BGBS 053: Shawn Parr | Bulldog Drummond | How Can We Make a Difference?
Shawn Parr is the Guvner and CEO of Bulldog Drummond, a design and innovation company with the purpose of helping leaders unlock the best in their organization, solve a series of challenges, and define opportunities through the lens of brand. Shawn brings 20+ years of business-building experience to the table and ensures there’s an “Uncommon Sense” methodology at the center of everything the business does to assist executive teams at companies including Adidas, Hilton, Taco Bell, Samsung, and H&R Block, among many others.
Over time, Shawn has developed a commitment to finding sustainable ways to make a measurable difference in the world through helping companies realize their full potential to initiate change. He is the co-founder of YouSchool and Y-Malawi?, and sits on the board of The Honest Kitchen, along with his other engagements in impact. As an optimist, Shawn reminds us that the roaring 20s bloomed with creativity and innovation after a dark time, and believes that the years moving forward will mirror our past. Things may never be “normal” again, but the new normal will be beautiful, nonetheless. That being said, how can we all contribute to the new way forward through our own curiosity and intent?
In this episode, you’ll learn…
- The name Bulldog Drummond was inspired by a fictional detective from one of Shawn’s childhood books
- Shawn didn’t always have a burning passion for art in school. He discovered design as a passion through trying on many hats until he found a path that felt right
- In the search for where he could add value, Shawn considered being an officer in the English army or an accountant.
- The reason for Shawn’s move from London to California was love! He met his wife of 30 years in London and followed her to the States.
- Moving to California back in ’91 opened Shawn’s eyes to a world of energy and possibility that he had not previously experienced in the UK.
- A driving force for Shawn’s work ethic is that nobody is entitled to anything and respect is earned through discipline.
- Shawn believes that a brand has inherently human characteristics that when defined and unlocked, will transform teams and customers to become more invested and engage in a relationship with it
- One of Shawn’s most meaningful projects was developing a traveling exhibit representing the lives of people who contracted HIV/AIDS to raise money after a life-changing trip to Africa in 2006
- Shawn is most looking forward to is participating in the connectivity, and the joy, the humor, the music, the art, and culture that is to come (a second roaring 20s if you will)
- With some curiosity in intent, design can be the tool that furthers our purpose.
LinkedIn: Shawn Parr
LinkedIn: Bulldog Drummond
[29:28] Any service business is like having a bucket with a hole in it and you’re constantly filling it up because you’re not selling a product per se, that people are buying. But I would say that anxiety was what certainly fueled, drove my energy to keep moving the business forward.
[33:20] I think one simple way that I like to think about brand is a brand is like a person, meaning we’re searching for a reason why we exist, we have a purpose in the world, we go out and live into that purpose, we have a personality that is distinct, we have a set of values that guide how we think about things and how we operate. And then we have relationships with people that, you know, we’re either in positive, negative, or non-relationship with. And I brands are very similar. They have a strategic or dimensional core to them. They inherently have a human characteristic.
[37:08] I and we as a company, we are forced to be relevant and curious and students of what is now. We are also challenged with our clients to solve big business challenges. And so in doing that, you’re collaborating with team members, inside of organizations and your own, so that you’re always learning, you’re always moving forward.
[42:08] Our position as a company is, we get up every day to try to help leaders become a force for good inside of their organizations. So we believe like many people today, that businesses, companies, and leaders in companies are the biggest change agents in society. We have the ability to move culture. We have the ability to move systems and not necessarily have to rely on government…What’s in our heart is actually moving the world forward through the work that we do, and making the world a better place through the work we do.
Shawn Parr 0:02
I think the learning that I got was working collaboratively with creative people, with designers, with writers, with art directors and photographers, illustrators. And again, bringing a different perspective but really respecting what they did. I got a lot of joy from that. What I realized was, not only will my people but that’s where I, their creativity fueled mine, if that makes sense. So I bought a business perspective to their creativity. And that felt really good.
Marc Gutman 0:43
Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado, this is the Baby Got Backstory Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby Got Backstory, we are talking with Shawn Parr of the design and innovation consultancy Bulldog Drummond. And while I have your ear, if you’re listening, I’m assuming you like our show. And if that’s the case, please take a minute or two to rate and review us over at Apple podcasts or Spotify, Apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. Better yet, please recommend this show to at least one friend you think well like it. That’s what really good friends do. And if this is your first time listening, please consider subscribing. It’s your subscriptions that make the show possible. All right back to our show.
