Advertising agencies are supposed to create ideas for their clients' brands right? Right. However it seems that some entrepreneurial agencies around the world are starting to create their own brands as well - and in so doing becoming their own clients.
This is what we at Gullan&Gullan have done recently by conceptualising, designing, manufacturing and marketing our own premium and luxury jewelry brand, called Lobster Charms. This has not been an easy journey and I was heartened to find out that we're not the only agency to have walked this path.
In 2005, Amsterdam agency - New Message - saw a gap in the Dutch bicycle market for a lifestyle brand that offered more than just a means of getting from A to B. New Message decided to design and manufacture an American cruiser style bicycle. Advertising was the easy part. The agency tactically placed its bicycles at beach bars, gyms, and trendy shops, and when they heard Paris Hilton was in town they delivered a pink cruiser to her hotel. The manufacturing process was the real challenge and took a dedicated team several years to compete with the established brands on quality. Eventually the effort paid off, and thousands of bicycles are sold every year in Europe, South Africa and the U.S. For the agency partner, Mr. Rutter, the most rewarding part of the venture is not the additional income, but the fact that the agency shook up the Dutch bicycle market, "We changed an old-fashioned market into a hip, colourful industry with several new brands and bicycle models."
The founders of Gummo agency dreamt of introducing their own cookie brand after working for a Dutch cookie manufacturer. They felt the market could use some more spice and created a brand around a Californian hippy, John Altman, who they saw giving away homemade cookies on the beach. Struck by John Altman's positive and carefree attitude and the cookie's authentic taste they created a brand around the man - using his recipe - which he gladly shared, saying, "Sure, dude, spread the love." These words, together with an Altman-like character decorate the freshly designed packaging. While the product is attractive enough to sell itself, acquiring shelf space and distribution was the challenge.
Three years ago myself and my business partner, Desiree, attended a "Doing Business Digitally" workshop with the intention of up-skilling in digital so we could maximise our digital services to our clients. We were so inspired by the ecommerce model and opportunities it presented that we decided to launch our own ecommerce brand. My partner who is our Creative Director has always had a fascination for fine jewelry and fine arts and we decided to create a brand that combines the two. And so Lobstercharms.com was born. Lobster Charms is a collection of oversized charms/pendants that are highly conceptual and quirky mini art sculptures that you can wear. Lobster Charms is a pure ecommerce business that currently targets the US and UK and makes use of social media, online PR, SEO and adwords to market the brand.
After stumbling upon other agency owners that have travelled the same road as us and launched their own brands, I became interested in what we have in common. First, we are all small to medium independent agencies, which empowers us with the freedom to diversify and be truly entrepreneurial. Second, we have experience at boxing smart with clients' budgets to get a maximum ROI and we understand that a unique selling point is more important than a big advertising budget. Finally, we understand that passion, focus and a drive to overcome obstacles are vital for success and that spotting an opportunity is easy, but seizing it is very hard work.
Michael Gullan is the Managing Director and founder of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd. He has more than two decades experience at creating value for brands on client accounts from food and beverage, to cosmetics, mail order, medical, publishing and financial services. Gullan&Gullan's propriety brand-centric methodology forms the basis of every communication service Gullan&Gullan offer their clients, ensuring that the brand's core values are expressed in a congruent, consistent manner at every touch point.
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