Steve Evans

10 months ago

In this (7 minute read) blog post, I talk about the history and context of Net Natives. About why we exist and what our evolution to Natives Group means for our people and our clients.

Natives began a decade ago, in 2008. I founded a consultancy from my bedroom at home. In a time of financial anxiety and slashed budgets, I focused on providing accountable marketing services, concentrating on the platforms where a student audience spent their time.

Accountable to me meant demonstrably reaching the right person, with the right message at the right time with messages that are relevant and resonate. And tracking the outcomes.

I knew that by focusing on accountability, I could solve the perennial problems of marketers and organisational leaders. No one wakes up thinking “I must run a Facebook campaign”. They wake up knowing they have problems that need solving.

  • How can we target a relevant audience?
  • In a competitive market, how can we get “cut through” with content that resonates?
  • How we can personalise marketing, to make it more relevant for the individual?
  • How can we save costs on spend, while increasing quality of return?
  • How can we demonstrate Return On Investment?
  • How can we innovate, without wasting time and budget?
  • How can we save time on tasks in order to spend more time working strategically?

Not only were these financially turbulent times, these were the early days of social media, online advertising and mobile penetration.

A time before Facebook invented the Like button and introduced people targeted advertising. A time before Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest (and Google+, 😉).

Before LinkedIn and Twitter introduced advertising and an emoji became a language. Just nine months after the release of the first iPhone, just 3 years after Google began to accredit advertisers and YouTube was launched.

A time before DMPs, DSPs and the programmatic mythologies.

By specialising in digital (I called the company Net Natives for a reason) whilst focusing on the outcomes that matter, by asking “what does good look like?” whilst delivering great, my fledging agency began to get a reputation as a company to be trusted to solve these problems in this new world of clicks and shares.

And we grew.

More clients wanted to work with us as news spread that we knew what we were doing and we could deliver on our promises.

We developed our skills. When new skills were needed, we hired and trained internally. We nurtured and honed our craft and developed and retained our people.

When we got frustrated with an inability to deliver on outcomes, we developed our own tools and our own people to solve our problems. We invested and backed ourselves.

We built technologies to capture the right data and track the performance of our campaigns.

We built technologies to benchmark social media content performance.

We developed technologies to understand and visualise data, so we made better decisions.

We built our own Creative Agency because we knew that our original content and concepts would cut through better than the assets we were given to work with.

When we realised our clients were not using data properly to inform their decisions, we built our own Analytics, Insights and Research Business.

When we realised our clients’ weren’t using the right behavioural tactics to improve conversion, we built our own Conversion Consultancy.

When clients wanted us to put the same ethics and rigour to traditional media buying, we built a Media Buying Agency based on performance and not mates’ rates.

And we grew.

And we won more longer-term contracts, winning competitive bids against who we considered were the “big boys”.

We transitioned from being just a project based response driven agency, into having strategic partnerships built on trust, transparency and outcomes.

News continued to spread about our abilities to solve problems and we started to be asked to solve student marketing problems for clients outside of the UK; in Asia-Pac regions, USA and Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

Throughout this growth we retained our independence, growing organically, without external investment or funding. Investing in ourselves and funding our own growth.

Investing in specific businesses in the UK and overseas. Businesses that share our values and solve our clients’ problems.

Now we have nearly 150 Natives across 6 offices in 4 continents.

We have specialists in departments that are the size of competitor businesses.

We have market leading performance technologies used by over a thousand education marketers (and other agencies).

And still we grow.

Throughout our growth, we have stayed true to our mission; to create positive outcomes for our clients, their stakeholders and our own people. We make lives better through our attitude, our approach and our work.

We do this by being specialists in our skills and in our audience.

Throughout this time, this mission, our organically grown services and products have fallen within our original brand, Net Natives. A brand trusted and loved by our clients and our sector.

But this single brand began to get confusing for our clients and our people. It devalues the strength and growth of our other experts.

The last 6 months we have focused on the next stage of our growth and what it means to be a Native. 

Natives Group is The World’s Student Marketing Group.

Natives Group is a collection of specialist brands who solve individual problems or work collectively as partners to our clients.

We are the Natives.Group.

  1. Net Natives – where we create and deploy beautiful advertising campaigns to a targeted audience and track the outcomes
  2. Natives Global Consulting – where we use analytics, insight and research to inform decisions and improve propositions and conversions
  3. Cerebro – our Business Intelligence data warehouse that powers our live campaign dashboards to make better decisions
  4. Netizen Natives – Our Chinese office which provides essential insight & access to the Chinese Audience
  5. Student Hut – the home of student reviews, with unique access and insight direct to an engaged audience
  6. Akero – our beautiful marketing automation software used by agencies and education marketers to track and convert
  7. Edurank – our social media performance software used by over 1000 institutions
  8. Student Trading Exchange – the first programmatic trading desk to specialise in helping advertisers and agencies reach and engage the global student audience
  9. The Native – inspiring content and resources for student and youth marketers
  10. National Clearing Survey – the UK’s largest qualitative survey of digital student behaviours for clearing applications

What does this evolution mean for our clients and our people?

Our people, products and services are the same. We are all Natives. We will continue with our mission, to create positive outcomes.

What’s changing is a clarity of expertise within our departments. Our evolution from a single house brand into a house of brands allows us to clearly define the expertise and relevance for our clients within the Group.

To keep lines of communication simple, our Client Services, Project Management, Marketing and Finance Departments sit across all brands. But our experts and our proposition are now properly “housed” within the right brands.

Whether our clients wish to work with us on long term strategic partnerships across the Group, or on specific tactical projects within one of the businesses, we are structured in a way to support every possibility.  Here’s to the future of solving problems and creating more positive outcomes together.

To see how this all unfolded organically in the history of Natives, you can view our timeline.

If you have any questions about what this means, then please contact me on the form below (this form will come directly to me).

If you would like to become a Native, then view our career opportunities here.