Does a Mantra Make an Agency?


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