The Indie List: Brandfire

The agency specializes in ideas that connect and convert

To overcome a big business challenge, Brandfire built an engagement program for both sales reps and car buyers to make service appointments part of the purchase process.

In his 25 years in marketing,  Rob Levy has heard his fair share of marketers complaining about multinational agencies. Even today, in the age of digitally led, fully integrated campaigns, brands struggle to get work that balances awareness and effectiveness.

“Too often the creative agency is working against the digital team, for example, even if they’re in the same network,” Levy says.

It’s an observation that has shaped Brandfire, which Levy founded in 2006. The agency began as just four people leveraging their experience in shopper marketing. But as clients began asking them to take on more branding and above-the-line work, it has grown to its current 30-person roster to provide fully integrated capabilities.

“Not enough people in the agency business understand that all marketing must spur action,” Levy says. “It should create an emotional connection, but it should also convert – why you should consider buying a product, and why you should buy it now. You can only connect and convert with a true hybrid team of leaders from traditional agencies, all under one roof.”

This has been the guiding principle behind Brandfire’s launch campaigns, such as “Look Who’s In The Club” for Canada Dry’s flavoured club sodas and “You Can’t Not Turkey” for the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.


When Canada Dry launched flavoured club sodas in Canada, it turned to Brandfire for a launch campaign across multiple platforms and in-store.

But it’s the company’s work for Toyota Parts and Service that illustrates Levy’s point best. The agency not only built a positioning that would differentiate the Parts & Service brand, but it oversaw all integrated elements.

“So much of the work in the auto service market is negative,” Levy says, where rival brands try to drive service business with messages like “don’t open your hood to strangers.” The impact of that positioning, he says, has limited effectiveness. “It gets attention, but then what?”

Toyota Parts and Service, meanwhile, adopted the more positive-sounding “Bring Your Toyota Home.”

“Research showed us that people who drive Toyotas do so because they care about quality, reliability and durability and less about style,” Levy says. “‘Bring Your Toyota Home’ works as both an initial callto-action and a brand promise to those closer to purchasing service or parts.”

Over the campaign’s three years, that promise has guided the brand through business challenges. For example, when Toyota began using engines that use synthetic oil, it posed a potential revenue issue. “People used to need oil changes every 8,000 kms, but starting with 2016 models, it changed to 16,000 kms,” Levy explains. “Getting an oil change also typically happens with a full service, and waiting twice as long for that first check-up could affect car performance.”

The Parts and Service team needed new car owners to visit within that 8,000-km window, so Brandfire built a program, “Make A Date Every 8,” that brought the service and sales teams together to encourage those bookings before new cars moved off the lot.

Making that first check-up appointment part of the purchase process, sales reps were incented with a balloted contest to get car shoppers into the program. New car owners were similarly given instant-win promotions for signing up. The brand could then use customer data to track who actually showed up for that first check up. Those owners were given another instant reward for following through.

“In the first year of the program, we increased the likelihood of new car owners coming in for service by more than 85%,” Levy says, all because the campaign was designed to both connect emotionally and convert consumers’ behaviours.

“The key to our continued success is constantly adapting to what our clients need,” he adds. “We always like to go beyond the brief to give them solutions that are out of the box and unexpected; this is one of the things our clients look for from us and we are happy to provide it.“


Rob Levy