20 minutes with Nick Ramshaw.


It’s another busy week at Thompson with lots of projects in play. I’ve managed to squeeze some valuable time out of Managing Director, Nick Ramshaw’s exciting schedule, and he has answered some questions about branding and the creative industry. All aspiring creatives, get reading because Nick has offered some great advice on what you should be doing to maximize your learning opportunities.

The take away message from the conversation was the importance of ethics and trust. Nick explains that brand identity is built upon a mutual trust between clients and the team at Thompson.

Have a read through Nick’s responses for some great insight into the way Thompson works with clients and our core values, which drive the way the business is run.

What do you wish you could tell your 21 year-old self?

Make the most of opportunities and time, and do what you really find interesting. Believe in yourself and your ability to make things happen.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Always do the right thing and the job right. If you do the job well, it will be remembered. If you overcharge or undercook a job, it will come home to haunt you.

Why branding instead of advertising?

Because it impacts on every aspect of an organisation, from behaviours to communications, internal and external, and it impacts on overall performance and reputation.

What is the most exciting thing about this industry?

Being able to influence how an organisation thinks about itself, its vision for the future and how it fulfills its dreams.

What should aspiring creative and copywriters to be doing now?

Gaining experience of the world, understanding how brands work, studying writing for brands, getting into as many organisations as possible to widen experience.

What do you do if you’re struggling to come up with new concepts?

Share the problem with more people. More brains usually come up with more ideas. The ideas then need an open mind to develop them.

Can you learn or teach creativity?

Partly. It’s a way of using the mind, an openness to change and the new. It’s a way of problem solving. There is a difference between idea generation, much of which might be rational, and more emotive creative thinking.

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on?

Rebrand of STV, ITV in Scotland. Seeing our work on TV every night was a definite buzz. The rebrand also helps the company develop itself into more of a multimedia business.

How important is face to face?

Very. Our work is all about relationships. The best relationships are built on trust, which can only be achieved when you know someone and understand them. That doesn’t mean you need to meet clients for every decision. Meet when it makes sense.

Is there going to be any place for print in the next 20 years?

Definitely. Print is ideal for luxury finishes and communications that need a certain touch. Some things are also more effective when they’re not on a screen. It depends on the user. What is best for them? And what is best for the environment?

Is it possible to work for brands you don’t believe in?

It’s very hard. If it is a question of ethics, e.g. cigarette brands, then you need to ask yourself if you want to do it. This will come down to your personal and agency values. If it is a brand that is simply not good enough to succeed, then the decision is easier. We have said no to work on this basis, as in our opinion, it would not lead to success and had the potential to damage our reputation.

What differentiates the interesting briefs from the mundane?

I think all briefs are interesting. All contain a communications challenge, and all need thought and creativity. One of the best solutions I remember was for porta-cabins, which is about as mundane as you can get. For me it is up to the designer to make the most of the brief.

What’s been your biggest professional regret?

Not getting into the industry earlier. I followed a more career-orientated route into commercial property with absolutely no support form my school. I had no one to ask questions like ‘have you thought about this? What are you really interested in? What could you be doing to help make this happen?’

Are language and image equally important in branding? Is a successful brand one which is instantly recognisable though its colour scheme or logo alone?

The best brands are instantly recognisable, even if you cover up the name. This can be achieved by using logos, colours, typefaces, a tone of voice, type of image, illustration and the channels used to communicate the brand.

Does the perfect brand exist?

Not in my opinion. As soon as a brand successfully establishes itself, times and tastes change and it needs to develop. We talk about building brands. It’s a long-term job. Perfection is not a concept that exists in branding.

How do you respond to claims that branding and advertising are creating false ideals that can’t be realised in reality? Does the industry fuel the increasing gap between what we see on screens and what we see in the mirror?

Successful brands need to be built on principles that are within them; things they truly believe in. If they pretend to be something they are not, people will find out and dis-trust them. You cannot hide bad practices anymore, the internet has seen to that. We are getting very good at lobbying for change if we think it mis-represents, e.g. size zero models.

Should everything we see now that is a product of the industry be taken with a pinch of salt?

I think you need to be discerning and look for evidence that it is what it says it is. This and a knowledge that brands need to build trust. Take McDonalds for example, they are trying very hard to offer healthier food and are starting to succeed. Take Nike, they were found out for using sweatshops to manufacture trainers, took a big hit, but have come back by reassuring customers of their working practices. Are they fully trusted now? You need to ask the customers.

Thank you Nick!

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