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Faced with competition from consulting firms, which are tempted to integrate design into their portfolio of services, design agencies have undeniable advantages, such as brand strategy expertise and a strong culture of speed.
Today’s design agencies are confronting a challenge of quality. Quality does not lie so much in the execution of an agency’s deliverables as in their ability to generate sustainable growth for clients. However, the dynamics of growth have changed considerably. It is no longer enough to fine-tune a value proposition, change your image to reach a new target, or create engaging experiences at all touchpoints. Today, each sector is likely to be contested by another competitor who has cracked a new business model capable of delivering the same solution which is equally as effective and often costs less.
With this in mind, most of the players in our segment have begun to move towards high value-added advisory services by creating consulting entities. Often staffed by strategic business-oriented planners and experienced consultants, these entities make it possible to respond to the needs of clients to innovate and evolve quickly, at an ever-increasing pace. They also anticipate a loss in value due to the arrival of new consulting firms, as they are tempted to integrate design into their portfolio of offers.
Champions of brand strategy
Fortunately, we have three major strengths that no consulting firm can match. We are champions of brand strategy. We have mastered this intangible asset that we successfully exemplify through branding and communication. It is important to remember that one euro invested in the brand generates €7.80 for the customer (according to ‘The Power of the Brand’, a study published by the French communication agency union AACC on July 10, 2018). The brand is also the strongest shield in the current climate of technological disruption. It allows us to escape the paradigm of efficiency, price and simplicity promoted by disruptors across all market sectors.
We have such vast brand expertise that we are now able to align it with business strategy in such a way that this remarkable vessel of value and culture permeates all of a company’s businesses. The brand is now almost more essential internally than externally. This new approach allows us to carry out organisational transformations that were previously reserved for consulting firms. Our added value lies in understanding the rational and emotional forces that bind the employees of a company together with the brand for which they work.
Our second strength is physiological in nature. We embrace speed with gusto. The relationship to time in agencies is considerably stretched. Agencies intrinsically follow a just-in-time model and the people who are choosing to work in this type of environment are naturally suited to making tight deadlines. We are used to moving fast, changing teams, reorganizing, working with partners outside the agency, bouncing back… All in all, we are immersed in the culture of speed within organisational frameworks which are often agile and flexible.
Rapid prototyping culture
Finally, we are crafters, makers. An agency delivers. Any agency that confined itself to words alone would sign its own death warrant. We must value ideas that creators dream up. Though it is only through physical manifestations of these ideas that their true worth shines through. To improve the perceived value of this manner of working, we must develop a culture of rapid prototyping. Let’s teach our consultants how to put their ideas into practice. Let’s provide them with recommendations to improve their concepts. Let’s give a financial dimension to our design ideas.
We are creative people. Creativity is a state of mind. Without inventiveness, the world would not have seen the far-reaching breakthroughs that have moved it forward. An agency knows how to respect a budget framework to develop a proposal, but it also knows how to free itself from this constraint to take its client further. Let us move away from a culture of benchmarking and from “best practices” that flatten ideas and their creative manifestations.
The future of design is bright, our challenge is to improve on perceived quality and relevance for brands. If strategy is our “path to salvation” to rationally justify added value, then graphic, verbal and financial prototyping will be the shortcut that leads us to success against our new competitors.
by Mathieu Sakkas, Strategy Director at Dragon Rouge
Read the full original article in French on Strategies