Marketing Consultants Chicago IL
Brand Work is No Job for Ad Agencies
The world of marketing has evolved, and today the companies that supply marketing communications and brand strategy are very different. There was a time when ad agencies were also the chief brand builders for their clients. It was called the 20th century. But that era is over and even big and brilliant agencies are no longer qualified to work on brand strategy.
Ad agencies should do what it says on their tin - be agents for the creation of advertising - and accept that the strategy work that feeds their creativity will be devised elsewhere and without their involvement.
As brand has become more central to the success of most major clients, it has moved further away from the core competencies of advertising agencies.
Niall FitzGerald identified this separation while he was chief executive officer at Unilever. Eleven years ago, he gave the keynote speech to the European Association of Advertising Agencies and noted the 'alarming discrepancy developing between what our brands are going to need and what contemporary agencies are good at'. His prediction has proved to be accurate.
Today, brand strategy requires a fundamental knowledge of business operations, finances, employees and internal culture - subjects most ad agencies, which often struggle even to understand how their clients make money, are ignorant of.
There are whole subsets of brand strategy that most agencies are completely unaware of. Consider brand architecture, for example. It is probably the single-most important brand issue for most major branded companies, yet most ad agencies would have trouble even identifying what the concept means, let alone advising their client on a major brand consolidation or co-branding strategy.
This is not to deride or diminish advertising agencies. There is plenty of money to be made and work to be done in the area of marketing communications. Indeed, with the gradual disintegration of terrestrial TV advertising and the fragmentation of the market, there has arguably never been a more challenging or interesting time to work in advertising.
But it is time for agencies to recognise that brand consultancies offer inherently superior systems, people and solutions when it comes to branding. Just as I would never recommend that a client work with a brand consultant to create a communications campaign, I would be equally aghast if they asked an ad agency to work on their brand strategy.
In the long and twisting journey to building a brand, the external communications stage usually occurs late in the day, if at all. Consequently, the initial research, positioning and engagement work will always occur long before an ad agency has any reason to become involved.
30 SECONDS ON ... AD AGENCIES AS BRAND CONSULTANTS
- Pat Stafford, former marketing director of BUPA, once said: 'I have never found a lack of willingness by agencies to get involved, perhaps just a lack of skill.'
- A survey by Farmer & Co in 2001 showed that...
How Do I Judge Marketing Firms?
Today we take another question from a BSI reader like you...
Roy, an executive in St. Louis asks...
"I am on a search committee to select a company to help our organization with Branding. What are the questions or insights needed in judging various companies?"
Roy, thanks for your question. Different companies have different types of branding expertise. For instance, we (a brand consultancy) primarily focus on market research informed brand positioning, strategy development and brand equity measurement. We want to help organizations differentiate themselves in meaningful ways. That requires a deep understanding of marketing research, consumer behavior and marketing strategy as it relates to business strategy.
Some companies focus on brand identity development. For the majority of people, this translates to names, logos and taglines.These deliverables require strong graphic design and copy writing abilities. They also require deep brand identity experience if the name, logo and tagline are to work in all situations over time. Some companies call themselves branding houses, but they are primarily good at developing creative (graphics and copy) for marketing communications materials and campaigns. At their core - they are advertising agencies. Many of those agencies are better in some media than others, for instance print versus television versus web-based. Few agencies have the strategic abilities needed for the development of robust brand strategies based on deep consumer insight. Other branding companies (mainly consulting firms) focus on brand equity measurement (quantitative research), brand asset valuation or inside-out branding, all of which require an entirely different set of skills, including OD (organization development/design) skills for inside-out branding.
So how does one determine which organization would best serve your needs? First, you must carefully assess your needs so that you know what you are seeking. Once you have done that, you should make your selection based on the following:
?• ? The types of branding projects they have done most often and most successfully (e.g., brand audits, brand strategy development, brand identity systems and standards, advertising campaigns, simple logo design, etc.)
?• ? The types of people they employ and which of them would be assigned to your project (e.g. marketing researchers, brand strategists, graphic designers, copy writers, direct marketing experts, web marketing specialists, account executives, social media experts, etc.)
?• ? Ask for specific, detailed client case studies coupled with client contacts for those projects so that you can confirm with previous clients just what the organization/consultant did, how they did it and what its outcome was.
The bottom line: If an agency has a hammer, it will treat everything as a nail. If it has a screwdriver, it will treat everything as a screw. Find o...
The Strategy of Consulting
Not too long ago Management Consulting News asked my opinion on business strategy and the consulting industry. Maybe you will share my opinions. Maybe you won't.
How you would assess the state of strategy in the consulting industry?
Whats unfortunate is that so many great companies have followed the advice of consultants and now find themselves on the brink of disaster. And thats because too many consultants will tell clients exactly what they want to hear, instead of being objective advisers who look you in the eye and give you the good news with the bad.
So what are the keys to an effective strategy for a consultant?
First and foremost, Id say specialization. Clients are looking for the best of breed when choosing consultants. Theyll pick one consultant for creative work, another for strategy work, and a different one for change management projects. The client will use consultants they perceive to be specialists in a coordinated way to achieve the total result theyre after.
General Electric learned the lesson of specialization many years ago when they launched a concept called the turnkey power plant. The concept was simple: GE would provide all of the components that an electric utility needed for a complete power plant. It was a one-stop shop concept.
But they found that customers wanted to give different parts of the contract to those who they believed to be the specialists in those areas. GE may have received the contract for the turbine generators while other specialists got the contracts for the controls, switchgears and other components. Even though GE is credited with inventing electricity, that fact wasnt enough to overcome their customers strong desire to buy from specialists.
Consulting clients are behaving in the same way. They are buying services from a variety of specialists, not relying on generalists.
Any thoughts on why consultants resist the idea of specialization?
Most consultants dont want to be tied to a single specialty. They want to be as many things to as many clients as possible. What they fail to understand is that, once they start to extend into areas outside of their true areas of expertise, they leave spa...