Creating a true passion brand: Olympic Studios

I spent a lovely morning this week talking about the wonderful Olympic Studios brand and business, with Membership and Marketing Manager, Mairead Murray. The Olympic is a boutique cinema, café and members club in Barnes, South West London. If you're ever in London for work or leisure, you must pay a visit. Since it opened 18 months ago we've been to the cinema two or three times more often than before. We've also attended several of their brilliant events, such as a recent talk by Tim Rice, the lyricist of Evita, The Lion King and Jesus Christ Superstar.

The story of the Olympic is truly inspiring, especially for anyone who dreams of staring their own business. 

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1. Dream it. Then do it

Many of us have over dinner  few drinks with friends talked a business we dream of starting. "If only we could….", we say, whether it be a shop, a dance studio, a restaurant, whatever. This happened to Stephen and Lisa Burdge back in 2009. Over a curry in Barnes they looked out across the road at a derelict, disused building with a For Sale sign on it. The Olympic Studios had opened in 1906 as a cinema but in the 1960's became a world famous recording studio used by The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, Queen, Bowie, Led Zeppelin, U2 and many others.

"If only we could… buy the Olympic and create a boutique cinema," they said. "Great idea!" replied their friends, and the group agreed to club together to find the £3million to buy the building. 

The next morning, now sober, the friends got cold feet. But not Steve and Lisa. They had the balls and belief to go ahead and buy the building.

2. Stick 2 fingers up at setbacks

When they bought the building Steve and Lisa probably didn't imagine how hard it would be to get the project up and running. Getting planning permission was a hair-pullingly frustrating two year process. And a further two years were needed to do the building work. Now that's stamina.

To help create an initial supporter base and share the risk, they managed to convice 250 Founder Members to cough up £5,000 each, raising £1.25 million. They were able to follow the process of The Olympic being born, and provided valuable support during the early days of opening.

3. Pour your passion into your brand

Stephen and Lisa are mad about movies. Stephen started and grew Empire Design,an award-winning agency specialised in creating film advertising trailers and posters. And Lisa was head of UK marketing for Film Four. This means they are able to bring their passion and knowledge for films into the programming and choice of movies. They show the big blockbusters, but also classic vintage films and more offbeat quirky movies. And the contacts they have in the film business help them put on great events such as Q&A sessions with the directors and actors of some of the movies they show.

Lisa also uses her creativity to take a hands-on role in the delightful design of the Olympic. Thought and flair has been applied to every design detail, from furniture to fittings to the choice of soap in the loos! Lisa worked with interior designer Simone McEwan on the design. 

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And just check out the beautiful, comfortable reclining seats below, including a space for your bottle of wine. No wonder we've never been back to the local Odeon cinema….

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4. Build on a brand truth

The Olympic team have been true to the brand's roots as a recording studio. They are one of only two cinemas to have ear-poppingly good Dolby Atmos sound system. The amazing sound is one of the features that helped create distinctiveness in the cinema experience that has in turn driven word-of-mouth. You can watch Stephen talk about the sound here. They even have as "Sound Ambassador" Chris Kimsey, who worked at the Olympic Studios as sound engineer during the whole time it was open.

The roots of The Olympic also feature in the "Wall of Legends" featuring photos of bands who have recorded there, and in a great video that shows before every film, showing the Rolling Stones recording in the studios. It says, "Abbey Road had the Beatles. We had everyone else."

In conclusion, if you're sitting in a restaurant saying "If only we could…" why not follow the example of Stephen and Lisa? Find something you're passionate about. Then, don't just dream it, do it!