Snowflakes are in the air, lights are being strung, and kids are furiously writing (and texting) to Santa. Believing is central to the holiday season, and it should also be part of how you evaluate an agency partner — or any partner, for that matter.
If a firm is helping manage an organization’s reputation and promoting its products and services, shouldn’t it be consuming them too? It’s an obvious connection, yet one too often missed — a flag redder than the jolly old elf’s suit.
Working with another agency on a shared banking account, I was stunned that its strategic lead, who’d been on the business for several years, had no personal accounts there — not even a debit card. When I asked her why, she replied that she'd “never got around to it.”
That’s not believing in your client.
Is it worse when a firm pitching your business submits materials that favor your chief competitor? That’s what one shop did during my Kodak days, sending us digital files on Fuji DVDs. They went to the top of the naughty list, and were chagrined by their lump of coal.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, look at firms such as Giles Communications. Its founder has represented Yamaha for decades, and his love for the brand is found throughout his home, with well-used keyboards, pianos and pro audio gear abound.
The Santa test is not a perfect or complete evaluation method. We have clients in specialty industries for which my business or I aren’t the target buyer. There’s only so much an agency can do with premium high-voltage resistors, as much as I’d love to try.
But for others, we live and breathe their brands. Banking with banks we represent. Wearing and using the medical devices about which we write. Buying season tickets and passes for organizations we promote. Serving in board roles for nonprofit clients we champion.
Even when projects are over, we continue. Those Yamaha speakers on my desk? You guessed it. They're from my first project more than 20 years ago, are still pumping out music, and I’d be happy and proud to explain the technology behind their sweet sound.
So as you’re asked to believe this season, take a few moments to consider if your prospective partners, or even your current partners, reinvest in their clients’ brands. You may be surprised how how fleeting and fragile — or magical and valuable — true belief really is.
By Mike McDougall