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How to Woven the web of creativity

Halifax, August 30th, 2018

Woven is a brand experience agency that blends first-class creativity and deep digital know-how to create brands, campaigns and experiences that resonate with modern consumers and businesses.

It began life in 2002 as INK Digital Agency, providing specialist digital solutions to it clients. Over the years it offering have organically expanded to create multi-channel experiences that deliver outstanding brand uplift and ROI for its clients.

The agency has three offices in the UK: in Leeds, Halifax and London and one in Melbourne, Australia. The team of creatives, strategists, developers and social media experts specialise in everything from brand development, marketing strategy, content development, website design and mobile app development to creating inspirational social campaigns and improving brands’​ SEO and PPC. In fact the number of employees one can find in Woven at its different locations varies depending on the projects they are working on.

The Halifax headquartered company has undergone a few changes in the past year or so. First, it changed its name from INK Digital to Woven. It’s also a nod to the textile industry of Halifax. The second one was a management restructure.

Helen Darlington, Woven’s CEO said “It was by no means an easy decision to make, to rebrand our agency after 15 fantastic years. We’ve worked tirelessly to create a name and an identity that truly marries with our brand personality, capabilities and passion for our craft.” Darlington added that the dropping of “digital” showed that it had expanded into a full-service marketing and communications agency, with strategists, developers, designers and copywriters. Of the rebrand itself, the agency stated that the minimalist website design reflected its growing confidence and aspirations.

Darlington had taken the role of CEO at Woven only recently, when a reshuffle also saw former head of digital development Tony Pye, become Chief technical officer and Mark Bower, previously Client services director, take on the role of Managing director. We spoke to Mark, who shared his wisdom on marketing and some company secrets on the creative building process.

Mark opens his interview saying: “My favourite quote of all time relating to marketing comes from the late Peter Drucker and nails this beyond anything that I could say on the subject. “The purpose of marketing is to know the customer so well that the product sells itself.” Which is another way of saying what Ray Dalio is getting at with his equally pithy “Truth—or, more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality —is the essential foundation for any good outcome.

What’s the secret to connecting specific emotional responses with visual form?

I think the key is to have a very clear idea of what it is that you are setting out to achieve and to immerse yourself in that world and that feeling. With enough of the right inputs an internal process of synthesis can take place, allowing the outputs to be shaped accordingly. You kind of have to let go and allow the creative flow to take over and do its thing. If you get it right the ‘state’ or feeling’ will be present in the work. It’s not a purely conscious process.

What is your design process?

It’s a process of immersion, followed by unfettered ideation which is then subject to numerous rounds of iterative editing and second-guessing; until the ‘right’ answer emerges.

How do you define your agency building process?

We’ve really tried to concentrate on a what the author Jim Collins (Good to great) calls ’getting the right people on the bus’; by which he means that, if you get enough of the right people in the room you achieve a critical mass of talent, ideas and energy which creates a positive ‘virtuous cycle’ attracting yet more capable people, resulting in a business full of highly motivated, highly capable people performing at the top of their game. Systems and processes are also critical, of course. But without the right people in the building, nothing else matters.

What challenges do you face today in your agency/ with your team?

As a relatively small business in a VERY crowded market place I’d say our biggest challenge is to try to achieve stand out and differentiation. It’s a buyer’s market to a very large extent and it’s therefore important not to get drawn into a race to the bottom in terms of chasing after work and briefs that just aren’t right for us, either due to client fit, or financially. Being selective and sticking to the plan is essential.

How would you describe the creativity culture at your agency?

Creativity goes all the way through the heart of the business. It’s part of our DNA, as they say in the business books. Many things in this world are rapidly becoming commoditised and automated. The most significant value that we provide is in utilising our vast experience to feed our creative approach to develop new, innovative solutions to meet our client’s evolving business challenges.

How is that culture cultivated and maintained?

We hire for creativity and constantly promote it through a series of social and work-related programs including reading lists, events and workshops. We encourage an open, no-wrong-answers approach to solving problems and ensure that we always, first and foremost, see ourselves as a creative business. That’s our job. Technology, planning and processes are all secondary to this fundamental drive to create new and better ideas and solutions.

What first drew you to the creative field?

I think I’ve always had a bit of a creative streak, although I never realised growing up that this could be something that you could make a career out of. I’ve always dabbled with photography, creative writing, painting and play guitar, bass and drums, so obviously there’s something there struggling to get out! I initially set off down quite a technical route career wise and then this thing called the internet appeared and seemed to involve both technology and creativity and I just fell into that world quite naturally. As things progressed I found that the creative element was in fact far more interesting to me personally than the more technical aspects.

What is your personal definition of creativity?

I believe that creativity is the ability to make a non-linear, non-logical leap or connection between facts or ideas in order to create something new and original. I do believe that this is something that can be developed as a skill and that everyone has the potential to be creative, but that not everyone gets the opportunity to use their brain like this very often – particularly in business!

To which qualities of creativity are you most sensitive?

Interesting question. Personally, I seem to be drawn to ideas and ‘things’ that are either very beautiful or very controversial – or possibly even both! There’s definitely a bit of an anarchic streak in me. It’s odd that as much as I love beauty and harmony, I do like to upset the status quo and challenge existing frameworks and paradigms and be a bit disruptive.

Do you consider yourself a team player?

Another great question. I think I can and do work well within a team, but there is definitely a big individualistic streak in there too. I am happy working in isolation for extended periods and maybe that’s my preferred natural state, if I’m really honest with myself.

Please list a few of your favourite digital brands:

Uber. Amazon. Yolt (financial app). Netflix.

What do you like doing in your free time?

I like music (playing and listening to), watching great movies, reading great books, podcasts, YouTube, Netflix, fishing, walking, spending time with the kids.

Thanks Mark!

By Geny Caloisi.

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