Inside or Out??

Client trends for meeting marketing needs are reshaping consultancy relationships.  What are the drivers and how will this impact your communications strategy whether you are NIKE or a regional player it will be important to your organization.

Having been a part of the cycles of marketing communications for a few decades, I have seen the trend of in-house marketing go in and out of favor, usually tied to market economics. But over the past five years, the shift toward building in-house teams for organizational marketing communications has been taking hold for different reasons. One of those reasons is the central role of “content” in brand communications both internally and externally in building stronger customer relationships. This and the increasing responsiveness required to build preference with audiences, is fueling the need for marketers to be closer to content sources.

A trend like this usually shakes up the agency world but then just becomes another cyclic forecast, projecting that the agency model needs to change to survive. Companies like Google, Fidelity Investments, Coca-Cola, Best Buy and Nike are making big investments in recruiting creative directors, planners and innovative media strategists from the agency world to strengthen their in-house efforts. They even create clever internal brands for these entities, like Yellow Tag Productions for Best Buy or Content Factory for Coca-Cola. But what is right for your organization if you are not the size of these industry giants? Especially, when you are trying to find budgets for technology, better data utilization and the impacts Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have on your customer experience.

Today a CMO must be able to orchestrate creativity, data and technology to create the authentic human experiences to differentiate their brand. We have moved from just creative messaging to combining brand creativity with performance marketing. At the core of this is meaningful content that creates experience and emotion to build preference for your brand. So, as you build your resources to support these challenges what should you internalize and what should you outsource?

Obviously, that will depend on existing resources both in talent and the communication platforms you utilize or aspire to in the future. Taking the time to do an audit of the strengths, identifying gaps and what you will need to build on to achieve your organizational objectives will answer some of those questions. But you must dig a little deeper, looking at the work/platforms that require day to day maintenance and those that are more project based. Then look at what are the costs surrounding implementation, work quality, talent and how data will be collected for insights. Then step back and ask will the work of the internal talent match the strength of what will be outsourced? What will it take to align those efforts to make the brand consistent? Internalizing and outsourcing certain creative content development makes sense unless your efforts look like two different organizations are communicating about the same brand. Today’s fluid communication platforms, especially with the assets surrounding content development and utilization, makes sharing with your sources the best way to recoup your return on investment. So, this makes having the right internal talent and external partners aligned strategically even more important.

The trend to bring marketing services in-house is not really a trend but the evolution of how marketers are learning to efficiently work with how consumers are wanting to interact with their brands. It is being driven by digital content and the speed technology is allowing for consumption of information. What organizations must be careful of is the trap of just producing content, and not making it engaging or supportive in building relationships with their audiences. That is where specialty agencies or consultancy sources are beginning to play a bigger role in marketing as there is a shift from traditional relationships. They are nimbler and can infuse the latest technology, creative or industry strategy into the efforts of in-house talent, helping enrich communications across the organization.

When the dust settles in the next few years, and AI begins to increase the consumer demand for a higher level of personalized experience, we will see an increased need for strong in-house capabilities. With this shift highly specialized agencies or niche consultancies will come into play and for smaller companies, possibly embedded talent. So, if you are thinking about creating you own in-house agency, have you thought of how you will brand it?

The author of this post is Tricia Snyder Lewis, the originator of Re: Source and a creative thinker who utilizes her background in planning, marketing and operations to build integrated marketing solutions for organizations. She has worked in both client and consultancy roles, giving her a unique perspective on internal and external processes for building strong brand cultures.