“Be useful. Be different. Be consistent.”
These are the markers DigitasLBi Chief Strategy Officer, Fern Miller, puts down as her starting points for differentiating her agency brand. And this advice comes following her first-hand experience of being the client on her own agency’s brand.
In a talk for The Art of New Business on the topic of differentiating your agency through a planning approach, here were some of her other key takeout’s:
It's Terrifyingly Rewarding to Take Care of Your own Brand
But it is worth it.
Your own brands' behaviour is important, and not simply because competition for agency services is higher than ever, but because the relationship between building your agency brand and the growth of your agency is more than a casual one.
Clients are looking for people to build their brands with them. And the first place they rightly look is the brands of those they are willing to entrust with theirs.
Start With Culture
This is an industry with a high churn rate. And that churn is expensive. But culture is the biggest defence against it.
Culture is a powerful thing, particularly when you don’t have a physical product to sell, and what you are selling is your people. Culture grows. Culture can't be defeated. And it can be a driver of new business success - because not only is it a unifier for the agency, but clients feel an attachment to it as their agency brand too.
Develop Your Positioning
All great brands have great strategy at their heart, and tell great stories around that strategy. Why would your own agency brand be any different?
Fern advocated for the need to always agitate around your core proposition to ensure it is right, working and competitive, and an anecdote she shared from being the marketeer of the DigitasLBi brand showed just that:
The merger of two separate agencies, LBi and Digitas, required a new logo for the newly created DigitasLBi entity – that was a unicorn, as a confident symbol to represent ‘a quest for digital mastery’. But over time it became unidentifiable at a global level and they needed to unify what it meant to people at a local level.
The outcome was each office getting its own custom unicorn. From the expected (a unicorn on a bike for Amsterdam) to the unexpected (a Robocop unicorn for Detroit), they added meaning to a positioning. This wasn’t just a redesign; this was a global story merging with local, cultural relevance to give the DigitasLBi network something to stand for and rally round.
It is powerful narratives like these that separate great from good brands, and in this case, agencies.
Make Your own Content
DigitasLBi embarked on a host of no-ordinary ways to show what they were about through their content.
A massive agency rave with hundreds of people pledging devotion to creativity and tech. They had Buzzfeed, Guardian Labs, Facebook Atlas, Mondeo Bank, Gay Star News, Mashable, Unilad and Contagious speak at an event program held in their basement. They were the first agency to sponsor the first Digital Pride. And they showed they were thinking about what their clients wanted with a change to the client-agency dinner party model by inviting the families of their clients to a family-day showing them all sorts of tech, and how to make stuff.
In terms of how this approach rewarded them, they won 2 Lions, a Grand Prix at the BIMAS, Digiday's European agency of the year, Campaign APAC's digital network of the year and shortlisted for Campaign's UK Digital Innovation agency of the year.
No Time Like the Present
While we feel a lot of love for your own brand, doing work on it can be terrifying, and it is easy to get lost in dependent behaviour of being distracted elsewhere.
But none of these are good habits. And all impede new business. Planning on your own brand for it to be differentiated is a modern tool to grow your agency.
”Be useful. Be different. Be consistent.”
The Art of New Business breakfast talk series exploring modern ways to grow an agency are running throughout 2017. So if winning new business and the growth is even a blip on your agency radar then secure yourself a ticket to the next event and discover some of these fascinating insights for yourself.
Dan Cunningham is an Account Director at sports marketing agency, Dark Horses. In a set-up unique from the rest of the sport marketing world, Dark Horses is co-owned by the advertising agency, Lucky Generals, and is a new breed of sports marketing agency that believes the moment you see yourself as the favourite, you've lost the race.