Creating Your Ultimate Brand Dream Team

Smaller brand agencies and in-house creative — a winning combination.

Next month’s Super Bowl 50 might as well be a national holiday. The game itself is sacred to the most loyal of fans. The real spectacle though, will be the events surrounding the game, from pregame festivities and the halftime extravaganza, to the national conversation about the best commercials. At $5 million per 30 seconds, these ads had better spark attention! If nothing else, Super Bowl 50 validates the old adage, “Go big or go home.”

From “go big” to “small and smart.”

Dwarfing other 2016 events, the grandeur of Super Bowl 50 and all the attention it receives makes a marketer’s heart flutter, particularly since it is a major anniversary for the NFL. However, we shouldn’t let the enormity of this event or how it captures our football-crazed consciousness overshadow a simpler inclination – smaller is often better. Although we may giggle at the phrase “size matters,” when it comes to accomplishing goals and objectives, a small team can mean a world of difference in fostering smarter agency collaborations, even when the goal may be Super Bowl-sized. Each fully utilized team member is key to achieving the end goal successfully.

According to a study by the Association of National Advertisers, more and more companies are building out their internal creative teams in the hopes of lessening their dependency on external agencies. While executives relish the cost savings, logic also follows that those inside the company have better insight into the brand’s identity and voice. Rather than adhere to a trend that really hasn’t been proven, we counsel that organizations take a different approach, which we call “small and smart.” This mindset capitalizes on the many advantages most organizations gain from partnering with a smaller brand agency.

If companies adopt a “small and smart” resource solution, an outside agency doesn’t need to be an either/or decision. Bringing in a smaller agency may just be the best compromise – built to adapt to a variety of client needs, a nimble and smart agency partner has an easier time maneuvering within the confines of an internal team. In essence, the “outsider’s” aren’t really outsiders at all, instead they become an important extension of the in-house staff.

Now full disclosure, our agency fits into the small category; call us “boutique,” if you will. Our small size keeps us agile and able to engage the right talent when needed for a particular project. The result is a win-win across the board – our clients aren’t paying the extra overhead of an inflated staff and we benefit from utilizing the sharpest minds in the industry.

Although our size can be viewed as beneficial, fostering key aspects of an internal/external agency relationship team can not be overlooked when building synergy and mutual respect. Smart teams have a greater chance for success when three principles are followed.

The 3 principles for creating a smart team.

1. Understanding motivations at play — stewarding the brand vs. pushing the envelope.

Too many anxiety-laden negative assumptions have been made about in-house creative teams and their collaborations with outside agencies. My experience, from an outside agency perspective, has been the exact opposite – I’d describe the process we share with our in-house agency partners as being more of a hand-in-glove collaboration, particularly when assisting them in their creative and production needs.

Before you think I might hurt my arm patting myself on the back too hard, let me share the reason our internal creative team collaborations work – simply put, we lay the groundwork together at the beginning of each project that sets the stage for a mutually respectful relationship.

Too many companies have been burned by agency partners that have overpromised, then never really achieved the kind of return on investment the company expected, resulting in an “us” versus “them” mentality forming that can take eons to overcome. Our agency identifies the handful of critical factors at play well in advance, laying the groundwork for more successful collaboration.

Both external and internal team members must be completely open about the nature of the collaboration from the start. Not only will everyone’s mind be put at ease but, this creates the safe and open environment where great creative is born. Awareness of motivations on both sides fosters a high level of sensitivity and diplomacy – for example, keeping in mind that internal members of a team are protective about maintaining consistency across their product portfolio or brand image, external agency members must respect the integrity of the brand before suggesting to innovate, freshen, or push the envelope on brand creative.

2. Avoiding redundancy with streamlined efficiency.

Where meshing creative teams to get to the best ideas is an important part of the equation, it’s also critical that each side understands how their new teammates prefer to communicate with one another. Avoid assuming that, since marketing and product managers may prefer a certain way of communicating, members of the in-house creative team will have a similar preference. Smoothing the lines of communication turns partners into collaborators, which leads to the best work possible.

3. Aligning with the big picture and the target audience.

Before the first project gets underway, all members of a smart team should be well-versed in the company’s overall purpose and target audience. Time and time again, I’ve heard from clients how past agency partners didn’t understand their brand, so this due diligence is essential. The entire smart team needs to be in agreement with answers to the following questions:

  • What is the organization’s why, what, and how? Author Simon Sinek suggests that these questions should be answered in that specific order to get to the true reason why a company exists. He shares that, where any organization can explain what it does and many can explain how they do it, few can clearly articulate why. WHY is not money or profit – those are always results. WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers buy from your company instead of your competitors?
  • Who is the target audience for this particular project? Sharing or creating buyer personas keeps the newly formed team aligned regarding proper tone and messaging. The work that goes into this part of the project ensures that the branding best resonates with an organization’s ideal audience. For more information on how to develop buyer personas, click here.

Like so much of life, success centers on mindfulness. Agencies that are mindful of potential conflicts from the start, striving to foster open lines of communication and working toward common goals, will become an extension of their client’s smart team.

Despite the trend of building up internal resources, and no matter the size and scope of the brand’s in-house resources, external brand agencies and communication partners will always have a place by offering complementary solutions such as:

  • Providing a fresh perspective.
  • Helping to meet impending deadlines.
  • Bringing an expertise or skillset for a specific project need.

For football fans, or those like me mainly tuning in for the commercials, the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday is enticing. However, just like the excessiveness of the big halftime show plays no part in winning the game, agencies that market their grandeur may not be offering the solutions clients necessarily need to reach their goals.

At Matter Creative Group, we understand your “game day” is focused on getting your objectives met, so we’ve ingrained our smart team principles into everything we do to become an essential part of your team’s winning solutions. Whether we’re crafting a new brand identity for a start-up manufacturer, or sales support materials for a global high-tech leader, our goal is to surpass expectation without unnecessary excess.

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