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How to turn a business on its head in a brave new world

How to turn a business on its head in a brave new world
Claire Ashdown, Southpaw's Marketing Manager, explores agency rebranding in the first part of a series focusing on the agency.

In an industry that is ever evolving at a rapid rate due to digital innovation, many agencies have undergone rebrands in an effort to stand out from the crowd or have at least started sharpening their pencils and tweaking their positioning to ensure they maintain their market share against stiffer competition.

After being in business for 44 years, and with a legacy of working with international clients requiring full service marketing, we at Nexus/H definitely felt it was time for a change.

Our agency’s parent company is the enormous, yet understated, Japanese marketing and media network Hakuhodo, which is a $7 billion business operating in 64 markets.

Our particular change was led by the arrival of our new Group Managing Director Tom Poynter, who joined in February 2013, keen to keep us at the forefront of the current industry evolution and to drive change.

Tom had extensive experience of mergers, rebrands and business integration through his time at Modem Media, Digitas, Publicis, LBi and finally three years as joint CEO of iris worldwide.

We knew it wouldn't be easy, however we soon realised that Tom's fresh ideas could propel us forward globally, whilst leveraging the size, scale and capabilities of the Hakuhodo Network.

Here is Tom's take on how he approached the transformation from Nexus/H into the rebranded Southpaw agency.

Tom: "As soon as I arrived I knew where we could take this agency. It had all of the pillars for a progressive, forward thinking agency that could influence clients, drive positive change as well as deliver true business performance for clients.

"Defining the operational framework for the business and the calibre required to make the shift was actually the easy part. Developing a brand that had all of our values at its heart was the difficult bit.

"We had a good hard look in the mirror and I said to the management team, 'This is probably our one shot to make a change for a while'.

"Through a series of offsite workshops and strategy sessions, we voted unanimously for a brand change. There were three other Nexus companies in our sector and we also had this weird /H bit on the end that nobody knew represented the Hakuhodo ownership.

"Not only that, Nexus/H didn’t feel progressive and a brand that was at the forefront of marketing advancements so we started the process of working with brand ladders and houses, setting out our business strategy, defining our values and behaviours along with agreeing our point of difference.

"We knew we wanted to attract big international clients that required brave thinking. We strategised hard on the role of agencies of the future and how we wanted to pitch ourselves. We looked at our capability and strengths, and stripped it right back.

"We asked ourselves, 'Where can an agency add the most value to a client in today’s fast paced, consumer obsessed world?'.

"We’re not a digital agency, but we do it really well. We have historically called ourselves full service or integrated, but clients know you can’t do everything to an exceptional standard so we looked at our core strengths.

"At its heart, we are an ideas business that works fearlessly hard to blend creative, media and technology services to build brave thinking. And then the fun bit - coming up with a new name for the agency. We had lots of weird and wonderful suggestions,

"We brought the agency on the journey with us and listened to their recommendations. We finally agreed that Southpaw was the new brand name to propel us forward. For those of you that follow sporting metaphors, the Southpaw competitor is normally seen as the challenger.

"In boxing, for example, southpaw fighters jab with their right hand and follow up with their left. They are essentially left handed, therefore they need to apply themselves with a different strategy to the competition, deploying an unorthodox mentality.

"They need to be brave in their execution, take calculated risks and are sometimes seen as more committed and determined. These were all the values we saw in ourselves at the agency and knew we had discovered our new agency name.

"We find this is resonating really well with our clients and our new business strike rate of five out of six wins over the last nine months is proving the brand, operational model and structure is really working for us.

"The final piece of the puzzle for 2014 is our building. We have a lovely old warehouse with exposed beams and brick work, but it didn’t feel like a creative agency.

"Consequently we are going through a redevelopment of the building and driving collaboration through hot desking in order to create as much space as possible and, most importantly, creating an environment for both our talented staff as well as our clients that feels inspirational, motivating and where work feels like fun.”

Claire Ashdown is Marketing Manager at Southpaw.

In Part Two, creative directors Craig Roderick and Glenn Smith explain their role in the rebrand.

In Part Three, young talent Ethan, Joe and Tom reveal how they got involved throughout.

Last updated 11/08/2014

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