" ` Creating Richer Brands - Our new brand positioning

‘Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast’ Peter Ferdinand Drucker famously said. I don’t like this phrase.

It transports me to an awkward HR-led morning meeting with stale croissants, tepid coffee in those tiny ubiquitous white mugs, in a boardroom overlooking a bleak business park. Bleurgh. But annoyingly, Drucker is right.

At Haines McGregor, we’ve a real live example of what old Ferdy really meant. We’re a small brand agency lucky enough to work on some of the world’s biggest brands and we’ve developed, over time, an impactful and differentiated way of building those brands.

And what’s pleasing, is we haven’t created a process, we haven’t strategised our way to it, we haven’t got over-excited in a brainstorm and miraculously come up with a new way of working nor have we brought in anyone or anything radically new to shake us all up.

We’ve got to our unique approach by actually doing it, working it, living it. Day in. Day Out. What makes us different is something that is actually true, and it’s come from within the team. It has come from real people. It has come from (deep breath) our culture.


I’ve worked for a few great agencies, some insight-led, some-strategy-led and others creatively led. And they all, without fail, when trying to describe themselves, talk about a blend of creativity and strategy that sets their work apart. Words so over-used and meaningless that they must feature in a political slogan.

Although what’s frustrating and mildly embarrassing, is I can’t think of any better words to describe our culture that has led to this revelation. (copywriters, do get in touch)

But when I see it in action, I know it’s different. I know it’s special. And I know it works.

When I see Will Bryant, our Creative Director, working with Carina Stanley, one of our strategists on a brand development model for Carlsberg and they’re pushing each other, discussing, debating, building out work live to get to something that will unlock the entire project, I know that’s it.

Or when I see Paula Bradbury, one of our strategy stars going toe to toe with partner, Hayley Roe, over the importance of visually nailing cultural resonance for an innovation project in Africa, or Liam Edwards creating specific, niche but awe inspiring Demand Space films for a Drinks giant, or Katie Warner creating the tribe and aspirational design target for the world’s leading dairy company, or Val Lanz working alongside our founder Jeremy Haines, giving clients from a CPG powerhouse goosebumps by turning what could have been an mundane portfolio project into something groundbreakingly imaginative through illustration, that’s it too. That’s it.

That’s the magic. Sharp, strategic thinking forged, blended, meshed, mashed together with big, impactful creative thinking and visa-versa. That’s the magic. It’s not ‘creative’ people working with ‘strategic’ people. But an environment where anyone can do anything.

And what is the benefit of the magic? What is the output? What does our culture create? And why am I so excited that I’m writing a blog only eleven people will read?

We’ve realised, at HMc, our culture builds richer brands.

We’re building brands that you can feel, not just see.

Brands that feel emotionally meaningful and multi-faceted.

Brands that are individually desirable, culturally relevant and undeniably buyable.

Brands that reflect the hopes, aspirations and desires of real people and in so doing, are able to build an avid tribe of followers.

Brands that deliver an experience, full of substance and quality.

Our culture makes the brands we work on richer, fuller and mean more to their consumers, and that is what is driving their growth.

So that’s it. Our culture has turned into our business.

Drucker is right and he’s proven right at HMc, every single day.

I don’t actually mind a stale croissant to be honest, if the jam is half decent…

Jamie Holtum