Naeem Alvi-Assinder is the Founder and Managing Director at brand strategy and design agency, Notepad. I chatted with Naeem to find out more about Notepad, its ethos, and what he thinks are some of the key factors for brand growth in 2022.
Tell me about Notepad – what was the motivation behind starting the company?
Notepad is a brand strategy and design agency proudly based in Birmingham, England, and operates worldwide.
Having spent most of my career working in ‘agency-land’ I’d seen first-hand the good, the bad and the gut-wrenchingly ugly of our industry. In 2017, I decided enough was enough and set about building a brand agency which did things right by its people and its clients. An agency that tackled issues around diversity, inclusivity and gender bias head on, while creating a working culture which fostered trust, creativity and empowerment.
Breaking it down, the philosophy is pretty simple. By building an agency that treats people well, we can attract brilliant talent, which in turn leads to amazing work and great clients. Four years into our journey, we’ve built a 50/50 gender split team of 15 insanely talented creative and strategic minds. And, we work with a whole roster of great brands like WWF, Glenmorangie and iomart.
What are some key factors for brand growth in 2022? What differentiates the winners from the losers?
While there is still a tonne of purpose-washing in our industry, over the past few years we’ve seen more demand for brands to act ethically, and actively demonstrate their values in their actions and communications. Most recently, it’s been interesting to watch bigger brands choose to actively support efforts and people in Ukraine whilst pulling operations out of Russia, and as a trend I think (and hope) we’ll see more of this conscious brand behaviour this year.
I think we’ll also see more of a blurred line between digital and physical work. The Covid-19 Pandemic has definitely accelerated our adoption of technology (welcome back QR codes!), and the more creative brands are finding ways to use physical channels to bring people into their virtual worlds. The Coinbase ad at The Super Bowl was a great example of this.
What’s been your favourite brand campaign from the past year and why?
I’ve always believed the very best brand campaigns provoke an emotional response, while communicating a clear and authentic message. As an industry, I’m not sure why we now think “being brave” is something to aspire for, when it used to just be the status quo.
With that in mind, I really liked the recent work by ad agency, CPB London, helping to raise awareness around gender bias on International Women’s Day. By using short and sharp copy, the campaign unpicks our subconscious gender biases and forces us to think. It’s clear, thought-provoking work that sticks with you.
To make sure the #ImagineCampaign was as impactful as possible, we picked several locations around the U.K and related our creative to those places. These were both inspired by where biases usually occur (E.g sports) and key commuter locations. pic.twitter.com/KtGwQBp4YG
— CPB London (@CPB_LDN) May 25, 2022
What branding and marketing trends do you see coming to the forefront in the next 12 months?
While it’s still buggy, difficult to use, bad for the planet and a feeding ground for hackers, blockchain technology has opened up a tonne of new opportunities. While there is still a lot of hype and buzz around things like NFTs and the metaverse, all of these are just signs that we are moving towards a world of digital ownership and I think we’ll start to see more and more interesting applications of this coming to life in things like music, film, gaming and art.
Outside of the metaverse, the last couple of years has shown us all that we also all need human contact. I expect we’ll see a strong resurgence in brands creating ways to bring people together at events and physical experiences.
What’s next for Notepad?
When I started writing the business plan for Notepad I made a list of everything that is wrong with our industry, and then tried to find a way to fix it. While we’re by no means perfect and we still have a long way to go, our current big focus is switching from a Limited company to a B Corporation – meaning we’ll focus on a triple bottom line and legally have to show how we’re balancing profit with people and the planet.
I know that probably sounds quite high and mighty but it shouldn’t. I’ve always thought of businesses as vehicles for change, and as an industry which is paid to think and act creatively, we’re well-placed to show the world what great businesses should look like.