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Indoor Insights : Dimitri from Base BRU on the new relationship dynamics created by social distancing.

Discover the Base Partners' latest thoughts about the future of branding, design, digital, and the creative process in these unusual times. We'll be publishing their opinions every few days. Stay tuned. Stay home.

How do you feel social distancing has impacted our relationships at work, and also outside of it?
Social distancing as a concept / behavior obviously did not have the same meaning a couple months ago. And suddenly, in just a few weeks, it has become this global word and attitude we’ve all had to adopt. It’s kind of funny if you think about it, we are all in our rooms, apartments, houses, private spaces … and it’s bringing us together - even more than before! Hervé mentioned the great discoveries we experienced as a team in his interview, how strongly we felt about being a team and being so connected. It’s true : we never talked so much globally, between studios, since this confinement. Because we are in this together, there’s a certain vulnerability and humanity that has created a big difference in the way we interact with both our teams and our clients.

Regarding our teams something that I observed and that I find fascinating is that we’re all having these meetings on Zoom and Google Gangouts and we aren’t realizing how much it’s shifting the hierarchy and dynamic of the group. When you enter a meeting room and sit at the head seat of the table, you’re obviously leading the meeting. But if you log onto zoom with 25 little heads in 25 little squares it creates a sort of natural horizontality where everyone is on the same page. At Base we’ve always been pretty horizontal, but these tools are really expressing it for us! Hierarchy suddenly becomes secondary, meetings now rely on content more than volume and power. People listen differently, are more respectful, everyone feels more comfortable having a voice … all things that are not always easy in less horizontal structures.

Do you feel like the current situation has provoked a change in the way clients think about their brands and how they approach us?
We’ve had a lot of clients (past, present and future) get in touch with us about what they should or should not be doing with their brand communication at the moment. They need comfort, advice, someone to challenge them or brainstorm with them on these difficult subjects. The conversations have been incredibly rich and insightful. When we used to tell our clients that we had to start by defining their “brand essence” they were often confused and wondering what on earth we were talking about. But now this word - essence - becomes very meaningful! It's really all about stripping back down to the basics : stay true to your unique brand DNA and essence, and go back to your initial brand strategy work-frame to help you navigate through difficult questions.

Just like we have, you've probably witnessed some brands suddenly shift their tone of voice or general communication style, which didn’t work at all! In times like these people need brand consistency, a friendly face. All this gives a lot of sense and value to what we have been doing with our clients in the past and it’s also why a lot of clients are still coming back to us. Basers are always talking about “revealing your unique self” as the essence of what we do - and right now we are more conscious than ever before of the importance of this foundational work we do with clients.

“When you enter a meeting room and sit at the head seat of the table, you’re obviously leading the meeting. But if you log onto zoom with 25 little heads in 25 little squares it creates a sort of natural horizontality where everyone is on the same page.”
Dimitri Jeurissen

A lot of brands have suddenly become very generous, raising funds, contributing in one way or another (production of masks etc.) Do you think this ‘giving back’ dynamic brands suddenly feel forced to adopt is a positive thing?

Indeed a lot of brands have been doing their best to contribute and offer support. I think it’s great if a brand can afford these gestures. However let’s all remember that brands are not obliged to do anything at all! If as a brand all you can afford is to keep in touch with your audience by trying to support people with a little humor or helpful information, that’s ok too. I had this conversation with one of our clients - a very colorful and happy fashion brand. They were concerned about what was expected from them now that a lot of fashion houses were contributing during the crisis. And I was clear : nothing is expected from you. Try to be you. Be transparent, honest. Small actions can go a long way. And if all you can do is focus on your own company’s well-being instead of the whole world’s, that’s already HUGE. Caring for your teams, your family, your community is just as important.

Any last tips?
I hope this brings along change for brands, that it will be an opportunity for them to go back to their unique selves. We are in a changing world, we have to be progressive, anticipate things better… it doesn’t make sense to stay “stuck” with a conservative mindset. This situation is provoking a period of reflection, and tomorrow a period of change. I am excited to see how this impacts brands decision-making, both in terms of communications but also at a larger scale in terms of production, social and ecological responsibilities. It’s as if we have all been sent to our rooms to think about the future and invited to come out only when we have constructive solutions!