Staff picks – the top 100 brands, Google Bert, secondhand culture

by | Nov 1, 2019 | Branding, Strategy, Websites

We’re always firing links at each other round the office in a vaguely competitive way – who can be the first to spot a new trend in web design or copywriting? Who’s found the most inspiring rebrand or eye-opening opinion piece from the world of marketing? That kind of thing.

Here’s what’s grabbed our attention and got us talking in the past week.

An important update to Google’s algorithm

Mike Crook, PracticeWeb MD

‘Bert’ is the latest update to the mechanism Google uses to assess and rank websites. As ever, SEO commentator Neil Patel was straight out of the blocks with a fantastically clear summary of the implications for those engaged in content marketing:

Bert will affect 1 in 10 search queries…. To give you an idea of how big of an update this is, it’s the biggest update since Google released RankBrain… In other words, there is a really good chance that this impacts your site. And if it doesn’t, as your traffic grows, it will eventually affect your site…. Google, in essence, has adjusted its algorithm to better understand natural language processing.

We’ll be digesting and learning the lessons in the coming weeks but the main message is an encouraging one for us: for anyone who focuses on quality, relevant, engaging content rather than chasing clicks, this change will probably be good news.

Black and white logos

Charmagne Rayman-Bacchus-Thompson, head of production and operations

Our lead designer, the very talented Mark Jones, has been working on a really different looking website for one of our clients which has got us all a bit obsessed with how black-and-white can be used to create visual impact. My favourite example so far is this really intelligent logo redesign for Warner Media by Wolff Olins, which subtly invokes a film clapperboard. (Apparently.)

Warner Media logo.

SOURCE: WarnerMedia/

Institutional sans serif fonts

Mark Jones, lead designer

As well as black-and-white, I’ve been undertaking a deep exploration of sans serif fonts. I’m not one of those people who’s too clever to appreciate Helvetica – I love it! – but there are some really interesting alternatives out there. Rail Alphabet is a variant on Helvetica originally designed for the British train network by Margaret Calvert in the early 1960s. Another of Calvert’s fonts is one all British people will know: the super-legible, very functional Motorway which first appeared on road signs in the UK in 1958. I don’t think I’ll be using either on an accountancy website anytime soon.

Rail Alphabet type sample.

Rail Alphabet SOURCE: A2 Type

SME trends: secondhand culture

Melissa Tredinnick, editorial assistant

As well as producing accountancy content at PracticeWeb I’m also content editor for another Sift publication, UK Business Forums, where SME owners and operators gather to exchange advice and information. Having noticed some interesting conversations about ‘fast fashion’ and ethical business, I commissioned Alice Harper to write about the opportunity presented by the growth in secondhand shops:

Climate protest group Extinction Rebellion called for people to refrain from buying brand new clothes for a whole year, as well as staging protests against ‘fast fashion’ in Oxford Circus and at London Fashion Week. The group is encouraging participants to move towards buying second-hand in order to minimise waste… Oxfam also reported that 62,000 people pledged to join their recent campaign ‘Second Hand September’, designed to promote shopping for pre-loved items. And it does seem as though the tide may be beginning to turn, particularly in favour of second-hand clothing. Fast fashion brand Forever 21 recently filed for bankruptcy, with some commenting that this could signal a shift in consumer taste towards more sustainable options.

I wonder whether there’s also an opportunity for accountancy firms here – what are the unique accounting challenges presented by buying, selling and valuing vintage clothing?

Top brands chart.

SOURCE: Interbrand.

The top 100 global brands – or are they?

Alex Tucker, account director

Having worked in branding and marketing for more than 20 years the annual release of Interbrand’s top 100 brands list is something I always look forward to. This year, though, it was a bit controversial, as the global brand consultancy firm changed its criteria and declared the death of ‘brand positioning’ in favour of what it calls ‘iconic moves’:

In a world where people’s expectations will continue to move faster than businesses, customers will increasingly reward those bold moves that challenge those expectations… Incremental change will keep brands in the game — but it will take well-timed, brave moves to make brands leap ahead of customers’ expectations, ultimately driving extraordinary business results… We have chosen to call them Iconic Moves, because they alter the competitive landscape by capturing people’s imagination.

Personally, I’m sceptical, but it’s always good to have established thinking challenged. I’ll be chewing this over for a while, I expect.

Free audiobook: Making Websites Win

David Fowler, SEO specialist

Conversion Rate Experts, an agency specialising in conversion rate optimisation for websites, have released their book Making Websites Win as a free audiobook in ten parts, accessible through podcast apps. It’s what I’m currently working my way through on my commute and it’s incredibly stimulating and thought-provoking.

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