ThinkOTB Agency

There are two ways of looking at marketing. One is to please the client by doing as they ask. The second is the way Outside the Box built all those years ago.

Our ‘Outside the Box’ way is founded on the belief that marketing which inspires audiences, delights clients and excites our own teams, only happens by thinking deeply, thinking differently and asking the right questions.

Our founders, Mark and Tina have worked at some of the most famous agencies in the British advertising scene. The agencies are incredibly successful because they follow a well-tested formula. But that formula is not always the thinking person’s formula. Their measure of success is a happy client.

But there has to be more to creating sales-growing marketing than just delivering what the client asks for – what if the client gets the brief wrong?

The pivotal moment

Like Puzzles? Think like there is no box and join the dots.
Hate puzzles? Here’s the solution.

Mark and Tina had many conversations about what marketing is, what branding is, what thinking differently is. Fresh thinking isn’t a yes man’s game; fresh thinking that drives innovation and opportunity (and ecstatic clients!) is about pushing received wisdom and challenging briefs.

It was while reading psychology and philosophy books, that we found the answer in Edward de Bono’s nine dots puzzle. The challenge is simple: using the grid of three rows of three dots, connect all nine dots using up to four lines and without lifting your pen. Most people see the nine dots as a box because our brains are trained to do so from being a toddler. It is only when you think like there is no box, that the puzzle is easy to solve.

This puzzle not only inspired the name of our agency, it also gave Mark and Tina the philosophy on which to grow our team and shape every decision. If the ideas we had for the décor, the client experience, the brief weren’t outside the box, they didn’t leave the box!

Lead by this philosophy the agency offices were named ‘Escher House’ after mathematician and graphic artist M. C. Escher. Marketing isn’t purely about design. Marketing is most effective when you entwine design and science.

Thinking, testing, thriving

Outside the Box’s new approach to marketing was obviously something clients needed because we grew and grew. Rather than settling for a logo next to a product, we were taking a test and learn approach.

We sent out marketing pieces and monitored responses. We tested psychological techniques to better understand what made customers happy and what makes them part with their money. We used eye tracking to see how they read marketing pieces, changed colours to demonstrate the impact on response rates and trialled brand-led direct marketing to build brand reputation – and response rates.

The results were fascinating, and we were innovating new marketing techniques before we realised. At a time when agencies were polarised to direct mail agencies, graphic design agencies, advertising agencies, our outside-the-box thinking was creating a unique hybrid – a thinking agency.

Innovation and marketing diverge

In 2002 Mark and Tina published our book ‘think!’. Almost immediately people asked for consultancy and workshops about how to think differently. ‘Innovation’ was young and few understood it, we may even have been the first to bring innovation and marketing together.

At that time it felt confusing for a marketing agency to be offering innovation training, so Mark and Tina created a second business called ‘Think!’ to focus on training large, global corporations how to innovate, while Outside the Box (OTB as it became) continued to develop fresh thinking in creative marketing.

Since then, the innovation market has matured. Innovation is now well understood and just as there are Marketing Directors, there are also Innovation Directors driving incremental growth in forward-thinking businesses across the globe.

So, over a decade after innovation and marketing split to co-exist, in 2020 we re-united the two disciplines to become ThinkOTB, the innovation and marketing agency. After all, organisations don’t do marketing unless there’s been innovation. And once they do innovation, they need marketing.

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