An Elusive Future
Not once have we heard a client say they needed another ‘agency’ or ‘consulting’ firm. But we always hear they want a different one.
And in search of the different one we’ve yet to be shown a perfect model, method or network. Let’s face it that’s unlikely for many reasons. Clients always wish the external firms would do more quality work. They wish they understood them better, were more proactive or generally more ‘this’ or ‘that’.
Many clients are toying with doing more with in-house capability. It’s easy to say that the model is wrong but what replaces it?
In an ideal world - a perfect relationship would have the following:
World class creativity and innovation
Infinite access to the best skills and talent - as needed
High quality outcome in every business dimension
Fully flexible (sometimes subscription) cost models
Proactive guidance and insight
Seamless and confidential communications
Always secure and zero risk
But we live in the real world.
External firms are in business themselves. They can’t guarantee anything, they are competing for talent. They can’t invest enough to know enough about all the dimensions and skills required to do it all. Clients aren’t ready to work with the firms in order for them to stay with them through how it needs to change.
“Leaders in business deserve to move with the times. But external firms need clients who understand that there are things are mutual…”
Clients need to get value for their investments - and firms deserve clarity on the value expected. Not a vague wish list or unattainable metric.
Clients need proactive guidance on how to avoid risk - and firms need the right support, commitment and investment to build meaningful ways into this crystal ball.
Clients need firms that understand the bigger picture and dynamics at play to ensure they are given the correct advice - firms need to invest in the skills and talent required to do so and that doesn’t play well with subscription models.
Clients need forms that can scale local excellence to global delivery - firms need clients that realise what that would actually take and work openly to transform accordingly.
Clients need to appreciate several things when it comes to investment. You need the same investment outside as you to build the resource inside. The firms need to understand that they are hopeless at explaining the reality of what they need.
Scale is a given in a world where shareholder value drives every conversation. And while that destroys pretty much every business in the long run it’s a current reality. It doesn’t need the same sized sized/shaped external firm.
Leverage is now a recognised art form. Firms, in the future might apply an acquisition model with success - and then fail by smothering it to death. Talent leaves shortly followed by the clients.
Different firms that deploy common frameworks and great leadership can deliver global results. Separate/different parts of the mechanism work and grow according to their own speed. They work in the local contexts by completely different sets of rules to each other.
It makes no difference who owns them. The basis is that discipline and rigour gets applied to governance and choreography.
Diversity is starting to break through as a value. Although bruised by false starts, it’s the powerhouse of creativity and ingenuity. Next into this fray will come the value of experience and age.
“It’s ridiculous that society has shunned the experience of older people. It’s the old of mind that need to retire and they can be 25 or 30 years old…”
Ageism hurts business. It hurts the quality of work. It hurts the clients who could value the insight and it affects the culture of businesses in general. Experience should inform strategy. Strategy informs marketing and that is the lifeblood of the brands. Brands have tremendous influence. They shape the minds of customers and markets and that shapes society.
“Age, diversity, creativity is what makes our lives rich. When these qualities are absent our world is the poorer for it. In the future brands who ignore this will be far less relevant…”
It’s obvious that insight and creativity gets tapped wherever it's found. Many businesses in the creative industries, think that ideas emerge from young people. Not only wrong but dumb. They are losing crucial competency and long term capabilities.
Experience that informs breakthrough ideas and great strategy comes from experience. It's the difference and spontaneity that comes from different perspectives.
“I’ve heard more ideas emerge from a diverse and widespread aged folk than any number of 20 somethings.”
Health Warning - The Inappropriate Pursuit Of Efficiencies
‘Efficiency cuts the grass of the mind to its roots.’ - Virginia Woolf
Placing efficiency over other values can be a mistake . It can create a lapse in ethical, political, personal, or professional judgment. Some human or civic interactions thrive when they’re deliberate and erode when they’re sped up. Efficiency isn’t always value neutral.
Efficient & Effective Business
Business is now indistinguishable from digitalisation, marketing, culture, operation and leadership. And being good at these things is essential to remain in business. Mastery of them is vital if sustainable success is the metric.
Success requires mastery of all the dimensions listed in the toolkit below.
Efficient & Effective Marketing
Nowadays the professional business knows marketing and brand is central to its success. Brands get built by going way beyond platitudes and language. They get built by engineering the marketing function as if it meant life and death - because it does.
“To win. You need a framework. Knowing which creative resource you need and why. A creative mindset and a clear brand strategy. The correct leadership and the right skills in place. An aligned operational model...”
Marketing In A World Of Reducing Attention Spans
There's a deafening noise within popular content.
It’s driven by increasing production of information of all sorts. There's ridiculous competition for attention and the consumption of content. It's resulting in a more rapid exhaustion of our limited attention spans.
The competition is for novelty. The turnover rates increase. Individual topics receiving shorter intervals of our collective attention.
