For Dow Goodfolk’s Managing Director Annie Dow and Creative Director Donna McCort, the strength of a strategy lies in empathetically reading and understanding the end user, and telling a standout story.
What does ‘strategy’ mean at your agency?
Donna McCort: It’s definitely not our favourite word because it’s so blurry – it means different things to people in different business and marketing areas. But in our world, strategy’s about brand positioning. It’s the process of finding out what your story is. It’s pretty incredible how many businesses can’t articulate what they stand for and what their difference is. And yet, it’s arguably the most important piece of the puzzle.
Annie Dow: And this is where the rubber hits the road, really. Some clients come to us with their strategy and it’s not distinctive and unclear, saying most of the same things using the same words every other competitor uses. It’s our job as an agency partner
to help them refine this and highlight what their difference is. What’s your brand position? At Dow Goodfolk, we really do stick to delivering creative output that strategically aligns to the brand.
How has Dow Goodfolk’s approach to brand strategy changed in the 25-plus years you’ve been in business?
Annie: I’m not sure if it’s fundamentally changed, but I think what has changed are the channels through which this brand strategy and output is delivered. These days, we find clients get banged around the head so much about needing to have better optimisation, a better digital strategy, to reach more people, to have influencers, to have a social media strategy. I’m not disagreeing with all of that, but I’ve seen clients wasting money going round in circles implementing on all these platforms, but with an unfit brand that isn’t really saying the right things.
How involved in developing a brand strategy should agency partners be?
Donna: Our clients are best served when they include us in developing their strategy – for two reasons. Firstly, an outside-view-in lens is incredibly helpful. Often, working internally, assumptions are just too close to home and an outside perspective gives a perspective that’s closer to the consumer, who doesn’t know you. Secondly, a design agency always has execution in mind, which helps keep the strategy practical. You don’t want a story that can’t be translated visually in a powerful way.
Annie: I think that’s where strategy gets very confused, because businesses use it as sort of an internal thing, which is fine, but brands live and breathe externally, and they tend to forget that it’s the end user we’re doing this for. Often what we find is that when a business develops a strategy, they don’t think of the end customer as much, but rather top-line business strategy, so for us as a partner, our positioning or strategy is all about understanding the end customer. If we can get that as tight, authentic and distinct as we can, then we’ll deliver customers – and this must inform our strategy.
Is this approach working well for your clients?
Donna: Yes! A client we’ve recently partnered with is Go Good, an
e-commerce business who are makers of protein powders. From the very beginning of our relationship, the young business owner understood that brand was a crucial piece of the puzzle for his business. Go Good was all about grass-fed, organic produce, sustainable packaging and so on. The trouble was that his core competitors were ethical in the same way he was. He tasked us with finding the insights that really matter and set his brand apart.
While coming to the positioning, ‘Get real nutrition’, we discovered that his customers wanted to live the party lifestyle yet perform well at work, so we positioned the brand in terms of getting real about nutrition in your lifestyle. The brand positioning became: ‘We don’t live in a monastery, and we bet you don’t either’, setting Go Good apart from its competitors who were taking a holier-than-thou approach. Since relaunch, Go Good has had incredible results, tripling sales very quickly for one. And being approached for brand alliances as well.
Another business we’ve changed by delivering a stronger brand story is Humphreys Landscaping. They already had some strong things in place in terms of their brand story, but the main thing we uncovered for them to become more distinctive in their market was to shift away from focusing too much on the functional aspects of the business. We helped them transition their story to an emotional one with the ‘Garden Beautiful’ positioning. The story behind it is ‘Having a beautiful garden will give you a beautiful life’.
Nicely, this also happens to be reflective of the type of caring and respectful business they run. The marketing was so successful they had to stop it because they got too many enquires and couldn’t keep up!
Do you think as women you bring anything different to the conversation for your clients?
Donna: I think woman are more empathetic, intuitive and naturally a bit better at reading people, which helps when we’re interviewing current and potential customers for the businesses we’re working for. I’m not saying men don’t have these traits and abilities, but I think women are particularly good at them, which really helps in terms of uncovering the nuggets that can take a business forward.
For more on how Dow Goodfolk can help better position your brand, visit dowgoodfolk.co.nz