Since the haydays of the 90's, however, the relevance of traditional branding has been increasingly under question.
The 'top down' controlling approach to branding (and to be fair, advertising too), nicely described by a colleague as 'LogoCop' is clearly out of sync with the emerged consumer seeking control.
I'm very glad to see the Wolff Olins response, relieved even. Visually, the new website is refreshing and the message is that as it puts consumers first in the conversation... 'we think brands need to be less controlling' - exactly, and I like the idea of brands being 'practical platforms for action'.
Take a closer look, there's no actual WO 'logo' per se. The skeletal approach to London 2012 and NYC identities (provide an outline - you choose how to fill it) is taken one step further. The logo company has no logo.
What I find particularly refreshing and is that it looks as if they actually GET that real design is moving from décor towards CORE, more than the visual - the traditional craft aspect of design, but developing the fundamental product or service proposition strategy towards something tangible.
"As consumers are invited not to buy but to work, functionality really matters. Creating a brand, and designing the service behind it, are becoming inseparable".
Mind you, that shift from décor to core is not an easy one to make, Sure it can have a similar strategy vs. production mix but it needs a different, highly collaborative approach, a shift in culture, different skills and tools.
That's where I think Wolff Olins might find the next big challenge - how to actually start innovating the services behind the brand.
It's a fuzzy, difficult, even scary place to be - sparsely populated by smart design folks and the businesses who really know what they're doing.
But it's also a place where value is just waiting to be created, which makes it a great place to be.