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Brand identity refresh inspiration

nw_logo_still-755x500We do love a good rebrand here at Clarke Associates. And a high-profile one in recent design industry news is the update to NatWest’s identity – a bold and vibrant evolution of the bank’s previous minimalist chevron-based logo.





The updated logo takes its inspiration from the bank’s original brand guidelines, when it was first formed as National Westminster Bank Limited in 1968. Back then, the three interlocking cubes were created to represent the separate entities of the National Provincial Bank, Westminster Bank and District Bank, united in one distinct marque.


The three-dimensional cuboid device has been brought back; the logo even depicted in animated form to help facilitate a stronger digital presence. A bold and colourful accompanying graphic vocabulary is intended to help the identity stand out from its competitors on the high-street; with NatWest’s aim being to appeal to a more youthful audience. The cuboid aesthetic is even referenced in the bespoke logotype used in supporting collateral.

There’s certainly much to be impressed by with this rebrand – the colour palette, fresh looking isometric illustrations and playful aesthetic are perfect for a younger demographic.



NatWest’s new branding is currently being rolled out across marketing materials, posters, merchandise, in-branch animations and online, and will be extended to store-fronts later on.

Paul OQ

Perhaps you’re reading this and considering an update to your brand? Well, look no further; we’d be delighted to help! To give you just a flavour of the sort of graphic design services we offer, take a look at our recent logo design for Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust’s ‘The Well Company’. And to view our design offering in full, or to find out more, you can contact our Head of Design Paul Chipperfield here.


No matter the business, it’s creativity that counts. David Clarke takes a look at a household name…


Lord Bilimoria, the man behind Cobra beer and also Chancellor of The University of Birmingham, is a man I greatly admire.

I have heard him speak on several occasions, always with a considerable degree of sound advice particularly when it comes to business.

So I was particularly interested in a feature that appeared in the small business section of The Daily Telegraph in which he freely admits that setting up a business – as well as maintaining it – is not the walk in the park that many think it is.

As he freely admits , he “nearly lost Cobra three times”.

“I can be sure that three things helped me to carry on: having a strong brand, great support from my family, and the right values. You have to hold on to a sense of integrity when business is as its most difficult.”

He also places great emphasis on getting out and meeting people.

“Networks are also important. It helps to have met other business leaders who understand the kind of pressures one sometimes has to face.”

It’s easy to think, when you look at a successful brand such as Cobra and also consider that he is an independent cross bench peer in the House of Lords, that here is a man who is assured of his destiny. But in The Daily Telegraph interview, he is remarkably frank: “I’m terrified of failure, but I have learned a great deal from my mistakes,” he is quoted as saying.

And he also comes up with wise words that should resonate with anyone who runs their own business, entrepreneurial or not: “I never really thought I had a particular strength; I wasn’t gifted at art, for example, or music. But now I realise that I was – and still am – creative. That’s what allowed me to develop a brand that was different and innovative.

“But the misconception I am most frustrated by is how often people misunderstand business – those people who are entirely negative about it. A business generates taxes. Without taxes there would be no public services – no functioning welfare state.”

Lord Bilimoria was born in Hyderabad, India into a family with a distinguished background in the armed forces and business.

It was while studying in Cambridge that the concept of Cobra was born. He “hated fizzy lagers”; ales were “too heavy” and he therefore set out to create a beer that “had a smoothness and a good, distinctive taste that would work well with food.”

Raising the finance was a “huge challenge” – with funding coming piecemeal from a variety of sources.

Clearly, battling it out with the brewery giants was not a task for the faint-hearted.

He finishes by saying: “You can be ambitious in two ways about business: you can want to create a brand that is the best in the world, but also one that is the best for the world. I wish more people understood that and how business can be a positive force.”

Wise words and an interesting perspective on business.

Flying in the face of logic



David Clarke embarks on a flight of fantasy that could so easily become reality as the Great Airport Debate continues

Recent events have demonstrated that we live in a world where the unlikely becomes the likely – so imagine this as a scenario:

Autumn 2016:

The government finally announces its deliberations on the Airports Commission recommendation for expanding aviation capacity.  Heathrow, it says, is to be expanded with a new North West runway.

Summer 2027:

The first phase of HS2 high speed rail linking London to Birmingham with its direct link to Birmingham International Airport, is opened. It is now just as quick for Londoners to get to Birmingham Airport as it is for them to travel to Heathrow.

