Op-Ed: A New Year’s Resolution for Small Agencies — Building a Brand Strategy

By Kiran Aditham 

We guess the fall/winter interns are keeping busy at the moment, so we’ll pass the mic for this latest op-ed to an agency VP, namely Brad Carraway, who leads brand strategy at Calabasas, CA-based Mile 9, a decade-plus-old, full service shop that has worked with clients including K-Swiss, Disney XD and Atari.Speaking from one small agency to another, Carraway offers tips on how you can develop your own brand strategy come 2013. Take it away, sir.

December is coming to an end and a New Year is fast approaching. Before your agency toasts in 2013, now’s the perfect time to take a moment to reflect back & focus on what your brand goals are for the New Year. Think of it as a New Year’s resolution for your agency – building a brand strategy for your business.

Developing a brand strategy for your agency is a vitally important, but often overlooked endeavor. Think about it. We do it all the time for our clients – conduct an in-depth market analysis, a competitive brand analysis, consumer insight research, and maybe a SWOT analysis just for fun – all culminating into an integrated brand strategy designed to set brand X apart, break-through the clutter, fuel deeper brand engagement and make the cash registers ring.


You pour your heart and soul into those campaigns, and love doing them for clients – but now its time to put that same level of analytical rigor, strategic thinking and creative marketing to work for your agency. Now, before you get caught up in the daily sprint of servicing clients, meeting deadlines, performing fire-drills or managing staff issues. Now, it’s the perfect time to take a step back, clear the head, and map out a brand strategy that’s going to take your agency to the next level.

Here’s your New Year’s Resolution – Develop your agency’s brand strategy – outlining where you’re at, where you want to be, and articulating how you’re going to get there. First, start with the usual nuts & bolts – your forecasted revenues, overhead plan & expenses and other business metrics – but be sure to allocate a brand development budget to fund brand building initiatives that are going to grow your business and your agency’s brand now and in the future.

Next, do some soul searching to better understand if your agency’s current brand positioning is still aligned with your mission, values & goals, asking yourself questions like:
– Is your agency’s positioning still reflective of how you want to be perceived, or who you want to target?
– Do your pitch materials convey the essence of your agency and your capabilities?
– Are and how are you differentiated and is that coming through – what’s the factor that makes your agency great?
– What internal assets/resources are you not utilizing to their fullest or should be grown more to support your agency’s positioning?
– Who can you partner with to help mutually grow your businesses?
– What are the key marketing/PR and social media initiatives that you need to undertake, refine and/or expand upon to raise your agency’s profile, support your positioning or use to gain new business?
– Do you have the right talent in place to grow into the areas you want to be in?
– What R&D areas do you need to invest in to expand your capabilities for the future?

But it’s not all heavy strategic thinking – its also cultural – like are you continuing to develop & nurture the agency culture that you envisioned when you embarked on this adventure? And, is that coming through in your agency’s brand positioning and tonality?

Now after developing your strategy, you’re ready to put it into action and get down to the brass tacks of executing, assigning leadership responsibilities and setting a deliverables calendar. And, it’s time to put ideas to paper and draft out that killer brand strategy that’s going to meet (sorry, exceed) those annual goals and metrics, while taking your agency’s brand to the next level.

Happy New Year!