Consumers want to understand what a brand stands for before associating with it. Brands need to understand the role it plays in people’s lives and why. And if it doesn’t play a role why not - and what clues exist to alter that state. These would all be valuable insights.
Some Of The Tools In The Survival Toolkit:
Having The Insight - Insight is an overused term, That’s sad because it’s the right word. What is that tiny crumb of information that changes the decision and the future forever. Insights in marketing can only come from information about customers. Their behaviours, attitudes, habits, propensities and willingness to be persuaded.
Mastery Of Persuasion - Persuasion comes from a belief that something will be better or will benefit us. For a brand that requires learning - learning is something that can only come with experience. This idea isn’t in any sense new - creating experiences has long been suggested as the future of marketing. It’s also the hardest thing to get right - especially at scale. One person’s good experience is another’s nightmare.
Create Real Experiences - We hear fancy phrases these days. Phrases such as ‘experience-led’ - meaning an approach to more integrated marketing. Creating experiences at scale is hard. Habits are individual things and they're fragmented both on and offline. Increased competition with more access to information has created a savvier generation of consumers.
Test & Learn - Creating a place where consumers can experience a brand allows the brand to experiment with what does and doesn’t work. Off the back of that comes more data - and data gets used to scale the result - but always in local contexts. The ability to share data is a major element of maturity in companies. Especially when they make that useful locally. First share and then localise. Two things most businesses are often pretty poor at.
Marketing Frameworks - This ties back to the new frameworks for marketing. It means having a single minded and big core idea (point of view/purpose) that can scale globally. It means knowing who and how to get that out across all the connections we need. It enables us to know how to stay engaged over the longer term. It allows us to know (when we have created the attention) to be able to create relevant content. It means we know what actions to take and deliver meaningful storytelling. It allows us to underpin everything with the tools and techniques. And on top of that know how best to deploy skills and capabilities at the enterprise level.
The Ability To Tell Stories - Storytelling is essential. And as deep into the funnel as possible. New consumers need to see evidence of the reason why they have bought into the brand. This means oving beyond the fancy headline and marketing narrative and into proof. It has to come to life.
Developing Trust & Belief - This new world has proven that trust can be superficial. It’s easy to tell and spin a great story. If it doesn’t get backed up the fallout can be disastrous all over the world and in seconds.
Creating Brands With Integrity - More and more businesses have started to evolve. They've from pure marketing and awareness to meaningful relationships and actual engagement. It means developing real world occasions for direct interaction. Interactions that can alter individuals opinion through real time experiences. Enabling consumers to actually associate with the ideas inside the brand.
Creativity - This all takes a whole new form of creativity. New ideas and mindsets get formed and shifts in attitude start to happen. This will in turn create new waves of referral and recognition amongst their networks and so it goes on.
As Einstein said - creativity is our intelligence having fun.
Innovation In Markets - By understanding the habits of real people we see new connections and adjacencies. They lead us to identify new ways to think about partnerships, products and services. And these then allow us to relate far more to our consumers.
Having A Creative Mentality - To a large degree this is about how the business thinks and operates in the new world. It means creating a platform that weaves all the different parts together. Everything integrates around experience. It redefines how we speak about the Omnichannel. It is no longer about which TV commercials we have running. It's how (what that evokes) plays out in the complete ‘experiencing’ of our brand.
Benchmarking Data - Key to understanding anything in marketing is building an index of measurability. Creating a benchmark. A best practice for globalising a brand is to use an agency holding group (per region/marketplace). This makes it easier to govern and execute. It makes them responsible for bringing together the resources in an integrated way. This enables meaningful sharing the data and getting at the insight of what works.
Reorganisation For Marketing Efficiency - Reorganising this way means the business changes in line to support the new model. Roles and job descriptions get realigned. The client marketing folk have to follow. They must understand and align in synch with the more complex platform in place.
We’ve spent the last two decades helping clients turn challenges into opportunities. And after that getting these opportunities to become realities.
“In business we have many different ways to work but far fewer ways to think. As a result a lot of work gets done that isn’t creating the value it should. Businesses are most likely solving the wrong problems really well…”
For 20 years we’ve been perfecting a solution to this. We’ve been passionate about what works and what doesn’t. We’ve created quite a lot of magic along the way. And we are still learning.
“A consistent approach has emerged. It doesn’t matter what the challenge, goal or outcome is…”
This is our simple mantra:
Ask better and better questions.
Make sure there’s clarity and accuracy over the challenge.
Dig deep early so as to understand the real situation.
Make sure the best available and diverse brains are available to work on the thinking.
Always work visually and for as long as is needed so that everyone sees the truth
Always work collaboratively and throughout so that everyone is properly engaged.
Arm and equip those most closely involved so they can fully execute.
Stay as engaged as necessary to make sure the work reaches its conclusion.