David Kimpton is the founder of London-based Kimpton Creative. His design consultancy won a grand prize at the Transform Awards Europe 2022, winning two golds, one silver, one bronze and the prestigious Grand Prix award for his work with creative recruitment consultants Mustard. David explains his thinking behind the project and what its success means for his business.
This whole project was based on the idea that the creative recruitment industry had changed. How was this so, and why was the Mustard brand therefore deemed insufficient?
Mustard had been in business for about 12 years and had noticed the industry had become much pickier. It’s in our nature as creatives to be picky I think anyway, but what [Mustard’s director, Ian Coulson] saying was that the demands were becoming more and more extreme. So, for example, not only was I looking for someone with packaging experience, but they also needed to speak Italian. It’s about finding a good pool of people who have cross-skills, which is difficult. Inevitably, that means he has to find as many people as possible so he can build that pool himself.
And that was really where he was. He had a campaign and brand image over a period of time that he felt had worn down a bit. He had done all he could with it in connection with the mustard; pots of mustard and all phrases related to strong mustard and so on. He felt he had exhausted that and needed a boost.
This idea of pickiness became a strong theme, and I could see what that meant as a designer because, of course, we are designers. We knew our audience very well and that gave us a great opportunity, I think, to go a bit off-road because the other thing is that Ian, as a person, is quite different. He’s a real character, he’s very likeable and you won’t soon forget him. Having the ability to go off-road – to position them outside of the normal recruiting consultant mold – was just one of those ideal briefs one receives as a designer.
How does this translate into the details of a branding project, such as logotype, copy style, and color scheme?
It started with thinking about how difficulty works and what it means as designers. Initially, it started with the logo as we saw the word “must” in the mustard name. We had already thrown phrases that express the same feeling that this is an absolute to have to that people recruit correctly. From there it led to other words almost like the Ten Commandments. You know, ‘you must’, ‘you can’, ‘you have to’ and so on. You could see in it a kind of language that I rather liked and that there was a power in these words.
I think with the colors we realized that it was important for this brand to do something well designed. That’s partly because as a designer, when you pick up a piece of mail from your desk, it either looks like a flyer and goes straight into the trash can, or something beautifully designed, has some sort of heft and texture, etc. it’s about how you interact with it. We felt we wanted to go that route and pushed Ian to spend the money on crafting. He became part of the color conversation because he works with quite a few contemporary design agencies, and I think he wanted it to have a bit of a startling feel with an interesting combination of colors. It was good for us to be able to explore.
The project was very provocative. Did you ever doubt the strategy along the way and how it would be received, given that it was so bold?
Yes! We tested it on the road – something we don’t normally do – but due to the nature of our audience here, as with colleagues, associates, peers, we felt comfortable sharing it with some of our friends. We asked them a few questions about it: “were they offensive or would you take it the right way?” For example, one of [the brand messages] said something like “We like anal”. The idea was obviously that it appeals to you and when you read on it immediately becomes clear that when you refer to anal you are referring to anal and the importance of caring about all the details . It’s immediately smart in the sense that there’s a double meaning, but it’s also risky in the sense that some people just think, “Oh, they’re just using dirty words.” But most people reacted to it very well and relaxed.
Do you feel like your agency has now moved to another level as a result of your work with Mustard and the feedback it received, not only from the client, but also from the creative community?
I hope! I think it’s fair to say that this was a highlight of our Kimpton Creative careers, a kind of moment in time that I think we can look back on, that we can be proud of and trumpet because this n is not an insignificant achievement. I think recognition from industry CMOs, as opposed to designer peers, is more important. The question then is, where does this lead us? I guess time will tell what it does for us.
Do you think the nature of branding projects is changing and calling for bolder and stronger messages? Or was Project Mustard a rather unique situation that specifically called for this approach?
I think they are. The whole branding process has become more sophisticated than it used to be, which I think is awesome. I find it’s really important to me to keep it objective rather than subjective in the branding process. Building the goalposts, if you will, means we’re pretty good at scoring the goals if we know where the goalposts are. I think that’s now part of the process of defining what it is, so we’ll have more clarity. What I hate is the scattergun. If a client says to me, “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it,” I’d run a mile because from experience, I just know it’s a nightmare.
The power of what we do is to recommend multiple options that we know work. There are different shades of each, but they’re all going to work as far as we’re concerned. I think boldness and power is definitely where we come from and as we’ve matured maybe we’ve seen more in our own thinking than that’s right and filtering things, distilling them into something simple brings power to this message. I think that’s definitely what I see as a strength and I think good work is recognized for that, that you can feel there’s a kind of consistency in application and consistency in messaging. With Mustard, that’s what you get, right? It’s been pared down to a kind of unique, bold style and there’s flexibility to communicate different things, but it’s a recognizable family. I think that’s where we are with branding now.