Monday, March 29, 2010

The Future of Agencies

A Guest blog by Jeffrey Cole, an ally and associate of long standing

The conversation or idea - what's the future of the agency in the digital age - is not new. For the past five years traditional and interactive agencies have sought to truly create an integrated solution for their clients. A few have succeeded. Though many seem to continue to struggle with shift that the consumer is now in control of the brand conversation. God forbid you aren't listening and the conversation is not good, Unfortunately, those who have been listening cannot shift their own strategic thinking paradigm in order to innovate around the old stale strategies of the past.

Metrics and Analytics is key. Coining an old term from Ghostbusters, "Agencies must be the key-master." Understanding how to apply behavioral, conversational and traditional metrics to a brand strategy is no longer relegated to the MBA who performs the most accurate Linear Regression. Through the old Flow Marketing principal out the window. It is past time for the new math. The only successful integrated marketing team will:

• Collect the most up-to-date and relevant information about the customer(s)
• "Listen," "Hear" and "Apply" all of their relevant conversations, reactions, and responses, and
• Innovate beyond even what is traditionally and digitally available right at this moment to engage and motivate consumers toward ACTION.

We as marketing professionals must continue to not only navigate but circumvent the turbulence brought on by digital technology, the social web and changing consumer behavior.

It is a new world defined by technology and consumer control.

• Consumers today have a complex relationship with media: it poses challenges as to how and where to engage with them. And, it is different for every brand, product and service. Agencies cannot recommend only from their respective "bag-of-tricks" simply because it is "what they do best." Successful strategists do not limit themselves only to the familiar or the most "cash positive" path for agency revenue. They use everything in the global arsenal.

• Consumers trust consumers (Or friends, followers and fans) more than they trust brands: it means we need to mobilize fans and followers to evangelize on behalf of the brand

• The Groundswell has gone mainstream: the consumer is now a creator/sharer/sales associate and distributor; brands must learn to harness and inspire these new roles.

• SWOM (Social Word of Mouth) reigns: content and the experiences agencies create must stimulate it

• 3.5 billion brand conversations happen every day, all of them VERY public: time to master the art of listening.

Consumers hate most advertising
• Only 5 % agree with advertising claims: brands must start being honest and authentic
• 50 % say brands don’t live up to advertising promises: No kidding! Brands must start being honest and authentic
• 67 % complain there is too much advertising: forget messages carrying all the weight, create experiences and conversation

Adaptive marketing is the new model
• Everything is powered by digital: hire digital, think digital, learn digital or die
• Real time response, as in political advertising, is the future of marketing: monitor social media regularly and change as the conversation changes.
• It’s all about pull not push: the formula is SEO plus value equal traffic
• Addressability is here: you should be thinking versioning, and customizating options
• Intelligence and analytics will drive everything: make it part of your strategy before and after creative development

Media needs to combine paid, owned and earned
• Paid: for scale and reach and speed: social can’t do everything, reach, scale and speed come from paid
• Owned: for content, relationships, listening and co-creation: open source opportunities are everywhere so create great content, utility and apps
• Earned: social, SWOM, PR, bloggers, influencers: paid can’t do everything; you need a social and conversation strategy, not simply a presence on Facebook.

Successful agencies will move well beyond campaigns
• Build campaigns PLUS platforms: you need both, Nike-plus without a brand behind has no plus
• Stop thinking in terms of audience and think about a community of participants: a brand’s consumers may be your best creative resource, or at least your best medium
• Undo unbundling: unbundled won’t work anymore: agencies need to find ways to integrate; become curators; and learn co-creation, curation, and crowd-sourcing
• Embrace and master new technologies quickly: you are working on the re-invention of print ads on the iPad, right?

Clients will look for three things
• Ideas: note this does not mean messages or ads
• Interaction: engagement, connection, community, media
• Intelligence, as in you need to collect, report, analyze and predict: if you don’t have robust analytics, and the brilliant minds to apply the findings – you’re in big trouble!

Jeffrey Cole
Three Point Ventures, LLC