J Walter Thompson lifer Colvyn Harris exited his role as Exec Director Global Growth & Client, over three months ago to form his own company, Harris Mint, a name that has garnered its share of attention. Nepal-based noodle brand Wai-Wai who just launched their Maiden TVC is the first client on board of Harris Mint.
While the Harris part of his new venture’s unique moniker seems obvious,the Mint less so. “Mint not to make money, but to mint the best and freshest ideas to this changed marketplace we operate in,” clarifies Harris with a smile.
When quizzed on his exit from J Walter Thompson, he says, “The global role was meant to be a client specific role, which is linked to acquiring companies, looking at new business ideas - exactly what we had done in JWT India. I had ideas which were presented, but it never went further.”
“Everybody uses this old cliché of ‘what keeps you awake at night’ and if you go to businesses or brand owners or company owners, there are elements, which do not get delivered back. My job is to steer them on the path, call me the ‘Good Shepherd’ if you will, towards that end. You have to bring back that team which is currently fragmented around the client’s issue and around his business and work with each other to agnostically deliver the best solution,” says Harris explaining his new venture.
Harris gets candid about why he thinks he can be the Good Shepherd, the Harris Mint business model, why agencies love start- ups and more …
Why Harris Mint?
The idea is to use my experience to find the best solution for businesses and brands. The model is based on an aggregation of specialist talent and agencies - cherry picking the best of partners - both online, mainstream across the many interfaces a brand has with its consumers; curated for the specific brand solution sought.
Today, change in marketing and advertising is steeped in sameness and 'oldness'! Brands are precious. We will do whatever it takes to ensure the brands we work with, continue to be relevant in an ever changing world.
Your new venture is meant to inject freshness, are you saying that traditional players are not able to do this?
My business model is about inspired thinking. If you look around, you will see how the world has changed, I don’t need to own a hotel to build a portfolio or a business, I don’t have to hold an alliance to deliver value to a customer. So, here is an idea where I can aggregate talent, specialist talent, in areas I can identify and which can deliver the solution which I have thought through for a brand, more efficiently.
When you look at the traditional agencies, by nomenclature, traditional became ‘old fashioned’. What agencies need to do is to go through the same reinvention which brands like Nokia should have had.
The way to look at it is to disrupt the existing big business models and deliver on solutions. Which in the traditional model is a very siloed approach currently.
At the end of the day, there is one client and the client’s brands have needs which can help him deliver solutions, and that is the solution I want to aggregate.
What can I do to aggregate is that—I can buy services from wherever I believe the best solution lies. In my model, I have the freedom to choose a source which can deliver on that solution.
Essentially you are going back to the old aggregated model?
Yes, I’m doing an aggregation model using somebody else’s specialist skills which I try and identify, and this one man show is amplified through the teams of these specialist agencies where the solution resides. The one man show is setting up the vision, building up the ambition and understanding what the real issues are.
How much of a role do you play when it comes to the brand itself?
I have spent so many years in the business and my antenna was always up when a brand’s business was not doing well. Branding and marketing is something that we have done all our lives. I’m just trying to marry that thought, if you take categories under stress, businesses under stress or if somebody has not identified what needs to be done, I can play a role there because I can be a lot more objective there and get it done. But when you carry teams there is an element of subjectivity, plus if you don’t see it quickly you won’t achieve what you have set out to do.
Is that your shout-out to categories under stress; are you pitching for business here?
Let’s take e-commerce as a category, wherein you have players from big businesses which have got fantastic valuations, to the ones who are struggling to sustain themselves. If you look at how money was spent, I could have probably done that at one-tenth of the cost by understanding what the brand should attempt to do rather than what it ended up doing.
So you are looking at taking clients from their current agencies?
It’s true, but I’m not trying to buy cheaper, say for instance, an ecommerce brand, what I could do for a brand like that is help them deliver and build a brand, develop their brand strategy and put longevity in what they are doing in a sustainable form.
And let me tell you, agencies love start-ups.
I have heard agencies say, ‘they are well funded, it may last for a year and while it lasts it is fantastic.’
My philosophy is: why would I not build a business and a brand? and therefore, their success and my success. I’m helping businesses grow first and be sustainable for a long time and brands without strategy don’t have business. My intervention is different; it is to help them set up a full framework for the brand. I believe that owners of start-ups are not here to exit quickly. They are here to build the business, however, when you have the inexperienced driving your decision making, it’s undoubtedly a race to the bottom.
Having been part of the agency fraternity yourself, you know the loopholes, are you leveraging those?
Just to be fair to our industry, there are no loopholes. There are decisions being taken and some are good while others are not so good and some are bad. The only thought gap is--do you have the best strategy and once you have that strategy, are you buying the best delivery.
Some of the work which I see sometimes is not fair to the client, though the client is part of the mix that created that work in the first place, whatever it be, somebody should have been discerning enough to pull the plug.
I work with clients and the agency, my intervention is to help the clients business and deliver on the promise that we talk about. I’m happy to work with a great planner and with the creative team as that is my skill, my trade. The idea is simple: to help the clients who can’t succeed or have any stress or need support.