It’s looking like branding as we come out of the recession is still not for the faint of heart or weak of bowels.
Good Lord. I sure felt the truth of this over the last several weeks. And it looks like the new Forrester report called The Future of Agency Relationships confirms it.
We recently started working with a new client and straight out of the gate we’re launching an important promotion and ongoing brand experience that no one either here at ID Branding or there at the client has ever done before. In fact, the more experts I talk to in hopes of smoothing the process a bit, the more I’m finding out that no one has ever done this. Not exactly this way.
But this is exactly what the new era calls for. We all better plan on living in a whole lot of uncertainty from now on. Because our audiences out there are demanding that we invent on their behalf, and that means not just the messages or the visual effects or the casting and sound track, but the experiences themselves and the venues for these experiences. (I’ll get more specific about this project in a future post if my client says it’s OK.)
Suffice to say, we are figuring this thing out as we go. And it’s been bumpy.
Now, I’m used to doing that in situations like a commercial shoot when you’re working with the production company to figure out how to put a 16 mm camera into the middle of a fast-flowing steam so you can shoot migrating steelhead underwater as they pass up stream. And then determining that you’re going to have to buy the fish and release them. And finding out there aren’t steelhead available, but you can get a tanker truck of really big trout, which is close enough.
And after that’s solved there’s the question of finding the damsel fly or dragon fly in the script, but the production company comes up dry and you’re lucky enough to have seen a lake loaded with them when you were scouting for locations. And so it goes, for maybe a few days. Pure unadulterated scramble.
But this is now becoming every day, not just production week. And if we’re doing our jobs right, we’re constantly doing something we’ve never done before. On a much bigger scale. It’s exhausting. But it’s also damn exciting.
That’s kind of what the Forrester report is saying, but in a much drier fashion and with much more scholarly authority and a bit more jargon. I’ve only read summaries and commentaries on it, but that’s enough to start a conversation with my fellow branding people about it.
Edward Boches has got a nice handle on it and it’s reinforcing what he’s been doing over at Mullen. He calls it Adaptive Brand Marketing. It’s reinforcing what a lot of us have been trying to do recently. And it’s helpful because it’s clarifying and articulating some of the challenges we’re all going to be facing together, side by side, agencies and clients. And that can be soothing when things get bumpy. Which they will.
Because uncharted territory is our new home. Thank God I’ve got a great client who is willing to co-conspire with us, rather than demand flawless execution at every turn. Because the only way you can be flawless is when you’ve done something over and over again. And that’s exactly what ISN’T going to cut it anymore.
It reminds me of the days when I was part of an interactive agency called Paris France. Everything we did was something we’d never done before. This was from 1999 to 2003, and the interactive brand experience was in its infancy. We were constantly wondering how we were going to pull off what was in our heads. We repeatedly turned to a slew of experts like the Flash wizard Phillip Kerman to help us figure things out.
And that’s what we’re doing with this current promotion event — we’re calling in all kinds of experts and friends and just figuring it out. And watching for results. And measuring. And then making tweaks and changes as necessary. Trial and adjustment.
The days of knowing are over. We are all sailing off the map, and it’s pretty exciting, as long as our clients are willing to be explorers with us and get wet. As the Forrester paper points out, “agencies and outsourced partners will become more important than ever (the world is too complex to figure it out alone).”