As the governor, you like that kind of weird British accent that I just failed miserably at and CEO of Bulldog Drummond Shawn is responsible for strategically directing each of Bulldog’s key engagements, ensuring there’s an Uncommon Sense methodology at the center of everything the company does. This approach maintains that the most complex challenges can be solved and the biggest opportunities can be realized. By using a powerful combination of simplicity, common sense and determination.
He brings 20 plus years of innovation design, brand and business building experience to companies from fortune 500. To purpose-driven startups. Shawn helps leadership teams transform large multinational companies in passionate entrepreneurs launch new companies, products and brands. He’s worked with executive teams at companies including Adidas bolthouse Farms, Campbell’s CMT, Dr. Yeoh, Hilton, Heineken, h&r block, IDEO, and TV, MTV, Mattel, nyck, perch, Starbucks, Samsung, Tata Harper, Taco Bell, Wd 40, Westfield and World Vision among many others. Those of you listening Do you recognize any of those brands? Wow. He writes for Fast Company psfk as a sought after speaker, Shawn lives in San Diego with his wife and three children is a DOM patrol surfer, wannabe photographer, an avid cultural for air. And this is his story.
I am here with Shawn Parr, who is the governor and CEO of Bulldog Drummond Shawn, thank you for joining us. And Shawn if you wouldn’t mind just by starting off by letting us know what is Bulldog Dummond and what does the governor do.
Shawn Parr 4:00
Mark, nice to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to chat. Bulldog Drummond is design and innovation company. We’re based in San Diego. And we get up every day to help leaders unlock the best in their organization, solve a series of challenges unlocking opportunities through the lens of brand. And the governor is a title that I sort of inherited a few years ago. It’s an English title for a leader and it stuck. So I’m the CEO and Chief Strategy Officer of the company and on the journey for about 23 years here, just a mere 23 years.
Marc Gutman 4:49
And I like that and when you talk about being a design and innovation company, if you would if you could just clarify that because I think a lot of people associate the word design with pretty pictures imagery, logos. And I have a hunch, and we don’t know each other that well, but I have a hunch that you mean something a little bit different when you say, design innovation company. What is that?
Shawn Parr 5:12
Yeah. So for us, design is a way of looking at the world to solve challenges and problems to create value. So thinking through the lens of designing solutions, and sometimes it can be a strategy. Sometimes it can be a service, sometimes it can be a visual manifestation can be a logo, it can be an identity, it can be a look and feel. Yeah, it’s an orientation towards solving challenges.
Marc Gutman 5:41
Thanks. In preparation for this interview, I was very curious as to what was Bulldog Drummond. And when I googled it, I get a it’s a fictional character created by hc McNeil, which I’ve never heard of, and I’m an English person, English literature person and love to read and think of myself a bit is, you know, a well-read individual, but I’ve never heard of this book. And so is this the inspiration for the name of your of your firm?
Shawn Parr 6:11
Yeah. So I got here from London in 1991. And launch photo drowning in 97. And I wanted to build a brand. I wanted to create a platform that gave us permission to do certain things. And there were two names that I sort of come to the US with, one was bought on drum and the other was mad dogs and Englishmen, mad dogs and Englishmen was taken and bought out. Drummond was a fictional detective, but I was given the book as a kid. And they were terrible books. There’s a reason you didn’t read them. There’s a reason nobody studies them because they’re terrible. But he was like, I don’t know, an ugly James Bond. And he solved problems. So really, the, the inspiration was that he was a detective, he solved problems. And that was sort of the center of who bought our drum and was, you know, in 97, and is Today we’re in the business of being given a challenge, we solve a problem, we come to the table with a level of energy, personality and sense of ourselves. And back in 97, it was a license to behave badly. And today, it is truly a brand that lives in a meaningful, deep way.
Marc Gutman 7:40
And so, you touched on this a little bit. But you mentioned I think you got the books when you were, you know, younger, a young boy, and you were first exposed to them. So when did you grow up in the UK? it? Yeah. And so as a young boy in the UK, you know, what was Shawn like, were you into these things like brand and discovering, you know, identity and designing the way forward? Was that who you were as a, as a young boy?
Shawn Parr 8:10
No, I mean, I yes, in that I was fascinated by music, I was fascinated by fashion and personal identity I was trying to figure out was I was I’m not was a modern, romantic, you know, I didn’t see myself as a punk rocker. I loved the aesthetic of the mob movement. I love that type of music. I loved the liberation of you new, new romantic music. So I was fascinated by design and culture. As a teenager. My father was a very creative individual. He was a, he owned a produce store he was on. He owned a power beyond an antique store. He owned an import business. And he was extremely creative with Merchandising, and customer service in a very unique way. So I that’s where I suppose my exposure to design and aesthetic came from interior design, retail design, but not in a sort of a formal way.
