One fairly accurate definition of a brand is the sum of all the conversations it has with its customers, from the advertising to the call centre and everything in between. And Chemistry, a new agency launched by a group of experienced marketing campaigners, including Joseph Silk from Silk Communications, Andrew Mitchell from Magnet Customer Attraction and Mike Larmer, formerly head of marketing at Mercury Energy and before that managing director of Whybin\TBWA’s direct and digital arm Tequila, thinks there's a gap in the landscape for an agency that understands the confluence of creativity and technology and can help clients take customer experience marketing to the next level.
"In 2012, it’s less about advertising and more about creating an experience that transforms what it means to be a customer of a brand," says Larmer. "And that change has really caused a lot of consternation in marketing. That's because doing it well requires joined up thinking across all of the touch points a brand can have with its consumer—and that includes all the back office customer service stuff clients do that typical creative agencies ignore at their peril ... You can spend a lot of money on a brand campaign, but if that's not correlated with a fantastic experience when you send a letter to a customer who's been with you for ten years, all of that great work can be undone."
Joining the dots between the often disparate realms of marketing, IT and the frontline staff isn't easy, of course. But Larmer says it can help by combining the art of creativity with the science of technology and enabling a brand to create more personal, relevant and "stickier" consumer experiences. And this is something he says Chemistry puts at the centre of everything it does.
As it says on the website: "Our science is direct marketing, data analytics, loyalty strategies, marketing automation and digital integration for both consumer and B2B brands. Our art is insight development and the creation of human, engaging, award-winning creative."
Larmer says all the big clients now recognise the importance of the whole customer experience, as he discovered during his time spent working client side with Mercury Energy, and many corporates have incorporated the term customer experience into their titles. But while client side, he says it was tough to find a strategic partner with a view across data, marketing automation and digital that could then "bring that human, creative spirit that generates those x-factor ideas to create conversations and brand advocacy".
"With Chemistry we’ve assembled the team to do it," he says, with Silk and Mitchell, both former agency heads from Wunderman and WRC/DDB respectively, and Cannes Gold winning digi-direct creative team Susan Young and Pat Murphy as joint creative directors.
"After four years at Rapp Tribal we were looking for the next challenge," says Murphy. "When we looked at the strategic direct, digital and integrated skills Mike, Joe and Andrew bring to the table, along with our own experience, it was clear this would be a compelling offer for clients."
Young adds that "being part of something fresh and different we can help shape from the start was really appealing".
The agency certainly seems to have got off to a good start. Silk and Mitchell have brought clients Kordia (its IT Super Heroes campaign has been a big success), Mercury Energy, AMI, State, Sleepyhead Beds and ReSound under the Chemistry banner.
Larmer, who says he sought the guidance of his old boss/client David Walden before embarking on this venture (Walden calls them 'the Chemical brothers'), understands it's a vicious market out there, but he says Chemistry's niche is to be "best friends with the brand agencies". And, as evidenced by recent pitch results for Genesis and AA Insurance, he says this partnership approach is becoming increasingly common.
"We want to be a bunch of good guys working very closely with other agencies and clients," he says. "That's the great thing about being independent, because we can work with the best of breed ... And we are absolutely interested in working with people we like."