New Business Strategy: Commercializing Your Own Products

Why shouldn't ad agencies or design firms launch their own brands?
by Todd Knutson

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In a recent post I mention the opportunity to partner with upstart technology companies as a new business play. This month's Fast Company article titled "Selling Soap. Literally" shows how some innovative agencies and design firms are creating their own products to generate growth and, as a healthy by-product, increase business acumen.

You may be familiar with what Anomaly is doing, but how about Trumpet, Zag or Fuseproject?

Fusebox has created Y Water, a low-sugar beverage for kids, as well as the Jawbone wireless headset - both in partnership with startups. Trumpet was similarly involved with Naked Pizza. BBH Labs launched Zag, which has created Mrs-O.org and lla, while Anomaly has five projects in the process, including Avec Eric and eos.

Here are some take-aways from the article:

Ben Malbon, BBH Labs:

  • "By creating our own brands, we wanted to make ourselves recession-proof."
  • "Because it's your own money on the table. When it's literally off the bottom line, the best idea must win. You have to be open to people being more expert than you."
  • "You get exposure to the full gory detail of how clients make and lose money."
  • [employees] "will be able to have a much smarter conversation with a client's marketing director, or CFO."

Carl Johnson, Anomaly:

  • "If there is a client, they are in charge..."
  • "You have to embrace collaboration."
  • "You're much more commercially aware."
  • "You can do so much if you know what you're doing with product placement, sponsorship, digital PR. It's that whole "I haven't got any money, so I'll have to think." It makes you much better at grinding out media without paying."

Robbie Vitrano, Trumpet:

  • "It's exciting to figure out how to commercialize something that has real substance."

Bart Haney, Fuseproject:

  • "Either our ideas will make it or they won't. If a partner starts a business with the idea, we stay on as the creative segment of it. If it gets sold off or licensed, then we take our share."
  • "Clients start seeking us out because they absolutely know we understand the path to market and all of their challenges."

If these comments get your entrepreneurial juices flowing, go for it! Why not launch your own brand, either on your own or with a partner?

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