Marc Gutman 9:16
Yeah. And so were you exposed to any of that kind of design in school? Or was it purely through your father and, you know, exposure to his entrepreneurial businesses? Were you— did you take on any sort of art or creative interest while you were at school?
Shawn Parr 9:33
You know, art was a subject, but it wasn’t a total fascination. And so, for me, you know, the thing that I was fascinated by was, was literature writing. You didn’t bite, the literary debating society was something I was stoked on. So no, not in a formal way. You know, I think when you look back at the influences you have, I definitely look back on the way you know, he went presented his store the music, he put on the way that he was involved with, you know, charities. So it was just it was sort of, I don’t know, design school of life if you like.
Marc Gutman 10:12
Yeah. And so why was that path? Not for you Why? Or maybe you did. But I’m assuming you didn’t get into the family business. You didn’t you didn’t go that path. Why not?
Shawn Parr 10:27
Well, I, you know, I used to get up at four o’clock in the mornings as a teenager on the weekends and go to the Covent Garden with him to buy vegetables, and load the van, unload the van and set the store up. As I got a little bit older, I worked around the power bit in the background, I went to antique markets. And, you know, again, I learned a lot from him. But, you know, for a couple of different reasons, didn’t get involved in the family business and wrecked his marriage, and didn’t make him a particularly happy man. You know, it was hard work in a different way than we did a lot of hard work, if that makes sense.
Marc Gutman 11:07
No, for sure. And so I imagine that you had probably set that worldview or that opinion of where you wanted to be, which was not in that business, by the time that you were in high school. And, and so what did you think you wanted to do with your life? At that point? What were you thinking, the future was gonna hold for Shawn, you know, when you’re getting ready to, to prepare to go out in the rest of the world,
Shawn Parr 11:30
I, I actually thought that I wanted to be an officer in the English army. And I was solely rejected with that one, because my, my grades were not, were not strong enough and in the sciences, and so I there was a period of time where I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do. And, you know, a one point I thought I wanted to be an accountant. So I was in that little chapter of sort of searching for perhaps, where I could add value, or where I could be inspired or whatever. And it took a little while to figure that out.
Marc Gutman 12:07
Yeah. And so what was that? Like? I mean, you know, sounds like, you might have been heartbroken to be rejected by the English army and realize that, that that wouldn’t be for you. So what was that process? Like of figuring out, you know, what was your Muse? or What was your calling?
Shawn Parr 12:24
As I look back, it was very frustrating not to know exactly what you wanted to do. It was it just, it made you pick up things and turn them over and try them. And, you know, I think a little rejection is is good, it shapes your character and moves you in a different direction. If I go back then and imagine, like what I’m doing now, what I’ve had the privilege of doing for the last year, 20 plus years, I could never have imagined, that’s what I want. That’s what I wouldn’t be doing. So I think there’s, you know, we talked about how you design a path, and you just follow it, some people are lucky to do that. Some people like they just have that burning passion. I think my path has been trying early on trying a lot of things. And then, you know, by luck and by relationship, and by, you know, sheer well at times, getting on a path that I absolutely love.
Marc Gutman 13:21
Yeah. And so, how old were you when you were in this stage of experimentation? And what were some of the things that you tried that you realized weren’t for you?
Shawn Parr 13:32
So I was in my early 20s, I thought I wanted to be an accountant. I actually worked in a, it was probably the precursor to David Brent’s office, I worked for tower crane, and, you know, construction comp hire business. And I worked with an incredible guy who was just very organized, and he ran all of the tower cranes that were rented out through London, but he was he was in finance, and, you know, everybody that was in finance in this organization where they have responsibility, they, you know, they had influence, they had an interesting what looked like an interesting existence. So I thought, okay, it’s gonna be an accountant, and I can go down that path. And, you know, started down that path and wasn’t wasn’t for me.
Marc Gutman 14:25
And so when you realize it wasn’t for you, then what you do?
Shawn Parr 14:29
So there was a fantastic company that was in the real estate and finance space. And it was a brand its do that all it had, it had a level of consistency and uniformity and service. I had a sales position and I applied for it, got the job and very, very quickly, you know, moved into a direct sales director position sales and marketing director position, you know, running a team, it was a pretty rapid path to responsibility. And it was that was the sort of the beginning of connecting the dots back to the design.
