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The eye of a very creative storm | #CompanySpotlight

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A design agency with almost 30 years of progress behind them, Storm Brands, in their own words "build brands that mean business" 

We caught up with Managing Director Caroline Dilloway this week to discuss how Storm weathered the chaos of COVID and her hopes for the future of the company and the sector.

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How was your company born and where are you based?

StormBrands was created in 1994 by our founder Bruce Drinkwater who now acts as chairman of the business helping to guide StormBrand’s direction and future strategy.  We were born in Yorkshire and have growing teams in London’s Shoreditch and the centre of Leeds.

What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?

We find that one of the biggest challenges in supporting our growth strategy is finding good people with similar mindsets to our own.  

We’re always looking for those who have skillsets to match the increasingly fast pace of change that is the world of brand design; those who are at the forefront of creativity and innovative thinking, but who are also great people to work with!

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

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We originally focused on the retail sector from a packaging design point of view, so landing our first big multiple-grocer was fantastic. Since then, the business has grown exponentially and expanded extensively into different areas. 

We still work with a top 4 UK supermarket and a pan European one too, but we also have client partnerships across a variety of different sectors and disciplines.

What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?

For us, 2021 was largely about defining the vision and focus for the future across all departments at StormBrands. This has meant getting the right people onboard and agreeing a strategy going forwards. With this now in place and a strong leadership team at the helm, we’ve entered 2022 with a solid foundation and clear goals. 

It’s an exciting time, the business is evolving and we’re working in innovative spaces with often ground-breaking ideas and technology. We’ve hit 2022 with fresh drive and focus, leveraging the opportunities we’ve created for ourselves and harnessing the amazing talent that we have at Storm.

Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?

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We’re independent which means that unlike some agencies, we can be agile, fast paced and very responsive - we can make decisions quickly and own those decisions.

We’re experts in solving, often complex, brand challenges, partnering big brand thinking with a boutique spirit and we shape the scope of work to get us most effectively to the solution rather than using a rigid process – we aim to deliver powerful outcomes rather than just creating project output.

At Storm, we build brands around an authentic idea – a purpose that’s played out with coherency and a common thread across channels and touchpoints.

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

We live by our StormBrands behaviours – we speak up, we punch, we own it and we grow together. We also seek out individuals from different and diverse backgrounds and disciplines; people who are passionate about their craft and inspired by the world around them. We’re a curious and inquisitive bunch and genuinely love what we do. 

Beyond that, we have weekly ‘Off mute Wednesday’ sessions, opening the floor to the team to share concepts and ideas that inspire them, Friday ‘Work Share Huddles’ to showcase current work, monthly A Star Awards to celebrate an individual’s contribution to the business and we also invite ‘Friends of Storm’ to come in and speak.  It also helps that both studios are in uber cool parts of town!

How has COVID-19 affected your company?

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Our fantastic multi-skilled and multi-disciplined team and the strong relationships that we have with our clients held us in good stead. We were very lucky as we have a broad mix of clients across different sectors and categories, and all have remained pretty robust throughout the pandemic - we didn’t have to furlough anyone or make any redundancies. 

As we work across two studios in London and Leeds we were early adopters of Zoom so all the communication software was in place and regular communication with the team was already a key part of the way we operate.

Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

We admire brands, businesses and people who are doing things differently and disrupting their space. We take inspiration from all sectors and all industries but particularly from ambitious and progressive businesses with a challenger mentality.

What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?

It’s important to have a long-term vision, but pivotal to take it one step at a time as things change, curve-balls are thrown and the need to adapt changes priorities frequently. The world is increasingly complex, and our sector is tough. Go for slow and steady incremental growth and play the long game rather than looking to get rich quick!

How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)

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As with our team, we look to work with like-minded, ambitious clients who want to develop long-term partnerships. We always say that you don’t need a brief to have a conversation. Some of our most exciting projects have been the result of a conversation rather than a standard marketing or design brief. 

We like to truly interrogate the business challenge - by diving deeper, working closer and asking better questions, we get to the real problem to create clarity for growth. Our approach is Transformation rather than Transaction and Outcome rather than Output.

What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?

I’d hate for the agency world to become completely homogenised - we’re proudly independent. I’d also like the transformative power of design to be truly recognised both in the UK and the wider world. The creative industry is responsible for over £20bn in direct turnover, over 130,000 jobs and over £6bn in employee compensation in the UK.  

Design can also be a critical source of competitive advantage in what is a rapidly changing and increasingly demanding marketplace. Immersed throughout a company, strategic design is fundamental to success, transforming business performance and driving sales and should be very much on a Board’s agenda. 

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

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We’re part of a fantastic creative community which includes the dba and Creativepool as well as a great team of partners who we collaborate with to showcase our work and our thinking. We all work together to support each other and as a collective, we’re optimistic for the future.

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