TPI are #businessachievers


Interview with Colin Culliton, CEO of TPI

What is the history of The TPI Group?


The TPI group started as a small printing company in a factory in Finglas, North Dublin in 1990. There were 6 of us and we knew little about business. We have grown to be one of the hardest working Marketing Solutions providers with over 140 team members, 2 offices in Ireland and one in the UK, over an exciting and challenging 27 years. Delighting our client was the goal in 1990 and it is still the goal in 2017. 3 of those 6 members of staff are still here.


Rethink business model

We are excellent at producing quality Print & Design but the deep recession made us rethink our business model. We decided to provide Marketing focused clients better return of investment by offering them a better menu of choice. The TPI Group is now comprised of six individual companies, each with their own personality and unique offering. These are The Printed Image, The Creative Works, Zest Merchandise, Runway Marketing, TAP Creations & Pluto. We are set up as a group of Marketing suppliers to keep the smaller company service ethic I like, although we can work like a one-stop shop client service wise which works quite well. We still provide Design & Print, but we have a far better offering now which better matches our client's Marketing requirements.


The client list varies between Blue Chip Multinationals and Irish and UK SME’s. Luckily both target markets require innovation and a sizeable return on their marketing investment. That suits us. Marketers now operate in a fast-moving environment. Customer requirements are evolving all the time, so TPI have to match or exceed all of that, just to stay relevant. The lines are blurring in Marketing Services and we have to constantly change to offer more dynamic solutions. For example, Digital Marketing now is vital to our clients, just as brochures were years ago. Our Group has seen a dramatic change over the last 5 years. My role as CEO is to guide the team in these new directions. To change behaviour, to evolve the culture while maintaining some of the values that have made The TPI Group a rewarding company to do business with.

What has been The TPI Group’s biggest achievement in the last 3 years?

I think it is being able to integrate the different cultures that come with Marketing and Experiential agencies with a more traditional organisation like The Printed Image. And doing that without losing the spirit of real creativity. That has allowed for better Innovation, R&D, Test, Fail and Improve systems to make things work. Historically this approach wasn’t very common in the company. It’s actually been a very enjoyable time of transition for me and our Managers. For example, we saw an opportunity to start a Customer Experience Design business two years ago. We gave it a go. Tap Creations was set up as we felt after many bad years people were ready to ‘Paint the Shop’ to quote the great Feargal Quinn. It now has 11 staff, has a huge order book and is winning awards in Las Vegas. We knew we were too fond of ‘Back in the day thinking’, so we faced that and changed.

Do you have a view on Brexit?

I think it’s such a pity. Democracy is brilliant until it kicks up an unpalatable solution you hate. I think in Ireland we need to upskill in terms of languages and embrace the wider opportunity Brexit requires. We badly need to upscale in terms of our view of places we should export to.  I hope that the freedom of movement and the availability of work for Irish people in the UK never changes. It would be a shame if Irish people don’t get those UK experiences that many of us had growing up. My 2 weeks as a useless chamber-maid in the London Tara Hotel helped me never to re-enter the hospitality sector for example. Seriously, we need to develop Roslare ferry port into the sort of port that has multiple sailings each day and subsidise those sailings if necessary. I experienced the Dover to Calais, hourly ferry service and it’s amazing. We need some of that.

What are your 3 tips for business success?


  • The first would be ‘Never Give Up’. Sometimes just your own longevity is the key to success.
  • The second tip is ‘Always Bring Passion’. I find showing great passion brings its own rewards.
  • The third tip is the two words that are most important to use in business. They are ‘Well and Done’. I would also say use them sparingly because they don't have value if they are used every hour of every day.

What are the trends in Marketing?


The trend is very much towards Digital. People are putting an awful lot of time and effort into Digital Marketing. It is flexible and it can be great value for money, especially for small businesses and start-ups. But like most new trends it isn’t well understood and can often be used a little too much. Ignoring some of the more conventional ways of Marketing and not building direct relationships alongside Digital would be a common error now. Louis Copeland is a great example of an old-school business using Digital Marketing successfully in Ireland. Importantly, they sell huge amounts of Men’s fashion online, and while they use all the new Marketing tools available, they haven't forgotten their roots. They are still producing beautiful brochures. They employ really nice Point of Sale & Window Displays to attract clients into their outlets. By mixing it up like this, I believe they get better results. In college, we were told it was about the Marketing Mix. It should still be a Mix.

Customer experience

Another huge shift in Marketing has been the move into Customer Experience. Both the look and feel of brands are helped by the creation of tangible events. These exciting events create positive experiences and people feel comfortable sharing them on social media platforms. Very small spends in experiential can have a massive impact. This is a space where creativity really makes you stand out as a brand and it i an area that we have seen grow massively in the last 18 months.

Why is printing still relevant?

Print is still an extremely powerful medium. For example, look at Direct Mail. If you saw the excitement when my 16-year-old, William, receives a letter in the post you would realise a lot of eye-popping effective Marketing can be done with Print. But it has to be used in the right way. It has to be relevant, creative and targeted towards the correct people. I believe now it is very much a case of using it as part of a Marketing Mix rather than on its own. I think it’s remiss of any marketers to think that it won’t work at all. It does. For example, just look at what can be done to a dull office environment, a school or a retail outlet with the correct use of Design & Print. We transform spaces here all the time in TPI and the results are fabulous in terms of the look and feel. We know well that quality Point of Sale drives sales in retail if the print matches the brand. Look at the hugely popular Coca-Cola names on ‘Share a Coke’ label promotion from last year. That was a really innovative use of Print.

What we have learned from working with our clients

In my job it’s important to take the time to read industry updates and to read good case studies. I love it when we find inspiration from the success of others, learning what worked and what is readily applicable to our own business. In Marketing Services it is important that companies share their experiences, benchmark and continue to push each other as an industry. That fierce competition ultimately helps us all deliver the best results to our clients. Ireland’s SME’s need good suppliers of Clever Customer Communication and I find competition makes us all stronger.



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