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What Works

The next big brand?

Brands have a power over things. The power of ownership. The power to communicate so much with minimal effort. The power to change minds, beliefs, behaviors, history.

There is now a new brand to celebrate Man’s mark on the world. Who knew that we would live in the Anthropocene era? – The geological era of Man.

We have branded Man’s historical development successfully – as we have graduated from the Stone to the Bronze to the Iron Age and beyond. I have heard suggestions for what’s next – Gunpowder, Nuclear, Space, Silicon Ages. But attempts to brand where Man has got to today have led us to the far less concrete coverall term.

The current waves of innovation seem lacking in their influence. I don’t believe we are living in the Self-Driving Epoch or the AI Age.  But I do believe we are moving into a new era – once again defined by a definitive and revolutionary material.

I don’t know what that material will be called, let alone branded, but I know how to describe it.  Our planet was once the gift that kept on giving but has now become more of a Pandora’s Box.  Fire that kept us warm when we were cave dwellers now fuels runaway Global Warming. Penicillin, the miracle cure, is now creating hospital superbugs. 

So I believe that this era will be defined by a range of technologies that aim to reduce, repair or eradicate our impact on the planet. Some obvious, and some less so:

  • Clean Power, such as renewables (solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, and wind), clean coal, carbon capture and sequestration, smart-grid and metering technologies, energy-storage solutions, energy efficiency, and waste-to-energy opportunities
  • Clean Transport, such as clean vehicles, electric vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery), fuel cells, batteries, low drag surfaces or ‘Shark Skin’
  • Clean Buildings and infrastructure, such as automation, HVAC, windows, insulation, home energy management, appliances, and LED lighting
  • Clean Surfaces, such as antimicrobial surfaces from surgical instruments to manufacturing facilities, cleaning products and infection prevention compounds
  • Clean Foods, such as Non-GMO but resistant strains, food preparation and storage technologies, portable food testing technologies for allergies and bacteria.
  • Clean Water, or Blue Tech such as wastewater treatment and desalination/membranes.

The list is far from complete. But it illustrates how material science in conjunction with other disciplines is seeking radical new solutions to this planet’s needs.

I believe that from this list will emerge several era defining brands to rival those titanic brands of today (Apple, Google, and others that spring to mind). Brands that indeed have the power to change minds, beliefs, behaviors, history. Brands that will make an indelible difference to man.

It would be a great irony if the brand of this new ‘Clean Materials’ era was indeed man’s only new mark on this world.

Radiohead. The Brand

By Paul Newman, Partner – CCO

What’s sort of cool about our CO OP motto is not only are we dedicated to making brands work, we seek brands that are already working for inspiration. So here’s one that works bloody well! (well for me anyway) Radiohead. Yes, Radiohead. Bands are brands, too.

At CO OP, we always feel there should be an underlying reason or philosophy at the heart of a brand for it to be unique and memorable and successful, and all those other things a brand needs to be. So “Radiohead” the name was taken from a Talking Heads song… That’s a good enough reason for me because they’re my favorite band/brand in the whole wide world! And, they’ve just been inducted into the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame. (apparently they couldn’t give a rats arse about this hahaha!)

As you can probably tell I’m a bit Radiohead myself. As Thom apparently once said, “It’s easier being miserable. Being Happy is tougher… And cooler.” But for all my sarcasm, these boys are incredibly gifted and talented. I have to admit, i was a bit of a late Radiohead starter. Creep, at the time felt like another grudge band song and i never really liked it that much until i heard them play it live last year and then i really got it. But for me it was from “The Bends” on that they have continually kept me captivated, intrigued, gobsmacked, happy, sad and loyal – all the things a good brand should do for you. So why Radiohead then? What is it that makes them work?

Radiohead, the brand constantly continues to explore and push for what it believes in. Its humanity. It’s music. it’s responsibility. Setting inspiring standards in the volatile and ugly  industry it plays within. A brand that truly is comfortable being itself and has memorable long lasting qualities that are never compromised. There are many good band brands, but for me none have hit the creative touchpoints and get emotive juices going like Radiohead, the brand.


Radiohead Brand Platform
So for all of you who know nothing about them, here is a (brand) introduction:

WhatWorks for Nicholas King

Nicholas King is Principal with SunCal, one of the largest private developers in the United States.  Over his 25-year career, he has led large-scale complex developments around the world, working with top architects and designers.  His current work includes the Herzog & De Meuron-designed 6AM project in Los Angeles’ Arts District, the largest urban redevelopment site in the city.

Q: What trends are you seeing in real estate development that you believe are creating better places?

