Q&A with Founder and Chairman, Richard Butterfield

News - June 2021

Richard Butterfield Principle Founder and Chairman

1. What inspired you to create Principle, and what was the market opportunity?

I left school at 15 years old, sold my first business at 19, and then had to get a real job. I found one at the biggest and oldest sign company in Europe, where I rose to GM by 23. Brand, and the real understanding of Brand, didn’t exist then in the way it does today. We sold clients what we made, products, rather than asking them what they needed or working with them to create the vision for their companies. The market opportunity was tremendous with the boom in corporate identity design in the 1980s. So, I resigned, because I believed in a stronger customer service and consultancy model. And I resigned ‘on principle’ hence the name of our company. If I couldn’t do better than my industry, I would do something else.

2. Over 35 years in business, as culture and trends have shifted, how has Principle adapted to remain relevant and continue to grow?  

When I was starting out, I worked with Wally Ollins and his team from 1987 to 1990 just as corporate identity was turning into Brand and all that it represents. While our capabilities have evolved over time, thanks to Wally and a few other brand icons who I was lucky enough to work closely with, Brand has been at the centre of my thinking and the core of Principle right from the start. We’ve remained relevant by continually adapting to the market and the needs of our clients. We are also extremely client focused, it’s in our DNA. We have found ways to do more for our clients – and to deliver more value – by evolving our capabilities to create a connected experience. We are the only company that combines brand strategy, experiences, design, programme management, and implementation to deliver change for clients worldwide. We became the connected team of experts who deliver value throughout every phase of our clients’ journeys.

We are the only company that combines brand strategy, experiences, design and implementation to deliver change for clients worldwide.

3. How would you describe Principle and its unique value proposition or benefit?

While we’ve become a big company, we don’t act like one and never will. We’re very hands on at all levels and very proactive. I like to describe us as more like a speed boat, than an oil tanker. We respond quickly to our clients and the market, while still providing at scale. I think we’ve achieved much of our success by looking after our people and our clients. And because we love what we do, and we care about doing a great job. We’ve never failed on a project, no matter what it takes.
Our unique proposition starts with a core belief that strong, well implemented brands are instrumental in realising business vision and creating sustainable growth. We’ve built a global brand and implementation consultancy to strengthen the connection between brand development – helping brands be more relevant, compelling and competitive – and brand implementation because companies can gain an edge through strategic, well-managed implementation.

4. As a company that prides itself on local knowledge with global reach, how do you maintain quality assurance for clients around the world?

We do it by being as local as we are global. We are a British company by origin, but we believe that we are as much a French company, as an Italian one, as an American one, and so on. If we were perceived as a British company trying to sell into other countries, we’d be in trouble. Each country needs to be viewed through the lens of its own market conditions, and with local teams who ensure that we are relevant wherever we do business. We also gain a lot of knowledge from being global, and we leverage our breadth to bring better solutions to our clients. One of the ways we stand apart from the competition is our ability to execute central brand initiatives on a local basis anywhere in the world, often acting as the conduit for the local market needs that are reflected in the central strategy.

Each country needs to be viewed through the lens of its own market conditions, and with local teams who ensure that we are relevant wherever we do business.

5. The last year has been unprecedented. How is Principle anticipating future client needs  as we embark on this next chapter ?

We prioritised the health and safety of our people and communities, stayed very close to our clients and came through 2020 in a strong position. While it is not all behind us yet, we are about to enter what will be a very dynamic market. There are reports that economies will emerge from the pandemic into a boom that brings fast, sustained growth through to 2023. The key for our business, as always, is to stay close to what our clients need. And they will need good partners coming out of this. That’s been my experience in good times and bad, clients need strong partners who can help them navigate choppy waters, manage change, and capitalise on opportunity when it’s there.  

The next five years may prove to be the most exciting that I have ever witnessed. For clients who are looking to re-invent or capitalise on opportunities in the post-pandemic world, the influence that can come from a powerful, well-positioned brand combined with rapid, well-managed implementation is profound. It’s going to be an exciting time for our clients and us. Just as exciting as those early days!