The Founders Behind BLKBOX Flex Their Marketing Swag

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KeenanNew York-based marketing firm BLKBOX (formerly The Strategy Collective) aims to stand out from the pack. In fact, the founders declare that BLKBOX is a new kind of agency. Different because it more than serves; BLKBOX is “about product and solutions.” It builds custom analytics platforms to help better understand customers and influence business decisions.

The entrepreneurs behind BLKBOX are Keenan Beasley and Dionna McPhatter. Prior to BLKBOX, Beasley served as one of the youngest VPs at L’Oreal USA. As a brand marketer for RB, P&G and L’Oreal. He is also a contributor at Forbes. BLKBOX’s other co-founder McPhatter was responsible for uncovering data insights for British consumer-goods company RB (formerly Reckitt Benckiser) and its suite of global health and home brands, such as Air Wick and Lysol.

While they were rising in the corporate ranks, both wanted more so they self-funded their venture, BLKBOX.  “After 10 years working on the client side of the business, we saw that the ad industry was failing to deliver on many of the challenges brands were facing–reaching young diverse consumers. We also noticed a surge of data, but an inability to leverage that data to drive action,” explains Beasley.

Today, BLKBOX’s clients include: Western Union, Taco Bell, Facebook and French’s. “We target consumer brands that are struggling to reach their full potential. We then leverage our analytics software to identify key areas that need attention, build a strategy to solve for the opportunity and then creatively bring to life content that illustrates the strategy. Our last step is measurement so that we can track results and optimize our strategy or creative as needed while in market,” explains McPhatter.

What makes BLKBOX so unique? “Our software is incredibly unique. We have predictive analytics software that is best-in-class and is the driving force behind our strategies and creative. That is not something many agencies have or even want. The other piece that makes us unique is our leadership and team dynamic,” says Beasley. “We are a young, diverse group with a wide range of experiences. Most of today’s advertising dollars are controlled by senior citizens. It’s very difficult for them to relate to the younger generation with significant spending power.”

Even with a great idea, the founders behind BLKBOX did face some startup challenges. “We’ve had two main challenges. The first was cash flow given the fact that we are a self-funded service business. We’ve been able to win great accounts, but growth is slowed based on working capital,” says McPhatter. “The second was our positioning. We were very optimistic in the fact that we had the right team to solve any of today’s marketing challenges. The issue was that potential clients had a tough time believing that from such a young company.”

Also, after they got up and running they started to finetune the company, including the name. Initially, the company was called The Strategy Collective. ”We felt that our old name was not reflective of the experience we were creating while working with our partners. We needed something that reflected our point of difference, our beliefs and had a bit more swag. That led us to BLKBOX,” says McPhatter. “There are several reasons: 1. We hold the answers to many business challenges. 2. It showcases how we don’t want be defined or placed in a given box, we define our own box and it’s mysterious, unique and just ours. Much like the 80MM consumers that we seek to represent through their unique stories.”

The process has brought a few business lessons. The biggest? “A strong back office team is critical to your company’s success. Don’t underestimate the need for a strong finance and legal team!” says Beasley.

Looking ahead, Beasley says they have major plans. ”We are looking to double in size this year while completing a capital raise to fuel our growth,” he says. “Our goal is simple – build a sustainable company that continuously adds value in the industry that we love.”