Case Study

Overview

Partner: Brandish

Our Role: Brand update

In the last five years, we’ve changed a lot. We started as a team of six and now we’re over 30 people across Canada. We officially have offices in Winnipeg and Toronto.

In late 2019, we embarked on a brand update. We refrained from calling it a re-brand because our brand fundamentals were still relevant to the spirit and direction of our company.

The Problem

Our services evolved and our team grew. We needed to communicate these changes to attract a new and different tier of clients and specialized projects along with recruiting new and specialized talent to our growing team.

 

We set out to create a dynamic identifiable brand for our own agency.

Analysis

When we create a brand strategy for a client, we always start with assessing the client’s current brand, the industry, macro and micro trends and of course, the audience. Our strategic approach for our own brand was no different. We researched, read and debated each other to distill down our key insights that informed our approach.

Specialization is key

Insight #1: Full service leads to commodification

No speciality means you’re pretty okay at everything, but not stand-out at anything.

Full service agencies are easily commodified and are not distinguishable from their competition.  While Brandish does offer full-service marketing capabilities to its A.O.R. clients it has intentionally positioned itself away from being a full-service agency in order to differentiate itself from competitors through its focus on overarching business, brand and marketing strategies.

“Companies that lead with purpose and build their ecosystems around it can achieve greater loyalty, consistency and relevance with consumers and their employees.”

(Resource: Deloitte)

Our agency must clearly define our business, capabilities and work. It will be easier to connect with Brandish’s audience and new clients if Brandish clearly defines who they are and creates content that contributes to defining Brandish. This will build trust with Brandish’s audiences.

Be accountable

Insight #2: Data is important, but not everything

“The future will be about marrying creativity with data, which means agencies will have to make sure they have staff on board that can dissect data in creative ways.”

(Resource: AdAge 2018)

More and more agencies are using data to drive their strategies. This is an opportunity for Brandish who already focuses heavily on the research and assessment phase for strategy development.

This is where we looked to consultancies.

We appreciated consultancies in-depth approach to making high-level recommendations and we noted the many parallels between our approach and their business model, but there were also many differences. One notable difference is we wanted to execute our recommendations. We wanted to be a partner to our clients through the development, execution and reporting of our approach.

The advertising industry is changing

Insight #3: In-house marketing and communication teams are on the rise

This is a challenge because businesses are turning to their internal teams for their marketing needs, but an opportunity for Brandish. Brandish’s approach is brand-focused and as an outside agency, Brandish can provide insight into a client’s industry and audience that are often overlooked.

Be a brand

Insight #4: Well-established, global agencies rely on their client work to build their own agency’s brand

After analyzing well-established global agencies, we saw a common pattern. No agencies were leading with their own brand.

They relied on their client work to dictate their brand and then built original content products that played into that perception.

The audience

Insight #5: Be human

Our brand platform was already centred around people.

In the age of democratized information and the empowered consumer, organizations that focus on better understanding and meeting the needs and desires of their customers will ultimately perform better. 

Key objectives

From our research, we distilled several insights that would help guide what wanted our brand update to achieve. Now with this arsenal of information, we dug a bit deeper.

We identified key objectives that would propel our agency forward into our next phase of growth. This update wasn’t just about physical growth, it was about growing our agency’s perception so it aligned with our national and global peers.

Our challenge was to update our brand in order to:

  1. Expand our reach nationally and then internationally.

    Our capabilities had grown to a place where we could service larger national clients and we needed to communicate that to national and global audiences.

  2. Refine our definition & customize our category

    Relying on existing definitions for how we categorize ourselves wasn’t going to work. We needed to clearly define what Brandish did and the value we provided to our clients.

  3. Re-contextualize our core competencies to a broader audience and our internal team

    We needed to develop context around what we did as an agency and understand how these core competencies could attract and be valuable to new audiences. We also needed to ensure our own team understood what we our agency did and how to explain what we do to their own networks.

  4. Create an assertive brand

    Build a brand identity and communication framework that doesn’t recede behind our clients but stands on its own doing what few agencies do for themselves —become a brand.

The update

An updated visual identity alone couldn’t communicate what we wanted to achieve. We dug deeper and determined what our brand environment needed to include.

Our brand environment needed to be:

Fluidity and Flexibility: Brand personality meets visual identity

We wanted our brand personality and visual identity system to be dynamic and be fluid so our personality could adapt to the context of any situation. This way, our brand could embody a certain duality. For example, we could be extremely creative and playful on social media, but yet our personality and identity could also be refined and intelligent through our case study content. Possessing this duality, we could occupy numerous spaces especially ones that have traditionally been represented by very singular and specific traits.

