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Discovering the Path to creative differentiation | #CompanySpotlight

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There are few teams out there as dynamic as Path. Ever changing, looking for fast-moving clients and eager to leave an everlasting impact, the team at Path is one of incredibly talented professionals and just as inspiring leaders.

Working in a market that is overly-saturated with great agencies and creatives, Path works to differentiate and find their own identity in the broad creative industry. Judging by the work below, we can confidently say that their efforts do pay off quite well.

For this Company Spotlight, we had a chat with Founder Thomas Herman to learn more about Path and how it came into being.

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How was your company born and where are you based?

My two colleagues and I agreed to start our own company if the culture ever changed at our current agency. It did so within 6 months so off we went. We officially launched in 2003 and are based in London, UK.

What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?

Unfortunately, the market is saturated with great creatives and agencies. Prospects have so much choice they have most of the power in the sales process. We focused on designing in every dimension, from graphic communication to physical product design and experience taking a more useful approach for brands to help differentiate us from the rest.

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

Our first actual paid job was to revitalise Preparation H, for hemorrhoid symptoms, now owned by GSK. Unglamorous as that sounds, we harnessed the power of packaging design to elevate the brand and help it stand out on the shelf. 

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What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?

We have developed a sprint innovation process which first finds the right thing to design, and then designs that thing right. We do it faster and better than most. Our team and way of working is naturally multidisciplinary and collaborative. There is no hierarchy, ‘creative leader’, or ego to slow things down, but a truly democratic team spirit which enables us to pool all of our strengths together. The end consumer is king and our ideas move fast toward what is best for them in a commercially viable way.

Ability to drive tangible change at speed has become key during, and post Covid. Big changes like the pandemics require business to pivot and adapt. The quicker and better this is done, the better the brand will fare. Viable change is change that can be sustained by people and the planet, while also making a profit. 

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Can you explain your team’s creative process?

It is bespoke every time, but we follow a ‘4D’ or ‘Double Diamond’ approach of Discovery, Definition, Development, Delivery. We happen to call ours Unearth, Direct, Create, (Amplify) & Make. We have added ‘Amplify’ to the usual four stages as a distinctive skill at Path is to bring a brand’s strategy to life in every dimension, from the digital shelf to the unboxing process at home. So the creative idea can be amplified beyond standard graphic communications and is integrated into experience and sustainability.

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

We carefully recruit naturally creative and inspired people. We don’t have to keep inspiring them; we hired them because we know they do it themselves. However, we have recently run a set of events to warm up our teams and get them back together before the return to ‘normality’ from 19th July. Our approach was to organise research days over a week. Teams of 4-5people have a day, a theme and a set of locations to visit and a conclusion to write. The conclusion will help power our thought leadership and proactive work.

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How has COVID-19 affected your company?

It has changed the way we work and the types of brief we get, but in essence we do the same job - just a lot faster and certainly with more awareness of people and the planet. The pandemic has seen consumer habits chop and change at lightning speed, so only the brands that can keep up are surviving. We’ve learned the true value of agility. 

Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

There are so many great agencies made of great people. I like agencies that have a strong point of view but are humble about the work they do and focus on their clients and the end consumer needs. For People and The Collaborators are both great examples of agencies going that extra mile for their clients and delivering memorable work as a result. 

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What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?

Build a growth culture from the start. Getting new clients and new talent is an everyday challenge. Dedicate someone to both from day one. 

How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)

We are most suited to clients that need to change fast and want to look at their brand's potential in every dimension. Path seeks out those who aren’t afraid to undergo impactful shifts to pivot to keep up with the ever-changing consumer landscape, and translate this across all touchpoints. 

What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?

Design and creativity are two words used in too many situations. Clarity on what they mean and ultimately what they can do in commercial situations is key. To be taken seriously as an industry we have to be more serious about what we do and why it is important. There is much logic in the magic that we do.

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus’ will blow your mind about the history of humans and our potential futures. But ‘How Brands Grow’ (1&2), and ‘Building Distinctive Brand Assets’ have been essential readings for me. Read, follow or study with Mark Ritson. Finally https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/b2b-institute is ace.

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