College Group rebrands as Instinctif Partners

Instinctif CEO Richard Nichols said his goal is to build "the McKinsey of communications."

LONDON: College Group has rebranded as Instinctif Partners with the intention of going head-to-head with global corporate PR giants Brunswick Group and FTI Consulting.

The corporate communications consultancy, which includes College Hill, The College, and College Public Policy, has unified its businesses under a single brand, effective on Monday.

The rebranding, which affects 20 wholly owned offices in 12 countries, follows a significant expansion with the goal of becoming a major player in global corporate and financial communications. This followed the sale of a majority stake to private equity firm Vitruvian Partners in October 2011.

The rebranding will be rolled out throughout the organization in February and March.  

The brand rethink is thought to recognize that the College brand did not necessarily translate effectively in all markets. For example, it was seen as an educational brand in the US.

The move will not encompass the group's research business, Truth, which will keep the brand it developed in the strategic research sector.

Instinctif Partners managing partner Tim Fallon said the rebranding signifies that it was looking to build “a fresh challenger brand and new type of international corporate agency.” Fallon added that the group's own research found a perceived lack of innovation and creativity in 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 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 £9 million in fee income in 2006 to £45 million last year. The Vitruvian deal also gives it the capital to further expand the group under the Instinctif brand, though Nichols also points out the agency is almost 50% owned by its staff to retain its entrepreneurial culture.

“This is a pivotal moment in our journey to becoming one of the world's most successful international business comms consultancies,” Nichols added. “'Instinctif' is a brand that we believe will work very well for us. It implies 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 Russian IR 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 employs 400 people in 20 offices in 12 countries, with specialties 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 £45 million.

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK.

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