Digital transformation has reached a tipping point in the creative industry, and the relationship between brands and agencies has shifted in some fundamental ways. Why? Because rising customer expectations are presenting a new set of challenges for everyone involved.
Take Adobe, for example. Back in the early 2000s when Adobe sold boxed software with perpetual licenses primarily through channel partners, we engaged with our agency around big launches every few years. The agency did great strategic creative work primarily for print and a small amount of digital.
Fast forward to today, and this is no longer enough. Our customers expect to learn and get help on Adobe.com, on our social media channels, in person at Adobe events and even inside the apps they use, like Photoshop and Acrobat.
We need to engage our customers with great digital experiences no matter where they’re engaging with us. Doing it right requires consistent, personalized experiences in product, in service, in store and across hundreds of customer touchpoints.
To help clients successfully implement this kind of experience, agencies need to have an in-depth understanding of their clients’ customers and business processes, and both brands and agencies need to drive this forward with unprecedented creative efficiency.
Steve Moy, chief technology officer at digital agency R/GA, sums up this brand agency relationship shift best: “As brands complete their digital transformation, they’re realizing that it’s no longer possible to cleanly separate business strategy and creative direction. They expect their partners to solve complex business problems rather than provide individual point solutions like a traditional campaign. Agencies and consultancies are being tasked to integrate capabilities to commercialize new products and services into the market very quickly.”
As agencies both large and small strive for success in this new era of digital transformation, here are five key areas they should invest in.
Although digital technology is creating disruption for brands and agencies alike, it also unlocks a new set of creative possibilities, according to Richard Ting, global chief design officer at R/GA.
“Our relationship with clients has become much more strategic and holistic. Clients are looking to us to help them solve their business problems and guide them through these rapidly evolving technological disruptions. We’re doing so much for our clients. Everything from traditional communications to product and service innovation to consulting and startup acceleration,” he said.
To keep up with the vast amounts of creative required to satisfy customer needs, brands need agency partners who understand their business, customers and industry. So, most brands are out there looking for more than communication and creative work—they’re looking for marketing services, product design and business transformation partners. Strategic investment in these areas can open entirely new lines of business to help brands with their bigger transformation.
As brands seek deeper relationships, they’ll come to depend on the relationships they have with their agency partners. To be effective, agencies need to understand their clients’ customers and industry. That knowledge resides in talent. Nurture it, grow it and reward it.
Brands and agencies alike are still exploring what true experience design looks like. Creating personas, delivering content in a multiscreen, attention-spread world and measuring it all meaningfully takes new skill sets.
Moy said, “Data is the new competitive advantage for brands. We advise our clients to rethink their strategy to not only reclaim their customer relationships, but more importantly, reclaim their customer data.” Whether it’s a customer journey manager or an analytics designer, agencies need to bring in the new talent that will guide their clients into the future.
It’s almost impossible to achieve creative efficiency and drive powerful customer experiences if strategy and creative are not driven forward hand-in-hand. Agency teams, in-house teams and marketers all need to interact and share information seamlessly to drive truly transformative experiences.
Creative and UX design
Both brands and agencies need to be faster and more efficient with content creation and UX design. Investing in ways to help employees differentiate their work, create standout customer experiences, automate routine and repetitive tasks and free time to focus on strategic creative design is imperative.
“Storytelling, the content and the quality of the experiences are still king. Agencies still need to work with brands to create stories and experiences that resonate emotionally and build connections with consumers,” said Ting.
As professional tennis player Arthur Ashe put it, “Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.” Similarly, in today’s digital world, both agencies and brands need to shift their focus from quick wins to long-term customer experience creation. By building deeper, ongoing relationships and working together more strategically, both can improve and excel.