Smart Group is OnBrand about the future of marketing

The Smart Group is looking beyond the pandemic to grow its spin-out OnBrand into a global SaaS platform that could transform the marketing business as we know it.

You get the sense from talking to Tom Ryan, founder and CEO of The Smart Group in Nenagh and Dublin, that he is not one to allow the upheavals of 2020 get in his way.

It was during the last recession that he founded The Smart Group as a full-service digital marketing agency which today is operating from his home town of Nenagh as well as Ballymount in Dublin, employing more than 20 people.

“OnBrand is an all-in-one brand management platform that allows brands to empower people at a local level to produce brand-compliant marketing content”

And now the company is focusing on its next big adventure with a new software start-up/spin-out called OnBrand which enables business executives to tailor brand-compliant marketing collateral and localise it for their specific geography or need.

OnBrand and on-demand

Think of it as a kind of Netflix for marketing material and the company has been steaming ahead with building the software platform in recent years.

“I studied marketing at college and worked in various marketing and consultancy roles. In 2009 the company I had been working for was a victim of the recession and I just started working with my connections and slowly ramped up The Smart Group. As the business grew we had clients wanting more of our services and as a result we’ve grown every year and we have been profitable for every year as a business. I decided to locate in Nenagh rather than Dublin because I have roots here.

“But as 90pc of our clients are based in Dublin it made sense to locate operations there too. The key pillars of the core business of Smart Group are creative, print management, production management and promotional products.”

The Smart Group’s expertise at managing and deploying marketing collateral for clients that include Munster Rugby led to a natural progression and solving the problem many sales and marketing executives across the world struggle with.

“How do I as an individual create a marketing campaign?” Ryan asked. “Executives all over the world, whether they are working for small organisations or big organisations, don’t have the tools to be creative but at the same time have to follow guidelines and be on-brand. Often they have to cut corners or take liberties to localise the brand to their specific need or market or don’t buy the right materials or use the right collateral. So, we developed technology to solve that problem.”

The new spinout from The Smart Group is entitled OnBrand and as an on-demand SaaS platform for business executives, does exactly what it says on the tin.

Using the platform, executives can access their company’s marketing resources, tailor them to the situation and download the materials, all the while staying ‘OnBrand’.

“Our technology has been in beta for the last six to eight months and we have been very successful. Our next stage over the next six to 12 months is to scale up. The feedback we are getting from the market is very exciting.”

Looking back on the last recession and the realities of running an existing business and starting a new business in the current pandemic atmosphere, Ryan says he is invigorated by the challenge.

“It was a good time to start and a bad time to start for obvious reasons. It was a good time to start because I had to work really, really hard. Nothing was handed to me and you just had to be incredibly innovative and creative and just push through closed doors. Sometimes you also had to make sure you went to where the business is and while we had lots of customers in Limerick, Kerry or Cork, you can’t avoid the reality that a lot of business happens within the M50 ring so we decided to go to that market.”

OnBrand is, however, a vastly different proposition. It is an SaaS platform that can be accessed globally to meet a very keen need of businesses that trade globally, but need to act locally.

“We made the decision to operate OnBrand as a separate standalone company because quite simply it is a standalone software that has a global potential. The evolution is not much different to that of Teamwork in Cork, where we are going from running a just a services business to also running a product business. However, the two need to be separate and distinct with their own management teams.

“OnBrand is an all-in-one brand management platform that allows brands to empower people at a local level to produce brand compliant marketing content. Traditionally, a marketing department or an agency would push the marketing collateral to different locations, but now the different locations can create and activate their own marketing campaigns when and where they need to, and at all times be OnBrand.”

Written by John Kennedy (

Published: 14 August, 2020