While there are many definitions of what a brand is, ranging from the brand icon itself to its qualities, essence and personality, one of the principles we hold dear is that the only place a brand has value is in the mind and behaviours of its customers.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “brand evolution is the process of continually improving a brand. It also includes improving customers' and potential customers' opinions of the company as times, markets, fashions, and consumer needs change.”
We are excited to announce and publish the brand refresh for 1st Executive, talk a little about the journey in the spirit of sharing without being too introspective, and to shine a light on where this may take our customers, our partners and ultimately ourselves.
Squeals of Joy in a Kitchen
1st Executive founder, Suzanne Whitmarsh, still talks about a very early placement. This was the reaction from a successful candidate securing a mid-level administrative role. She was a single mum but hadn’t worked for a while. Suzanne started that phone call, as she still does today with “Is that <candidate name> of <employer name>?” There always a moment’s pause before the realisation that an application has been successful. Suzanne heard the squeals of joy before the candidate said “I’m dancing around the kitchen with my kids”
Even if we didn’t know it then, we believe now that this was the birth of the essence of our brand. The 1st Executive brand experience starts with our understanding of how deeply important people are to the success of an organisation and finding the synergistic connection through an understanding of the value of work in people’s lives. This 360° empathy helps the right clients choose us and helps us choose the right people for our clients.
The Value of Our Name
We’re not speaking of reputation here, but the name itself. 1st Executive started as a generalist recruitment practice. In the early years we filled all kinds of vacancies, though mostly white collar, for all kinds of clients and so it took a while for the value of the “1st Executive” name to be realised. Suzanne always said, “I chose “1st Executive” because you can always trade where the volume is but it would be pretty hard to place a managing director if you had a blue-collar positioning” and she said “1 comes before A in the phone book”
While that last point was initially a great talking point, the growth of Internet directories and all kinds of indexation from websites to tenant listings in office foyers saw us at the top of the list. (See the Executive Search listing at www.headhuntersinaustralia.com as an example) and contributed to our mindset of "1st".
What 1st Came to Mean to Us
Over the years, we were entrusted with more senior work, larger projects, work that originated with Australian companies needing people overseas and overseas companies needing people in Australia. We constantly evaluated the goodwill experiences we had and, around ten years ago, took these conversations to a brand specialist for the design of a new logo and overall style of presentation. At the heart of our conversation with this company was the regular feedback from clients that they had placed the kind of person they didn’t necessarily expect to begin with, and they were delighted that they had.
Michelangelo and 1st Executive
Our brand consultant related the story of the statue of David. He used evocative phrases such as “defying all odds to discover and chisel a giant from the neglected block of marble” and “In this same manner 1st Executive sees its mission, and inspiration, to discover the true potential in people”
Of course, there was a very scientific construction of the new logo, the overt and subtle use of the numeral 1 in the logo style, letterheads and collateral, on the website and the use of primary colours (1st again) in an evolution away from the original colour palette.
The following is still on our website: “When Michelangelo saw the ‘spirit of David’ in a block of weathered marble in the yard of the cathedral workshop in Florence, he saw what others couldn’t. His commission embodied, insight, custom design and a result that had proven beyond others. For us, meeting the brief is not enough, we have to see inside the people that we present to find unique value.”
What this positioning did was to embolden the spirit of 1st, not so much in terms of size or even choice but more about applying the 1st principle of value to all of our work and relying on our customers to do the rest - they possess the brand equity.
The Role of Partners
In pursuit of our 1st principles, we are always happy to challenge our business model. With an additional office in Sydney and around 20 staff, we often found ourselves compromising our value principles to sustain an overhead. This was not an easy realisation given the fantastic people that worked with us, but we needed to change and a comprehensive embrace of partners and networks ensued.
With us since inception, Mindshop supports us with our advisory work and professional development. We take best practice management thinking to our clients in advisory work and also in our executive search and recruitment work and this is sets us apart. One of Mindshop’s core values is “Value to Others”. This has strongly influenced many of our choices, our selection of partners and our behaviour within those partnerships. We enter to give before we gain - and expect no gain.
The largest recruitment network in the world with 500+ independently owned firms. NPA operates a split fee model across industries, vertical markets and geographies so members can share work and complete assignments they would not do alone. It is a collaborative environment of like-minded people. We have had success with split fees and delivered value to clients and candidates that we could not have delivered without the network.
It was a real feather in our cap to be selected as the Australian affiliate for Spengler Fox in 2020. SpenglerFox is a top 40 global provider of agile human capital solutions. It is a combination of company-owned and affiliate offices that cover 47 countries with a particular focus on executive search. We now add value to SpenglerFox clients overseas with the sourcing and selection of C-suite executives in Australia.
An introduction by an NPA member in China saw us solving a problem in Australia for a German provider with a client in Sweden. Then, on the strength of that first interaction we were invited to join the IXPA netwwork. IXPA has a laser like focus on the provision of interim managers and specialist interims to organisations around the world.
A New 1st
Over the last couple of years, the evolution of our brand cystallised in our minds. Our clients are coming to us with executive search and interim assignments in the C-suite, both here and overseas. Other clients, aware of our global network, seek our assistance with middle and senior management roles in other parts of the world or in hard to fill disciplines. This is where NPA comes to the fore. We have seen our clients invest in us. Our networks and clients have invited us into humbling positions of influence. We are aligning our brand icons more closely with theirs to demonstrate our family commitment to them and also to demonstrate to our clients that we continue to be a progressive small business.
We augment our services with best of breed technology across the board and are working tirelessly to release the full value of these systems to our clients and candidates.
Our clients, our partnerships and our business model reinforce our ongoing commitment to be 1st in the provision of value to our clients and our network partners. A new logo is below, it retains many of the design principles of our previous logo.
Our evolution has also given us the confidence to reflect some service focused brand extensions that keep us aligned with our core disciplines. We have also created consistency across other services in the group that were affected by Covid and are currently going through renovation. There's also a brand new initiative in the design studio.
We are experiencing “improving customers' and potential customers' opinions of the company as times, markets, fashions, and consumer needs change.” And so, we evolve.
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