Creativityis no longer a value add. Anyone can execute creative work,” says ReghardGoussard, CEO of Arctic Circle. It’s a bold statement, particularly for someonewho runs a brand agency. But at a time when marketing and branding areincreasingly being called upon to account for the bottom-line value they add,it’s also a timely one. The industry is feeling the pinch of cost-cuttingmeasures and slashed marketing budgets precipitated by the global financialcrisis.
Thereal value lies in transferring intellectual property, Goussard believes. Toadd game-changing value, he says brand agencies need to bring a businessstrategic approach to the projects they work on. “Brands exist as part ofbusinesses – you can’t separate the two. If you expect the brand to be able tochange the business for the better, you need to make sure you’re looking at thebrand through a business lens,” he says. Asa young entrepreneur determined to climb the mountain that is the advertisingindustry, Goussard founded Arctic Circle tenyears ago, but he still describes the agency as being made up of “young guns”.“The spirit of the company is founded on the fact that we see ourselves as‘exploriors’ – a combination of explorers and warriors,” he says. The businesscut its teeth designing and creating brands for clients, but over time hasrefined its focus to include a more hard-nosed strategic business approach.
Strategicbranding is not new. In fact countless agencies have added “strategic” to theirlist of descriptors, so what makes Arctic Circledifferent? “We’ve structured our entire business so that the value we add toclients’ brands is underpinned by sound business strategy,” Goussard says. Thisstructure has four divisions which govern the company’s work process whentackling a brief. “THINK® is our strategic department and it deals with brand,communication and positioning strategies, in partnership with the client. INTERACT®handles client contact and the management of this relationship, together withbrand plan implementation and project management. CREATE® comes up with thecreative concept and its various applications and SPACE® focuses on the retailand corporate space where the brand needs to be activated,” he explains. “Butwe don’t even touch creative until THINK® has done its stuff.”
Sowhat does all this translate into in practice, and how has it helped Arctic Circle to punch above its category weight in theindustry? Goussard points to a current piece of work as an example. “We’re busyworking with an international spirits company, creating hierarchical categoriesfor each of their brands within a particular spirits category. “Thisallows each label to have a clearly-defined target market that is separatefrom the other labels in the same spirit category. This is important from abusiness point of view because it prevents brands within the same companycompeting with each other.”Buthis long-term strategy goes deeper than that. “In conducting our research intothe industry, the consumers and the competitors, we realised that there is realpotential for this company to ‘own’ its spirit category, in much the same waythat France ‘owns’ bubbly, or South Africa ‘owns’ rooibos tea. We are workingto strategically position the business as the global leader in this way,”
“Seeingbrands through a business lens, in partnership with the client and against abackground of their industry-specific context, is what highlights suchopportunities. They can then be harnessed to add bottom-line value, not just tothe brands themselves, but to the business as a whole,” he adds. It’snot rocket science, but few agencies have managed to make the transition fromcreative to strategic partner successfully. In being one of them, Arctic Circle has hit on an important differentiator,something few businesses can do without in these challenging times.Contact:www.arcticcircle.co.za +27 21 486 8140