Something to celebrate in 2020 – KAVA turns 20
Kava is celebrating its 20th anniversary this winter. In our blog, co-founders Christine Kennedy and Richard Kennedy chat about how it all began…
Q Everyone was still partying like it was 1999 – what were you thinking?
CKRK Technically the real start of the millennium was 1 January 2001 but everyone celebrated the date change like Prince. But it really did feel like the beginning of something good because of the time. You know, Kid A was released 20 years ago. And Thom Yorke’s still hanging in there and like us still has the ability to surprise and bring something new to the table…
Q What was the first thing you did?
CKRK We actually took a month off and went to New Zealand and Fiji where Christine’s dad was born. The agency was named after the root used to make the Fijian “national drink” and is part of the tribal ceremony designed to bring people together and welcome new friends. And yes, it is narcotic, giving you a sense of calm and peace – and hallucinations.
Little did we know it would be the last time we took more than a week off in a year.
Q OK, so what did you start off working on?
CKRK Richard had had a marketing career with Burnetts and PWC and we had both worked on client and industry magazines – either content or design or both. So we started out producing magazines, yearbooks and brand collateral for the GSM Association and Lucent Technologies. We also launched new ones – for supercars and lifestyle markets. Kava still does customer magazines – for Londis and Budgens.
Q Magazines to creative communications – isn’t that quite a leap?
CKRK Not really. Customer magazines are just a marketing channel and the same clients were also asking us to provide communications under differing guises – websites, CD-Roms (remember those?), brochures and so on. Our copywriting was fantastic. Publication design is one of the most disciplined of the graphic design disciplines so we had a great basis on which to provide slick creative. We were adept with brand guardianship and that led to corporate ID jobs and full on marketing strategy, branding and integrated services.
Q What would you list as KAVA’s USPs?
CKRK We minimise the back and forth by getting it right early on. The first iteration of a job will be pretty polished. We have confidence in what we are doing and clients have confidence in us. It means our clients don’t worry or waste internal resources on the project. They’re outsourcing for a reason after all.
And content. Our content is relevant, purposeful and well-crafted.
And our creative and development. Our website sums it all up: brilliant design, sleek front-end dev, superb presentation.
We’ve had some of our clients for more than a decade so our offer works.
Q Why do you think your partnership has been so successful?
CKRK Neither of us has led a conventional life. We grew up in mixed-up households – ages, race, abilities, opportunities and responsibilities. We both worked as kids so self-sufficiency is ingrained. When you do things differently you have a rich internal resource and enormous empathy. You learn to be great at problem-solving. To the power of two, that’s, well, powerful.
On the other hand, our differences are huge. Yin and Yang is perhaps a cliché but we do complement each other in our approaches and skills.
Q What have been the highlights?
CKRK Being immersed in the evolution of mobile technology. Twenty years ago we were promoting what 3G could bring and now we’re entering the 5G era – and we know there’s more to follow!
Working with some great organisations, sharing their passions and seeing them flourish; and meeting people from all over the world.
Getting to work with gloriously talented people. This year also celebrating a ten-year work anniversary for our brilliant colleague, Lynne.
Filming with a Chinese crew in Beijing… coffee in a roof-top bar in Cannes with Anna-Maria Ashe… test-driving a Corvette…
Q Any lows?
CKRK Well clearly this past year has been tough and we’ve been pulling out the stops for all our clients, helping them adapt to the challenges associated with the pandemic.
But even though it was five years back, what still rankles the most is forking out an eye-watering, five-figure sum for broadband to our offices.
And obviously right now we miss the team face-to-face, events and exploring our world consuming inspiration.
Q And what now?
CKRK Lots of exciting projects going on as usual – rebranding a cloud company, repositioning a trade organisation, promoting a wildlife conservation project.
And, as soon as we’re able, heading back to that beach in Fiji.
Other illustrious year 2000 milestones:
- Groovejet was released by Spiller featuring Sophie Ellis-Bextor – still one of the best dance tunes
- Gandi.net established – one of our favourite domain registries
- Cerulean blue was Pantone Colour of the Year – lives on in our living room
- The Tate Modern opened – a favourite place to visit
- Chelsea won the FA Cup Final (we won’t mention the Euros)
- Summer Olympics held in Sydney – great logo for a symbolic Games
- Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones married – no parallels here, we got married in 2006
- Leo Blair, son of Tony and Cherie, born – no parallels here, our son was almost born in the office
- Big Brother on C4 launched – ironically we never watched it
- The Christmas no. 1 single was Can we fix it? by Bob the Builder – yes, we always can