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Introducing ToolKit™: Brand technology for the digital age

December 2,2024

Charl Laubscher

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to sell you a new technology.

For the last 18 months, we’ve been working on something we think could be huge for Love and Money. It represents a whole new way of working with our clients. It’s part of our mission to redefine the definition and role of a “Creative Agency” in the age of digital automation.

If you want to just jump straight to the sales pitch, go here.

If you want to understand why, as a creative agency, we’re ostensibly trying to put ourselves out of a job, read on. Over the coming weeks I’m going to try to unpack how we got here. And I’m going to work backwards — from outcome to origin, product to problem — because while you need a great idea if you want to change the world, the execution is 80% of the battle.

1. Creative Agency vs. Creative Agency

2. Designing systems, not services

3. Designing systems, not services

4. Creative businesses have a deeply uncreative business mode

Part 1: Creative Agency vs. Creative Agency

I work for Love + Money. A “Creative” agency.

Over the last 11 years I’ve been building an independent global creative agency: a team of designers, developers, 3D artists, strategists, copywriters, producers, account managers…

You know, “creatives”.

We’ve done some pretty cool stuff. We worked with the in-house team to rebrand and relaunch Polaroid Originals, one of the iconic brands of the 20th century. We’ve been part of PepsiCo’s innovation lab for the last 3 years. We launched Coles’ mealkit delivery service. We created a festival of internet content for the Sydney Opera House. We’ve been behind some of the most successful Australian startups of the last 10 years, including that coffee scrub everyone was rubbing all over themselves, and a watch company that sold a million dollars worth of stock in a day 6 months after launch. We launched a casual cosmetics brand with one of Australia’s most inspiring female founders. We’ve won a bunch of awards, even though we’ve never really thought about them that hard. We’ve spoken at conferences all over the world, most recently this one. Sounds like stuff “creative types” do right?

After 11 years we’ve finally realised that we’re not the only “creatives” in the room.

It’s embarrassing how easily we forget how creative our clients are. Whether it’s making paper from stone, like our partners at Karst, or crafting a cosmetics brand that convinces people that they don’t need makeup to feel more themselves, like our business partner/oracle Erika at Fluff, or reimagining Edwin Land’s vision at Polaroid, or creating a neobank that convinces millennials to save like the team at Up Bank. Our clients are epic; I could go on.

I have opinions on who is and isn’t “creative” that I’ll talk about in another post (spoiler: it’s all humans). But my point here is simpler: we wouldn’t have brands to create if our clients hadn’t been creative enough to create the business to create them for.

Which poses the question: What are we here for?

Vision without execution is hallucination.

If you want to change the world, ideas are necessary, but not sufficient.

We think that having the idea is only half the job. Bernard Arnault, the man behind LVMH, the richest man in the world, and the undisputed king of LBO, would be a little more aggressive with his percentages (surprise surprise):

“You need ideas but the idea is just 20%. Execution is 80%.”
— Bernard Arnault

In fairness, you should trust his numbers over mine; not only has he created more personal wealth than anyone in history, he’s done it through fundamentally creative brands. And he talks about the importance of creativity — and specifically the idea of creativity being the execution of ideas — a lot.

“The person who I admire most in business is Warren Buffett. He is a long-term investor and has brilliant ideas and he sticks to them. The other person who I happened to have known is Steve Jobs. What I admired about was his capacity to execute and bring so many innovations to the market. It allowed him to build a fascinating company. Warren and Steve have in common being very creative.”
— Bernard Arnault (again)

So indeed, a lot of our job is to come up with ideas (or, more accurately, make the ideas our clients have had more sexy). We work hard to articulate ideas that people will choose in a crowded marketplace, interpret in a way that suits them, and share with others as a part of their own identity. We pride ourselves on the speed and consistency at which we come up with them.

But at some point, that vision of a possible future needs to make contact with reality. And this is often where the truly hard work starts to happen. We call it making Work That Works.

