Brand, Branding, and Moroccan Tajines
Building an identity along with our people.
Clay-tinted landscapes extending as far as the eye can see. Echoing prayers of a nearby Mu’adhin. Mysterious Tifinagh glyphs and intriguing, sinuous Arabic scripts disclosing undecipherable information. The comforting warmth of the African sun hitting the skin. The cozy, mint-scented vapour released from the silver teapot left on the table. Then, the peaceful and hearth-filling silence of the desert.
Nothing is as good as getting lost in unfamiliar places to get a good dose of motivation and take a well-deserved mind-break. For creative people like me, a full immersion into unexplored hues, sounds and scent combinations open the way to the unexpected.
Our first company retreat
As soon as we arrived in our charming, majestic riad in Marrakesh, the feeling of being far away from our tickling keyboards, scribbled whiteboards, and wet raincoats was an immediate relief. The average Londoner sweater-and-scarf look turned into espadrilles-and-harem-pants in no time. While we gathered around the swimming pool, everybody’s face looked relaxed already. We just landed in Morocco, and the whole team seemed more than ready to lay back and enjoy their very first TrueLayer retreat.
Long walks, hikes, and city sightseeing. But also, peculiar activities such as finding out who the werewolves were, clubbing with monkeys and cavemen, out-of-the-office conversations, plenty of couscous, and endless Tajines shaped the three-days journey into a mixture of feelings and experiences that created a sincere bond in our growing team.
Yallā Yallā! (hurry up)
Our visit inside the Medina was a full immersion into the colourful Moroccan culture. The crowded, noisy Jamaa el Fna (UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity) was pure chaos.
Galloping donkeys and two-stroke engine mopeds hogging the labyrinthine alleys. Busy women concentrated in pan-frying buttery, square-shaped Msemen. Merchants’ hands popping out from a myriad of dusty bazaars. Stoned snakes dancing at the sound of the charmers’ song. Finical turret-shaped compositions of pungent, exotic spices apparently not affected by gravity; eye-catching doors surrounded by playful geometric Zellige tiles; the soft scent of almonds of the freshly baked Ghoribas. People. People everywhere — going who knows where — rushing at a slow, rhythmic pace.
This intricate and complex “open-air performance” left each one of us with a different feeling, a different opinion, but — truly — it left us speechless. While we were intent in observing this incredible flamboyant world, some locals managed to lead us in “the belly of the beast”. In Marrakesh — apparently — whatever you ask for, whatever you look at, and whatever you take pictures of, well, you should expect to pay a price for it. And that’s when we realised that our desire to see the leather market resulted in an — unsolicited — escorted 40-minute twilight walk into the unexpected: urban decline, pigeons’ manure, and slime. All of this for a “reasonable” amount of dirham, of course.
The surreal and somewhat uncomfortable circumstance created an occasion to share thoughts, perceptions, and get closer to each other.
TrueLayer. True story.
I’ve been designing brands for the past 10 years and — more or less — the branding strategies I followed, along with my fellow art directors worldwide, have always been the same. Brands were approached as destinations, rather than journeys. The iter was to start from the company name creation, its pay-off, and the design of a unique, remarkable logo. Next: corporate identity, marketing collateral, POP materials, and social-media branded content. Then all of this was ready to be used, and re-used, and re-used again. Right. But what were the results following this standard branding process? I think it created — for the vast majority of cases — anonymous, cold, and static brands dictated by the narcissism of the company founders, or by strained, user-centric strategies.
In 2017, this shouldn’t be the case anymore. Branding gurus of leading creative agencies around the globe agree on the fact that customers are “sick of the bullshit” (). They say that brands will have to offer a more truthful, transparent version of themselves. Also, with the rise of artificial intelligence, brands will have to inspect their moral and ethical responsibilities, with the ultimate goal of becoming more and more human.
The era of static brands has come to an end. A company who wants to be respected and trusted by its consumers needs to open its boundaries to different ideas and stimuli. We are talking about companies who are ready to include their people in every process. Companies who give voice to both their teams and customers and are strongly committed to representing them.
At TrueLayer we are trying to shape our brand around our team, rather than branding our team with a pre-established brand. We are not interested in selling a status. We recognise the importance of authentic storytelling. We want our enthusiasm and shared beliefs to be visible to everybody. We want our products to communicate our passion and commitment. We want to learn from our mistakes and inspire others. We want a brand that is fluid, versatile, and able to adapt to our vision.
This colourful Moroccan adventure helped us understand that everyone in our company — regardless of their experience, background, or specialisation — has something valuable to say. We believe that involving everybody in multiple functions is a necessary step to better understand what works and what doesn’t. Our diverse, enthusiastic, and hard-working team is excited to learn. And, as Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
We are growing. And our brand is growing with us.