With more companies turning to the online realm to reach customers during the pandemic, digital marketing has been catapulted into an accelerated phase of development.
New practices forged during this time are likely to have a deeper transformational impact on digital marketing in the years ahead, according to Aiden Grennelle, Creative Director at Ebow, the Irish-owned digital agency.
“I think the evolution of digital design and creativity is really going to accelerate as a result of the circumstances we have suddenly found ourselves in,” said Aiden Grennelle.
“The situation has sped up the development of digital in a way that will allow it to come into its own a lot more.
“A lot of the simple tools we would ordinarily use to put campaigns together have been massively disrupted and, at this stage, all of the indicators are pointing to digital as an important lifeline for a lot of companies.”
As creative director at Ebow, Grennelle works with clients across a broad range of sectors on the strategic branding elements of high-quality digital projects.
“When we talk to clients about ‘brand’, what that means to a lot of folk is reputation,” said Grennelle.
“When you talk about Mercedes-Benz or Volvo as car brands, for example, people will often think immediately of safety, because that's what their reputation as brands mean to them.
“Your brand and the reputation it embodies is really your 'edge', so, for any start-up, what they will need to do very quickly is establish a reputation.
“And their positioning in the market is really important here, because not everybody wants to be 'the finest'. Some might want to be the cheapest and others the fastest, for example, and there is no right or wrong.
“It really comes down to strategy. Brand design needs to validate that somehow and, regardless of the climate we're operating in right now, all of those principles still hold true. Some brands will thrive in this environment and some will suffer.”
Established in 1999 by managing director David Douglas, Ebow specialises in digital positioning for an enviable client list that includes the HSE, Universal Music, Kerrygold and Peter Mark.
“If you were to try to crystalise how we, as an agency, work with our clients, it is really about creating a captivating platform that allows them to capitalise on a given moment,” said Grennelle.
“We captivate, then we capitalise. That is our motto and, while the landscape we're operating in now in the pandemic has changed utterly, the principles underpinning how we operate are exactly the same.”
Ebow has been working with clients in sectors including retail, travel, finance and health, for two decades. Its work spans strategy, creative and technology across all digital and traditional touch-points.
An award-winning designer, Grennelle joined Ebow as creative director three years ago having forged a successful career in Ireland and internationally spanning three decades.
“When I joined Ebow, what I brought to the table was a certain gravitas gained through my own career in strategic branding,” said Grennelle.
“I've been in the game for about 30 years and my experience in branding has spanned the corporate sector, public bodies and semi-states.
“I worked in Ireland and overseas, helping clients to realise their strategy visible through design and developing his finely-calibrated techniques.”
When Grennelle joined Ebow, the agency was in growth with an established roster of clients and a diverse portfolio of high-quality projects underway.
“Ebow was doing very well. It was already a successful agency and, because it had built trust with clients, they were coming back wanting to work on a broader breadth of projects,” said Grennelle.
“I joined really to take care of design thinking and wider brand scenarios and to bring that on board in a way that would allow Ebow to satisfy their client’s needs quickly.
“The agency was growing, so there was this need to be able to work to a high standard and to do so at speed. I think it was the experience I had built coming into the role that allowed us to do that.”
Grennelle started his career in the late eighties at Dublin agency Peter Owens and went on to work at B'zerk for Holly as creative director and overseas with Brand Architecture International in Dublin and New York and CDP in Dubai.
“When I started my own career in the late eighties, Ireland was slowly crawling out of recession, so I understand that, at times like this, when there is so much uncertainty, there really isn’t a silver bullet,” said Grennelle.
“It would be wrong to say that there is, but, at the same time, there is always a seesaw effect when you have an economic dip, whereby newer sectors emerge while others suffer.
“Right now, any brand that wants to start communicating with their market is likely to have a bigger audience, because it is a quieter space.”
Having started his own career as a graphic designer and art director, Grennelle went on to build an international profile in both art and design.
He was a contributing designer to the David Bowie Is exhibition, which launched at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2013 and his own work has featured in shows at The Design Museum in London, Maxalot in Barcelona and Commonwealth in Brooklyn, New York.
As the founder and former curator at Dublin gallery Image Now, Grennelle has produced exhibitions for international design pioneers, such as Josef Müller-Brockmann, Richard Paul Lohse and Massimo Vignelli.
His work has also featured in industry publications ranging from Creative Review, Grafik and Idea to Laurence King’s Numbers in Graphic Design, Data Flow, published by Gestalten, New Retro by Thames & Hudson and Taschen’s Logo Design.
“When I joined Ebow initially, my passion was print. Digital seemed almost like this alien world to me, but I have found that I have been able to apply what I had learned in more traditional media to the digital world,” said Grennelle.
"When Dave and I first discussed my joining Ebow, we were excited at the prospect of blending our expertise in branding, mine in strategic brand communications and Dave's in strategic digital marketing."
“Digital is still an emerging media and it is only really now coming into its own, which creates so much possibility.
“What I realised when I started looking at it more closely was that digital creative is still being designed in quite a traditional way.
“Most online ads are designed as flat graphics in much the same way as a printed page. But what is unique to digital is time and space.
“This is changing rapidly now. There is a big opportunity for digital to really come into its own and to become a medium unlike anything else.”