At the tail end of 2010, when the UK economy was at it’s lowest ebb, we found ourselves in a place that we didn’t recognise any longer, the phone stopped ringing, our clients went quiet and we’d lost track of our vision. That’s when we realised that if we were going to continue in this industry then we needed to go away and rediscover what made Black Sheep the success that it previously was.
It’s been 6 months since we decided to go quiet and fall under the radar. Precious time which allowed us to take stock of what we achieved during Part One. It was kind of like, taking a sabbatical from the company to concentrate on finding out who we are now and where we want to be in the years ahead.
We looked at what was good and bad about our company and how to improve its offering. We revisited our early vision, of not being the biggest, but striving to be the best at whatever we do. It’s an ideal that continues to drive us on, but with a new twist ‘If we can’t do it to the best of our ability, we won’t do it at all’.
In building the brand through printed matter is where our strength had always been, but over time became diluted by a work mix that evolved as our staffing skill set did. We dabbled with interactive game design, 3D architectural visualisation and media buying amongst other things. All of which we successfully undertook, as they were extensions of our core branding service, but were always supplementary services that we offered, but never actively marketed. This quickly saw our focus become blurred as we headed down the ‘Full Service Agency’ route, where handling every aspect of a clients work became the driver rather than taking on projects what we were suited to.
Another ideal that we still hold true, is that we’ve always wanted our clients to choose us specifically for the type of work we produce and that they feel comfortable working with us, not just because we’ve got a name and have been tried and tested over the years. Now it’s ever more important, with so many small agency start-ups and design buyers increasingly more happy to cut their costs by using one-band companies and freelancers working out of their bedrooms.
So, we’re at the mid way point of 2011 and if we are to compete with our contemporaries and these new kids on the block, then we must differentiate our offering from them in every way. Otherwise, how can we expect a client to choose us, in a saturated market place, where anyone with a computer who can assemble a page layout (not necessarily a good one) thinks they’re a graphic designer. As we’ve seen so many times, buying creative solutions as a commodity doesn’t work, one creative designer’s ideas are different to another’s and therefore, their worth cannot be solely bought on a cost effectiveness basis.
After some serious soul searching we realised that our offering needed to be clearer, concise and relevant to the market that we want to operate in.
So, in the future won’t be referring to our agency as ‘full-service’, as this doesn’t really mean anything! Well maybe that you try to do too much, without actually doing it very well. Which on occasion, we might have been guilty of.
Our offer is simple! We offer a consultancy service that specialises in building brands that are delivered through all print media channels.
We call it ‘Design for the Printed world’.
So, whether it’s; new brand creation, a re-fresh of your existing brand, advertising of your brand, product or service, informing stakeholders of your performance & values through an annual report or simply marketing your services through a leaflet or poster. Black Sheep has a relevant case study with tangible results that show you how effective brand building and awareness can drive your business forward through great creative solutions.
Where does that leave us in an evolving digital world? We’ll be there to help and guide you through the challenges of migrating your brand and its values into a digital space. We can advise you in the marketing aspects of implementing e-marketing in to the mix & how to integrate it with a social media channels strategy. Or simply, help you find the right supplier of such services and work with them on your behalf, we’re here to help you.
As for Black Sheep, we’re going to continue to strive for excellence in the way we operate and the standard of work we undertake and deliver.
Thanks for reading.
Neil Asher & Jack Bland