Scott Beffort on why WPP is bringing Landor & Fitch to Canada

WPP is bringing a new agency brand to Canada, with strategic branding and design specialists Landor & Fitch opening for business at the new WPP offices opening inside Toronto’s Waterfront Innovation Centre in just a few weeks.

In part, this is about adding new capabilities to WPP’s offering at a time it’s consolidating everything under one roof. Landor & Fitch is a standalone agency, but can be added to the capabilities of other agencies, and that becomes easier and more efficient when people are in the same building.

There are only two official Landor & Fitch Toronto employees at launch, but it has access to 1,200 employees in 19 countries and 30 cities around the world that can be used to service Canadian clients already working with creative agencies like Taxi, John St. and Ogilvy.

But it’s also about demand for its services in a world that continues to be transformed by new digital touch-points and technology. Landor & Fitch’s forte is transforming brands for that world, creating exceptional consumer experiences at every touch-point.

The six components of the Landor & Fitch offering are brand strategy; brand expression; brand experience; culture and employee experience; brand management; and brand performance, and it services some of the biggest brands in the world, including Apple, BP, Kellogg’s, Lego, Microsoft, Nike and Procter & Gamble.

“We believe brands are a platform for action and a critical tool in business transformation,” said Gabe Miller, president, Americas for Landor & Fitch, in a release announcing the new Toronto office. “With the strong presence of WPP already in Canada, and a number of Canadian companies reaching across the border for brand transformation needs, we saw an opportunity to help clients connect business strategy to brand strategy and express that through innovative experiences in the market.”

The new office will be led by Scott Beffort as executive director. Beffort spent the last nine years at Taxi, where he led the launch and expansion of its strategic design offering, Signal. “If you take Signal and put it on steroids, that’s kind of Landor & Fitch,” he says.

Beffort is hiring now, and hopes to grow the office to about 10 people by the end of the year. Until then, the Toronto office can draw on the expertise of Landor & Fitch’s other offices, particularly New York and Chicago.

The office will work with existing clients Dell and Walmart, though the Toronto office is also launching with a new client from the market, the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Message spoke with Beffort this week about bringing Landor & Fitch to Canada.

Why launch in Canada? “If I look at the Canadian landscape, there are so many agencies that are doing great work—amazing work, I think—on the advertising side. In fact, I think we’re getting better.

“But I still think that there’s this gap, this experience gap, of translating brands into new dimensions. And whether you call it the metaverse or something else, I think the ways that consumers are talking about and experiencing brand has proliferated. And there are not that many capabilities that can meet those demands in Canada today.

“Landor & Fitch has that, and I think it’s going to be a) a huge complement to the [WPP] agencies that exist here, and b) I think that there are unmet needs.”

Can you be more specific about what strategic design represents as Landor & Fitch sees it? “I think what we’re really saying is that every day the world between virtual and physical is melding. There are lots of new ways to interact with brands. It’s not static, and it’s not all the way on the other end of the spectrum, where you have to walk around with a VR headset on. It’s all the touch-points in between that we’re experiencing brands in.

“If you take a look at the Landor & Fitch reel, one of the things that will strike you is how brands are coming to life in built environments, in retail spaces, in categories like automotive, where a dealership today is nothing like a dealership was 10 years ago. The challenges that [dealers are] facing—not just from an EV perspective, but understanding the consumer perspective—are fundamentally different.

“And the reasons that customers are visiting those built environments are different too. So it’s this new, completely blank canvas for creating experiences that are going to be sticky with consumers, where they walk away and say, ‘I enjoyed that experience so much that I want to have more to do with that brand.'”

Is this what’s often called “design thinking”? “A lot of the discipline of design thinking is absolutely inherent throughout Landor & Fitch. The way I look at design thinking, though, is that it’s really just another way of saying purposeful… I don’t mean purpose as in CSR. I mean starting out with an intent to break down what’s conventional and unconventional [for a brand].

“I think that’s part of the answer, but the other part is that once you understand the customer journey and have mapped different ways that customers experience the brand, you then need to fill it with something. You need create those touch-points that are ultimately magical. You need to [create] those places that are going to be immersive. You need to redefine the way in which those touch-points happen.

“And of course, the proliferation of channels has just exploded the number of ways we have to create brand moments.”

What can you tell us about winning the Blue Jays? “Put yourself in their shoes, [where] the whole dynamic of baseball is changing. We see more new Canadians, and as the population changes, there’s much more competition from international sports and other non-traditional competition. And it’s no longer just about getting bums in seats either.

“If you take a look at the Raptors as a comparable platform—elevating a brand where it’s more accessible for more people in Canada—I think that is a brand transformation.

“For sure in strategic design, a lot of the basic principles of positioning, platform and brand strategies are inherent in what we do. Where the transformation piece comes in is, how do you take those core elements and translate them or amplify them into new spaces, new experiences, new touch-points, and really make sure they are relevant at each of those places and spaces.”

Can you say anything more about the specific mandate for the Blue Jays? “Not much more than a brand transformation. There’s a lot of new energy in Toronto. People who follow baseball say they’re contenders this year. And I think that as a brand they want to become more relevant to more Canadians at a deeper level than they are today.

“And that’s really the ambition of all the brands that we work with—they want to drive relevance with either a very focused group or with more people. So it really is about relevance through transformation.”

David Brown