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The Challenges Facing Today’s Creative Agencies and What to Do about Them: Show Notes & Transcript

Post | Jan 23, 2024

Welcome back to Marketing Smarts! From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini (that’s us) comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. We deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from our combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. We tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

In this episode, we’re talking challenges facing today’s creative agencies. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re exercising your Marketing Smarts!

  • Episode Summary & Player
  • Show Notes
  • Marketing Smarts Summary
  • Transcript

Marketing Smarts: The Challenges Facing Today’s Creative Agencies and What to Do about Them

Being a creative agency is always an adventure. There are so many challenges, but it can be some of the most rewarding work you’ll ever do. What are some of the biggest challenges today’s creative agencies face? The “secret sauce” is gone, clients have gotten wise on how much they should be paying, execution falls flat, and “brand” continues to be hard to explain and internalize. Now, for the really good stuff: what to do about these challenges. We have you covered in this episode. This episode covers everything from agency life to managing clients. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What are some challenges facing today’s creative agencies?
  • Why is the “secret sauce” gone?
  • How much should clients be paying?
  • Why does execution fall flat?
  • What does “brand” mean?
  • Are the days of Mad Men over?
  • Why is Wix a game-changer?
  • What makes CRYOOH stand out?

And as always, if you need help in building your Marketing Smarts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at:

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below:

Show Notes

  • The Challenges Facing Today’s Creative Agencies and What to Do about Them
    • [0:00] Welcome to Marketing Smarts
    • [0:31] Anne Candido, April Martini
    • [0:35] What are some challenges facing today’s creative agencies?
    • [2:14] The “secret sauce” is gone and the struggle of what to own now is real
    • [2:34] Mad Men
    • [5:31] Brand Strategy
    • [13:53] Clients have gotten wise on big-ticket items and how much they should be paying
    • [15:01] CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
    • [18:11] Wix
    • [18:29] iPhone
    • [20:51] We’d like to invite you to join ForthRight Women: The Cohort. This community is for females who are ambitious in their careers, but want an equally fulfilling personal life. For more information and to join the group, check out
    • [21:28] The “we can do it all” mentality permeates agencies and the execution falls flat
    • [27:08] Org Chart (Organization Chart)
    • [32:58] Project Runway
    • [33:57] Brand continues to be a “squishy” topic that’s hard to explain and internalize
    • [35:38] Interbrand
    • [35:52] Podcast
    • [37:30] Attrition Rate
    • [39:01] Google Ads, Amazon
    • Marketing Smarts Moments

What is Marketing Smarts?

From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

How do I exercise my Marketing Smarts?

Thanks for listening to Marketing Smarts. Get in touch here to become a savvier marketer. 


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Anne Candido 0:02
This is Marketing Smarts – a podcast committed to helping you become a savvier marketing leader, no matter your level. In each episode, we will dive into a relevant topic or challenge that marketing leaders are currently facing. We will also give you practical tools and applications that will help you put what you learn into practice today. And if you missed anything, don’t worry, we put worksheets on our website that summarize the key points. Now, let’s get to it.

April Martini 0:29
Welcome to Marketing Smarts. I am Anne Candido and I am April Martini. And today we’re going to talk about the challenges that face creative agencies and then what to go and do about them. Obviously, this is the world that I come from. And I’ve been having lots of conversations with former co workers and people in the industry, about all the changes that are taking place and the associated challenges that come with those changes. And spoiler alert, these challenges are causing some agencies to be at a loss around what to do and how to keep up. Therefore, the purpose of this episode, yes.

Anne Candido 1:01
And to balance this combo, I will add the client side perspective, I will say we’re a quasi creative agency to so we kind of live this world to some extent, as you tell me all the time, you’re a creative now I am I agree, I think maybe you’ve given up a corporate title. But that’s fine. All right. But I still live it in the way that we can really empathize with the clients that we have. But also, I mean, 20 years of my life is not something that you could trust, shit.

But from that aspect, where we will have other people who will also take a moment to talk about the client side, on our upcoming series that we’re going to be having that’s going to really dig into this topic, and really talk about how these creative agencies can start staying more relevant in the day and age where the idea of creative and the development creative has really, really shifted. So look forward to that in the next coming weeks, we’re going to have creatives, we’re going to have clients, we’re going to have people who can talk about it from all different angles.