Be built to grow as Brandish grows

As we expand our business and enter new markets, our brand would have to grow with us and be flexible enough to incorporate these changes. We wanted evolution built right into the brand.

Be digitally native

It wasn’t enough for our brand to just be “online.” We wanted our brand to be inherently digital. Our online brand experience should feel digital not adapted to a digital landscape.

Be authentic

Lots of brands say they want to be authentic. It’s easy to say you’re authentic, but being authentic is about communicating your authenticity though your actions. In order to do this, we needed to determine what we do and say (or not say) in certain situations. Understanding how to be authentic in a meaningful way was the jumping off point for building our brand personality.

Differentiate ourselves through definition

There are a lot of agencies out there. We’re doing things differently, so now was the time to clearly define who we are and clearly communicate what we do. Being able to succinctly define ourselves would ultimately set us apart from our competitors because we’re weren’t looking for everyone to like us, just Change Agents (more on that below).

We used our visual brand identity and brand personality as the foundational elements for our brand update.

A new category: The Consulting Agency

From our research and competitor analysis, we knew we didn’t identify as a traditional advertising agency and aligned more with a consultancy because we spent a significant time researching and assessing our clients, their industries and macro trends in order to make high-level strategic recommendations to our clients. But, we did execute our recommendations which separated us from defining as a traditional consultancy. Therefore, we decided to combine the agency model with a consultancy.

The best of both worlds

Like a consultancy, we develop in-depth recommendations for businesses based on research and insights about their audiences. But, we get rid of uncertainty surrounding execution and reporting by transitioning to an agency model for implementation. We execute our recommendations while reporting on our progress so we can continue to make informed decisions.

Crafting our perception

We carved out what a Consulting Agency looks like by balancing the duality between creativity and technology. Our roadmap to being a Consulting Agency was for our audience to perceive us as a Creative Powerhouse and an Enterprise Solution.

 

 

Brand Personality

We experimented with how to develop a dynamic tone of voice and personality.  We needed to create a framework that would guide our personality and be the foundation for how we would communicate on different platforms and to different audiences.

So often brands pick a set of adjectives to describe their tone of voice, but it comes off as inauthentic. Through this analysis, we realized we were never going to be just one sole adjective or set of four adjectives all at once. Instead, we found that we would probably lean into a certain personality trait in specific situations. Like people, we were a sum of personality traits that came to the forefront in varying degrees depending on the context of the situation.

The goal for building our brand personality —be human.

We started by choosing three adjectives that spoke to the different facets of our personality considering all of the arenas we wanted to operate within.

And then, we built this tool.

Flexible yet identifiable

This tool explained our personality in a holistic way while also communicating how we could lead with a certain personality trait depending on the audience and platform.  

Core Tones

Where each section overlapped, we created a new personality trait that combined two of the core traits. This added another dimension to our personality. We referred to these tones as nuanced personality tones.

Nuanced Tones

Visual Identity System

With distinct personalities, we were able to develop an expansive visual identity system that communicated the different facets of our personality while also unifying our brand as a whole.

The logo: Same logo, new applications.

We didn’t change our logo, but we did change how we applied it.

We didn’t want to change our logo for the sake of having something new. After evaluating our logo, we determined it still translated our updated brand personality well. We shifted our focus from a redesign to applying the logo differently and separating the wordmark from the logomark. Although they are broken apart the lion will always be present. We developed a solid badge treatment which makes the complex lion shape feel a little simpler. 

Colour: Born from the screen and deliberately bold

Our colour palette was where we could communicate that we are digitally native.

Red, green and blue light combine to create vibrant back-lit hues. This vibrancy is a signature of digital design and has inspired our palette. We selected a sequence of colours from cyan to red to establish harmony and order.

Our neutral palette was inspired by night mode colouration. The new vibrant colours will be used in moderation or in a muted variation. And, we expanded our colour palette, but red remains the primary brand colour. Our palette in practice has an intelligent yet approachable and creative feel.

Illustration: Illustration that feels alive

Our illustration system focused on two styles: technical, vector style illustration and hand-drawn. We used illustration as part of our brand to make elusive concepts more tangible. Illustrations were drawn to convey a feeling of motion. Motion in design is special; it is both inherently digital and human.

Type: To unify

What we’re saying is different, so we wanted to create some consistency. One typeface that was flexible to our voice and environment and complimentary to our broad visual language.

Building a connection to a specific audience:

How do you continue to grow and create equity in this environment? Be valuable. 

People are now inundated by near-limitless choices. Every day, more and more businesses are competing for their attention.

