How a Nimble, Boutique Agency Rebranded Financial Services Giant MassMutual
Jolene Delisle and Lawrence O’Toole are the co-founders of The Working Assembly, an award-winning multidisciplinary design studio with a focus on branding and visual design. The Working Assembly was recently tasked with a brand identity refresh including a logo re-design for financial services giant MassMutual. Here, the husband and wife co-founder duo explain how a nimble boutique agency is just what a big, conservative insurance brand needs to refresh its brand identity.
Q> Do you think there are branding design cliches in the insurance industry? If so, what are they? How did your work for MassMutual stand up against what is 'typical' insurance company branding?
JD & LO'T> The insurance industry, like many big brands dealing with finances, tends to be very conservative. In the past, brands didn’t change all that often unless after a necessity like a merger or acquisition. And even then, rebrands did not depart from previous iterations all that dramatically. The type choices are fairly generic and safe and sometimes colour palettes can overlap. Usually, any imagery incorporated into the mark tends to be pretty literal, with representations of maps, animals, shields, umbrellas, etc.
In our early exploratories with MassMutual, we made sure to push into some directions that were much more abstract and graphic in nature. These directions are what resonated most with the client, and eventually with test audiences.
However, the pace of rebranding in even relatively staid industries has quickened, as messaging needs to shift to resonate with younger audiences, and design systems need to keep pace with new technologies, working across an ever increasing set of digital outlets.
One of the things that was part of our brief was to make the mark not only functional in these digital times, but also to feel modern. We feel that this is probably a common phrase in many rebranding efforts, and has contributed to the overall softening and genericsing of many brands. We feel we successfully navigated those tricky waters, providing the company with an up to date mark that answered the brief, had purpose, did not abandon all heritage, yet was completely new, ownable and unique in the space.
Q> Regarding the size difference between MassMutual and The Working Assembly - why did such a large company choose to work with a boutique agency like yours?
JD & LO'T>One of our ways of working is a process we adapted from product development, based on agile methodology. We worked in small teams to execute planned deliverables, and presented in weekly sprints to a small core group of key stakeholders on the client side. This constant communication and collaboration throughout the entire process ensured the clients were involved and their voices heard, held us closely accountable to the brief at all stages of development, and gave all involved a very real sense of ownership of the project. The lean approach helped us collectively conceptualise a new brand in a matter of weeks. This working experience was well received, and subsequently continued into a full rebrand from concept to rollout in two quarters with only a handful of people.
Q> Tell us about the creative process that led to the new visual identity
JD & LO'T> There were a number of things we were tasked with:
- Make the mark digital friendly
- Make the mark resonate with a younger audience
- Make the mark feel more modern and relevant in today’s world
- We played with brand equity, on what if any we could rely on
- We looked into the past to see if there were any themes that could be incorporated
For example, we looked back to MassMutual as a 'blue chip' company, part of their tagline for many years, as well as an inspiration for the last few iterations of their brand mark. We knew we wanted to bring this motif, and the colour blue, into the new mark in a few of our directions. It was this nod to heritage, the tie in with the newly codified 5 corporate brand pillars, as well as the nice discovery of the implied M in the dot arrangement that helped this mark gain favour with both clients and consumers.
Q> We noted you are a husband and wife team. How does that work and does it benefit your clients?
JD & LO'T> Building a successful business is not easy, and neither is sustaining a successful marriage. But our passion for work and our drive also always overlapped with our day to day life. Like most creative people, we don’t really 'turn off' our brain when working on a project and we find its really fun to pick up inspiration we’re working on during our outings to museums, or even come up with a great new idea while cooking dinner. We also almost always are in lockstep alignment, and we think that trust actually plays well into business.
Category: Finance/insurance , Insurance