April Martini 2:02
Yeah, so this is maybe an intro or a prerequisite, if you will, to that series. So with that, we’ll get into the challenges facing today’s creative agencies and what to do about them. So the first point here is the secret sauce, quote, unquote, is gone. And the struggle of what to own now is real. So many of you are familiar and gotta kind of peek behind the curtain of the old days, quote, unquote, in our industry, with Mad Men as a show, and that era was really all around this secret sauce, if you will, of where those agencies had this ability that truly no one else had to be able to come up with these purely creative sometimes off the wall concepts and it really was a competition of who had whatever the criteria was the most creative, the craziest, the sexiest, the shiniest the whatever that criteria was, overall creative idea. Now, when we think about where things have gone since then, clients are savvy or people in general are savvier. And the world of creative has transitioned to very much need to embody strategy as part of it. And so with the advent of that, it no longer became a who can come up with, like I said, Whatever fill in the blank idea, it really became about, okay, what are and this is where Anne and I focus all the time, the business challenges that said creative work is going to be able to solve so that secret sauce, quote, unquote, really changed tremendously and dramatically when it was no longer about that creative competition. And so therefore, what was expected of the industry shifted, then we had digital come along. And not only are there tons of channels, so one big creative idea as part of the secret sauce doesn’t always necessarily make sense, or work or have the legs that it needs for that many channels. But also, now, you know, the everyday guy off the street or gal off the street can get these programs and platforms and use them at their, you know, will to, quote unquote, become a creative. So now we further challenged the industry and really pressure tested it maybe not so helpful, and it has all of our hair going gray early. Thinking about okay, well now the old days are totally gone, there needs to be a new level of savviness. And oh, by the way, there’s all these people that think that they can do it all. So things that we and that is inclusive of me were trained to do is really a lost art form, I would say in a lot of ways. And so we’re constantly fighting this battle and trying to figure out where do we sit? I will say and brag a little bit that I think we do quite a good job of this set forth right people and and mentioned that we’re going to have folks on to talk through these challenges and a lot of those folks also seem to have found their way if you will, so you’ll hear from them. as well on this front, but really what we are going to do in this episode is recommend Okay, so you just heard me talk about all kinds of challenges that came up and different things that are at play in the industry that we’re in. Not to mention marketing and branding is like drinking from a firehose on a good day. So everything’s changing all the time. But So in the absence of the secret sauce, what do you do. And so this is where we really believe that brand strategy needs to be the foundation. And the clients need to come along on the journey of that to build the brand strategy foundation in order to get to creative quote, unquote, solutions that address their needs through that lens in a way that allows them to be truly differentiated, deliver what the customer needs, stand out from the competition, all those questions that we talk about all the time at forthright people. And our role, we believe in our secret sauce becomes being the generalist to their specialist, and so and is famous. And I say this all the time, I feel like I quote you constantly, which I’m sure was great for your ego. But anyway,

Anne Candido 6:05
you show up on Zoom under my name, I mean, I know you really just want to be me. So it’s okay,

April Martini 6:10
it’s a really big problem. But the idea of clients being so in their business that they know more than we will ever know about their business. And so the crux of the secret sauce, or that partnership becomes when we come in is more of a generalist. And we’re able to take all the industries and all the clients and all the experiences, we’ve had kind of cross things and bring solutions that they couldn’t think of not because they’re not smart, or whatever. But because they’re so in with their blinders on almost of the specifics of what they do each day that it’s really hard to come up and think about working on your business. And so to counteract this secret sauce problem, maybe it doesn’t seem as shiny. And I mean, I’m also one that loves to go back and watch those episodes of Mad Men. And just, I mean, geek out on how amazing that period of time seem to be. Maybe not necessarily for women. But that’s a different topic for a different day. But I mean, all of that to say, I think it’s the secret sauce has shifted to be more about that true partnership. And when the parties can come together and respect each other for what they’re bringing to the table and solve those business problems through the creative and brand strategy solutions. That’s where agencies are going to win and the agencies of the future are really gonna thrive. Well,

Anne Candido 7:28
it’s a really interesting conversation about the secret sauce, because I think anybody who would think that it classically, chain engineer could become a creative, it’s probably like, saying, hell just frozen. Yeah. And everybody adapt is just kind of like rolling over their grip, like now, what are we gonna go? What’s what’s we’re all coming to. But I think it actually brings to light what I think is becoming a secret sauce. And I actually would say this is kind of madmen, 2.0. Because I think was the same in that era that is the same now is really fantastic. Good ideas. Yes, I think what’s really changing is where those good ideas can come from. And so like you said, the walls between a quote unquote, creative agency and the quote unquote, client have started to really come down. And now we use phrases like good ideas can come from anywhere. And we had a really great conversation with Paul stone, Nick on this one. And I had to even argue about the fact like, do we really truly believe that? Or do we still believe that good ideas only could come from creatives. And I still think there’s some work to be done on being able to really truly blend that in a way that’s going to be collaborative. But that all being said, an agency that can really embrace that good ideas can come from anywhere and are really to source and seek that in a way that is curious, is actually going to win here. Because that is the new secret sauce, the secret sauce is knowing a good idea when you hear it, not necessarily having to be the one who creates a good idea. And I think because of the accessibility now, like you’d mentioned digital is it’s so critically important to be aware of all of that that’s happening and not just be like, I’m going to shut that out. I’m gonna go into my little hole, and I’m going to create an idea what she could do in the Mad Men era, because everything was channeled through one channel. Yes, all TV advertising, right. So you were able to do that. And you could put out a really good commercial and a commercial could sell business, but to the point that you just made at the very, very end that is still the key objective here and we shouldn’t lose sight of that that the objective creative is to sell business and now is the same amendment Aaron. So same now, in between, I think we got a little lost because things started looking very sexy and shiny. And when digital came aboard, it was like, well, who’s posting get the most shares and who’s posting get the most likes, and it was just glamorous, and you felt good about yourself. When you could have a viral video, I mean, all these sorts of things, along with like all the awards and the accolades started kind of creating an atmosphere and a false atmosphere that distracted us from the true goal. have creative which is to sell business.