Our target audience: The Change Agent

Because the Change Agent needs creative and innovative solutions...

(so they can achieve their organizational goals and stay competitive within their industry)

...the experience must be valuable

Because the Change Agent needs to cover all their bases...

(so they know that they are making the most complete and compelling choice to address their goals and needs.)

...the experience must be comprehensive.

Because the Change Agent needs clear insight and understandings...

(so they can make sense of complex choices and understand the solution in actionable items)

...the experience must be insightful.

Because the Change Agent needs to make the best investment for their organization...

(so the can keep driving towards their goals)

...the experience must be original.

Because the Change Agent needs creative and innovative solutions...

(so they can achieve their organizational goals and stay competitive within their industry)

...the experience must be valuable

Because the Change Agent needs to cover all their bases...

(so they know that they are making the most complete and compelling choice to address their goals and needs.)

...the experience must be comprehensive.

The launch

Now, we had determined our direction by building a new brand strategy that would build upon the Brandish brand.

Actions speak louder than words.

Your brand is now what you say you are but the summation of your audience’s attitudes towards. This means, we needed to develop our brand experience in order to start connecting with our audience.

Crafting our approach through content

A communications strategy built for growth

In order to bring our new brand to life, we crafter a communications strategy that would guide our content creation starting from our brand launch. This strategy outlined how we could hit all our personality notes and shape our content so that it would flesh out our brand story. We analyzed what each content piece would give to our audience —why would it be valuable to them and how would it strengthen our connection to them?

This strategy also outlined how our content could grow and build into new content pieces and channels. We delivered a strategy that outlined what channels we wanted to be present in and where the audience was, and content pieces that were informative, engaging and ultimately, valuable to our audiences.

Key Content

Here’s the content that cultivated our brand experience for our launch.

 

Website

Our cornerstone content piece

The first place our audience would go to learn more about us is our website and likely, this would be people’s first introduction to our agency. We developed a website that balanced the creative powerhouse and enterprise solution by telling our narrative story (what our brand stood for and why) with how we worked and why these services were valuable to businesses.

We focused on creating a brand experience that was easy to navigate, engaging and bold. We wanted our website to feel intuitive so we implemented animation that referenced karaoke / ticker text animation along with parallax animations that helped explain how we worked.

 

Case Studies

We took a different approach to our case studies than most agencies.

Typically, agency case studies are cornerstone content pieces to share their work and client roster. For us, we wanted our case studies to show our in-depth analysis, strategy, execution and the results. So we approached our case studies that way. We wanted to invite audiences “behind-the-curtain” and walk them through our work sharing all the comprehensive details. They’re very long but that’s because we didn’t want to leave out any of the details. This content piece differentiates us from other agencies because we tell you all the details: the who, how, when, for how long, the execution and the results. We hold nothing back.

We launched with two case studies: Robertson College and Birchwood Automotive Group.

 

Social Media

Create valuable content that tells our brand story and be consistent.

We did want to connect with audiences and build relationships. For launch, we developed a launch narrative that acknowledged that we hadn’t actively been communicating. We took the approach to be human meaning we re-introduced ourselves to our audience, acknowledged we had been quiet and now we ready to upholding our end of the relationship.

This approach showed we were trying to build a meaningful connection with our audience rather just sharing our new website. We actively worked to hear from our audience by asking how they were doing through Instagram story features.

Check out some examples here:

COVID-19:

When we embarked all on our brand update, we were pre-COVID-19.

We had to shift our focus and approach when we went into quarantine and navigate our way through a changing landscape. A brand launch looks a lot different now. We weren’t able to celebrate in person as a team or with our partners who have seen us grow over the last five years.

Read more about how we navigated our launch in our blog post here. 

 

The Future

Usually this part in the case study, we would wrap up with some qualitative and quantitative results, but it’s impossible to share those because we’re just getting started.

What we can share is this article from The Message featuring Morley MacDougall, Managing Partner & Creative Director. We also commit to keep you posted with what we do by re-visiting this case study and updating what we’ve been up to.

From the team

Hear from the team that built our new brand update.

As much as we emphasize that brand is about people, we’ve also started to operate using this metaphor of brand as a person. Yes, there’s this face to a brand— a logo or wordmark— that many people erroneously understand synonymous with brand identity, but brand can really be the idea of this person as a whole. The character, the values they uphold, the way they interact with others is really at the heart of branding. Brand is also always changing and evolving and we wanted to incorporate this idea of dynamism into the Brandish identity. Brand isn’t built around a static set of rules but it’s actions, contributions and character that help define its value to the world.

