It’s a faddish world we live in and the marketing arena is no
Indeed, the communications industry finds itself subject to as many
revivals as the fashion business. But just because 70s platforms are
back in vogue doesn’t mean you have to wear them, does it?
Similarly, just because many agencies are boarding the integrated
bandwagon shouldn’t mean that every agency has got to follow suit. This
is not a challenge to the many client benefits of a multidisciplined
approach, just a realisation that being a slave to fashion can be
unproductive, as well as having short-lived appeal. Agencies should look
to their core strengths and stick to them. After all, diversification
can lead to dilution.
The reality of the agency scene at the moment is that there is a dearth
of agency brands. How many communications organisations can say they’ve
worked hard at building, developing and nurturing their brand when every
six or 12 months they’re surreptitiously tacking new non-specialist
services on to their offering, and embarking on more name changes and
propositions than Manchester United’s had new strips.
Clients should be looking at what their agencies are purporting to
deliver. Rather than being taken in by the cosmetic charlatanry of an
agency with a ready-made solution. Integration is just a case of bolting
on another feature. To become truly multidisciplined all communication
must be at the core of the brand.
It’s the ’bangs for your buck’ syndrome and clients and agencies should
not lose sight of the fact that we’re all in the business of
Agencies must keep an eye on the brand and the other on the commercial
world to ensure effective brand communication.
Agencies can learn a lot from clients. A look at the big brands and the
global brands of the 20th century reveals a consistency that agencies
would do well to replicate. Successful brands are led by management and
chief executives who have done their time in the organisation. The
longevity of their commitment to the brand results in an understanding
of the properties and characteristics of the brand and its market that
is hard to attain by other means.
Perhaps taking a leaf from the client’s book would mean agencies
sticking to their guns for longer, flagging up their core competencies
and skills, and building a brand that their clients and staff can
believe in. It’s a case of finding your niche, defining a personality
that suits and ’owning’ that piece of the market.
Agencies are susceptible to fashion and may well find themselves a
victim of an IT, sales or even manufacturing revolution. But just as
quality never goes out of fashion, my bet’s on the agencies with a
credible, unwavering pedigree still being around in 2010, and still
having the brand-led client’s ear.
Agencies that cannot agree on their brand identity should not be trying
to influence clients on theirs.
Matthew Hooper is managing director of Interfocus.