A new consulting agency that calls itself “FLAWED” is bound to be intriguing. Especially when the operation, based in China, says its goal is to work with “immature” and “pandemic native” brands.
The consultancy is the brainchild of Karen Ge, head of strategy at FRED & FARID Shanghai. The network is investing in the agency, whose ambition is “to help emerging brands transform their development imperfections into strategic growth assets”.
FLAWED says it will take “an exploratory strategic approach” to helping young brands in search of meaning and growth. By collaborating with highly promising brands at an early stage, it hopes to foster the birth of a new generation of emerging players in China and beyond.
Karen Ge, managing partner of FLAWED, tells us more about the project.
A few words about your career – where were you educated and how did you start working for FRED & FARID?
It’s unconventional, unexpected and “flawed”. I was educated in the UK with a degree in economics from LSE. This background should have naturally directed me towards a relatively flawless career choice in banking and finance. However, I am always intrigued not by perfect finance modelling but the imperfect, human side of economics.
During my experience freelancing for fashion magazines, I started to see the beauty of branding, design and communication. They are never perfect but bring out the humanity within businesses and their economic activities. This intrinsic passion led me to my brand consultancy career from London to Shanghai.
It was not a decision to switch to advertising that got me to work for FRED & FARID. On the contrary, it was a decision to join FRED & FARID that got me into the world of advertising. The story started with a heart-to-heart conversation with Feng Huang, the CEO and partner of FRED & FARID Shanghai. Our shared belief that the power of brands shapes the imperfect world we live in bonded us together as partners both in FRED & FARID and all the way to the creation of FLAWED.
What was the inspiration for creating FLAWED?
Over the recent years in China, we have observed the rise and fall of small emerging brands which challenged different categories that were long dominated by the multinational companies. They are aggressive in product and service innovation, ambitious in mission and vision, but lacking holistic branding views and integrated marketing practices.
At the same time, these brands are not sophisticated enough to invite a variety of specialized agencies on board and are not financially robust enough to hire mega consultancies. FLAWED is here for them with professional capability, flexibility and companionship to empower the birth of upcoming movers and shakers.
How many of you are there on the team, and what are their backgrounds?
The number is not static and we are actively hiring talents at all levels. Meanwhile, we have the full support of the FRED & FARID network which enables us to leverage talents with different expertise. Our core members are not divided into designated functions: we have growth strategists with an art and design background, a business manager but also a photographer and designer who was educated to be a doctor.
This is also the talent strategy for our future hiring. Each one of us, myself included, is a hybrid that together constitutes a fabulously flawed mix for the dynamic brands we are and will be working with.
What will FLAWED offer to its clients?
We do not define our offering by strategic deliverables, but the cooperative relationship that generates results through joint effort. We offer conversations at an early stage to clear ambiguity. We help identify challenges, set reasonable goals and prioritize tasks to start the businesses and brands.
We offer creations and re-creations for immature businesses faced with specific challenges and are in urgent need of branding and marketing solutions. We offer consultations for long-term relationships that will act as external CMOs to co-manage the healthiness of brand growth.
How have companies you have approached reacted to the idea of being flawed or “immature”?
“FLAWED” is hardly a jubilant name of a consulting firm, at least not in the conventional sense. The choice of this name is not to please anyone, but to speak honestly about ourselves, the companies we intend to work with and the broader social context. Reactions have been positive, as those with negative perceptions wouldn’t react to us at all. It serves as an effective filter that only attracts brand owners who share the same anti-perfection attitudes.
The whole philosophy around the concept of “FLAWED” embedded in our positioning, promise and practices encourages brand owners to be transparent with us, sharing their struggles and stumbles.
You speak about “pandemic native” companies, an idea I find extremely interesting. What kind of companies are these?
1. Brands born within the context of the pandemic; those who give birth to business ideas that better facilitate life experience in confinement.
2. Brands telling stories through marketing campaigns around different facets of human nature that are rarely captured and reflected in the usual context.
3. Brands taking small or large actions to resolve tangible issues during the pandemic, rather than making donations for PR impact.
Are you targeting companies in China for the time being, or are you already looking for international clients?
We never limit ourselves to the China market. We were born with the desire to accompany immature brands in their journey exploring and expanding internationally, from China to overseas and the other way around. The ambition is defined by the vision of the brand, not the size of the business.
Thanks to FRED & FARID’s truly connected network, we are very confident that we can make this aspiration a reality. As a reminder, now is the time for brands outside China to build their knowledge and understanding of the Chinese market for the post-pandemic era and the next.