The Business Branding Network, a global network of independent b-to-b agencies that turns 20 this year, announced this month that Stein+Partners Brand Activation (SPBA), New York, has joined the network—becoming the second U.S.-based agency to become part of the organization.
The announcement was made at the Business Marketing Association's annual international conference in Chicago, during which BBN held its annual management meeting and voted in SPBA as its newest member.
Bader Rutter & Associates, Brookfield, Wis., has been a member of BBN for 13 years. The network has 16 other agency members operating in 23 countries, including IAS b2b Marketing, London; LBL Communication Group, Moscow; tag idea revolution, Thornhill, Ontario; and Gate Worldwide, Hong Kong. Fifth Ring, an energy communications agency based in Aberdeen, Scotland, has a Houston office that is also part of BBN.
“For the first 15 years, the BBN was a club for agencies who specialize in b-to-b or did b-to-b with some b-to-c,” said Rob Morrice, chairman of both BBN and IAS b2b. “About five years ago, we decided to make it more than a club,” he said. “We have been developing a very specific process for our approach to b-to-b marketing on the basis of a think-tank model.”
The five “think tanks” are: brand architecture, strategic brand planning, marketing strategy, contact strategy and international execution.
“We have developed committed processes, and part of the rules of being involved is that you have to participate in the development of best practices, and you have to use exactly the same processes as the other agencies. No one else is doing that,” Morrice said.
Tom Stein, president-chief creative officer of SPBA, said one of the main attractions of BBN was the development of these standardized processes for implementing marketing communications programs worldwide.
“In addition to what you'd expect from working with the top b-to-b shops, there is also a very rigorous process that enables us, when we stand in front of a global client, to offer an incredible level of efficiencies, have a global organization, have processes, have structure, and then, we're also a bunch of great agencies that work well together.”
Stein said SPBA is pitching to more global clients, and it has a large percentage of existing clients that are expanding into new global markets.
“We had a solution in place to support our clients around the world [using partner agencies for tasks such as media buying or translation], but BBN takes that solution up by an exponential order,” Stein said. “Now, we can put on the table for our clients an extremely robust solution that gives us scale and the ability to share information, opportunities and knowledge.”
Greg Nickerson, CEO of Bader Rutter & Associates, said his agency joined BBN in 1999 in part because it was getting an increasing number of RFPs with questions about global capabilities.
“We were not a member of any network at that point in time,” he said. “The other part—and probably more important—is the idea of learning from other agencies in other parts of the world, and the best practices work that BBN does. We knew, and we still know, that certain parts of the world are ahead of the U.S. in some parts of digital and some parts of the world can learn from us.”
Bader Rutter has used its relationship with BBN to create global work for clients such as Pfizer Animal Health, a division of global pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.
Pfizer had been working with Bader Rutter for about two years when it approached the agency with a global assignment for its poultry health business.
“Within Pfizer, the animal health business is run on a regional level—the U.S., Latin America, Asia Pacific, etc. Poultry is different. It is run as a global business unit because it is a global industry and our customers are global,” said Robert Moody, regional marketing director at Pfizer Animal Health.
“We wanted to develop a global brand for the business. We needed a process that was very standardized, very methodical and repeatable. We were having to do it on a global level, so we needed someone to plug into global markets and help us understand the different cultural issues that might arise.”
Pfizer Animal Health, which had been working with Bader Rutter on its cattle business, gave the agency an opportunity to pitch for the poultry business last fall. Through their relationship with BBN, Bader Rutter and IAS b2b were selected to handle Pfizer's poultry brand campaign, which is in the process of being rolled out.