The perfect thought experiment that you’d concocted on paper all of a sudden meets the everyday physics of the real world. That word you love means something racist in some foreign market, so you’ve got to rethink it. Your original approach to colour has actually been hijacked by a competitor in Singapore, so you can’t use it in Berlin. That tidy distillation of your client’s complex business model that you’d led with is actually full of holes, and explaining it this way is misleading, or not legal for some reason. Or, as we’ve learned and re-learned a million times, that digital or physical product that you’d designed to work in some intuitive way is actually totally counter-intuitive to a representative sample set of your target audience, and you’ve got to literally guide them to pick up the thing or click the right thing or whatever and it’s all a bit of a disaster.

Do clients really need more creative agency?

The most humbling realisation of the last 11 years of running Love and Money is this: Clients don’t need a creative agency to build everything for them. What they need is creative agency.

Be it brands or business models, websites or campaigns, our clients need help creating frameworks, processes and tools to help our clients drive creative productivity and build work that works.

Brands need to be deeply entrenched in the very core of a client's business to really make a meaningful difference. That's the true north of design value, right there. And let's be real, if we're the only ones who can use the system, or if we go around acting like the "brand police," we're limiting its reach. We might as well be putting it in a straitjacket. What's truly game-changing is when we can create a system that hands the reins of creative agency over to the client. That's empowerment. And don't just drop it and dash—stick around, because issues are going to pop up. Be there for those pivotal conversations that can steer things back on course.

It’s not about what we make, it’s about what we make possible.

So how can we help?

If 80% of the job is execution, and we want to see our ideas out there in the world, then the obvious conclusion was to ask our clients what was getting in the way of bringing our shared vision to life.

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Through a series of workshops and brainstorms with key clients, we asked how we could operationalise the work we were doing. We looked at the facts on the ground; what technology did they use? What staff/talent did they have?

We asked how we could leverage emergent digital tech, and the scalability of atomic design systems, to make brands not just inspiring to look at, but use, day in, day out.

Most importantly, it wasn’t about making design systems easier for us to design, it was about making our design systems easier for our clients to use. Using design to provide the most value to the most people for the least cost and effort. Driving up the value of design by increasing its reach and scalability, rather than racing to the bottom to lower the cost of our designers.

Instead of just designing for our clients, we started co-designing systems with them. Toolkit is a digital brand platform that holds the best of the brands in one central source of truth, giving everyone who works on your brand the same tools to build with.It connects the strategic idea powering your business to the tools that you use every day to create internal and external comms, making brand alignment at every level automatic, and making space for the innovation that leads to powerful growth.

Tools for Creativity

After lots of chin-scratching and user testing, we’ve realised that there are 4 core components to creating work: Engage, Explain, Experiment, and Evaluate.

1. Engage: because it’s hard to create something great if you don’t care about what it is, or understand what it’s for. As Peter Drucker once said, “There is nothing as useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

2. Explain: because if you can’t explain the system you’re using, the chances are you’re going to struggle to use it.

3. Experiment: because if you already know the outcome, you’re not creating anything new.

4. Evaluate: because you need to know whether or not the experiment you just ran just worked.

These core stages of the creative process became the opportunity areas for us to build a set of features, both now and in the future, From its unique Brand Meme and Exploration capabilities to the meticulously crafted Atomic Design System and future-proof Digital Asset Management (DAM) with planned API Integration, Toolkit™ is built to provide brands with an unparalleled level of coherence and adaptability.

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Beta Today, Better Tomorrow

Our Always Beta approach is built into every brand and product we touch. So as with everything else we make, Toolkit™ is poised to evolve continuously. With a focus on collaboration, the platform is also in the process of developing an Internal Feedback Tool, designed to foster seamless real-time collaboration between stakeholders and an AI-powered Audience Testing feature for rapid-testing user engagement insights.

Future features for Toolkit™ include a Performance Dashboard for goal tracking and reporting, a Digital Asset Management (DAM) API for superior compatibility, and a CSS Slice Generator for bespoke design experiences, and a whole host of exciting stuff that we’re co-designing with our clients.

Not quite ready? Start with Figma.

For a limited time our Atomic Brand System™ that powers ToolKit™ is available for download in the Figma Community. Download it here and see how ready for the Internet your brand really is.

Attempts to Explain

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