Eleven hours and 35 minutes. That’s how long my flight took to get from São Paulo to Zurich. I could’ve watched the entire The Godfather trilogy, or 7 football matches, or possibly gotten a good way through James Joyce’s 800-page Ulysses. But I didn't do any of that. Instead, I spent most of my flight imagining the experience I was about to have at the Interbrand Academy 1.0, in Zurich. Before you ask if the Academy is some kind of in-company training, I must say that it goes way beyond that. In reality, it’s a great way to do what we do best with the best people we have.
More specifically, the Academy is a unique opportunity to work on real branding challenges alongside key Interbrand executives—from managing directors and strategy heads to CEOs. Every year it takes place in a different location among our offices worldwide, and brings together 18 lucky Interbranders from different regions. It’s not only a chance to meet strategists, designers, and writers from around the global network, but also a chance to work with them in an intense, high-energy environment. And, yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.
At the Academy 1.0, I met inspiring people from Madrid, Milan, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo, and London, to name a few. One of them was Macaila Laubscher, a designer from Interbrand London, whose talent for connecting ideas and telling stories made an impression. As a verbal identity manager from São Paulo, I appreciated her knack for concepting and creative insight.
After our Academy experience, Macaila and I discussed what we learned in Zurich. Here is a snippet of our conversation about the workshop:
FELIPE: Hello again, Macaila. What was it like to attend Workshop 1.0?
MACAILA: Hi, Felipe. The workshop was an intense and brilliantly informative three-day course, which was a great privilege to attend. Meeting colleagues from every corner of our vast network of offices, opened my eyes to how big Interbrand is and how many amazing opportunities it offers to grow personally and professionally. Within minutes, even though most of us didn’t know each other, we dove in to tackle strategic challenges hands on and absorbed as much theoretical knowledge as possible. And with a schedule that was extremely efficient, speakers that were highly engaging, and content that was truly mind-expanding—not a moment was wasted.
MACAILA: What about you Felipe, did the workshop live up to (or exceed) your expectations?
FELIPE: At first, I was just hoping to understand how strategic thinking could help our office enhance the quality of verbal deliverables and strengthen their impact. However, about 20 minutes into the workshop, I realized that it was going to cover a lot more than I expected. In fact, the workshop was so comprehensive that it brought a new challenge I wasn’t anticipating: how to apply all of these learnings. Fortunately, the classes were more practical than theoretical. We explored real case studies and ongoing projects, which allowed the teams to experience, and more fully grasp, the synergy among our disciplines. My only regret? Telling all my international colleagues that Brazil was about to win the World Cup!
MACAILA: As you know, we uncover some amazing insights at Academy workshops. What did you learn that was new to you?
FELIPE: My first and most important discovery was about the importance of having clear strategic thinking behind everything we create. After getting more familiar with all of our methodologies, I was able to better appreciate how transformative brands can be. Second, I learned a lot about building relationships with clients and new ways to deliver winning pitches to our prospects. Finally, I understood how to apply these tactics and principles in different areas and situations.
MACAILA: Good point. Having had a basic knowledge through my experience working for Interbrand for the past three years, I knew the strategy models at a top level and could work my way through it. However, now I have a deeper understanding that can really influence the quality of work I do and the confidence with which I approach brands.
FELIPE: That said, what was your favorite part about the experience?
MACAILA: The “syndicate project,” which framed the three-day course, challenged us to work in smaller groups and present our solutions back to a panel of highly esteemed Interbrand judges. We were fortunate enough to have a live client brief out of the Milan office. In retrospect, it is likely that the high pressure to deliver great quality work, in a short time frame—with people you’ve never worked with, who are all the best of the bunch and have their own great ideas—probably pushed me further than most one-month projects.
FELIPE: I totally agree with you, Macaila. And that was only possible in such a stimulating multicultural environment. We had 18 people from different countries working towards one common goal: To gain a fuller understanding of the approaches, both creative and strategic, that make Interbrand the world’s most inspiring and valuable branding consultancy. The results were impressive. I think all of us came away with deeper insights and greater confidence in our ability to deliver world-class work. On a more personal note, I truly enjoyed our encounters outside of class as well (fondue + wine + beer). Socially, it was definitely a lot of fun—and offered great opportunities for us to hear about experiences from other offices.
MACAILA: Yes, it was a great time. By the way, were you able to activate what you learned in your local office?
FELIPE: Well, for one thing, I brought a new mantra back to Brazil: If you want to connect with brands you should first connect with people. The Academy was not only inspirational, but also emphasized the importance of connecting different areas of expertise in order to do the best possible work. Identity teams must be extremely strategic and strategy teams must be creative. Clients in Brazil, for example, are increasingly expecting our deliverables to be not only strategically impeccable, but also truly inspiring.
MACAILA: I agree. Communication across all disciplines and activities is key to the success of both individual projects and the business as a whole. Designers, for instance, should be more integrated into the strategic process from the beginning, rather than solely bringing projects to life at the end. Their ideas can be integral to shaping strong propositions. In Zurich, we had a chance to step back and look at what really works, test out new approaches, and implement tools that can help us create truly world-changing work.
For more insight into Interbrand’s unique educational workshops, check out The Interbrand Academy: Cultivating Excellence.
Felipe Valerio is a Verbal Identity Manager at Interbrand São Paulo and Macaila Laubscher is a designer at Interbrand London.