Spring 2028:

Heathrow’s new North West runway is opened. Airline operators start pulling their long haul flights from Birmingham – preferring instead to use the increased capacity at Heathrow.

Winter 2028:

Birmingham is left without long haul flights.

This is not some work of fiction.  It is a highly probable scenario if the Government opts for a new third runway at Heathrow.  Heathrow you see, is readily accessible from Birmingham and the Midlands and that could sound the death knell for long haul flights from Birmingham – despite Birmingham’s recently increased capacity.

This crystal ball gazing is based on my interpretation of a recent briefing by Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive Officer at Birmingham International Airport.  Allowing a third runway at Heathrow will reinforce its dominance and centralise air traffic on the West of London meaning businesses around the country will be forced to fly from and commute through London rather than fly directly from their closest airport.

In what seems an unlikely alliance, Birmingham Airport is supporting Gatwick in its plans for expansion – because that is the best decision to enable Birmingham Airport to continue to grow and “fire the Midlands engine”.

And the arguments for Gatwick seem as logical and irrefutable as those for Heathrow appear unaffordable and impossible.

Expansion of Gatwick would help deliver the additional airport capacity needed in the South East, whilst allowing regional airports such as Birmingham to continue to establish the direct international connections that businesses in the regions require.  And never has that been more important than as we go through a period of uncertain economic conditions.

As Paul Kehoe said, we want to fly both short and long haul direct from our airport of choice. Birmingham has the capability and capacity to handle both but it is our very proximity to London that means that if the third runway is constructed at Heathrow, Birmingham will be at a disadvantage when it comes to fighting on the long haul stage.

The risk to Birmingham – and that means us in business – is clear. If Heathrow gets its third runway, then the development of new long haul routes from Birmingham will almost certainly suffer.  Even worse, existing long haul routes could be pulled.

The case seems very clear.  Whether it will seem quite as clear when the Government finally announces a decision is dependent on a lot of factors – but logic may not be one of them. (And this doesn’t even factor in the issue of when the long-overdue announcement is made and indeed, who the Prime Minister might be when it is.)


Trio of appointments for leading communications consultancy


Lydia Marshall, Louise Iles and Emma McKinney
Lydia Marshall, Louise Iles and Emma McKinney


We’re pleased to announce that our team is expanding, with three new appointments at our Birmingham-based offices.

Louise Iles and Emma McKinney have joined the team as account directors.

Louise has more than 15 years’ management insight working with a broad range of clients in-house and agency-side including ten years leading the public relations, sponsorship, crisis management and social media strategy as Halfords’ communications manager.

More recently, Louise has been agency side delivering licensing PR and events partnerships for leading consumer brands, LEGO® and Hornby.  Here at Clarke Associates she will have a focus on supporting specialist consumer clients and further developing the consultancy’s B2C work.

Emma McKinney, who previously worked as chief reporter, education correspondent and consumer editor for the Birmingham Mail, will be heading up a media relations remit for a number of clients within the consultancy, as well as handling social media.  In particular, her work as a correspondent in the education sector widens our expertise in that field, building on work in the primary, secondary, FE and HE education.

And Lydia Marshall has joined the team as account executive following an internship. Lydia, a classics graduate from the University of Manchester, has used her organisational skills and eye for detail to help plan and support a range of recent client events including a royal visit, as well as social media management, newsletter copywriting and assisting with a product launch.

Our Managing Director David Clarke said: “We have always prided ourselves on strength and depth as a consultancy and these appointments are very much made with that philosophy in mind.  Louise is a highly motivated PR expert with a record of delivery for clients and broad strategic knowledge, whilst Emma brings a background steeped in media relations.  In an age where clients are demanding extensive proactive and reactive programmes she will be a real asset to the team.   Lydia is keen to make the most of an opportunity which will allow her to gain valuable experience across a range of sectors and skillsets.”

Welcome to the team!




Manners maketh good PR

OQ picture

A story that seemed to resonate worldwide last week concerned Twitter-user Ben’s 86 year-old grandmother, who was employing her own form of advanced search techniques.

When typing into Google’s search bar, May Ashworth prefaced her query with ‘please’ and ended it with ‘thank you’, remembering her manners even in the face of impersonal technology because she thought it would make her search quicker.

