Today’s Marketing: Middleman or Midwife? By Tomi Ogunlesi MBA

Mr Tomi Ogunlesi MBA
June 20, 2012 — 1,913 views  
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As a fall-out of the near-disastrous upheaval of recent years in the global economy which has not spared both the advanced and emerging markets alike, most sectors are contending with the harsh realities occasioned by the economic recession. One of the business functions which have been hardest hit in most organizations clearly has been that of marketing/promotional activity.

This has necessitated a critical re-appraisal of our approach to business and brand communication. The practice of marketing communication has witnessed increasingly remarkable fragmentation, with an attendant thin-out of margins, agency remunerations etc. We have witnessed widespread proliferation of Outdoor agencies, Media Independents, Strategy consultancies, PR Agencies, Event & Experiential marketing outfits, Research Consultancies and so on. The scenario in many instances is that due to constraints occasioned by inevitable rationalizations in marketing budgets, Clients are proactively seeking more cost-efficient means of achieving marketing objectives effectively.

Now, what are the implications of this on our business processes?

One realization is that the third-party phenomenon in today’s contemporary marketing communication picture is being redefined, as most companies are engaging in direct liaison with service providers who, hitherto from an agency perspective are (or were) considered to be ‘third-parties’.

Another trend worthy of note is the increasing proliferation of in-house ‘crack’ creative teams, a practice which is deemed to be cost effective and allowing for considerably faster turn-around times (possibly against the backdrop of the perception that when dealing with the advertising agency, some degree of bureaucracy or red-tapism may set in)

This realization again calls to question the traditional roles of an advertising agency, and how relevant these are in today’s cut-throat jungle of a business environment.

The reality of the situation is that now, more than ever before, Agencies need to take more than a passing interest in Product Strategy and development. The bottom-line remains that marketing communication professionals need to become more objective and proactive with regards to the client’s holistic business model. Agencies need to raise the game, make the briefs and not merely be seen as taking briefs. This calls for more of brand interrogation and provision of incisive consumer, competitive and market insights!

Its been suggested that Agencies need to adopt the business consulting approach to analyzing the challenges of clients’ business and being able to proffer relevant solutions that add measurable value that can impinge positively on the bottom-line of the business.

This is also underscored by the changing role of brands in contemporary times. More recently, developing a brand has been interpreted to mean devising and implementing ways by which to deliver (unique) benefits to stakeholders. Now, such concept directs the development of products and services designed to supply the intended benefit, and even ultimately shape entire organizations for this purpose.

This new and strategic role of branding has remolded the way agencies are expected to function; or the expectations of clients as far as they (agencies) are concerned. Today, brand-building is the key, and it no longer constitutes a mere manipulation of consumers’ perceptions and desires - It is the creation of a system that on one hand makes promises and arouses anticipation, while on the other guarantees delivery and realization of those promises it makes.

The foregoing further underscores why Agencies need to get involved in Product Development and strategy. Before any brand development can take place, business consultants must study the models and work through fundamental issues such as long-term business, operating and organizational strategy.

Only then can the stage of brand development and communication follow. Unfortunately, for most traditional advertising agencies, this is at best the starting-point. Time has run out for agencies who believe they can offer relevant creative solutions without understanding the client’s bottom-line. Brand knowledge is as much about numbers and strategic direction as it is as product benefits and campaign look and feel.

Interestingly, it’s been suggested that the agencies to reckon with in near future will essentially incorporate the systematic and intellectual rigor of an Accenture, the highly conceptual creativity of a TBWA alongside the expected integrity of a Deloitte, all of these rolled up into one efficient business solutions powerhouse.

Now, we realize that the midwife is really expected to be a diviner of sorts. She thinks proactively and anticipates unforeseen complications that may set in during the course of the delivery, while being implicitly trusted to provide relief and succor to the pangs of the expectant mother. Having said the foregoing, What then is the role of a mere middle-man, who role does not extend beyond that of the traditional town-crier, who serves to only amplify and echo the voice of the ‘owner’ of the message(verbatim, exactly the way he has been instructed to relay the message)?

Gone are the days of ‘clever’ copywriting, premised on exaggerated headlines and unfounded value propositions. Our clients require relevant and cutting edge business solutions and ideas that add value to the lives of their stakeholders and give them that critical edge in the market! Not mere ADS. How well equipped are we to adequately deliver in this regard?

Tomi Ogunlesi (MBA), a professional member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK) is with the strategy practice of a frontline marketing communications consultancy in Lagos.

Mr Tomi Ogunlesi MBA

Bates Cosse

A consummate marketing communication professional with experience spanning diverse brand categories ranging between corporate, FMCG, financial services and aviation, among others. A member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM, UK) He is also an alumnus of both Vega, the Brand communications school and the Wits Business School Product Strategy & Brand Management Programme. He is currently a brand strategist at Bates Lagos, where he works as Brand Manager responsible for Segment and Product marketing for a leading African Financial services brand. He is also presently an MBA candidate at the Lagos Business School.