Annie Dow is the managing director of Dow Design.

Dow Design is now 21 years old. Can you tell me why you set up the business at that time?

My late husband Greg and I saw a gap in the New Zealand market for a boutique brand design business. Greg had an account service background and I had a design background and we saw that as a complementary match, covering the two key skills needed for a brand design business.

We grew quickly and established some key clients who've been with us for the entire ride. It's been a fantastic journey growing and evolving alongside them.

How has the company changed or adapted over the years?


The marketing industry has changed dramatically and we've really fought to stay ahead of the curve. For our clients and the agencies we work alongside, the changes have been even more profound. The internet has brought fast-paced communications channels like social media, the mobile web and mobile apps, which have all had a big impact on the way we design. But I think this has led to us producing some of our most innovative and creative work, too.

Something we do every five to seven years is employ an external strategic research partner to carry out market research for us. The scope of the research is to really rigorously examine our business, talk to business leaders to identify their challenges and look at international trends in marketing and design. The information we get from these research projects really informs our business on new opportunities and ways we can better our offering.

The most recent research led us to work on our own rebrand, which we're going to launch any day now, and we've also also adopted a content marketing strategy so we're 'walking our talk'.

Another thing I've done is brought in an advisory group to support us, and I've found that a really valuable way to work on the business rather than just in it.

There's no question we've found some of the shifts in the industry challenging, but I see that as an opportunity because it's meant we've had to look seriously at our offering and point of difference in the marketplace. This is what we do with our clients daily, and I think we'd be hypocrites if we weren't prepared to go under the microscope ourselves.

What factors do you think have contributed to your business' longevity?

We rigorously attend to our reputation, and as a service partner I think that's absolutely vital. No matter what industry our clients work in - the service sector, retail, FMCG, fashion or agriculture - we want to to deliver design that enables businesses to succeed in their markets. We take a lot of time to understand our clients issues and opportunities and we use design to be their problem solver.

We've grown and evolved alongside some of our key clients, sharing in their successes and nurturing sustainable, long term relationships. A number of our clients have worked with us for our entire 21 years and many have been with us for well over a decade.

What does the next phase of the business hold?

At present it does feel like we're a bit more short-term focused, because our clients face a world of flux themselves. I think that's even more reason to stick to our strengths, and so we're continually conveying the message that brand design is an ultimate driver of success in a fast moving and customer focused world.

We're looking to grow locally, going after the opportunities we identified in our research. We're also pitching to international clients on the back of recognition gained from some international awards. Most of our brand work is exported, and some reaches over 60 different markets so we're confident we have the abilities.