The tension of opposites: left and right brain thinking

Top: Brian Richards
Bottom: Earthwise packaging design

In 2006, NZ Marketing interviewed ‘long- term brand strategist’ Brian Richards, in his all white offices in Newmarket, for an article that presented the views of successful brand strategists on how to build brands. Eleven years later the company name has changed from Brian R Richards to Richards Partners but the white walls are still there, representing the blank slate where each Richards’ strategy begins.

In the intervening years, the library housing an unenviable myriad of strategy documents has grown much larger, and the building next door now houses Chrysalis, an innovation studio that has added greater firepower in the continual battle to transform the businesses of a number of local and global marketing clients.

“The work we get involved in is extremely diverse,” explains Richards. It operates across a number of different platforms. We’re not experts in every one of them but we have a view of how to capture a company’s soul.”

The curious minds at Richards Partners and Chrysalis delve for the powerful insights needed to establish where their clients are and where they need to go to fulfil their untapped potential. The process is a lengthy one, designed to help articulate a client’s journey with a clear strategic vision and a collaborative plan for how to achieve it.

“You need great design and great storytelling, all part of a whole suite we offer,’ says Richards. “We move from strategy to implementation, including storytelling, design, and visualisation. We build a huge set of toolboxes for clients so agencies in different countries can use those tools – graphic guidelines, tone of voice guidelines and so on.”

Richards is determined to provide world class work and believes that any New Zealand business doing more than $2 million worth of business has to be looking to sell offshore.

“All too often small, myopic companies fail to compete when they try to move offshore,” he says.

“There is so much good IP in NZ that is undervalued because it’s not properly storied, it’s not properly branded,” says Richards. Customers have to be constantly reminded of the fact that you have a good brand, you’ve got to keep in touch and you better be listening.”

Earthwise is an example cited by Richards. They specialise in household cleaning, body and baby care. Richards Partners worked closely with Earthwise on the initial pricing model and their initial marketing plan. The brand 4 years on has grown rapidly, the company winning a Deloitte’s Fast 50 award in its maiden year and now established in most Supermarkets throughout Australasia.

“We looked at the category with our strategic skills and said: ‘it’s too elite, too high brow, this product could sit at a lower price point’. We developed the econometric model and won the Deloitte Fast 50 award. More importantly, the brand is growing in 2500 supermarkets between here and Singapore.” 

Nuplex brand refresh

Richards Partners are good at working with complex clients with lots of stakeholders. The Nuplex brand-refresh involved dreaming up a name for a smart bit of chemistry, talking the company into an identity change, creating a toolbox and doing a beautiful design job. Six months later, a major resin company from Belgium took a shine to them and merged together to become one of the biggest resin companies in the world.

“Often good branding comes from an epiphany,” says Richards. It was he who helped Jeremy Moon launch Icebreaker. The key point of difference that Richards Partners created was ‘soft adventure’ and the story of participating in nature. Richards was there right at the beginning in working with Moon to get this positioning right which is still true to form many years on.

Another epiphany occurred when working with Fisher and Paykel Appliances. Changing the mind set of engineers manufacturing clever white boxes to becoming interested in food and family was a significant shift for them. 

The Richards Partners website is littered with success stories: Tear Fund’s Faith in Action, where the contemporary brand now connects to the very beliefs and values of its supporters, and spurs actions; NZKPG’s Love Kiwis 3-year strategy targeting segments already invested in health and wellness, and tapping into health trends; uncovering the essence of the Haydn & Rollett brand within the construction industry; a partnership with Counties Manukau Health developing an in-depth insight research programme of extensive interviews with Maori and Pacific smokers resulting in a successful peer- to-peer SnapChat programme; and many more. 

“It’s difficult to combine left and right brain thinking but that is what we have here. There are some great design firms in New Zealand and some great strategy people, but connecting the two together, successfully, is not easy to do. When you get this balance correct with real customer insights and well-informed design the results speak for themselves in the bottom line, we’ve seen plenty of case study proof over the years.

“We are told repeatedly in the many offshore markets we work in that our work is of global quality,” he says. “Our wish is always to work with clients with international ambitions no matter how small and help them stand out in their category on the world stage.” 

Contact: Brian Richards, [email protected], www.richards.partners 

  • This story is part of a content partnership with Richards Partners.

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