Having been on both sides of the table, I've witnessed (and been a part of) healthy client-agency relationships and ones that were less so.
Not surprisingly, the necessary elements of a positive agency relationship are the same elements necessary for any relationship: Communication, Trust & Respect, and Appreciation. So whether you need help with your love life or want to make the most of your agency, read on!
- Communication: Share critical information with your agency. Don't make them assume or guess at the parameters, needs, constraints, etc. that surround the relationship. They are not mind readers (neither is your spouse, by the way). The more they know, the better they will do at meeting your objectives. Stop holding back from fear of divulging too much. After all, you have an NDA, right? Also, encourage your agency partners to communicate openly and honestly with you.
- Trust & Respect: You're excellent at what you do. Go on, don't be needlessly humble. Presumably, so is your agency. Trust that they are putting their considerable talents at your disposal. Respect their ideas and their work. If you receive creative or copy that isn't quite on the mark, by all means say so. Just don't art direct or wordsmith. Instead, explain what the take-away should be or the objective of the communication and trust them to do the job for which you pay them.
- Appreciation: Yes, you pay them. Perhaps even a considerable amount. You would be surprised, however, at what a "Thank You" will buy. It builds goodwill, creates a positive work environment, and signals that you value the relationship. Be sincere with your appreciation and make sure to spread the love.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Photo courtesy of mercyjets.com
Have you ever been invited to what is presumably a brainstorming session that takes place the next day in the office conference room for one hour? Such a meeting likely did not lead to any exciting ideas and only served to give brainstorming a bad reputation. In truth, well-conceived and executed brainstorm sessions are a fantastic business tool for such diverse challenges as uncovering new solutions, unearthing breakthrough product ideas, or penning creative communication. It's important to understand, however, that effective brainstorming is equal parts structure and whimsy, heavy-handidness and serendipity.Before the Storm
- Be clear on your objectives and craft all your pre-work and session exercises accordingly.
- Assign pre-work with expectations that it actually gets completed. Pre-work should provide context and get people's creative juices flowing before they even arrive.
- Invite a diverse group (different departments, different teams) but keep it to a manageable number.
- Secure an inspiring venue. The 5th floor conference room does not cut it. Ideally, you should get out of the office environment to a place with space, natural light, and novel views. During the Storm
- Set ground rules and expectations up-front. E.g all cell phones off
- Create a comfortable and fun environment that encourages free thinking. Dispense with formal/rigid seating. Have toys and creativity enhancers on hand.
- Provide nourishment and refreshment regularly.
- Monitor energy levels and take breaks and/or do energizer exercises as necessary.
- Enlist a dynamic and fearless moderator. John Broderick
is one of my personal favorites and the folks from ?What If!
are amazing.After the Storm
- Let the ideas marinate. Fully formed ideas are not likely to come during the brainstorm session itself.
- Assign a core group to internalize the output from the session and massage them into more concrete output.
- Keep participants from the session in the loop. It's great for their morale to see the final fruits of their labor.
- Catalogue and share both the raw output and the finished ideas with others. Your brainstorm session may inspire new perspectives on challenges they are dealing with.
Need help pulling together a killer brainstorm? Give us a holler!
What do the U.S. Olympics Women's Gymnastics and Swim Teams and The Avengers have in common? They have well-assembled teams that get the job done. Do you have a team that is poised for greatness? Building or leading a successfully sustainable business is no easy feat, but having the right team in place can get you there. For the purpose of this post and in keeping with our area of expertise, let's focus on your marketing team.
1) Take a critical look at your current capabilities.
Do you even have a marketing team and if so, is that bench both deep and wide? If you're a sole proprietor, you should stop fooling yourself into thinking you'll find the time to tackle your marketing needs someday. Someday means way down the road when growth opportunities have passed you by. If you have a marketing team, what do they cover? Marketing is more than selling or direct response or advertising. Do you have the right people ensuring
- the product set is optimal?
- there is a pipeline for new products or services?
- consumer insights are being mined?
- messaging is on target?
- the pricing structure is sound?
- sales tactics make sense?
- product/service delivery meets customer expectations?
- brand delivery is consistent?
Surely, this is beyond marketing, you say. Actually this is just the tip of the iceberg for stellar marketing teams.
2) Be discerning about who gets on the team.
Time trials and psychological profiles would be overboard, but shouldn't you make sure you have the best people in the right roles? Just because someone has ten years of direct response experience, it doesn't mean that she is your best bet for handling social media. Similarly, that graphic design agency that also purports to be brand experts may not actually fit the bill. Because marketing is such a wide and compartmentalized discipline, it is critical that you look for specific expertise and skills in the area that needs addressing. In the same way combat strategy fell to Captain America or Allison Schmitt is responsible for the freestyle leg, every team member should have a clear role based on a true area of expertise. Don't be put off by so-called one-trick ponies. Sometimes, you need McKayla Maroney to come to London just to do the vault.
3) Set clear expectations and then let them do their thing.
Make sure your team clearly understands the mandate. Specifically spell out objectives, KPIs, deliverables, parameters, etc. Give your team your full support and then get out the way. If you've done a great job in assembling the marketing team, you can rest assured they'll bring you the gold.
Photos courtesy of London2012.com, washingtonpost.com and IFC.com.
It can't be said enough. Everything you do, say, show, promote, post, provide, sell, tweet, create .... represents your brand. This is even more true in the era of the internet and viral media.
Jack Daniels shows us how even communication from their legal department supports the brand and its promoters. See how the brand responded to an author who used the brand's signature label as inspiration for his book jacket. There are several articles out there covering the story, but here's a source we wouldn't normal cite: The Journal of the American Bar Association
How does legal represent your brand?
