When you set foot in packaging and branding consultancy Bulletproof, you leave the economic gloom at the doorstep. Occupying a bright and chirpy office in London’s Covent Garden, with exuberant founder Gush Mundae at the helm, Bulletproof has been quietly defying the downturn. By its own admission, Bulletproof has been flying under the radar, since Mundae founded it a little over ten years ago. ‘We have just been really busy,’ he says. ‘You have to be quite dedicated to shout about your success, and, believe it or not, I’m not great at that. But slowly we are changing people’s perceptions about us in the industry, and are [now] seen as a massive rival to big consultancies.’
In any case, the facts speak for themselves. In this year’s Design Week Top 100 survey, Bulletproof climbed from 68 to 44 in the rankings, with the biggest growth in fee-income, 61 per cent. It was also one of the more bullish consultancies, predicting a 20 per cent growth this year, having already secured additional major wins in the past few months. This follows getting a place on the Sainsbury’s and GlaxoSmithKline rosters, and another, still hush-hush, appointment last year.
Recent projects include a large-scale outdoor campaign for Vitamin Water, an on-pack brand strategy for Kraft Dairylea, a new look for organic food company Abel & Cole and the brand identity for children’s members’ club Purple Dragon.
Mundae puts recent achievements down to ‘a bit of luck and really hard work’. Although Lady Luck played her part, Mundae’s common sense business approach was the driving factor. From day one he recognised the need to nurture client relationships. Working originally with marketing company Exposure and getting old friend Jonny Stewart on board, through Bulletproof he has fearlessly targeted dream brands, such as Disney, Levi’s and Coca-Cola, winning increasingly large projects. ‘Business fascinates me. Whether it’s a corner shop or Selfridges, it is about basic economics,’ says Mundae.
Coca-Cola has been a client for nearly ten years, and has played a big part in Bulletproof’s development. ‘It shaped us a lot,’ says Mundae. ‘We were doing a lot of packaging, a lot of brand work and shopper marketing work for Coca-Cola, and as we grew the account we recruited specialist people to run those areas and built our business around them.’ Even though packaging is still around 55 to 70 per cent of the business, it’s those intrinsically linked areas that have made Bulletproof resilient in the current climate, believes Mundae.
Good investment in the right people and the pursuance of new business has meant organic growth, and ‘mining’ existing clients is especially important. ‘It is what is usually referred to as “farming”, but when you farm, you just sow and see what happens, whereas mining is a lot more aggressive, immediate and deep,’ he explains. ‘You can only do that if you’ve got a strong relationship with the client. With mining, you spend a lot of effort drilling down and sometimes you hit gold.’
Such effort has clearly paid off, explaining the consultancy’s – and its founder’s – glow of eternal optimism. ‘I don’t want to play the recession down, but we’ve always concentrated on our own efforts and not the world outside,’ says Mundae. ‘I just want to focus on our business. When you’ve got a good team, you can be quietly confident of reaching your targets.’ He is also happy to be flexible with fees to help clients through hard times. ‘Rather than saying no [to a slightly reduced fee], we adapt. I would rather keep the relationship that we built over several years than lose it,’ he says.
Having just celebrated its tenth anniversary and currently employing 30 staff and expanding, Bulletproof is starting to grow up. ‘Nothing has changed in our underlying culture, but we’re maybe a little more sensible,’ says Mundae. ‘We want to be really engaging and think like a small business in a creative sense, but have a large business vision and outlook, with a global reach.’