Smaller Agency launches with ‘think big’ ethos

The Toronto-based agency will never grow beyond 12 staff and is already working on a portfolio of beverage and cannabis clients.

Like many new agencies, Toronto’s Smaller Agency is looking to use its size to be more flexible and quicker to market. But unlike other agencies, it has set a rule for itself to make sure that remains a core part of its approach in the years to come: no matter how good business gets, it will never grow beyond 12 staff.

According to founder and CEO Noah Barlow, he does not want to incur the overhead, bulk and bureaucracy of a big agency. He also wants to maintain what he calls a “startup mentality,” keeping the structure flat and making it easier for clients to access to the senior talent they want to deal with. Barlow says the agency currently has four staffers, and will be seeking out team members from larger agencies, who may be overburdened by bureaucracy and politicking of a bigger shop.

At launch, Barlow says Smaller Agency’s business model is primarily focused on helping alcohol and cannabis brands understand category nuances and consumer insights based on better understanding of how people his age (38 years old) spend their evenings. He had previously spent eight years in beverage marketing, working on projects such as Miller Lite’s launch in Canada during his time at Me&Lewis Ideas. He has also led marketing client-side at CPG company GreenSpace Brands and RClub. Combined, he says this gives him an understanding of the challenge of launching both small and big brands, but he has always preferred the flexibility of working with smaller brands.

So far, Smaller Agency has developed branding and packaging for Saturday Cannabis, handled a recent Grolsch TIFF activation and developed the brand, name, logo and experience design for Lob, a nine-track bocce-golf course in Toronto. Despite its size, Smaller Agency is a multi-disciplinary shop offering a range of services including brand design and strategy; go-to-market strategy; product launches and branded experience, which is especially helpful for the brands it will be working with.

“In the beverage alcohol category, it’s important to be tactile in a meaningful way,” Barlow says, adding experience and point-of-purchase is more impactful than digital, unless a brand spends a great deal of money.

Other clients for Smaller Agency include Andrew Peller Estates, Pilsner Urquell and Starseed Cannabis.