From commodity mom-and-pop to high-end boutique retailer
At a glance
After being in business for over 40 years and struggling to compete with big-box retailers, this carpets and flooring shop in Canberra, Australia was ready for change. We worked closely with the client to reinvent their business and stake out a more competitive positioning.
Three months later, we had transformed what used to be one of dozens mom-and-pop flooring shops competing on price, into a premium boutique catering to Canberra’s growing high-income market.
When David of Creme approached us, the business was called J and M Floorcoverings Pty Ltd, and he was still in the process of acquiring it from his father. The Canberra, Australia-based flooring retailer employs three staff members and, before engaging us, had not done any marketing for many years. David had an ambitious goal: to double the company’s annual revenue in less than two years.
Creme did not have a pre-existing brand strategy, so we set out to develop one from scratch. A smart brand strategy is critical to any effort to build a strong brand. It defines your company’s True North, and helps you figure out what you need to do to get there.
Defining the core brand attributes
In a series of workshops, we defined the company’s brand attributes. These answer the question: If your brand were a person, what sort of person would it be? Defining the brand attributes early on helps us make sure that the brand we develop is authentic. Brands that try to be something they’re not seldom last long: consumers can sniff out fakeness from miles away.
During the workshops, we identified three core values that inform how the business behaves:
- Good design matters
- Quality over quantity
- Independence and family
Before the new owner David took over the business, design had not mattered at all to how the business behaved. Under David’s leadership, it was becoming a top priority.
At this point, it became clear to us that the brand could go in a couple of different directions and still stay true to its core values: welcoming mom-and-pop store, high-end boutique, or eco-first store.
It was clear from the beginning that a lot needed to change in order for Creme to stand out in a crowded marketplace: There are more than 20 flooring shops in the Australian capital. Many of them are national franchises or 8-figure independent retailers—all with substantial marketing budgets. This was a classic example of an underdog taking on much larger competitors.
After making sure we understood the client’s business and where the new owner, David, wanted to take it, we researched their market and competition to determine the best way to move forward.
We started by reviewing every single direct competitor in the area and making general observations about their brand positioning. Based on our initial review, we picked out five competitors to analyze more closely.
This analysis was an in-depth evaluation of each company’s competitive strengths and weaknesses. We examined brand positioning, messaging, visual identity, as well as marketing channels. The goal of these evaluations was to identify a way to meaningfully differentiate our client from everyone else in the market.
The results of the competitive analysis were enlightening:
Canberra has a fast-growing population of affluent and upwardly mobile young professional couples. The national franchises pursue mass-market appeal by focusing on low- and mid-range products, whereas the independent retailers can’t compete on design sensibility. There was virtually no competition in the high-end, design-conscious segment of the market.
Based on these findings, we decided to reposition Creme into a premium boutique.
If you don’t know your customers, everything you do to attract more of them is just a wild stab in the dark. We dedicated two workshop sessions to defining who our target audience is, and putting ourselves in their shoes.
During this process, we created two customer personas:
The trendy yuppy couple. This is the sort of customer we wanted to attract to the shop more than anybody else. Reinventing the brand to appeal to people with discriminating tastes and high standards became the main objective.
The affluent baby-boomer couple. Baby-boomers were the biggest existing source of revenue for Creme. We wanted to make sure that their needs would still be met after the rebrand.
We concluded the strategy phase of this project by creating a brand brief, based on everything we knew about the company and where it was headed. The brand brief is essentially the brand strategy distilled down into its purest form. It becomes a guiding document throughout the branding project and beyond: every design, every marketing tactic, and every piece of messaging is filtered through the brand brief.
The brand name is one of the most important aspects of your brand. Get it right, and everything else becomes ten times easier. Get it wrong, and you’re fighting an uphill battle for the rest of your brand’s life.
When Creme came to us, they were called J and M Floorcoverings Pty Ltd. “J and M” stood for John and Mary, the previous owners of the business.
This name broke almost every rule of good naming: It was plain, undifferentiated, and very long. Moreover, it tied the previous owners to the business and would have caused confusion among customers after the acquisition. We needed to find a name that was memorable and ideally hinted at the brand promise.
