Strategy – What Are We Trying to Accomplish?

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The term strategy is used by many in the marketing and advertising profession, but I’m not always sure they are using it “strategically”.  The definition of the word varies depending on the subject matter. The definition most relevant to our industry is, “a careful plan or method; or the art of devising or employing plans toward a goal.”  So, what does a careful plan or method mean in the world of marketing and advertising? We need to have a process to develop strategy. Why? Because, without a process to help set the direction of the work, we may never find a meaningful strategy. We potentially have trial and error (and no one wants to pay for that). Without a strategic approach, we have nothing to use as the road map for the work, nothing to use as a guide for the execution and—at the top of every marketer’s minds—nothing against which to measure success.

Strategic marketing answers many questions, but most importantly, it should be a way to develop a marketing plan that is: Relevant to the target audience, credible, a way to differentiate the client from their competition, and that has a sustainable message (can the client deliver on the message day in and day out). Does your marketing strategy do all that? Be hard on yourselves. Share it. Double and triple check it. Get the team’s and the client’s buy-in. Then you can be confident you are on the right track to building your brand and sales.

– Amy Jones, Director – Client Service @ Creative Dimensions

Does a Mantra Make an Agency?

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Agencies love their mantras. And I understand why…kind of.

The mantra is the little sub-brand an agency trademarks that represents its point of difference, usually a process or philosophy. By definition, a mantra is a mystical formula of invocation or incantation. (Basically, a bunch of mumbo jumbo.)

One agency that touts creative branding has “Brand Storm.” Another that claims specialization in consumer behavior has “Rehavior.” There are others with “ABC” processes, brand “obsessions,” “simple solutions,” and ones who bridge, migrate, accelerate, empower, translate and basically enshrine a verb that suggests that cool things are going to happen.

Agencies are people, and people like to think they are unique. “Hey, I’m special and I like me. I have a mantra that tells others why they should like me, too.” We’re better at strategies, because the strategic thinkers at our place have “StrataGoodness.” Our creative is more attractive, because we are “Imag-O-netic.” We communicate better with youth audiences, because we’re “Just Kidding.” And our smiles are brighter, because we all use fluoride.

From a client’s point of view, when presented with three zebras, they see similar stripes, tails and hooves. Ah, but they also see the third zebra has “StripeForce™” that gives their messages to other zebras more…er, something.

What I’d like to see is what really differentiates agencies. You and I. People and the experiences each brings to the party define an agency. While not as trademarkable, I’d love to see an agency claim it’s better, because it has “Donald, Marie, Jess and Lee Who Have 82 Years of Combined Health Care Experience.”

Okay, that sucks as a mantra.

But, it’s the truth. None of us has a magic machine into which client wishes go in one end and guaranteed results come out the other. Few of us have certifiable geniuses whose x-ray minds see things others don’t. We, if we’re smart, have smart people, our “intellectual property,” as some say. If hired with a holistic view, all those juicy brains can interface well with one another and actually become a sort of machine that produces consistently superior results.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying, go ahead and appreciate our clever little mantras, but please, spend more time getting to know our people. That’s where you’ll get true “Ad-isfaction.”

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

Invasion of the Facebook Robots

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BusinessInsider.com recently ran a story entitled, “How Facebook is Replacing Ad Agencies with Robots.” While the ever-innovative Facebook has created a golden goose with their side bar ads, my Scoff-o-Meter pegs out at the thought of their destroying agency jobs.

For one, Facebook is social media, not the entire spectrum of media.

For two, these killer robot ads are new and never were the domain of ad agencies, ergo nobody’s losing a job over them. Teach a couple of monkeys the Facebook interface, feed them content and you have yourself a robot ad staff.

For three, the ads living in the Facebook ecosystem are very limited, direct-response ads without even the branding layer a print circular can deliver.

And, speaking of branding, I’ve yet to meet a robot that knew a thing about it. We’ve seen in study after study that with the proliferation of media and competition for consumer attention, branding is more important than ever. Good branding rarely jumps out of the brain of an in-house staffer. It comes from the informed brains of marketing specialists who’ve been down the road with a variety of businesses and have a deep understanding of markets and how the consumer interacts with them. Those specialists are called ad agencies.

Even the interactive phenomenon the Dos Equis brand created came from the mind of brand thinkers. It is still living large on Facebook, and I’m betting some talented agency people had more than a little to do with it.

New media does and will continue to challenge agencies, and we all know the rules redefine themselves daily. If you’re selling a commodity product where price is the distinguishing feature, call Facebook. If you have a service or product people need to care about before buying, call an agency.

Robots, as everyone knows, are best left to destroying planetary colonies in outer space.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions