why agencies need to own their positioning

Over my career I must have been exposed to more agency credentials presentations than can be entirely healthy.  All three integrated agencies I worked for were rather keen on reinventing themselves every 18 months, complete with a new positioning to go with their new identity.  And I’ve latterly had reason to look over more than half dozen agency creds in the name of New Business Planning Support as a freelance.

For businesses that sell brand positioning, it’s scary how few of these were properly differentiating or otherwise persuasive.  Agency XYZ is integrated, puts insight at the heart of everything they do and treats every brand as an individual / applies their special planning tool to every brand [delete as appropriate]. Sigh.

generic pitch slide

It’s Marketing 101, but you need a something to talk about.  An agency might be really good at a particular sub-sector (say, B2B SME consultancy or shopper marketing in grocery) or spend a fortune on cutting edge data analysis to improve the measurability of marketing spend.  They might have a trophy cabinet overflowing with IPA awards (we create work that is demonstrably effective) or own more yellow pencils than the average primary school (we create work that is demonstrably creative).

A positioning needs to own a position – and it’s no good if your positioning, decided upon after much internal soul-searching, is near-identical to every other mid-sized agency out there.  How are clients supposed to know if you might be right for them?

Agencies seem to be missing out a crucial stage when they revise their positioning – competitor analysis.  And if agencies genuinely do believe that what they do is so close to what everyone else is claiming to do, they’d better have a fundamental re-think of their business asap, or they might not have an agency to position in the future.

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