- Kyle Doucette, Art Director

Re-developing our brand was important. As a team, we had evolved so much since we developed the first incarnation of the Brandish brand. The fabric of who we were and what we were had changed significantly since we first started the agency. Our brand is the gateway to our work and it was important for us to create something compelling that would attract people who ultimately aligned with the promise of who we are and what we are here to do. I’m excited with what our team created and I’m even more excited to continue to watch it evolve.

- Lee Waltham, Marketing Director

It has always been our goal to be a living artifact of what we define and deliver to our clients — a brand. The same process of industry analysis and positioning we have done here for ourselves. There is an irony to the near invisibility of brand agencies in the public consciousness that we hope to address. We want to be known and recognized as the brand that makes great brands.

- Morley MacDougall, Creative Director

Our new website technology stack is an example of our attention to the details of the brand experience. For the new brand portal, our developer team identified an opportunity to work with emerging technology that means super fast load times without sacrificing user experience.

- Danny Wood, Director of Product

We believe that what we do is about people–the customers that brands want to reach. To reflect this central belief we set out to create a brand identity system that felt human and was an authentic reflection of who we are. Not an averaging of our extremes, but a fluid and flexible representation of the widely varying aspects of what makes Brandish, Brandish.

- Candice Twomey, Art Director

Brandish 2.0 is a flexible identity that falls under the three main brand values of being Bold, Empathetic, and Intelligent. With two different illustration styles and the way we developed our photography treatment and infographic style, the identity has the ability to be more experimental and dynamic depending on what personality trait we’re leaning into. Our new visual identity system shows the diverse offerings of our agency while demonstrating our unique talents and in-depth work we do for our clients—but now for ourselves.

- Alex Fisher, Graphic Designer + Illustrator

Our brand update was an opportunity to explore and push the limits of what a brand can do. We contemplated every facet of our brand in order to create a dynamic and expansive brand personality and voice. It was important for us to create a brand that our audience could easily connect with and we found inspiration from a likely source —us, humans. A brand can’t be one thing, it needs to be dynamic and adaptable, like a human personality. That’s why it was so important to build context around our brand and be human-like.

- Cleo Curtis, Communications Manager

As much as we emphasize that brand is about people, we’ve also started to operate using this metaphor of brand as a person. Yes, there’s this face to a brand— a logo or wordmark— that many people erroneously understand synonymous with brand identity, but brand can really be the idea of this person as a whole. The character, the values they uphold, the way they interact with others is really at the heart of branding. Brand is also always changing and evolving and we wanted to incorporate this idea of dynamism into the Brandish identity. Brand isn’t built around a static set of rules but it’s actions, contributions and character that help define its value to the world.

- Kyle Doucette, Art Director

Re-developing our brand was important. As a team, we had evolved so much since we developed the first incarnation of the Brandish brand. The fabric of who we were and what we were had changed significantly since we first started the agency. Our brand is the gateway to our work and it was important for us to create something compelling that would attract people who ultimately aligned with the promise of who we are and what we are here to do. I’m excited with what our team created and I’m even more excited to continue to watch it evolve.

- Lee Waltham, Marketing Director

Brandish Timeline

Our Journey

A lot has changed in five years. Here’s a breakdown of how we got where we are today. From a humble make-shift office set-up to our launch into Toronto and a team of over 30 people.

2015

2015

The sunroom

Lee Waltham, Morley MacDougall and Derek Elliott start Brandish working out of Lee's sunroom. They sign a few local clients and their first national client, SCMA.

2016

2016

The first office

Brandish is given space by Downtown Biz to have a small office in their building as part of a business accelerator program. They sign a few more clients including MIG.

2017

2017

Above the furniture store,
the second office

The team moves to their own office in Winnipeg Exchange District.

A new team player

The team brings on Alexandra Martin, Director of Strategy & Planning to the team along with key players in design and digital.

Growth

The agency’s client portfolio continues to grow, signing Futurpreneur and Birchwood Credit Solutions.

2018

2018

The third office

The agency enters into a period of rapid growth. Now, the team is six people and they move to a larger office on Main Street and sign Birchwood Automotive Group, Robertson and RightRide.

2019

2019

Exponential growth

The agency expands hiring over 25 new team members and building out its internal team and core competencies.

2020

2020

A brand update

The agency embarks on a brand update to reflect it’s increase in growth and to align its core competencies to its public perceptions.

COVID-19

We face a global pandemic without laying off any team members and retaining our AOR clients. We work with our partners to strategically guide them through the shifting landscape.

New brand launch

Brandish launches a new website and brand across social media in September 2020.

Careers

info@brandishagency.com

winnipeg toronto

brandish 2021