Running an agency is hard, but differentiating is even harder. You are fortunate if you find your niche and know how to build your agency like a brand.
I started Labbrand back in 2005 in Shanghai with Chinese naming as our main offering. If a foreign brand wants to penetrate the Chinese market, it is essential that the brand adopts a Chinese name which goes beyond a simple translation. It was a service that I needed in my previous employment and for which I witnessed the scarcity of agencies – basically leaving me to study and better understand how naming was done professionally in markets such as United States and France, and from there developed a customized methodology for Chinese language.
It was, and still is an area of passion for me, being at the crossroad of language, art, and systematic processes – since finding an aim combines creativity with scrupulous Intellectual Property evaluation to find a name that we can guarantee to being optimal for the brand to use and own as a trademark.
Then we further developed into a full portfolio of services including Consumer Insights, Brand Strategy and Design, as well as adding 2 more brands under Labbrand Group: MADJOR and SpringPillar. Eventually landing in Europe, North America & Singapore, becoming one of the first Global Agencies with headquarters in Shanghai. We grew from a few employees to close to hundred as of today.
Despite the variety of services we provide, throughout the years, we always kept our naming service as our flagship service with dedicated campaigns. This has provided us a niche and a strong differentiator. Our clients remember Naming and advocate our agency both internally and to their peers.
A significant milestone that brought our brand to a next level was a publication in The New York Times – ‘Picking the Pitch-Perfect Brand Name in China ’ published in November 2011, six years after I started Labbrand. This article was unsolicited and came from the research of journalists on this topic and finding Labbrand to be an authoritative expert to discuss the topic. This illustrates how Naming connects with human curiosity for words and languages and resonates even further with marketing and branding specialized circles. In the recent years, we expand on the Humanizing value of our work as a brand consultancy.
With growth however, another challenge appeared: the structuring of the teams and hiring the right talents, especially in a very competitive talent market as China. This is when an agency needs to become a brand itself for internal and external audiences to attract talent. Defining the key pillars of our Employer Brand and Corporate Culture has been another milestone that has unlocked new growth of our company beyond its organic success.
So how to build a successful agency?
I would say it boils down to finding your answer to each of these 4 questions:
- How to find your niche?
- How to build a team structure & attract the right talents?
- How to manage your corporate branding?
- How to expand your service portfolio?
The answers are different for each entrepreneur and for each enterprise, but the answer is to be found at the intersect of your passion and the insights you get on the market opportunity.
Along this journey I partnered with many companies in China and in the region. Here I would like to mention our partnership with JOLT Digital. Sebastien Lepez, JOLT’s Founder has managed to find his niche in helping brands combining the power of people and cutting-edge technology.
Seb, said: “I am very happy to partner with Labbrand but beyond that I am very grateful to have Vladimir as our Chairman non-executive to provide guidance and perspective for JOLT’s success.