This new app wants to help you build a brand with purpose

London-based Substance, founded by James Groves and Stephen Lloyd, was made to give creative agencies the insights they might need to help clients build organisations with purpose.

15 November 2021


There are plenty of good-looking brands out there; cool, sexy, fun (just like us). But how many do we feel have true substance and are truly purpose-driven? James Groves and Stephen Lloyd, two experienced strategy specialists and seasoned design and advertising educators, are on a mission to equip creatives with the tools they think are necessary to building such brands.

Substance is what the two call a strategic insight application, with the aim of fine-tuning a brand’s purpose through various resources. For example, it currently has four workshops that agencies can run with clients: Purpose, Positioning, Personality, Progress. “By interrogating the client’s DNA to such a rigorous level this way,” explains Groves, “you can ensure the creative endeavour is perfectly aligned with the organisation’s purpose. This deep analysis – including an exploration of their positioning, personality and the progress they want to make – gives you real confidence that your creativity will help the brand reach its full potential.”

The strategic insight questions Substance asks means the findings are just one of billions of variables. And the strategic insight report hopes to present a robust picture of clients’ organisations, focusing on development and growth with a specific goal. The perks of the app are that it means teams can work on its resources remotely, without the need for in-person sessions or workshops. It also boasts a quick turnaround time where you can purchase resources and gain your insights on the same day. Above all, it is built to be purpose-driven; Lloyd and Groves want to align business ambitions with creative endeavours for meaningful work.

Lloyd, an educator of advertising and brand design at Ravensbourne University, tries to integrate technology and design thinking into his work. And when he’s not teaching, his commercial work includes partnering with a leading search engine, an international airport, pioneering startups and cultural institutions. Whilst Groves has worked in “transformational” brand strategy, working directly with clients and with agency partners. He’s worked with an online payments platform and numerous fashion, drinks and hospitality brands. He also lectures at Ravensbourne University.

(Copyright © Substance, 2021)

Phil Alexander, the managing director at paper manufacturer G.F Smith, used the app, claiming that the questions were “thought-provoking” and made the leadership team “really consider our brand opportunities from a different perspective which subsequently proved invaluable.”

“Strategic thinking is core to the branding work we do at Studio Makgill,” says Hamish Makgill, another user of Substance. ‘“Having a tool like Substance as part of our process really helps us gather true insight into our clients’ motivations and vision.”

Setting Substance apart from the rest, Groves tells us how traditionally client insights are “generated through in-person interviews, document reviews, workshops and a never-ending trail of email conversations,” all of which need to be examined, challenged, reviewed and collated. “These are valid forms of research,” he continues, “they are however time-consuming and extremely costly. This can often put small-medium sized agencies at a disadvantage.

“We are fascinated by the opportunity to challenge this approach, being able to get rich and rigorous insights quicker and at a dramatically reduced cost,” Groves tells It’s Nice That. The two wanted to design a simple process. Their aim was to make “a truly bespoke product that would support creative agencies no matter their size and regardless of their location. To the best of our knowledge, we’re the first to develop a product like this.”

“We think the creative industry needs to help clients to discover and strategically activate their purpose,” Groves continues. “Because a crystal-clear purpose builds a competitive advantage while showing a genuine commitment to shaping a better world.”

(Copyright © Substance, 2021)

(Copyright © Substance, 2021)


(Copyright © Substance, 2021)

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Substance: Logo (Copyright © Substance, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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