Landor Associates Business Information, Profile, and History
To become our clients' most valuable partner in creating, building, and revitalizing their brands for both short-term results and long-term business success, everywhere in the world.
History of Landor Associates
Landor Associates is a subsidiary of WPP Group PLC, a global marketing and communications concern based in the United Kingdom. The firm offers a range of brand strategy, design, naming, and marketing and research services to help strengthen clients' brand power. The company has helped create and develop some of the world's most recognized brands and corporate identities, including Coca-Cola, Levi's, Cotton Inc., Kellogg's, GE, Fuji Film, Saturn, Miller Lite, Alitalia, 20th Century Fox, Philip Morris, Singapore Airlines, 3M, the World Wildlife Fund, Pacific Telesis, Wells Fargo Bank, Dole Foods, Del Monte, Safeway Stores, and Bank of America. Landor has offices in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and throughout the United States.
1941-1964: A Pioneer in Creating Recognized Brands and Corporate Identities
Walter Landor, a German expatriate, founded Walter Landor & Associates in 1941, working from a makeshift desk in his small Russian Hill, San Francisco, apartment with his wife, Josephine, as his associate. Landor, born in Munich in 1912, was the son of a prominent German architect and had been influenced as a youth by the Bauhaus and Werkbund design movements. Landor's father encouraged him to become an architect, but he found that he had no talent for drafting. After trying his hand at industrial design, he turned to graphic design, and, at 18, he decided to focus his career on designing for the mass audience.
Landor went to London to complete his studies at London University's Goldsmith College School of Art in 1931. At 22, he became a founding partner with Misha Black and Miner Gray of England's first industrial design consultancy, Industrial Design Partnership. A year later, he became the youngest Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London, and four years after that, in 1939, he traveled to New York to work on Britain's Pavilion at the World's Fair. During this trip, he visited San Francisco and decided to immigrate and begin a business there. "For me, it was a city that looked out on the whole world, a city built on the cultural traditions of East and West--how could I live anywhere else?" Landor is quoted as saying on the company's web site. Landor & Associates was dedicated to employing design and visual imagery to create recognized brands and corporate identities for clients and their commodity products.
The company's reputation grew rapidly, and as it did, Landor began to use consumer research in developing his packaging designs. According to a 1992 St. Petersburg Times article, in the 1940s Landor was known to roam the aisles of supermarkets, startling shoppers by holding up two packages of frozen peas--one designed by his firm, the other by a competitor--and asking, "Which would you buy?" Some competitors thought Landor relied on research too much, but as the forerunner in the field of market research, the company became the first, in 1959, to retain in-house specialists to understand how people interact with products and to use this information in design development.
Landor began to simulate the buying process in order to observe customer reactions to differing visual approaches in its research labs. There, the company experimented with new materials, such as cellophane and metallic foils, and introduced new colors, textures, and shapes to packaging. Landor also did more informal research, coming home with bottles of wine or varieties of packaged food and asking his two young daughters which they liked better. Postwar consumer culture responded to Landor's inventiveness, and the company began to attract clients internationally. In the early 1960s, the company opened offices in Italy.
1964-1989: From the Ferryboat Klamath to Young & Rubicam
Then, in 1964, Landor moved his firm's headquarters aboard the ferryboat Klamath, which he anchored at San Francisco's Pier 5. Built in 1924, the Klamath had been a working ferryboat on San Francisco Bay for 32 years until its retirement in 1956. Landor found the Klamath sitting in mudflats at the port of Redwood City, California, and purchased it at a bankruptcy sale for $12,000. After renovations, the company's staff moved on board, a move that drew attention to the company and underscored its reputation for innovation and creativity. The Klamath eventually housed the company's Museum of Packaging Antiquities and its supermarket test lab.
In 1974, Landor handed over day-to-day control of the firm to John M. Diefenbach, who became its president and chief executive officer. Landor continued to grow both nationally and internationally under Diefenbach, opening offices in Tokyo, Mexico City, and New York and establishing a solid reputation and presence in Europe. The value of corporate branding gained recognition during the decade of the 1970s, and Landor Associates became respected for setting the industry's standards with its seminal methodology for branding. Back aboard the Klamath, Landor's researchers continued to explore the connection between a company's visual and verbal identity and its reputation, directing greater attention to naming, retail interiors, and signage. Some of Landor's major clients of the 1970s included Bank of America, Hewlett-Packard, Cotton, Oscar Mayer & Co., and San Francisco International Airport.
During the 1980s, the business of shaping the way a company presented itself to the world grew rapidly as a boom in mergers and acquisitions yielded hundreds of new corporate entities. Landor created design systems for well-known corporations such as Coca-Cola, Fuji Film, 20th Century Fox, and the World Wildlife Fund. It also launched ImagePower, the first-ever comprehensive survey of international brands, intending to reveal how brands were perceived and how they measured up to their competition. (The survey became a subject of controversy when it revealed consumer dissatisfaction with some of the more publicized corporate identity changes engineered by Landor's competitors, Anspach and Lippincott & Margulies.) By the end of the decade, however, the beginnings of a recession severely depressed the corporate identity business; airlines merged, eliminating established clients for Landor, while other former clients tightened their belts and eliminated their corporate identity programs. Another of Landor's specialties, retail shop design, also suffered as the retail industry underwent a downturn.
