We are No Longer a Digital Agency

This past November CloudRaker hosted a “Sweet 16” anniversary party for the agency. We invited all staff, current and past, from the first day CloudRaker was founded back in the heady dot-com days of 2000.  It was a super turn-out, lots of fun, but mostly, it was great to unite good people who all have one thing in common — they all embrace change in their lives, careers, skills and interests. I’d argue that this is the one thing that truly sets us digital natives apart — our curiosity is always taking us to new territories and challenges.

When I look back over the past 16 years, that’s one thing that is constant about CloudRaker — good people and lots of change. We’ve never backed down from trying new things out and pushing our comfort zones. So it’s that time again for another new challenge.

What are the next 16 years?

My partner Pascal and I have been asking ourselves a bunch of questions the last year or so.  What are the next 16 years going to look like? How do we grow intelligently? How do we keep sight of our soul and values? How do we become stronger? How do we create a place that the next generation can thrive in and take over from us one day?  

We are fortunate to have a deep well of people to bounce these thoughts around with here in Montreal and across Canada, but also with other international digital agency entrepreneurs we’ve gotten to know over the years through SoDA (Society of Digital Agencies).

Here’s where we landed.

We are no longer a “digital” agency.

We do a lot of different things: strategy, design, web development, photos, mobile apps, UX, radio, TV, content, social, e-commerce, print magazines, products, documentaries, and now, we are experimenting with artificial intelligence.  We do more than “digital” — we blend marketing, creative, and technology.  Our job is to create great brand experiences. Let’s be frank, today people don’t give a damn whether it’s offline or online. For them there is no line; there’s only good or bad.

So, who are we if we’re not a digital agency? How can we win, if we do so many diverse things? Our friend Blair Enns who wrote the manifesto Win Without Pitching constantly badgers us to focus, focus, focus.

And we agree. But it’s easier said than done.

We need to specialize.

We’ve decided to focus on retail and retail brands. Why? Because when it comes down to it, that’s where our strengths lie after years of work with brands like Garage, Gildan, Heineken, Kijiji, L’Oréal, Natrel, Nestlé, Onitsuka Tiger, Proxim, RBC, Ski-Doo and Uni-Select. Retail is going through massive change. While at times it’s messy, we find it very exciting times for daring marketers. Amazon has been hammering away the last decade and now they are looking at opening up physical shops and grocery stores. Brands like NYX are rewriting the rules on marketing. Tesla decided to get rid of dealers and sell directly.  A slew of start-ups are testing out AI to improve shopping. And the change goes on.

As any retail brand will tell you: “Retail is detail.” Today this is more true than ever, especially when the customer expectation is more than a transaction; they want an experience tailored to them.  What this means is that we need to tie together data, strategy, creative, technology and operations to deliver an awesome brand experience every day. While it’s hard work, we felt this is a great place to focus our skills.

With this focus, CloudRaker is ever more committed to our belief that our job as an agency is not just to make people want things, but to make things people want.

We’re boosting our retail expertise…fast.

Speed matters for us. While we have solid chops in creative marketing and technology, we felt we needed to give ourselves a jump in our retail knowhow. So we found a partner. A great one, called Altavia. Based in Paris, they are the world’s leading independent marketing agency specialized in retail. For the last 30+ years, Altavia has focused on helping retail and retail brands optimize their marketing at every stage of the value chain. With offices across Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, Altavia gets where retail is going, both globally and locally.

We were drawn to Altavia because in them we saw a group of entrepreneurs who like to push boundaries. Together, they’ve forged a federation of companies that has collectively built a global retail expertise. As entrepreneurs, they are as good at coming up with ideas as they are at delivering operational excellence. Plus they’re good people.

CloudRaker + Altavia

Our merger with Altavia is crystal clear. CloudRaker stays CloudRaker. Same team, same leadership but now we’ve got the added bench and expertise of 1500 retail specialists around the world to tap into in order to better serve the Canadian market.

Our bet on digital 16 years ago proved to give us a head start in a marketing world that needs digital-first thinking. We think it’s safe now to drop the “digital” in our title, and let our creative and technology work speak for itself. With Altavia, we now have a partner that itself is a step ahead in retail. Together, we want to build the best possible creative marketing and technology agency for retail and retail brands. We’ve got a head-start, lots to do, and lots to discover.

But, hey, we are digital natives, we like a good challenge.

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