In the early years of the decade, business-to-business specialist Band & Brown began expanding into the consumer marketing arena, creating a specialist division led by Paul Lucas and Mandy Sharp that created experiential marketing and public relations campaigns for clients ranging from Haribo candies to Phone Book from BT. Those campaigns earned kudos for their creativity, but B&B’s heritage was making it difficult for the new operation to establish its own identity. As a result, Lucas and Sharp pulled together a team of communications experts from a variety of disciplines—PR, journalism branding, events, and more recently digital and social media—to create B&B sister agency Brando, which launched in January 2005 and never looked back.
Brando specializes in what it calls “brand bonding,” creating campaigns and experiences designed to connect clients with consumer and develop deeper, longer relationships. It’s an approach the firm defines through an equation: belief + experience = brand bonding. PR delivers the belief; live events create the experiences; and clients feel the benefit. An illustration of the approach can be found in the firm’s work for Gatwick Airport, following up the successful London Gatwick Fashion week the firm managed in 2009. The airport presented the Gatwick Runway Models campaign in association with the Storm model agency, turning the airport’s terminals into model scouting locations , culminating in the new faces of Storm debuting at London Gatwick Fashion Week. The campaign blended digital, social, experiential and traditional PR to create a campaign that drove sales for the airport’s duty-free retailers.
That kind of work generates tremendous client enthusiasm. “We did some cool, extraordinary, groundbreaking and nerve wrecking new stuff at Sony Ericsson last year,” says Catharina Rijstenbil of Sony Ericsson, who says Brando was “a joy to work with, nice and direct, very friendly and not at all arrogant Londoners.”
The result is a client list that includes high-profile brands such as Sony Ericsson U.K. and Sony Ericsson global; Mars (for chocolate brands including Galaxy Counters, Maltesers and Twix), London Gatwick Airport, First Direct, Cirque du Soleil, and Dr. Oetkar, with new retainer clients in 2010 including Bupa and Three Mobile, in addition to projects from Virgin Trains, Vision Express and Fat Face. With client retention levels holding firm, Brando held steady for the year overall, with the social media practice showing good growth, picking up assignments from new (Three Mobile) and existing (Sony Ericsson UK) clients.
Lucas, a graduate of Shandwick’s training programme, started out on travel and leisure accounts at Band & Brown before moving quickly through the ranks to lead its consumer division. Sharp cut her teeth at a small London consumer shop before working on experiential campaigns for B&B. Both retain leadership roles at the firm they founded, and were joined this year by a third managing partner, Shelley Morrell, a former journalist. Director Fran Timmons returned from one year’s maternity leave, while the digital team was strengthened with the addition of John Hobson, formerly of Turner Broadcasting and ITN On, as director of social media.
As part of the Canadian-owned Cossette Communication Group, Brando is part of the concept of convergent communication, working closely with sister ad agency MCBD, sales promotion firm Elvis, branding agency Identica and digital agency Dare on campaigns for Virgin Trains, Vision Express and others. Cossette also owns leading U.S. public relations firm PainePR. Beyond the Cossette work, Brando has frequently created EMEA-wide campaigns for clients and last year announced the formal launch of Brando World, an international network of 30 independent PR and event agencies in 50 markets.