What happens when a group of ambitious college best friends inspired by the TV show Mad Men decide to try their hand at digital marketing?
The answer is Scratchboard, a small yet rapidly growing digital marketing agency that has established brands like Cheez, Habiby's, and The Stubborn Goat to name a few.
If you have ever come across relatable memes that turned out to be advertisements (the ones shared by Madchef for example), these are the guys behind it.
Armed with a small team of talented content creators, graphics designers, and programmers, Scratchboard uses data and growth hacking to consistently produce relatable digital content while diversifying into promising new industries like e-commerce.
It employs around 400 service workers in 10 outlets with a core group of around 16 talented individuals aged around 20 to 23 who are responsible for the digital marketing and management aspect of the agency.
The CEO of Scratchboard, Adnan Khan started the business in 2016 with the help of his best friends when digital marketing was less widespread.
Working with brands like Glazed, Madchef, and Hakka Dhaka, the advertising agency gained valuable industry experience and developed strong networks which helped its venture into the restaurant industry with its pizza-chain Cheez.
Scratchboard continues to make engaging digital content for its clients so that it can bring exposure to different promising industries.
For example, recently it started its clothing brand FOMO to venture into fashion.
But how does Scratchboard manage to produce relatable digital content regularly?
Adnan, who is responsible for marketing and branding, explained in a recent interview with The Business Standard that the key to being meme-worthy or relatable was for content creators to transcend from their socioeconomic bubble and be part of a larger audience.
This involves redefining target demographics based on social media trends, pop-culture, tastes, and preferences rather than just age groups.
That is why Instagram and Reddit forums were such a good source of inspiration for the agency.
In one instance, Scratchboard even released a pizza-themed game with the help of its skilled programmers as a part of its marketing campaign that was played by over 16,000 people.
However, that is not all. Scratchboard also utilises AI algorithms to determine which posts will get the most engagement to ensure that their marketing intuition is backed by data.
As a result, the digital marketing agency can go all out on its marketing strategy and produce strong results.
Adnan argued that the most engaging branded post they had ever produced was the most difficult and least fun to make as it appealed to a wider audience.
He told us the most fun he had ever had making digital content was during the early days of the agency when he and his team engaged in friendly banter via memes on behalf of Glazed Donuts against Krispy Kreme that was similar to what Burger King had done with McDonald's in the past.
The relatively young age of Scratchboard and its creative team may also be a factor behind its ability to appeal to a young audience on social media.
The agency recruits young people based on a productive and growth-oriented attitude as well as skill.
In this regard, Adnan said that Scratchboard focuses more on the skill development of its staff and uses it as a measure of growth for the entire agency.
By constantly acquiring new skills and redefining old ones, Scratchboard hopes to stay on the cutting edge and be pioneers of innovation.
Scratchboard conducts all its operations from its office in Banani with the help of a versatile team.
How does such a small and relatively young team keep track of so many brands? The answer is data analysis and growth hacking.
For example, Scratchboard uses the sales data it had accumulated from its established brands from the past five years to identify patterns and trends that can help it boost its profitability.
Consequently, it can determine and predict which days of the week there is more audience engagement or restaurant traffic, which helps to design better promotions and offers.
Similarly, by monitoring the number of orders from the customers or the level of engagement on social media, Scratchboard is able to identify which of its products is underrated (or overrated) so that it can focus more (or less) of its resources on promoting it.
For its restaurants, Scratchboard also developed automated inventory management systems to limit the wastage of ingredients and minimise costs.
Adnan said that growth hacking and business analysis were essential to overcome the logistical challenges of operating so many brands (four restaurant brands and two fashion brands).
Additionally, growth hacking helped Scratchboard maintain an edge against seasoned marketing agencies.
As far as the future is concerned, Adnan said that Scratchboard will continue to develop and grow while staying true to its young and innovative nature.
"Although we may not have a clear map, we definitely have a compass and a direction we want to follow", he added.
With the businesses moving online as a result of the pandemic, the potential for e-commerce has become more apparent.
Scratchboard hopes to invest heavily in this industry and launch a few more brands.
Similarly, it is also working on projects associated with food technology (inventory management, complete automation of the supply chain) and app development.