The Cycle of Brand-Agency Insanity

Dissecting the brand & communication partner relationship to understanding when to hold on and when to let go

Insanity is replicating the same thing in the same way and expecting a different response. We see this more as a personal life phenomenon, and professionals seem to be, for the most part, more sane and pragmatic about finding solutions. Having said this, many brands, often, shop for agencies with the brief focused more around how they felt their last few communications partners could not deliver rather than the trying to immerse the new agency partner prospect in their business and expectations. There are business acquisitions made by consultants on being better counselors and listeners rather than strategists and experts in their fields. Changing communication partners again and again expecting the same result is insanity. Unfortunately, at times, as marketing and communications teams change, this vicious cycle sees no end, and the brand ends up working with multiple agencies, little to show for it, and the same complaints ready against the past partners for the briefing of their new prospective partner.

While it should be noted that some partners may not be actually able to deliver as per their commitments and this phenomenon may not exist in every brand team, the fundamental attitude that changing your agency partner will take you to the promise land is unfounded, and most successful relationships are ones where there is a long-term commitment between the agency partner and the brand with an oath to stick together in sickness and health. The relationships that can make each other better and are solution oriented, rather than justification/excuse oriented, survive. But again, this should not lead to another dangerous cycle of an inability to kill a relationship when it is clear that the two entities cannot see eye-to-eye and spend more time in conflict then in resolution. So, how does one find the balance between not falling in a cyclical insanity of constant change and an inability to kill a relationship that needs to die for the betterment of both the entities?

Stay True To the Relationship If:

Attitude Alignment
If the personalities of the brand and agency teams match, brands should resist the urge to change the partner and try to work towards a solution. With skillset and experience evaluated at the time of getting into the relationship, a personality synergy between the two entities is extremely hard to find, and once you find it, hang on to it.

Transparency & Honesty
This maybe the most important reason a brand-agency partner relationship can survive in times of challenges and conflict. Most conflicts arise out of the lack of honesty and clarity of commitment. A transparent and honest agency partner, who doesn’t beat around the bush, accepts their mistakes, and never accepts until they truly believe in something, is a great partner to have.

The Language of Solutions
What language do you speak in your discussions, brainstorms and meetings? If a large part of the conversations are about justifications and reasons from the brand and consultancy side, its not going to work, but if both entities agree that they will only speak the language of solutions in every aspect of the relationship, it’s a relationship to cherish, and the two entities will surely do some great things together.

Kill the Relationship & Move On If:

I have no more questions.
When meetings and brainstorms start to get majorly tactical and there is no questioning to the approach by either entity in the relationship, its time to start rethinking the relationship. Curiosity is at the core of the human mind, and if you have no more questions, there is no more challenge. A lack of challenge will not push the relationship to do more and be aspirational.

Is this a relationship or an algorithm?
The agency-brand relationship always starts off to an exciting start due to a new subject matter, sector and brand for both entities, but once an approach that works is found, the relationship may be at the risk of being robotic. While the approach works, both the brand and agency partner get so comfortable in the routine that there is no scope of innovation or creative thought. Its great to get comfortable in the personalities of the two entities, but if both entities get too comfortable with the strategy and approach, it’s, unfortunately, time for a change.

The Fire Doesn’t Burn The Same Anymore
The relationship needs to professionally turn on the brand and the agency partner teams. If each entity is not getting excited, challenged and breaking their head on the next phase of brand growth on a continuous basis, the attraction will start to cease to exist. The relationship needs to be open to taking risks with their campaigns, open to failure, and resist the temptation to do the same thing merely basis the fact that there are no other new ideas.

It should not be mistaken that core skillsets, expertise and clarity in thought process are not important. They are extremely important and an irreplaceable aspect of a successful brand and communication partner relationship, but the softer aspects of the relationships are also important, especially when relationships are not driven by just needs/requirements, but aspirations to do something great together. But then again if a relationship is driven only by  a need, then there is no relationship, and the agency partner would be more aptly referred to as a vendor anyways.