Auck­land-based VOICE isn’t afraid to get into the re­gions to as­sist com­pa­nies with brand­ing. Prin­ci­pal Jonathan Sa­gar high­lights the dos and don’ts of re­brand­ing.


There are many de­sign agen­cies in New Zealand that list brand­ing as one of their many ser­vices. That’s called pro­vid­ing a ‘gen­er­al­ist’ ser­vice.

But in or­der to be classed a brand ‘spe­cial­ist’, you must be aware of where the brands you work with will be seen and how they will need to tell their sto­ries.

That’s the view of Jonathan Sa­gar, who heads up Auck­land-based brand agency VOICE. His team is well aware of the need to build brands that are flex­i­ble and cap­ture peo­ple’s at­ten­tion quickly and strongly.

“In to­day’s world that’s sat­u­rated by con­tent clam­our­ing for at­ten­tion, build­ing brands that are in­her­ently at­ten­tion-grab­bing is crit­i­cally im­por­tant,” he says.

Gain­ing peo­ples’ at­ten­tion is im­por­tant for brand­ing to be ef­fec­tive. Sa­gar has other con­crete dos and don’ts too: • DO truly re­flect the busi­ness; have a clear strat­egy; and build value and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion into the brand (be­cause we live in a world dom­i­nated by same­ness). • DON’T fol­low fads; make as­sump­tions about con­sumers, or change

for the sake of change.

“Brand strat­egy is busi­ness strat­egy made vis­i­ble,” ex­plains Sa­gar. “Brands are as­sets and must be treated as such. If you want them to work for you, you need to in­vest in them; to con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tor their per­for­mance and ad­just them to en­sure you're get­ting the re­turns you ex­pect.”

You may be sur­prised to hear that brand­ing is de­lib­er­ately left un­fin­ished these days. As Sa­gar ex­plains: “it’s some­thing that keeps shift­ing and some­thing you have to keep work­ing on; you can’t leave it alone or you’ll be left be­hind.”

He says when a com­pany en­ters into a re­brand­ing ex­er­cise, it’s the only time that com­pany re­ally re­vis­its its core val­ues and ques­tions whether they are what they think they are.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally get to the nitty gritty and con­front some home truths and while that may be a hard process it’s a hugely ben­e­fi­cial one.”

Sa­gar be­lieves any brand­ing ex­er­cise should be tied back to a busi­ness need – “ei­ther change, your cus­tomers, or you are the driver. It has to be one of these three things.

“Look­ing at these things closely is of­ten the cat­a­lyst for other change and busi­ness de­ci­sions that may not have been ob­vi­ous pre­vi­ously.”

Sa­gar be­lieves brand strat­egy is be­com­ing more tac­ti­cal as mar­keters

are pres­sured into think­ing in shorter and shorter terms. “My hope is that we can re-ad­just this so that brand own­ers take a more bal­anced ap­proach to their brand as­sets.”

He’s no­ticed busi­ness own­ers are be­com­ing more strate­gic. “We work in­creas­ingly with busi­ness own­ers rather than mar­ket­ing teams, as they are re­al­is­ing that brand­ing is deeply per­sonal and best done from the top down.

“It’s im­por­tant that busi­ness own­ers feel that they can fol­low and trust some­body and that we get 100 per­cent buy-in from them. This leads to the best suc­cess in any brand­ing ex­er­cise.”


Sa­gar uses a re­cent brand refreshment ex­er­cise VOICE car­ried out for re­gional real es­tate firm Prop­erty Bro­kers to demon­strate the dif­fer­ence be­tween a ‘re­brand’ and a ‘re­fresh’.

A re­brand is where you change a brand’s whole iden­tity from its core strat­egy up, he ex­plains, whereas a re­fresh, as in this case, changes only what needs to be changed, leav­ing ev­ery­thing else in­tact.

“We kept much of the brand's core DNA and up­dated the lo­go­type to make it more con­tem­po­rary. When you're deal­ing with a brand as suc­cess­ful as Prop­erty Bro­kers, it's im­por­tant to use real dis­ci­pline.”

Flex­i­bil­ity was key, Sa­gar says. “It was ev­i­dent to us that Prop­erty Bro­kers’ MD Tim Mor­daunt was deeply pas­sion­ate about the ex­ist­ing com­pany val­ues, so we adapted our ap­proach to de­velop a re­freshed brand that sup­ported him. He was fan­tas­tic at cham­pi­oning his val­ues, he just needed brand­ing that gave him what he needed as a brand cham­pion.”

Mor­daunt says that it was clear that the com­pany’s 25-yearold brand needed re­fresh­ing to han­dle the mod­ern me­dia en­vi­ron­ment.

“It was 20 years since the last one and it was time. The last time, it was all about print and ra­dio and TV. Now it’s about mo­bile phones. It needed a re­vamp.”

Mor­daunt de­scribes the re­fresh as “a re­visit to your soul, a look at your ethics and val­ues”. “What makes you unique? Your strengths, your weak­nesses, what’s the at­ti­tude in your com­pany? We very much ap­proached it that way.”

He says that was dif­fi­cult at times. “The brand to me is ex­tremely per­sonal. We’re a fam­ily. It’s not a bu­reau­cratic, robotic ex­er­cise.”

How­ever, if it’s not dif­fi­cult, you’re not do­ing it right, he says.


Mor­daunt de­scribes the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Prop­erty Bro­kers and VOICE as “over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive”. VOICE has au­then­tic­ity, he says – “they were real”. “Get them out of Auck­land and you’d think you’ll get a bit of ‘bullsh*t and jelly­beans’, but there was noth­ing like that.” Prop­erty Bro­kers’ staff em­braced the brand re­fresh says Tim, and on so­cial me­dia the brand is sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter.

Mar­ket­ing man­ager Tony Mor­daunt be­lieves the re­fresh was an op­por­tu­nity to take stock of where they were as a com­pany; its val­ues and di­rec­tions.

“It was a good chance to breathe new life into the com­pany.”

Whether it’s re­fresh­ing or full re­brand­ing, VOICE has ap­plied its decades of ex­pe­ri­ence to many brands, in­clud­ing Fru­cor Sun­tory (for­merly Fru­cor Bev­er­ages), Aunt Jean’s Dairy and O-I Glass.

Brand­ing works be­cause it lit­er­ally changes what peo­ple think of a prod­uct, ex­plains Sa­gar.

“Think of how Lewis Road Cream­ery re­de­fined the value of milk and dairy prod­ucts, or how Whit­tak­ers made their choco­late the true choco­late of choco­late lovers. Both brands work well be­cause they es­tab­lish value and val­ues. They speak for the prod­uct be­fore a con­sumer even tastes it.”

The re­cent Nike ad ‘Be­lieve in some­thing even if it means sac­ri­fic­ing ev­ery­thing’ is an­other ex­am­ple of work that has a strong point of view and makes a dif­fer­ence, adds Sa­gar.

“Again, Nike re­minds us of their brand’s soul and pur­pose, a les­son to us all in this of­ten unau­then­tic ‘in­sta­gram’ age about why we have brands and the value of au­then­tic­ity.

“The brands listed above, as well as brands we’ve worked with like Prop­erty Bro­kers and Aunt Jean’s Dairy, rep­re­sent ex­cel­lence in brand­ing via their au­then­tic­ity which is gen­uine, and comes from the client.”

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