The new rules


Everyone knows that sitting in an airport departure terminal can be monotonous, particularly if your flight is delayed. Sensing a captive audience and a perfect marketing opportunity, Maverick Communications cut through the seemingly endless stream of travellers coming and going, and the anxious wait for news of departure times, by creating a memorable experience for confined sports fans. 

Last year the Kentville, N.S.-based agency built an eight-seat mini football stadium at Halifax Stanfield International Airport to promote the PRO-Line game for its client the Atlantic Lottery Corp., complete with lined turf, raised stadium seating, theatre acoustics, and a 65-inch television that only airs sports channels. More than 100,000 travellers connected with the marketing display. “They got to interact with the brand in a unique way,” says Maverick president Greg Whynot.

A non-traditional marketing agency, Maverick has built a niche for itself as Atlantic Canada’s ambient media and experiential marketing specialists. As Whynot likes to describe it, experiential marketing brings a communications and marketing campaign to the streets, whether through product tastings or tactile experiences such as at Halifax’s airport. “We’re trying to bring brands to life by providing lasting memorable experiences,” he says. “Seldom do we do things twice.”

While experiential marketing used to be limited to such big corporations as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and more locally, such companies as Bell Aliant, it is starting to trickle down to smaller organizations. “It is becoming a valuable part of a company’s marketing mix,” says Whynot. Last year alone, the company held about 1,700 in-store liquor tastings across Atlantic Canada. To meet the demand and manage its 250 part-time staff throughout the region, Whynot was pushed to develop his own software to create an online tracking system that could streamline payroll and staffing issues, as well as track results faster for clients. “It has been a huge success for us,” says Whynot. “We’re trying to license this tool to take it national.”

With the new online tracking system, working on national campaigns is now possible. But with only four full-time employees, including Whynot and his wife, Leigh-Anne, and without many long-term clients, knowing the right time to hire more staff is challenging. He recently hired a salesperson to help navigate the company’s growth. “Being a small company, we hardly ever say no to clients,” he says, “which means we get very busy.” Revenues jumped to just over $960,000 in 2011, up from almost $580,000 the previous year. 


The digital divide
Over at Halifax-based Trampoline Branding, Mark Gascoigne has carved out a niche in the digital-marketing world after he successfully transformed his company into a digital-age agency. Seeing the divide close between his clients’ marketing and communications team and their digital technicians, and websites no longer being online brochures but sophisticated, interactive, multimedia sites, Gascoigne wanted to ensure that his agency was ready to meet and implement not only its clients’ creative requests but also their changing digital needs. At the end of last year, he hired a digital strategist to manage a presence for clients who works alongside hands-on technical staff building mobile and Facebook apps and other software. After ensuring that Trampoline’s regular clients, such as the Halifax Shopping Centre and Saint Mary’s University, were taken into the digital age, the agency landed a big score last year when it won the contract to provide Empire Theatres with digital marketing, beating out other web-design companies. “What Empire Theatres needs to do is let people know where the theatres are, what the times are, and what movies are playing that then builds a database of loyal customers and keeps them in the loop,” says Gascoigne.

An 18-person agency with revenues of $1.4 million, Trampoline is using Empire Theatre’s website, Facebook, and Twitter to do just that. “The real power of the Internet isn’t pushing information out, it’s turning it back around,” says Gascoigne. “It’s an inspirational funnel.” The funnel works by first sending out the creative communication via various media such as email and Facebook, then it’s up to the clients’ customers to take the information and distribute it among themselves before bringing it back to the company. 

In 2007 Gascoigne and his wife, Leslie, bought out their partners; since then they have strived to give their clients a creative edge, which they describe as a key competitive advantage. They fight against becoming an extension of their clients’ marketing groups. One of the biggest challenges they faced along the way was deciding it was time to resign their biggest client, which represented half of their business. “It’s hard to fight for your ideas when you have just one big client,” says Gascoigne. “It was frightening, but it definitely made us stronger.”

Social media can provide a great research tool for companies to learn more about what their customers like, want, and expect in the future. But while digital marketing is an essential part of the mix, it doesn’t stand alone. “There’s still a place for traditional marketing,” says Gascoigne. “It’s the oxygen for the Internet.” 


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