Joanna Seddon and Nik Gharekhan, both of whom have spent 10 years at Ogilvy within its global brand consulting group, are venturing out on their own.
The two have founded Presciant, a brand strategy consultancy that Seddon said will largely focus on helping companies navigate mergers and acquisitions from a branding perspective.
It’s where their experience lies: At Ogilvy, the pair recently led a project involving the merger of Dow and Dupont. Seddon said her team helped create Corteva Agriscience, the company’s agricultural division that came about following the merger.
“We had the wonderful job of having to create it from scratch,” she said, explaining that Ogilvy formed Corteva Agriscience’s name, positioning and what it stands for.
Gharekhan noted that “mergers and acquisitions are a time when the brand rises to the top of the corporate agenda and key decisions have to be made about it,” with consultants often being brought on to help with navigating portfolio realignment, go-to-market strategies and the like.
As for the name of their new venture, it’s a nod to the word “prescient” and what Seddon describes as a “future-oriented approach” to client work.
“We like to think that it’s really important to try and look into the future, and then work backgrounds to decide what you should do in the present, which is particularly relevant now,” Seddon said.
Seddon and Gharekhan have worked together in the brand consulting space at various companies. Seddon, who describes herself as a “serial starter” of brand consulting groups, served as founding partner of FutureBrand before heading to Kantar, where she and Gharekhan co-founded its brand strategy consultancy.
The two then joined Ogilvy, where Seddon said she started and “took global” the agency’s brand consulting business. Seddon led Ogilvy’s global brand consulting practice as president, while Gharekhan served as senior consulting partner.
Seddon said she’s also the creator of the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands rankings report, which Kantar releases each year.
According to Seddon, she was fired from Ogilvy in September due to an incident that involved her calling out another employee for a typo. An Ogilvy spokesperson said the agency had no comment on the matter.
Regardless, Seddon said her work at Ogilvy “ceased to be quite as much fun in the last few years,” noting that it’s the “perfect time” to start her own firm.
“There’s an appetite for change and willingness to try new things,” she said. According to Gharekhan, he chose to leave with Seddon when she was let go. He said the pandemic has “created an openness to new things,” pointing to recent McKinsey research that found 75% of U.S. consumers have tried a new shopping behavior since the onset of Covid-19.
Speaking of her new endeavor, where she and Gharekhan will both serve as managing partners, Seddon said her “mission in life” is to help companies get marketing a “seat at the table.” She elaborated by sharing that much of the work that she’s done throughout her career has involved working with CEOs, convincing them that branding can play a large role in a company’s success.
“We are specialists in dealing with CEOs and boards, and getting them to understand that [branding] matters,” she claimed.
While she didn’t share which brands Presciant is working with, she said the consultancy has closed some “interesting business” as of late.