Agency Approach: Blue Chip, Manchester

Agency Approach is a monthly feature here at Marketing Island. Every month we get down and dirty with a different renowned agency from across the globe. In a bid to uncover new wisdom and opinion, we speak to some of the best professionals in our diverse industry. Touching upon individual approaches to industry wide issues, valuable knowledge, innovative case studies and unique insights, we endeavour to well and truly... spill the beans.

Born in Manchester 25 years ago, Blue Chip is a rare breed – a small, boutique agency with big, blue chip clients. They help the likes of Kellogg’s, O2, Essity and Kodak create measurable in-store, out of home and digital campaigns that get results. Specialising in shopper marketing, promotional marketing and experiential marketing, you can see what Blue Chip are up to on Twitter.

Blue Chip on... small independents vs. big networked agencies.

Marketing Island: In a world where small independent agencies are often struggling to survive or being snapped up by the larger networks, you continue to thrive. What’s your secret and how does your size work for you?

Blue Chip: We are proudly independent; it's an important part of our DNA. Our agency has strong values and an open, friendly vibe - 31 of us sit in the same room, directors and founders alongside juniors. Everyone has access to senior input and we have a truly flat and collaborative structure. We don’t believe in fixed roles so everyone has the confidence to step up and use their skills to the best of their ability; great ideas can come from account handlers as well as the creative team. Our size and structure makes us flexible and nimble in a way that big networked agencies can’t be. We’re like a speedboat to their oil tanker. Lack of internal politics means we’re happier and fully freed up to help our clients with their challenges.

Blue Chip on… the power of the white paper.

Marketing Island: Why are white papers such a powerful tool for communicating a key message and what’s the trick to getting them right?

Blue Chip: We love white papers for a number of reasons.

Firstly, they’re a great way to exercise our collective brain muscles. We don’t just task planners and directors with the task of writing them, everyone in the team gets a chance to either lead or contribute to the process. This means we’re all up to date with the latest hot topics in our industry.

Secondly, our clients love them and do actually read them! They know they’ll be getting a bitesize summary of an issue pertinent to them.

Thirdly, they’re a great new business tool. We often tailor them to clients we’d particularly like to work with and find they’re much better received than a blanket email. Our golden rules for white papers are: Choose your topic with care. Try to spot an emerging tend rather than chiming in late on an issue that’s already been debated to death. Use plenty of visuals and case studies, there’s nothing worse than dry, unadulterated text.

Finally, follow up with a well-designed infographic, for those who really don’t have time and just want to grasp the main points.

Blue Chip on… entering industry awards.

Marketing Island: You’re a multi award-winning agency. Award entries can be expensive and time consuming. Do you feel that awards have contributed significantly to your growth? How do you decide which ones to enter?

Blue Chip: We love a good awards do, it's often the pinnacle of lots of hard work by ourselves and our clients. It's great to all get together as a team and see that hard work recognised by others in the industry…and have a few drinks and a dance of course! Awards dos are also a great place for networking and showcasing your work to a large audience of potential clients (and the food has got loads better over the years!)

All that aside, in a sea of agencies selling themselves, awards can set you apart; they reassure client procurement teams that you’ve gone above and beyond for other clients. They also demonstrate that you’ve been independently recognised by your peers as exceptional in your class.

"We’re proud to have won over 110 awards for excellence over the years – they make for an impressive display in our boardroom!"

In terms of which to enter, marketing awards tend to be pretty industry specific and we enter the Institute of Promotional Marketing Awards (IPM) every year – these are the main awards for promotional marketing. We also enter the RAR Awards and have a great track record of repeatedly winning the UK's most recommended agency. The RARs are unique in that they are solely based on client recommendations – possibly the highest accolade you can hope for.

We’re also getting stronger on the mobile and technology side of our business and won gold at the Mobile News Awards this year for an innovative staff training app called The Source which we created for O2.

Blue Chip on… MCR.

Marketing Island: What are the benefits of having an agency outside of the big smoke and what made you chose Manchester as your HQ?

Blue Chip: We’re mostly born and bred Northerners so it was an easy choice! For a long time now, we’ve proved that having a London HQ isn’t a necessary part of success for an agency. Manchester is booming and full of great people; plus a whole network of complementary businesses to draw on. Thanks to the wonders of speedy trains and video calls, our Southern client base never feels too far away. The city is always changing and evolving and we’re proud to be a part of it.

Got more questions for Blue Chip or fancy a chat, you can shoot them a message here.

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Marketing Island is an award-winning online marketing magazine set to inspire those in the digital industry.