The Indie List: Elemental

The human connections agency
The Elemental team, making human connections in a virtual world.

The Elemental team, making human connections in a virtual world.

Even in the wake of Covid-19 Elemental continues to find meaningful ways to connect with its own team, new ways to connect with its clients and partners, and better ways to connect those brands to their customers.

The path couldn’t be clearer for this Toronto agency despite trading the office boardroom for Zoom. In this time of uncertainty, the 20-year-old agency looked inward and crystalized something they had been working towards for a long time: that the key value Elemental provides to its clients is helping them establish human connections.

Baffin, the Canada Goose-owned footwear brand is made for our winters. And with so many people keen to get outside during the pandemic, despite the weather, Elemental leaned into the adventures that can be had outdoors with its visual and evocative “Built for the Bold” campaign.

Baffin, the Canada Goose-owned footwear brand is made for our winters. And with so many people keen to get outside during the pandemic, despite the weather, Elemental leaned into the adventures that can be had outdoors with its visual and evocative “Built for the Bold” campaign.

Elemental’s evolution to become what partner, head of strategy Dustin Brown calls “a human connections agency” didn’t come overnight, even if the tipping point did. This new position is a natural progression of the agency’s dedication to collaboration, fueled by its experience working on loyalty programs for clients like Starbucks and Scene.

“People have always been the central point of interest for us, that’s been the driver – getting to ‘why would I care about this brand, what’s the connection?’,” says Brown. “We’re moving away from thinking about people as customers because that doesn’t feel right. We’re trying to create a connection with human beings that makes them feel something, say something, do something.” So far, this seems to be working as Elemental was recognized as a Top Ten Small Agency of the Year by strategy magazine.

In practice, that means focusing more on the end-to-end customer journey, which includes adding more digital and ecommerce capabilities to the agency’s offering. For Baffin, that entailed executing a full brand strategy, digital campaign and media buy for the Canada Goose-owned footwear brand, and for Hershel, a new client Elemental won during the pandemic, the agency worked on a back-end digital strategy.

With a focus on a back-end digital strategy, Elemental helped Hershel get its backpacks and accessories in front of e-commerce customers

With a focus on a back-end digital strategy, Elemental helped Hershel get its
backpacks and accessories in front of e-commerce customers

“Before the events of 2020, we had the luxury of talking to people at specific points of the customer journey,” says partner, creative director Brent Wardrop. To stimulate a real human connection, it’s now necessary to be highly attuned to how people are feeling when they receive a brand’s message. “It’s about taking an empathetic position in every step of the work. As a society, we’re all going through this collective grief. Everything in life has become so transactional, so the principles of human connection have never been more important.”

For SCENE, the “Better Together” campaign gave people new choices, from socially distanced partner restaurant visits to streaming Cineplex releases or virtual live concerts through the SCENE Music brand that was launched this year in collaboration with Elemental.

How that manifests for each client is different. For SCENE, Canada’s largest loyalty program with over 11 million members, that required a drastic departure from last year’s “No Excuses Day” messaging (which won four CMA Awards, including two golds).

“SCENE has been all about the in-person experience, so we had to pivot. Fast,” says Brown. This year’s “Better Together” campaign confronts the new reality brought on by the pandemic and encourages people to find moments to connect, whether in-person or virtually. “The new insight became about providing choice, which is something that has largely been taken away from us. It was an acknowledgement of people’s fears and the need to stay home,” Brown adds.

With so many problems to worry about close to home, Elemental helped international ocean conservancy Oceana bring its big global issue into focus. To do so, the agency compared the impact of single-use plastics to disasters like oil spills.

With so many problems to worry about close to home, Elemental helped international ocean conservancy Oceana bring its big global issue into focus. To do so, the agency compared the impact of single-use plastics to disasters like oil spills.

As Oceana Canada’s agency, Elemental helps raise awareness of ocean conservation and the need to protect ocean wildlife. Single use plastics continue to be a huge problem for ocean pollution, so the agency developed a campaign to raise awareness of the issue with a goal of receiving 10,000 signatures calling for a single-use plastics ban. Brown adds that they had to pull it all off with a media budget of $10,000 in the middle of the pandemic.

Recycling is a thankless task. Elemental changed that with a campaign for Recycle BC that thanks people for doing their part for the planet. “The beauty of it is that right now, that’s a nice message to hear,” says partner, creative director, Brent Wardrop.

Recycling is a thankless task. Elemental changed that with a campaign for Recycle BC that thanks people for doing their part for the planet. “The beauty of it is that right now, that’s a nice message to hear,” says partner, creative director, Brent Wardrop.

“There is no shortage of plastics campaigns so we needed to find a new way to connect with people. We looked to the biggest disasters in the world that people are outraged by for inspiration and developed the “UnNatural Disasters” campaign,” says Brown. The result was a digital campaign that put everyday plastics like a water bottle or straw in the place of relatable attention-getting disasters like oil tanker and pipeline spills. Campaign targets were blown out of the water with over 1.2 million views and over 79,000 petition sign-ups.

“As we look into 2021 not knowing what the future holds in the world, we are more confident than ever in our position as an agency,” says Brown. “We’re going to do what we do best by continuing to dive deeper into human behaviour to make more meaningful connections.”
CONTACT:
Dustin Brown
Head of Strategy
dustin.brown@elementalinc.com