21 Sep 2023

Q&A with our first ‘true’ client, Andrew King

Andrew King – corporate development director AG Barr, non-executive director at Edward Billington, and executive chairman at Elegantly Spirited Limited (STRYYK) – chats to Bravetalk about taking a punt on a start-up agency back in 1993, and why he’s kept close ties with bluemarlin ever since.

How did your relationship with bluemarlin begin? 

When I first met Andrew Eyles, bluemarlin founding partner along with Dave Hodgson] I was the brand manager for Daddies Tomato Ketchup, and I had always harboured entrepreneurial aspirations.

He and I chatted about our backgrounds and our mutual desire to venture out on our own. Andrew suggested I consider letting him take on Daddies Tomato Ketchup as his first solo endeavour. I agreed as I recognised the immense potential in the work he had done previously. His vision was revolutionary, centring on creating a playful character for ketchup; an unconventional idea given the dominance of established ketchup brands.

Drawing inspiration from my experience with HP Pasta Shapes, which featured characters like Postman Pat, Sonic the Hedgehog and various Disney icons in tomato sauce, we wondered if a similar concept could work for Daddies Tomato Ketchup. Andrew envisioned sleeving the product with Sonic the Hedgehog, a pioneering approach in the food industry at that time. It was a technically challenging task due to our uniquely shaped bottles, but Andrew’s ambition shone through.

This marked Andrew and Dave’s first solo project, essentially laying the foundation for bluemarlin. They continued to do work for us, including projects for HP. Our collaboration flourished, and that meeting marked the start of a fantastic journey of entrepreneurship.

Another pivotal project was Forces Sauces, dedicated to aiding wounded soldiers. Meeting Andrew, Dave and the individuals involved in the project reinforced the notion that it required the right partner to bring it to fruition – bluemarlin.

Coincidentally, I held a non-executive director position on the board of Billington’s and its subsidiary English Provender, known for producing various brands, including Very Lazy and an array of private-label products. This alignment of values and interests created a perfect partnership.

Forces Sauces, competing against well-established household brands, demanded innovation and disruption. bluemarlin’s designs were inspired, blending category indicators with a clear message that consumers were contributing to a greater good by choosing the product.

We knew the project was going to live and die on the strength of the design and messaging, rather than substantial marketing funds. I’m pleased to report that it thrived!

Andrew and Dave delight in ‘solving the unsolvable’, which always makes for exciting partnerships.

What is it about bluemarlin that sets it apart from other brand design agencies you have come across? 

I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Andrew and Dave, and our strong chemistry stems from our shared traits as entrepreneurs deeply committed to excellence and problem-solving. We relish tackling the seemingly insurmountable challenges that design and branding can overcome.

Often, we confront operational challenges posed by factories, for example, that prefer consistency. Or CEOs that shy away from taking risks. bluemarlin’s broad capabilities and extensive cross-sector experience always allows it to propose creative solutions. Andrew, Dave and their brilliant team constantly challenge preconceptions, drawing on their diverse expertise and historical successes.

Why is strong brand design so important for business growth? 

It’s crucial for several reasons. While some may perceive it as ‘icing on the cake’, it’s actually an integral part of a company’s DNA. Brand design serves as a visual and emotional anchor, conveying the essence of a business and its values to consumers. It establishes a strong identity, differentiates a brand from competitors and creates a lasting impression. When done right, it fosters trust, loyalty and engagement, driving growth and success. Cutting back on brand design can undermine a company’s ability to connect with its audience and thrive in a competitive market.

In the vast expanse of the supermarket, the challenge is to ensure your product doesn’t fade into obscurity. Standing out is the initial battle, as you have no more than one or two seconds to seize a consumer’s attention.

Design holds immense significance because it encapsulates your brand promise and demonstrates how you’ll address the consumer’s needs and problems. Brand affinity can only be established when they feel it resonates with their values and meets their needs better than other makes.

Even when there are economic challenges, maintaining a core budget for necessary design upgrades remains crucial for a brand’s resilience and success.

 ‘When bluemarlin presents its insights, it’s like receiving a treasure trove of possibilities.’

Why is having a solid, lasting relationship with a brand design agency so key for brand managers like yourself?

The role of a design agency in brand communication is pivotal. It communicates the essence and meaning of a brand proposition. It acts as the shorthand for what a brand represents. bluemarlin’s remarkable success and distinction as a great business is rooted in the team’s exceptional listening skills. They excel in discerning the core elements a brand design should embody, taking on the challenge to scrutinise and refine the brand’s core.

Their approach is marked by fair but at times robust questioning of the brief’s essence before diving into the design process. Rather than dictating what needs to be done, a good design agency thrives on receiving a well-structured brief that encourages critical examination.

Andrew and Dave’s formidable knowledge and strong characters further enhance this dynamic. They’re unafraid to challenge presuppositions at the outset of a project, prompting a more refined and developed brief.

When bluemarlin presents its insights, it’s like receiving a treasure trove of possibilities. The wealth of experience across various industries, materials and dimensions adds depth to the offerings. This wealth of options stimulates creative thinking and often results in multiple outstanding concepts, each with the potential to captivate and engage the audience. The collaborative process ensures that clients leave a session with a huge diversity of possibilities, fuelling creative exploration and keeping minds abuzz.