As the image implies, we don't do band-aid fixes. Even if your first need is for just a website, brochure, radio spot, print ad or whatever, we'll look at it as something bigger than a "project" - because, frankly, the P-Word has been death to marketing communications quality.
Anyone with creative skill can produce an isolated item that will make you smile, but it takes lots more than that to produce the results that will keep you smiling. Even the most delightful radio spot, for instance, will prove to be a waste if wrongly targeted or wrongly placed. Or if radio advertising was the wrong choice to begin with! What every company really wants is killer creative that makes strategic sense. And the only way to get that is by starting with strategy.
Strategic Counsel that Opens Unexpected Vistas
IMC campaigns that work and don't cost a dollar more than they need to are always based upon sound strategy - which is grounded in thorough analysis of your objectives, target audiences and other market circumstances, and in comprehensive planning for image and message consistency across selected media. Which in turn calls for understanding all media. A tall order. Almost everyone would agree that an effective web presence is vital today - doing, at far less cost, what a Yellow Pages ad and sales brochure used to do - but, beyond a site and a business card, your media options are wide open, presenting a more dazzling buffet than ever.
Determining which tactical, creative and media approaches will serve you best requires a wider grasp of the options than most people have these days - thanks largely to the dreaded P-Word, which masses specialists together to scratch the same niche until it bleeds. Over-specialization within certain industries, telecommunications leading the list, and even by some agencies compounds the prevalence of "me-too" marketing.
My raging crusade is to shift the prevailing blind spot off The Big Picture. To help advertisers and their agencies address opportunities and challenges in fresh ways, I draw upon a rich cross-industry background. I've positioned and grown firms of virtually every type and size: international, national, regional, local, B2B, B2C, public, private, pre-IPO, manufacturers, retailers, direct marketers, professional and personal service organizations, exporters, importers, educational and cultural institutions - you name it. And this diverse experience has been further enhanced by my work as a securities analyst and journalist.
For the ultimate defense against "we always do it this way" thinking, try marketing adhesives, aerial spraying, antiques, apparel, appliances, architects, artists, attorneys, banks, belts, boats, boots, boutiques, brokers, broadcasters, builders, cars, catering, cellular communications, charities, chemicals, convenience stores, convention centers, consultants, cosmetics, dance troupes, dentists, electronics, energy, engineers, fast food, festivals, fiber optics, florists, funeral homes, furniture, galleries, gifts, gourmet shops, hair salons, hats, HMO's, hospitals, hotels, housing of all types, ice cream parlors, interior designers, insulation, jewelry, landscapers, laser technologies, lithographers, medical instrumentation, mining operations, museums, neckwear, nightclubs, nuclear pharmacy equipment, office space, online services, photovoltaics, physicians, playwrights, printers, publications, realty firms, research foundations, respirators, resorts, restaurants, S&L's, saddles, schools, shopping malls, silicon, ski areas, software, solar collectors, spas, sporting goods, store fixtures, theatres, tile, trade shows and associations, travel agencies, utilities, veterinarians, vision care and westernwear.
Or just let me bring all that to the table.
Compelling, Consistent Creative
Maybe it's already occurred to you that cross-industry experience is meaningful in several ways. Darn right. Besides having the ability to help you break out of your own industry's "box," I probably know your customers - what they need, how they think.
One of the most important things you can possibly do is speak to your audiences in their languages - communicating the benefits you're genuinely selling to them, far beyond any particular product or service. And you need to target the real decision-makers. I hate to keep beating-up on telecomm, but their constant focus upon "call center managers" (rather than hoteliers, travel agencies, financial service institutions, utilities, et al) is wrongheaded. This approach may well persuade the call center managers, but what then? They've been given no help to sell the idea upstairs.
The only things equally important in creative strategy are to develop a core message that accurately and clearly distinguishes you from ostensible competitors - and to impart this in every element of your communications program. Wherever we start, I tell my new clients, we'll also be starting everywhere. Accordingly, what stuffy people call a "communications audit" will be done. That simply means looking carefully at everything you've got, right down to business cards and forms, and making a plan with priorities to correct anything wrong with the picture. The aim isn't to rush you into spending money, but to save you a lot over the long run. Creative consistency - making sure each impression you make on a customer or prospect reinforces all the others - is one of two keys to bang for the buck.
A "PR-First" Approach to Comprehensive Planning
The other key is this: Always regard advertising as a way to fill gaps, a vehicle for reaching significant publics you can't successfully communicate with otherwise.
At its most basic level, Integrated Marketing Communications means there's more than one way to skin a cat - and, long before IMC got a name and acronym, I was practicing it, having arrived at advertising after doing PR. If you think you need ads in a particular newspaper or magazine, ask first if you can get exposure in the form of an article. It would not only be free, but better by demonstrating objective newsworthiness. When considering spots on a station targeting a vital group, also consider whether there are talk shows and/or opportunities for face-to-face contact with that audience. If so, why buy?
Not only when money's tight, but because every promotional budget should be stretched to the max, I look first at the least expensive means of attaining clients' goals and almost always develop a multi-faceted PR program as part of the comprehensive plan.
This may involve, besides Media Relations, Customer and Community Relations, Industry Relations, Employee Relations and Personal PR to raise individual profiles - plus Financial/Investor Relations, if your firm is publicly held or headed in that direction.
PR is also an excellent means of testing markets and media, supplementing research or even replacing it.
In my experience, formal research seldom turns up real surprises, so it's often more cost-effective simply to try out in a modest way what common sense dictates.
At least you get something back.
Extremely long-term business relationships - some spanning a couple of decades - attest to the fact that I follow through.
Deadlines are met, come hell or high water, and budgets are never overrun.
Clients' names are treated as privileged information, never disclosed without permission.
This can be of keen importance to agencies - who sometimes prefer to minimize awareness of their outside resources - and I consider it good practice, across the board.
You can further trust me not to discuss your budget or reveal any other information of potential use to your competitors.
Naturally all regulations applicable to your industry or profession will be strictly respected, along with those governing trade in securities.
What I Don't Do
Because my time is best spent on strategic issues and creative development, I no longer get involved with media buying or traffic (distribution of ad/PR materials).
But to get a proper plan in place and produce the elements needed to implement it, I'll be as hands-on as you want me to be.