Identity giants should form united lobby

The name change was expected. WPP Group had warned that consultancies in its corporate identity stable, Enterprise Identity Group, would eventually come under one banner, and the innocuous Enterprise IG is unlikely to cause a stir when it is formally adopted on 19 May (see News, page 3).

For the London end of the business, Sampson Tyrrell Enterprise, the exercise has hidden advantages. Since it set itself up as a “visual management” specialist in the Eighties, it’s had a good reputation with clients, but less of one within design. “A tad boring” is how business adviser Ian Cochrane described it in Design Week’s 1998 Top 100 coverage (DW 27 March) – a view many designers share. But with a new creative line-up, under Franco Bonadio, it has the chance to cast off old perceptions along with its clumsy old name and build its creative strength.

More important for design is STE’s stance on “the brand” and its keenness to join with potential rivals to talk the industry up. Ranked second in DW’s Top 100, with fee-income for 1997 of 19.75m, it already has considerable muscle. If it can persuade enough board directors that their corporate brand should be central to the business, and not just symbolised by an aspirational claim from the marketing department, that influence will grow. Ad agencies and others will be brought into line as Enterprise IG becomes brand guardian, advising on business strategy.

A nice idea. But if it is realised, it won’t just be Enterprise IG that benefits. Design will step up a notch and there’ll be more opportunities for design groups of all shapes and sizes to get a slice of the pie.

Other identity specialists, such as Wolff Olins and Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, are carving out similar roles for themselves. But if they could come together, as STE chief executive Dave Allen suggests, to push the common cause, the argument would be stronger. It might not be the “alternative Design Council” Allen envisages – the remit would be different and there would be no staff – but it could become a strong lobbying force for the design community.

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