In over two decades, Hamazaki Wong has seen many changes in business and marketing. Recent times have proven to be the most perplexing with a plethora of technology-driven options that have rendered most marketers stupefied and, in some cases, paralyzed. The last two years remind me of 1999 when the Internet bubble was in full force — not because technology was changing everything (and it is) but because it was confusing the fundamentals of business. This is such a time.
For marketers, technology has widened the media game transforming (or rendering obsolete) traditional media companies while introducing new options that unto themselves have learning curves that have not been fully realized. And these changes cascade down to agencies, upending the ways we’ve always done business. It used to be that agencies were experts at strategy, media, creativity, or some other marketing discipline. Sadly, few are truly experts at anything anymore (save companies like Hamazaki Wong and one of our specializations in Asian marketing for example). Technology tools have allowed an entire generation of content creators to diminish the role of the agency. Just look at YouTube and smart phones as examples of that. These tools have also allowed client organizations to develop and implement their own marketing plans with far greater speed and lower cost than they’ve been able to do previously, and without the help of an agency. And that includes developing their own media platforms to compete with existing media properties.
The result of this is that agencies are crowding each other out, taking on assignments that may not be within their bailiwick but hey, if it drives revenue, then it’s all good business. Add to that, the re-prioritization of client initiatives to digital and social media and agencies are scrambling for their place in the world. Basically, everyone is eating everyone else’s lunch. So what’s an agency to do? Here are some principles we’ve embraced in this changing environment:
Collaborate or die — We’ve learned that we’re but one cog in the marketing ecosystem and that our strengths are someone else’s weakness and vice versa. So why not work together to create a stronger unified effort? In view of this, we no longer see others as competition but rather collaborators. It’s a new way of thinking but one that’s indicative of the times.
Adapt — Charles Darwin said that it’s not the strongest that survive but those who are most able to adapt. That’s what all agencies (and businesses for that matter) must do. They must adapt to the new business realities, get out of their comfort zones and get good at new approaches that are now the norm. This is difficult because it means people need to change their habits, learn new skills, embrace new thinking and adopt new approaches. In my estimation, this is the most difficult because changing one’s behavioural set is difficult, really difficult. But adapt we must or we become obsolete.
Eat their lunch — Today, starting a business or new project is easier than ever. Technology, web tools and communications platforms are more accessible and cheaper than they’ve ever been so there’s no reason any agency or business should be limiting themselves to what they’ve traditionally been doing. Expand your wings and be part of the movement to develop new lines of business or new streams of revenue. For example, agencies can become media publishers, generate great content (since that’s what we’ve traditionally done, right?) and be part of the media buy earning additional revenues. This is more challenging than meets the eye but daily effort can provide rewards downstream.
At Hamazaki Wong, we understand that a new era is upon us and we’ve not shied away from developing our own properties while excelling at client work. We also have developed great partnerships with collaborators that provide exposure to market segments that may never be available to us otherwise. Milton Friedman said there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But you can always choose to serve it rather than be served a less than satisfying meal.