Sylvain has long prided itself on being a strategy and design consultancy that’s guided by progress, helping large companies move forward and evolve. Sylvain’s services focus on innovation strategy, such as bringing to life new products and services that resolve human needs and harness cultural movements, developing brand strategy, telling the unique stories that brands play in the lives of their audience, and designing organizations that can transform to discover new visions for the future.
Sylvain has worked with clients such as Google, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Facebook and Nike. With an awareness that it’s providing consultancy services to companies that continue to shift cultural values and shape society on a global scale, Sylvain strives to approach projects with integrity and responsibility.
“Many of our clients are the most influential in the world,” said CEO Alain Sylvain. “How can we ensure that as consultants we are not bystanders to those companies? That we are stewards, helping them make better decisions.”
As the consultancy has grown, Sylvain has held himself and his employees accountable for their work. A 100 percent retention rate among its clients shows that the consultancy’s commitment to excellence does not go unappreciated.
“Every client we’ve ever worked with has asked us to do more work,” Sylvain said.
He also holds himself accountable for the company as a whole. Founded in 2010, Sylvain has grown into a Certified B Corporation — meaning it voluntarily meets the highest standards for social and environmental performance.
Sylvain underscores the consultancy’s dedication to its progress-guided approach in its annual impact report “A Developing Story: Self-Reflections of Progress-Guided Consultancy,” which is described as “an attempt to formalize what has always been a gut instinct at Sylvain, and to take stock of our performance (and progress) so far.”
The report details the consultancy’s past, present and future through a socially conscious lens, and provides the framework and tools for other companies to evaluate themselves in a similar way.
“We’re not a social impact agency,” Sylvain said. “We’re for profit, but we align ourselves with some sense of integrity with what we do.”
Putting Authenticity in Action
One such project was in 2019 for the WNBA. The women’s basketball league was struggling to grow and lacked a clear fan base. In the midst of movements such as Black Lives Matter, Sylvain was asked to re-envision the brand to reassert its rightful place in culture and better connect with fans.
Driven by the WNBA’s mission to inspire and empower and women, Sylvain revealed a brand identity that unapologetically reflected its female players — many of whom identified as Black, gay or queer, and college educated.
“A key part of that work was recognizing marginal voices that are often not heard, and really starting to break some of the systems of power and media in professional sports,” Sylvain said.
The results of this are perhaps most obvious in Sylvain’s reimagining of the WNBA silhouette, turning it from a short, stocky woman with a skirt and long hair, to a woman with an athletic build, her hair in a bun, about to dunk the ball.
“She’s tall. She’s ripped. Her cheek is looking up because she’s hopeful about the future,” Sylvain said. “We changed the whole silhouette to really reflect that future.”
Diversity, equity and inclusion has become a growing focus for many companies across industries, and entertainment is no exception. For instance, Sylvain is currently working with a global media conglomerate to launch a new brand related to race and inclusion. Part of Sylvain’s role is to help ensure it happens in a way that’s truly authentic.
He advises companies to commit fully to such a cause without being reactive to specific movements or moments, and has been encouraged by an uptick in quality international content, such as the South Korean hit series Squid Game on Netflix.
A Progress Guided Future
With more competition from abroad, Sylvain believes entertainment brands will need to further develop their value propositions, defining even more clearly what makes them unique in a sea of shared content and technological advances.
“The micro-influencer and the amateur creator are only going to increase in relevance,” Sylvain said. “There are more platforms popping up that allow them to bypass the traditional methods, like TikTok, and talent is going to have more of a direct relationship with viewers.”
He also predicts audiences will start to look at content as less of an escape, and crave stories that provide more purpose, function and hope, especially around topics such as politics and the environment.
With the future in mind, an important part of what Sylvain does is help companies develop an intimate understanding of their products and brand so they can strategically position themselves for growth.
For instance, to help Google better understand the difference between Android versus iPhone users, Sylvain launched a national survey that revealed atypical attributes for each audience — Android users are twice as likely to have been in a fist fight, for example — and provided Google with a more complete, albeit unconventional, look at its user’s behavior.
In another project, Sylvain worked with Colgate to reimagine mouthwash, shaking up traditional thinking with a clear product “that felt refreshingly disruptive to category norms.” The bottle not only stands out amid the wall of blue that consumers see on the grocery store shelf, but boasts zero alcohol, dyes, artificial flavors and artificial sweeteners.
“Since launching in early 2020, it has opened the Colgate team’s eyes and minds to the future of the brand,” according to Sylvain’s case study.
It’s with that same eye that Sylvain has been looking inward with its impact report, “A Developing Story,” that seeks to “narrow the gap between delivering for our clients and serving the public.”
“The primary reason [for the report] was putting a stake in the ground for ourselves,” Sylvain said. “It kept us honest and set a vision for where we want to go.”
Sylvain evaluates itself using five character traits: just, open, compassionate, discerning and consistent. The report also includes an in-depth toolkit, free for other organizations to download and embark on their own journey of self-reflection and hopefully become more aware and responsible companies in the process.
Sylvain welcomes others to take what they’ve done and improve on it, setting higher standards for what consultancies can be.
“The thing that’s unwavering is that this was truly about progress. This wasn’t about us,” Sylvain said. “Are we really serving the public good as best we can? If that’s the truth, we should not hoard our learning and the advice we’re following. It wouldn’t be great if we did all this work, and didn’t share it.”
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