Theturnlab debuts with a new industry approach and global clients in tow

A Toronto startup's three-part model aims to fill gaps between strategy and execution.

02-Polar2_artwork-FNLTheturnlab’s co-founders saw that clients were dissatisfied with how agencies were responding to marketing disruption, and they seem to have found a successful way to fill this gap in the market.

“Agencies now sell a commoditized product,” says Howard Chang, one of theturnlab’s four co-founders. “Now there are so many businesses swooping in: consultancies like Deloitte and Accenture are eating a lot of agencies’ share, three guys in a basement can develop whole platforms, and a lot of clients are just taking things in-house. Clients want 360-degree, business-building solutions and are not really looking for someone to just do their advertising.

“But we’re hearing from our clients that while consultancies have good intelligence, they don’t execute well. And while tech companies have solid products, they’re not focused on business solutions.”

So Chang and his partners launched their startup with an offering that is equal parts business consultancy, integrated ad agency and technology firm.

Chang oversees theturnlab’s consulting and creative practices, while Frank Aloise leads the digital team, Malina Kaija takes on business development and Steven Aronovich handles media and social media.

They may be onto something with this model. The doors have only been open for only three months, but theturnlab has already attracted six clients from across North America and Europe.

Polar Electro is perhaps the largest of this group. The 40-year-old Finnish company makes heart-rate and GPS monitors in the fitness sector, competing against other heavyweights such as Apple and Fitbit.

Theturnlab met with Polar Electro’s North American team and were presented with the challenge that the global campaign did not differentiate the brand enough from key competitors. So theturnlab ran a workshop that led to an entirely new strategic approach for this highly competitive market.

“It wasn’t just marketing,” Chang says. “We had our analysts take a 360-degree look at the business and the brand to see what we could leverage to build share.”

Theturnlab is now working with Polar Electro’s North American offices to develop a new U.S. market campaign as a first step in this strategy with the global team looking on with keen interest.

Theturnlab has also signed with U.K.-based clinical skincare brand AlumierMD (for which the agency is handling business and brand strategy for North America and Europe), cannabis retailer Meta Cannabis Supply Co. and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Other new clients include brands in the entertainment, tech and medical technology categories.

But new clients aren’t the only way the agency is driving growth. As a tech company, Theturnlab is developing software services it intends to license. A reporting tool and a CRM platform are already close to completion thanks to the shop’s enterprise-level development team. “We’re taking twenty years of experience in building digital projects and platforms and making that a part of what we do,” says co-founder Aloise.

“We’re operating that part of the business as a lab, because we want to experiment, learn, iterate and improve as we move forward with new products.”

But despite the possibilities these software-as-a-service tools offer the startup, Chang is quick to say that theturnlab doesn’t approach clients with a need to sell them anything. He sees the company as “a thinking partner” that solves problems in a strategy-agnostic way.

“It takes a new kind of thinking to be successful in marketing now,” says co-founder Kaija. “Brands’ needs change daily. We built our business on that fact and are ready to meet clients on whatever front they need us.”

Find out more about the team at