The Indie List: Zulu Alpha Kilo

The code to indie success
In May, Zulu was recognized by Forbes as one of 2018's best small companies and made it's "Small Giants" list. Author Bo Burlingham followed that up with a feature article in its Top 100 Innovators April issue

In May, Zulu was recognized by Forbes as one of 2018′s best small companies and made it’s “Small Giants” list. Author Bo Burlingham followed that up with a feature article in its Top 100 Innovators April issue

Zulu Alpha Kilo’s tenth year in business was, hands down, its most successful. Its breakthrough work for brands such as Tim Hortons, an influx of new clients and attention from business journalists and award show juries alike show this independent agency has definitely hit its stride.

It started in January after winning Tim Hortons. Zulu came out swinging with a powerful effort for the iconic brand. It found the only hockey team in Kenya and, seeing they had no one to play against, brought them to Toronto for a match with Sidney Crosby. International media picked up the story and it has entered global pop culture. The work even led to a 20-minute primetime documentary on Sportsnet produced by Zulu’s in-house content studio, Zulubot.

Zulu's CAMH campaign encouraged us to reconsider how we treat mental health.

Zulu’s CAMH campaign encouraged us to reconsider how we treat mental health.

Tim Hortons is just one success story in the making. New efforts for HomeEquity Bank, CAMH, Interac and Consonant Skincare all launched last year with innovative strategies. Take Zulu’s breakout work for ParticipACTION, which is currently in-market promoting physical activity as a way to improve every aspect of life from sleeping to pooping.Zulu has also steered the launch of Avrio Health’s new Betadine Sore Throat brand. It positioned the spray and gargle products as fending off throat infections at their first sign with humourous TV and online content. In a market dominated by pills that treat symptoms that occur after sickness sets in, Betadine’s launch is designed to create a whole new preventative consumer behaviour – gargling – from the very first cough.

Agency founder and COO Zak Mroueh says this flurry of new work is the result of how Zulu Alpha Kilo approaches creativity and its client relationships. Zulu seeks out brands that understand that creativity can be a game changer when used with purpose.

“Our belief is that ideas are simply business tools that provide an unfair advantage to our brand partners. We love collaborating with marketers who want to break the convention of their category,” Mroueh says.

New ParticipACTION work shows the benefits of exercise beyond the gym.

New ParticipACTION work shows the benefits of exercise beyond the gym.

This approach isn’t just getting brands’ attention. The business media has also taken notice. Zulu became one of “Canada’s Best Managed Companies” with a feature in Maclean’s. And Forbes recognized Zulu as one of North America’s most innovative small companies, bringing the agency’s 10-year entrepreneurial story full circle. When Mroueh was launching Zulu Alpha Kilo in 2008, he stumbled upon author Bo Burlingham’s book Small Giants, immediately identifying with its stories of small businesses that found success by “choosing to be great” instead of chasing growth for growth’s sake.

The circle was complete when Burlingham himself visited Zulu’s office last year to profile the agency for the April issue of Forbes, featuring the Top 100 Innovators. In May, Forbes also named Zulu Alpha Kilo to its list of 2018’s top 25 small companies, the only Canadian firm to be recognized.

“Zulu Alpha Kilo is easily one of the most creative companies I’ve had the pleasure to research and write about in the 35 years I’ve been covering entrepreneurship,” Burlingham says. “It is creative not just in the award-winning campaigns it puts together for its clients but in the entire way it conducts business. Great companies elevate their industries. Zulu Alpha Kilo has done that for advertising.”

Using the surfaces and textures of the environment around its new flagship location, Zulu created a successful launch campaign for Consonant Skincare's third store.

Using the surfaces and textures of the environment around its new flagship location, Zulu created a successful launch campaign for Consonant Skincare’s third store.

To cap off the year, Zulu took home strategy’s Design Agency of the Year title and earned bronze in the Agency of the Year competition (after getting shortlisted in all three Agency Of The Year categories, including digital). On the night of the strategy gala, Zulu released a follow up to its viral hit “Say No To Spec” with the “World’s Worst RFP.” The video ignited a debate over fraught RFP practices. That night the agency also launched SmarterPitch.com, a website and thought-leadership piece it created to improve the RFP process for both clients and agencies.

For Tim Hortons, Zulu brought a Kenyan Hockey team to Canada to skate with Sidney Crosby.  It spawned a televised documentary and international attention for the brand.

For Tim Hortons, Zulu brought a Kenyan Hockey team to Canada to skate with Sidney Crosby. It spawned a televised documentary and international attention for the brand.

Looking back on 2018, agency president Mike Sutton says “of all the accolades this year, we’re most proud of being the top Canadian shop on WARC’s global list of the most effective agencies. This validates that our creative work is also having a major business impact for our clients.”

CONTACT:

Mike Sutton

President

INeedANewAgency@zulualphakilo.com