Partnership is more important in business than ever these days. Companies are increasingly teaming up with their peers – and even their rivals – in pursuit of a common goal. Whole ecosystems of interconnected businesses are emerging, competing with other grand alliances. And, of course, end-users are increasingly being enlisted as co-creators, rather than mere 'consumers'. But amid all this change, the partnership between a brand and its agency remains one of the most important relationships of all
A good agency can bring a helpful external perspective to even the most confident of clients. In fact, where the internal culture is strong, arguably, there's an even clearer need for an outside voice, to prevent everyone from simply 'drinking the Kool Aid'.
A good agency can bring a helpful external perspective to even the most confident of clients.
Sometimes this means having a difficult conversation or articulating an uncomfortable truth. Often, it involves importing thinking from other categories, with which the client team is perhaps less familiar (many marketing departments suffer from industry blinkers, historical assumptions and over-adherence to market conventions). Ideally, it means thinking beyond marketing (and certainly beyond communications), to apply imagination across all aspects of the business. Commercial creativity in the broadest sense, in other words.
In return, a good client can not only provide stable, ongoing income for its agency partner, but actively help shape its culture, too. This applies most of all to start-ups, where a founding client can have a profound effect on a newcomer’s creative reputation, hirings and ways of working. But with the best relationships, this influence can last for years, with agencies opening new offices, developing new skills and launching new services in line with their pillar clients’ changing requirements.
Where both parties benefit, in the ways described above, the relationship can build up real momentum. Each side learning from, and supporting, the other, in good times and bad.
Where both parties benefit, in the ways described above, the relationship can build up real momentum. Each side learning from, and supporting, the other, in good times and bad. Each partner building on stable foundations, but also continuously refreshing the relationship, to prevent it becoming stale. In the best cases, the accumulated knowledge and trust can make for much faster, braver decision-making – without the expense of constant pitching or pre-testing. So, the model is not only more effective, but more efficient for both parties.
Of course, while these principles might appear like common sense, forging such enduring bonds is anything but easy. So those who manage it deserve the industry’s acclaim. I look forward to reading the case studies in this category, to see who’s really nailing it – and how.