Opinion: Starting new client conversations

Octopus Group is rebranding to reflect changes in its clients’ needs. CEO Jon Lonsdale explains how a “good hunch” turned it into a new breed of agency.

Jon Lonsdale

I’ve always felt that brand marketing is a common sense thing – be interesting, challenging, authentic, surprising. Find ways to change the conversation others are having about you. Yet, what’s easy to say to a client is not so easy to do in your own agency.

In 2014, we noticed a few things.

We’d noticed clients changing the way they worked with us, and how many of our campaigns were reliant on marketing funding.

Our content work was being used strategically by field salespeople and digital marketers to drive sales, often without our involvement.

In-house teams were using fewer suppliers for multiple services. And showing ROI for traditional PR was becoming harder, as the media landscape changed.

Basically, full service looked like it was on the way back.

So we decided to back our hunches and respond by re-framing what the agency stood for and what it was going to be. We settled on the idea of being an agency that would link brand reputation and comms to drive commercial sales. And Octopus Group became the Brand to Sales Agency.

However, it meant completely rebuilding our business. From productising our marketing services portfolio and re-organising our client delivery model, to learning a new sales vocabulary and retraining PR teams to become Brand Engagement Project Managers. We even built Brand to Sales tools for pricing, planning and evaluation.

It was tough but, in 2016, we hit record revenues. Suddenly Octopus Group was no longer a PR agency with a different take on the world. We had become a new kind of hybrid agency, doing something genuinely innovative. We were bigger, louder, bolder and clearer in the marketplace.

So we are reinforcing this with a new brand. And this thought: if you listen to clients and back your hunches, you can not only change the conversation, you can start a new one.


Jon Lonsdale is CEO of Octopus Group.