This is a branding interview I gave back in 2016 as part of a Marketing research project. I think some of the questions are useful for any business wanting to re-evaluate their branding and positioning.
Please introduce yourself and what your company does.
I’m Andy Fuller, designer and founder of Designbull. We help tech start-up companies and business consultants clarify their business brand through roadmapping, logo design, branding and website design.
How many people do you employ?
Two and a freelancer.
How competitive is your industry?
It has been competitive, there are over a hundred website and graphic design agencies listed in my local area. But I worry less about competitors now that I’ve positioned the company on providing value, rather than price – and focus specifically on our core services that we specialise in: Roadmapping, Brand Strategy, Logo identity and website UI design.
How would you describe your unique qualities?
The feedback we get from our clients is that they do like the quality and the professionalism of our work over other competitors. We offer much more than graphic design – and we’re competitive in what we offer. We’ve been approached by clients a few times to help take over a spiralling web or brand project. Our style is varied – forward-facing, modern, agile design. but leans more . . So yeah, it’s the quality of work and the professionalism, and a bit on cost as well.
Do you have a group of target customers?
I help tech and consultant start-ups firms we work with – and focus specifically on our core services that we specialise in: Roadmapping, Brand Strategy, Logo identity and website UI design.
We recently updated our website and positioned us toward the tech and consultant start-ups firms we work with. Over the years we’ve done a lot of work for these types of companies, setting up online businesses that need to have a front-facing, modern, technology minded front to their company.
And how did you decide that they were the target audience?
Organically growing and doing the type of work over the years, the visual side of the portfolio the work brings those types of clients in. So, to focus even more what we’re working at is presenting just the types of clients we want to work with. So the projects we’ve got at the moment are branding and web app. One of our clients (name removed), that’s a sort of perfect target market. They’re a small co., but they’re growing and they want to have modern technology and a good brand so they can get better clients they work with, big corporates.
And talk to me about your brand?
The brand came about really just a name was really more focused on myself and a: it was memorable, it was a play on words. Other design agencies come up with sort of complicated speak, get straight to the point, make it really simple. But also the name has connotations to the history of branding, farming. So there’re little thoughts you’re trying to put into people’s minds.
So it’s a play, it’s a bit of upfront and cutting through the bullshit, very clear.
Summary: When you’re coming up with the brand message, seems like you looked at your competitors and you realised that so many of them using jargon. Yeah, I suppose they all come across as chin stroking, intelligent design type people, we’re really cool, like, design intellect.
And you wanted to differentiate yourself from that, is that right?
Yeah, obviously we do the same thing, the name sort of makes it more simple, more approachable, rather than expensive agency.
So that’s the message you want to give?
Well that’s where it started off from , I mean, you know, I always had concerns about the name, but, hmm… I think perception wise for clients and customers, it’s only a small part I think, It’s obviously the first impression, people question, “what does it mean?” They want to find out what it means. So rather than just the obvious, logo design.com.
Do you think it catches their attention?
Yeah, and it gets the right types of clients. They like the simple designs, and the logo and the name are very simple, thoughtful, just thinking behind it. So it makes them think.
Ok, so, that kind of I guess helps you communicate with your clients? Yeah, maybe they’re at a stage where they’re confused, mixed messages in their branding, or they’re new co, they have to set the vision of what they want and they come across my site my identity through referrals or my identity and then they see simplicity. So yeah, most people said “oh yeah, I get it [the name]”.
So obviously it’s a certain type of people, I imagine top corporate don’t get it.
Yeah, so, it’s more of a secondary thing. Once people get to know me the clients know me, it’s actually me. The negative side, sometimes people think my name is …[brand name]. (laughs). That’s mainly from sales calls, they think that my company name after me. But that’s not a bad thing.
You said you recently updated your website. What made you take that step to change your website?
The website initially said “I do logo design and a bit of website design” So that’s originally was great, when starting up years ago. So you get someone in they need a logo design, mainly new companies and then after that they get a business card, stationery, and a website, and the rest of the marketing materials. But then over the course of the year, realised through my mentor that I can offer briefing.
Most clients don’t know what they want. We offer more, discovery sessions. Basically helping then formulate a clear brief which is part of the marketing plan that they have. So we change the website to focus more on these. So it’s like a process really, road plan for a new start up company, so we kind of hold their hand through the process of naming, maybe, strategy, so it’s part of the brand. Once that’s done then we look at the logo, etc. and then the website or the mobile app. So there are four stages or four service offering. And that worked really well.
An existing client saw my website and said “I didn’t know you did all this.” So that’s opened up the work.
So you realised that there was a need for that type of process?
