“There’s nothing more difficult than branding yourself,” says Joseph Bonnici, creative director at Bensimon Byrne. And he’d know. Bonnici is part of a team that’s been working on a new brand identity for the Toronto agency for the last six months. As it turns out, analyzing yourself and how you operate as an agency – as opposed to understanding the fundamentals of a client’s business – is no cakewalk.
But it was time for a change. With an event to celebrate its 20-year anniversary in June, the agency – which currently has more than 160 employees – wanted a new look and feel to differentiate it in the market and show how it functions today.
The agency’s previous tagline, “Ingenious since 1993,” had served it well since 2006, but agency co-founder and president Jack Bensimon says “it doesn’t really reflect who we’ve become and who we aspire to be.”
So a team at Bensimon Byrne, including the partners and senior art director Filip Mroz, got to work on a new brand identity.
Here, Bensimon and Bonnici, who joined in 2011, break down the elements and the thinking behind the new brand identity in an exclusive interview with Marketing.
Back to the start
Creating a new identity meant looking back at the agency’s roots. Its founders were a unique combination, with Peter Byrne (a creative) and Bensimon (a strategist) coming together to build an agency. That idea of the left brain and right brain working together formed the basis of the entire rebranding, says Bonnici.
The team wanted to incorporate the left brain/right brain concept into their new fonts. Serif fonts are typically seen to have more of a flourish and represent the creative, while sans serifs are equated with being more straight (and therefore left-brained).
They chose two fonts – Mr. Eaves (a sans serif) and Mrs. Eaves (a serif) – and blended them for the new wordmark. The new identity “reflects everything between balance, between creativity and strategy, the masculine and feminine, and the diversity we have in the agency,” says Bonnici.
The time was right for an icon
“One of the things we felt we’ve always been missing as an agency is an icon to represent us in a really simple way,” says Bonnici. So the team took the two letter Bs from the company’s name, flipped one, and twisted them into a somewhat abstract shape.
The logo will also be used in presentations, on notebooks and other promotional collateral, including the coveted umbrellas often spotted along Wellington St., home to several other high-profile Toronto agencies.
A sign from above
A new 17-foot sign is being affixed to the front of the agency later this month. The part matte, part glossy woven steel sign will feature a backlit marble plaque with the agency’s name cut out. It’s sure to stand out on amongst the generally nondescript front doors of agencies on the street. “We kind of wanted to own Wellington,” says Bonnici. “That’s what we’re trying to do with this sign. We’ll have the most visible brand on the street and we like that.”
A little-known (but key) differentiator
As part of the deep analysis of what Bensimon Byrne is all about, the agency has also created a video that will live on its new website and illustrates an aspect of its culture that many people don’t know about: the fact that employees are encouraged to have other professional interests outside of advertising.
“These aren’t hobbies; they’re full-on second careers,” says Bonnici. They run the gamut from children’s book authors, public speakers, DJs, restaurateurs and artists. The insights staff acquire through those experiences often enhance the work they do for Bensimon Byrne’s clients, says Bonnici.
He gives a mathematical take on the benefits of this philosophy. If the agency is lucky enough to find the type of person that has the drive to develop multiple careers, he believes “we don’t need 100% of them because 75% of them is going to be [worth] 125% of someone else.”
Bensimon shares an example: the agency-owned OneMethod Digital + Design worked on the “Chunky Challenge” promotion as part of Nestlé Canada’s confectionary business last year, which featured a contest in which consumers chose a Kit Kat bar flavour to stay on the market. Since Bensimon Byrne staff already had relationships with athletes such as Raptors forward Amir Johnson – thanks to extra-agency work – the shop was able to call them up directly to ask them to shoot a YouTube video for the promotion. These invaluable relationships allowed them to bypass what would have likely otherwise involved “protracted negotiations with a bunch of intermediaries,” says Bensimon.
He adds that supporting staff with second careers is in keeping with the way the millennial generation approaches their professional lives. “They aren’t going to be happy with just one career,” he says. “The tradeoff is simple: either you’re going to have them for a very short period of time, then they move onto something else, or you can let them do a lot of things while they’re here and we’ll have them longer.”