April Martini 10:03
Yeah, I mean, I think it is really well said and one of the things I was thinking about as you were talking and you know, we made the joke of and transitioning over to the dark side, I guess we would call it.

Anne Candido 10:15
Everybody else would say that too. Yeah. You’re not a success or at all, just say,

April Martini 10:24
Well, I’m in some ways, nor am I no longer designing anything, let’s just be clear. But anyway, I do think it is really interesting, because the ego is one of the things that if you’re going to be an agency of the future, you’re going to have to let go of and not that, yes, we let go of all of the, you know, swagger, and the experiences we bring and all of that. But if you’re going to enter into a true relationship with clients, and get your hands dirty, and do the work, and let good ideas come from anywhere, all of that stuff has to be checked at the door. And that is one thing that I will say I still see on a very regular basis. And where Anna and I are honestly providing value a lot of times is in helping some of our clients evaluate the agencies that they’re partnering with, and what they’re getting and kind of opening up this black box, which, you know, this episode is really actually meant to help those agencies. But in a lot of ways, we’re cautioning against it, because it’s still that ego play, this should cost X amount of money. I’m the only one that can do this, and all of those things. But I’m here to tell you that, you know, the future of that is ending and the door is closing quickly. And that is one of the biggest things that I think is that people are a little bit putting their head in the sand and thinking, well, we’re the very best at fill in the blank. And so no one can touch us. Meanwhile, all of the rest of us out there trying to reinvent it are creeping up to say, hey, we even were part of that. And we’re saying that’s not the future.

Anne Candido 11:55
Yeah. And I think to build on that point, I think it’s really understanding where the art is coming from, yes, we used to put so much stock in the art being having to create the idea. But really, right now the art is bringing that idea to life. Yes. Right. And being able to do it in a way that’s compelling, that breaks through that is meeting the quality standards, or whatever the consumer customer or client is looking for. I mean, that whole, like, orchestration of content and creative through all of these multiple channels, and doing it in a way that’s actually going to break through is a an art is not a science. Yes. And so if you’re going to put the camera on the right, focus what I did there, yeah, it’s not necessarily I do a lot of people can have good ideas, but a lot of people don’t know what to go do with them. Once they have that. Yeah, that’s where I think the creative agencies can really step up. And that’s where I think the true art is,

April Martini 12:45
yes, well, and I would balance that statement with making sure that you find the creatives that understand and are willing to do that, to which we have great ones on our team, we do to your point really understand not only how to make the pretty picture or design, just the logo, they understand that it has to transcend all those channels at the same time. And it has to hold up in all of those spaces. So really part of the pressure test and the exercise becomes Yes, it has to look great, absolutely. But the level of technical ability paired with just overall knowledge about all the channels that are out there has to be part of the conversation as well for them to be able to look at it and say, Well, when you shrink it on a business card, it looks like this, when it’s in your email signature, it’s going to look like this when it’s on a 200 by 300 digital ad it needs to hold up to and all of those different applications. It’s very different to your point and then being like it’s one TV spot or one billboard and it works and it’s fine grabbing. Yeah, our tagline. Yeah, exactly. Alright, so obviously, we could just keep going on that first. But you get the point too, and the interest in the interest of time that’s moving along. Okay, so the second one is clients have gotten wise on big ticket items, and how much they should be paying for things. So I’m a big one on the TV conversation and already brought it up on this episode, you hear me say it all the time that the $600,000 to millions of dollar plus and TV spots, that world is also over. So not that people aren’t doing commercials or paying those dollars. But the amount of agencies who used to have a hand in that bucket are really few and far between anymore, and the ones that like we said are going to be able to move forward, really have digital to think and then need that understanding of digital, like we said, and a lot of the issue here is that clients used to have the budget to do the one thing. Now their budgets haven’t changed in a lot of cases they’ve gotten smaller because things cost less and you can test and learn and you can put something out there in digital that’s a fraction of what those fees used to be. And so they understand now one that they don’t have to go and spend all their money on a TV spot, nor should they and their you know, CFO or whoever in their company. He is probably also very quickly calling that if that is still happening. But they’re also part of this world in a very different way, which we talked about a little bit in the last point. But you know, we’re all consumers of all these channels, as people as human beings. And so whether you’re a true marketer, and you really understand and that your role in a company, or you know, you’re just someone who uses the internet on a regular basis, you know, what a lot of these things are, and it’s not hard to go and look up what this stuff should cost anymore. And so I think the big lesson in learning here of what to go and do is, number one, lower your prices. Yes, I said that. And yes, I own an agency. But it’s very true. And I’m not saying that you go, and you make it a commodity or a money play. I mean, we are a business that solves business problems through brands. So obviously, we still very much believe in that and believe that that is the bargaining chip, if you will, in these situations, we’re not saying you compete on price that would never ever work. But what we are saying is that to some level, you have to get clear and transparent with the client on what the dollars are doing for them. And then you have to right size the work along with it. I mean, and and I charge a premium for our strategy work, because that is where the big ideas are coming from and where we’re solving the problems through. And we’re providing that helping you work on your business to identify those things, and really partner with you in order to help you with, you know, adding to the tools in your toolkit and the different perspectives and what you could potentially do and bringing those things to the table. Our creative work with most of our clients, especially because we’re in the small to mid size and service based industries, is not going to get the tickets that it used to. And honestly, we would argue nor should it now, our design team, I’ve already said is fantastic. And they are more than willing to flex with us on that. We have to manage things like rounds of revisions, and all of those types of things on their behalf. But when we get the brand strategy work, which again, is the premium item for us, right? All of that creative work really becomes an arguable because it’s not an art competition anymore. It’s answering the problems visually and verbally, for what we’re solving for the business. And so again, you heard me write about changing your prices. I mean, I think, you know, the big one is, you’re not going to get hundreds of 1000s of dollars, in most cases for TV spots. But also I mean, we have instances where there’s video companies trying to charge $40,000 for a four minute video or websites in the 100,090 to $100,000 range. I mean, that’s just not the reality of the situation anymore, and especially for certain clients. And so that’s what we mean, when we say, you know, these clients have gotten wise, if they’re not wise, they have partners that are helping them suss it out. And the price tag just is very different than what it used to be.

