Oranges and Apples

Some of the BC team were fortunate enough to attend the

latest AGDA NSW talk last week by Damian Borchok, CEO Interbrand Australia and New Zealand. A full house clearly filled with Sydney’s design industry leaders expectant to hear how arguably one of the regions most progressive studio’s is run.

It proved both insightful and comforting to note how many of our own policies align as he talked through 9 key principles for running a successful studio. We thought we’d share a couple of the key ones with you. 

Principle #5 was around current best practices that challenge the status quo for competitive advantage. Not just for design but for ‘designing’ better businesses.

Depending on the way you look at it, today is a scary or exhilarating time for companies and brands. On the one hand you’ve got old business models that are slow to change or adapt to opportunities and we’re seeing many cases of mergers, take overs and bankruptcy. On the other hand there’s the opportunity to develop something truly unique, powerful and fluid that can adapt or deliver to the ever increasing and changing demands of the consumer. Businesses with safe, familiar and commoditised offers that blend in to their competitive environment vs extraordinary potential, extraordinary brands and extraordinary financial returns that operate on a whole different level, across categories or indeed defining new categories.


One example that Damian offered for instance, was if you were selling orange juice, you’d probably look at your competitors and develop a very similar looking pack – same size pack, translucent (and therefore orange colour), have a picture of an orange and maybe a glass or juice and your logo on the top. But why? You need to stand for something and be totally single minded about it. In the industry we’ve seen it a million times when great concepts go into testing they get sanitized to an incredible degree because the research group confirm that is what consumers expect to see (its effectively looking back not forward) so it doesn’t open doors to what might be, because consumers don’t know until you show them (sometimes they don’t even realize how profound the change is when you do show them). For a brand owner/manager it takes clarity, commitment and bravery but what if your juice had none of those attributes it just had one single point of difference and a powerful brand, indeed the whole company from end-to-end were built around it, inviting a very different ‘tribe’ to belong, to trial, to imagine or escape the norm and stand out?? I don’t like using Apple as they’ve become such a cliche but they are the benchmark example of this strategy right now.

When a brand authentically stands for something – it’s powerful and believable. And you build a single minded proposition into everything about the brand from the staff you hire, the manufacturing or service setup to the more visible brand marketing. And everything is qualified against if it aligns with this proposition??

Principle #6 was concerned with building a team of the best ‘big talent’ and of course how to manage the friction that often occurs when a number of big egos and strong voices are on the same team. Focussing on the big talent, Damian noted that people in any business are the power. You have to have top people on your bench. It makes going in to pitch, to present, to lead is much easier. Knowing they are committed, visionary and got your back. It allows you to step back and let them do what they do best and what follows are both surprising and brilliant results. Having a great business model = great work = sustains great people.

In summing up: the key takeout to running a successful studio and doing extraordinary work was:
Decide what you want to be, Find talent to bring it to life, Get brilliant at getting work, Make sure nothing gets in the way and don’t stop!

Food for thought.
Jeremy Tombs, Design Director