Naming your company is a daunting task. Not only do you need to be able to live with it, it needs to be both unique (so that you can use it legally) and meet a long list of criteria. To ensure that we land on a name that everyone is happy with and feels ownership of, we invite our clients into a process of co-creation. During a series of facilitated brainstorming sessions that are designed to start out broad and scaffold towards a finished brand name, we explore hundreds of directions until we find a name that’s right for the business.
After the brainstorming sessions we narrowed down our choices from hundreds of loose ideas, to dozens of potential names, and finally to two options: Creme, and David & Co. On the agency side, we championed Creme. But in order to get stakeholder alignment and reassure ourselves that we were indeed picking the right name, we surveyed 20 people who fit our target customer persona.
The name that we were leaning towards — Creme — received overwhelmingly positive feedback. People associated it with luxury, high quality, and a positive brand experience. Success!
The naming phase was challenging and hard at times, but we trusted the process and stuck in there. Jon was patient and thorough, and pushed back when I wanted to settle for something less-than-ideal. I'm glad he did, because in the end we landed on a really great name.
David Morgan, owner and managing director of Creme
With a strong brand name secured, we started working on the visual identity of the brand.
At Cult Method, we believe in scaffolding towards the end result. Instead of disappearing for weeks and reappearing for a “grand reveal”, we involve our clients throughout the process so that we can make course adjustments if necessary. Because of this, clients hardly ever request design revisions when we present the finished identity.
We start the process by discussing with the client about how the brand strategy translates into a visual direction. We show a couple of examples of what we think would be appropriate for the brand, and gauge the client’s reaction to different styles.
Once we know that we are roughly on the same page, we create a set of stylescapes. These are highly curated and edited collections of found images that provide clients a glimpse of the direction we’re heading in. We develop two stylescapes: one “vanilla”, representing the safer option, and one “spicy”, representing the riskier option.
In this case, we already had the general direction dialed in, so we were able to make the stylescapes relatively similar to one another in order to explore more subtle differences. The spicy stylescape played up the focus on premium quality, and was a little colder than the safe option. Reviewing the two stylescapes, the client fell in love with the spicy option.
We knew that we were creating a typographic logo to represent the brand, so most of our explorations focused on getting the style of the type just right. We eventually decided to set the logo in Futura, which is a classic typeface created by the German type designer Paul Renner in 1927.
Futura is modern, yet timeless. It has a lot of attitude, especially when set in all capitals. However, we didn’t like how the ‘C’ looked, especially on its own (we wanted to use a standalone ‘C’ as a simplified logo in social media avatars). We ended up modifying it to achieve a rounder, more balanced appearance. The differences are subtle, but at Cult Method we believe that the details are what separate good design from great design.
With the logo finished, we designed a full identity system around it. The system identifies Creme as an up-to-date and up-scale boutique. It strikes a compelling balance between minimal elegance and utilitarian practicality. The soft, natural palette draws you in like a seductive whisper when everyone else in the market is shouting at you.
To ensure the identity system is applied consistently over time, we developed a set of brand guidelines that Creme can use in-house or if working with other agencies.
In addition to developing the identity system, we also designed print collateral as well as social media image templates.
We also designed a retail uniform: a high-quality navy polo shirt emblazoned with the Creme logo. The uniform looks sophisticated and improves the in-store customer experience.
We also developed a brand messaging suite for Creme—a group of taglines and slogans that they can use in marketing materials to stay on-brand and on-message.
Strategy + identity = win
Creme’s new brand is being rolled out as we speak, and they are poised to dominate an underserved segment of the Canberra market. Their marketing material is unlike any other flooring shop in the area, and the new brand has already started to generate buzz.
Immediately after the rebranding project was wrapped up, Creme re-engaged Cult Method to work on a marketing website.
I got so much value out of this. They did an enormous amount of work and really went the extra mile. It was reassuring to go through the rebrand with someone who had a solid process in place.
With the brand Cult Method have created for us, our marketing will beat out our competitors even though their budgets are large than ours.
David Morgan, owner and Managing Director of Creme Carpets