Yes& launches with a new model for strategy and planning

A new Canadian industry startup has launched, created to fill the brand strategy and planning gap facing many marketers. The brainchild of Trent Fulton (top photo), Yes& will provide on-demand freelance brand planning on a project basis.

It provides the cost controls and flexibility of working with freelancers, but carried out by a team of collaborators with senior-level expertise, said Fulton. Conversely, strategists and planners that are part of Yes& retain some of the freedom of being independent, but with the structure and resources of being part of a team environment.

Fulton came up with the idea for Yes& earlier this year. He’d parted ways with The Hive and, as people tend to do in those circumstances, spent some time considering what to do next.

He’d seen first-hand the growing pressures on marketers and agencies to do more with less, and reduce overhead costs by cutting headcount.

“A lot of really experienced people have slowly been squeezed out of Canadian marketing,” he said. On the agency side, procurement has been “hammering” agency costs, he said, and shops have had to reduce senior-level talent and increasingly rely on junior-level strategists and planners.

And on the client side, many international and U.S. brands have reduced their Canadian operations to satellite offices. “Those sort of clients need help occasionally, and they want access to those experienced people, but they can’t employ them full time,” said Fulton.

Yes& offers independent strategists and planners an opportunity to be part of a team of other strategists and planners, working together to tackle client challenges.

“When you’ve lived in this agency marketing world for a number of years, you’re used to collaborating and just bouncing ideas forward, and they’ve all missed that,” said Fulton.

“There are so many advantages to being your own free agent,” said Hayley Shay, a Yes& collaborator and former senior marketer with Coca-Cola. “But one thing you do miss is a sense of team and having other people to bounce ideas off. Yes& offers the chance for independent strategists like myself to collaborate, act as a resource for one another, and ultimately elevate the work.”

Fulton calls Yes& a platform because clients can tap into the services on an as-needed basis, but it’s not just a self-service model either.

“I didn’t want to go to the full SAAS platform where there was no curation [or] human contact,” he said. Yes& gives potential clients a human point of connection, usually Fulton’s partner Mark Tomblin (right), to talk through whatever challenges they are facing and to figure out the best collaborator from Yes& to work on solutions. The cost which will vary depending on the size and scope of the assignment.

Rates aren’t hourly, but instead based on conversations about what the client needs, and clearly articulated deliverables. ”It’s a fixed amount so nobody’s watching the clock,” he said.

Fulton has also established working relationships with organizations for those clients who want to go beyond strategy and planning, including Been There Done That for creative ideation; Ignite Labs for research and insights; The French Shop for Quebec localization; Jacknife for brand design; and Makers for any production requirements.

David Brown