G&S gains insight into client experience with launch of new branding project

With the recent launch of Handsome Brut sparkling wine, creative agency Goods & Services explored a new approach to branding. Partnering with Angels Gate winery, G&S took on the role of both client and designer to create and brand an entirely new product. 


"When we rebranded from Up Inc to Goods & Services a year ago, our new name reflected a better understanding of who we are as a company: we brand goods, and we brand services, both of which are essential to how people live and work," explains G&S Partner and Creative Director Carey George RGD. "To produce better branding, we committed to figuring out ways to gain a deeper understanding of goods and services from a client perspective."


Coming from the position of an experienced creative agency, Carey noticed a distinct shift in focus when approaching the design from the client's side of the process. "It's relatively easy for an agency to encourage a client to make bold moves, to narrow their positioning, etc. But when we place our own investment on the line, it gives us a better sense of what the objections might be. As an example, I actually caught myself saying out loud, 'I think the logo needs to be bigger on the label'!"


The decision to partner on a sparkling wine product was based on the firm's experience with other branding projects in the industry and their established relationships with past clients. "We've been very interested in the Ontario wine industry for a number of years, through working with LCBO and the Wine Council of Ontario. We knew Angels Gate Winery from a previous project, having bought our holiday client gifts from them a few years back," Carey says. "We liked their wine and knew their winemaker was an expert in sparkling wine, so we approached them to see if they'd be interested in trying something new, which they were." 


Carey notes that partnering with Angel's Gate on Handsome Brut introduced a new dynamic to how the two organizations worked together, a departure from traditional client-designer interactions. "The relationship is completely different, because we're equal partners in the success of the Handsome Brut brand," he explains. "Goods & Services owns the brand, and we supply the brand strategy, the brand marketing materials, and the overall brand stewardship. Angels Gate makes the wine, distributes the wine, promotes the wine at the winery, and navigates the sales to LCBO, restaurants, etc. We all share in the promotional work, in brainstorming ideas, going to the farmers' markets -- the fun stuff!"


On the overall experience, Carey emphasizes that this is definitely something G&S would consider doing again. "We get to create a consumer brand from scratch, based on our insights and our strategy. We control all aspects of the design and packaging, which is a dream come true for a designer, and we share in the pride of launching a great product into the marketplace. In addition, we've learned so much about the wine industry from working with John Young and AJ McLaughlin at Angels Gate."


Compared to the typical client-agency model, the partnership model requires a different kind of commitment. As Carey explains, "For an agency there is a bit more risk involved in this type of project. We've invested a lot into this brand, and we won't see any cost recovery if the product doesn't succeed. But as a branding agency if we can't be confident in the success of a brand that we have complete control over, then we shouldn't be in the branding business." 


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