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Starting team for branding’s big league

Chris Chong

Red Cactus is a global agency working on global brands.

CEO Chris Chong and business partner Mike Pearce were working as senior designers at large firms when they had the vision for the speciality agency.

More than two decades on, Red Cactus works in international markets with some of the world’s most well-known brands including KFC and Wrigley’s. The agency does all KFC’s packaging in the United States and a portion of its below the line work.

This means understanding the US economy and market, and watching a lot of Donald Trump, Chong says. They do the same for their clients across Asia and the Pacific.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to sell products.” 

Global gaze

Working globally has given Red Cactus scope and experience, valuable skills they have brought to the NZ market, Chong says.

The agency has a presence across the US, China and ASEAN countries, and Australasia, three regions that require three mindsets.

“The great thing about New Zealand design is we really care, we’re passionate about what we do.”

The problem, he says, is that we’re stuck in our own backyard half the time.

Taking local craft and authenticity and applying that offshore works really well, Chong says. On the flipside, understanding global trends adds value to work in New Zealand. The main goal in any market, he says, is getting customers coming back for more.

“Our job is not just to surprise, delight and trial, it’s to get the repeat purchase.”

All in the team

Red Cactus’ consistent return customers are all down to their people, Chong says.

Forget agency processes and methodologies, he says, they’re all the same.

“I’m the first one to admit completely that it’s our team, we wouldn’t be successful without our team.

“After the team it’s the work you do, the clients you have, and the leadership you have within your organization.”

Red Cactus has 18 full-time staff covering all the skills needed in a branding and packaging agency. Chong says despite CEOs often saying or being told they need to create a workplace culture and environment, he doesn’t buy it and sees his role as facilitating one. 

Partner in vision

Having experience as an agency and knowing who to work with are rudimentary to Red Cactus.

“Branding and packaging can only do so much,” Chong says.

“If your product is not good it is not going to sell, if your product is really good then our design will support, enhance and sell it.”

Working in partnership with great clients and brands, such as KFC, Griffin’s, Nice’n’Natural, Eta, Goodman Fielder, Redseal, Charlie’s, RJ’s, and Wrigley’s – some of whom have been long-term clients as far back as 1999 – ensures the agency’s longevity too. 

Full speed ahead

An ongoing issue for agencies in packaging or retail is diminishing budgets, with large chunks going to social media.

Chong says neither clients or agencies, here or abroad, understand the depth of social media, and costing a social job is near-impossible.

Despite this, Chong believes the creative industry’s future is secure as people will always go to the supermarket to buy packaged goods.

Success going forward is down to adapting, being future-focused and thinking beyond what seems normal, he says.

“Our ultimate goal as a design agency is to connect our brands more with consumers, to make sure we go through our lives with brands that we trust and we believe in.”

As consumers themselves, he says agencies should know how to do that. 

Contact: Chris Chong, [email protected] 

  • This story is part of a content partnership with Red Cactus.

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