Magazine article Marketing

It Pays to Become a Specialist Shop

Magazine article Marketing

It Pays to Become a Specialist Shop

Article excerpt

Agencies must be clear about what services they are offering clients - it's foolish to pretend they can do everything, and far better to sharpen their specialist strength

A little over a month ago, one of the UK's leading packaged goods manufacturers held a strategy review with its direct marketing, PR and sales promotion agencies. All made their presentations on where they thought the business was heading. Then the marketing director made a significant comment: "I don't know what any of you stand for any more," he said. "I don't know what to come to you for."

Miles Hanson, UK managing director of The Marketing Store Worldwide, was at the meeting, and he believes this client observation highlights a challenge facing marketing.

The distinctions between marketing disciplines have been blurring for some time. With both advertising and below-the-line agencies claiming to be 'media neutral', says Hanson, what differentiates one shop from another? If clients can't distinguish between agencies' offerings, they might as well prune back the number.

Hanson's clear about the answer: "I'm focused on the fact that what we do is promotional marketing," he says. "We promote brands, and help companies to sell more."

A new-found wisdom

In fact, the penny's dropped with most agencies that it's futile to label themselves as 'integrated', and pretend they can do everything. Being clear what you specialise in is the new wisdom.

For Biggart Donald, that means concentrating on its creative reputation. The company has just won a gold and a silver in the European sales promotion awards, with work undertaken for Reebok and Martini.

However, the agency has also grown faster than most in the past three years, and is now in the industry's top 30. "We always offer innovative thinking," says founding director Ghill Donald. "Our difficulty is curbing the effect of size on creativity."

Logistix Kids is another company that has reaped the benefits of concentrating on what it knows best. It works exclusively in the children's market for clients such as Kellogg and Cadbury. But, as managing director Ian Madeley says, it takes bottle to stick to just one specialisation. "There was a temptation to diversify when we were smaller, but then what is your point of differentiation?"

What's intriguing is whether Logistix now faces a challenge here from Omnicom subsidiary Alcone, making a first-time appearance in this year's table. Madeley doesn't see it, believing the companies are different. However, Alcone's arrival in the UK was at the request of its major US client, Burger King and, like Logistix, it claims expertise in character licensing.

The number of areas for specialisation grows ever wider. Carlson has homed in on relationship marketing as its special strength, even to the point of devising a mission statement which says that it aims to be "the best relationship marketing company in Europe, as judged by clients, employees, suppliers and competitors".

This is a logical reflection of its skills in loyalty marketing,direct marketing and sales promotion. What's interesting is that its definition of relationship marketing extends beyond consumers to distribution channels and employees. This takes it into another growth area, internal communications, where it has Clarke Hooper among its competitors.

Working for Coca-Cola, Dynamo found itself alongside Tactical Marketing. …

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