Brand strategist Jonathan Price discusses his company’s role in ‘refreshing’ Kathmandu


When Kathmandu announced its net profit had increased 64% in FY16, group marketing manager John Sette cited a comprehensive brand refresh as one of the factors that had contributed to an improvement in the company’s fortunes. He also praised the efforts of Melbourne brand and design studio SouthSouthWest, which had assisted in rebranding the travel and adventure apparel and equipment retailer.

In addition to speaking to Dynamic Business about the Kathmandu project, Jonathan Price, managing director and co-founder of SouthSouthWest, provided advice to SMBs considering a brand refresh.

DB: Why did Kathmandu engage SouthSouthWest to refresh its brand?

Price: Kathmandu engaged SouthSouthWest to redesign their flagship stores in Melbourne and Adelaide based on the brand experiential projects the studio had done for Nike. It became apparent when mapping out the customer journey and key brand moments that there were aspects of the brand which were outdated and didn’t translate to the vision Kathmandu had for their stores.  We put forward a series of recommendations to position Kathmandu as the brand of choice for the next generation of adventurous travellers.

DB: What was the state of Kathmandu’s brand prior to the refresh?

Price: While recognisable and trusted, the Kathmandu brand had fallen into a heavy discounting sales model which in turn had diluted its brand proposition in the market. The key was to focus back on the brand story and communicate what Kathmandu does best – create innovative adaptive products that perform in all conditions.

DB: What was the scope of the work performed by SouthSouthWest?  

Price: The brand refresh included re-energising Kathmandu’s campaign creative, art direction, in-store marketing, packaging, catalogue design as well as shaping the brand experience in two new flagship stores in Melbourne and Adelaide.

We worked with Kathmandu’s internal marketing team to create efficiencies across all communications. A more streamlined, digitally-led media approach refocused the brand to appeal to a younger demographic through a highly targeted online campaign.

The creative process was geared around empowering the internal creative team rather than competing with them. Understanding that internal ownership is the key to ongoing results, we developed a robust set of guidelines and templates to communicate a more dynamic and relevant brand.

DB: What do SMBs need to consider when considering a brand overhaul?

Price: The first thing any SMBS must do is undertake a brutally honest appraisal of their existing brand equity and assess how that correlates to their future business strategy. So, when your customer hears your name or sees your logo, ask them what they HONESTLY think.

Does the current market perception align to your future vision? Rate your brand out of ten across the top five criteria that will determine your success. If you feel the current brand isn’t going to deliver on your future vision or is simply outdated you have to work out where are the gaps and shortfalls? Do you need to reset your perception as more youthful, or should you hold onto the idea of being a trusted, experienced partner?

Any change in your brand brings with it a reappraisal of ‘who you are’ and ‘what you stand for’. So, make sure you know exactly what it is about your business that you are changing and that you can explain what those changes will deliver to your customer or client in clear, simple terms.

DB: What is your company’s philosophy around the role of design?

Price: Our founding belief, which hasn’t changed, is that good design needs to contribute meaningfully to culture. When we started ten years ago, social media wasn’t even a factor in how a brand communicates, so the notion of instant audience feedback and connecting deeply with your audience through the products you create was non-existent. As the world now values user-centric design ahead of all else, our long-standing interest in meaningful, culturally-informed design now feels truly valued which is humbling.

DB: Does your agency have any major projects on the horizon?

Price: We are currently working through a number of Australian brand launches and relaunches, alongside some pretty interesting global branding projects that we are looking forward to announcing shortly.