For brand marketers, evolution seems to be the one constant in their lives. Innovations in technology create new opportunities to be explored and have a continual impact on consumer behaviour.
The pace of change is exemplified by consumer adoption of the iPad. Apple sold 67 million in the first quarter of this year; it took two years to sell that many iPhones and six years to sell the same number of iPods.
This, and the rapid take up of smartphones, is fuelling the always on, ever connected consumer.
All of which means that what brand marketers need to get the job done is changing on a daily basis.
They used to know what agency would be best for a specific job, but now it is getting difficult to pigeonhole their requirements and the kind of partners they need to fulfil them.
To cope with this, some brands have brought more resource in house - especially eCRM, email and social media - but this is not always successful.
It necessitates significant investment in technology, people and data and it can be difficult to ensure that systems and processes remain the best and most up to date long term.
Plus, in house departments can become myopic as they struggle to get the broad view across what other brands are doing, in their own sector and others - invaluable insight that agencies bring to the party.
So it is difficult for clients to do without agencies, but it also means that agencies must adapt to client needs if they want to survive.
In the new world order, brand marketers’ needs are polarising into two specific areas, and they will want agency partners that are expert in one or both aspects:
- Creation of a pure idea (big or otherwise) to build awareness and engagement
- Making sense of big data opportunities to deliver relevant, personalised communications that deliver a measurable response/transaction.
It sounds a bit like the old distinction between above and below the line, but it is a much magnified distinction in the 21st century denomination of services.
Yesteryear’s 30 second TV ad slot to build awareness has now become a 90 second thematic ad which is accompanied by myriad multimedia opportunities to make the pure idea go global via Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Agencies who want to own the pure idea need to have the creative, technological, digital and executional skills to develop a brand iteration that can transcend media and create emotional engagement with consumers.
The agencies who own the data need to be able to tame it, turn it into intelligence and use it to drive exceptionally targeted and personalised messages in real time which create intimacy and unlock full customer value.
To reach audiences where they want to be reached, these will also be multi-channel but their focus will be different.
They will be about carefully monitoring and evaluating all conversations about them - both inside and outside their own brand environment - and integrating these with existing data on customers and prospects.
Both of these roles will be of paramount importance to brands if they want to make the most of the opportunities available to them.
Importantly, rather than working on a project by project basis, they will need to create deep partnerships with the agencies they choose as both roles are highly consumer centric.
This means that they will benefit from allowing their agency partners to develop a profound understanding of their business model, sector and target audiences.
To facilitate stronger partnerships, agencies will also need to change the ways in which they ask for remuneration.
Instead of payment by the hour they need to develop transparent cost-plus models with performance related fees based on what they actually deliver.
This more open way of working will go a long way towards engendering trust and genuine partnerships between clients and agencies.
And, by being clear about whether they are driving engagement (pure idea) or transaction (data), agencies will send brand marketers a clear message about how and why they are the best partner for the job.