“Big companies come to the Starfish Company with complex brand strategy and experience challenges,” according to agency founder David Kessler, while the small companies rely on Starfish to be their marketing and ad agency.
New York City-based Starfish calls itself an integrated brand experience agency, blending the services of traditional ad agencies, brand agencies and marketing consultants. “My company is proven in this category, and does it better than anyone else,” according to Kessler.
Kessler grew up in the advertising business, working for big New York City agencies. In 2001, he was the managing director at Hill Holliday, but thought the agency business model was broken. “I decided to create a new agency model,” Kessler recalls. He determined to create an agency based on the holistic brand experience, so that all brand interactions are consistent with the core brand idea. Kessler notes, “Many companies, including the big ones, eventually lose their way when it comes to their brand strategy and core idea, never mind driving it across the entire organization.”
As an example, there’s Starfish’s campaign for Weight Watchers, of which Kessler is particularly proud. He describes it as a re-envisioning of the Weight Watchers brand, an alignment of all the company’s interactions. Weight Watchers’ new program, “Beyond the Scale” does just that, taking the focus off merely shedding pounds and helping people become healthier and more confident. In effect, the concept is life transformation. “This idea redefines the purpose and takes it to a higher level,” according to Kessler."And our work for them helped them articulate what it means and how to deliver it consistently throughout the entire customer journey.
Starfish identifies all touch points of a brand, including products and services, the store experience, customer service, culture and sales. It’s no easy task, but once completed, all of these interactions are aligned and create branded customer journeys.
When hiring, Kessler says he looks for individuals with intellectual curiosity, good communication skills, resourcefulness and ambition, along with the ability to speak articulately and create confidence among the clients.
Clients run the gamut from small to large companies, and include Sharp Electronics, PwC, American Public University System, Panasonic Health, Price Waterhouse Cooper, RiverSpring Health, Leaf Vodka, Dunkin Donuts and Weight Watchers. Starfish also does a lot of work with non-profits, such as the Community Foodbank of New Jersey, for which they designed a community outreach campaign.
When he started Starfish 13 years ago, Kessler had a vision, and he was prescient. “The world is now paying attention to brand experience,” he said. “We were right, and called the market correctly.”