College Group rebrands to Instinctif Partners

College Group has undergone a global rebrand to become Instinctif Partners and go head-to-head with global corporate PR giants Brunswick and FTI Consulting.

Instinctif Partners: College Group's new branding
Instinctif Partners: College Group's new branding

The corporate comms consultancy, which includes College Hill, The College, College Public Policy and Green issues, has unified its businesses under a single brand from today.

This move, which affects 20 wholly owned offices in 12 countries, follows a significant expansion in an effort to become a major player in global corporate and financial comms following the sale of a majority stake to private equity firm Vitruvian Partners in October 2011.

The rebrand coincides with the company’s move to new offices in the City and will be rolled out throughout the organisation in February and March.

The brand rethink is thought to be recognition that the College brand did not necessarily translate effectively in all markets – for example, being seen as an educational brand in the US.

The rebrand will not encompass the group’s research business, Truth, which will keep the strong brand it has developed in the strategic research sector.

Instinctif Partners managing partner Tim Fallon said that the rebrand was a signifier that it was looking to build "a fresh challenger brand and new type of international corporate agency" as the group’s own research had found a perceived lack of innovation and creativity within the existing global agency models.

"Clients feel the existing integrated agency model doesn’t offer the depth of specialism they require," he explained. "Under Instinctif we can retain that specialism, but offer a truly connected business."

Instinctif Partners CEO Richard Nichols outlined his aim to build "the McKinsey of communications", adding that the agency has the capital and debt-free position to deliver this global offering.

College Group had previously grown from £9m fee income in 2006 to £45m last year and the Vitruvian deal gives them the capital to further expand the group under the Instinctif brand – though Nichols also points out the agency is almost 50 per cent owned by its staff to retain its entrepreneurial culture.

Nichols added: "This is a pivotal moment in our journey to becoming one of the world’s most successful international business comms consultancies."

"'Instinctif' is a brand that we believe will work very well for us. It imploies everything we are about: investing our insight intelligence and understanding to help our clients increase their influence in a challenging world, allowing us to inform and enhance their reputations."

Since the Vitruvian deal, the agency has bought Russia and CIS investor relations specialist Shared Value, UK financial PR business Merlin Financial Communications, German-based Haubrok Investor Relations and the Middle Eastern business of the former M:Communications.

Instinctif now employs 400 people in 20 offices across 12 countries, with specialisms spanning capital markets, corporate affairs, public policy, engagement, life sciences, content and creative, strategic insight and research.

College Group grew out of financial PR specialist College Hill, which was founded by Alex Sandberg in 1990. Sandberg stepped away from the business in May 2012 following Vitruvian's investment, which valued the group at £45m.

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