There is so much exciting work happening all over the world.  Developers are always trying to create better places, but it sometimes takes time to see if they have been successful – particularly in complex urban settings.  For example, the Barbican Estate in London was developed in the 60’s and 70’s on a site destroyed by bombing during the war.  For many years it was vilified as a brutalist project that didn’t relate to the city around it.  It’s only recently that it has begun to come into its own and to be appreciated as a dense modern urban community.  In a US example of post-war housing, I’ve seen the desire on the part of Housing Authorities – in Boston, for example – to replace aging affordable housing estates, and a willingness to work pragmatically with developers to create new communities on those sites. The goal is to integrate affordable with market-rate housing with no visible distinction between the two.  This seems far more promising for sustainable places than the old income-segregated approach.  I’m also very excited by the potential of CLT (cross laminated timber) as a construction material, not only because it’s a renewable resource, but also because I’m interested in how buildings can have a positive impact on our health.

Q: Is development more of a science or an art?

Development doesn’t move along a scale with art at one extreme and science at the other: it’s a complex, ever-changing and deal-specific relationship between the two.  The challenge is achieving an effective marriage and balance.  Whether you’re more inclined as an individual towards the qualitative or the quantitative, the common thread that I see – and love – in this business is the optimism, passion and drive to create something of value. 

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I’m driven by the desire to contribute to making our built environments great for people, like so many of my peers.  When that drives you, you are never short of inspiration.  For those who like to reference history, there is so much that man has built, or tried to build in the past that is still relevant to our needs now.  I pay a lot of attention to what’s happening today across the world because there is amazing talent at work everywhere and we like to work with the best people in many fields.  And yet all developers need to be part futurist also, particularly when it takes us many years to deliver something to the market.  Our relationships to work, the workplace, the family unit, technology, mobility, our environment and so on, are undergoing rapid change and we need to stay ahead of the curve.

Q: What place have you visited recently that is doing something truly distinctive?

In the Arts District of Los Angeles today we are seeing so many exciting, transformational things happening, from grass roots arts activities, to new development projects both large and small, to significant new infrastructure such as the Sixth Street Viaduct.  At our 6AM project, Herzog & De Meuron have worked with us to create a phenomenal experience – something that goes well beyond the norm in terms of its contribution to the rebirth of downtown Los Angeles, as well as its contribution to enabling the Arts District to reach its full potential.

Q: What brand do you love and why?

Aman.  An enormous amount of creative energy by wonderful architects like Kerry Hill and Ed Tuttle goes in to making those places.  I understand and can appreciate the phenomenal focus and teamwork that goes in to making each one.  The guest arrives and it’s such a wonderfully serene experience because everything is perfect.  They make it all look so easy!   

Q: What are you reading or listening to currently?

I grew up at a time when the only music you could listen to was on the radio or in the local record shop.  That’s fine if you live in London or New York, but I was living in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia where choice was limited! So I always seem to be going back to find music that wasn’t part of where I was, but was part of where I was from – which is the U.K..  This week I am having an encounter with Budgie, an amazing Welsh band from the early 70’s.

Q: What is your favorite color?

Whatever color my wife is wearing at the time.

Marrakesh: City of Hustle and Havens

This pink-walled maze glows with a frenetic energy that makes NYC seem lazy. Outside in the streets, getting lost is inevitable, goods spill from every corner, and negotiating is the norm. Behind the walls, inner courtyards and gardens provide quiet spaces of calm. The synergistic relationship between what’s happening outside and what happens inside makes Marrakesh work.

The center of the hustle is Jemma el-Fnaa–the main square and market place in the center of medina–frequented by both tourists and locals alike. Rows of fresh juice stands, tall mounds of spiced nuts, smoking grills covered in kebobs, henna artists, snake-charmers, storytellers, Berber musicians: here you’ll be well fed and always entertained. And while the offerings are eclectic, there is a shared sense of energy, culture and community that is impossible to deny.

Radiating out from the square is a network of souks: think commerce on crazy pills. Stalls covered in rich colors, patterned textiles, illuminated lanterns. Selling the new and the old, the authentic and the manufactured–but always selling. A place designed for both freedom to wander, and the intent to buy.

All of this merchandise madness happens facing out, but turn inside or up, and you’ll find quiet spaces of chill. Step through a wooden doorway, down a narrow path and suddenly it’s calm. The lush green courtyard of restaurant Le Jardin, the open-air rooftop cafe at Nomad, spaces that serve as the antidote.

Marrakesh is a place that intuitively understands what people need–communal experiences and individual moments, highs and lows, action and rest, spaces to do and spaces to be.