Anne Candido 17:54
Yeah. And I think in order to really ground this conversation, I think it’s important to keep in mind what the other side looks like now, because you’re talking about the accessibility to tools, right? Yeah. So if you’re talking about $100,000 website, on the other side of that is Wix, which anybody can literally anyone create a website, and it might not be $100,000 website, but we would argue not a lot of people need $100,000 website anymore, either. On the other side of that $40,000 digital video is an iPhone in somebody who can actually run some editing software. I mean, these are things that a lot of people are taking in house now, and are making it the scope of somebody in their department to actually go do small scale marketing and content creation. So you have to keep in mind what’s on the other side and anchor yourself appropriately for the kind of work that you’re trying to do as well as the kind of customer you’re trying to serve. Absolutely right. Because yeah, different customers have different levels of complexity. And that can definitely drive the price up and down. But just to close on a point that you were making as well about where the investment is going, like you had mentioned, when we used to put together our ad spend when I was in fabricare, a lot of it would lead more towards TV advertising, right. But as digital started to emerge, what you start to understand is I need more content. Yeah, I need to be in my, my social feeds of my customers, clients, consumers on a more regular basis. So therefore, if I need more content, and I need I need to probably spend less for each piece of content. And then I need like, again, I said like the art is the orchestration of all that content. Your money is being used very, very differently. So that’s the other thing to kind of keep in mind. And like you said, because of the testing and learning and the iteration anticipate on that is a very different business model. So wanting to go and have somebody invest in a creative process for that, then a execution for that that’s going to call cost hundreds of $1,000. And take about a year. I mean is no longer feasible. People want their creative right now they want to be able to iterate they want to a low cost of entry, they want to be able to like just said test and learn about on it and then optimize, and then then they will actually put more money into what works. That is a mentality that creative agencies need to start thinking in. And I know a lot of people are probably sitting there going, Yeah, well done. But you know, you say, yeah, well done. But we continue to still see it right over and over and over. And we hear it in through our clients who are wanting especially niche agencies to do certain pieces of work. So I’m sure we’re gonna get to the niche agency piece. I think that’s in here somewhere, so I won’t worry about it. But yeah, just to say more about that point. I wanted to add that. Yeah, no, I