I didn’t at the time, I didn’t think of it as brand. I didn’t call it brand, I didn’t call it strategy. I didn’t call it design, or customer experience, it was just being part of something that was cohesive and different and had energy and was useful, and it was successful, and it was making a difference in people’s lives. So that was that led me to a situation where I was responsible for our ad agency, and was the client and had a great relationship with them. And so they had no maybe six or seven months into our relationships that we want to grow our business. You know, we’d love to offer you an opportunity to come join us. So I moved from technically being a client, a young client into running an ad agency with the responsibility of growing it. And that sort of was the beginning of that sort of formal transition into appetizing design, innovation consulting.
Marc Gutman 16:28
Yeah. And so it sounds like to this point, other than learning on the job with your father and learning on the job at the real estate company haven’t had any real formal education around brand advertising any of these things you’re learning, you know, you’re learning on the job. So you go and you take this larger role at an advertising agency. Man, what was that? Like? I mean, were you well suited for that? Did you just struggle at first, like, what was what was that experience like?
Shawn Parr 16:55
So I think I bought a lot of perspective where I had been the client. So almost having a client inside of this agency, this these team of people that had been pure agency, people that was a design studio, production studio and media buying team. So I had a different perspective. And I really respected their different perspective and approach. So I think we learn together. And I think that was a good example of, you know, different areas of expertise or experience coming together can actually be better. And, yeah, it was the thing that, you know, I was schooled in and prior projects, works, responsibilities with what juggling many expectations, many projects, many deadlines, many complexities. So I think that piece was easy, if you like or wasn’t complicated. I think the learning that I got was working collaboratively with creative people, with designers, with writers without directors and photographers, illustrators. And again, bringing sort of a different perspective, but really respecting what you did. And I got a lot of joy from that. I what I realized was, not only were my people, but that’s where I I like their creativity fueled mine, if that makes sense. So I bought a business perspective to their creativity. And there was just that was that felt really good.
Marc Gutman 18:36
Yeah. And is this where kind of that light bulb that proverbial light bulb goes off? where you’re like, oh, maybe I found it, maybe, you know, maybe I found the thing that I’m supposed to be settling into. Was this. Was this the time?
Shawn Parr 18:50
Yeah, I think that to some degree, yes. The ability to build and create value, but I think that didn’t really come until I got to California. There was still a the UK or London, you know, while it was dynamic, it still had sort of this, rather than Yes, you can it had this Well, maybe you can. And, you know, on Sorry, no, I don’t think you should do that. Maybe don’t maybe no, I’m sorry. No, no, that’s not possible. Whereas I got to California and it was like, wow, everybody’s got this energy about them. This. Just this optimism, this, there’s nothing you can’t do. It’s full of possibilities. So it was coming here. That just gave me that sense of Oh my gosh. And you know, I think with the the rise of the design movement, if you like the rise of entrepreneurs in here, with the advent of you know, the web, it just was I was like, became I realized I was like a kid in a candy store.
Marc Gutman 20:02
So what brought you to California? So you’re, you know, you’re in the UK and coming here is, it’s not like it’s impossible or anything, but it is different. And it is a big move. And you know, what took you from London to California.
Shawn Parr 20:16
So I met a California girl who was at school in London. Just about to graduate, Matt fell in love, basically told her wherever she went, I would go, and it just so happens that she was from San Diego. And that’s not a bad place to live. But so yeah, love fell madly in love. You know, I’ve been married to her for 30 years. Next year, we’ve got three kids. So I didn’t come here for business. I didn’t come here for, you know, what America offers. It’s like, love.
Marc Gutman 20:56
That’s a good reason. Probably the best of all, and congratulations on 30 years and three kids. That’s a great accomplishment. Yeah. So that’s amazing. And so, you know, you come here and, you know, I used to live in Los Angeles and kind of know that whole California area really well. And I still don’t even think of San Diego is like an advertising kind of hotspot. You know, I know there’s a big economy there. I know. There’s a lot of people but no, I think if you’re coming to the US for advertising, you’re looking at you know, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, all these bigger metro areas. And so what was it like when you got to San Diego where you know, you have this experience and to just show up with your portfolio in your briefcase ready to tackle the advertising world? And in San Diego, what was that all about?
