Winnipeg’s Brandish establishes Toronto operation

Brandish, a five-year-old strategic consultancy agency based in Winnipeg, has (partly) achieved a longtime business objective by establishing a Toronto operation. The Toronto office is virtual for now, with plans to open a physical space within the next year, said creative director and managing partner Morley MacDougall.

“As much as we’re in a virtual world, we know there’s nothing that replaces [in-person] interaction, especially when organizations are making really big bets with us,” said MacDougall, who spent 17 years in the start-up space prior to joining Brandish in 2016. “We have to be physically present for them.”

Brandish brings together brand and business strategy, working with senior management to help companies define positioning and how they go to market, while layering in more traditional agency-related disciplines such as creative and design. “Instead of just dropping off a binder with recommendations and wishing them luck with their implementation, we actually stick around and help them implement and build capabilities,” said MacDougall (right in picture, with marketing director and managing partner Lee Waltham).

It launched in 2015 as a boutique agency with just three staffers, but with a stated goal of becoming a significant regional player in Western Canada, said MacDougall. The company has since grown to just over 30 employees, with clients in the retail, automotive and education industries.

Its business model made Toronto a logical next step, said MacDougall. “We work with senior management and the decision-makers in organizations, and we’re naturally going to find more of those in Toronto because that’s where more headquarters are.”

The expansion is accompanied by a retooling of its own brand that includes a revamped website and a concerted effort to position itself as a thought leader through webinars, white papers, etc. “A lot of brand agencies tend to be fairly invisible, and our longterm goal is to be much more upfront,” said MacDougall.

It’s all about positioning Brandish as being in-touch with the shift in consumer culture that MacDougall describes as a move from a selling to a buying culture. “We appreciate great creative, but more than that, it’s about empowering customer decision-making that builds longer-lasting relationships,” he said. “Cleverness is great, but it’s a tactic, not a strategy.”

Chris Powell