Here’s a nice product seeding idea. Good for the airline, good for the product, good for the passenger. Win-win. I like it.
How often do you hear that a client is pitching its account after a long and successful marriage with its agency (i.e. more than 5 years)? Not very often? Because it doesn’t happen in this region. Clients here are not so loyal.
Actually it’s the psyche of the entire region. There are no loyalties except to those who appear ‘popular’ at a certain point in time. When something is a new fad (e.g. the latest hotel, the newest café, the newest trend), everyone runs to be part of it. But before you know it, the buzz inevitably runs out and people go searching for other new things to latch onto.
In the communication industry, on an individual level (apart from a handful of people who have built their media empires from the oil boom of the past decades and become sort of industry ‘icons’), a person or company can be the darling of the regional award scene one year, and hardly get a mention the next.
And how often do you hear that a project you’ve been working on for what seems like ages has been dropped, just like that? Perhaps it wasn’t well planned to start with?
Whatever the manifestation of this lack of loyalty and impromptu decisions, the reason we have arrived at this situation, I believe, is twofold:
1. Collectively we don’t have enough patience
When I started my communications career overseas, it was not rare to read headlines like ‘Reebok parts with its agency after 25 years’ or ‘Burger King parts with its agency after 15 years’. The reasons for parting was often because of a deep change in the philosophy or vision of one or both of the parties. The split was usually amicable and not really a surprise to either.
Like any good relationship, a client /agency /brand relationship strengthens and improves over time. Agencies need to be given the time it takes to truly understand and help shape a brand they are working on. And to learn from the mistakes that might happen along the way. And to follow a vision they and their client have for the brand. And to foster customer relationships.
But all too often in our region, the agency turnaround on a brand is too quick, and agencies are not treated as true partners in a relationship. They are dropped at a whim and clients find it too easy to call for a pitch or award the business to another more ‘friendly’ agency.
2. We don’t value spending time planning before building
We don’t spend time when building brands.
And brands don’t spend time building brand communities.
And clients don’t spend time building their agency or their customer relationships.
And corporations don’t spend time building their staff or their reputations.
I think there are many reasons for this lack of long term loyalty and planning culture:
Sadly, most clients have a high staff turnover, and the new team wants to work with people they are used to. So they fire the old agency and wheel in a new one.
And the region seems for many to be transient, a stop for a few years to make some money and live a life they wouldn’t ordinarily lead back home. So they don’t have any interest in long term planning and would rather implement because that’s what looks good on the CV.
Or it could be the lack of quality (qualitative) research being done by clients and agencies to truly understand the consumer in the market and their deep desires and motives. And most importantly the different cultures, deeply ingrained traditions, beliefs and habits held in the region.
And, (this might sound harsh) but I think there are many people who don’t know how to plan. And don’t know how to maintain a good relationship.
I think we are all worse off because of this lack of patience and commitment to longevity. The brand loses continuity and focus, the client loses, the customers lose and as individuals we lose the gratification that comes from seeing a brand grow and develop. The region is worse off because we lose our identity. Communication starts to feel superficial, not connected with the audience, and there is no continuity in the brand/ corporate conversation.
What do we about it? I don’t have the answers – but for a start, clients need to be educated in how to deal with their agencies and rewarded for maintaining agency relationships. They need to learn that a good agency is an asset that can help them and their brand shine.
We need to start having open, honest and transparent conversations based on mutual trust and win-win situations. Clients need to start treating agencies as partners rather than having a client vs. agency attitude. That’s what we’re trying to do here at Livingroom.
What about you? What’s your experience with your client or agency? I’d like to hear your point of view.
Here’s one that should inspire new ideas and substantiate some existing ones.
A while ago I read a great thought which seemed to encapsulate everything that was happening around me in the world of communications/ marketing/ branding.
“There was a time when the most celebrated brands had a position where they could tell us to ‘think different’, and to ‘just do it’. Today brands have a somewhat different position” Tom Beckman, ECD Prime PR, Stockholm.
This thought explains beautifuly where we are today by comparing us to where we were, and how things have changed. So it got me thinking: how can we summarise how advertising/communications has changed over time? If we could do this, then we can draw some conclusions as to what was driving each movement, how consumers have changed over time, and what might be the factors influencing the future of communications.
This is my pre-liminary takeout.
The 80s. This was the era of the product benefit. Slice-of-life advertising, product demonstrations and voice-over announcers. Mnemonic devices, jingles or any device that hammered home a specific product benefit. Of course, this product benefit made you more sexy, appealing and cool.
The 90’s. This was the era of the brand. Selling an image. Telling consumers how they will ‘look’ using this brand. Promises, promises. Pushing people to aspire to a specific lifestyle. If you use this product it will say ‘xyz’ about you. If you use this product, you will be…
The 00’s. After years of being sold promises and consumerism, the turn of the century signalled the start of a a search for authenticity. Consumers didn’t want to be sold a dream, they wanted “No Logo’s” (Anne Klein) and authentic products. Consumers wanted to help other communities around the world and make sure they were consuming ethically. They wanted to know the story behind the brand, it’s heritage and history. They wanted brands to start acting honestly. Brands shifted from selling ‘hyped, unreal aspirations’ in their ads to a having a ‘lifestyle’ positioning, being a source of ‘optimism’.
The 10’s. Thanks to the I.T revolution people started to react to communications and brands that involved interactivity + involvement. The viral explosion (thanks to youtube, email and the internet) encouraged people to interact (online and offline) with brands via websites, competitions, games, forums. Nevertheless it was still a one-way conversation, with brands doing much of the talking.
The future. Welcome to the era of the conversation. Brands no longer own the conversation, consumers are taking charge. And if consumers don’t like what your brand has done,they will not be afraid to say it. This ‘conversation; is not just about communications, but brand/ corporate values have changed as well – to become more transparent, honest, open, community minded.
There is much that can be written about each era – and the cultural, geopolitical, social, economic and technological factors that influenced that era. Maybe that will be the topic of another post.
For now, it’s good to chart the evolution of communications to see how brands and marketing (does this word even exist anymore??) must adapt.
More on this topic later. Enjoy!