Such an agency needs to have a deep understanding of the business and its vicissitudes, build flexible skills across marketing domains which are medium-agnostic, and understand, implement and deliver tech-driven solutions to enhance the brand experience. But what’s ideal is also always incredibly difficult.
Marketing has always been a collaborative effort between marketers, agencies, creators and business owners. Excellence in marketing has long been driven by the quality of internal and external resources at hand. Agencies have played an important role in being the right hand of marketers and bringing an outside-in perspective on the brand. They bring excitement, creativity, direction and consistency to the brand. They are your go-to guys in times of distress and the scapegoats too. They challenge you, humble you and inspire you to break barriers and innovate.
But not anymore. And, one big reason why marketing agencies haven't been able to keep pace with the changing landscape is the lack of understanding of new age business models, the increasing scope of marketing in a business environment and leveraging meaningful technology.
Businesses no longer are built with long gestation periods and long horizons. While the fundamentals still remain the same, the unrealistic speed of change is what they need to adjust to. Similarly, for an agency, it is not enough to spin off a digital arm, hire young millennial talent, understand "startup needs" or be ROI-driven. The need to change, adapt and be agile is a foregone conclusion.
What current businesses need from the ideal marketing agency is a deep understanding of the business, its fickleness and its aggression. It needs empathy, speed and control.
Marketing is becoming more chaotic by the day. Marketers run around like headless chickens not knowing where they belong – Product, Data, Tech, Customer Experience, Sales or Marketing? In reality, they belong to the business; they sit at the intersection of everything. Marketing today needs more resources, more collaboration and more time. For a young brand, building huge marketing teams in-house is suboptimal, as is hiring several agencies and freelancers. It is then an ideal marketing agency's needs to step up and add value. The lines between creative, digital, media and social are blurring. You need to be all-knowing. Yes, as dull-witted as it may sound, that's what we need.
The agencies need to build more fluid and flexible skills across marketing domains which are medium-agnostic and complement the marketing teams.
Technology, the core of most modern day businesses. The definition of technology is - 'The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes especially in industry'. It is all-encompassing and all-pervasive. There is no function in a business which is devoid of it. Being the custodian of customer experience, marketing is at the forefront of technology-driven innovation. Hence, our ideal marketing agency should deeply understand, implement and deliver tech-driven solutions to enhance the brand experience.
Marketers should find comfort and trust in the agency to understand their language which is increasingly becoming more 'tech'.
So how does an agency navigate the changing dynamics of business, marketing and technology?
Upskilling the existing talent in the agencies is the key to fill this glaring gap. The creative talent needs to be sensitised towards new marketing channels, technology-driven solutions and end-to-end customer experience. The business and strategy professionals in agencies need to embrace data, growth strategies and result-oriented solutions. And, the account management and servicing professionals need to get into the skin of marketing operations within the company, and work towards agile solutions with faster turnaround times.
Break the silos and build T-shaped teams with cross-discipline competence and deep vertical expertise. Agile pods with diverse skill sets (data, tech, creative, digital, business et al) can help realise the fullest potential of a symbiotic relationship between the agency and the brand. It means an overhaul of the current team structures and hierarchy within agencies.
The quality and extent of communication between the brands and agencies also needs attention. Often the communication between the brand and agency is superficial and lacks depth and is limited to ideas, reviews, presentations and updates. If the agency is the extension of the marketing teams, it also needs to be on top of business operations, performance, growth and the thought process.
While this might be ideal, we need to understand that it is incredibly difficult because of the 1: nature of the relationship. It needs time, mind space, focus and intent to be deeply involved with the business. The future of work belongs to a generation which is savvy, anxious and enterprising. Jobs have become gigs and the career span is shortening. Hence, the ideal marketing agency might remain an unfulfilled wish, and marketers will have to find a workaround by orchestrating multiple stakeholders to deliver an immersive and wholesome brand experience.
Note: This is a brand's perspective on the need for an overhaul in the agency-brand relationship, it doesn't explore the agency's perspective.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)