Shawn Parr 21:44
Yeah, no, it was very humbling. Back in 91. It was, it was a city that was revolved around hospitality and military. And there were, you know, there were other businesses here. But once you sort of looked around, it was, you’re right, it was sort of the hotbed of creativity. Back then there was some, there are a couple of really great ad agencies here. There are a couple of great really design studios here. And I think what’s happened is, as San Diego as a city has grown up, over the last 20 plus years, the level of entrepreneurial energy and creativity that manifests itself in food, hospitality, technology, healthcare, biotechnology, what the hotbed of creativity has fueled a community of amazing design-centric companies here. And, you know, I was fortunate to be here when it was, you know, really in that sort of, gestation period, and I’ve just been incredibly privileged to, to live here and, you know, do business here, but at the same time, you know, our, our business has been very much across the US and, you know, outside of the US over the last, you know, 20 plus years. So we chose to look outside of San Diego, we needed to look outside of San Diego for business. And that was actually a really good challenge on reflection.
Marc Gutman 23:21
This episode brought to you by Wildstory. Wait, isn’t that your company? It is. And without the generous support of Wildstory, this show would not be possible. A brand isn’t a logo, or a tagline, or even your product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product service or company. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
Wildstory helps progressive founders and savvy marketers build purpose-driven brands that connect their business goals with the customers they want to serve. So that both the business and the customer needs are met. This results in crazy, happy, loyal customers that purchase again and again. And this is great for business. If that sounds like something you and your team might want to learn more about. Reach out @ www.wildstory.com and we’d be happy to tell you more. Now back to our show.
When you came to San Diego, did you start Bulldog Drummond like day one, were you looking for a job within the advertising community? Or what were your job prospects like when you when you came here full of love and hope?
Shawn Parr 24:37
So I actually got a visa on a job with a little design studio. And the owner of that business was thrilled that you know, I had business development and to build a business and you know, I was English. Two days in I realized it was not gonna work and started to think About You know, okay, do I start something on my own, that was incredibly difficult back then. And I was very fortunate my, my wife’s best friend from elementary school, her mother owned a little design, business, design and PR business with a with a friend. And they had good reputation, they had a little portfolio and a little office, and I got introduced to them, I said, Hey, listen, give me a, maybe give me a desk, a chair and a phone and give me a little bit of time. And let me see if I can develop some business. And then maybe we can have a conversation. And within about six months, I bought in some business, and you know, at the end of the year, we figured out, hey, this is going to be a good thing. And so that was the that was the incredible sort of jumping off point where I was able to, you know, really honor them, and at the same time, be able to build sort of a business infrastructure. So that was in 90, late 92, I spent about three or four years building up a team and a portfolio and then launch for Drummond formally in 97. So, you know, the power of or the benefit of being supported by or encouraged by a good person. I was very fortunate that that that was the case.
Marc Gutman 26:25
Yeah, who was that person? What was their name?
Shawn Parr 26:27
Name was Anne, or is Anne Book. And she’s a an incredibly wise, Irish American New Yorker wrote eight books. And my wife actually grew up with that family, and they’re incredible people. And, you know, eternally grateful to Ann. And yeah, no, I was I was, I was very fortunate that she was fortunate. And I was fortunate.
Marc Gutman 26:52
Yeah. And so you, you go off, and you hang your shingle, and you launch this firm Bulldog Drummond and what did you hope to do with it? Right? Why did you start your own firm? And what were you looking to do?
Shawn Parr 27:04
You know, I think, first and foremost, provide a life for my wife and family, provide a great life, my wife and family was Goal number one is going number one today, that hadn’t changed. But I think to work with interesting people, and it was to, at the time, it was to create great advertising, it was to design great, you know, visual solutions for people today, it’s a different thing.
Marc Gutman 27:33
Yeah. And so when you when you went into business, did you have a strong sense of like, who you were going to serve? Did you know what market you were going to be looking at? Or was it more of a like, Hey, we’re just out here, and we’re, we’re hungry, and we’re taking, we’re taking business from anybody?
Shawn Parr 27:48
To start with, it was certainly that to get going, and it was literally getting going. And then it became, let’s work in sport, let’s work in fashion, let’s work in entertainment, let’s work in, you know, health care, to start with to build a creative reputation. And, you know, early on, it was very much about the dynamic nature of the work that you created, built your reputation. So it was early on, it was how you do that. And what type of clients do do we have, and we were very fortunate we won. Once from green to early business, Virgin was a key client of ours for about 10 years. And, you know, it was really sort of a magnet, both for talent, and it was a tool to actually demonstrate our creativity, as we will call it.
