The Indie List: The Mark

Earning brand love, and building business, one story at a time

To accelerate brand awareness across Latin America, The Mark helped Scotiabank create a new media and always-on digital content strategy including partnerships with Concacaf, FOX Sports and National Geographic.

Sometimes a rebrand is a way to freshen things up. Other times, a rebrand signals a fundamental shift in how things are done. The latter is true for The Mark, which in 2019 was renamed from The Mark Studios. It was the final piece in the company’s two-year transition from a content-driven production studio to a creative consultancy focused on business strategy, brand building and marketing effectiveness.

As this collage of images from the agency’s Instagram feed shows culture and creativity truly combine at The Mark.

As this collage of images from the agency’s Instagram feed shows, culture and creativity truly combine at The Mark.

The changes began when Hayes Steinberg came on board in September 2017 as chief creative officer, bringing with him over two decades of agency experience, recognized for both his business effectiveness and creative talent. They continued when Tracy Smith, who has extensive experience in brand strategy and agency operations, was brought on as president early last year. Since then the shop has tripled in size and grown their client roster. The message was clear: The Mark was now a full-service agency and getting attention.

In its new iteration, The Mark relies heavily on creative exploration and content flexibility that is informed by insights throughout.

“We don’t assume that the audience will listen just because we put it out there. By harnessing insightful data to inform our thinking, we always try to create something that hasn’t been created before, and the data informs the execution,” says Steinberg. “There’s an elasticity of how we go to market that allows us to adapt while creative is in market. The audience tells us what’s real.”

For instance, when The Mark was tapped by Scotiabank to demonstrate its commitment in communities across Latin America, they partnered with National Geographic & FOX Sports to produce an emotional feature-length documentary that tells the story of 14 children who use futbol to rise above their circumstances and realize their true potential. While filming, The Mark considered as many possible messaging and visual variables and captured footage that could be used on social platforms over the course of the year-long program. If a particular piece of content wasn’t performing, it was changed. If people responded to the story, messaging thoughtfully evolved to become more brand-focused.

When Shoppers Drug Mart launched The Beauty Clinic by Shoppers, The Mark helped build awareness and drive to clinic with a series of humourous and educational digital videos that demystified and democratized cosmetic dermatology.

When Shoppers Drug Mart launched The Beauty Clinic by Shoppers, The Mark helped build awareness and drive to clinic with a series of humourous and educational digital videos that demystified and democratized cosmetic dermatology.

“You wouldn’t ask someone you just met to help you move a couch,” says Steinberg about the strategy. “It’s the same with digital media. People love a story. Give them a story and then they’re more likely to be open to other messages. You gotta earn that couch-moving request.”

Smith likens their approach to CRM marketing, but leveraging paid social platforms and digital media in a methodical way that moves audiences through a journey. “By creating content that resonates, you are able to nurture leads very efficiently, and at scale,” she adds.

Crafting executions that have the ability to change based on how audiences react requires a degree of confidence with risk-taking. From both client and agency. For Smith, that means taking a high-touch approach to managing the work.

“There is so much variability at play, there are no guaranteed outcomes. So when we need to pivot, we don’t hesitate. The quicker we move, the more effective we are.”

Smith says this fluid approach delivers for marketers who are willing to trust the agency with complex business challenges and are open to an iterative process. “Our clients are courageous marketers who don’t do rinse and repeat.”

Similarly, The Mark looks for talent that brings a level of commitment, ownership and resourcefulness to everything they do. “Everyone here has a voice and the ability to shape who we are and how we create,” says Smith. “The level of care this team brings to their work is inspiring.”

The approach has had tremendous impact on the agency culture. Earlier this year, The Mark was Great Place to Work-Certified and just last month made the 2019 list of Best Workplaces for Millennials and Best Workplaces Managed by Women, a reflection of the culture that comes with challenging and rewarding work.

“This was a personal goal of mine when I joined,” says Smith. “I have experienced the power of a dynamic, inclusive culture and recognize it’s one of the many reasons clients choose agencies. If you’re going to roll up your sleeves and get down to work, you want to do it with people you like, who care as much as you do and will go to the ends of the earth to get the job done.”

CONTACT:
Tracy Smith
President
tracy.smith@wearethemark.com