We’ve been making a fair bit of noise around our impending move to the Carriageworks, Swindon’s newest workspace development, so I thought it was a good time to elaborate on what’s driving change for us.
The move heralds a significant shift in our thinking and own brand positioning, which is somewhat ironic. It also happens to coincide nicely with our 10-year anniversary, so it's great timing too.
Change of Strategy.
For much of those ten years, we've been something of a mixed-grill agency, serving up all kinds of stuff with a service menu wider than a sumo wrestlers backside. The team’s worked hard, produced some great, even award-winning work along the way, and we've developed some great relationships too. But that’s only half the story.
You see the frustration of the agency buffet, we learned, is that whilst we attracted a lot of hungry clients and work, sadly much of it wasn’t suitable, or fulfilling. All too often the lean budgets involved barely covered the sweat and effort, let alone the actual quality work we were doing. Sure you can lead an unhealthy life, turn a blind eye, live with the bittersweet, but eventually, the indigestion becomes too much, and nobody likes what follows!
Perhaps when we started it was less of an issue, our ideas and appreciation have evolved, and experience is a factor too, but also the industry has changed a lot in that time. The base of the agency pyramid is continually spreading as ever more small businesses, and freelancers take up the ‘yes we do that' mantle for inexperienced clients who tend to look for low-cost volume or quick wins over quality and substance (ask Leeds United). It’s not a satisfying way for anyone to build a sustainable business long term. You may have read my recent article ‘Learning to Say No’ www.linkedin.com/pulse/learning-say-nick-prescott/
I'm in danger of going off track so will talk more about industry change another time.
To cut a long story short, towards the back half of last year we made the bold decision to change our strategy and essentially reinvent ourselves. It's been exciting and surprisingly easier than we thought it would be.
In truth, we were already doing a lot of the brand design and strategic work we are focusing on now, so it’s not been a massive shift, but the step-change in our mentality and the effect on the business has been dramatic. It’s like we’ve gone from League 2 to the Championship overnight – with our sights firmly set on promotion again.
The difference now is that we’re only doing the stuff that we enjoy, and unsurprisingly it's the work we're best at. The pedigree, experience and skills we have in our team are perfectly tuned to the projects we're winning, and it’s obvious when you see it all fall into place (ahh, the wonders of hindsight).
“RIP big teams, rulebooks, and boring meetings - ours is a brave new world free of the mundane.”
We’re now starting to shape everything we do around something we call Brand Realisation. That’s another, long article in itself, but the principals of it involve applying insight, strategy and creative to businesses transformation. I hope that doesn’t sound too ‘agency speak’ because the magic’s actually in its simplicity.
The results we’re getting now are excellent (they were never poor), but the increased enjoyment of doing only what we love is the most rewarding bit. Sure, it took some balls to do what we did ‘brave dawg', but when you have the chance to change your destiny, you have to go for it. “Better to try and fail than fail to try” (I think Socrates said that… or maybe not, he was a hell of a player though).
So in summary:
Do only what you’re best at and love doing, do less but do it better. Keep it simple. Own your value. Anything else is best left for others to endure and hopefully learn from.
The Carriageworks in Swindon.
Our growing needs and ambitions didn’t stop at re-shaping what we do, or how we do it. New Bravedog demanded more, a shift in culture yes, but beyond that a new environment, somewhere that would inspire and allow us to flourish with intent.
Naturally, we did consider moving to Bath, or even Bristol as the creative scene there is undoubtedly a draw, but Swindon is our home, and it’s changing. Finding talented people here has been tricky, and most of our clients in London think Swindon’s a village, so it's not been easy educating them either. In fact, altering perception is a big part of what we do for our client brands, so we’re well placed to influence and boost Swindon's creative status. It ranks highly in many of the UK’s economic and industry polls so it’s not a huge task and the right people are now working hard to elevate ‘Brand Swindon’.
Where better to re-position Bravedog than a place known for its craft and creativity, forged by the great Brunel himself as a lasting monument to the industry that first connected people and places? Sure, the Carriageworks is steeped in railway heritage, but it's its history in design and making things that appeal to us. That and the fact that it’s already attracting acclaim for its architecture and responsible development. Half-derelict sheds have been carefully transformed into a modern, sustainable mixed office environment that affords the kind of innovative workspace and comfort you wouldn’t expect in Swindon's heritage quarter.
No doubts the Carriageworks will attract other agencies and likeminded creative people with whom we can share ideas, knowledge and the odd beer too. We love the thought of being central to a thriving and energetic community, with lots of scope for collaboration, networking and socials.
Being Part of It
Seeing the build progress since the early conversations with the team from Forward Swindon has been fantastic, we feel part of it. Indeed, over many months of site visits, photo sessions, video shoots we've become fully immersed in the whole project on many different levels. We were pleased and excited to be appointed to design and develop the branding for our new home too. The guys have done an amazing job and all will be revealed soon.
Matt, Bravedog’s CD has had a big influence on the move and location, he and the creative team draw inspiration from their working environment, so it needed to be absolutely right. Doubtless, they will fill the new studio with all sorts of essential ‘designer’ stuff, like table football, a coffee bar and beer chiller!
Fantastically, while exploring content for our #countdowntocarrigeworks social campaign, Matt learned that four generations of his family have worked in the Carrigeworks in different capacities. With a Rogers legacy spanning over 150 years, it's a sweet irony that he'll continue that tradition (preferably not wearing safety boots).
A Metaphor for Evolution
And so the Carrigeworks development in the Great Western Works heralds a new dawn for Bravdog and Swindon. It’s an almost perfect metaphor for our own evolution, echoing where we’ve come from and where we are now going. For us, it epitomises ambition and creativity but also honours the past, the industry and heritage that shaped it - truly inspiring.
Our future in our new home is exciting, and we fully intend to make the most of it.