It's time to re-appraise your relationship with creative agencies to get the best fit.
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Being a medium-sized brand can be tough. On the one hand the brand has achieved great success by surviving the infancy of being a new business and has come to be recognised as a key player in its field.
However on the other hand, it is no longer small enough to ride off its ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ and needs to make the right decisions towards becoming no.1 in the industry.
A good marketing strategy is essential to take a medium-sized brand to the next level. This is usually delivered by a mixture of work from in-house teams as well as bought in services from multiple agencies offering various services.
But the world is becoming more complex for Marketers. Advancements in technology, automation and lead scoring means keeping abreast of an ever growing list. And as new channels and platforms emerge, new strategies and bespoke, engaging content is required, all of which still needs to reinforce the overall brand story.
The above means marketing teams at medium-sized brands are more stretched than ever, especially as most are having to adapt to these challenges with less resources (and being set ever more challenging targets).
Worse still, the impact of this pressure on time and resources is that output across channels becomes increasingly disjointed and key brand messages become increasingly diluted and lost in the mass of competing communications.
This has led many marketers at medium-sized brands to grow increasingly frustrated – and in particular to start to focus on the time they spend ‘managing agencies’. Many are now choosing to revisit their entire marketing/agency model – with a wide variety of routes being considered.
At one extreme, often prompted by the belief that they lack the right capability themselves, brands are looking at outsourcing their entire marketing departments. To date, this has often involved agencies, such as Oliver who specialise in creating bespoke in-house teams, provides brands with in-house creative teams.
Is outsourcing everything the way forward?
But with increasing demands, brands are looking at going further and asking more full-service agencies to take over all aspects of a brand’s marketing activity.
The challenge of this approach, however, is putting in place the right resources for the brand at an appropriate cost. Oliver has been successful at providing delivery teams, but it is often strategic and integration skills that mid-size brands crave most.
While for established agencies, the challenge is ensuring that the resources they are providing to deliver the more day-to-day tasks are not overpriced.
Other brands are taking the opposite approach and increasing the number of specialist agencies. For instance, employing specialist social agencies alongside digital and PR agencies and their main media and creative agencies.
The theory in this model is that by outsourcing more of the content development, brand teams free up more of their time to focus on developing marketing strategy and insuring integration of output. Whilst this appears to be working for certain brands, it comes with significant challenges, the most obvious one being the incremental cost that this can create.
However, perhaps the more acute challenge is that it creates even more integration points that need to be managed. Not only do all agencies need to be working off the same overall strategic framework, but all aspects of digital, social and PR activity, need to be joined up to ensure individual pieces of activity deliver maximum ROI.
On the other hand, an increasing number of brands are looking to consolidate their activity into a larger agency or network. This approach has the obvious attraction of limiting the number of points of contact and potentially provides access to a full range of specialisms which should in itself deliver greater consistency of output across channels.
Once again though, this approach has material drawbacks. Those brands who choose to work with one of the larger marketing networks such as WPP or Omnicom, are often locked into an expensive, rigid team that might provide access to a full range of specialists, but do so at a significant cost.
Big agencies cost a lot, but will you be front of the queue?
Equally, when individuals are drawn from multiple agencies within a network, their instinct is often as competitive as it is collaborative, and they risk paying a premium for an inexperienced, junior team.
The Marketing Director of a challenger financial services brand who was using one of the ‘big six’ recently told me “we just felt that we were always at the back of the queue and that far from sharing our agenda, they were more interested in pursuing their own!”
Faced with this challenge, it is not surprising that the current most popular choice is to turn to one of the smaller, more entrepreneurial agency groups. They can bring a wide range of capability, but also an ability to create bespoke, joined up teams in a much more agile fashion.
One of the greatest perceived advantages here is getting access to a range of specialisms but in a more fluid manner that enables consistency in strategy and creativity but evolution in the team structure to fit with its delivery requirements over time.
Medium-sized brands need to find the model that offers the best fit with their objectives, capabilities and culture – but in doing so, they need to find a model that enables them to create compelling overall strategic and creative frameworks that can deliver powerful and consistently rich experiences across all of their touchpoints.
If this means doing less, better and more consistently, so be it - the results will speak for themselves.