Many businesses, especially small ones, believe that research is an unnecessary luxury. After all, don't they already know what they want to say about their product/service? Appealing to consumers is pretty straightforward, right? Besides, if they want to gather some consumer data, why not just throw up a survey on Survey Monkey
That kind of thinking can be disastrous, though. There are a plethora of reasons why well-considered research is absolutely the cornerstone of a strong business, but here are a few of my top ones:
- you can validate or correct assumptions about why your consumer acts or thinks a particular way
- you can see where your brand falls short and where it shines
- it can uncover viable new opportunities for your business
- it can save you time and money by showing you what works and what doesn't, shortcutting costly trial and error
- it can reveal serious gaps in your product/service line-up or in your delivery.
In short, well executed research is a an investment that pays you back, because it ultimately helps you grow your business and avoid avoidable mistakes. Plus, it isn't necessarily a budget breaker. Don't just take my word for it, though. Peruse Millward Brown's article, "Big Ideas - Research Can Make a Big Difference
When it comes to consumer or market research, going it alone may not be the best route. A lack of data is unfortunate, but incomplete/shallow/misleading information is worse than useless. Professional researchers not only know what to ask but also how to ask, when to ask, what research instruments to use and - most importantly - how to interpret the information so that it is most useful and insightful.
Hat Trick 3C is ready and able to help you with your consumer and market research needs. We also have a stable of research vendors whom we highly recommend:The Sound Research
is particularly good with teen and young-adult research.Flamingo
excels at consumer insight work.Donatella Dina
is fantastic at qualitative advertising research.W5
is your go-to for quantitative/survey projects, among other needs.Hudson River Group
is tops in sorting out what marketing activities are really working for you.
As a follow-up to our previous post, Gatorade serves as an example of a well-conceived brand restage with results to prove it.
We believe their approach works because
- they knew what problem needed solving before the rebrand. There is no point to rebranding just for the sake of it. Clear objectives are a must.
- they took a long, careful look at their core consumer (C1) and made the difficult decision to focus more specifically on the core's needs.
- they respected the roots of the Gatorade brand and considered its role within the company (C2)
- they understood that it was crucial to distinguish themselves from competitors (C3) in a truly meaningful way.
In short, the Gatorade team kept its eye on all three Cs.
Just as important, though, they walked the talk. Everything that the new brand stands for is evident in every part of the business - from the product line to where they advertise. Sound strategy is absolutely critical, but committed execution wins the game.Fast Company
(required reading in our office) shares more of the background and particulars in its article, "How to Redefine a Flagging Brand
I just read about another company that has "re-branded" itself. As often happens, this so called "re-branding" amounts to little more than a redesigned logo and a refreshed web presence. Sorry, this is not actually a re-brand.
Let's start at the beginning. What is a brand anyway? At its most basic, a brand is the perception in the minds of its consumers and customers. That perception is driven by a myriad of elements - some which can be directly controlled by the brand owners and some that can't. A few elements that build up to a brand include:
- what the product feels/looks/behaves like
- the customer buying experience
- the level/type of service offered
- the pricing structure
- where the product or service lives
- product reviews
- the logo
Given that there are so many aspects of a brand, a purely cosmetic change (Hellooo, Xfinity
?) just doesn't cut it. At best, a superficial "rebranding" looks ill-conceived; at worst, it seems lazy and serves as an insult to your consumers. A thorough brand re-stage is an all consuming process that must be completely supported from executive leadership down to the service center. Beyond image alone, it must include substance and clear communication so that your audience understands, accepts, and ultimately favors your brand. Not surprisingly, having a clear objective and full strategic understanding for a rebrand is the place to start.
Be forewarned, however, even a fully executed re-branding will not necessarily cure everything that ails a brand. The jury's still out on how well things will go for JCPenney
. Your own brand is just a piece - albeit an important piece - of the puzzle. How your consumers/customers react and how your new brand compares to your competition are equally critical. Obvious advice from Hat Trick 3C. We know.
(Steve Jobs tribute logo created by Jonathan Mak, a 19-year old in Hong Kong)
It is only right that a blog that focuses on game changers takes a moment to note with sadness the passing of Steve Jobs. Not only has he changed the game over and over again, but he invented new games in the technology category - literally and figuratively.
We've assembled a few great videos and articles all in one place so that [aspiring] game changers can take a little break to find inspiration and encouragement from a true icon.
Final peace to Steve and happy trails to all those who hope to forge exciting new trails for the rest of us.By Understanding Human Desire, Steve Jobs Changed the WorldTen Things to Thank Steve Jobs For2005 Stanford Commencement Address
(article - video link is below)Apple's Visionary Redefined Digital AgeApple's Co-Founder Dies at 56
It's interesting to see how annoyed people are at the changes on Facebook. You've likely seen the news articles, blog posts, and (ironically) status updates on Facebook bemoaning the changes. Yet as irritated as we all might be, here we are talking about it, using it, and remaining loyal to it.
Frankly, I think Facebook is being smart. With the advent of Google+ and it's own ubiquitousness in an era where novelty is a given, it is at risk of becoming irrelevant. It's changes
(as explained on the Facebook site) continue to build on the insights that led to their success in the first place:
- Everyone is at least a little narcissistic.
- Humans seek connection and are curious about others' lives.
It remains to be seen whether the changes will help monetize the site any better, but I'm guessing that the changes will keep Facebook a very relevant part of their users' lives - assuring advertisers that the eyeballs are there. Share your thoughts on whether or not Facebook's approach seems strategic. We'd love to hear your opinion.