Sound all too familiar right? Well, frustratingly it’s still the legacy approach favoured by traditional communications agencies in response to a brand-building brief these days.
WRONG! YES! but I guess you can’t blame the advertising boys, given the comms-focused creative resources available to them within the agency and their commercially driven need for recognition at Cannes. Counter to that mind set, a virtual collective agency model isn’t hamstrung by the creative talent available within the agency at any one time, but has the ability to curate a team fit for purpose, both creatively and culturally, on demand.
A few brand owners are finally waking up to this approach, where specialists in branding own the lead agency role, taking a longer term view on brand wellbeing and asking the right questions to help grow a brand from a media neutral perspective. Common sense really.
Don’t get me wrong, the creative talent of many advertising agencies in ATL and interactive media is exemplary, but generally delivered through a creative campaign wired to simply win awards. ‘What about alignment to a robust brand positioning and purpose’ I hear you say? Well, for those in the know, purpose sits right at the core of the DNA of a brand, defined by the genes by which all brand assets are coded. It’s the reason to be or ‘why’ the brand exists in the first place (thanks to Simon Sinek for his oh-so-simple articulation of ‘starting with why’).
‘Connected’ and ‘coded’, of course, doesn’t mean the cloning of assets, or designing matching luggage to create a cohesive brand world. It’s more about defining and expressing an authentic association across all the brand ‘touchpoints’ which is salient and clearly born from the same gene pool – the golden thread which connects everything, if you like. Think BMW, all the models are clearly different, but there’s a clear brand personality and visual language (or set of visual codes) which creatively defines every form and function of the brand.
Brand design agencies who define identity and brand experience are wired to think and behave like this. It’s this media neutral, brand-centric view and approach which makes the difference in helping brands grow authentically.
So, what about those ‘cuckoos in the nest’ out there?
The analogy here, for the less ornithologically engaged amongst us, derives from the nesting habits of some species of cuckoo which engage in a behaviour called ‘brood parasitism’. Instead of raising their own young, brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other species of bird. These parasitic Cuckoos are host-specific, meaning that each species of Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nest of only one other species of bird. Cuckoo eggs have amazingly evolved to mimic the eggs of these birds, making them difficult to tell apart. When a cuckoo egg hatches, the host bird raises the chick as one of its own. Cuckoo eggs have a short incubation period and their young mature quickly, so the bird has an advantage over the host species’ young. It usually destroys their eggs or evicts them from the nest, then imitates their cries to get the host parent to feed it, allowing the adult cuckoo to conserve its resources while its young consumes resources meant for others. I think you get the point and, yes, it’s galling.
It goes without saying that if there is a visual/verbal connection between what’s on shelf and what consumers experience at home (including online) then you can bet that such a connection will positively drive consumer memory. Of course you want this offline to online world to connect, but sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s such a missed opportunity. The secret to success in all of this to find an agency that can perform both the roles of ‘composer’ and ‘conductor’ of the orchestra. Here it’s the conductor’s clarity of creative vision and ability to influence and instill this into all of his or her virtuosos, that encourages them to deliver a joined up and outstanding performance. When there is a deviation from the plan or a break in continuity, it’s the conductor’s split-second decision-making which makes all the difference between success and failure. So, play your part, keep to the score and follow the conductor’s lead. Finally, don’t forget to play the right music, in tune, in time and to perfection for that coveted standing ovation. Only then can you expect an encore.
And that’s music to my ears.