Shining a light on The Salocin Group’s new ‘hidden gem’

Rob McGowan 2Ciesco’s recent 2021 Global M&A Review confirmed what many have long known, that data and digital technology-driven companies are highly attractive to investors, and, as if to add further proof, these firms accounted for nearly half (47%) of the $87bn (£64bn) worth of deals struck in 2021.

One of the most recent standout deals has seen former Blueberry Wave and Lateral Group chief Nick Dixon’s latest venture – The Salocin Group – buy agency Edit from Kin + Carta, in an acquisition worth nearly £15m.

Many observers believe this price was a snip, with Kin + Carta (formerly St Ives) shelling out close to £50m on the acquisitions which went on to form Edit in 2018, including Occam and Response One, plus its own spin-off Amaze One.

And, just last week, The Salocin Group brought in former Proximity global chief Mike Dodds, as part of its wider strategy to build a unified, multidisciplined, data-powered marketing group.

Dodds, who has more than 30 years’ agency experience, hailed Edit as a “a hidden gem”, even though the “hidden” element is debateable.

But in an effort to get under the skin of the business, Decision Marketing spoke to joint managing director Rob McGowan, the former Response One strategy director who has been at Edit since it was formed.

Standing out from the crowd
So, with the market for data-driven marketing consultancies being highly competitive, what does Edit offer that others don’t and how can the agency stick out from the crowd?

McGowan is in little doubt: “Over the last few years, we’ve honed down on where our expertise lies and what we do best. Our focus is primarily on working with first-party data and effectively bridging the gap between an organisation’s marketing data and technology functions. That’s where we add the most value and where we win.

“We have a unique blend of expertise to deal with the above. Being a trained data scientist and having worked in many of the most critical client-facing roles means I have significant insight and understanding of how we shape the business and deliver for our clients.”

This, McGowan claims, means that few competitors can combine tech, data, and marketing expertise the way Edit does.

Even so, like nearly every business, Covid has been a major factor over the past two years. Just what has McGowan learned from the pandemic to make Edit a stronger company and its clients more profitable?

McGowan explains: “We’ve gone through a significant change in how our staff operate, we established that we can work just as well with a hybrid model of staff spending time split between the office and home, and we don’t plan to change that.

“We recognise that there are requirements to enshrine certain ways of working, so in 2022 we are launching a training and development programme which guides Editors in the right way to tackle problems and co-operate effectively with teammates, it’s important to put the right structure in place to facilitate a positive culture and on-board new staff members quickly.

“We treat Editors as adults though, we haven’t mandated how they split their time, and our company culture is thriving as a result.”

New opportunities but same old threats
But as we emerge from the pandemic, some  of the old issues have yet to be resolved, including the rise of what many see as intrusive technology, allowing brand owners to speak to customers in real-time.

This presents many opportunities but also potentially many threats, including over-targeting. How can brands ensure they get the balance right?

McGowan firmly believes that brands need to think of the new opportunities they have to speak to customers as an opportunity to develop new customer experiences and enhance customer service levels, and not view marketing opportunities in isolation.

He adds: “With the capability to capture and record a myriad of demographical data and behaviour comes a responsibility to use it appropriately, for Edit that means advising our clients in the best ways to deliver campaigns which advocate genuine advocacy from their customers, rather than focusing on quick but shallow wins from list sign-ups or one-time offers.

“Edit doesn’t deal in one-offs, we approach each client with long-term goals and ongoing iterations of our services by probing to find lasting solutions, we can deliver quickly, but not for the sake of fast profit.”

Even so, with so much data being gathered by brands, how can they sort the wheat from the chaff?

An organisation needs to be able to develop their customer experience, McGowan reckons, taking them from a monologue to a dialogue, they need to move their data from disparate to unified data policies.

He continues: “Our first engagement with a brand is generally based on a consultative approach, before we get into the weeds of marketing requirements, we need to understand the data landscape, and the changes required to achieve the goals of the organisation as a whole. Marketing capabilities are seemingly endless but the path to achieve them can vary from being straightforward to extremely complex, it’s our role to home in on what matters most and find the most effective route towards delivering impact.

“It’s very often the case that needs extend beyond renewal or exchange of a technology. We often find that the capabilities of data to enhance performance can only be realised once organisations are willing to fundamentally change ways of working.”

The rise and rise of data strategy
But do clients really “get” data or is it still viewed as a complete mystery?

For McGowan, that totally depends on the client. Some are advanced and sophisticated in their approach, others are more naïve, it’s also very much industry dependent, he says.

“Some industries have had their hand somewhat forced; aggressive new entrants have taken a very data-centric approach. Some companies disrupt the market, think of Monzo in the world of finance for example, or Netflix in media-entertainment. This leads to more established players realising that to maintain their advantage they need to ‘get’ data and enhance their marketing and communications with it, whether there is a data-centric company culture or not.

“At this period in time, I would say there are very few organisations underestimating the value of data, it’s whether there are sufficient drivers in the organisation to seize upon the value of that data to gain competitive advantage, or whether it’s simply treated as a ‘nice to have’.”

Fundamental shift in the advertising industry
To many in the industry this has led to a fundamental shift in the advertising sector, and McGowan has seen this too. He explains: “Years ago, you would explain what you wanted to do, and the most effective solution would be to “broadcast” that message en-masse to large audiences.

“Now the solution can be multi-faceted. Rather than describing the process as data driven, I would call it data powered. Firstly, brands don’t necessarily need to be so reliant on traditional advertising anymore. In a time when a person with just a phone camera and an idea can generate millions of views, companies need not rely on traditional advertising such as TV and billboard ads to reach mass audiences, and they have an array of data and technology at their fingertips to locate niche groups and send highly targeted messages outside the realm of what would traditionally be called ‘advertising’.

“Customer engagement is now more central to brand growth and customer retention than ever before. Too many challenger brands have been getting it right in recent years for customers not to notice when other companies are getting it wrong.”

McGowan cities numerous examples of shoddy experiences, including when you receive a text asking you to rate your delivery experience, after having received an email explaining that your package has been delayed. Or calling to enquire on the progress of your Wi-Fi instillation, only to discover the call agent has no access to the earlier conversations you’ve had via their company’s live chat website function.

He concludes: “These issues are still occurring far too frequently, and with a bad review or a change in supplier only a couple of clicks away, it’s more important than ever to prioritise experience over advertising.”

All of which will no doubt be music to the ears of Dixon and Dodds…

Download Edit’s latest report, and discover the key elements of an effective customer journey in 2022 and beyond>

Related stories
Data and digital businesses bag record M&A investment
Dixon turns to Dodds for marketing services offensive
Nick Dixon marks return with £15m acquisition of Edit
Dixon launches investment business Salocin Capital
Nick Dixon quits Blueberry Wave for the next big deal

Print Friendly