April Martini 20:47
mean, I think all of that is exactly right. With that, let’s move on to point three, and this is the we can do it all mentality permeates agencies and then the execution falls flat. So I this is another part of my education, if you will experience growing up was nothing gave me a bigger heart attack than when we would go to pitch something. And we would very overtly say we did something that we absolutely did not do. And then me as the account strategy person was supposed to go back and figure out how we were going to go do said thing, in any thought that the client had no idea that this was going on. And as soon as the meeting was over, like, yeah, they don’t they don’t have to do that. Yeah, exactly. And so similar to this conversation, or to build on the conversation we’ve been having throughout this whole episode so far, it goes back again, to the complexity of the industry anymore. So the stakes were low, in many cases, even though yes, of course, client often knew that we didn’t know how to do it, but like the we didn’t know how to do it was a lot safer of a bet that we were going to be able to go home, go back to the agency and figure it out, then where that is today. So there’s a lot of reasons that this happens. The first one is that digital changes and moves too fast to know, every channel. And so I remember, one of the agencies I was at where we really started to see this breakdown was on website platforms. So and mentioned Wix and how anybody can get in and do that this was before that was even a real thing. But what would happen is we would profess to be platform agnostic, but what would happen was whoever we hired to run the website team, knew a certain platform and then wanted to force every solution into that platform. And now, I mean, you think about that, that was, I don’t know, 1012 years ago. Now, it’s not just websites, it’s all the ways you can host ads and all the different platforms you can do that on and all the different search engines that are out there. And whether it’s app based or not, I mean, all these crazy things that have come to life. And so for anyone, any agency to say, oh, yeah, we can do all of that, especially when it comes to execution. I mean, there’s just absolutely no way that’s true. And then also my point about becoming an agnostic experts, not a thing, you become good then at whatever you’re good at, right. So we have partners that are very good at Wix, and then can lean into WordPress, for example. But they are very quick to now say we don’t do it all. That’s what we do. And if that’s not what you need, then we’re not the partner to be doing that. Because again, you just can’t know all the ins and outs of that. So that used to be another thing, like we’ll build it on whatever platform, that’s also no longer a possibility. And I think overall, to Anne’s point, okay, fine clients may have known this longer than I’m willing to admit this. But I think now more than ever, going back to the point about the fact that clients are consumers in a lot of ways across a lot of these things. Now, too, it’s a very logical thing to be like, no one could possibly know how to do all of that. So the quicker we stop saying that and stop offering that and think through either how to build the right network of partners in order to deliver these things, or just take a hard line on the things that you no longer do. All agencies will be better off, but the way that you can say that you can do it all is by leading with the brand strategy, or really specifically the ability to solve any problem with a brand. And then once you unlock that work and provide those solutions, which admittedly are harder to get to and harder, take longer sometimes and require a different level of thinking that’s when you start to unlock the ability to add on more work. So it’s almost the opposite of how it used to be where you would sell in those major contracts and then chip away at this big retainer now it’s okay you’re gonna do whatever the front level work is, which is all the thinking and then once you’re a trusted partner and you’ve really proven your value, then it becomes like Well of course we want you to help execute on this or if not you, we want you to oversee it and consult on it or like we do we need you to help train so and so it Oh, Pick up the breadth of work that you get to do just in a different way than starting with the we can do it all? Well, I

Anne Candido 25:06
think that’s the really important point. And Nikki, because I think it takes a mindset shift to really accept that because I still think there’s this mentality and we face it all the time when agencies want to bring us on to do strategy, which is, if I admit that I can’t do this, then either one, they’re gonna find somebody else. Or two, I’m going to look like I’m not as good of an agency as I proclaim to be Yeah, but in actuality, when you bring in somebody who’s really good at something that you’re not really good at, you become really good on multiple things. Yeah, it’s a rising tide raises all boats, right? It’s everybody then wins from that. Yeah, you show up is looking like Rockstar, agency creative agency, because you brought on experts are really truly are experts versus trying to put a butt in a seat to say, hey, I have this person, quote, unquote, who may be a junior whatever and had just graduated like yesterday, versus you could bring on somebody, actually give them the attention for it and the accolades for it, and bring them along to the table with you, not whitelisting them, but bringing them on to the table with you and say, we have access to a ton of different experts. So we can come in and serve your business as a client, I would be much more apt to believe and buy into the second versus the first where I see an org chart. And I see somebody who looks like they, you know, just graduated yesterday sitting there in a role that’s supposed to be one of the prime roles that we need for this work. So think about it, putting yourself in a client’s shoes and thinking about what would the client really truly appreciate. And it’s a different like I said, it takes a mindset shift, because it’s not the traditional way that agencies traditionally think because they don’t want to share, they don’t want to collaborate, and a lot of different ways for a lot of different reasons. And I might be overly stereotyping here. But that has been my experience in many, many different ways. And I also say on the other side of that, too, because there’s always a dilemma around creative agencies about whether or not they should niche down or maintain more general approach to their client base. So I’ll be the first to admit we have lost some work to people who are more industry specific. It’s happened, it’s because though clients, in a lot of ways aren’t savvy enough to understand that brand strategy is the basis for good creative, and when you can really hone in and leverage that. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, versus somebody who says, I’m an expert in healthcare. I’m an expert in banking, but they are getting savvier. And they are getting a whole lot more pressure for their marketing and their creative to actually deliver on business objectives. So that is going to start flipping and when you are just very specifically oriented against a specific industry vertical. And that person who is your client asked you for broader thinking and you can provide that you are really minimizing your opportunity to be able to scale your business. So I caution a little bit against that for creative agencies. Again, I would say you need to rooted in your brand strategy, you need to make branch strategy, the basis for how you do your process. Because if you can do that, then any industry is available to you, which is what you would want you want to book a client that could spread industries, because industries go up and down. And not you need to be able to flex or you’re going to potentially put your business at risk. Yeah,