If clients were no longer investing in their corporate identity, however, large advertising companies were beginning to pay more attention to branding as consumers turned from mainstream media to other areas of communication. As Landor entered the late 1980s, it was still one of the largest firms of its kind, with reported revenues of greater than $50 million, and strong prospects for continued growth. In 1988 the company renamed itself Landor Associates, left the Klamath (which remained the firm's corporate symbol), and moved into new offices in an old building on Front Street in San Francisco. The following year, it agreed to be purchased by Young & Rubicam (Y & R), one of the larger international marketing and communications agencies, and became a part of the WPP family of companies. As part of the acquisition, Diefenbach rejoined Y & R as director of corporate development, relinquishing his role as president and chief executive officer to Donald M. Casey.
1990-2005: Retrenchment and Repositioning for a Global Leader
Casey headed Landor for the next two years. Then in 1991, Edward Vick took over, charged with engineering the company's financial turnaround. "We're a small company," Vick, great-grandson of the cofounder of the Richardson-Vicks cough drop company, said in a 1992 San Francisco Chronicle article, "but we were operating too much like a big company. We should be entrepreneurial and quicker." To act more in line with its real size, from 1990 through 1992, Landor drastically cut its worldwide workforce by 30 percent to 350 people. The company also closed 5 of its 21 offices as revenues dropped to about $40 million. In a move designed to respond to ongoing trends, such as global expansion and growth in digital branding systems, industry deregulation, and mega-mergers, Landor sought out new approaches to serving clients.
By 1993, when Clay Timon of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising of Paris became the next president and chief executive of Landor, the changes implemented under Vick had resulted in a marked upswing in new business. By the time Walter Landor died in 1995 at the age of 81, the company again employed more than 300 people in 17 offices worldwide. Throughout the early 1990s, Landor had received several important accolades for his long career in design, including two lifetime achievement awards, one from the Package Design Council International in 1991 and another from the University of San Francisco in 1992. He also was honored by the mayor of San Francisco as one of the city's "creative visionaries" in 1992. In 1994, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History completed the Walter Landor Collections of Design Records and Packaging, which documented Landor Associates' contributions to 20th-century American design history.
In the early 1990s, Landor Associates also took on a new challenge, branding the Olympic Games with partner EvansGroup Marketing. Beginning with the 1992 Olympics in Atlanta, then in Nagano in 1994, and in Salt Lake City in 1996, Landor contracted to conceive the central theme--including logo, mascot, pictograms, and graphics--for the worldwide competition. In 1997, the firm also undertook its second ImagePower study, interviewing the executives of 500 large, medium, and small companies to evaluate brand and company names on five key attributes, which it called share of mind, share of heart, appropriateness, uniqueness, and momentum.
During the next decade under Timon, the world market shrank dramatically, creating new opportunities for Landor. The firm took the approach that brands had to cater to the global consumer while simultaneously paying attention to consumer segments. The first half of this decade saw Landor regaining its former momentum and growth. It experienced annual revenue growth of 15 percent and an increase from 15 to 51 percent in revenues from its top ten clients. It opened offices around the world, including Hamburg, Dubai, Singapore, and Shanghai, as well as Seattle, Cincinnati, and Chicago. In 2000, Landor acquired the Chicago-based strategic brand consultancy, St. James Associates. St. James had been founded in 1991 to integrate brand strategy with business planning and implementation. In 2002, Landor's client roster continued to read like a who's who of business: FedEx, Morgan Stanley, New York Stock Exchange, Microsoft, BP, Delta Airlines, Olympic Games, Alamo, Cathay Pacific, Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay, France Telecom, VARIG, and Coors.
A year after Craig Branigan became chief executive in 2003, the company acquired LKS, an Australian branding firm, which, since 1979, had conducted major branding programs for blue chip Australian organizations. With LKS now Landor's Australian office, the firm included offices in 22 cities in 17 countries. Branigan had worked for Y & R for ten years before he became director of Landor's San Francisco office in 1996 and president of Landor Europe in 1998. He was joined by Charlie Wrench as president in 2005. Wrench also had worked for Y & R before joining Landor and occupying several management positions.
Landor closed out 2005 with a 12-month pitch-to-win rate of 77 percent and 15 new projects for clients that included HSBC, Danone UK, Numico, KLM-owned Transavia, and Traidcraft. Despite its commitment to broaden the nature of its work to maintain its competitiveness, the company continued to style its growth under Branigan after Landor's original position. As he expressed his outlook in a 1992 St. Petersburg Times article: "If the effort doesn't show, then it's a good design. It must never look designed. And a good design should last."
FutureBrand; Interbrand Corporation; Lippincott Mercer; Addison Whitney; Brand Institute; BrandLink Corporation; Envoy Communications Group; Euro RSCG 4D; Mires, Siegel & Gale; Wolff Olins; Corporate Branding.
- Key Dates
- 1941 Walter Landor founds Walter Landor & Associates in San Francisco.
- 1964 The company moves its headquarters aboard the Klamath ferryboat.
- 1974 John M. Diefenbach joins the company as its president.
- 1988 Landor Associates moves its corporate headquarters to Front Street.
- 1989 The company is acquired by Young & Rubicam; Donald M. Casey becomes president and chief executive officer.
- 1991 Edward Vick becomes president and chief executive officer.
- 1993 Clay Timon becomes president and chief executive officer.
- 2000 Landor acquires the Chicago-based strategic brand consultancy, St. James Associates; Landor, as a subsidiary of Young & Rubicam, becomes part of WPP Group PLC.
- 2003 Craig Branigan becomes president and chief executive officer.
- 2004 The company acquires the Australian firm LKS.
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