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Catching the Wave: Why Candid Platform's acquisition of UK-based Brand Potential is a springboard for international expansion

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The acquisition of high-end brand consultancy, Brand Potential sees Netherlands-based Candid Platform establish its first foothold in the UK marketplace. As Candid CEO, Rudiger Wanck and Brand Potential co-founder, Mary Say explain, the deal offers both parties an ideal springboard from which to scale their businesses internationally.

Founded in 2007, Candid Platform has carved out a distinctive niche in the media and communications ecosystem of the Netherlands. "The market is largely divided between massively complex holding groups and single agencies that merge services together under one roof," says Wanck. Candid has taken a middle way. Although it has grown by acquisition, it has made the strategic decision not to subsume the agencies on its platform into a single overarching brand. Instead,each agency retains its own identity while also enjoying the strategic benefits of being part of something bigger. "It is a platform approach," says Wanck.

And to date, it has proved very successful. With 11 agencies on board in the Netherlands, Candid is one of the fastest-growing marketing and comms businesses in its domestic market. Perhaps more importantly, each of the individual agencies brings its own set of specialisms to the platform. The skillsets include PR, branding and visual identity, marketing, comms,advertising, innovation and digital. The agencies have their own clients but the platform structure also enables silos to be broken down, giving brands an opportunity to access a broad sweep of services.

A Landmark Acquisition
Having proved the utility of the platform model on its own turf, Candid has turned its attention to global markets, with the UK as the first port of call. "We decided to choose another market in which we would build the platform model, We made the decision to focus on the UK. It is still one of the most important markets in the world and if we build the platform there and in the Netherlands, we can build anywhere," says Wanck.

In that respect, Brand Potential joining the Candid Platform is not simply an acquisition it is an important first step towards creating a global business. Based in Windsor to the West of London, Brand Potential was founded in 2010 by Mary Say, Tom Lovett and Chris Molloy as an "upstream" brand consultancy delivering a mix of insight, innovation and transformation programmes to its clients.

And as Say explains, the Candid Platform model - and the autonomy offered to agencies -was a crucial factor when Brand Potential's owners were considering the acquisition offer."Independence of thought is vital to us," says Say. "Brands know that we gave them impartial, consumer-led advice." The opportunity to retain a culture and way of working built up over more than a decade was also key."We've seen agencies lose their sense of culture after acquisitions. Our intention is to retain our values and culture - the things that have helped make Brand Potential attractive both to clients and as an employer. But we are not standing still, or resting on our laurels.We're ambitious for growth and with Candid's help we plan to keep moving forward, evolving our offer in line with the needs of clients and our brand transformation positioning."

Say is clearly proud of a culture characterised by a non-siloed multi-disciplined approach to working for clients. We have a 30-strong team of talented researchers, innovators, brand strategists and designers, " she says. "Most of whom have come from - or chosen not to join - bigger agencies, "They believe in and are motivated by our culture. They love the opportunity to work across our services"

An International Outlook
Brand Potential has a track record of working with global clients, such as Unilever, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Coca Cola and Innocent Drinks. In very many cases, having taken strategic advice, these brands will be looking for executional agencies to implement their plans, not just in the UK but in other territories, not least in the Netherlands. This is where the strategic logic behind the acquisition clicks into place. As Say points out, brands work with a range of agencies who often have a one-dimensional view of the service offering required to deliver on a strategic goal. "If you're in comms the solution looks like comms," she says.

As part of the Candid platform and as a strategic brand consultancy, Brand Potential can now point clients towards sister agencies, which collectively can offer - if required - a holistic service. However, Say stresses there will be no pressure on clients to use the Candid Platform."We don't want to shoehorn clients towards agencies that happen to be in our family." Candid is an open platform where clients come first, and other agencies are introduced only if it is genuinely in the best interests of the brand.

Meanwhile, being part of something bigger paves the way for Brand Potential, itself, to scale up into overseas markets. "We already work globally so we know how good it would be for our clients for us to have a physical presence in their markets. "We will help Brand Potential secure business in Europe and internationally, starting directly with the Netherlands" adds Wanck. 

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