April Martini 28:38
I mean, well, first of all, I want to go back to something you said at the beginning of your point, which is the whole idea around hiring the right people and not being scared to do so. A little bit of a spoiler alert, if you will, clients, honestly don’t care if they’re getting the best people. So this whole thing was I feel like overcomplicated by agencies for a long time with like white labeling. Or if you’re gonna do this project for us, you need to have our email and god forbid somebody find out that you don’t actually work here. Well, digital has also ruined that, folks, because now you can go onto my LinkedIn page and see that I own forthright people not that I work at x agency that I’m supposedly being signed up for. But when we have entered into those types of situations, or when and and I have been on the other side where we’re offering up partners, clients don’t care about that anymore. They care about getting the very best work. So I wanted to make sure to emphasize that point. And then on the other side, the whole idea of niching down versus not what I said before is genuinely what we believe to be true, which is we need to do the opposite of that, because we need to see all these different businesses in order to provide you client with the breadth of solutions that you wouldn’t be able to come up with on your own. And so I think and I mean honestly And and I have lost bids because of this where someone says, Have you done X type of work before. And I mean, you can just see it, we can talk till we’re blue in the face about how we don’t need to have done that. And actually, it’s not good. And there’s still people’s minds that we aren’t able to change. But the truth of the matter is, is that there is really zero benefit to hiring an agency that works on healthcare only or, you know, whatever the different verticals are, because they get so engrained into the industry, that they no longer can come up with the truly creative solutions. And so it gets to be really difficult, where I mean, and I understand, especially for clients that are more conservative, and we’ve talked about the dollars that this stuff costs and people wanting to do a good job. I mean, I know why that seems to be the impetus, or I don’t know anything about marketing and branding. So I need someone that’s close in that can do this and can prove to me it’s an apples to apples thing. I know why it happens. But the ones that are going to succeed on the client side are going to be more open to this generalist idea where, you know, I can pull from working in construction and apply that to health care or technology or whatever. Because my brain is oriented in a very different way. Because every day, I might touch half a dozen different industries versus working on the same one every single day. Yeah,

Anne Candido 31:18
it definitely keeps you fresh, it keeps the outside inspiration, continuing to cook and you just maintain, like I said before, a level of curiosity about humans and human interactions and human relationships that you can apply across different platforms that may create opportunity that nobody even thought about. And that is where we’ve gotten the biggest aha, and the biggest wins for our clients is when we pull something from a different industry. And that interaction is been able to be operationalized. In the industry, our clients are in in a totally different way that I mean, dare I say, disrupts a little bit of the industry. So it’s this converging of kind of like the two things to some extent, that might seem very opposite to think about. But then when you put them together, it actually works. And I was just reminiscing about it. I was binge watching Project Runway. And I had that challenge. I love that show. I love that show. And so it never had that challenge. That seemed like to two disparate, like, opposite sides of things like sexy and modest, to put it together and make it work. And that is really, again, I go back to the art of marketing and branding that is really the art now of creative content is being able to put those things together in a new and different and interesting way. That creates incremental intention. Yeah,

April Martini 32:47
yeah. But I mean, it requires a bit of faith. Because the way you just describe that, right, it’s like, those are two things that inherently wouldn’t go together. And then it’s like it almost has to be unveiled for you to be able to believe it. But it is one of those once you see it you you’re like, oh, that’s why I go and do it that way.

Anne Candido 33:04
And it’s interesting. Yeah. And it is it captures attention and makes you go. And it makes you think and it makes you stop and all those things that we need to do to break through the clutter of all this noise. Yes,

April Martini 33:14
exactly. All right. And our fourth and final point, we made it, we made it. I limped along a little bit here we our brand continues to be a squishy topic that’s hard to explain and internalize. That’s the official squish terminology, especially squishy is the terminology. So you know, why do agencies shy away from this? It is hard work. It’s hard work to learn it. It’s hard work to understand it. It’s hard work to explain it to other people. And then it’s hard to use it to solve problems. And I’m not trying to Pat us on the back and say we’re the smartest people ever, right? Because this is why we do our wait a second by way.