Marc Gutman 28:39
And that must have been extremely exciting. And what a What a great brand to work with. And as you started, I mean, was it a success from day one? Or were you? Were you kind of holding it all together? Were you worried, you know, at any given time that hey, this thing might not work and you just shared with me, the number one driver for that business was to take care of your family. So those are some big stakes. Those are real stakes. You know, this isn’t like, no ego and stuff like that, you know, whatever. But like, your family is at stake here. And so were you ever concerned like hey, like, this thing might not work? Or like our I hope it works or like we’re working on that.
Shawn Parr 29:13
I think there’s always that sort of a this driving question of, you know, is are you gonna be in business? Are you gonna be successful? I think the type of any service business is like having a bucket with a hole in and you’re constantly filling it up, because you’re not selling a product per se that people are buying. But I would say that that anxiety, if you like was what certainly fuel drove my energy to keep moving the business forward. And, you know, I’ve sort of always operated from the premise of, you’re not entitled people don’t give you anything. You have to earn respect. You have to earn your way It’s, you know, it’s tough. So it’s been a, it’s been a great journey. But along the way, all along the way that fuel of, Hey, I have a payroll to make I have, I’m beyond my family, I have a business family that I’m responsible for. So that that certainly motivates you.
Marc Gutman 30:18
For sure, absolutely. And you know, I’m gonna make an assumption, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but like, I get the sense that you, you really love what you do. And you really love this field of design and brand. And so, you know, assuming that to be true, and you know, what do you love about it? Like, we’re like, whitey, you’ve been in it for a long time, you’ve been, you know, you’ve been in it by choice, like, what do you love? What do you love about it?
Shawn Parr 30:43
So I think, coming from a country where you knew there was always this, maybe, I’m sorry, go back to what I was saying earlier, to come to a country and be in a in a profession where anything’s possible. And you can play a role in working with entrepreneurs, or you can work with the leaders of multibillion dollar national international companies. And you can help add value move things forward through the power of design, and communication, and collaboration. And it really does, it never gets old. Because if you’re fascinated by the challenge, and you’re fascinated by the people you work with, they are always different. There’s similarities, but the marketplace is different the customers a different stage of business is different. The stage and technology is different. The personalities, different cultural challenges, insider a company, so it’s always different. And I have a terrible add, and you know, sort of have this serial entrepreneurial, want to solve want to create one effects. And so it feeds that sort of incessant need to jump into things and create. And then there’s the fascination with beauty, expressed in designing solutions, and, you know, improving lives and making helping in small ways to make the world a better place. So I think there’s no better place for somebody that’s got a little add, it’s got that energy for creative things, it’s a great place to be.
Marc Gutman 32:30
Yeah, I always described a little bit as like this, like ability to always have new love, you know, you can always fall fall in love again, and again, with a different, you know, leadership team brand idea, like you get to dislike, you know, and you just get to kind of read redo that over and over again. And I really resonate with, with what you’re saying. And so, when you talk about brand, like, how do you define brand? Like what’s your what’s your definition of brand?
Shawn Parr 32:57
So I think it is, it’s multi dimensional. And you do in its most simplest form, it used to mean it was a promise, it is the the manifestation of a broad series of things that sort of end up in a consumers mind in terms of the way they think about a product or company or service. But I think one simple way that I like to think about brand is a brand is like a person. And you know, a person is like a brand meaning they have there’s a we’re searching for a reason why we exist, we have a purpose in the world, we go out and live into that purpose, we have a personality that is distinct, we have a set of values that guide how we think about things and how we operate. And then we have relationships with people that, you know, we’re we’re either in positive, negative or non relationship with. And I brands are very similar. They have a, they have a strategic or dimensional core to them. They’re inherently they have a human characteristic. This is at least one way of thinking about it. From my perspective, it’s like why does it exist? What does it have to do in the world? You know, what value is it adding? How does it show up? How do people experience it? How does it live in their lives? So I think brand is an incredible asset that when understood, and when defined and unlocked. Actually, you see it, we see it transform companies and teams, they believe in that they get behind it, they work every day, because they get paid, they really are invested and engaged in a relationship with it. And the same is true with consumers
Marc Gutman 34:42
that couldn’t agree more and everyone loves transformation and engagement. But what’s hard about it like What don’t we know about this thing brand like like if you know i mean? I’m sure we’d all be all be doing it every business would be doing it well if they could. So So what’s hard about it,
Shawn Parr 34:59
You know, I think inside of organizations, you have different levels of awareness and understanding of all the disciplines, whether it’s finance, whether it’s law, whether it’s regulation, for manufacturing, or whether it’s for marketing or whether it’s a brand. And depending on the people that are stewarding an organization, the appreciation for what a, an incredibly well articulated, framed out executed brand looks like can be challenging. So I think part of our job is always to try to recognize the level of awareness and understanding and be a good guide to help the teams understand what it can do for their, their organization and their constituents. You know, I think it’s hard when it’s viewed superficially, but I think the level of understanding has, you know, in the last two or three years, people are very much aware of what it can do for business.
