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You may have noticed that during the recent launch of the new R&D facilities at our headquarters in Cambridge we also renewed our corporate identity. One question I have been asked several times since we rolled out the new brand is “did you carry out the re-brand yourselves?”.

Whilst our team was heavily involved in the design of the building, and developed some of the interior graphic treatments, the answer is no!

It is however a very good question. We have a highly creative and qualified team, used to working with major multinational brands across key markets in packaging, consumer product, FMCG, healthcare and energy, and it might seem the most natural thing in the world to have undertaken the process in-house. Superficially at least, it would also have undoubtedly appeared more cost effective. However we were acutely aware that doing the work in-house would have been inherently risky, and potentially costly in different ways.

So, following a competitive pitch process, we commissioned Moving Brands, a premier international brand agency with offices in London, San Francisco and Zurich, and who count Sony, Swisscom, HP and Stella McCartney as clients, to immerse themselves in our business.

There is a common misconception that a re-brand is a superficial, primarily aesthetic treatment resulting in little more than a tweaked logo or ‘brand-mark’. Nothing could be further from the truth. From embarking on a process which has involved every member of CDP’s 62-strong team, to launch and roll out, the journey has taken around a year. The result, we believe, is a fresh, vibrant reflection of who we are, what we do, how we speak and how we behave. It portrays both creative flair, and an engineered structure and rigour which is consistent across our website, presentations, literature and business cards. It even impacts on the way we speak and write about what we do – emphasis has changed from the skills we applied, to commercial successes and client challenges solved.

So why did we choose to collaborate with an external partner?

  • Historical legacy. There was always a risk that we would stick with what we knew, because it felt safe, familiar, and comfortable. The concern was that we might spend more time looking back at what we have always done, rather than forwards at what we are aiming for. The entrenched view over the shoulder might also be compounded by fears of wrestling with the impacts of change on us as individuals, and as a team.

  • Blinkers. An unbalanced view of the way we think we appear to the outside world and of how we operate, is almost unavoidable. Human nature provides a tendency to ignore areas for improvement, and the resulting blinkered view can hamper creativity and restrict potential for growth. Partial sight can also work the other way – most businesses have a sparkle, something in their people, process or products that is very special, and often a point of defining novelty. Over a long period of time these things naturally become so central to who you are that you take them for granted, and forget to highlight your differences enthusiastically enough! An outside view helps remind you of what makes you great!

  • Priorities. Time is precious. Internal projects always take lower precedence than high profile external projects. It might have taken us years to implement a new brand if it had continuously been pushed aside by more pressing concerns and urgent client work. Despite its strategic importance the roll out of such a complex landscape of different internal and external collateral and touch-points might have been delayed, un-coordinated, and potentially delivered very confusing messages.

  • Cost vs Value. As we all know ‘cost’ and ‘value’ can be very different things. We weighed up the ‘cost’ of working with an experienced brand agency as we were aspiring for deeper value. We routinely work with businesses all over the globe and as our blue chip client list suggests, we are a fundamentally a different beast to the company that existed at the time of our last rebrand, 11 years ago. We are now a world class design and technology consultancy business, and put simply, we want to look like one, and attract the kind of companies that want to work with one. The invested commercial value will therefore be realised continuously over the coming years.

  • Many minds. Our proven product development process is founded on the principle of multi-disciplinary working. It recognises that the greatest opportunities can be realised through cross fertilisation of core skill competencies, ideas, industries and experiences. Sometimes (as in the case of our re-brand) a perspective that is pivotal to potential success has to come from outside your business, and knowing when to collaborate to incorporate new perspectives can help reduce risk and increase the likelihood of successful long term outcomes.

Reflecting now, the success of the process was due to the collaboration of both professional teams, client and partner – our preferred way of working. There was no ‘them’ and ‘us’. Both sets of expertise and both sets of knowledge were critical to success. As the external team applied their craft, they exposed the essence of our business, our people, and what makes us unique, and built on it to create something profound and lasting. The process consolidated our values and our thinking, and helped draw out the most important aspects, while disregarding those of lesser value. It allowed us to see a clear path and take a massive step forward into our future.

It takes a great deal of courage to step outside of the comfort zone and look to the horizon. It also takes courage to seek an external view, but sometimes it is the right thing to do to allow potential to be realised. The risk of developing the wrong product or service can do untold damage to a business with consequences and costs that can be measured in many different ways, but which all ultimately impact the bottom line.

Early in our new project we naturally concluded that finding a highly skilled collaboration partner was going to be critical to success. This familiar partnership role is one we often provide in much of our strategic research, design and technical development work for our own clients. It’s not necessarily that they don’t have core competency in-house (although occasionally this can be the case – especially when diversifying to reach new customers or markets), or intimate knowledge of their market or technology, but sometimes making big steps need heavyweight partnerships and a different perspective.

If this sounds familiar, whether it’s for consumer research and strategy, or new product development or technology introduction, we’d welcome the opportunity to discuss a potential collaborative perspective.

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