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Dupree International
22 June 2023

You might have a great product and even a great service, but if you can't communicate that effectively, you'll never achieve your full potential.

Julie and Martin Dupree from creative experts Dupree International - which helps companies around the world define and communicate the authentic identity of their brands - have taken part in a Q & A discussing their journey over the years.

Dupree works with and has worked with some big names that you might recognise, such as Streamlight, Bollé Safety, Realtree, Rocky Boots, General Dynamics, Ramp Globaltec, Seeland, Muckboot, Eley and Daniel Technologies; and in about 13 countries around the world - so this advice and insight is something we could all benefit from.

For those who don't know much about Dupree International, tell us a little bit about how you started, the origin story of the company and how you got to where you are.

Martin Dupree
We met a number of years ago in publishing, at a company which I think probably a lot of people will be familiar with called EMAP Publishing, now Bauer Media. That's where we built a lot of acquaintances over many, many years - 26 years between us, maybe more -largely in the hunting, shooting, and fishing markets. But before that, I'd spent a lot of years doing the advertising agency circuit down in London, gaining a lot of experience, all with a longer-term plan to start my own agency.

Julie Dupree
I think EMAP was a brilliant platform for training - we couldn't have had better training anywhere else. EMAP invested an enormous amount of money on management training and that provided a great platform to start your own business.

During those days when the publishing market was extremely ruthless, they employed a great female trainer, that trained me on strategy and tactics. It was so enlightening and very enjoyable. And from there, yes, we did start taking market share on the magazine titles.

Then life changed – the internet arrived and all things digital. I think I remember saying to Martin, ‘well, maybe we should just make ourselves redundant’.

Martin Dupree
Mine was a similar experience. I had a fantastic trainer and again, it was all about psychology and strategy. His opening statement to us all was ‘be careful of what you wish for, it might just come true’ - and what he was really saying, as we learned over the course of several years, is that everything's down to planning. It all starts with what the end goal is, and then you work back from that. So, if you do that effectively, then you absolutely know what you're doing the following morning when you get out of bed, and that's what it's all about. You know, every little decision you make through your life, day to day, will all be with this end goal in mind, and we've taken a lot of this thinking. I mean, as simple as that might sound, I think many businesses, many brand managers, get up each morning and think, well, what am I going to do today? And it's all based largely on gut feeling - do we do this exhibition… do we do this catalogue? What should the website look like? What do we spend? Unless you actually know what the end goal is - whether you want to be turning over billions in the next three years or whether you want to get your weekends back, whatever the end goal might be, you can plan for it. The hardest thing is actually working out what the end goal is. Julie and I took that collective thinking and then joined ranks. We found that we worked really well together at EMAP during our time. There are lots of awards between us collectively.

Q: How has it worked as a married couple running a business together?

Julie Dupree: Very well (most of the time!). We have had some great fun. A lot have asked ‘how on earth can a couple work together, it must be very difficult’. We had been working together well before we got together as a couple, so we knew it was going to work, and when we started the business in 1999, we knew it would be a success, helped by having a mixture of very different skill sets.

Martin Dupree: And collectively, as a small team, we did pretty well right from the word go.

Q: A lot of people would dream about setting up their own business, which must be quite daunting, but it sounds as though you guys had a real plan for what you wanted to do?

Julie Dupree: Yes, we did have a solid plan, but looking back now, I remember thinking on day one, ‘just how the hell are we going to pay the mortgage? We've got no money coming in this month’. Then, ‘oh well, don't worry, it'll happen’.

Martin Dupree: Initially, we just had a bit of good fortune, as a lot of the work we did previously was for advertisers in the shooting and fishing market, and when we left, it did create a little bit of a vacuum, and we had gained a good reputation in those industries. We also managed to persuade the receptionist at EMAP to divert our incoming calls to our new telephone line which was a bit cheeky I guess!

Q: Do you have any examples of your values and how you implement them into what you do now?

Julie Dupree: I guess it's a mixture of all sorts of different values, really. I think the key thing for Martin and me when we started was that we were going to enjoy who we were working with and enjoy what we were doing.

Martin and I think the markets see us as a very genuine company. We did examine our values, and over the years they’ve not changed dramatically, but I would say probably more things have been added to the list. We did our own exercise on brand development, where we actually had an agency (who only work with advertising agencies) do what we do, and we developed a company strategy and plans that we adhere to. We tried to do it ourselves and it's just hopeless trying to do it yourself. You just can't see the wood for the trees, and you don't challenge yourself.

Martin Dupree; Our main core value is ‘understanding’, and this is absolutely key to everything. I think that what we've done over the years is to try and come back to customers with one solution. It's very easy for agencies to present back to clients when given a sometimes quite woolly brief, and without some of the things that we've spoken about in terms of what the end goal is. It is essential to completely understand what the unique backstory is to that business, to a product, or to a brand. If we do our job right - and this is where the word understanding comes in strongly - we absolutely take the client through a process where we can completely understand what their end goal is. We can then work out all the considerations that need to be taken into account, completely understand the product to the business, and we can then put a plan together for how to actually achieve these results.

Furthermore, most importantly, telling a story which is unique, which is going to resonate with the core markets and build a good, firm relationship, which leads to loyalty going forward. That is the key thing we've been working on the hardest – to really work out this process, which we call the ‘Dupree process’ and refer to as an ‘inclusive journey’. It’s a process that very much involves every single stakeholder of the business right from day one. We work out their core values. We work out what their narrative is. We work out their whole reason for being - the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ about that company. Once we've done that, we can then start to formulate a strategy. We can start to formulate propositions, we can work out a tone of voice and personality, all those things around what is actually real, which can be very difficult. As Julie said before, it's very difficult to see the wood for the trees when you're at work in an organisation, or to even get a combined agreement as to what the end goal might be in the first place, let alone what the core values are.

