Change. Change. Change.

Explorer, Henry Hudson, steps ashore in Manhattan, in September, 1609, to trade with the Indians. Photo courtesy of Paul Romaine. From the Henry Hudson Memorial, Bronx, NY.
Explorer, Henry Hudson, steps ashore in Manhattan in September, 1609 to trade with the Indians. Photo courtesy of Paul Romaine. From the Henry Hudson Memorial, Bronx, NY.

Here’s a description of a famous place … you supply the name.

 ‘An island covered in oak, chestnut,

poplar, blue plums 

and huge outcrops of rock; the entire

island is rich in game

and surrounded by water teeming with

salmon, mullet and rays.’

No, it’s not somewhere in Patagonia or Tasmania. And it’s not a mythical island in your dreams.

 This is the explorer Henry Hudson in 1609 describing a place the Lenape Indians called mannahata, meaning hilly island.

 You know it in its much-changed form. Manhattan.

 Change … a level of change that begins to rival Manhattan’s transformation from a leafy Eden into the engine of world commerce is taking place in business.

 It’s already made the commercial landscape of the 90s almost unrecognizable.

 You don’t need me to tell you change is the main thing we all must cope with today.

 That’s change in what consumers want, change with products, change initiated by the competition, change in technology.

 Never before has the business environment been so fluid. No wonder we’re all so desperately trying to steer into that 10-½ foot-wide space called the passing lane.

 No doubt you’re changing: re-engineering your company, re-inventing key business processes, questioning conventional wisdom, refining management strategies, developing new knowledge bases, auditing your resources, encouraging your staff, building an internal constituency for change and living with TQM perpetually on the agenda.

 Now we know why office people are often ordering out for 8pm Chinese food deliveries.

 But with all your changes, you might want to address one more thing. Ideas.

 Not ideas as you know them, but an end run for thinking. A new approach to ensure you can engage and influence your target audience.

 In the digital age brands are no longer your hand puppet to do your bidding.

 As you know, that puppet is on the other hand. The hand of your customer.

 Which is why content needs to be sharpened with ideas that can influence customer behavior to your advantage.

 Help for better thinking is probably already at your boardroom table, in the form of your ad agency.

 Providing …

 Providing your agency people recognize the purpose of business is first and foremost to make customers and they have the ability to deliver on that across all channels.

 After all, without customers your CFO is on-hold when it comes to optimism.

Again, help with ideas is there for you, providing …

 Providing you use your agency as a strategic partner, not just as a vendor.

 Smart agencies know how to avoid category thinking that blurs your differentiation and deadens your efforts.

 They know your customers expect you to sell your product. But they’re also aware that people won’t sit still for messaging that’s self-centered and dull.

 Who would?

 Wasn’t it David Ogilvy who said, you can’t bore people into buying your product?

 Given free rein, agency strategists and creative teams are trained to avoid ideas that are wearily familiar. Ideas that merely tell you what the product is.

 Instead, they concentrate on stories that detail what a product can do for you.

 End-benefits are the difference, the kind of benefits that prompt emotions in people.

 Good agency people spend their lives focusing on what works and what doesn’t for everything from social media to videos to trade shows. The whole gamut of communications.

 Count on them to help you avoid Plan B and the inquest of wondering what you could have done better.

 Most good agencies are aware that the essence of successful marketing is showcasing familiar products in new and intriguing ways.

 Presenting brands anew is the first step in gaining influence and setting the stage for the moment someone buys.

 Stray from this and your efforts can become powerless and swamped.

 For some it might be a change to put more faith in their agency, to give them a voice to question all you do.

 Still, nothing is quite so helpful as a loyal and skillful devil’s advocate at your side.

 Look around, there are precedents for this.

 To many it’s doubtful if Geico would be as successful without the Martin Agency; the same with Nike and Wieden & Kennedy; and the same with JetBlue and Mullen.

 More to this, with strong agency involvement the difference can be dramatic.

 As dramatic as going from mannahata to Manhattan.

There’s all sorts of bridges, from a log across a creek to the Golden Gate. What sort of bridges are you building with your ad agency? Are you true partners? Share your experience with us

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