Our journey from digital

to an integrated marketing agency


In this introductory post, I’m excited to share some of the history and market observations that have led us to rebrand and refocus our agency.

Having grown up watching companies like Polaroid and Blockbuster, or entire industries like Newspapers and Bookstores get disrupted, I've come to believe that leaders must be prepared to put themselves out of a business before someone else does.

That’s why as an agency, operating in a rapidly changing marketing world, we’ve always sought to be agile and open to change.

We’ve made a number of pivots in our short 10-year history, but none more significant than the one we’re undergoing now.

Check out the video below for more, along with additional context in the rest of this post.

Evolving with the Market. From Digital to Integrated

Our initial focus (2007 – 2009) was actually not as an agency, but rather on building a Caribbean-focused content portal / media entity. However we soon found that there was significant demand from marketers for help with digital marketing services, and this was our first pivot in business model and strategy.

As we built ourselves into a full-service digital agency, we typically refer to the broad period from 2009 to 2013 as the reach and engagement phase for digital in the Caribbean, as our focus for most of our clients was helping them be where their audiences were increasingly spending time.

From 2014 to 2016 the industry shifted to a Marketing ROI Phase with clients wanting to really understand the return on investment they could get from digital and all marketing channels. We evolved again in this period to focus on inbound marketing, acquisition marketing and content, to complement our engagement marketing muscle.

A major part of our history, is also our role in helping to educate the market as hosts of a range of conferences and workshops between 2011 and 2014.

In our conferences including the Caribbean Digital Expo, Mobiworld and the Marketing Innovation Experience, our assembled thought leaders and our team ourselves, would often impress upon attendees that marketing should be integrated, not digital or traditional.

In late 2016, we began discussing more deeply the shifts we were observing in global and Caribbean sales and marketing including:

  • Media-Consumption Habits: Digital (web, mobile, social) was here to stay, but we were intrigued by the ways that consumers, and particularly younger consumers moved seamlessly between consuming different types of media, with digital, particularly mobile always front and center.
  • The power of content and storytelling: We observed the ways that evermore information-overloaded consumers gravitated most to the brands that offered compelling stories, and could connect their offerings to customer interests and values.
  • Clients struggling to deliver integrated marketing:
    • Many clients recognized that they needed best of breed capabilities in specific areas (digital, traditional), but they struggled to manage multiple partners to deliver seamless cross-channel marketing typically because they had a hard time figuring out how to brief and manage multiple agencies.
    • We observed other clients intentionally choosing the convenience of working with one agency partner for their various needs, even though they recognized that partner might be deficient in certain marketing disciplines (usually digital)
  • Marketing (and agencies) would have to change: Finally we observed agencies around the world and particularly in the Caribbean struggling to expand their thinking and approach beyond their typical paradigms, even if it meant giving clients something other than what they needed.

As we observed the trends above and the challenges they were creating, we concluded that not only was a different, more integrated approach required from marketers, but also from the agencies that support them. We committed ourselves to a journey to build a truly integrated marketing agency.

We’re practical enough to recognize that speaking it into existence isn’t enough.

Creating the agency of the future, is something we see as a continuous journey, one that will test our team, our vision, and our commitment.  We believe that we are uniquely suited to delivering on this promise in a way that many other are not, and we’re excited about the road ahead.

As we evolve to what we call an integrated marketing agency, we’re taking our original digital agency DNA and passion for solving marketing problems, and seeking to port them over to a new type of agency that doesn’t fit easily in the “digital” or “traditional” box.

Building the agency of the future. A continuous journey

Step 1: From Caribbean Ideas to Synapse!

This overall change has been over a year  in the making, and we’re excited to launch our updated brand, and to change our agency name from Caribbean Ideas to Synapse, with Caribbean Ideas remaining as the name of the overall holding company for multiple businesses including the agency.

We chose the name Synapse because all great marketing and branding ultimately engages our brains, and because synapses play a powerful role  in enabling communication between the different parts of the brain.

A key part of our evolution to an integrated agency, would be our ability to craft and orchestrate marketing solutions that seamlessly cross media-channels, driven ultimately by our ability to be great at both left and right-brain marketing.

Step 2: Building the right team

The other key part of our journey was that  we would need to build a team that could excel at both left and right-brain marketing.

In the past year we have quietly added unique talent to our team to create a diverse group that blends client-side marketing experience with digital and traditional agency experience.

Perhaps most important, our leadership and broad team shares a vision that the future of marketing is integrated, and that agencies cannot continue to operate in their historical silos / boxes.

“Left-brain marketing” is our historical strength, as our core digital and client-side marketing DNA lends itself naturally to strategy, digital marketing, data and analytics. As we’ve augmented our team, we have added more creative talent and producers with skills in “Right-brain marketing”, to enable us to deliver on creative, design, content and other crucial areas of our integrated agency vision.  Learn more about our leadership team here.

Step 3: Leading the Modern Marketing Tribe

Finally, we are committing to do our part to help educate and drive dialogue among those marketers who have a similar belief in an integrated marketing future. Not every marketer will agree that this is the way to go. Some will prefer to use the ways that have worked for them in the past and that’s ok.

We’ll commit to continually encouraging conversation between local, regional and global marketers who are making their way in this new world of marketing, showcasing case studies of integrated marketing and continuing to talk about the evolutions we see.

There are great, progressive marketers all around the region and the world that we will work to collaborate with and build a true tribe that helps the community get better.

I encourage you to learn more about the approach we’re going to take at Synapse to helping solve key sales and marketing problems, and to your feedback on this change.

We’re excited about the future, and the journey to come.

Chike Farrell, Co-Founder and Chairman