Friday, June 18, 2021

Rebel Interactive takes risks in crowded digital-marketing industry

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Bryn Tindall, founder and CEO of Southington digital marketing firm Rebel Interactive Group, says actual rebels are hard to find.

“If you ask people, ‘Are you a rebel?’, they like to think they are, that they are risk-takers, but they really are not,” he said. “It’s not that common.”

Neither is Rebel, which since its founding in 2013 has firmly established itself as an outlier in a crowded industry.

According to IBISWorld, as of 2016 there were nearly 198,000 marketing consultant businesses in the United States. Yet, while Forbes magazine said last year it expected digital marketing growth to moderate, Rebel has been on a consistent upswing.

Its three-year, 184% revenue growth between 2016 and 2019 ranked it 2,269th on Inc. magazine’s latest list of the 5,000 fastest-growing U.S. companies.

“I’ve said for years that the wind is blowing in Rebel’s direction. Then COVID-19 came and it’s just a gale wind at our back now,” said Tindall, noting that he expects revenue this year to total about $15 million. “We were predominantly a Northeast company, but because of COVID-19, we are now in most states. … People will buy without meeting in person with you.”

Rebel offers a variety of services including advertising, marketing automation, branding and messaging, search-engine optimization, data analytics, web and app development, and business visualization and digitization.

Some of its growth can be attributed to a mid-2018 merger with Rocky Hill-based The Pita Group, but Tindall cites his firm’s branding and messaging as driving forces.

Curt Brey, director of sales business process for Rogers Corp., a specialty engineered materials manufacturer with an eastern Connecticut facility, said Rebel is a unique digital marketing company, “in the sense that it tends to take an entirely different approach to a problem you’re trying to solve.”

Rogers Corp.’s problem, Brey said, was creating so-called “use cases,” which explain to clients the technical applications for its high-tech products. Use cases were time-consuming and difficult to produce, he said, until Rebel developed a digital tool to gather and process the information.

“It cut our time down substantially to produce them,” Brey said.

Another example of Rebel’s outside-the-box approach is work it did for Farmington-based Otis Worldwide Corp. Otis was successful in selling elevators, but not in getting clients to also purchase a service contract, Tindall said.

“We realized that they actually had a bunch of really cool tools (to monitor elevator performance and maintenance needs) that most of their customers didn’t realize they made available,” Tindall said. “Like being able to go to an online portal and lock out elevator banks.”

Tindall said Otis offered the online portal, as well as a video-monitoring system and other useful services, separately. Rebel helped create a digital dashboard to make it easy for customers to access those tools in one location, making it more user friendly.

“But you only got that if you retained them for service,” Tindall said. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but we created a shift.”

Tindall said Rebel’s strategy is not to take a cookie-cutter approach with clients.

“It’s the willingness and courage to step outside the norm that makes the difference,” he said.

That’s also the standard for his nearly 80 employees.

“We look for people who have a non-traditional background,” he said. “We want people who can figure it out, get it done and not make excuses.”

Rebel is also selective in choosing clients, which currently include major corporations such as Aetna, Bank of America, L’Oreal and Mercedes-Benz, and smaller ones like Lyman Orchards and, recently, the town of Southington.

“Do they think they know everything even though they’ve come to you to solve a problem?” he said. “Are they coming in to listen, or just to tell us what they want? Do they sincerely want to make a change? We look for customers who are tired of the same old.”

‘All things digital’

Tindall grew up in Denver, but attended Amherst College in Massachusetts. After graduating in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics, he was heading to Wall Street but made a detour at a digital marketing agency in Norwalk called Modem Media.

He helped Modem Media create its first e-store, with nine merchants.

“It was the grandfather of all things digital,” he said. “That opened my eyes to what this could be.”

Tindall later created homes.com, the world’s first real estate listing site, for Homes & Land Publishing. He founded nearly a dozen other digital ventures, including Horizon Marketing Group in 1998 to “teach people how to integrate technology and marketing.”

Then came Rebel, and in 2020, the pandemic. Rebel was prepared, though, because the Oct. 2011 snowstorm and other lengthy power outages were fresh in his mind.

“We set about to systematically build a business that could immediately change our processes,” he said. “We moved to the cloud, backed everything up. So, when this hit, nothing changed. We were literally set up for this.”

Originally published at HBJ

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