Sweet, we might think, and the habit of someone who’s not quite accustomed to having the answer to almost any question at your fingertips- but perhaps we can all learn something from Ben’s grandma May? Rather than actually believing that there was a person reading her words and responding in 0.41 seconds, maybe May was just demonstrating a lifelong habit of always remembering to ask for things nicely.

Most of us now are used to taking technology for granted- if our computer slows, even for a few seconds, we notice and resent it. People who are from a generation that are used, in contrast, to not depending completely on smart phones and screens, can be a little more appreciative of the instantaneous results.

Google, one of the world’s biggest brands, took the time to tweet and thank May, showing that simply saying please and thank you is enough to get you noticed by a multi-billion dollar company. The story has highlighted that manners can go a long way (all the way to @Google, 15 million followers and 3.4k favourites, to be exact).

Showing a little courtesy is invariably appreciated, although the best results tend to be gained from interaction with people, not search engines. It’s a sign of good PR- and it definitely enhances reputation and even might help in getting results.



PR On Demand

PR on demand

As President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party looks about to vote through a measure that will give employees for the first time a “right to disconnect” what does this mean for us?

If France vote yes, companies of more than 50 people will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours – normally in the evening and at the weekend – when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails.

In a world where the once exclusive irregular shift patterns of police, fire services, doctors and nurses are now mirrored across the growing retail and leisure industries – and as consumers engage with brands 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year – can you ever really switch off?

As one of the Midlands’ leading communications agencies, we recognised and were quick to respond to a changing society and with our clients’ evolving needs. We provide complete peace of mind, on call 24/7 for crisis management and reactive media relations. So our clients can unplug and take time out in confidence. And many take advantage of our out of hours service as it can be much more cost-effective to outsource this sort of work than to pay staff additional money for working evenings and weekends or giving them time off in lieu.

And what of our team and work life balance? We’ve got it covered! Motivated, passionate and engaged, our dedicated team of PR specialists is the secret to our success, and so we share the responsibilities and rewards.


In search of inspiration

Browsing through the numerous design blogs to which I subscribe, I usually have to sift through a rather staid selection of rebrand case studies or the ‘hottest new typeface’. Simply put, this rarely results in getting the creative juices flowing. But once in a while, I come across something truly creative, work that really inspires. It’s essential for a designer to keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry, something that really helps to feed innovative thinking when grappling with the next design brief that lands on the desk.

Janine Rewell


Recently, I stumbled upon the work of Finnish illustrator Janine Rewell; in particular, a campaign for South Korea’s largest shopping centre Lotte World Mall in Seoul. The Helsinki-based illustrator’s work is a whimsical blend of cute and colourful characters in an abstracted world – celebrating the simple joy of the start of spring (see much more here). When describing her illustrative work in the context of the Asian market for which it was created, she astutely points out, “…in the West, brands are often all about maximum product communication and are sometimes boringly grown up.” Now there’s a sentiment I can certainly identify with.

Playfulness is key



And how about this for some outside (or should that be inside?!) the box thinking? Moscow-based designer Nikita has created this playful packaging concept for pasta – that brown, ordinary cupboard staple that we normally wouldn’t give a second thought to. Here, he has utilised the window to great effect, revealing various hairstyles that play on the different pasta shapes.

So what about you?

Portfolio-CoverPerhaps you’ve reached the stage where you feel your brand is a bit flat, or your company brochure somewhat tired. Why not take a look our way? Clarke Associates is a communications agency benefitting from an in-house design resource, which gives us a real edge when offering our clients a diverse range of creative solutions.

What’s more, our head of design Paul Chipperfield has recently completed the all-new Clarke Associates design portfolio, which showcases the highly creative solutions we offer. It includes case studies featuring illustration, corporate literature, website design, brand identity and advertising – the very best of our recent projects.

Paul would be very happy to drop by for a meeting if you’re interested in finding out how we might be of assistance. Alternatively, simply drop him a line at, or call on 0121 702 2525.

Paul OQ

Thank you for the days


We all love to celebrate, don’t we?

It seems that wherever we are in the world, we’re united in our love of national holidays, coming up with special days – and the wackier they are the more we seem to love them.

Let’s take 2016 as an example. Like me, you probably allocated some time on March 1 to devote to National Pig Day or Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day. Thinking about it, if you want to create a National Very Odd Menu Day, you could combine the two.

