Insight
Feb 12, 2013


A peak at who CBA is, what we do, and why we love it.

Something Old, Something New, Something Unexpected 

It's St. Valentines day! An appropriate day to introduce our new identity. How we got here is a long story...

Happy St. Valentines Day! What a wonderful day filled with love and great expectations for the future. This happens to be a very special day for CB’a Brand Engine as we officially introduce our new branding. I really love (yes, LOVE) our new brand as it truly reflects the people and personalities behind the name CB’a. If you’d rather go directly to the CB’a Identity Case Study and take a peek behind the curtain please be my guest.

The project took about six months, with collaboration from all the offices. It was just one of several internal initiatives being done in Paris at the time including the consolidation, renovation and move to the new Paris office, and the planning and execution for the 30 year anniversary party of CB’a – nothing really important! Yet it is moments like this that brings out the best in everyone, especially when you are working on the floor or out of a closet for two weeks as we’ve run out of tables, chairs and space. These are the stories you will recall fondly 10-20 years from now. 

I came midway into the project to support the core team in the strategic storytelling and design work; once the upfront discovery and general positioning framework was established. Basically getting to work on the FUN part! A key challenge with any international branding program is the language differences and cultural meaning of words. This project was no exception. We had a good laugh (or more correctly, a scare) with the word “blooming.” The French expression was wonderful, it just didn’t work on Oxford Street. Cooler heads prevailed and we moved forward. 

Our core goal was to express who we were as a company – our beliefs, our personality, our story – and not sound like every other branding and design agency. That can be hard to do when your audience fits a narrow segment and has specific ideas of what an agency should sound and look like. We had to break from convention, yet still be believable. Something we prescribe to our clients, we now had to take ourselves. 

The first couple iterations of our positioning didn’t meet our goal. While relevant to WHAT we did and would have been positively received from our clients, it lacked our personality or simply put “the French touch.” With the 30 year party upon us, I joined the core team in Paris along with my counterparts from Milan and Dubai, Gianfranco and Paul, to discuss the work to date and lend assistance if necessary. Little did I know that my 3-day holiday in Paris would now becoming a working trip. 

In Paris how you work is a bit different from our daily routine in Sausalito, at least it has been my experience. With my partner at CB’a BE, Jean-Marc now leading the team behind the new brand initiative, our working style is unconventional to say the least. After much discussion and brainstorming over a working lunch in the studio – the details while very engaging would take another ten minutes to properly write down, that I’ll leave for cocktail conversation – we had a positioning statement that was unanimously agreed to by everyone in the room, even Louis! This was unheard of. I think I took a few photos to just mark the occasion. Our statement – “Designing brands with heart” – was true on many levels, and everyone in the room had their own personal connection to it. It wasn’t just words on paper, it was us. 

Yet the work was not done. We needed to stress test our positioning and define our guiding principles and underlying story of our brand – our WHY. Having been volunteered by Jean-Marc, Paul and I (I can only assume we were the right choice given our un-Frenchness!) were given 24 hours (really 12 hours) to come back and present our WHY. What happened to just coming over for a party? Taking advantage of our location, Paul and I left the office for a local cafe. Paul with his laptop, me with a few scrapes of paper and a pen. A few glasses of wine, a little bread and brie, some people watching, and a few hours later we had something we could be proud to share with the team. That night we made it to the party, hosted at the Musée d’art Moderne located just off the Trocadéro. CB’a designed their new identity and the museum was gracious to allow us to celebrate our 30 year anniversary and have full access to the art on display. Unfortunately we could not take any art home. 

After the official party was over, a few of us banded together and headed out to find a suitable location to continue the festivities. The first stop was a bit stuffy and cold, although we managed to empty a couple bottles of Champagne before moving on. As it was a cold October evening we ventured just across the street and settled into Le Marie Susy. The staff greeted us with open arms as the night was slow and they were thinking about closing early. With about a dozen of us, we took over the place including their music system, dancing, drinking and eating (the dim sum was excellent!) the night away. After some time I was staring at the red wall and noticed the pictures hanging. Looking more intensely, I realized they formed the shape of a heart (see picture above)! I took that as a sign we were on the right direction. I think we finally left around 3am or so, and 500 Euros lighter. Great evening. Oh, yes, I was still presenting that morning!

The morning came quickly – no hangover (probably no time for one) – Paul and I presented our work and ... well, this is Paris and love was in the air... 

Bon Baisers de Paris et Joyeuse St Valentin! – Will Burke

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