Ready Steady, Sprint

Finding more effective and efficient ways to work with our clients has long been a top priority. It just so happens that COVID unexpectedly helped chivvy things along at lightning speed.

I don’t claim to have had a crystal ball, but Nostradamus might give a wry smile if he could see how design in Sprint Mode™ has become such a good fit for a global pandemic.

It all started last March when we were contacted by two fresh faced, aspiring entrepreneurs on a tight deadline. Launch a brand in 2 months? Bring it on!

Read the full story below, and find out how we made the magic happen together.

A (Drinking) Friend with Benefits

Vicente Surraco and Chris Allen, both recent MBA graduates, wanted to bring more zing to their favorite tipple through their startup.

Think hard seltzer spiked with a coconut water base. What our intrepid co-founders have done is add proven health benefits to a booming drink category. Antioxidant and rehydration properties have long been associated with coconut water.

Teaming up a low calorie alcoholic drink with the healthy, clear liquid from a coconut is an idea that’s been staring us all in the face. Chris and Vicente were smart enough to get their unique Osena product onto the shelves before the masses beat them to it.

Launch mid-Pandemic? How ‘De Rigeur!’

Armed with a name, vision and distribution channel, Vicente and Chris knocked on our door asking for our help in designing and launching their hot product idea.

By mid-March of 2020, many of us were already working from home. It was clear we weren’t going to see much of either of them in the flesh. What could possibly go wrong?

A better question might have been, ‘How would a pandemic help reinforce the benefits of a new way of working?’

Remote Working, the New Reality

At CBA in San Francisco, we’re used to clients being too far away to drop in for coffee. Our nearest neighbors are Silicon Valley types.

For them, visual teleconferencing has long been the norm, even when on the same campus. Several years ago, they introduced us to this new way of working which eliminated travel time and laborious logistics.

There were other unexpected benefits. Shorter sessions conducted remotely kept everyone focused. Ideas were sharper.

Along came Mural, our very own virtual white board. Clever technology let us capture the progression of ideas more effectively. By the time Vicente and Chris showed up, we’d already spent two years fine-tuning a new way to engage with our clients.

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Days Become Hours

The more usual introductory weeks were replaced with a two hour session during which we co-created the project brief. The ability to post virtual sticky notes meant we could wave goodbye to problematic time differences and painful post-workshop recaps.

We interacted on Zoom and used Mural to mop up the ideas which we could then refine along the way. This made us more agile and freed ourselves up to get straight to the point.

Coaching Our Clients

Timed exercises inspired by Design Sprint methodology enabled us to draw ideas out of Vicente and Chris, and vote on potential solutions. We gave the pair homework, inspired them, and engaged with them. It’s what we call Sprint Mode™.

This slick and snappy way of working meant we’d developed the Osena Brand Pulse (our brand positioning tool) by the end of week three. In the following five weeks we translated this into a design for the brand identity and the materials needed for their launch.

Instead of decisions being made by batting ideas from one department to another, we held short collaborative sessions for all the stakeholders to vote and decide on ways forward. We gamified some of our strategic tools such as our brand personality and archetype workshops, which brought everyone together with a positive team spirit, achieving far more in 4 hours than we used to experience over 2 days.

Saving Time and Money

Sprint Mode™ liberates us from drowning in things that hold us back from the creative job at hand. Intense calendar juggling, buttoned-up presentation decks, work created to sound clever along with unnecessary repetition become things of the past.

Shorter, sharper and more focused engagements with our clients allow us to maximize their input within their own brands. It gives them more of a sense of ownership in the whole brand creation process: ‘better together,’ as they say.

The biggest bonus of all? This whole way of working saves about 50% of a typical budget. Throw in a long-term partnership with a level of trust that stems from being in the weeds together, and it’s clear that working this way is a no-brainer.

It’s a ‘Yes’ From Us

Sprint Mode™ also answers the question that every agency gets asked, “Can you do this faster, more efficiently, without sacrificing quality?” For want of sounding corny, it really does take two.

But the answer is still a resounding ‘You bet we can.’ (Vicente and Chris agree, by the way!)

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This article was written by Elainne Roberton, Managing Partner, CBA USA.

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