Why Truly Visionary Business Leaders Value Great Creativity Over Low Prices

As the title might imply, a creative marketing agency and client accountants don't always see the marketing issue from the same end of the telescope.

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By Liam Farrell


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As the title might imply, a creative marketing agency and client accountants don't always see the marketing issue from the same end of the telescope. Agencies always want to spend big and achieve great things, whereas accountants want to spend as little as possible. This is especially true in a troubled economy and a period of recession. With creative companies outperforming their fellow brands by some 228%, it is clear who the winners are. So how can we bring accountants and other marketing naysayers onside with an agency's higher budget ideas and bold vision for where a brand can go? We have a few thoughts to share.

Reviewing submissions from a creative marketing agency

The other day we rejected a request for proposal (RFP) from a major oil firm because the firm was only giving the "creative' agencies who they shortlisted for the submission a single week to "do their magic'. Plus, only 10% of the reviews' weighting was on the creative work while 60% was on cost. Essentially, their firm was accountancy-led and not focused on employing the strategic benefits of creativity. The money men were setting the agenda. Now, while we love accountants, we also appreciate that they are focused on accounting for the past market performance of a firm, whereas CEOs and agencies are focused on the future performance of a brand. Letting the former dictate the function of the latter will only end in poor brand performance and lower ROE (return on equity).

Why the cheapest marketing agency is rarely the best choice

Typically accountant-led firms will try and force their marketing teams to go for the cheapest agency. Makes sense, right? Or does it? Let's consider the issue through the analogies of a car and a suit. Your accountant will most likely drive a nice car. If he is doing well, it will most likely be a status symbol like a Merc, BMW or Lexus. When asked why they drive this car and not, let's say, a perfectly utilitarian Yaris, they will almost always say: "It is a better car." However, both BMW and Yaris have four wheels and doors, an engine, and a steering wheel, and both serve the same purpose of transporting their passengers from A to B. So why can an accountant have one set of value principles when it comes to their choice of car and another for agency selection? Especially as his choice of car does nothing to improve the performance of his accounting?

A creative marketing agency will give you the best trade dress for your brand's 'daily customer interviews'

Let's do a quick reframe for our friends in the accounts department. If we reconsider marketing communication, such as your web, brochure, and so on, as the business dress of your firm, keep in mind that your firm is being interviewed by prospective customers who have to decide whether they should or shouldn't buy your wares every single day. So, what are you going to wear to that interview? Your cheap, slightly worn suit or that Armani three piece you wear on special occasions? It's an easy answer, right? Fact is that you are going to dress to impress in the finest, sharpest threads you can find. So, why is it any different for your business? Why is going for the cheapest marketing a good idea when the marketing is your firms trade dress?

Greater creativity encourages customers to spend more

Now let's think about the purchase decisions for that car and suit. Was the determining factor mostly price, or was it the creativity (form and function) of the Armani suit and 5 Series which influenced the purchaser to find the money? If the better vehicle was over twice the price of a similarly functioning vehicle, and yet still came out the winner, some other factor must be at work. The factor in question is creativity. The creativity of the car designer was highly valued and it was the influential factor in the decision making. In fact, the creativity of the car designer was so highly valued that even the accountant overcame his usual reticence towards spending money to go over his typically utilitarian budget to afford the more creative and luxurious car.

Rethink the function of your creative marketing agency

The ability of creativity to persuade customers to buy what they "want' instead of satisfying their "need' isn't a phenomena that happens solely in the automotive sector, this is a truism of every sector. Better design and more creative marketing convince people to find more money to spend than they would rationally consider. Great creative work moves people emotionally and it can help you move your consumers in the same way. When we think of marketing in such terms, it is easier to understand why pricing should be weighted low (10%) and creativity high (60%). Emotion and Creativity overrule over Logical and Utilitarian every time. So, next time you let an accountant set the terms of your RFP, just consider this - will the cheap suit help or hinder you getting that dream job and why are you driving a Lexus, Merc or Beamer when a Hyundai gets you there for less?

Related: Ethics In Business: Why You Shouldn't Put A Price On Your Integrity

Liam Farrell

Founding Partner and Executive Creative Director, Unisono

Liam Farrell is Unisono’s Founding Partner and Executive Creative Director. The branding firm Liam started back in 2006 is the only branding practice in the entire Middle East to be inaugurated into the REBRAND Hall of Fame. Liam is probably the region’s most highly awarded branding designer with a slew of international branding awards from notable creative shows such as REBRAND, Transform, Design & Design and the German Design Council. As well as his awards, Liam’s work regularly features in online branding blogs, design books and archives. Liam is also currently the strategic communications sponsor for EO Bahrain.

Liam graduated with a first class honors degree in design practice from Salford University in Manchester, UK. After a spell in the music industry, Liam entered the design world working for design and online agencies such as Attik in Huddersfield and Amaze in Liverpool and London before starting his own agency Tap. In 2003, Liam moved to Bahrain to take up the Design Director seat at Saatchi and Saatchi, before starting Unisono in 2006.

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