Size doesn't matter: A small agency's guide to rolling with the big brands

Working like a collective can help small agencies think big, says director of strategy at Safari Sundays

I'm tired of hearing that big brands can only work with big agencies. It's a notion that’s both over simplified and outdated.

In the increasingly complex global and local, analogue and digital landscape modern brands must inhabit, it can be problematic to even define a brand as big. And when it comes to agencies, why are we still talking about big versus small in a world where brilliant creative talent is increasingly independent, making their homes anywhere and everywhere? 

I'm a firm believer in thinking of creative companies as collectives: small teams of people connected to other small teams that bring big brand experience and thinking together with small brand bravery and inspiration. Working this way ensures that these so-called big brands remain fresh yet authentic, while small brands get the commercial experience and brand discipline to go the distance.

As a creative, executing this requires a small company to have built this thinking into the very fabric of their business. Here’s some ways of achieving this:

Employ people with a passion for travel

World travelers and experience seekers are feelers by nature and collectors of all things interesting and insightful. A central team, driven by these people who are passionate about embracing a more nomadic lifestyle can help you with two things; firstly they will bring both a global and local perspective to the table and secondly they are ready and able to be sent anywhere around the world, to get deep under the skin of any brand or insight. The nuances, understanding and big ideas that come back work as an exciting short-cut to both authentic and deeply inspired originality.

Embrace the skills melting pot

Consciously building teams with a melting pot of skills, practical experience and category knowledge gives a small team the ability to work with a broad spectrum of clients. The team can at once bring that critical in-the-know experience and a fresh perspective on someone else’s everyday. 

Shake up the structure

Small companies have the luxury of structuring themselves in a flat, fluid and non-hierarchical way. At Safari Sundays, we change up our space pretty regularly to benefit from a new view and a new neighbor. Mixing it up like this encourages uncommon connections, a lack of hierarchy and new collaborations where job descriptions are less restrictive. It’s a successful model because it recognizes that original ideas can come from anywhere and it gets those ideas to our modern, fast-paced consumers quickly (rather than being tangled up in the system.

Become a collective

A true collective is not just a global network of partners — it should be a passionate community where each person is deep in their own area of expertise while wanting to connect, be inspired by and work with other like-minded people. This dedication to individual independence combined with hunger for fresh inspiration produces powerful creative work. Investing proper time in this model allows the team at the core of the project to stay focused on the bigger picture, while having the right experts involved at the right time, to create the best work at every stage for every brand size.

This approach means that for any agency, no project is simply about being big or small. It’s more about collecting the best people to have in the picture at the right time and creating global, personal, evolving brands that are as relevant and exciting today as they are tomorrow.

Georgia Levison is director of strategy at Safari Sundays

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