We catch a whiff every now and again of ‘industry debate’, without necessarily looking to engage with overly introspective chest-beating or group therapy.
And one of the notions that seems to be in the ether right now is the seemingly age-old notion of ‘integrated’ agency offerings and of bigger comms agencies sneakily stealing work that should be the domain of the design and branding agency community.
We have a point of view. And it’s one born of our work partnering with clients to generate business-changing ideas.
Integrated agencies – and the clients that appoint them, presumably - appear to assume that communications/marketing in its broadest sense will be the output of their efforts. They talk about 'ideas' that are media neutral, truly integrated and produced by multi-disciplinary teams
But in our opinion, brand is increasingly the 'idea' and a brand idea is by its definition a business idea. The task of creating a truly useful brand idea requires a relationship and an alignment with a client organisation much deeper than that required to generate an integrated comms or marketing idea.
Whilst this of course isn’t always relevant to every brief, for those clients looking for a cohesive, unifying and differentiated idea to generate increased awareness and affection from internal and external audiences, we believe that brand is the key.
And therefore that branding agencies are the obvious home and genuine source of a truly media neutral idea because we don't even assume 'marketing' is the answer.
The real benefit of truly useful brand ideas is that they can – and should – be applied beyond marketing. The brand idea as business idea can provide cohesion as well as new excitement across all business areas. The same core idea will drive internal comms and culture initiatives and values and corporate behaviour programmes. Why shouldn’t this same idea underpin service design and R&D / NPD programmes? And be reflected in the customer experience and physical environment, regardless of whether your is a retail, manufacturing or service business?
Enlightened business recognizes that all systems and processes can be organised around a unique brand idea or principle that differentiates from competitors and encourages all stakeholders to expect a unique experience.
And if that is the output of engaging a partner to generate a big brand idea that is truly integral to business success, we ask ourselves why would an integrated agency delivering a comms idea be a threat to branding expertise?
There will be sectors – and FMCG is an obvious example – where a big new marketing idea can drive consumer behaviour and commercial success. But even here, we would argue that wider adoption of a more integral idea could drive even more benefit.
In fact, we would challenge any brand or organisation to demonstrate equal depth and width of sustained business benefit arising from an integrated marketing idea over a truly integral big brand idea.
This core belief will be expanded upon in future True North thinkpieces and publications. We are putting the finishing touches to a presentation on internal alignment with the big brand idea. If you’re interested in seeing it, please contact us at any time