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Building Brand Heart: An Asset On Your Balance Sheet

Visit Dow Design to see a brand philosophy lived congruently in action. Dow not only talks the walk, it walks the talk.


This award-winning design practice is all about building brand heart and you sense it literally beating within the walls of the business from the get-go.


The funky interior after a recent refit oozes creative spark. At reception the purple and lime Moooi designer rug says “open your mind”. Boldly emblazoned on a nearby wall is “bust some balls”. The energy is palpable, reflecting a thriving creative and congruent culture.


At the helm running it all is a doyenne of design, not that she wants to be known as that, yet after 25 years in the business, managing director Annie Dow deserves the mantle given she’s seen many cycles come and go, learning invaluable strategic lessons from the experience.


“I did have a big powerful industry leader say to me once, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ — that is something I live by,” she says. “Believe in yourself and back yourself” is another one of her mantras.


So now Dow is on a bit of a personal “mission” advocating for her industry. Get your brand right. Invest in it. Don’t be a scrimp. Only use brand experts to nail the brief really quickly to get the best result.


Why? The brand is your “silent sales person”. Get it right and build brand asset wealth on your balance sheet. Get it wrong and it can cost you, she warns.


“I am seeing an era of disposable design that is not strategically led and a burgeoning rise of ‘faux experts’. Clients are spending good money badly and perhaps not getting the uplift they should get by engaging with a skilled professional to get that craft and clarity.”


Building advocacy for a brand takes “time, trust and love” she says: “That’s what a brand is all about.”


Aside from a host of industry awards, continuity of expertise is another asset held tight within the business.


Dow’s creative director, Donna has been with her for 23 years. “We’re a real duo — I think we’re the only two female designers in New Zealand that have been together the longest leading a business.”


Aligning with the theme of legacy is the way Dow Design impacts long-held mature family businesses all over the country.


It is a flourishing niche Dow is “really loving at the moment”. Those at a tipping point in their industry that she says are “looking to take that leap forward knowing they need to invest in their brand correctly and build a long term partnership”.

Hellers is a prime example: “We did a rebrand in 2004 which was the first step — then a radical rebrand in 2011. Since then their business has grown eight times and we remain their partner on all things to do with brand.”


Doubling client growth is a sign of the value Dow offers. So are the loyal, long term sustainable partnerships.


“I think for nearly every brand we work on we have created value — where we may not have created value is where there is an issue with the product or the price and we can’t change that,” she says.


Purchasing new acquisition ‘Goodfolk’ to infuse website design and marketing blood into the business has further boosted the digital arsenal of the self-confessed “brand custodians”.


Fostering future female creatives given only three percent are women is another passion for Dow. She wants to give back to the next generation.


Taking action, she reached out to one of her design favourites, Sagmeister & Walsh. It led to the New York founder Jessica Walsh inviting Dow to hold Ladies Wine, Design joining 160 chapters around the world.


“We call them courtyard conversations,” says Dow. The next one is on creativity and tech. Nano Girl is on her radar as a target speaker.


Summing it all up in a nutshell, when looking back — Dow says the “aha moment” of brand building is “the power of the beautiful crossover of creative magic and pure strategic logic”.



Words: Sarah Sparks /