor to incorrect pricing, you can bet that after taking snaps of these gaffes, shoppers don’t stick around to buy the thing they came in for.

WHS Carpet shows that the minutiae of the retail environment has a huge effect on shopper experience – and brands can’t afford to ignore it.

This article first appeared on The Drum website.



Sean Dwyer

Sustainability: the big changes you’d least expect


To say that sustainability is a hot topic is an understatement – today we’re all aware of the  effects of climate change and plastic waste.

But while more of us are trying to make better choices in an effort to save the planet, it can feel as if anything we do as individuals is just a drop in the ocean. Increasingly, we’re looking to the brands we buy to lead the way and help us to live more sustainably.

The question is, can brands react fast enough and radically enough to keep up with their increasingly eco-conscious customers?

For inspiration, we take a look at the most unlikely brands making transformative efforts to become more sustainable
– because if these brands can do it, anyone can.

The local take-away turned vegan

Vegans are on the rise (in the UK there has been a 350% increase since 2006, according to the Vegan Society). This is largely due to environmental concerns, prompted by recent studies that suggest going vegan is the most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint.

While many supermarkets and food brands are catering to vegans with new products and ranges, we love the story of small, family-run business Sutton & Sons, who have taken a more radical approach.

The owners have been running traditional fish and chip shops in London for over 20 years but as customer lifestyles have changed, they’ve changed too. In response to a local demand for vegan food, Sutton & Sons made their Hackney branch completely vegan, offering seaweed-marinated banana blossom instead of fish, and ‘prawn’ tempura made from potatoes.

Honourable mention: Greggs

Selling out as soon as it launched, the Greggs vegan sausage roll caused quite a stir earlier this year. Although only a single product, it did much to promote veganism in the mainstream, breaking down stereotypes of ‘sanctimonious vegans’ by proving that they like cheap, greasy baked goods as much as the next British person.


The fashion icon saving water

Levi’s is synonymous with timeless jeans built to last. But in the wake of high profile documentaries about the impact of denim manufacturing, the iconic brand has been compelled to boost its green credentials.

By innovating new production techniques that use less water, Levi’s has saved 1.8 billion litres of water and recycled more than 129 million litres. Plus, it shouts this message loud and clear (in the recent BBC documentary ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’, Levi’s was the only brand willing to speak in front of the camera), highlighting itself as a leader in sustainability and proving that it can be a sustainable option for customers.

Honourable mention: H&M

H&M might be one of the world’s biggest fast fashion retailers, but it’s showing a growing awareness of sustainability: 57% of all its materials are now recycled or sustainably sourced and the plan is to make this 100% by 2030.


The plastic product going eco friendly

As a controversial plastic product, water bottles are second only to straws, and they could soon become more socially unacceptable than tobacco plastic bottles bans are being introduced everywhere from American universities to Glastonbury festival.

Evian has reacted by promising to use 100% recyclable plastic by 2020. It’s an ambitious target (set in 2018), but Evian needs to be ambitious if it is to justify its product in an increasingly plastic-free world.

To this end, Evian has tapped innovative designer/entrepreneur Virgil Abloh to be its Creative Director and together they have launched a limited edition, refillable glass bottle. With more ‘stylish and collectable items’ in the pipeline, it looks as though Evian is preparing itself for a future where plastic bottles bans are the norm.

Honourable mention: Lego

The most beloved plastic-centric brand in the world says that the majority of its toys and packaging will be made from sustainable materials by 2030. Lego has also launched a range of toys made from sugar-cane, and switched all its energy to renewable sources.

The new radicals

Sustainability is no longer the remit of brands known for their ethical credentials. As the examples above show, all kinds of brands are able to take a radical approach – and soon, as the effects of climate change become even more tangible, anxious consumers will expect nothing less.



Sean Dwyer

VM & Design Show 2019: Innovating in store messaging

Plastic fantastic

This year at the VM & Design Show, we were on the lookout for materials and tech that could be used to innovative in-store messaging. Because as much we love great design, if it’s not saying anything, it’s not adding value for customers.

From foam words to submerged letters, we went away with more than a few ideas about getting our message across. Take a look at what we found…

Plastic fantastic

In store, 3D design often serves a novelty purpose, but Floreeda’s clever use of coloured plastic and LED lights gave us a new perspective. It’s a fresh way of establishing messaging hierarchy, giving designers more to play with than weight and 2D placement.

We also loved Floreeda’s plastic letters submerged in trickling water, which reminded us that words aren’t the only way to communicate a message. Why use words to say that a product is waterproof, or refreshing, when you could just submerge it in water instead? Customers will get it instantly.

It’s worth noting that Floreeda use a recycled acrylic called Greencast, so it’s suitable for retailers trying to be more sustainable.


Digital in motion

If real water isn’t your thing, you could always cheat – we loved the realism of Alchemy’s digital displays.

Whereas flashy, fast-moving digital can often be distracting in a retail environment, Alchemy’s transparent displays (which tricked us into thinking we were looking at real water, just for a moment) were eye-catching but not overwhelmingly so.

It’s a great example of disruptive tech that doesn’t disrupt the shopper from their mission; in store, we’d be a captive audience for any messages floating across these screens.

Playing with words

Foam letters are often used at retail events to spell out hashtags, or event names. But when we saw Cutfoam’s laser-cut foam work, we instantly thought of in-store messaging. Light and easy to move around, the foam letters could be used by retailers to constantly switch up their store, both as on-brand messages and as helpful navigation.

As an added bonus, it can all be recycled; Cutfoam will collect and upcycle pieces when they’re no longer needed. Fun, portable and green: what’s not to like?

VM and Design Show

Multidimensional messaging

Our main takeaway from the VM & Display show? Retail is a 3D environment, so messaging shouldn’t be confined to 2D. Forget bold fonts – how about highlighting messages kinetically and tangibly, with moving water? And instead of functional navigation, why not make it fun, Instagrammable and memorable?

Some retailers are already well known for doing all this, but with so much exciting tech now more accessible than ever, smaller retailers (with smaller budgets) can afford to think outside the box too.

While it’s always important to get the messaging right, sometimes it’s not just what you say that matters, it’s the way you say it.



Sean Dwyer

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