Branding agencies are under attack

The neat demarcation of a brand agency’s place in the world has always been a fantasy, and advertising agencies have always been quick to seize a branding opportunity.

In today’s always-on world, where digital plays an increasingly important role in expression and experience, the lines have blurred further to the extent where the line is almost invisible. Digital agencies are swimming upstream touting strategy first approach. In response, many brand agencies have been busy gobbling up digital shops to build experiences.

The essence of what differentiates a brand firm from the rest of the marketing services wheelhouse remains firmly rooted in being channel agnostic. An advertising agency (or integrated communications agency) is focused on the production of a tangible asset that comes to life through a specific creative medium. A digital agency is still motivated by building stuff. It’s just how the business model works.

But in order to stay relevant, brand firms must be able to translate channel agnosticism into operational reality. For example, if Comcast wants to deliver a customer service experience that lives up to its “Future of Awesome” advertising, it must transform the mentality of 30,000+ engineers. An impassioned brand team might be able to achieve results within a three- to five year time period, but only if it gains consensus or influence over other functional areas, such as customer experience and HR.

If we believe that brand equals experience and culture, then a brand leaders remit today extends well beyond the marketing function. Brand firms must learn to help clients transform their organizations, or risk sliding into irrelevance.

This will require a new breed of people with new skill sets such as organizational design, change management, process re-engineering, behavioral psychology.

An industry that has long thrived on industry disruption for business is awakening to a taste of its own medicine.

Click here to read the full Branding Magazine discussion, “Branding Roundtable #17: What is a Branding Agency?” 

Gabriel Cohen is CMO at Monigle and a Branding Magazine contributor, follow him on Twitter.

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Gabriel Cohen
December 3, 2015 By Gabriel Cohen