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Smith Brothers Rebrands as Smiths Agency

New York, USA
Pittsburgh stalwart will only pursue food and beverage clients

Lindsey Smith (l) and Bronson Smith lead the Smiths Agency

The 19-year-old creative agency that’s done market-changing work for the likes of Nestlé, Heinz, Del Monte and Red Bull, has changed its name from Smith Brothers to Smiths Agency and narrowed its sights to serving food and beverage accounts. A redesigned website proclaims, “we live food,” while a new tagline, “Craving Creators,” nods to the agency’s ability to stimulate consumer demand. The shift answers food marketers’ escalating need for consumer and industry expertise.

“We constantly tell clients that smart positioning involves sacrifice. We realized now is the time for us to follow suit and focus where we are strongest,” said Lindsey Smith, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Creative Officer of Smiths Agency, citing a Millward Brown/4A’s study that found clients principally want agencies with best-in-class specialists who have actual knowledge of their industry. “We understand food consumers and know the industry more deeply than most agencies. That’s critical because clients can’t afford to train agencies anymore. They need industry experts who can bring foresight to the business and move immediately on change or opportunity without missing a step.”

Since founding in 2002, Smiths has helped more than 100 CPG brands and over a dozen restaurant brands by breaking conventions to fix business problems and set clients apart. Taking this approach, the agency has consistently beaten bigger, hyped competitors to win food and beverage accounts.

For example, Smiths saw J M Smucker’s Sahale Snacks brand as an exotic reimagining of trail mix and marketed it to Millennials as an adventure with a promise – “We’re Changing Snacking for Good”. Sales went up 18%, boosted by a 245% lift in social referrals. 

Similarly, Smiths sparked a mini movement for tasty Premier Protein Shakes by mobilizing consumers the brand has helped. Their social sharing, from YouTube videos to Instagram photos, raised brand share by more than two points and favorability by 12%. 

And when COVID-19 overturned the restaurant industry last year, Smiths turned McCain Foods from the biggest frozen French fries supplier into a source for survival tips, using downloadable toolkits and webinars as a part of their digital plan, doubling the brand’s reach and increasing engagement by 67% among restaurant operators.

Smiths applied the same rigorous strategy matrix and roadmap approach it takes for clients to the agency itself. The finding: 80% of work, money and pride comes from food and beverage clients, and category insight and foresight are the source of its groundbreaking work. That approach still resonates with the agency’s four current clients outside CPG, all of which have opted to stay with the agency because they value its strategic approach and work.

“To keep brands adaptive, relevant and fast in an industry that will keep changing so profoundly, you need people who are dedicated to the industry,” said Bronson Smith, also a co-founder and co-chief creative officer of Smiths Agency. “Because we live food, we’re intimately aware of the whole environment – from culture and consumer choice to the delivery infrastructure. We can see things others miss and we can appreciate the effect of a change in one aspect on the whole business.”

The agency started when the two brothers, then a New York agency creative team with a decade of experience on national Bev/Alc brands like Johnnie Walker and Bacardi, pitched and won the Iron City Beer account in 2001. They’ve built Smiths on arguably Pittsburgh values – substance, authenticity, credibility – eschewing the flash and hype that typifies creative agencies. And they help their hometown with pro bono campaigns to attract volunteers to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and audiences to the Warhol Museum.

By focusing on their food foundation, Smiths Agency narrows its prospect base to 500 companies and true competitive set to less than a dozen agencies. And, the agency can celebrate Pittsburgh in a new way.

“We want to make this town almost as renowned for food marketing as it is for ketchup,” said Lindsey Smith.

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