Having founded SuperBrands and Cool BrandLeaders, as well as the agency Creative & Commercial, brand expert Marcel Knobil is onto the next big thing – finding the best creative work that has never been seen.

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Marcel Knobil knows brands. From his early work for agencies such as WPP, to founding global brand authority SuperBrands, Knobil understands brands like no-one else. And a brand is much more than a smartly design logo, he reckons.
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“At its core, a brand just distinguishes one item from another, and it’s as simple as that,” he says. “The most elegant way I’ve heard it described is when you look at the difference between a brand and a product; if we were to all die tomorrow, products would still be there, but brands wouldn’t. Branding actually defines a place for products and services within the landscape of the mind.”
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Knobil feels that the whole concept of brands has dramatically changed over the past ten years – and design plays an increasingly key part in the dressing of a product. Early on, when he was running SuperBrands, it conferred SuperBrand status on Manchester United, due to the holistic nature of its brand.
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“The actual design of the product is critical, and you can talk about the elegance of packaging, but you need a really strong product – one of the exceptions being sport, where your brand can fail you week after week, and yet you’ll still continue to buy into it,” he says. “But, if a product is dressed well, it can outperform another, superior product.”
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One of the biggest challenges for creatives involved in all aspects of brand design has been the evolving sophistication of the public over the past decade, says Knobil, and it’s one that has seen the notion of branding turned on its head.
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“Previously, the public were almost advertised at, and now increasingly the public are advertised with,” says Knobil. “The public really has a sophisticated appreciation of brands and the way they communicate – now people talk in terms of brands. One really key thing is that ads are now often a kind of a nudge and a wink to the public, a kind of ‘you know what we’re doing, and we’re letting you in on that’. Ad design is more knowing today.”
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It’s also far more cluttered, with Knobil admitting that the public is swamped with brands, designs, and messages that make it increasingly challenging for the brand agency to successfully penetrate the consumer’s mind.
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“With the barrage of brands, it’s important to get noticed – and sometimes that means that some really annoying advertising is used, but it gets good results. One that springs to mind was the launch of eSure using Michael Winner. Now it uses the mouse, which is almost equally annoying.”
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The trouble is that some brands are mistakenly wooed by short-term gains, and trade a more flashy campaign over one that aids the longevity of a brand. Knobil cites French Connection UK as a prime example.
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“It’s a bit like footballers and actors, and about quitting a campaign at the right time – if you try to squeeze every drop out of something, by the time you decide to change, you’re already seen as a dry sponge.”
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It was this deep thinking about branding that led to the launch of SuperBrands, which awarded brands a SuperBrand accolade on a yearly basis. Now running in 33 countries, SuperBrands are a big deal to the winning corporations.
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“Brands can literally engrave themselves onto the mindset of a nation – super brands are when you’re walking the streets and you see a Nike Swoosh shaved onto someone’s head, or a Harley tattoo,” he says.
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Since selling up SuperBrands, and its spin-offs such as Cool BrandLeaders, Knobil has been working on his latest project – Best Never Seen, a competition to find the best designs, photography, art, fashion, and buildings that never saw the light of day.
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“This was something that began years ago in the form of the best ads never seen, when I had time on my hands and also to raise money for the design and ad world charity NABS,” he says. 
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“My experience in advertising had shown me there was some great, great advertising work that never saw the light of day. And, I think people are unaware of the incredible investment of people, energy, and craft that goes into just the idea, and are unaware of the whole theatre of the suit coming back from the client having been unable to sell the ad, and the despair the creative feels. It became a TV show, and I wanted to then translate it into other creative areas.”
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Best Never Seen, which is open for entries until the end of the year, not only boasts an enviable line-up of judges, but also a no entrance-fee policy.
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“We’re crazy,” admits Knobil. “We’re investing in this, and one day it might generate funds, but at the moment what’s critical is that great work receives great accolades – and it’s one hell of a fun investment.”
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Full entry details are at <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.bestneverseen.org" rel="nofollow" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">www.bestneverseen.org</a>
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<b>Who:</b> Marcel Knobil<BR>
<b>Event:</b> Best Never Seen<BR>
<b>URL:</b> <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.bestneverseen.org" target="_blank">www.bestneverseen.org</a> 
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