Yeah, again with my mentor, they did the research because we work in very similar industries. They had the same experience, they offer this road mapping session. It’s a very useful tool. Nobody else really offers this in the local area, so it’s a novel thing, it’s an interesting thing. It’s basically a long briefing session but we get paid for it, rather than we sit down with the client for two hours giving free advice. We’re actually charging for it, but they’re receiving value in having clear decisions and a road map for what they want. So, that’s different. Everyone else does the template. Big agencies do something similar, but more discovery rather than road mapping. This unique service is you say is new and different in the local area.
As well as this, do you think that your brand and brand message is helping you differentiate?
Yeah, I don’t think I’m using it as much as I should be doing. Maybe because of the fear, the main issue that’s holding me back, it’s the fear of using it to the most.
Trying and testing stuff out. So for example, like, putting up new services and moving forward with clear different services, which is what we do. It took a while, firstly, should I be doing this?
Am I good enough? So, fear of thinking that you can’t offer this but you can. So it’s overcoming fear mainly. And realising when you get feedback from, not just from clients but from other people “you’re actually quite good”. So it gives the confidence to clarify and use the messaging that we have more. This ‘s what I’m looking at, making more of that, and not being afraid of not using it. People might say, “oh what does it mean? “
Your brand message you mean?
Yeah, (the tagline removed). I think I should be using more of that to clarify and differentiate. Just to make it clear. So these are the messages, so we stand out, again it’s going back to standing out from the others and positioning ourselves to stay this who we are this is what we do.
Rather that vaguely saying, We’re (name), we do a bit of this and a bit of that, just this is it this what we do, rather than hiding and not using it. Often having a back story and personality to the name. Is it the message you want to give, (tagline removed)? I think so, I hope so, I don’t know. What people think is the worry. But it’s always been there and it worked, so yeah it’s a hard thing to pin down I think. But it conveys an image to me and the business. They know that we get the job done, we’re quick. That’s the message that gets through.
The existing clients know that they can rely on us. You know it’s straight to the point and clear. So part of the services what we’re trying to offer is clarity. Yeah, I’m still working on it.
When you were coming up with your positioning strategy, did you look at your customers and what they want?
No, not really. There’s a little bit of testing out and see what sticks. It’s actually about the work rather than the name or the messaging. The name (removed) is just like a little stamp, watermark on the picture. They look at the work that’s been produced, obviously the quality and the style. Especially in visual communications business, this is what we are mainly. It’s all about the work.
I’ve always wondered about what would happen if changed the name, but worried about having to start again and coming up with a new name. But looking other companies who have done it. Companies come to us to refresh or to change their names, maybe because the market has changed. So, at the moment it’s ok and I am happy with it. So there’s that funny feeling about it at the back of my mind.
So you’re not quite sure?
Yeah. So part of my problem with the messaging is that it’s there but not being advertised. So, I’m not actually communicating the messaging. If that makes sense? And that’s because? The time and cost of it. Making the decision and just doing it. We’ve done it, it’s always evolving as well. Always tweaking and making changes. And that makes a real difference. And again going back to the feedback of how amazing the website is, I think it’s because constantly twiddling with it to update it.
So, I suppose that’s always keeping ahead of the technology and techniques. So it’s always being able to offer a lot of services within branding and digital. So it’s a lot of services we offer and I’m trying to put everything together in a more cohesive stuff that can be available and expanding these offers to clients, and on the website it’s about making it clear and also with my larger team which is advertised again on the site, we started to compete with bigger agencies rather than as a freelancer and a one band man. So that messaging rather that just the name. Name is a name, now the messaging has changed, now, it’s not I am but we are.
Do you do any research on your customers?
A little bit, using segmenting in our mailing lists of subscribers to the newsletter. I don’t do any advertising, and I don’t think I will. The best way to use money is to put relevant information that’s useful and fits to what we provide, so we talk about what’s brand and how to design a logo. It’s sharing useful information and putting that out every month. It takes up a lot of time but it’s only time rather than the cost of paying advertising and it’s doable. And also that helps keep in contact with existing clients.
Helps with Networking?
Yeah, the messaging is making it clearer to existing clients and to subscribers.
Do you think that there’s a match between what you offer and what customers want?
Yes and no. It’s a difficult one. What we do is to teach potential prospects how we do things they assume that they need a logo. So you have to teach them to educate them this is how you do it. If you really want to invest in your business don’t get a cheap logo because it makes you look cheap. I don’t think we’re not where we want to be. We want to get bigger projects and now we changed our positioning and message to show that we’re a bigger agency that can cope with bigger things. Rather than offer a cheap logo design we can offer a more substantial service.