Newsmaker: Nick Band and the resurrection of Brando

After a messy departure industry stalwart Nick Band is looking to reclaim the name of an agency that blazed a trail in the noughties.

Nick Band: looking to bring back Brando
Nick Band: looking to bring back Brando

Band has approached Canadian marcoms group Esprit De Corps (EDC) to buy the name of the agency he helped build into an innovative experiential and consumer PR shop.

The move is, according to one former colleague, "mad", but they quickly add: "It’s one that makes me smile. If anyone can pull it off then he can."

Brando was part of the Band & Brown Group, which Band co-founded and was sold to EDC (then known as Cossette) in a five-year earn-out deal struck in 2004.

The name is out of circulation after EDC renamed the acquired business, first as Citizen Brando in 2011, and in the past year as Citizen Relations.

But Band's relations with EDC have not been smooth of late. After he left to launch Berlin in 2012 he was forced to put the business on hold for a year amid accusations of contract breach.

Today, Band is free to run Berlin, a small-scale strategic operation, so why is he looking back?

"The personal reason is I don’t think the work was finished there," he says.

"Prior to the merger there was more to be done, and I want to pick it up again and build it into what I dreamed it would be, and there’s a fantastic groundswell of support."

Band is not one to shy away from a bit of a risk.

He is described as a maverick with a strong creative streak, and as TVC director and former Brando co-head head Paul Lucas says: "He is always thinking about where he can go next, and loves big ideas."

The question is whether Band will be able to tell a new story within the packaging of the old Brando name.

Band maintains the name is still "fresh in people’s minds" and holds "residual value".

And certainly what worked for Brando – the focus it had on content creation before most others and an eye for experiential that led to the arresting Gatwick Airport Fashion Week – would no doubt help drive business today.

But while the older generation may remember Brando fondly, the name may have less sway with the bright young things needed to get the business to the 40-strong staff seen in its heyday.

Old pitching rival Mark Borkowski is supportive but warns that getting traction will be difficult.

"Brando had a unique culture but from my point of view there should be no looking back and it’s a very difficult space to be in an over-serviced market."

No doubt Band knows this and, EDC's willingness to sell the name aside, if Brando failed to take off it would not be due to lack of goodwill or experience.

And, in the words of Band's former business partner, Gill Brown, the name may not be so vital after all.

"Don’t get too hung up on whether it’s called Brando or something else. You make something work through the values and brand architecture you put behind it, and Nick is the best in the business at that."

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