The tide has turned. Brands teams that have allowed their brands to be touched by consumers have won and have upped the marketing ante.  Consumer generated content, products ideas and conversations are not going away – as a matter of fact it is in full swing and marketers and creative’s who are using it – are inspiring deeper connections and relationships with their consumers.

This week I will focus my posts on the best practices that have lead to the best work which always leads to greater profitability for agencies and their clients.

This time last year I predicted that the agencies which used words like “traditional” and “interactive” to describe themselves would be the dinosaurs of 2008.  And indeed they have become just that.

 
If you are living in the here is now, you are focusing past the latest tactical hype and having relevant, insightful conversations with your client’s consumers.

In my article “All Media Is Social” I stumbled upon on to a theme that affects the way agencies work with their clients.  That theme was that in partnership with our clients we needed to become conversation architects.   In David Armano’s Conversation Architect theory he expresses the need for creative’s to refocus their work in digital eco-systems.  I believe that it has broader implications.  Its not just digital, its about where and when the consumer wants it.  Brands like Unilever's Dove has proved that to be true.

Last year at OMMA, I met Janet Kestin, the creative mastermind behind Dove’s evolution, she told me that capturing lightening in a bottle was as easy as launching a conversation starter that began with a set of consumer insights.  What Janet artfully did was tap in to all woman’s desire to let our inner beauty shine. The evolution piece was one way to continue re-enforcing a three year campaign which shed light on the nasty truth we all needed to be reminded of so that we can go forth and have real beauty as real woman.  The genius behind it is that Janet positioned Dove as the product that allowed woman to let their Real Beauty shine.  The one thing that she did share with the OMMA audience was that Unilever did not easily embrace this part of the consumer conversation.  It was seen as less of a risk as the video was a fraction of their typical creative production budgets  for TV spots (125k Canadian Dollars). This portion of the conversation (one part of the campaign for real beauty) was fuelled by heavy public relations, celebrity endorsements like Oprah and Rosie as well as a little known mass vehicle called YouTube.  What I learned from Janet is that clients and their consumer’s are not buying tactics – they are buying ideas.

The only way for agencies and marketing organizations to become Conversations Architects is to gently guide our clients with us on this journey.  An agency, General, Direct or Digital must have a partnership that leads to broader stewardship of the brand to deliver on true consumer conversations.  The one thing that has not and will not change is the fact that the agencies primary business is the relationship with our clients.  With out them we do not have a business.  The client agency relationship continues to be a partnership, which fuels our bottom lines.

Clients know they need to change – So how do you frame that change? You must be strategic and give market case studies that prove how great brands create and inspire brand loyalty in a world where all media is social and we the people have become the medium.

I often have been accused of being a bit of a Polly-Anna when it comes to how I view the agency world and the way we work collaboratively with clients.  But I sincerely believe in the philosophy that tight-knit groups who have overlapping areas expertise as well as specific role functions can act as swat teams within large organizations to bring about smarter work and bigger ideas.  When you work smart you get smart work. (and inevitably make more money together)

We are all creative

From the relationship leaders in account to the insights strategists in planning to the writers, designers and information architects in creative to the business logic and server engineers in technology to data analysts in analytics – WE ARE ALL CREATIVE.   And we are all responsible for the consumer experience.

Now seat our clients at that table for briefings, brainstorms and tissue sessions and what you get is a cohesive SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team.   

Each one of us comes to the table with an arsenal experiences and expertise in executing tactics that can act as Brand’s secret weapons. We are all experts in our fields but when we come together in SWAT team we become a force to be reckoned with.

I know that it sounds like utopia, but what I have found is that it leads is a rich relationship with your clients and their consumers. And more importantly, it leads to more profitable agency relationships.

Where Do You Start?
In a world where all media is social we must begin by identifying our target consumer and learning about how they live, what they do, why they do it and what they want. Once you have formulated the SWAT team that includes your client this should be the first step.

This is easy to do… The data is out there, no matter where you or what you subscribe to – Forrester, eMarketer, Simmons, ComScore, Nielson or Intelligence - any combination of these sources will get the answers to the basic questions.

Without answering those basic questions, how might one begin a relevant conversation with consumers?  Imagine going to a networking event where you know nothing about the tribal passion that people are networking around.  Without these consumer insights all your tactics will act as incredibly expensive cold calls.  Cold calls are not the acts of marketers – they are the acts of sales departments.  Even in this day of amplified technology, marketing is still part science and part art.

The best consumer conversations start with right consumer insights.  Once you have that down now its time to brief the creative team.  The best briefs do not merely happen on paper they kick off with the insights, the support points and product innovations and then turn into brainstorms.  The best briefings include the account team, planners, creative’s and the client. When you combine those insights combined with the key brainstorm take-aways what you do is give your creative team the right foundation that will lead to the creation of big ideas that act as conversation starters for brands.

Once the results of those brainstorms are recorded now it is time for the creative team to go off and formulate a few cohesive big ideas.

When the creative team to heads off into their groups to create. What they should be delivering are ways to position ideas as conversations that create desire for a product or service.  Those campaign ideas / conversation starters, are the awareness drivers needed in pre-purchase cycle of any product or service.
When I create an idea I step back and look for what the audience desires.  If my idea quenches what they want most, then I have done my job.  Once I formulate the object of desire, then I work with tactical experts in media, technology and production to get the best in class ways to deliver the conversation starter through mass vehicles that give me maximum awareness that amplify the conversation.

Depending upon the audience consumption of media – you should tailor the idea to engage the consumer in the conversation through tactics that deliver a rich and innovative experience.  This can happen through consistently tailoring and deliver on the desires of the audience and drive sales.

Up Next – Streamlining The Agency Process

ON: Our Business Has Changed – Have You? via @jpenabickley