January 14, 2017 - No Comments!

What is an agency brand and how does being one help an agency win new business?

by Karla Morales-Lee

My first job in new business was working for product design agency Seymourpowell. During the three years that I worked there I often had prospective clients tell me "it was a career ambition” to work with the agency. At the time I thought this was a normal thing for clients to say about agencies, but as I moved onto other agencies, I realised it was not.

We all understand that Innocent, Apple and Nike are brands. These companies strive to create the best products and they invest in communicating with their target audience the reasons why they should buy their product over and above the competition. They’ve created brands people want to be associated with, not just products people want to buy.

 Buying an Apple computer says more than you go to work and need a laptop. It says you can afford to pay a higher price, and that you are innovative and creative by nature. The campaign “I’m a PC” represents this argument well. People don’t buy a PC or Apple product, they are a PC or an Apple person.

And that for me is the crux of creating an agency brand. The agencies who have well developed brands present a reason for clients to work with them over and above good work and people. They project a message to clients that says that selecting them as their agency says something about them as a person - and something about what your company is trying to achieve at the moment.

As an exercise in agency branding, pretend for a moment that you are a client pitching your advertising account and you select to work with Wieden + Kennedy. What does your selection say about you as a person? What does it say about the kind of advertising you are looking to create?

As you should be able to see from your answers, W+K is a brand.

The essence of branding is of course positioning. To be an agency brand you need to have a clear idea of what you do, but also importantly, what you don’t do.

An old boss of mine at Williams Murray Hamm used to say “a principle isn’t a principle unless it costs you money”, and he was right. By appealing to everyone, you will appeal to no one. A narrow focus is key.

Over the years I’ve worked with agencies who have a clearly defined positioning, and I’ve created a few for my clients. What lays the foundation of an agency brand is a mission to do something bigger than just create great work. They have what Harvard Business Review calls a "Big Hairy Audacious Goal” that sits at the centre of everything they do, and from that all things feed – their culture, the people they hire, the work they choose to do, the way in which they market their agency and the things they talk about on and  offline.

This is when being a new business person gets really exciting, because the job becomes about finding the most effective forums to expand, magnify and illuminate the core message of the agency; both internally and externally.

Take Innocent’s message of “Tastes good, does good”. It’s crystal clear message and goal built on lots of hidden messages that we as people understand. Healthy drinks have a reputation for tasting bad. “Does good” refers to the fact that big FMCG companies have a reputation for only caring about money.

Great agency brands are built on two things:

1. What the company does that is different and interesting

2. What about that is compelling to clients (a reason to buy)

They are grown by marketing, not selling.

Published by: admin in How to

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