Peter Knapp, Executive Creative Director, Europe and Middle East, Landor Associates: ‘I think it’s a shame that the UK government hasn’t fully realised what a powerful export British creativity actually is’

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Over the past few years, we’ve seen the Russian business grow bigger, demonstrating interest in overseas expertise in nearly every aspect of economy and public life. Brand and design area has been no exception. When it comes to branding, major Russian companies are more likely to entrust their branding budgets to the UK design experts. Think, for instance, of the latest collaboration between and CampbellRigg who have unveiled the new retail design concept for its stores in Moscow this week. While the UK’s creative services become more popular in Russia, the number of international projects of such kind is growing each year.

As we continue looking into how UK brand and design agencies could bring their expertise abroad, we have spoken to some leading UK experts who worked with Russian and other Eastern European companies on creative tasks.

Recently Popsop has interviewed Peter Knapp, Executive Creative Director in Europe and Middle East at Landor Associates, based in the London office. Peter, who’s got unparalleled expertise in airline branding, told us about Landor’s experience of working with S7 and shared his view on the great potential of British creativity for export.

E.B.: It’s becoming a popular trend among the biggest UK (as well as international) brand and design agencies to turn their heads towards so-called “new emerging markets”, Asian in particular. It’s an interesting fact that Landor’s international network is represented by 10 offices in Asia to date, but none of them are in Russia. Do you see any business opportunities for Landor in Russia?

P.K.: It’s a great market and clearly all the BRIC economies can’t be ignored as they become more and more potent in the world arena.

E.B.: Is this region of potential strategic interest to the company? As our internal research shows, Landor has had not so many projects with Russia up to date — the Sibir (Siberia) Airline (now S7) rebranding is one of them. How did your collaboration start? Was the workflow on the project any special as compared to other (local) clients?

P.K.: Well, recently Landor London have actually worked with TNK and MTS too. Other Landor offices have also worked in Russia, the requests have been directed into different Landor studios depending what each client has been looking for. Some of our studios have a specialism that suits a particular type of project, some may have a long-standing relationship with a client who is looking to build their brand in the local marketplace, such as Diageo, Danone and PMI.

Beyond Russia the Landor network has also worked across Eastern Europe in Ukraine, Armenia, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Moldova.

In the case of S7 they approached Landor London because of our reputation in the airline industry. They needed someone who could understand the dynamics of the local commercial market place and see it within a global context as well. We were asked to pitch against some other agencies and were selected because they enjoyed our challenging approach and our experience. The workflow, as is often the case with airline projects, was dictated by the timetable for the arrival of S7’s new planes that had to be ready in the new livery to coincide for the launch of the new brand.

Photos:  new S7 brand identity, created by Landor Associates, London, in 2005

E.B.: Landor has had a profound experience in airline branding, so I may assume that you were invited to pitch for the Aeroflot rebranding project back in 2001, weren’t you? What do you think of the current visual identity of the Aeroflot brand created by your peers Identica 10 year ago?

P.K.: Honestly, I can’t remember if we are asked to pitch or not, 10 years is a long time in branding!

Aeroflot’s current livery?  I think it probably represented the beginning of a profound change in Russia, away from the more overt authoritarian image. I think that Russia has moved on a long way in the last 10 years and that identity doesn’t intuitively feel like such an accurate expression of the country any more. National airlines are often seen as ‘secondary flag carriers’ and as such hold a lot of positive (and negative) associations about the country beyond the national flag itself. Maybe its time for a change?

E.B.: In generic terms, how do you see the current state of the creative services market in the UK? Any trends, figures, forecasts? Do you think that Britain needs to promote its design expertise ‘for export’ more heavily on a government level?

P.K.: I think that the UK creative services market is as vibrant as ever. Despite the global recession creativity can be a vital business asset and create advantage and value for clients in tough trading conditions. Therefore I see a trend where clients are looking for very clever creative answers within tight budgets, briefs and timelines…but that’s often where brilliant solutions are born.

I think it’s a shame that the UK government hasn’t fully realised what a powerful export British creativity actually is. We have a leading worldwide reputation in all creative arenas ranging from Design, Branding, Advertising, Fashion, Architecture, Film and many more. I believe it’s a rich cultural tradition based on being an island race where trends didn’t cross the borders as easily as mainland continents. It gave rise to our unique and very original approach to all things creative. As a proud British designer I suppose I would say that!