The Agency/Technology Arms Race, Explained

Branding agencies & technology firms are battling for your soul. It’s kind of intense.

Did you hear? There’s a war on. And it’s all about you.

Actually, it’s more of an arms race. And, if you’re even vaguely connected to the world of branding, marketing and technology, you should know what’s going on.

 

Here’s the gist:

The big-ticket branding agencies are racing to adapt new technologies that make them better at branding. You’ve probably heard of “Big Data.” (It’s exactly what it sounds like… kind of.) Well, thanks to advances in computing power and some fancy new algorithms, agencies are using Big Data to better-communicate with their customers and more-effectively position their brands. Now, all of these agencies are racing to get their hands on that tech and use it to create a better customer experience.

(Of course, that’s easier said than done.)

Meanwhile, the same thing is happening in technology. Tech companies are realizing that their product has powerful, seriously lucrative commercial applications that become more powerful and more lucrative by the minute. Now, they’re thinking, “Why would I partner with a third-party branding agency, when I could just do it all myself?” Good Question.

Now, the race is on. Brand agencies and technology firms are competing to deliver a truly complete solution to their clients, a Holy Grail that leverages the most powerful attributes of technology and branding to get maximum results.

Okay. So… How did we get here?

 

This war started because of 3 things.

  1. Computers are more powerful than ever, which means we can harness large volumes of data and use it to target consumers like never before. And that’s just one example. Essentially, all of the tech buzzwords you’ve heard about for years (Big Data, Internet of Things, etc.) are suddenly becoming commercially viable. What was once a cool idea is now a much-needed tool.
  2. Thanks to the power of data, agencies are micro-targeting consumers and delivering super-personalized (AKA “1:1”) brand experiences.
  3. Now, consumers not only like personalized, 1:1 brand experiences. They demand them. Companies are beginning to understand the value of this, and they’re expecting their agencies to deliver.

 

An example will probably help. (Preferably, one with tacos.)

Let’s say you’re a super-popular, national-caliber taco company.

For the sake of this example, let’s say your tacos are good. Not exceptional, not mind-blowing. Just. Good.

But, your brand is AMAZING. It’s super-duper fun, insanely engaging, and actually pretty hilarious. Maybe it features a talking Chupacabra who makes funny but deeply poignant observations about queso. (Maybe.)

The point is: Your customers buy your tacos – not because the tacos are objectively amazing (remember: they’re just good) – but because they identify with the personality of your brand. Your brand (not just your product) is the reason you’ve become a popular national business.

Then, one day, a technology consulting agency says they can double your revenue.

Double. Your. Revenue. (omg!)

Here’s how: Over the years, your customers have made millions of transactions. Each one of those transactions has left a little data behind. (Like a digital trail of breadcrumbs.) The tech agency is going to collect all that data, perform some analytic voodoo, and use it to do amazing, revenue-driving things. Things like micro-targeting your customers, offering personalized deals, and strategically releasing new kinds of tacos depending on the time of year, market trends, etc. They’re even going to create an app that lets your customers order online and build their own tacos (while collecting insane volumes of super-personalized data along the way, which will feed back into your data algorithms and make your targeted marketing even more effective).

The best part? This technology consulting agency has its own in-house branding team, so you won’t ever need your current branding agency again. (Right?)

It seems like an offer you can’t refuse.

 

…But, that’s not the whole story.

The taco brand example represents two trends. The first one’s pretty obvious:

Traditional ad agencies are losing clients to technology consulting firms. If branding agencies aren’t integrating technology into their solution, they can’t possibly deliver the kind of results their clients demand. They can’t compete with tech consultancies.

But, on the other hand…

Technology consulting firms are struggling to create engaging brand content. They’re struggling to recruit the best creative talent, which is why they’re failing to develop compelling brands.

…And that’s a problem, because the best data-management strategy is meaningless in the context of an uninspired brand.

Consider our taco company. It became a national best-seller because its brand appealed to people. That’s it. If the business loses its heart & soul, if it forgoes the brand that made it popular in the first place, customers will forget why they fell in love with it. At that point, spending the resources to micro-target disinterested customers is just a waste of time and money.

Before you drop your brand, ask yourself: What’s the real reason my customers love my product?

 

What’s a business leader to do?

If you’re a business leader – C-Suiter, marketing manager, etc. – you’re going to be courted by branding agencies and technology consulting firms, all of them making big promises. You have a decision to make.

Do you…

A) Go with a technology consulting firm that kind-of, sort-of does branding.

B) Go with a branding agency that kind-of, sort-of does technology. Or…

C) Go with a hybrid.

Here’s some advice.

Always go with an agency that understands your brand and puts it first. Technology might be the fancy new car, but creative branding is the fuel. Without it, you’re running on empty.  

Then again, the agency you work with must be technology-conscious. Some creative agencies get turned-off by the idea of technology. Some of them reject it altogether. (You can imagine how effective they are.)

We’re not biased or anything, but, as a creative branding agency that focuses on delivering real results, we’ve found that intelligently integrating technology into our overall strategy helps us make our awesome brands even awesome-r.

Because what’s the point of creating beautiful brands if you aren’t executing them in a meaningful way?