Mike Owen’s four communications businesses have won 70 awards over 11 years. Yet over the last two years Mike’s changed everything. He’s simplified business communications not only for himself – but for client businesses too. He’s gone back to basics. North East Times found out why.
“Good businesses don’t want to spend less on marketing; they want to spend more,” says Mike Owen, managing director of Violet Bick Brand Consultants, onebestway advertising and angelfysh search engine optimisation. “But they want to spend it on what works and for good-old-fashioned business reasons.
“They don’t really want more friends online, short-lived peaks in sales or a nod of appreciation from their network. They want to achieve strategic business goals. They want a stronger business that makes more money.”
But it is on the subject of goal setting or ‘strategy’, Mike explains, that businesses – even businesses with huge potential – are so often masters of their own downfall.
“Most businesses don’t set strategic business goals properly,” he comments. “They don’t know what they are aiming for.
“And in my opinion, ‘Ready. Aim. Fire’ works much better than ‘Ready. Fire. Aim!’
“So before anything – we work on the strategy. How else can we measure success?”
Don’t just get ‘to’ them – get ‘at’ them
It takes a certain kind of client to engage properly with Mike’s business’s commonsense way of doing things.
“I want brave clients that are prepared to listen and to change,” the MD reveals. “I want clients that trust us to not just to get ‘to’ their targets, but to get ‘at’ their clients.
“Reach is easy. Resonance is hard. We do both.”
Mike’s newest business, Violet Bick, employs an ex-Sony and Intel brand builder, the ex-head of Planning and Strategy from Saatchi and Saatchi and the ex-FD of Nike.
And with over 100 years of brand building expertise, worldwide for the likes of Coca-Cola, Virgin and Nokia, comes something new and surprising for businesses here in the North East of England – simplification.
“The Violet Bick team is amazing,” states Mike. “They do only what works. They simplify. They remember that ‘who/what/why’ is as crucial today as when they were personally helping Branson to enter new markets or to launch the Pentium 4 microprocessor.
“I don’t think were being smart-arses by simplifying like this. It just works. I’m surprised more people don’t do it, actually.”
Violet Bick Brand Consulting and onebestway advertising have helped grow the turnover of a North East-based holiday company from £3 million to about £7 million in three years. This is inside a world market that has contracted by 20 per cent and with a small but appropriately sized marketing budget.
Other clients include BALTIC, Onyx, The Sage Gateshead, Gorman Hamilton, Pennine Windows and a soon-to-launch retailer based in Islington.
Mark Tinnion, brand director at Violet Bick is working with the London-based Ice Cream Parlour chain: “A North East based brand consultancy winning work in the City? We’re proud of that.”
Mark is the driving force behind the Violet Bick offering. Violet Bick builds compelling, stand-out brands that actually mean something to targets before handing the business and the brand framework over to the onebestway advertising team.
Strategy over tactics. Clarity over creativity.
Mike is currently looking after the Violet Bick ‘graduates’ as they come through to onebestway: “onebestway has changed completely in the last two years. We think differently, work differently and we matter more. We become integral to the success of our client’s businesses.
“How? Largely by focusing on strategy over tactics and by prioritising clarity over creativity.
“We’re just doing what great thinkers tell us to do.
“Sun Tzu, the great Chinese military general said, “The highest form of generalship is to conquer the enemy by strategy”.
“Michael Porter, the Harvard Business School Professor said, “Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter of being better at what you do – it’s a matter of being different at what you do”.”
What worked then – works now
“It’s all there, it’s not new,” Mike asserts. “The strategies that worked when the world’s best brands were at their peak still work now. So why change them?
“I don’t want to discuss colour, cleverness and creativity with my clients. I want to discuss what the business actually wants to achieve. Then we go and get it.
“It’s much simpler and it’s much better. And that’s because it creates stronger businesses that make more money. Every time.”