How these creative renegades built one of the world’s strongest agency brands.
It was 2 a.m., I was slightly intoxicated, stumbling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole that is Instagram — traveling from page to page until finally arriving on one titled Matte Projects.
Initially, I found myself fond of the way the name felt on my tongue, Matte. It had a nice velvety texture to it and was one of those beautiful anomalies that read as sexy as it sounded.
(If I lost you there, read and then say aloud words like Tarantula, Indigo, Cranberry and Cosmic… or any of these).
However, upon further inspection, I realized the allure of their name was just the beginning.
Matte Project’s Instagram (and brand as a whole) is a meticulous curation of their work and the work that has inspired their work.
It’s American hustle, global taste, unapologetically weird sexiness and, of course, a constant pairing of textures — like fire running ablaze on a keyboard or a marble statue in miniature seat-belted into the back of a woman’s braw or two toxic lovers festooned in mint green dancing the night away in gas masks.
They’re a legion of creative renegades and culture futurists that have built one of the strongest agency brands in the world.
Pulling off the impossible.
Agencies are notorious for having weak brands and shrugging off this weakness with a shit-eating grin followed by the excuse of being “too busy” with client work.
A shrugging off that eventually leads to them floundering lifelessly in the wind like a dilapidated flag as their clients move on to work with agencies that are just as much brands as they are agencies.
John Hegarty, the advertising magician behind another exceptionally strong agency brand called BBH is notorious for his belief in the idea that “advertising follows fashion”.
My only caveat to Hegarty’s words is that advertising doesn’t just follow fashion but culture.
And, while Matte Projects certainly couldn’t be pigeon-holed into being dubbed an advertising agency — they’re self-proclaimed a creative agency and production company — it seems that so much of their success stems from being the embodiment of Hegarty’s words.
Culture (and we’re not talking mother fucking yogurt).
It began as a weakness but eventually morphed into the agency’s greatest strength. One of Matte’s three founders, Brett Kincaid told Coveteur Magazine…
“None of us went to film school; none of us trained to become directors or videographers or film producers, so we’ve always approached things with our inherent thoughts and values and cultural perspectives. I think that’s given us a different take on projects that really resonates.”
I find it ironic that a trio who would have had a damn difficult time being hired by an advertising agency turned around and built one of the planet’s most sought after… by following their intuition and going long on their unique cultural perspectives.
Their client list rivals that of David Ogilvy’s in the 50s and 60s with names like Adidas, Away Luggage, Dior, Google, Fendi, H&M, Nike, Prada, Red Bull, Reebok, Snapchat, Samsung and Versace.
You know you’re good when Nike and Adidas find themselves on the same list.
Rant aside, here’s the takeaway for this week’s edition of Stranger Than Fiction…
Whether you’re a service brand or a product brand or an agency brand (which I suppose could be defined as a service brand), remember the words uttered to you every time you step foot on a goddamn plane.
Before the jet takes off, the flight attendant reminds you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping the person next to you.
The same can be said for brands (agency or not) and their relationship with the customer… focus on getting your brand’s oxygen mask on first and then you can save the world.
By Cole Schafer.