We know that the Oane brothers are the founders, what is their background (studies, professional experiences)? What is the complete formula in which BroHouse exists?
Costin Oane: We didn’t give up school or sell the car. Moreover, unlike Gates who got locked in prison for “racketeering” or Steve Jobs who smokes “Maria Ioana”, we even got a scholarship to college. Maybe it was necessary for us to make a gesture of rebellion against the system and we aligned ourselves with these “success stories”. I was, as our grandmother used to say: “some good kids who took care of the book”.
Both of us “ran away” from the countryside, and I entered with great hope at the Faculty of Public Relations (SNSPA) in Bucharest. At the university, we did not find what we wanted, but we really found it in various NGO projects, namely: Myself in Advice Students and Horia in VIP. You will smile, but we really wanted to finish school, convinced that if we want to do something, we must start building again. To be a student today, no doubt is a condemnation of an uncertain future. And the lack of a clear horizon for us caused us to ask ourselves questions.
Why on the path of entrepreneurship and in what context did the idea of a branding studio come up?
Horia Oane: I and Costin’s passion for branding were born long before we even wanted a career in the field. Being 2 twin brothers, the problem of identity followed us always, starting from the general school, high school, friends, etc. I think no one has given such importance to such an age for visual identity. Both of us not only have encountered this lack of identity, but we have also realized it as a problem and therefore we have treated it as a problem in shaping our personality and identity. “Being different” is the key to success in everything. And we understood it, we wished, the right ones, without having had any preparation in this direction. I can say that personal experience, the similarity between myself and my brother was the one who taught us how important it is to differentiate and create a distinct picture, whether we are talking about personal life or business. There are other clients who want to remind me “Horia you have no idea how much we want to be different” Ohh, tell me about it!
How, when and why did you choose to specialize in branding?
Costin: At the age of 22, we set up BroHouse’s creative studio, together with Horia, but I can’t say that we have thought so much about it. We dip our heads forward without thinking. Definitely, I was a little unconscious. I thought, if every entrepreneur knew what he will encounter, probably no one would do anything at all. I do not know if there is also the luck of the “beginner-entrepreneur”, because in time you manage to make as many mistakes as possible.
Too many learning and specialization solutions for the branding area are closed in Romania, but they are open elsewhere. That is why I chose the path of study in “outside the borders”: in 2008 I studied “Business Management” in Belgium, at Katho University, and Horia followed the “Fine Arts” specialization in Turkey, at Sakarya University. It wasn’t enough because 4 years later, we went to England together, and I graduated from Nottingham Trent University, the prestigious branding and identity design section. We were not some “snobs” of diplomas, the right ones, at 28 years old we managed to collect diploma files, graduation certificates and prizes at various competitions.
Probably those “documents” would have provided us with a “very ok” job. All these experiences have helped, but the preparation of each one as a “specialist” should not end at the end of a college or course. The specialization must be a continuous and dynamic process and must be extremely diverse. Let’s not confuse speculation with ultra-specialization.
How have the services portfolio and the team evolved since 2008 and so on?
Horia: Romania is a country that hasn’t had so much luck in this area, the communism past period has managed to erase any capitalist concept of marketing. Branding can only exist in a free and competitive market. Even after 27 years of democracy, branding is in its infancy, and still at the beginning of the road (the direction is good), also we don’t have any tradition in this discipline! The destiny of branding in Romania was decided by the communism period and then supplemented by the countless economic crisis that this country is going through.
BroHouse’s client portfolio has evolved in a close connection with the understanding and appreciation of this domain: branding. BroHouse has evolved with each project separately, with a growing portfolio of clients from domestic and international online and offline names. Almost 8.5 years have passed since we started BroHouse since we built “story brands” at the top level, but the true success is given by the value generated by the brand built for the business of each client.
From what activities sectors do your clients come from?
Horia: Over the years I think we have managed to cover quite a lot of industries and fields of activity. I am convinced that we have not covered them all, neither making a goal out of it. Most customers are “established” or early-stage entrepreneurs who want to define what they can do better, and to become aware of their strengths and to introduce themselves better. I would avoid saying that we help them “to sell better”, because this is not our role. We try to help them to express as effectively and relevant the specifics of the business, and for this, we intend to reach the core of each project’s authenticity so that they can formulate the added value which they bring through businesses.
The first project – how did you get it and how did it go?
Costin: The first projects were pro-bono. We could not dare to “invoice” without having a small “portfolio” of works. It was not very difficult to get such projects. A large part of the clients with whom we started in the “pro-bono” projects, we met them years later in larger and more complex projects for which we “cut” a few invoices. From all the “beginning” projects we gained experience, friends, but also people in the industry who recommended us further. Almost every year of BroHouse activity, we chose a project that we liked very much, and we realized in the pro-bono system. With a very good exercise, it would be great if we could do more and more, and not just move products off the shelves into consumers’ shopping carts.
What is the most complex project until now and why?
