You never quite know what to expect when you step outside Goodfolk’s front door onto Auckland’s Karangahape Road. Something exciting. Something mundane. Something confronting. This is the city’s creative fringe, and it offers up some of the most diverse cultural and social experiences in central Auckland. For a creative agency trying to see brands through the eyes of a wide range of people, it’s a pretty good place to call home.
“Brands don’t exist in a bubble, where they get to choose exactly who they talk to, and where,” says Goodfolk’s creative director, Mark Easterbrook. “It’s real people who determine what a brand is. Working here helps us stay grounded in that.”
Goodfolk’s Jason Linnell, Mark Easterbrook and Benn Winlove
With its broad capabilities, the agency maintains its focus by always being acutely aware of its own brand. According to general manager and agency owner Benn Winlove, “the only constant in this business is change, so you have to know what you stand for. Our brand is the compass point we navigate by. Being Goodfolk has always meant being good people to deal with, doing good work, and doing a bit of good out in the world for our industry and the communities we’re a part of”.
Growing in a fragmented market
Goodfolk has been enjoying solid, consistent growth over the last couple of years. What makes the agency unusual is that the growth hasn’t all come from filling a specialty niche. That, says Easterbrook, has lead to some interesting conversations around the agency’s identity.
“Our industry gets obsessed with categories and boxes. People want to know where you fit. Are we a design agency? Content producers? Digital specialists? Storytellers? B2B? The glib answer is ‘all of the above’. The right answer is a bit more complex.
“What we do is consider all the moments at which people and brands connect, and think about how creativity and technology can enhance those moments. There are no predetermined biases; no favourite hammers that we try and hit every nail with.”
Mastering all the tools
It’s an adaptable approach that’s paid off over the last year in the agency’s work as Auckland Council’s digital communications agency. Goodfolk has been able to deliver complex projects such as the Our Auckland news portal (built with development partner Phosphor), which aggregates content from Auckland Council’s own news streams and social media accounts into one central resource. While that sounds like the job of a digital specialist agency, Goodfolk have also successfully tackled creative projects such as the Dare to Explore reading programme for Auckland Libraries, and an about-to-launch brand development project that has been particularly satisfying for the team.
Another area Goodfolk has embraced is marketing automation. Spark Digital is a key client, with the agency providing everything from presentation design to quirky B2B advertising content for the Spark Digital Apps offering. But it’s also been providing technical support and best-practice guidance around how to make the most of the Marketo marketing automation platform.
“For many agencies, these new tools that clients can use themselves are the enemy,” says client service director Jason Linnell. “But they’re not going away. So what we’ve done at Goodfolk is ensure we have the skills within our team to help our clients use them in the way that works best for their brand and their business. If you’re prepared to embrace change, it’s not a threat. It’s an opportunity.”
Telling good stories
While a significant portion of the agency’s work is for large organisations like Auckland Council, Spark Digital, Fletcher Building and Housing New Zealand, there are plenty of good things happening for smaller clients too.
Working for charity clients, like Wellington’s One Percent Collective and refugee and migrant youth charity Mixit, allows the Goodfolk team to do some good in the world with their storytelling and design expertise. It also helps the agency stay true to its identity.
“We’re always looking for good stories to tell,” says Easterbrook. “We find a brand like Joshua’s Ice Cream, for example, and pour our love and effort into presenting them in a way that makes their story compelling to the people that come across it online, in the supermarket, or out in the world.”
For modern marketers, the industry is evolving and fragmenting at a dizzying pace. Clients are constantly facing new kinds of challenges that don’t fit in a tidy box – which can make it difficult to find how to tackle them.
“The key is to sit down with us early in a project, so we can listen and learn and help form the right brief. It delivers better results for everyone,” says Linnell.
“Ultimately, this business is about people. And what do people want? To be listened to, and understood, so they can get what’s right for them. That’s what Goodfolk do. We’re always happy to listen, talk, and offer a fresh perspective.”