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When a Business Reset Is in Order

By: Larry Garfield

When Garfield Group was founded in 1990 as a marketing agency with a sole focus on technology companies, the main news of the day centered on the First Gulf War, German reunification, and Nelson Mandela being freed from prison.

That same year, although few people paid attention, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the first Web server and the foundation for what became the World Wide Web. More people (although likely not that many, either) probably were excited that Microsoft released Windows 3.0.

A lot has changed since that time (remember when website addresses along the lines of http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html were common?) both in terms of the way technology impacts our lives, and the way we market and publicize it.

In 2013, we realized that, while successful, our agency needed to change its ways if we wanted to continue that success. While a complete reinvention wasn’t necessary, we certainly needed more than just a new coat of paint.

If You’re Not Moving Forward, You’re Going Backward
Garfield Group has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts to keep up with the disruptive technological changes Berners-Lee helped unleash. The old saying about how, if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backward comes to mind. Already one of the largest Philadelphia-area agencies specializing in technology and innovation brands, our rebranding was inspired by a desire to raise our profile on a regional scale--and tell our own story in a more relevant, compelling way.

Complicating things further, the modern landscape has been altered--many more marketing/PR agencies have been seduced by the incredible innovation unleashed by technology companies, and are trying to get into the game. We needed to highlight the meaningful advantages of going with a specialist, versus someone who does retail, liquor or food--and dabbles in technology marketing.

And the technology itself certainly has changed.

In fact, a pretty good argument can be made that technology is more just an individual sector of the economy, as just about every economic segment has been transformed by technology in some form or fashion.

Back in 1990, Garfield Group was a B2B technology agency with clients who offered things such as computer monitors, database design and programming tools, network infrastructure, and application middleware.

Today, our clients are likely to be offering solutions in big data; cloud computing; payments; speech recognition; scientific and life sciences technology; healthcare; finance; and manufacturing, to name a few. Many are offering disruptive new business models that require education, and third-party credibility to gain traction. But fresh, disruptive thinking goes beyond technology. We’re also working with a number of organizations who focus on what’s called “social innovation”– nonprofits working to re-engineer society’s broken models in healthcare and education or create jobs through innovative micro-lending strategies. These are organizations that are changing the world--and using innovation to improve lives.

In short, we wanted to be known as a marketing agency that lives at the intersection of creativity and innovation, a sweet spot if there ever was one.
In our case, we started with a new logo, which is representative of both the upper and lowercase “G.” Not only does it pay tribute to the original brand, but it reflects our fresh and color-outside-the-lines perspective.

The website was overhauled as well, featuring a device-independent responsive design as well as fresh, highly-active content updates. Ask anyone: Content is king, and it’s smart to show off your best work.

Meantime, it’s helpful to have a mantra that sets the tone for what the agency can accomplish.

Create Brand Action
Our new mantra of “Create Brand Action” reflects a dedication to developing communications programs that are both innovative and drive results.
In support of that mantra, Garfield Group significantly broadened its services beyond traditional branding, advertising, and public relations. Those include areas of growing importance such as content strategy, marketing automation, analytics, social media, and responsive design. Simultaneously, the company deepened its strength in digital and constantly seeks new and exciting ways to reach complex audiences, shape behaviors, and evaluate performance.

Another key lesson to learn: everything is interrelated, and the lines between public relations, marketing, and advertising are blurring.

So, and after years of operating as largely independent silos, Garfield now functions as a united team-- branding, public relations, and digital. That helps us leverage great ideas across disciplines to optimize programs across all online and offline channels. Our team--which was emboldened to contribute ideas during our metamorphosis--is encouraged to brainstorm with abandon and dream of new ways to combine design, digital, and story-telling. And measure, measure, measure everything from engagement to conversions, to influence.

A new mantra should be more than just a tagline. Everyone in a company must be encouraged to look at familiar things through new perspectives.
Let’s take public relations as an example.

Sure, press releases are still a staple, but back in 1990 they may have gone out on a newswire, but likely were mailed or distributed using a cool new technology called the facsimile machine.

Today, the newswires are still around, but releases are primarily emailed, then redistributed via social media. They also can live forever on the Internet, specifically through a client’s website.

Speaking of social media, while much of the public uses it to tell the world what they had for lunch, sharp PR professionals are using it to tell their clients’ stories, reaching out to reporters and gaining feedback. The communication is instantaneous and provides a better feel for what the media needs.
On the marketing side, print and trade shows are being usurped by digital and social media.

As for digital, every day’s a new day. Mobile. Behavioral targeting. Apps. Who knows what exciting advances will happen in the months and years ahead--or even next month?

And that’s a philosophy that any business should adopt. To gain even the smallest edge, any smart company should constantly seek to reinvent itself at least incrementally. Waiting until you’re clearly behind the curve no longer is tenable.

About the Author(s)

Larry Garfield is president and founder of Garfield Group, an integrated marketing agency dedicated to companies driven by innovation. Founded in 1990, the Newtown, Pa.-based company has a rallying cry: "Create Brand Action," which is all about driving engagement and results for its clients.