Creative consumer boutique
“Anyone can dole out shares,” says Cow founder Dirk Singer, who perhaps overestimates the willingness of many public relations consultancy principals to share the benefits of ownership. “But if it’s not backed up with something real and meaningful, it is nothing more than a fancy bonus scheme.” So when Singer and his partner Sïan Morgan founded Cow, one of their first decisions was to set aside a portion of the shares for people they hadn’t even hired yet and set out to create a culture that’s as close to democracy as a corporate structure gets and that earned the firm a spot in the top 10 Best Consultancies to Work For in our recent study.
The same innovative mindset is evident in the firm’s work for clients. Focused primarily on the consumer sector, the firm has experience handling consumer technology and Internet clients, food and drinks, and fashion and beauty brands, and delivers solutions that go beyond traditional media relations to include direct to consumer campaigns and guerrilla marketing techniques, employing a process called 360-degree messaging to understand all the media that might influence a particular target. Media evaluation is provided by a former Cow account director who now runs her own evaluation firm, For What It’s Worth.
Programmes are typically based on the consultancy’s own consumer intelligence and insight: Cow has its own consumer focus group, consisting of 100 people from different walks of life and age groups who can help clients with message testing and more. In June of this year, the firm also commissioned the first of a series of quarterly trend reports, polling 500 consumers—in this case, on ethical consumerism—and sharing the results with clients.
Fee income last year—the firm’s fourth—was up by around 60 percent, to around £1.1 million, with new business successes including BaByliss, 118118, Comfort, Hoegaarden, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Bandai, and an unusually low attrition rate. The firm now has a team of 16, led by Morgan, a veteran of the consumer practices at Cohn & Wolfe, The RED Consultancy and Shandwick; and Singer, who was head of communications for dot-com bolero.net and worked at Infoplan, RED, and Shandwick. The third member of the management team is director Kate van Beek, another RED and Shandwick veteran who also served as PR manager at Capital Radio and creative director at Lexis PR.
Highlights of the past 12 months include creating a SABRE award-winning programme showcasing the most statistically average house in Britain on behalf of the Office for National Statistics, opening the house to broadcast media and achieving blanket TV news coverage from 5am to 6pm on the day of an ONS report launch. For fabric conditioner Comfort, meanwhile, Cow generated national news with a survey showing that the average British mom works more than 100 hours a week—released the day after the EU voted to extend the 48-hour work week rule to the U.K. The firm has also expanded on is work for JPMorgan Invest, which retained Cow to bring outside-the-box consumer thinking to the financial services sector.