By Tim Hipperson, CEO, G2 United Kingdom.
So much emphasis these days is placed on the relationship between brands and consumers as customers are becoming less brand loyal and instead more trusting of each other.
Brands need to engage more with consumers and agencies need to do something to address this. As there has been talk of the need for change in the agency structure for years, perhaps then now is the time to act. But what might this change entail?
1. Nurture Consumer Communities
It is no longer sufficient to rely solely upon traditional push communications. Consumers now expect direct interaction with brands via a variety of online platforms. Brands should be engaging in conversations and cultivating relationships with customers by listening to, learning from and acting upon their beliefs and opinions.
2. Real-Time Gratification
We live in an age of impatience; nobody wants to wait for anything. Modern technologies and the internet have accelerated communication and response rates to a speed previously unimaginable.
In terms of marketing, social media phenomena such as Twitter and Facebook have had a significant impact on how brands communicate with consumers. Their immediacy has led to customers expecting real-time gratification.
There is consequently no longer any excuse in keeping a customer waiting; agencies need to ensure they are able to respond to customers 24/7.
3. Data Analysis
Monitoring, analysing and interpreting real-time data should be crucial to every agency’s marketing strategy. In our constantly connected environment, marketers have the potential to gather huge amounts of information on their customers, which can be translated into valuable customer insight.
Data analysts should become central figures within an agency as they will be required to manage this knowledge and become conductors of brand sentiment; this can then be sold to advertisers at premium.
Researchers, brand planners and communication planners should be continuously using the insight acquired by the data analysts to build a view of customer behaviours and attitudes. The real time precision of the research will ensure feedback is faster and more accurate.
5. Creative Talent
Creative teams often represent the heart and personality of the agency. However, the internet is now able to provide a wealth of unknown talent and opportunities for content and creative ideation. Interestingly, ideas can come directly from the consumers themselves.
Concepts could develop more casually as creative teams play with the creators and critics, exchanging thoughts and interacting informally. Using consumer feedback, the creative teams could round out additional brand advertising, content and services.
6. Account Management
Agency restructure will inevitably occur in response to the ever evolving media environment. One possible outcome is that account management could be abolished.
Client relationships could instead be managed by planners or consultants who have a more thorough knowledge of the consumer communities, the client brand and the media. This could allow communication to be more direct and efficient.
As the demand for targeting, hyper-personalisation and ongoing dialogues increases, agencies will need to broaden their horizons in terms of production. Installing a logistics headquarters to replace traditional production departments might be more viable.
Here a team could organise virtual, around-the-clock teams, building what might be described as a production supply chain. This supply chain would certainly be a competitive advantage, as its focus would be targeted exclusively toward finding the best team for a job.
Consumers have become a media channel in their own right. Social media has become the most influential and efficient means through which to engage consumers. Agencies must learn to get to grips with who is leading conversations and who is most connected.
Furthermore, consumers are now their own channel managers. People have the freedom to choose when, where and through which channel they prefer to use, often consuming various channels simultaneously. Media selling in the traditional sense will soon become a redundant practice.
Focus will now be directed towards developing engaging internet and mobile applications, websites, ecommerce solutions and personalised content management systems.
New technology trends need to be adopted and implemented immediately in order to remain at the forefront of the industry. If agencies are not using the most cutting edge advancements, they risk coming across as irrelevant.
10. Re-think integration
In the context of advertising integration should become another extinct term. Its relevance should no longer apply in an industry which has fully embraced this idea. Integration will become standard and so the expression once coined to differentiate this practise from others, need no longer apply.
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