Doing more of what we love

How enso has evolved

TL;DR enso’s evolution from ‘creative agency with a purpose’ to ‘creative impact agency’ means we are focusing on big, upstream positive impact solutions, and less on creative asset production. As a result, we’re changing from a traditional agency staffing pyramid, to a high-level core team, surrounded by our Shared Mission Network of thinkers, creators and pioneers.

Longer story, involving the future of capitalism, marketing, and enso:

enso is seven years old. We started quickly (over a weekend, in fact), so it feels good to have reached seven years, with a lot of great work for some incredible leaders and brands under our belt (e.g. Google, Uber, Medium, Mattel, Khan Academy, 23andme). We’ve also explored a lot, been reflecting a lot, and have decided to make the most significant evolution of our history in order to realize our potential.

Why? The answer to that starts with where capitalism is at.

Capitalism is under immense pressure. A majority of millennials don’t believe in it. A majority of Americans don’t believe in ‘the system’ (by contrast, most Chinese do believe in their system). Employees are disaffected. Customers don’t trust business leaders.

Our perspective is that this state of disarray stems from a distracting mentality of shareholder primacy. Leaders work for shareholders’ short-term enrichment, rather than for a bigger mission. No wonder employees aren’t engaged, and no wonder that results in soulless brands that have —at best— transactional relationships with people.

How has the marketing world responded to this challenge? Rather than seeking to solve the root cause — a lack of positive intention and real-world positive impact—the marketing world generally has sought to optimize the efficiency of intrusive advertising. Programmatic ad buying. SEO and Facebook ads. AI-developed creative campaigns. A/B testing brand creative. Cutting out creative agencies, which traditionally focused on longer-term brand building, rather than short-term performance marketing. These things may optimize short-term impressions, but they certainly don’t optimize long term meaning, employee engagement or customer loyalty.

At enso, we have a different answer to this crisis of capitalism, and the future of marketing. We think businesses need to switch from a pure shareholder value orientation, to a mission that aligns business success with positive impact in the world. This can create an upward spiral of inspired leaders, engaged teams, customer conviction, and stakeholder support. This is not idealistic, but realistic — there are reams of data showing this is better business.

Many leaders and brands want to make this evolution.

Leaders that are progressive, empathetic and committed to driving change—or just realistic enough to know that a business without an animating purpose and validating impact is fragile.

When looking for support in this evolution, ad agencies are ill-equipped (the answer is not advertising, alone), consultancies are ill-equipped (the answer is not MBA analysis, alone), think tanks are ill-equipped (the answer is not analysis, alone), innovation companies are ill-equipped (the answer is not innovation, alone).

What’s required are inspired leaders and creative cultural initiatives that bring to life brands that stand for a set of shared values and beliefs. Initiatives that change internal cultures, that create participatory relationships with customers, and that mobilize stakeholders in shared missions that achieve real societal impact.

That’s what enso is best at. See some of what we’ve done at enso.co/work.

In the past, we have designed big, upstream creative impact solutions, but also been in the business of producing creative assets. In a sense, we were torn between being a creative impact agency, working upstream, and an advertising agency, working downstream.

In the future, we are much clearer with our intentions. We are an impact agency, not an advertising agency. We do not want to compete with internal creative teams, production companies, influencers and media companies to make creative assets — for asset production, we want to work with the very best partners to make the greatest impact.

Our focus on upstream work means enso is now a smaller core team, surrounded by an amazing network — the Shared Mission Network of thinkers, creators and pioneers. This is the optimal structure for designing big cultural interventions and shared missions. We can be agile, bold, solution-agnostic, and we can benefit from a diversity of amazing minds that no one company could ever have.

This evolution also means that in the past weeks the part of our team that was focused on production of creative assets has left. We’ve approached that process as thoughtfully as we could, but of course it’s never easy parting ways with people you love and respect. We look forward to seeing the impact these amazing people will make in the future, and collaborating with many of them in different roles.

Pioneering a new type of company is a risk. While there are budget line items for ad agencies, there aren’t budget line items for impact agencies. But this is a risk we think is right for us, right for what businesses need, and right for what the world needs. So, we’re leaning into it with excitement and optimism. We’re already working with some of the leaders and brands of our dreams, and hope for more to come.

Two questions we have for leaders this year:

What is your legacy? and what is your company’s legacy?

enso is a creative impact agency.
We work with innovative companies and organizations to create positive impact at scale through shared missions. Learn more at enso.co.