Designing a Brand that Lasts

Mary McDonald & Martyn Lawrence Bullard
Photo courtesy of Dwell magazine

As public relations practitioners, it is our role to establish and strengthen media relationships, stay abreast of the latest social media trends, and help our clients improve upon their branding techniques and publicity strategies. One way to keep the creative ideas flowing for our team as well as for clients is staying on top of activities, events and seminars within our 11 industry sectors.

Last week, our team members were fortunate enough to attend one of DESIGN ADAC’s keynote presentations, “Building your Brand as an Interior Designer,” which featured VERANDA editor-in-chief Dara Caponigro and celebrated designers Mary McDonald and Martyn Lawrence Bullard.

Caponigro moderated for McDonald and Bullard, who unveiled how they entered the world of design as well as shared the ways in which they uncovered the secrets to building, maintaining and growing successful brands.

Given our more-than-decade-long experience managing branding and public relations for designers (among others) here at ECPR, we enjoyed hearing them refer to “being published” as an essential business function for designers to achieve success.

Photo courtesy of 

Two of our team members, Dominique de Bruin and Katherine Merkel, reflect in this blog post on the event’s topic and how it translates to the services ECPR offers its own clients.

Katherine’s Observations…McDonald and Bullard honored a room of design enthusiasts with a glimpse into their back-stories and how they’ve continued to grow their talents into highly marketable services and product lines around the world. As a PR practitioner, I was especially intrigued to learn which branding techniques they feel are essential for designers.

Aside from their natural ability and unwavering devotion to all things related to high-end style, McDonald and Bullard admitted they got their starts in the industry by a series of positive happenings, perhaps even some being coincidences. Clearly, we would say, their magnanimous personalities, hard work, and impressive design talent had something to do with their successes. Designers and PR strategists alike, we all know that only with the combination of experience and diligence it is possible to earn a renowned presence in the design field. Undoubtedly, it takes immense amounts of work.

Ringing true in my mind, the panelists agreed a major factor in their success was having their design work published. According to McDonald, one of the best ways to break onto the design scene is to decorate your own home and strive for it to be published. I found this comment to be spot-on; we work with editors and bloggers all the time to cover designer-clients’ homes. It is one of the most published types of content in home, design and shelter publications, both in print and online.

Individually, each designer reflected on the importance and benefits that come with a published design feature. McDonald was quick to point out that if a designer’s work is good it will be published, and once it’s out there people will call. However, once the job requests start flowing in, Bullard made sure to stress the significance of strategically accepting and declining jobs to boost one’s career.

At that point Bullard and McDonald offered guests what I thought was the best branding advice a designer can have. “It’s not what you accept, it’s what you turn down,” said Bullard. “You need to find the jobs that pay and the ones that move your career forward,” McDonald added. “To make a business grow you have to find better jobs, not necessarily bigger ones.”

~ Katherine

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From Dominique…Using humor and wit, McDonald and Bullard captivated their audience, me included, with fun anecdotes whilst revealing their best-kept secrets for brand awareness. Most known for their roles on the Bravo TV hit “Million Dollar Decorators,” McDonald and Bullard are two of the industry’s most successful interior designers. With A-List clients and celebrity status, these two designers do not shy away from success, they embrace it.

This brings me to one of the aspects I found most interesting during the brand building session. It wasn’t until McDonald and Bullard reached stardom that they grasped the importance of outsourcing public relations services. Both were adamant that without the help of PR practitioners at this point in their careers, they simply would not have time to secure opportunities to have their design projects published in magazines. They also stressed the role of PR service-providers as being key in attaining certain speaking engagements or connections around the globe. They noted, as a designer, your design work is first and foremost the main priority.

McDonald and Bullard are incredible case-studies that showcase the power of publicity. Their career paths to achieve star status were dotted with print, online and on-air coverage of their expertise and design installations.

For most designers, star status or simply becoming well-known most often occurs by way of a diverse design portfolio combined with an ongoing professional public relations plan. Budgets may be tight in today’s economy, but the importance of getting your company’s name and projects consistently in front of potential clients is worth the return on investment.

Our goal at ECPR is to help our clients convey company and product collection or design service information in the ways in which their important audience members (their clients, media contacts and others) want and need to receive it. For more information about ECPR’s public relations services, visit our firm’s website at Contact us with your comments and questions.

~ Dominique

Dara Capinigro, Editor-in-Chief VERANDA magazine
Photos courtesy of

Our thanks to ADAC and VERANDA for planning one of the best design engagements of the year, and our gratitude to McDonald and Bullard for sharing their insights with those of us who were fortunate enough to attend.

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Jeff Collard


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