It’s not enough anymore for brands just to meet a goal. If they want to disrupt – and not be the disrupted ones – they need to have a complete, integrated strategy, argues Giacomo Groff head of strategy at Huckleberry.
Philosophically speaking, we’re currently living in the fulfilment age. Although it’s a fairly new word in the historical vocabulary, it’s ubiquitous in the collective unconscious. People want to have fulfilling jobs, live fulfilling lives and progressively expect the same alignment of values from brands.
I’m a firm believer that brands also need to move towards fulfilment to have sustainable growth. Brands need to feel that they have (or have regained) a purpose and provide an experience of real value in order to live. It’s not enough to creatively achieve a sales goal anymore. Why they exist, what they say and what they do must go together. Only when a brand’s product, service, and communications reach that stage it will actually be able to create disruption, otherwise it will eventually end up being disrupted.
And by pushing brands forward towards fulfilment, agencies create a way to protect their future and ensure both value creation and longevity, deepening and taking their relationships with clients to the next level.
The problem is that a brand experience demands a unified view, because people touch and feel the brand as a whole and do not separate specific points of engagement or channels. However, with technology and the fragmentation of media, agencies have become increasingly siloed specialists instead of full stack generalists. To name a few, there are digital, direct, CRM, consulting, big data, social, mobile, content, creative, media agencies of all sorts.
With the brand experience lines being blurred and silos being broken by the day, it seems that agencies themselves are not being very customer (client) centric. It’s easy to miss the big picture and shy away from complexity.
Therefore, there’s an urgent need for strategists to play a truly integrated role and look across all necessary functions to achieve the holy grail of customer centric brand fulfilment.
It means that inside a unified agency, strategists must be positioned in a way that is customer centric as well. We need less media strategists or digital strategists. We need more unified strategists for the future. We must evolve the strategy practice by thinking integrated about the brand experience as a whole in a way that stacks up and does not break down in silos. We must evolve to go beyond “campaign” mode and realise that quite a few times the best solution is not even advertising in the traditional sense. We must evolve to think about earned and owned media first and paid media last.
Don’t get me wrong. By unified I don’t mean doing everything, specialisation for collaboration and some of the executions still is very much needed. It’s more a question of resourcefulness rather than resources. It’s about having just the right diversity of street-smart, generalist strategists who are able to see and think the bigger picture and at the same time develop a deep understanding of brands as well as humans’ needs in order to generate ideas and stories that actually influence behaviour, ideas that are born from insight, regardless of discipline.
In contemporary strategy, breadth trumps depth. This full stack model is vital because the pace of change never seems to be fast enough for technology and society.
We are living in the most challenging and complex yet productive and imaginative time of our professional lives, as brands (should) have moved away from frequent impressions and empty messaging in front of people’s eyes towards open dialogues and an always-available approach to actually help them live more fulfilled lives, and help them solve more real-world problems.
Additionally, clients will always demand better, faster and cheaper innovative solutions. Yet, even with these major shifts, most agencies are still working based on the same old, not so nimble, synapses. It makes less and less sense to have several different plans delivered separately by several different specialised partners that don’t stack up and aren’t unified by a single strategy.
I believe it is brand fulfilment, not achievement that makes an agency indispensable and that the journey starts with an agency culture grounded in an integrated, full stack strategy model. In the end, there’s not a creative problem, a social problem or a media problem, there’s only a client problem.