What other people are doing, for their next step

Change across the industry

Brand and design companies are intensely project focused and this, historically, has served to divert attention from their own development.

‘Client business’ and ‘paid work to do’ will quickly displace the imperative of improvement and innovation work on the agency itself. Very often the rising tide of busy-ness ebbs away again and without a background of change going on, constituent weaknesses will be revealed along with a familiar graph of rising and falling revenues.

The customers for design and branding continue to advance the sophistication of their approach to business and marketing challenges, and correspondingly how they assess and buy creative services. In response, our industry must increasingly give attention to better defining business purposes, finding ways to add value for clients, developing workforce skills, driving operational improvements and applying new working methods.

We’re engaged with agencies on a mix of progressive developments and problem-solving. These are some examples of the actions people are taking:

Rethink
In which owner/managers decide to undertake a comprehensive re-assessment of their investor-strategy and what they want from the business and how that can be best achieved over a given term of years.

Rebuild
With some clients we are stripping back the businesses’ perception of themselves to clarify their core offers, realigning that with developing market realities and opportunities and devising the means to reskill and/or just represent themselves to the market.

Future scoping
This is for clients that have been performing well in the recent and immediate period and have visibility ahead, but not beyond a year, to institute a process to look forward additionally to two-year and three-year builds, with progressive exploration of new potentials.

Brand strategy
Bringing a more contextual view to the way the agencies’ offers are positioned, described and presented to the market. In our research among the end-clients, design commissioners regularly complain of very generic approaches from brand and design agencies with, they think, at least ninety per cent being ill judged. We are bringing learning and insights from this work into our clients’ own brand strategy development.

Talent
Either to build out the requirements of growth or other change scenarios, or to counter an emerging pattern of unsatisfactory appointments, or to resolve a general underlying difficulty in recruiting. This involves working with the clients on meaningful job descriptions and candidate profiles and thinking hard about the reasons why there would be a mutually rewarding fit between the right people and the business and how this could inspire candidates.

Profitability
Working on specific actions to change the yield for clients who are unhappy with the overall level or consistency of profitability, and in another case had not yet identified what level would be appropriate for them within their business intent.

Business development
Taking action with clients to build consistent and creative processes for the development of new business, integral to the culture and life of the agency in each case. The objective is to instil a vibrant practice that is ideally applied equally to the growth of existing client business as well as new client opportunities.

Internal structuring
In another key area of work, the challenge is to find a way to retain a compelling creative dynamic even as it drives disruptive growth; and in other cases to help align resources behind revised strategies or more clearly defined positioning, and build on them.

These are the most regular actions that consultancies are taking, occasionally with more dramatic interventions for apparently intractable problems.