Anne Candido 33:52
We don’t see we’re not the smartest people

April Martini 33:55
either. Okay, I didn’t say we weren’t this, I’d said I’m not trying to say we are that’s all I’m saying you can leave it open to interpretation. But what I am trying to say is it takes time and effort and hard work and a level of mental sharpness and paired with that curiosity that Ann mentioned, in order to train your brain to think this way kind of all the time. And truly, there’s just not enough people that want to be strategists whether that’s in their title or not. I mean, even in the traditional agency model, we were looked at as we had to be the smartest people in the room, but there were you know, 90% of the agency was like, Thank God they don’t have that job. Right. Right. So it is it’s a different way of thinking it is harder. And the other part that I will say is I feel bad for younger folks that are trying to grow up and become part of this world because not enough agencies teach this anymore either. And so a lot of my I will say like, quote unquote pedigree was working at places like Interbrand, where we really do had to learn how to do this work. And then repeat this work over and over again to the point where it really became ingrained. And when people asked me, How do you learn that now, I don’t have a great answer other than this podcast in our worksheets a lot of times, because I just don’t think it exists with the same level of rigor and intentionality, as it did those years ago. And then also not enough universities focus on it. I mean, we did and said, you know, we had Paul stonic, from SCAD on and they’re getting it right over there. 100%, you know, listen to that episode, and encourage your kids, I guess, go to go there, this is what they want to do when they grow up. But there just isn’t enough of it out there. And then on the other side of that clients don’t have the patience or understanding or time or money to spend hours and hours and days and weeks and whatever that we used to spend on this kind of work because the world’s moving too fast. And then also they have their day jobs. So they can’t actually have the patience anymore that we used to have when we didn’t have the digital world. And we could run a research study for eight weeks or whatever. If we did that today, by the time we got to it, the stuff would be irrelevant, that we’re coming back with in large part. And so all of this makes it even I’ll just say it again squishier than it ever was before. And it’s all the way from like the high strategic, what is the definition of brand through to how do you build a brand? And then how do you execute on it in the world that we’re in today. And so it does make it even harder to explain and then internalize. And so what we do you know, our answer to this is, number one, we have to learn to contextualize this for clients in a way that it means something for them. And that’s where we come in with brands solving actual business problems. Because brand is a little bit nebulous, and a hard thing to understand. But the minute that you can tell a client, hey, we cut the attrition rate at this client by 55%. By using brand to solve business problems, man do their heads turn fast. And the other part of that is that you are taking something that they do know. And it’s less mandatory that they understand how to build brand, because that’s your job as the agency, but what it does, it answers the things that keep them up at night, or the challenges that they’re being faced with in their company or what their boss is asking them to do, you’re adding new tools to their toolkit in the form of brand, and giving them things to surround again, their day to day job and think about it differently. So that brand actually starts to mean something within their organization. And they can see the value of it in things like oh my gosh, we’re beating our competition, or we look really different in a really good way. Or all the sudden the clients or the customers or the consumers are coming in droves, because we’ve answered the right question for them, all of those types of things start to happen. And so that’s where this really needs to be the foundation of the future for creative agencies.

Anne Candido 37:50
I couldn’t agree more. I feel like we’ve created a little bit of a monster because we as a network of agencies have decided that we’re going to give the client what they want, not what they actually need. Yep. Right. And so what a client generally needs what they asked for is always very executional base. Yeah, I need social strategy or social posts, I need a digital content, I need Google ads, I need somebody who can tell me how to sell on Amazon, all these very tactical things, which people have built businesses around in order to address those needs. The problem is, is when you address those needs in such an isolated way outside of the bigger brand business structure, you miss the boat nine times out of 10. Yeah, because you’re not answering the real question, which is, why do you need this? Why is the actual problem you’re trying to solve? Because I can tell you, you can try to look, but there is not one expert out there that knows how to sell businesses on Amazon. You know why? Because nobody knows the algorithm in which Amazon works on that, you know, except for a couple people in Amazon, and they’re not talking Yeah, right. So we’ll get fired. If they are, they’re gonna get fired, right. So these are meant to be black boxes for a reason. So to think that you’re gonna find somebody who actually knows it, or is gamed the system is really not, it’s just not going to happen. You can spend a lot of money trying, but we have addressing these needs, we are going up to proverbial we, in a way that again, super niches down into tactical solutions without asking the why. And the why is always rooted in some sort of brand need that isn’t being served. Because brand inherently it’s a relationship you have. It’s the philosophy that you have for your business. It’s relationship you have with your customer, client or consumer. Something is broken, if nobody’s buying Yep, how to sell something on Amazon may eventually be a solution. But it’s not going to be the right solution. And it’s not going to be a successful solution. Unless you can go back and solve the actual business problem. And mamby pamby, like why are you guys even sharing all this with us? It’s because we don’t want somebody to mess it up for us. Yeah. I mean, we have to fight through a lot of baggage, a lot of baggage when it comes to trying to sell our clients on branding and marketing, which we know is going to be a big business solution for them. But we have to go through a lot of what they previously gone through and explain why that didn’t work. And how ours is us is going to be better if we can actually do it right to begin with, we can again, oh, all rise in there’s enough work for all of us out there. And we can make the whole marketing and branding industry, a much more positive experience in a bigger focus of budget, resources, time, understanding all of those things that you just said are lacking and why brand is still squishy. Because ultimately, brand is the authenticity that holds the business together. And if they don’t have that foundation, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling him. It’s not going to work. Yeah,

April Martini 40:44
I mean, all of that is totally true. And you know, I mean, I’m even a fixer, and I’m tired of having to come in and clean up messes done by others.

Anne Candido 40:52
Amen. Right.

