Transforming New Zealand SMEs for global markets – Milk & BLUNT

Even though New Zealand is a whopping 18,389 kilometres away from the UK, we share a connection that crosses this distance, seamlessly intertwining our narratives. 

However, for businesses with UK aspirations, amplifying a brand there presents its challenges. While technology has simplified many aspects of international business, the UK market remains vast and complex, with unique nuances that may only be fully grasped through local presence and experience.

Milk is a strategic brand agency, rooted in New Zealand and Australia, striving for the growth of both local businesses and international brands. Their key expertise lies in crafting brand strategies, distinctive brand identity systems, communications and campaigns. With nearly 20 years of experience, they are humbled by their diverse portfolio which crosses many industries and borders – from Australasia to Asia, the US, and the UK. They consider themselves not merely an agency but partners contributing to the growth journey of some of New Zealand’s notable companies.

Unleashing the potential of an established brand

Their most recent brand transformation was in collaboration with BLUNT Umbrellas, where they embarked on a journey to reframe how BLUNT is positioned, creating a new brand identity system, packaging, and merchandising experience for the global market, particularly the UK. 

The BLUNT Umbrella is an undeniably remarkable product, ingeniously designed by Greig Brebner, and the company was ready to further penetrate into new markets and achieve global growth targets. 

In New Zealand, BLUNT has gained considerable traction, achieving high market penetration even at a higher price point. The scenario was different overseas; both awareness and adoption was in need of a lift. To move forward, it was crucial to understand their challenges. What problem were they trying to solve?

Initially, the brief was to look into the crucial point of purchase, point of sale, and packaging experiences. However, as Ben Reid, the Founder and strategic lead at Milk, explains: “Once we started to delve into their world, we discovered a more significant opportunity. There was an abundant love for the BLUNT umbrella, but the brand needed that same love to match. BLUNT could feel there was an existing emotional connection to their audience, and they were ready to uncover what it was, and what it meant for them and their customers.” 

This informed a larger piece of research, with many interviews and workshops in which a curious insight was revealed, “every single consumer we talked to who owned a BLUNT, said, in these words, ‘I love my BLUNT’.” This is a unique show of love for a highly functional product.

More than just function

As they dug deeper, they found that owning a BLUNT isn’t just functional, it’s a sensorial experience. It’s not just about protection from the elements, it’s about how it looks and how it makes you look, how it makes you feel, it’s about the sound it makes when you slide it open, how the rain sounds on the canopy, it’s about the materiality and how it feels. 

This is how BLUNT and Milk arrived at the core brand idea of ‘Engineering Joy’. Engineering is the expertise that the BLUNT team brings – it’s their strength, and joy is how people feel when they experience it – it’s what people get by owning a BLUNT.

The brand idea is one of the most important parts of a creative strategy – it’s a creative idea that is built into every identity ingredient, every touchpoint, every experience of the brand.

Bringing ideas to life

Once a brand and creative strategy was set, the work shifted to the identity system. BLUNT were designing new products that extended them into other categories, so collaboration with Milk would help shift them to a wider lifestyle brand, beyond umbrellas. This meant changing the current umbrella-centric logo to something broader. 

The new brand idea, ‘Engineering Joy’ drove the following changes:

  • A new wordmark and ‘B’ symbol to connect deeply with the iconic curves of the umbrella and as a shorthand for the new design principles set with the BLUNT team – reduction, beauty, confidence, and joy. 
  • A new global custom typeface, ‘Blunt Sans’. Crafted to encapsulate the BLUNT design principles – bold, strong and refined. Offering a comprehensive type weight family, it allows for diverse conversations across different platforms. 
  • 3D generated renderings. Milk had the freedom to manipulate lighting, mood, and colour, allowing them to draw attention to the aesthetic value of their functional components. 
  • A key priority for BLUNT was to forgo all plastic, so together they created a design with a simpler, eco-friendly option – manufactured from a single piece of recyclable FSC certified core-flute, eliminating all glueing and plastic processes. 
  • Milk purposefully crafted the packaging to seamlessly integrate with their design for the ‘The Cloud’ merchandising system. Its shape derived from a rotated BLUNT ‘B’, echoing natural cloud-like forms. The modular design meant it could easily scale up and down to suit any retail environment, and cleverly house the additional packaging on its sides.

Fee Cortis, Head of Marketing for BLUNT, says: 

“The work undertaken with Milk to do a deep dive into who we are, why we exist in the world and how we want to show up was a true collaboration. We went deep together as one agency-client team to unearth our story, our whakapapa, our values, our purpose, and our why. This then translated into a new brand positioning and new brand identity which not only honours our past, but helps to set us up for future growth as we expand into new product categories and new global markets. The project also saw the development of new packaging and in-store furniture to ensure that we have a big, beautiful consistent brand both digitally and in the physical world. 

“The team at Milk showed immense respect, care and love to our brand as we went through this transition and the results are not only award winning and peer recognised within the design community, but give us the pride and confidence to put ourselves up on a global stage and take this humble Kiwi brand to the world and play amongst those brands we look to and admire.” 

Born from careful collaboration with Milk, this rebrand with its thoughtful tribute to BLUNT’s heritage, affords them not only pride and confidence but also supports their advancement on an international platform, aligning them with global benchmarks they respect. 

This partnership has been incredibly rewarding for Milk and is another example of how they continue to nurture and transform Kiwi brands – transformations that support businesses transcending borders to take on the world.

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