A major shift is coming to the world of communications and branding. According to the latest study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the proportion of businesses and organizations that have launched an internal agency has apparently risen by 41% in the last decade. While this is a U.S. study, it’s quite likely we’ll be seeing a similar trend in Canada.
Businesses and organizations taking charge of their brand deployment, with expert support at key moments throughout the process, is the new reality – and agencies must be ready to answer the call.

Lynne Gagnon*, Vice President of Strategy and Consulting at BrandBourg, shares her vision for a unique collaborative approach that will give businesses and organizations the opportunity for better cohesion, higher quality and greater impact as they take charge of their brand’s deployment.

BB. In your opinion, what’s the main motivator driving businesses and organizations to internalize part of their communication activities?

LG. More and more communication and marketing activities are operational in nature and require daily attention. In such a context, it’s often more efficient from an HR and rapid execution perspective to provide these services internally. It’s a legitimate issue, and I understand why businesses and organizations would want to adopt this solution.


BB. What are the main issues and challenges facing businesses and organizations that have launched an internal agency?

LG. A dedicated internal team can develop excellent knowledge of their business and their field, which is a huge advantage. But the opposite is also true. Such a team can also lose external perspective, so vital to inspiring teams to glean best practices from outside their business or industry to improve the final product, and even more vital to improving and adopting new ways of doing things. This can have a negative effect on major mandates, ones that provide true added value. This is precisely where an external agency can be of use, providing perspective and the support of top experts at key moments.

BB. Bleublancrouge and BrandBourg recently announced they were joining forces to better respond to the needs of businesses and organizations that want to build impactful brands and work more closely with their branding and communication partners. How can your partnership and unique collaborative approach help clients who have their own internal agency?

LG. This new customizable service – built on a foundation of strategic creativity, and a collaborative operational and financial approach – gives businesses and organizations the opportunity to access BrandBourg and BBR’s multi-industry expertise.

At BrandBourg, we’ve always put collaborative work at the forefront of what we do; it’s in our DNA. This is largely due to the fact that BrandBourg is a small firm of strategists whose offering never included 360-degree services in the production of communications. Our business model was always about providing guidance for businesses that wanted to insource their marketing and communication services. That’s how we were able to develop an approach that allowed our clients to learn from us, apply what they learned internally and call on us in the future should they need to optimize, adjust or create new development projects.

This is the case with our approach to brand architecture, especially for businesses involved in a merger or acquisition. This process is seen again and again in businesses experiencing growth through acquisition. Developing a business integration model, particularly in terms of the brand, is an important leverage mechanism that allows companies to ensure client retention and employee mobility.

BB. What are the winning conditions, for both you and your clients, for reaping the full potential of collaborative brand development?

LG. The No. 1 rule is reciprocity. It’s essential that both partners are committed to collaborating every day. That’s simple to do when things are running smoothly, but when you hit a bump in the road, it’s easy to drop all those collaborative principles! So, not only do you need to establish principles, but you also need to develop working methods that encourage, and sometimes force, collaboration, so that it becomes the way you operate. This can have an impact on processes, reporting lines, work tools and, of course, KPIs.

BB. What about businesses and organizations that don't have an internal agency, or that only need part of your service offering?

LG. The biggest advantage of the collaborative model is that it allows the business to always be in control of this choice, for every need or expertise. When we work collaboratively with clients, we can carry out one-off or recurring projects based their needs, recommend partners or help them develop their internal expertise.

BB. Are there models in other practices that you draw on?

LG. We’re fortunate to have several clients in the professional services sector who give us a good understanding of the models that work at tech companies and in other industries. Many vertical companies use collaborative models.

We’re also lucky to have Glassroom’s media and data team in our collective, who have given a lot of thought to the collaborative approach and developed their own business model along these lines. They tested quite a few different approaches. Of course, we couldn’t simply adopt their model as is, but several aspects of it inspired us when we were developing our creative and marketing offering.

BB. What are the main reasons to believe (RTB) it’s possible for you?

LG. As I mentioned earlier, at BrandBourg, it’s in our DNA. All BrandBourg strategists have a background in marketing, and we’ve all experienced the “client-agency” relationship from both sides. We’re familiar with the two realities and can quickly recognize those situations where collaboration could be effective. What’s more, client satisfaction (NPS/net promoter score) is our top KPI, even ahead of the financial aspect.

Take Christian Pichette, who got his start at PepsiCo and J&J, then went on to become an entrepreneur whose mission is to collaborate with businesses; or Benoit Giguère, who worked on the digital transformation at La Presse, where a big part of his task was to seamlessly internalize services at a company with little digital or design expertise; or Julie Raymond, Talia Duchnay and Lucie Tanguay, who worked on numerous product innovation and strategy projects, both internally (Bimbo, Keurig, Seagram’s, Cadbury and Vachon) and externally, as innovation consultants for a number of companies, a task normally carried out internally, thus requiring strong collaborative skills.

Most of us have also worked on major projects involving a heavy dose of change management in complex business environments. Our unique expertise enables businesses and organizations to take charge of their brand deployment, with expert support at key moments throughout the process. These are the rules for successful insourcing.

* Lynne Gagnon is Vice-President of Strategy and Consulting at BrandBourg. She began her brand management career with multinational producers of consumer packaged goods, such as Kellogg’s and Danone. She moved on to the service industry, where she led ambitious rebrandings of two of Quebec’s public transport agencies: the STM and EXO (born of the merger of the former Agence métropolitaine de transport [AMT] and the 13 municipal and intermunicipal transport bodies of Greater Montreal’s North and South Shores). Having built the internal team at EXO, as a client, she was a pioneer in the internalization of communication and branding services within an organization.

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