Blog May 4, 2016
Working in Your Chosen Craft
Mindset of small agencies fuels creativity and innovation.
“Craft” is a word at the heart of the American experience, emphasizing the mix of skills, smarts and strength of character necessary to create something truly remarkable. A commitment to craft demonstrates that your work is not just “a job,” but rather a passion or true calling. It’s why someone chooses to work in a patient care field that requires difficult personal sacrifices, but the satisfaction of helping those in need strongly outweighs the hardship. We see the commitment to craft all around us.
As a consumer and marketer, I relish spotting someone that has chosen a field that aligns with both their talent and deep-seated satisfaction. It’s the reason I can’t resist buying a well-crafted product at a farmer’s market from a person displaying genuine enthusiasm for their creation, whether it's handcrafted hot sauce or an artisanal loaf of bread – their love for their craft is intoxicating, leaving me with a sense of elation with my buy. The commitment to craft is honest: consumers want to fill their lives with unique experiences and engage with products and services that reflect their deep-rooted value systems. That said, the time is ripe for applying the idea of “craft” to our work as branding experts, marketers and designers. As a matter of fact, the craft revolution should now live at the heart of our communications efforts. By approaching our campaign work as craft, we capitalize on the innovation and creativity we provide clients based on imagination, determination and grit.
For small and mid-sized agencies, the notion of “craft” not only helps us to be the innovation engine for our partners at larger agencies or corporations, but also enables us to “craft” partnerships that may lead to new ways of thinking.
The power of the small, smart team.
What the craft revolution uncovered is the extent that greatness can be achieved my melding the idea of size with nimbleness. Creating a small, smart team – whether it is inside a larger agency or at a large corporation – offers tremendous benefits. Each fully utilized team member is key to achieving the end goal successfully. We counsel that organizations take a “small and smart” approach. This mindset capitalizes on the many advantages most organizations gain from partnering with a smaller brand agency: creativity, and flexibility.
Rather than simply viewed as “outsiders,” crafting a winning partnership means that the talented people brought in from smaller agencies are integrated with their new teammates. In essence, the “outsiders” aren’t really outsiders at all. They develop into an important extension of the in-house staff.
Matter Creative Group is a boutique agency that fits in this “small and smart” category. We have capitalized on being 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 cannot be overlooked when building synergy and mutual respect. Smart teams have a greater chance for success when three strategies are followed.
The 3 strategies 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 also 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.
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:
- Offering a fresh perspective.
- Helping to meet impending deadlines.
- Bringing an expertise or skillset for a specific project need.
The craft revolution has demonstrated how much consumers want unique, personalized products and services. Large firms and big brands can benefit from the same thinking when working with agile and smart smaller agencies. The power of “craft” not only addresses the amazing work that results, but also symbolizes the formation of a powerful team that achieves an organization’s goals and objectives.
At Matter Creative Group, we understand your focus on meeting objectives. We’ve embedded 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.