Annie Dow sits down with me to talk about her approach to brand strategy and why exceptional customer-driven storytelling needs to be at its heart.
Annie Dow has been in the brand design business for over 25 years, and is an advocate for using a brand’s positioning to help grow business. During her time as a business owner and Managing Director of the Dow Goodfolk Group, she has made it her mission to share with people the value of design to all businesses – especially when it comes to strategic brand positioning.
“If there’s one thing I have learnt over 25 years in this game it’s that your brand is one of the strongest assets on your balance sheet. I’m always out there talking to people about how I want to help contribute to stronger brands for New Zealand export – cohesive and unique brands,” Annie says.
Creating stronger brands Annie says is all about telling the story of a brand’s unique positioning in the market. Something she says Dow Goodfolk does well through its creative and emotive design offering.
It’s this emotive approach that informs Annie and her team’s approach to brand strategy. “For us it’s important that we get to the heart of a client’s brand story, the thing that doesn’t change, the roots of who they are and what they’re offering and promising people.”
The journey to the heart of a brand’s strategy Annie says is through the story that’s told to end customers, and that understanding the needs of these customers is essential in this whole process. She believes that this is something many brands struggle with – knowing who and what their customers are and want.
“In order for a strategy to be clearly defined, marketers must have the customer in mind. I get the sense that many businesses don’t think of the end customer so much. So for us, when it comes to positioning or strategy, if we are to get this as tight, authentic and distinct as we can, we must have the end customer in mind at all times,” she says.
When it comes to who is responsible for guiding this strategy, Annie says it’s very much a dual effort on the part of the business (client) and agency partner(s) delivering creative and media elements. Although, she is quick to point out that external agency partners who bring an outsider perspective do offer significant and unbiased value to the strategy debate.
“I think where strategy gets very confused is when it becomes an exclusively internal thing. Which is fine, but brands live and breathe externally. They tend to forget that it’s the end user that we’re doing this for, and not the internal business. So, every piece of strategy we work on is with this in mind. Very much where and with who is that service or product living.”
She feels that when it comes to the above, marketers are somewhat lost in the current market. “It’s sort of marketing 101. The rules of marketing haven’t changed. It’s just platforms that have changed around. And people get tripped up on that. If you’re still stuck by the guiding principles of marketing then I think you can win all the way. When it comes to strategy it’s about being very consistent with your message and very cohesive across your channels.
“When clients listen to us and we’ve created this brand heart for them, we actually outdo ourselves on work. We deliver the visual platform for them, and they go off and deliver it through their media channels, and they actually succeed and start to fly. And if we’ve done well, they don’t really need us again. Because it works.” Annie says.