Of course, from a PR perspective it gives us the chance to be ultra creative by developing hooks around some of the more unusual ‘awareness’ days.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my Top Ten Awareness Days for 2016 – one for each remaining month of the year. I promise you they’re not made up……

1 Extraterrestrial Abductions Day. Keep one eye on the sky on March 20; those UFOs are everywhere. If they get you, you may well want to phone home.

2 April Fool’s Day. It’s going to be held on April 2 this year. No it’s not really, just my little joke. Traditionally a day when we all play tricks on each other, so get your thinking caps on. Ooh, the laughs.

3 No Socks Day. May 8 is the day to put in your diary. It’s a Sunday this year, so free your tootsies from the confines of sock and stocking, and add your own little aroma to the Sunday roast. Toenail painting optional.

4 Repeat Day is on June 3. It’s an opportunity to do the same thing over and over. Repeat Day is on June 3. It’s an opportunity to do the same thing over and over.

5 National Lollipop Day. The best possible way to celebrate June 20. Buy lollipops, give lollipops to your family and friends, eat lollipops, create lollipop competitions. Look, you get the idea.

6 Kiss And Make Up Day. Ever had a cross word with your other half? No, me neither, but there are people out there who have. End the spat or the long-running feud by kissing and making up on August 25.

7 International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Why are pirates called pirates? They just arrrrrrgh! Suit yourself. Set September 19 aside for your own pirate chat.

8 Frankenstein Friday. Celebrated on the last Friday in October, it celebrates the birth of Frankenstein and its creator. Hallowe’en will be just around the corner too. Handy.

9 All Our Uncles Are Monkeys Day. OK, so it’s actually Evolution Day, marking the date (November 24) when Darwin published On The Origin Of Species. Can still be controversial, even now.

10 Bathtub Party Day is on December 25. A full 20 days before Christmas Day, a chance to have a long soak in the tub, whether you need one or not. Invite a friend or neighbour to join you, or a random person off the street. Actually no, don’t do that.


NB There is only one Friday 13th during the whole of 2016. Fact.

The answer’s John Lewis


It’s an obvious question but a good one to ask. “Which retailer do you trust the most?”

It’s a standard line in virtually every focus group discussion about company reputation and nine times out of ten, the answer’s always the same: John Lewis.

Trust is an important commodity. Arguably, alongside reputation, it is just about the most important asset a business can have.

The good news is that trust in business is improving and is now above pre-financial crisis levels for the first time since 2012.

The bad news though is that that trust is not universally experienced by the entire population.

The Edelman Trust Barometer (which has been tracking the state of trust in UK companies for some 16 years) has revealed that while those amongst the richest of British society trust the corporate world that is not true for the less well off. The research has revealed there to be a “trust gap” between those who might be described as informed publics (upper-quartile income earners, university educated, a declared interest in politics and media) where 67% say they trust businesses, whilst of those living in households with an income of less than £15,000 a year, that level drops down to 35%.

Does this matter?

Yes it does. There is direct correlation between trust and commercial success. To win over the ‘distrusters’, business has to do two things above all: make sure they are paying expected levels of tax (yes, really) and contribute, and be seen to contribute to the greater good in society.

It might be thought that both things act as a cost to a business but the truth is, companies that behave responsibly are more likely to create a positive reputation and be trusted.

Trust, it seems, is at the heart of good business sense– and at the heart of a good business.

How’s your reputation? Clarke Associates undertakes specialist work in reputation assessment including reputation audits amongst key influencer markets. Contact David Clarke for more information (

New faces at Clarke Associates

Louise Iles, account director

We are delighted to welcome two new faces to the team.

Louise Iles joins us as account director. A consumer specialist, with more than 15 years’ management experience in-house and agency side, Louise was previously with Halfords and more recently an agency representing the leading consumer brands of Lego and Hornby.

Back to her childhood!

It just so happens that Louise finds she is returning to her childhood roots. Her family home is just down the road (on Chapel Lane as well) and as a child, Louise attended Sunday school at what is now The Old School House. How’s that for a coincidence?

Lydia Marshall, account executive


Lydia Marshall joins us as account executive. A classics graduate from the University of Manchester, Lydia attended Edgbaston High School for Girls and lives in Birmingham.

They’re already car sharing and sit opposite each other: a formidable team! Welcome to them both.