Marc Gutman 35:58
Yeah, we’re kind of in the the golden age or golden era, if you will, it’s like people are finally hearing and understanding what what it is and what it isn’t. And so, you know, it’s we’re talking, I was thinking about how you started this interview and talking about, you know, Bulldog Drummond’s been around for 23 years, you’ve been doing this for a long time. And it got me to thinking about just like relevancy and staying relevant. And like, how does, like, if that’s something that always just like is on the top of my mind is like, how do you continue to stay relevant? How do you continue to reinvent yourself? And so how does Bulldog Drummond do it? How do you, you know, stay relevant and kind of keep keep on the pulse of what’s going on?
Shawn Parr 36:39
You calling me old?
Marc Gutman 36:41
Not at all!
Shawn Parr 36:44
No, you know, it’s, it’s a fantastic question. Because I think back to brand, you have to be relevant. And I think the world that we live in today, it’s not a brand has to be relevant, but you have to be current, you have to be engaged in culture, you have to be engaged in the world around you. And I think back to your question about why I still love what I do. I am we as a company, we are forced to be relevant and curious. And students of what is now we are also challenged with our clients to solve big business challenges. And so in doing that, you learn and doing that you’re collaborating with team members, inside of organizations and your own, so that you’re always learning, you’re always moving forward. So I think that that plus being self aware, and not not getting, you know, so caught up in Hey, wait, good, but versus we’ve always got something to learn. And I think that sort of humility actually makes us like, watch where we are in the Zeitgeist, it makes us look up where we are in the flow of business.
Marc Gutman 37:59
Yeah. And so as you you think back across that body of work that you alluded to, I won’t make it pick an absolute favorite, but what’s a piece of work that you’re really, really proud of that? You know, you look back, and you’re like, you know, kind of like the full expression of Shawn Parr and his team.
Shawn Parr 38:16
I think this too, for me. One is, I was fortunate to go to Africa in 2006. And the trip was to understand the impact of hunger and the impact of HIV. And we came back and we were we had a project that was literally how do you represent the impact of HIV on a continent and various constituents on that continent. And we were able to develop the concept for a traveling exhibit that was inspired by a trip to the apartheid museum. And it was highly experiential way you would walk through the lives of listening to the lives of different people who contracted on a digital contract HIV AIDS, and that that raised awareness, understanding and a significant amount of money. So that was a project I think, made me think about the type of work we do and a meaningful way that trip made me think about a role that we play because we transition from being an ad agency into, you know, a design and innovation consulting business, as a result of sort of that trip now work with Virgin, which was a really interesting mash up of sort of forces that may made me think about where we were going. And then obviously, the second piece of work is we helped to start a we founded a business called the US School, which is a social and emotional learning platform that is very much about helping high school kids, college kids, people in transition, figure out where they go. And so it’s a construct of self awareness with self confidence, leading to self direction in very simple terms, but it’s a curriculum based platform. So putting all the learning that we’d have, from a business perspective, from a family life perspective into a product. So yeah, that’s the two that come to mind.
Marc Gutman 40:21
Yeah, those are amazing. But flipping the script a little bit. Is there one that broke your heart? Like, is there one that you can remember where it just didn’t pan out the way you wanted it to? Or just left either kind of sad and bummed out?
Shawn Parr 40:36
You know, I, personally, I’ve been so fortunate across all the years. And I wouldn’t say there was any one that left me sad that way. But there was a multi billion dollar technology company that my creative director and I had the privilege of traveling to Prague, and, you know, the UK and another part of the US, and they were foreign owned, and these people were just rude. I mean, we we busted our backsides. For these people. It was a big project. And yeah, that was just, I think that was the one time and 23 years where I experienced rudeness. So yeah, that was that was sad for them, not for us, because we laugh about it. At this point. If I told you the story, you pee your pants, we don’t have enough time. But yeah, these these people, which is? Oh, yeah,
Marc Gutman 41:33
that’s pretty good track record. If in 23 years, that’s, that’s, that’s what you have. So that’s really, really awesome. So what is Bulldog Drummond look like today? Like, what’s the makeup of the business? What kind of clients are you working with?
