Proxima is (ironically, you might say) a way of outsourcing the in-house procurement function. It has clients across the US and Europe, such as British Airways, Universal Music and Warburtons, and is a leader in the procurement sector, with an estimated annual turnover of $43m. And yet Proxima felt that the term ‘procurement’ limited them. Procurement, they argued, beat up suppliers on price, thereby missing the true value of what suppliers had to offer: knowledge and innovation. It wasn’t about how much you paid, so much as how you thought and the opportunities you saw. That’s where true value lies, and these capabilities were beyond the reach of overstretched procurement departments. This, though, was a complicated argument to make.
This is a relationship that began around 2010, when they were still called ‘Buying Team’. It was done in collaboration with designer Mike Smith, firstly when he was creative director at The Allotment, and then as creative director of Clout Branding.
What we did
We suggested the brand essence and strapline of ‘See the change’, and gave a completely ownable name to the approach that delivered it: ‘Catalytic thinking’. Proxima were the catalyst that brings organisation and supplier together to create value, achieving something that is impossible to replicate in-house: control over a world in which so many operations are now carried out externally. Catalytic Thinking is about spotting the gaps, working in the areas that people assume are fixed to show that they are anything but. It’s about different perceptions and discovering new perspectives. If you know where to look, the chances to inspire performance are there in abundance. Hence ‘See the change’. Proxima see the opportunity; you see the result.
Website; ‘10 rules of Catalytic Thinking’ notebook; animations; e-book; non-linear interactive digital presentation tool, US launch. In short, a lot of work over a number of years.
What happened next
Proxima were reviewed by the industry paper SpendMatters, who had this to say: “They are one of the few solution providers that has contributed to the profession in recent years from an intellectual point of view.”
A lot of the philosophy was driven by our contact at Proxima, and when he moved out of his role around 2016, new faces came in and the ‘patron’ pushing the ideas went. The opportunity to completely break the mould came after a New York ‘summit’, in which the CEO, marketing manager and their American consultant all got behind the outrageous “Procurement sucks”. Though the phrase was used a little in comms, and even by the CEO in meetings, it never led or was taken forward because of resistance at director level back in the UK. If it had, I think the irreverent energy and interest as a hook could have been amazing for this brand. I think it would have blown the sector open and changed mindsets. Sadly, the new brand managers bolted for safety. They now, once again, look like any other company in any other sector. They’re just ‘The procurement specialists’. That’s one change we didn’t want to see.
This work won a creative award at the New York Festivals.