Why did you establish the business back in 1982?
Jeff – I wanted to build a business that was financially stable, and combine a high-quality standard of creative with quality of service. It was essential to me to have a business that delivers on its promises – being true problem-solvers and never letting people down.
Ultimately, people buy from people, so personally I wanted to operate a business of integrity, founded on mutually beneficial, sustainable relationships.
Tony – When I first started out, design and advertising agencies were full of people with massive egos who hid behind a screen of smoke and mirrors. These were maintained to hide the perceived complex creative process that enabled them to charge brands a small fortune.
We just wanted to be straightforward and transparent with the people we worked with. Not hiding behind jargon and trying to blind people with creative science, but being clear about our processes and service. Really focusing on their needs and producing sound creative solutions that delivered commercial results.
Who was your first client?
Jeff – Nottingham Educational Supplies (NES) was my first ever client. I began my business by working a couple of days a week for myself, whilst still working part-time for another agency in Nottingham. As the reputation of my work grew, I started working with other product managers in the team, and eventually grew the NES account enough to be able to work for myself full-time.
My next client, Carlsbro, was so successful it grew to be worth about 80% of my turnover – which was quite a risky position to be in having most of our eggs in one basket. My brother, Tony, joined the business in 1987 so we could further expand our client base and reduce our exposure. We were then able to take on another member of staff and bought our office on Fleeman Grove. By purchasing our own premises, it gave the business more stability and control of our overheads.
Tony – Speedo was our first big client, in terms of being a household name, and really gave us insight into how big brands operate and communicate across a varied spectrum of audiences.
What’s been a key highlight over the last 40 years?
Jeff – Winning the Ronseal account. It was extremely good for raising the profile of our business, being a strong, well-known brand. And the work we did with them over the years strengthened and grew their brand even further. We have great relationships with many of the team at Ronseal, still working with them today, even though they’ve moved on to pastures new.
It’s that kind of organic growth we love, based on loyal, long-lasting relationships with our clients. People remember our quality of design and service and continue to come back to us.
Tony – There’s so many really, and we’ve been privileged to work with some very talented people on some fantastic brands. For me, designing and creating full interactive visitor centres for E.ON Renewables and maintaining the account for over 22 years was very rewarding. Completely refreshing and launching the new Remeha brand in the UK and creating BT branded environments with full guidelines to enable roll out across their 100+ estate. All such different projects that made going to work not feel like work at all.
What do you think the future holds for the business?
Jeff – I want us to carry on doing what we’re doing – growing without compromising on our culture or client service. It’s working so well. I’d like to see us continue to acquire new accounts, working with like-minded people, who understand the value that we have to offer. Our work should never be commoditised, it should be value-based, built on partnerships with our clients, and less of a client-supplier, transactional relationship. At the end of the day, we work too many hours to not get pleasure out of the work we’re doing, and that starts with the people and clients we work with.
Tony – The role of brands and what they stand for is more important than ever. How they engage audiences and their impact on society and the planet is critical to their success. So I think that a business like ours, that can really help brands navigate this ever-changing world and appeal to the changing needs of the people within it, will always have a bright future.
What do you think the future holds for your industry?
Jeff – There is a lot more understanding of brand engagement in the world. Consumers have a greater understanding of buying into a brand, brand experience, product benefits, what brand stands for and whether they want to engage and be loyal. Telling brand stories has a very important future in a world so aware of what ‘brand’ means.
Tony – There is so much more choice today. People have a world of options at their fingertips. Audiences aren’t limited to what’s local or on the high-street, they have instant access to global competitors – the choices are infinite. Now our clients must stand out from the clamour and noise, to attract and retain the right customers. But it’s exciting, it’s a challenge. There’s a greater need for our skills than there ever has been.