Q&A with Andy Hoyne: The Holy Grail of Creative, Culture and Profit– Thought Leadership to Achieve Differentiation

We caught up with Andrew Hoyne founder of Hoyne and author of The Place Economy, when he was in Dublin recently speaking at the launch of the joint promotion of Design Enterprise Skillnet by the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) and the Institute of Creative Advertising and Design (ICAD).


Andrew Hoyne is an international leader in brand creation, author of The Place Economy and the creative force behind his eponymous award-winning agency, Hoyne. Since its inception 27 years ago, Hoyne has grown to become Australia’s foremost property, brand and marketing specialists. Having worked with renowned brands like Starbucks, Pure Blonde and Nike, Andrew is a regular speaker at global industry events and recently shared his valuable insights at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Tell us the story of Hoyne – how did you evolve from a generalist design agency to such a specialist agency?

Having worked in branding for 27 years, I’ve created identities for towns, precincts and places. As Australia is a home obsessed nation, this inevitably led to working in property development also. This led to a deeper interest and passion for understanding great places from around the world and what makes successful communities.

So Hoyne evolved to making suggestions to clients beyond the branding – and we started contributing ideas about the makeup or content of places. This experience covers everything from curating F&B (food and beverage), presenting ideas at board meetings with some of the country’s leading firms, working with architects on overarching themes, and even driving around small towns asking residents what they’d wish for if they could design their own community. My love of travel informs the big ideas for our clients and the project work creates travel opportunities to visit great cities like Dublin – so it’s a win win.

Today we work with major Australian and international asset owners, developers and local councils to develop the blueprint that shapes and guides the development of a place or precinct, using a process that we call Place VisioningTM. Resolving this early is fundamental to successfully identifying anchors and establishing the ‘magnets’ that will attract people to a place or precinct. With it we create recognisable landmarks and destinations across Australia and South East Asia for everything from residential towns to cities.

What are the first steps in establishing thought leadership in an organisation?

The first thing is having something to say. Pick an area of your industry that you are really passionate about, or that you know more about than others, or where information is lacking and then make that your area of expertise. Then you get to become the number one expert on that topic, the source of information that people turn to when they have questions or need inspiration.

Next, instill a culture of knowledge sharing into your team. If you have switched-on, smart people working for you then they’ll come up with great ideas all the time that you can use to build your thought leadership content. If you do it right you basically can build your own staff powered content creation machine that pumps out ideas without any effort – it’s just a natural byproduct of your business and it keeps everyone’s brains ticking over.

What inspired you to write The Place Economy?

The Place Economy was born from my belief that more money, intelligence, imagination, craftsmanship and emotion needs to be invested into our cities and suburbs if we are to maintain the quality of life that Australia is renowned for.

I’ve worked in the property sector for many years now. Early on I began to see opportunities where developers could increase their profits, by creating places that are of greater value to the community and improve the overall landscape for the benefit of everyone.

For most developers, this wasn’t the usual path or even a way of thinking. It can take some courage to make the leap into building for a clear purpose, to leave a legacy of good design and a place that people want to live, play and work.

We know what people want and that’s been really clear to us. It’s no longer acceptable to develop a

site without thinking about amenities or offering a sense of place so that a community can grow and build increasing value over time.

There are fantastic examples of the power of placemaking in Europe, in particular. We wanted to showcase the success stories, here and overseas so that developers can feel more supported – so what they are doing doesn’t feel like it’s a risk.

After two years of creating case studies the result was a 400-page resource book that presents thought-leadership on best practice placemaking from around the world. It shows that investment in better places leads to greater profit for developers and investors, and results in economies that perform better and communities that are happier and healthier.

What do you think our future places of work, home and play will look like? More importantly, how do you think people will experience these?

I think in the future we’ll see more innovation and forward thinking around what’s possible in development and placemaking; a broader and more considered view of how to curate dynamic places where people really want to live, play and work. We’ll see more mixed use developments that deliver a win to the community, with better public realm and higher quality execution overall.

Today our expectations are higher than they’ve ever been. We don’t all live in New York but we want to feel like we do; people want 24/7 access and instant gratification. Quality service and great experiences are merely the cost of entry for any brand. An evolving digital revolution also means people want control of when, where, and how they connect with the world.

People are also living and working in smaller spaces, so they’re looking beyond their own front door to their local community. The connection is no longer just with your own residence: it’s with the entire surrounding area and everything that it has to offer.

Like “luxury”, the word “authenticity” has also been flogged to death and it’s lost all meaning. Therefore, the goal now is to create a meaningful experience when you visit a place and provide a solution that feels unique and bespoke, regardless of size. We need to be building places where people want to be, that create a sense of belonging and, like a magnet, this sense draws others in. Then the social and economic benefits will automatically follow.

From your 27 years of experience of placemaking in Australia – what learnings can you share with the Irish economy and government when it comes to transforming communities?

To transform a place, you need to start by thinking about people. You need to determine how a community wants to see itself. This refers to all members of the community, including various age groups, socioeconomic categories, retail, local businesses and major employers. It’s about tapping into that distinct persona and figuring out how to bring it to life.

