by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
It’s not unusual for marketers to switch advertising and marketing agencies. Sometimes they feel taken for granted or the results aren’t what they used to be. Sometimes, there is good reason for the switch. Too often, I believe that marketing becomes the scapegoat for other issues not marketing related. These types of companies tend to agency-hop frequently, looking for instant results or, if business begins to slow down or tank, they blame the agency and are on the hunt for another one. All of this will take a toll on your brand. Here’s why:
- Perpetual starting over – it is unrealistic to expect an agency to learn your company and business inside and out in less than a year. It takes about 3-6 months just to gain any traction and develop a smooth, working relationship. As a result, you keep starting over. Yes, you may get an immediate bump because of the new direction, but it is usually short-lived and unsustainable. There needs to be deep understanding, not just surface knowledge for long-term success.
- Fragmented messaging – it’s hard to deliver a consistent brand message if your team keeps changing. This includes your advertising agency. If you switch marketing agencies often, you’ll find that eventually you’ll lose sight of what you really stand for. Frequently, marketers who switch often are looking for a quick fix (this is code for instant revenue at the expense of profit and long-term brand equity), and they lose sight of their core brand essence. As a result, they fall into the category of being a commodity – nothing very special. Customers don’t know who you are or how you are relevant to their daily lives because you don’t even know who you are.
- It costs more – this is related to the first point of starting over and over. It costs more to get something in motion than it is to sustain motion or even increase it. Physics also applies to marketing. It takes money to get a brand established. It takes money to get a marketing strategy to take hold. If you keep “starting over” with a new agency every 18 months, you’re guaranteed to spend more and lose ground at the same time. Not a smart business strategy if you ask me.
- You get less talent – if you get the reputation that your company is a habitual switcher, the best agencies will shy away and not participate in any agency pitch you may have. The elite agencies don’t have time to chase an account they know they will lose in about a year, even if it’s not their fault. As a result, you get very average agencies pitching your account.
The main point is to understand that your brand can be helped or harmed by how stable your business partners are. The more consistent they are, the better chance you can deliver a consistent brand message and execute a clearly defined marketing strategy. I know there are good reasons to dump an agency and you should if you have a very legitimate complaint. But often times, it’s things that are beyond the advertising agency’s control, like customer service, price point or quality of product. I’ve said before, great marketing can help an inferior product fail faster.
If you have a talented agency as a partner, if the people are quality people and they understand you as a company and as individuals, look to the strength of the partnership to overcome any market downturn. By jumping ship every time there’s a wave, you’ll find that your brand will suffer the consequence of confusing the customer and becoming nothing special, a commodity.