Costin: In 8 years of BroHouse we managed to meet with many complex projects, both from the point of difficulty and the size of the project. A more recent project that is extremely friendly to us is Bran Castle, the most important tourist objective in Romania, which is known by the general public “Count Dracula’s Castle”. Besides the historical value, the castle comes in “package” with an extremely seductive legend capable of attracting tourists, events producers, entertainers, etc. From the perspective of branding, all that matters will be the story, and our effort was to “stick” more and more the legend of Count Dracula from Bran Castle.
Basically, I had a story that is a “source of imagination and mystery” and I also had a location, the castle, which is itself a source of adventure and inspiration, 2 ingredients that can generate a very beautiful business, from the perspective of branding. For more than 1 year, we managed to communicate these 2 elements together, through a series of graphic elements that prepopulated the castle museum, promotional materials for international fairs, internal materials, etc. Bran’s positioning in this direction is not only relevant from the perspective of the business that can generate it, but also from the need to fortify and reinforce the country brand.
How does the briefing usually sound to you? What have you noticed that customers don’t understand when it comes to branding?
Costin: The brief is the document that starts from the client and contains essential data about the lines that any product, idea or service should follow, a tool that does not allow any creative idea to be “accidental”. Making the brief by the client is an extremely unhealthy process as is the understanding of it by the agencies. The exercise of writing any brief by the client is an exercise of “self-knowledge”, which forces you to elucidate, to a better definition, a thorough knowledge of the market, etc. Most entrepreneurs build their business ideas on an “assumption”: I think they would either. “I think … the luxury market is very large (or expanding) and my hand-made jewellery store will be a success” How big is it? How big, how many players are and how much do they own from the market? What percentage can you beat in the market? We make business assumptions every day and this can be a risk, but with a very clear and well-written brief, completed by several hours of discussions for “digging” and together with right management, you can hope for a correct start and do a better understanding of your business by the target audience. The role of the “creative” character is becoming more and more a management function with the management of the business.
What are the biggest difficulties you have encountered over time and how did you propose to prevent them?
I think the main difficulty is to manage to keep your “enthusiasm” in a country like Romania, which is struggling in a terrible economic-social crisis, confused, and left by the educated and powerful people. Should we talk about taxes too? Maybe with another chance … Our second challenge was to resist in a market dominated by “bad competitors”, which shortly are those who “break the market”, which violates any ethical code, acts wrong and chaotic, and then the wrong whole picture is spread over the entire industry, leaving a fingerprint which it is very difficult to “struggle”. There is a place under the Sun for everyone, but I would like to have some good competitors, those players who strive to be performers, who act professionally, correctly and support the progress of the industry. It is difficult for a professional practitioner to fight with the “fake”, “substance-free” and “lowest price” that have almost viruses all the domains. When I see a good project, I first think about how polite and brave it must have been for that client who chose the agency solution. The earn is for the agency, but also for the client.
A branding project (from another agency) that you admire and why?
Horia: A branding project that is becoming more and more adorable to me is Dove, from Unilever, made in 1995 by famous Canadian designer, Ian Brignell. The “Dove” logo is one of the most recognized and appreciated logos in the cosmetics industry. It has an exceptional identity, which inspires purity, elegance, love, all these values transmitted by the Dove logo, complement the values of the brand very well. But the success of Dove branding is not only a successful identity but also a mission that must produce excitement among the public through the daily promise: “we help you discover your beauty.” The “Dove” brand enjoyed even more appreciation, when Dove set out to start social missions, helping millions of young people and families.
What is the proportion of clients – national and international?
Horia: An exact figure is hard to tell. Certainly, the number of projects in Romania is overwhelmingly higher. Possible to be 80% national and 20% international from outside of Romania. In the future, we intend to attract more international projects.
How do you approach agency-level promotion? Is this a priority?
Costin: I will tell you now a “secret” that seems hard to believe: in all the 8 years, I have not carried out any promotion campaign for the BroHouse studio. And not because we are some “celebrities”, but because “classic promotion networks” do not work in this branding industry, and “quantity” is not an objective for us. I believe very strongly in the recommendations. If you succeed in satisfying a client, there is a good chance that he or she will become an advertiser worker for you or the chance to meet with the same client in other collaborations.
How would you describe the context of the branding market from us? Advantages, difficulties.
The appreciation and understanding of this field are for the moment in a timid phase, at the beginning. The evolution is good because slowly an “infrastructure” of specialists in branding and design in Romania is formed. All of this is happening in close connection with the need for a clearer change of companies. Although I had a “historical delay” but also a handicap regarding the “onset” of this branding industry, I cannot say that in 27 years of capitalism and globalization, Romania is better compared to other countries.
I think that the appreciation and importance of this discipline will be increasingly evident among the clients, who will be forced by the pressure of the competition not to delay this stage. Branding is no longer an “optional” alternative in a crowded and competitive market.
What are the development directions for you?
For the next phase, we plan to increase the team, which means bigger sales effort to obtain a larger portfolio of customers, with larger projects and integrated branding solutions.
The interview offered for IQads.