A Top DTC Agency Based in Portland Rebrands With a Nod to Pacific Northwest Roots
Doug Zanger, Senior Editor
R2C Group, a direct-to-consumer agency founded in Portland 21 years ago, has rebranded itself as Rain. With a nod to the company’s Pacific Northwest roots, the new name is an homage to the region’s climate but, more crucially, is also connected to the philosophy of growth.
“The name Rain makes so much sense because a big part of our message is transformational growth,” said Michelle Cardinal, Rain’s CEO and cofounder.
The R2C Group name launched over 10 years ago with the merger of two agencies, Cmedia and Respond2. The decision to rebrand the agency began to take shape a few years ago through observation and feedback from clients.
“The name [R2C Group] never really had a lot of meaning,” explained Cardinal. “Over the years, I’d get a lot of questions about it, and we never had a good answer. Around four years ago, we brainstormed internally and hired some outside help.”
The consultant hired Jon Bond, one of the founders of Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners. After some time with Bond, the agency tabled the feedback and ideas.
“It was too much to think about at the time,” Cardinal recalled. “Then, last year, we decided it was the right time to do it. The agency had changed so much, and we were growing quickly. Also, if you look at our client base now versus when we started, it’s light years different. Now, we’re doubling down on DTC, and I can tell you that it’s finally cool to be in DTC.”
Over the years, the agency has evolved its offering in keeping with the changing marketing landscape. In its early days, Rain was known as more of a direct TV shop but, with the advent of digital and OTT, in particular (the agency ran its first Hulu test in 2012), it’s been at the forefront of building the fortunes of some of the biggest DTC brands.
Previously nascent DTC players like Humana, Mercari, 23andMe, Chewy, SimpliSafe, 1-800 CONTACTS, Consumer Cellular and Wayfair have benefitted from the agency’s targeted approach to video. Chewy, for example, grew to a $1 billion business before being acquired by PetSmart for $3.5 billion. Rain was also a crucial part of Peloton’s mercurial growth in its early years; the subscription fitness brand is now valued at $1.25 billion. The agency landed LendingTree’s $126 million media account in 2018.
The agency has continued to stay ahead of where brands need to be, especially related to data, analytics and performance. To that end, Rain has built robust tools—including Leavened, a standalone company focused on deep data science and strategy—to show both clients and non-clients more in-depth insights. Cardinal estimates that 50% of Rain’s business is digital, a change from the agency’s heritage as a DTV shop.
“We have the experience in how to understand this marketplace better than anybody else because we’ve always made accountability a priority,” noted Kyle Eckhart, SVP of Client Strategy at Rain. “This is what clients are looking for, and we’re perfectly positioned to take ownership of that space.”
In addition to Leavened, Rain has put more resources into creative services. Specifically, the agency launched the Production Lab, a subscription-based video production practice that addresses brands’ greater-than-ever need for video assets.
“There is an insatiable need for video content,” Eckhart said. “And the ability to crank out high-quality work quickly and efficiently is something that a lot of people are trying to figure out. We have that expertise, and being able to connect that to efficiencies is a compelling growth opportunity.”
One potential complicating factor is that there is an agency also called Rain, based in New York City, that positions itself as a voice and conversational AI shop. According to Cardinal, she’s not worried about possible confusion in the marketplace.
“Among clients we’ve spoken to, no one has brought that up,” she said. “We’re both in very different areas, but being in the Pacific Northwest, I think that’s easily overcome. I’m not concerned about it.”
In the end, however, the former R2C Group is ready for a new position in an ever-evolving landscape.
“Our direct-to-consumer heritage won’t change, nor will our focus on technology, analytics and highly rated client service,” Cardinal said. “What will change is that we have an exciting new position, with more sophistication, in the marketplace.”