When a company rebrands, it is often accompanied by the risk of its true identity getting lost in all the excitement.
But when North London-based distributor Chiller Box decided to embark on an exercise of that nature at the start of this year, it was purely about recognising where the business has come from and where it is going.
Marios Poumpouris and fellow director Michael Michael have had plenty to reflect on in the run-up to the corporate refresh — which was officially completed last month — having seen the business evolve dramatically over the decade or so since they set it up, initially as a specialist in commercial refrigeration.
Having made it through the worst of the recession in one piece and broadened the company’s horizons from both a project and industry perspective — Poumpouris serves on the FCSI’s executive committee — the pair admit it is time for the company to portray itself in a new light.
“We are nine years old this year and in some respects we are starting to come of age within the industry — that is probably the best way to describe it,” says Poumpouris. “We wanted to make a splash when we came along, we wanted to make our mark in the industry, and I think nine years down the line we can say that while we are still a relatively small company compared to some of our competitors, we are certainly among the reputable companies within the sectors that we work.”
Proving itself in a market dominated by so many established and inherently larger names has been no walk in the park. It has involved carrying out work to the highest standard, gaining accreditations left, right and centre, and investing time in becoming part of the industry fraternity. As well as its involvement with the FCSI, Chiller Box is “relatively active” within CEDA, says Poumpouris. “Certainly we have got a voice,” he adds.
It is quite an achievement for the company, although from day one it has always realised what an eye-catching branding strategy can do for a fledgling business. Its bright blue and yellow colours have become synonymous with the company, while the retro-style images of pretty ladies adorning its vans have certainly got it noticed.
It’s time now, however, for a more under-stated approach, although the business is no less ambitious and hungry than it has ever been. Chiller Box isn’t an elder statesman of the industry yet, but it has grown up.“We are toning it down a little bit,” admits Poumpouris. “We are going a little bit more serious and corporate in our branding to reflect the fact that we have kind of matured a little bit as well. There is also the fact that we don’t necessarily need to be making that massive splash that we did when we were trying to make our mark.”
While it is still using the yellow in its marketing literature, the baby blue in its logo has been darkened and is now complemented by dashes of grey — “it’s slightly toned down, slightly more serious and a bit more corporate” — while its strapline has changed from ‘From Keeping You Cool’ to ‘Catering Design Solutions’. Its stationery, website and vans have all been given a makeover, while separate corporate brochures for each sector have been replaced by one company-wide brochure.
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"The rebranding is also a consolidation of where the business is today,” notes Poumpouris. “We took a conscious decision, coincidentally around the start of the recession, that we were going to branch out into more sectors, particularly education and the general cost sector — communities, charities, nursing homes — and that has very much happened for us. So we now have a broader client base and the rebranding is a little bit of a consolidation of that as well.”
It is no surprise that this approach has also resulted in the dynamics of the business changing along the way. The company is far more project-driven now, whereas five years ago it did everything from internet sales and one-off equipment supply to repair work and service contracts.
“What we found is that for us the project work was where our skill set was best placed and where the business was most profitable and brought in the most return on investment in terms of marketing, time and return on capital really,” says Poumpouris.
It has taken Chiller Box longer than it planned to rebrand, but the journey has been worth it. “At the beginning of the year we thought we would be going live in early spring. It has just taken a lot of time, effort and resource, and a fair amount of financial investment as well, but we feel it is worthwhile to correctly reflect where we are in the market place.”
Rather than being something which is done and forgotten about, Chiller Box hopes the rebranding will prove to be a catalyst for reaching its goals.
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After a flat period of sales during the recession, the company claims that business picked up by 40% last year. Although it will take something special to repeat that this year, Poumpouris is confident that the company will at least run it close.
“It is difficult to say what it is going to be. We are aiming for 25% to 30%, but whether we will quite get there remains to be seen. We closed the third quarter of our financial year in July, so we have got a quarter to go and we are on target for growth. The size of it comes down to the final quarter.
“We are aiming to double our turnover within two to three years from now and the brand refresher is part of our armoury to achieve that.”
Client diversification keeps order book looking fresh
When Chiller Box first launched its business, most of its time was spent targeting the hospitality market and schools. But as the company has grown, it has extended its reach and taken on schemes in numerous different sectors.
Projects now account for 80% of its turnover, a major development that has led to it reducing dependence on one-off pieces of supply business. Recent project wins have involved everything from a coffee shop refurbishment at London Business School to an executive kitchen at Rothschild Group’s HQ.
“If you look at our client mix compared with five years ago, we have upped the ante a little bit in the type of organisations that we are dealing with, so we are winning some of this corporate work as well now,” says managing director Marios Poumpouris.
More impressively, Chiller Box has done it all with a pretty lean structure. It has a core team of half a dozen people, but relies on local outsourcers to provide support in specific areas such as IT, marketing and finance. This, says Poumpouris, allows it to flex up and down as and when the need arises, such as with the recent rebranding when it was able to call on greater marketing expertise than it would have been able to in-house.
Poumpouris says that one of Chiller Box’s big hopes from the outset was that it would generate a lot of business from budding foodservice brands with clear expansion strategies. That never materialised the way it envisaged during the company’s formative years, but it is changing now.
“In the last couple of years we have actually got a few London-based clients with various concepts that are starting to grow and that we have started to work with,” he explains. “That includes Barrio Bars, which now has three sites based around a Latino bar-type concept; a client called Grab Thai, which is a street food vendor that has just opened a second site and is looking at more sites as we speak; and another one called Quarter Cafe, a mid- to high-end coffee shop operation that has opened up across London.”
With such customers in an excellent position to expand their propositions further, Chiller Box is well-placed to fulfil the ambitions that it has held ever since it started the business.
Name: Chiller Box
Address: Unit 6, Carbery Enterprise Park, 36 White Hart Lane, London, N17 8DP
Tel: 0800 849 1188
Expertise: Kitchen design, catering equipment and refrigeration supply