MARKETING MIX: HOBBY HORSE - Communications can fall victim to fashionable fads

It’s a faddish world we live in and the marketing arena is no exception.

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.


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