Agencies, Our Market Position, and Positive Marketing Agency Thinking

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By Aaron Templer

We’ll get to these awesome pieces of art in a second. First, though, some thoughts on positive marketing agency thinking:

What a year. We (gratefully) continue to be busy at 3o4, working with some wonderfully fulfilling clients and projects. We were also able to filter out a few clients that weren’t working for us these past months, clients we just weren’t able to add value to. This is something that every business deals with—letting go of paying customers or clients—but isn’t much talked about. It isn’t easy.

This was on our minds when I came across a blog post from Trinity Management Consultants which explores why ad agencies seem so embarrassed about what they do. Not exactly positive marketing agency thinking, rather a sharp piece with veracious insights on how agencies can’t seem to differentiate themselves:

  • The agency that won a huge number of awards… wants to reassure you that this means nothing to them and it’s purely the effectiveness of the work that matters. 
  • The new CEO of a big agency network has been hired from a management consultancy… but the team is keen to reassure you that it’s OK because it turns out he always wanted to work in a creative environment.
  • An agency has offices in every major national market… but that doesn’t mean you won’t get personal service just like a small independent. 
  • Another agency has invested in a state-of-the-art platform to produce hundreds of variations of content tailored for every market and sector, but… they still believe above all in the power of the big creative idea.

It’s a long-held understanding that traditional agencies have a hard time picking a focused market position. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I believe a big part of it is rooted in the traditional agency model. Overhead, payroll, and appearances keep agencies desperate for revenue in capricious markets. That fear drives an all-things-to-all-people positioning, an approach none of them would recommend to their clients.

Reading this post also forced me to face the fact that we as a firm didn’t practice what we preach in terms of a clear market position and values statements. We create them for clients, and in fact insist on something of the sort before we plan or execute brand and marketing activities. So we finally wrote a positioning statement, but in the process it became clear that our values are our market position. And we didn’t have any kind of values statement either! So we combined them, everyone on the team adding their $.02, and crafted something that’s actually as much our position as a firm as it is a market position, with a values statement wrapped in it. It also includes some original artwork from our all-around fixer and arranger, Project and Client Manager Paula Lee (the ones you see above). 

So here’s where we stand. We hope this adds some clarity about who we are, where we play, and the value (and values) we bring to the world. Unembarrassed.

-Aaron

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