You then need to work directly with the local community and council to understand the key challenges that a community faces, analyse its assets, and uncover its unique character to write the story. Only then can you co-create a compelling vision for what future success will look like, a vision that the community can rally around. Then ideas can then be brought to life and used to create jobs, with the introduction of new industry and employers, resulting in an upswing in economic performance, opportunities and community pride. By setting up a community to have a strong, cohesive message, you make it attractive and inspiring to existing residents and businesses as well as potential visitors, new residents and new commercial opportunities.

During your visit so far, do you think Irish businesses are missing a trick when it comes to optimising their place branding?

I think you could definitely be doing more to draw attention to some of Ireland’s best assets. A great example of this was when I was in Dublin, I went to Temple Bar and met the CEO of The Temple Bar Company, who manages the precinct. What they’ve done there is incredible; it’s full of cool hotels, new restaurants, creative businesses and interesting enterprises, with some of the most impressive independent development happening in all of Dublin. But I was amazed that so many of the older locals don’t appreciate or value it. And I was also surprised to find out that they don’t have their own place brand. This means that they don’t have a unifying symbol or statement that they can leverage on a global stage to promote the precinct to tourists, visitors and investors. The reason they don’t have a brand is because they’re worried about looking too corporate, which is a sensible perspective for a diversified asset such as this. However, you could actually create something that was really cool and subversive, and captures the incredible history and the dynamic eclecticism of Temple Bar.

In an increasingly homogenised international economy, how can a community maintain its unique look and feel?

Firstly, a clear purpose and a unique vision for how that community can evolve. Secondly, a connection to an inherent truth. Ideally one with a key point of difference. It can be an existing asset, something from the past that continues to define the community, or something unique which could be created as a magnet to attract and engage.

Thirdly, a strong place brand which was created with a thorough understanding of the difference between branding and marketing. Place branding is not simply about marketing. It’s about tapping into the honest, authentic, central idea of a community so it becomes clear what differentiates this city, or this place, from others. It’s about creating a competitive advantage – communicating to people why they should visit, open a business there, or invest their money. The branding and associated tools need to convey the spirit of a place, and help people understand what makes it special. The marketing should be tactical, bringing the strategy to life through both short and long term campaigns – effectively activated. As always with branding, consistency is key, but so is excitement and the ability to capture people’s attention.

One city that’s doing place branding especially well is Berlin. One of the most exciting things for me is how, in East Berlin, they’re rejuvenating and reinventing some of their existing infrastructure. A personal favourite is Markthalle Neun, one of the many old market precincts which used to exist all over Berlin. It’s now been turned into the kind of market that you’d love to have in your neighbourhood, with grocery, providers, winemakers, brewers, florists and many small local businesses all selling their wares. The solution to maintaining your ‘unique’ status is to celebrate and draw attention to existing infrastructure, unused buildings or places that define what it means to be a part of that city.

What brands are best using thought leadership as a catalyst to differentiate themselves?

The two brands that spring to my mind are The School of Life and Shinola.

People don’t always think of it in this way but The School of Life is actually an incredible educational forum. No-one is doing what they do with content, which is essentially helping to answer the gritty questions that so many of us are asking today about life, death, the universe and our purpose here. It is the epitome of thought leadership and it is represented by a clear simple brand which resonates as having impact, style and a strong purpose.

Shinola is another one that is doing something totally unique when it comes to thought leadership. As a company they are a catalyst in re-energising the city of Detroit’s positioning and workforce. They have created new jobs by reutilising old skills for a new industry. Through their local community engagement, employment and training – and international marketing under the Detroit banner, they have instilled a level of pride in a city unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. The thought leadership content they create, both celebrates and elevates the status of what it means to be a citizen of Detroit.

Find out more about Hoyne on and and keep up to date with their news on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

About Design Enterprise Skillnet

Design Enterprise Skillnet is a learning network for companies of all sizes in the design sector.

The objective of this national network is to support the growth of Ireland’s design sector by developing the skills of design professionals and design practices nationwide.

Developed in close collaboration with the IDI, ICAD and their members, the Design Enterprise Skillnet training focuses on helping designers and creative agencies grow their business, up-skill their teams, and attract and service clients in a rapidly changing commercial landscape.

Design Enterprise Skillnet is promoted by IDI and ICAD networks and is open to private enterprises in the design and creative sector based in the Republic of Ireland.

Skillnet Ireland is the national agency dedicated to the promotion and facilitation of workforce learning in Ireland. Their mission is to facilitate increased participation in enterprise training and workforce learning within Ireland’s small and medium enterprises (SME). Design Enterprise Skillnet is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and member companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.

Become a member

Find out how you or your company can become a member of Design Enterprise Skillnet.

Learn More

How it works

Find out more about how The Design Enterprise Skillnet works.

Learn More

Sign up to our newsletter:

Follow Skillnet on twitter Follow Skillnet on Instagram