The Richards Group has formed a separate branding arm, Spherical, to pursue clients that are not necessarily prospects for the agency's advertising services.
Led by principal Rod Underhill, the founding group includes research specialist Karen Dougherty and client liaison Hugh Thrasher.
The new operation arises partly from the evolution of Richards' trademarked Spherical branding method and partly as a response to the rapid encroachment of consultants into agency territory, said Underhill.
Other agencies have established stand-alone brand consultancies in recent years. For example, Leo Burnett developed The Lab; more recently, Fallon Brand Consulting was formed to serve new and emerging businesses.
"There aren't many companies that wouldn't say, 'Of course we build brands,' " said Un-derhill. "That's part of our challenge ...to break through the clutter."
The minimal two-month Spherical process, which starts with a price tag of $150,000, "enables brands to attain a higher calling, a crystal clear positioning, a likeable personality and a magnetic affiliation which will attract and retain more customers," Underhill said.
Employed with clients in the past such as Motel 6 and Harrold's clothing stores, the branding process reaches into every facet of a business' operation, from the hold music on the company switchboard to psychological profiling of potential employees.
According to Underhill, the Spherical method emphasizes the participation of top management— usually at the chief executive officer or chief operating officer level—to create a consensual vision, known as the "highest calling" of the brand.
"We've had Spherical strategies in place for clients for as long as 15 years," said agency founder Stan Richards. "This has let us refine our methodology over time—and we absolutely know that it works."