Shawn Parr 41:45
So we went through a, I know, read, positioning, re examining the role we play in the war about 18 months ago, and especially with climate, and the social issues that are affecting the world. We said, you know, how can we make a difference. And our sort of position as a company is, we get up every day to try to help leaders become a force for good inside of their organizations. So we believe like many people today that businesses, companies, leaders, and companies are the biggest change agents in society, we have, you know, the ability to move culture, we have the ability to remove systems, and not necessarily have to rely on government. Another conversation. But so bought og, we work with the C suite, executives across a range of big a large range of, you know, significant companies. So what we look like today, as a company that we our expertise is in brand, and Brandon to innovation and people and culture, into customer experience into social impact and sustainability. They’re the practice areas that we operate in. And we are part of a three group studio today that has offices in in Irvine and Chicago, and we joined forces about three years ago. And so as a consulting studio, we now have, you know, partners in digital transformation, digital innovation, digital products and commerce. And so we have the ability to sort of affect the entire customer experience, or the connected customer experience, if needed. But what’s in our heart is actually moving the world forward through the work that we do, making the world a better place through the work we did.
Marc Gutman 43:54
And so what’s your biggest challenge right now with that?
Shawn Parr 43:57
I think that the move and the speed at which digital transformation is affecting some businesses, you know, I don’t see that as a challenge. I see that as a, as the natural next step for where business is going. I think helping, the challenge that we have is helping companies be aware of what’s around the corner while they’re while they’re dealing with the current reality of, you know, pandemic, the current reality of, you know, remote working and such.
Marc Gutman 44:32
Yeah, as the pandemic had a big impact on your business.
Shawn Parr 44:36
I was very fortunate, I would say we have a sort of a diverse client portfolio. We have, you know, organizations that are in technology and food and beverage and health care. We had clients that were very active in hospitality. So we I think like the rest of the world. We Got a shock to the system and in March and early April, and since has been extremely, you know, busy and engaged across a wide range of categories.
Marc Gutman 45:12
So what are you most excited about right now or looking forward to, maybe a better question?
Shawn Parr 45:18
I think when a dear friend of mine, who is a comedian, he posted some tape today. And it was a picture of this woman in the 20s. And she was in her 20s get up at Black and White photograph. And he said, Remember, when this was over, the roaring 20s happened, and joy is just around the corner. And so I think what I’m excited by is the much like, you know, back in the early 90s, and I think about San Diego, then and today, the unleashed creativity, that is an the natural joy that is gonna come out of humans, when we can’t have this restriction that is around us today. We I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to the way it was, but there will be a new normal, and the new normal has happened like throughout history. So what happens as a result, the the connectivity, and the the joy, the humor, the music, the art culture that is going to come in the next 234 years is going to be fantastic to participate in and experience.
Marc Gutman 46:30
So Shawn, is he is he think about yourself back in London, his young eight year old boy helping your dad open up those farmers markets and getting up early at 4am? Or maybe you’re a little older than that. Like if he you know, if he saw you today, what do you think he’d say?
Shawn Parr 46:47
He would say, life is short. You know, make sure you’re enjoying either the hearing now or not always thinking about tomorrow? I think he’d say, You did all right. And yeah, no, I think he’s, he, he was he always had these sort of anecdotes. You can never put a young head on old shoulders or an old head on your shoulders. But you know, I think he would, he would say, you know, just make sure you enjoy every day. Let’s say be brilliant.
Marc Gutman 47:29
And that is Shawn Parr of Bulldog Drummond. Hope you heard. I mean, really heard Shawn’s call that business, That design is the platform for change, that we can design our way over, around and through some of our biggest social and cultural issues. Think about that for a moment. There is a way forward. It’s not easy. It’s not obvious, but with some curiosity in intent. Design is the tool that furthers our purpose. A big thank you to Shawn part of Bulldog Drummond. After interview, Shawn shared his story of how he was looking at an old picture of a young woman from the 20s dressed in her flapper outfit. And then it reminded him that those roaring times came after a really dark and tough time. And that on the other side of our time, will be our version of the 20s where creativity and innovation will bloom. Soon we’ll turn the corner and we’ll all be wearing our roaring 20s flapper outfits. We will link to all things Shawn and Bulldog Drummond in the show notes. And if you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our best guests like Shawn come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. I like big stories and I cannot lie. You other storytellers can’t deny.