Small business: Brand experts rework their firm

By Gill South

Leading strategy company plans to expand, while hunting for new creative partners to develop diverse thinking.

Brian Richards and Julian Smith are leading change at top brand strategist company BRR.  Photo / Brett Phibbs
Brian Richards and Julian Smith are leading change at top brand strategist company BRR. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It is a time of change for BRR, a leading New Zealand brand strategy company, which started as the Brian Richards consultancy in 1993 and was incorporated in 1999 as BRR.

It now has a strategy, design and digital offering with 20 staff and an average turnover of $3 million to $5 million for the past five years.

Owned by Brian and Brigitte Richards and Julian Smith, Brian Richards is in the process of transferring ownership to the younger people in the business led by Smith. "As the elder statesman I will be free to do other things," Richards says.

Richards has contributed to NZ Trade & Enterprise's Better by Design programme over the past seven years and continues to lead a coaching team in BBD process and practice.

The BRR team of strategists, writers, designers and digital developers look to bring diverse thinkers to a project, "workshopping" ideas with clients using a technique called Design Thinking.

"The key is to think widely with a diverse team and then very specifically about a brand or a project," says Richards.

The consultancy's most recent success has been its project for the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute, which was voted by "Brand New" - one of the global authorities on corporate brands - as one of the top 12 international projects of 2012.

Since 1999, BRR has created and developed world-leading brands for New Zealand companies looking to grow their international competitiveness.

"Orca, ZiwiPeak and Icebreaker are all companies that worked closely with BRR at their inception to develop the brand and the story of the company," says Smith.

Other BRR clients include local startups Pushpay and Teknique, as well as larger companies such as Turners & Growers, agritech company Simcro and Vogel's Cereal. The consultancy, which works internationally with clients such as Haworth Australia, the global manufacturer of office furniture, and Swiss concrete and aggregates company Holcim, also enjoys working with small to medium size businesses.

"Around 40-50 per cent of what we are doing right now is startups. Four or five people on the North Shore but with world leading technology, that's what we love," says Richards.

The founder, who trained as an accountant and studied business at INSEAD in France, believes in the bottom-line performance of brands.

Since joining BRR from his role as global marketing director at Orca in 2006, Smith has developed the social media expertise side of the business. BRR recently created a new social media platform for Nikon New Zealand.

New technologies, smartphones and mobile devices of all kinds require ongoing content development and stewardship, says Smith.

The company also works with industries and regions, and is currently helping the avocado industry.

"We bring industries together - a lot of them don't collaborate that well," says Richards.

The founder will exit the business in three to five years.

"We are looking for other partners in the team. The key thing we want is a diversity of thinking. We need a creative lead, someone who comes in who has a great creative mindset and can balance us."

Meanwhile, Smith is looking at expanding the company. "Great" brands should receive at least a 20 to 30 per cent premium in the category they trade in, say the two directors.

"New Zealand has a great deal of intellectual property that can appeal to the world. Our belief is 80 per cent of it is poorly storied, packaged and delivered into the market and does not achieve the premium it deserves," Smith said.

Richards, meanwhile, would like to see more made of companies with a Maori heritage.

Top tip
Think about your brand from the outside in. Create a set of four or five non-generic values for your brand.

Biggest business achievement: Rebranding Holcim, a company three times the size of Fonterra.

- NZ Herald

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