10 agencies with strong positioning, and ideas you can steal
Someone genuinely asked us for some examples of agencies with great positioning. It’s a tricky question, because some of the biggest, fastest-growing or most well-known agencies actually have pretty poor external positioning. These mostly rely on the three Rs; reputation, relationships and referrals. For the rest of us mere mortals, we have to outsmart the big guns because we can’t outspend them.
Positioning’s about finding a strategic way to stand out, stay front of mind, and swing the pendulum in your favour - and some agencies need to work harder than others to achieve this. Look, not everyone with great positioning is making millions because there are other factors at play, but the point is to improve the chances of success. It’s easy to find information about positioning mistakes, but nobody ever shows examples of it done well.
So here’s some agencies with smart positioning plays, and why each works…
Under2 help B2B Fintechs improve the performance of their websites. Because ‘Fast loading websites get more customers.’
This positioning is double-specialisation. There’s a clear target client AND a specific problem solved. The weaker version would’ve been to say ‘We build faster websites for B2B brands’ but they’ve narrowed in hard and it’s great for it. Their whole website then goes on to unpack how slow-loading sites lose fintech customers. As a positioning, this shows the power of an idea seen through in its entirety. Even the name supports the positioning, and this makes the whole thing clear and cohesive.
Takeaway: The more narrowed and niche you go, the more it’ll resonate with that specific audience.
Wavemaker is the second largest media agency network in the world.
This would normally be enough for a huge network, but they’ve pushed their positioning to more exciting places. They’ve done a great job of positioning around a core concept, in this case; Positive Provocation. Then they’ve built a whole narrative around it, making it more than just a slick two-word line in a trendy deck somewhere. Their website does a good job of bringing you into the story and the Positive Provocation concept is seen through everywhere, even on their Linkedin. The takeaway here is that your positioning needs unpacking to really resonate. Bigger agencies often rely on buzzwords but they only make sense to the people who work there, not to anyone else.
Takeaway: Don’t just slap those internal buzzwords up, unpack them so it all makes sense.
Lightbulb is a Manchester marketing agency doing Social Media, PPC and Content Marketing.
This is a solid positioning but nothing radically differentiated. The interesting part is the way they’ve positioned themselves as the ‘anti-bullshit’ agency. Their website is a satire on the usual agency claims and sets out their stall cleverly as what they’re not. It’s a bold move that attracts clients ‘who want to do things a little differently’. It’s a smart play for challenger agencies to be the cat among the pigeons, and picking a fight like this makes them more memorable.
Takeaway: If you’re going to pick a fight, don’t pull any punches.
Is an always-on design and video company that delivers at scale.
This is an example of positioning and differentiating by delivery model. Superside have coined the category ‘Creative As A Service’ (CaaS) where customers pay a subscription for their services. It’s an interesting subversion of the traditional billable hours model and again gives them a narrative of pushing against the ‘old way’. The beauty of positioning like this, is that it takes the pressure off niching by sector or service. So they offer quite a broad mix of design related services and they’re not limited by client type. This all allows them to lead with market messaging about faster delivery, lower costs and reduced stress. It’s an interesting subversion of the traditional billable hours and again gives something to push against.
Takeaway: If you position around a different model, make that the hero and sell it in.
Is a package design and branding agency that designs, tests, and optimizes packaging with consumers.
Consumer packaged goods brands invest a lot of money in their packaging, so any changes or updates to their designs come with a commercial risk. SmashBrand go beyond the usual focus group testing and conduct deep data-led design validation. This is a great example of positioning around a process, leaning in to an approach that gives them strong market differentiation. They’ve trademarked a number of systems and processes to reassure clients that this is a repeatable and de-risked way of working.
Takeaway: Don’t just make it a claim on the front end, strengthen it with processes and systems on the back end.
Zulu Alpha Kilo
Is a Toronto-based creative company with offices in Vancouver and New York, employing over 150 people.
So you’d imagine an agency of this size would have pretty standard positioning and messaging: ‘global, award-winning, working with ambitious brands’ etc. But open their site and you’ll find an incredible satire and subversion of the usual agency claims. And yes, this is a real agency - just with a positioning built around a strong personality and perspective. It’s a brilliant mockery that shows their creativity rather than just claiming it, and makes them stand out as maverick thinkers with a wicked sense of humour. It’s a bold positioning play but they commit to it so hard, you can’t help but laugh along impressed.
Takeaway: Sometimes the best positioning is shown, not told.
Nice and Serious
A creative agency committed to making work with purpose and impact.
This is the kind of line that’s become more prevalent since the purpose explosion of Simon Sinek’s infamous Start With Why book. But Nice and Serious do a great job of seeing this positioning through properly. Rather than relying on vague statements like many in this area, they pass every brief through their Moral Compass; a software tool to qualify a company’s purpose claims. It’s this total commitment to their positioning that makes it work. It’s quite literally ‘line in the sand’ stuff as it says on their homepage. Too often, positioning around shared values can be fluffy but this feels much more concrete, believable and memorable.
Takeaway: If you draw a line in the sand, stick to it with commitment.
These guys promise ‘big blockbuster brand-building campaigns all in ten days’.
This is positioning around a core problem and solution, in this case the ‘months and months of meetings and overly inflated costs’ involved in advertising. But it’s the specificity of naming the ten-day delivery time that makes this a more exciting proposition. It’s such a simple and strong idea to plant in a prospect’s mind; do I want to wait ages or know that I’ll get it on a set date. Most scale-ups are impatient and need to get to market faster, so this concept plays well for their target audience.
Takeaway: Be specific, because it’s a much more vivid picture for people to remember.
Nonsensical are an award-winning UK TikTok marketing agency.
This is specialisation by channel or platform, in this case Tik Tok. This can be a great play to ride a wave of interest and popularity. Nonsensical have kept this focus while offering wider services around Tik Tok, including training, ads, influencers, management and more. They could have been another social media agency, but this channel focus makes them a more attractive proposition. The risk with a positioning like this is that it’s dependent on the success of the platform itself, which is outside of the agency’s control.
Takeaway: Even when your positioning is narrow, there are multiple services you can offer.
Positioning your agency as the obvious choice.
Oh come on, you didn’t think we’re above some blatant self-promotion, did you? So our agency’s positioning is all about nailing other agencies’ positioning (Inception, anyone?)
This hyper-specialised positioning worked well for us to establish ourselves and to build authority. But as we inevitably look to work across more of our clients’ journeys, our positioning has widened out to encompass more of the full branding process. It seems like a minor point, but we’ve wrestled with it for months to hit the breakthrough that we now use the word positioning as a verb, rather than a noun. Wow, this stuff can be a brain-fry when you’re left to sort it out for yourself. If only someone helped agencies sort this all out, eh?
If positioning your own agency is making you cry blood, let’s chat.
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