Branding expert, or as it says on his business card “prophet, madman & wanderer”, Steve Edge welcomed me into his astounding studio in East London on a chilly Friday morning. Steve Edge Design is his brand and digital design agency and the workplace of 17 employees. Entering Edge’s office, you instantly become aware of his creativeness and unique career. On the walls you can find anything from a picture of him dressed up as surrealist artist Salvador Dalí to a photo of him in his twenties with his pet monkey and Harrison Ford from the filming of Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Edge started telling me about his business, which was founded in 1984. “Our whole concept is storytelling. People always remember the good stories but forget the bad ones,” he said. He continued to explain that the lack of storytelling or doing it badly results in no one remembering your company. In contrast, he argued that “if you hear a great story, you will not only remember it but you’re going to want to tell others about it! That is key”.
The reason why Edge is focused on storytelling stems back to his childhood and not so surprisingly, he told me a fascinating story about it. Edge grew up in a poor part of London, although “not poor in love, life or amazingness,” he pointed out. When joining the cub scouts, it required him owning a backpack. “My dad, being the most amazing person that he was, had somehow gone out and managed to come back with the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.” His father had gotten him a Norwegian army backpack and told Steve that it was not just about it being beautiful, but that the Norwegian army climbed the highest mountains in minus 22 degrees with their special kit in that backpack. And to Steve, it was no longer just a backpack. “Every time I put it on, even when I was going to Hackney Downs to have a camp with the cubs, I was on that mountain, in that amazing environment, thinking about that story.”
One of Edge’s favourite success stories was when he helped Fortnum & Mason with their branding. Managing Director, Mr. Gerry Hamilton, reached out to Edge in 1995 to ask for help. Edge, chatty and informal as he is, asked if he could call him Gerry. Mr. Hamilton told him that he preferred if he didn’t. Edge helped the company increase their sales with 30 percent and after their very first meeting, Edge said that he and Mr. Hamilton were new best friends and he has called him “H” ever since.
The story about why he started his own agency is “because I’m totally unemployable,” he answered with a smile. Being severely dyslectic, Edge has never read a book in his life, simply because he can’t. But he said: “Guess what that brings? Being incredibly focused and highly creative.” When a company comes to him for help, Edge focuses straight to their core, “looking for something to hang your hat on,” he said. That ability, to be able to focus on what is at the core of a company is something you don’t come by very often he has learnt. “And when I find it, we create the world’s greatest brands around it. It’s been the biggest advantage for me, being severely dyslexic, it’s always looked after me,” Edge said.
When I asked him to describe branding in one sentence, he looked at me with fierce concentration and burst out: ”It’s called love”. Edge explained that the power of the brand is that when you get it right, it gives the customer everything they want and everyone wants to buy it. “[It is when] the brow on your forehead is completely wiped and there’s no creasing because you just want it. It’s very simple, it’s love.”