The Boston Consulting Group has turned to algorithms for its company-wide branding. Parametric art has seen each of its 40 functional areas display a unique image that combines precision and expression. The new approach seeks to not only standardise the firms brand across its global operations, but also create a conversation started for its clients and prospects about the many facets that affect business conditions in a rapidly evolving environment.
Careful branding is an important part of the way in which a company manages its online and offline profile. For companies that are themselves networks of organisations operating in widely different geographies and under different management – especially in a period in which new channels, such as social media, mobile and internet, each require attention – creating ubiquitous branding across all of them can be difficult.
In 2005 Massimo Portincaso took on the role of head of marketing at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The engineer by education, found that the precision most often found across machines was missing in the company’s global branding efforts, remarking that "The brand was present in 40 countries and it was complete anarchy." At the time, different colours, different topographies and even different logos were being show in the firm’s different regions.
Ten years later, and following considerable fine tuning of the global marketing apparatus across the globe, the company brand is finally ubiquitous, he says. In part due to the efforts of its design partner CarboneSmolan and their suggestion of using parametric art. The art technique creates imagery that combines artistic expression with scientific precision. Through the combination the company’s brand hopes to make people aware of the firm’s willingness to combine creativity with calculation, something its consultants too strive for in their client work.
Parametric art itself is generated through an algorithm that transforms small descriptive sentences, in relation to the firm’s 40 different functional areas, into imagery – with the judgement regarding which image, from the array generated by the programme, falling to designers whose task it was to manipulate hundreds of variables to return an image that was “essentially taking a photo of a key moment of the reaction.”
"There’s a huge variety but there’s still a creative hand that’s adjusting the parameters, finding the moment in the sculpture that’s aesthetically appealing, " says Paul Pierson, CarboneSmolan’s Design Director, "but it’s all driven ultimately by that one piece of content."
For BCG, seeking to improve its connection with a new generation of employees sought to create imagery that was slightly different to the more traditional ‘car’ for auto-industry and ‘snake’ for healthcare. "The breakthrough here is that you have the science for part of the business – the left brain – embracing something that is super abstract, but it’s not abstract in the sense that there’s no meaning," says Carbone. "The actual image comes from their deep wisdom about their practice areas." A further benefit of the imagery is that it creates a ‘conversation starter’ for clients and prospects about how deep the different functional areas go.
According to reports from the firm’s analytics regarding the engagement with the website, the new branding strategy is a success. "Users have doubled the time they’ve spent on the site, and 40% have scrolled down the page," says Portincaso. "People are proud again. We were getting a bit stodgy and old and now they feel like this is really cool. But we’re doing this because we believe it, not just because we want to look nice."
Other efforts developed by BCG in recent years to improve its branding include its partnership with EyeEM to run various competitions that result in unique images being created for the firm’s online branding.