Julie Dupree: I've never had a failure in over 21 years.

Q: On your website, your strapline is ‘clarity amplified’, and you also talk about helping companies find their ‘authentic identity’. Obviously that's built into this process, but if you could just explain those terms and what they mean.

Julie Dupree: The clarity really comes from crafting everything out that we can learn about a business. We call it the architecture. During the brand development process with customers, what we're really doing is examining the architecture of the brand or the business, and then the architecture is defined using many factors including core values. Out of this the strapline, comes the tone of voice and personality. What also falls out of that is the clarity, leading onto the look and feel – then the design comes from a rationale rather than something subjective.

Martin Dupree
It's interesting that very often, just going back to that ‘authentic identity’ term that we use, I think a lot of customers initially view what is actually real about them or their brand, which can often be a negative - but if that's actually the truth about a brand, then there's always ways to actually use that as a positive. That’s our job to make that happen. Once you actually identify what's unique about a company, a brand, a product - there are ways of actually presenting that, once you've got that clarity. The amplification stage is putting that message out to all the different channels, be it online advertising, be it on their website, be it through social media - all of that above and below the line activity, in a way that their audience wants to receive it.

You started out with hunting and shooting markets, so how did you branch out into tactical markets. Obviously, you have a few clients in these areas.

Martin Dupree: We've had our fair share of clients in those markets and not only for brand development work – we’ve also been commissioned for photography, social media, PR and website development. Our experience within the agency is very broad and encompasses many markets from finance to golf, and cosmetics to horse feed!

Julie Dupree: Whatever industry you're working in, the rules are very, very similar. If we were working in a market that we didn't know as well, the actual process is exactly the same. They all have parallels in retail, business, distribution and certainly in brand development. It's just the product that changes, but they go about their business model in a very similar way.

Martin Dupree: I would say though, that I think for people, if the customers can see that you've got experience in their marketplace, it gives them a sense of security that you understand the market. So I think it's more of a benefit to them in that respect that they can feel it'll be easier that you're not going to come back with some ideas that are just off the mark. Branching out into military and defence markets many years ago was a small step away from shooting really, and it helped being registered as a firearms dealer in terms of ammunition and gun logistics.

Q: You celebrated your 20th Anniversary not that long ago. Do each of you have a particular favourite moment or most memorable thing that's happened with the company during that time?

Julie Dupree: I am really delighted to have gone through almost three recessions and we've never had to make anybody redundant. We’ve had some tough times as most companies have, but we’ve weathered the storms.

Martin Dupree: Every brand development exercise that we’ve conducted has been a big success and I’ve enjoyed every one of them for different reasons.

Q:What do you think is the biggest change or trend that's happened in marketing in the last few years?

Julie Dupree: I guess the biggest change for me is being able to measure marketing efforts – especially through digital channels. We like to be measured, both for internal and external reasons. With this we can constantly adapt and evolve on a daily basis.

Martin Dupree: Some truly brilliant brand advertising can be axed due to the difficulty of predicting a return on investment. This can often happen when decision makers in companies from either accounts or sales are making the call on marketing campaigns. It’s a shame that it is far rarer these days that you see really great brand marketing being utilised, and I believe that’s the problem. You can’t get immediate financial gratification from pure branding executions as it’s a longer strategy. Or there's a financial director involved with the promotional spend and there can be requests for measurement that go well beyond what is healthy in my opinion. You can't always get an immediate sort of financial gratification from adverts, and I think on page adverts, unless it's a retail saying for example ‘50% off this weekend’, need to be saying things in much more of a branding way, with less information and less features and benefits, and more building relationships with people going forwards.

Q: If there was one thing you could change about marketing or about the marketing industry as it is right now, what would it be and why?

Julie Dupree; Unfortunately, some people that set up design agencies don’t understand the difference between a design agency and a brand development agency, and that they are worlds apart. Broadcasting themselves as being capable of brand development and strategy can confuse the market and can give the industry a bad name.

Martin Dupree: We spend most of the time trying to educate people as to what can be achieved with their brand and with their business, and I think the majority of people that think they've got a brand, actually haven't. There’s a great deal of confusion with businesses that get confused between having a corporate identity and having a brand.

Q: One final message to companies seeking growth through improved marketing?

Julie Dupree: For companies with individual marketing people or a small team it must be difficult, as each and every one of us at Dupree has got different skills for good reason. It takes a dozen of us to make up a marketing team capable of professionally executing all the various requirements that a marketing campaign might require.

Taking just the social media team, for instance, requires brand overview, creative, writing, video, photography, experience, with an up-to-the-minute understanding of how different platforms work and to the best effect, along with the cultural differences per country. A third party can often more easily see opportunities from a fresh perspective.

Martin Dupree: So many times we’ve seen our process, not only help take a business to new heights, but rejuvenate the internal culture of organisations, reinvigorating them with a new direction and enthusiasm. When a team can understand the direction of a business and all share a collective philosophy of what the brand stands for, then it’s hardly a surprise this is the case. Not only should this process be undertaken as a matter of course, but every now and again when goals are met and everyone’s thinking ‘what’s next?’.

Contact: https://www.dupreeinternational.com/