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The Drum

Brand evolution and the future of value for agencies

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Taking time to define your current proposition can be valuable for agencies.

At the beginning of 2018, Rawnet unveiled a new proposition and brand promise. It’s the result of a great deal of reflection, both internally, at who we are, and externally, at the world around us.

Evolution is a funny thing, as there isn’t a defined end goal. There’s no final design to evolve into. And much like natural evolution, brand evolution over a long enough time period is nothing more than a series of changes, each independently taken without any master plan of where things may end up.

Rawnet today is the result of putting more energy into the work we’re good at, more focus on the work we have the best chance of winning, and therefore spending less energy on the not so enjoyable work, the work we’re likely to be undercut on, the commoditised world of digital.

This is 'Agency Darwinism' at its best. We’re surviving and thriving in an evermore competitive and saturated marketplace.

The stage is unrecognisable from the one we stepped out onto over ten years ago. The value an agency brings to the world has shifted from tactical to strategic. There’s no value, and therefore money, in being purely tactical – it’s a race to the bottom fighting over price to win a client who will never see you as anything more than a lowly supplier.

To be relevant in 2018 – to thrive – an agency needs to do what can’t be done by in-house teams. The agency of 2018 must offer insights that make an immediate commercial impact, it must bring a wealth of knowledge from field experience across all sectors and it must offer a new perspective. In some cases, the agency may reinvent a client’s business, so it too remains relevant as the world’s rate of technical progression drives consumer expectations to uncharted and previously unimaginable levels. What’s more, the rate of change will never again be as slow as it is right now.

So, we distilled our new proposition into four pillars, which we were never able to successfully articulate before. Previously our services were rolled into rather bland, unimaginative and ambiguous outdated headings such as Digital Strategy. Bleugh.

The four pillars

Value Proposition Design

What we’re continually being asked to do, usually as part of a digital overhaul or transformation project, is to get a client’s proposition nailed. What are they offering to the world? Why would a customer care? Why is that different from the competition?

Product and service development

We concluded that we don’t really make websites any more. All of our best projects are the creation of a new service or digital product for a client, a new revenue stream, an enhancement to the customer experience – it's all about making it easier for their customers to do business with them.

Bespoke business applications

Define strategies all you want, but if the designers and developers tasked with realising the vision aren’t bought in from the outset and aren’t part of the holistic process, then that vision gets lost in translation and falls flat on its face.

The Agency 3.0 mindset means everyone involved in the project is more than just their job title. Project managers must be strategically minded, creatives need to think like business analysts and user experience (UX) teams shuld be able to hold their own in a financial conversation with the chief executive.

Growth and Commercial Strategy

You don’t ask the property developer who built the house to clean the windows every month. When we realised our technical ‘maintenance’ retainers struggled to offer real value to clients, we redesigned our offering to include access to an ‘always on’ strategic department, driven to prove ROI and take a longer-term view than a project-based relationship would permit.

Has defining our proposition been useful to us? Absolutely. Initial reactions have been positive, client meetings flow easier now we can articulate what we care about, close rates are increasing, and older clients who used to see us as ‘the web guys’, are opening up to engage with us on a more meaningful and strategic partnership.

Adam Smith is managing director at Rawnet