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May 5, 2004
The Relevance of Being Relevant
 

Whenever someone finds out I work at an agency that’s been around a hundred years, and that a good number of our clients have been with us for decades, some since the 1930s, they’re always amazed…and curious. In fact, they ask me to share Doremus’ secret.

I don’t know if there’s any one “secret,” but with so many companies losing ground in these challenging economic times, I do think there are some basic steps that any company can take to not only survive, but to thrive.

First, it is management’s primary obligation to take an honest look at its products and services and ask, “Are we relevant to what’s going on in our clients’ worlds today?”

Being relevant doesn’t mean changing the business model when forced to change. When a situation gets to that point, it’s already too late in the game.

A relevant company is one step ahead. So there’s no need for “the quick fix.” There is never abrupt disruption. (Layoffs, if needed, are never massive.) So morale stays healthy, even through bad times.

Relevant companies accept and understand the environment we all live in. It’s an environment where competition is tough; where technology is making our lives easier, and more difficult; where everyone is scrambling to be noticed amidst the clutter. And marketing budgets are tight, tight, tight.

Today, our clients want more than an advertising agency. They seek a communications partner to help give their brands true definition and differentiation in the marketplace.

To build that partnership, companies need to be relevant. I believe the fundamental steps for corporate relevance come down to three things:

  • Foresight: The ability to see into the future, to anticipate market trends and the impact they will have on business.
  • Know-How: Management’s ability to assess and realign resources to best serve clients’ or customers’ needs.
  • And lastly, but maybe most importantly, is management’s commitment, or nerve, to move forward. To, as Nike says, “Just Do It.”

Moving forward means change. And while change is often painful, the pain is lessened when it’s done sooner rather than later, so mishaps and misunderstandings will be avoided down the road.

As advertisers, our primary responsibility and challenge is to separate our clients’ messages from the random and overbearing din of everybody else’s.

When we’ve done our job well, when all the elements of partnership are in place, what results is a synergistic energy that produces seamless communication between agency and client.

And this seamless communication drives big ideas for insightful strategies and brilliant creative, ultimately setting our clients’ messages apart from the competition.

With this clear partnership between agency and client, and a commitment to staying on top of changes in the business environment, relevant agencies become the strategic lens through which all their clients’ communications flow.

And a relevant agency often ends up servicing its clients for a very long time.


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In today’s chaotic communications environment, Carl Anderson, president and CEO of Doremus, believes corporate to culture (“C2C”) branding is the only way to effectively bring a corporation’s message to its key constituencies. With clients like Hitachi, ITT, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank, Carl has the attention of executives around the globe. Talent Zoo thinks Carl’s words should draw your attention, too.
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