April Martini 40:53
I mean, it is, it’s just, it takes me to the expression of like, if we would all just use our powers for good instead of evil. I mean, I think that every time we get in, I’m like, oh, again, you gotta be kidding me. Or like, you know, what happens a lot of times is like, we lose the bid, because we’re more expensive on the strategic foundational side of things. And guess what, here they come, and now they’ve spent money in the wrong place. And not only do we have to do it, right, but we have to clean it up first and then do it right. And

Anne Candido 41:20
they want us to do it for less money because they’ve just spent all their money. Yeah,

April Martini 41:23
which is a whole other problem. So yes. So this is meant to be, you know, help us help you help all of us clean this up and get things back on track. So there we go. Okay, so hopefully you’re not too tired at this point and be like, Oh, my gosh, and in April, we’re blowing a lot of hot air today. But here we are in our final segment about 40 minutes. Okay, so that’s okay. So our other segment is where we highlight companies or brands that may or may not be using their marketing smarts and may or may not have a whole lot to do with today’s episode. So the company I want to call out today is CRYOOH. They are located right up here where I live and have become a regular in my volatile in my toolkit, which is cryotherapy, which is yes, standing in the freezer, at negative 150 degrees. I did clarify that with them. So I didn’t say something stupid and wrong on the podcast. But the reason I mean for therapeutic reasons, I love it. But the reason I want to highlight them is because the thing that has struck me about them is they used to be part of a franchise model or somehow like part of a bigger company, and they’ve gone out on their own. And I’ve tried out a few different facilities for this service. And I liked them because I don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to hiring employees. But I can tell you the consistency by which the experience is created through the employees that work there is remarkable. And for someone like me who’s hypercritical that right from the brand perspective, I mean, the experience, I would guess they have at least 20 people on staff, if not more, and it’s not a huge facility. But they do need that given things like the amount of laundry you go through when someone’s going to be in the cryo chamber to they have to have licensed nurses and everything in between. They’re not just the freezer, they’re injectables and all kinds of different stuff, right? They have super young people, they have older people they have everything in between their clientele is the same way. Some are college athletes all the way up to people with rheumatoid arthritis that are you know, later in life, and the kindness and care and consideration, but also the level of comfortability, whether it’s someone you see regularly or someone that you’re seeing for the first time, and it’s in the steps they take and how they do it to the way that they speak to the way that they interpret what mood you’re in. So like for someone like me, some days, I want to chit chat about the kids or whatever. And some days, I’m going to sit in the compression chair for 45 minutes and need to bang something out for work. I mean, it is just unbelievable to me that they’re able to and especially with the workforce being what it is today find this many people to do this job with this. I don’t know similar profile like I really want marry best training module is what I want of like, how do you go and find these people? And then how do you go and train them? Because the entire experience is seamless, and consistent. And it doesn’t matter what time of day or who you experience. So I just think it’s amazing to me, and we’ve talked so much on this show about customer service has kind of gone to the wayside, and things aren’t such a great experience anymore. And businesses have taken a hit and finding the right people. This is the opposite of that. So I just think they deserve to be commended. And from a brand perspective, they are definitely living into the mission vision values that’s been created in that organization. I don’t see another way for it to work the way it does otherwise. Yeah, I

Anne Candido 44:45
mean, it’s got to be right because it’s the foundation of being able to create that environment is culture and culture actually is derived from brand, right, right. So you have to have a really strong sense of brand in order to kind of create that call. pitcher of talent that is going to come and operate in a way that’s consistent. And so that you get the same experience every time and everybody is able to see what success looks like.

April Martini 45:13
Yes business.

Anne Candido 45:14
Yes, I just find it ironically funny that you complain about going outside when it’s 15 degrees cold and you’re spending money to go sit in something that’s actually colder for three and a half minutes. So just a little irony as we’re going through this, I

April Martini 45:31
only have to be there for three and a half minutes. Okay, when I run it 25 I know I didn’t say that I make a lot of sense as a person I was complimenting a business that I frequent. Alright, course you have to take it there.

Anne Candido 45:45
Well, you know, call it hell like it’s

April Martini 45:48
also fair. nothing if not forthright. All right, so just to recap the challenges facing today’s creative agencies and what to do about them. Number one, the secret sauce is gone and the struggle what Oh, no is real. It’s better to be transparent and work alongside your client to be the generalist to their specialist. Number two clients have gotten wise on big ticket items and how much they should be paying lower your fees and show where the money’s going. We’re not saying take a pay cut that but there is some right sizing that needs to happen. Number three that we can do it all mentality permeates agencies and the execution falls flat spoiler alert, you will never win here focus on what you’re good at and how to solve the client’s problems through brand not just execute the work. And number four brand continues to be a squishy topic that’s hard to explain and internalize. If you haven’t gotten it by now, start this episode over it all starts with brand. Become an expert in explaining this to your clients in a way they hear it care and have to have it and with that we will say go and exercise your Marketing Smarts! Still need help and growing your Marketing Smarts? Contact us through our website: We can help you become a savvier marketer through coaching or training you and your team or doing the work on your behalf. Please also help us grow the podcast by rating and reviewing on your player of choice and sharing with at least one person. Now, go show off your Marketing Smarts!