Skin in the Game
February 29, 2016
Todd Henderson

Skin in the Game

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

– Jeff Bezos

I remember a time, not that long ago, when household brands and the agencies like ours who helped to shape and promote them relied exclusively on finely-tuned messages, clever slogans and catchy jingles to distinguish them from the crowd. Once our story was crafted and ads were approved, we sat back with a prideful eye and air of confidence, as we knew the hard part was essentially over. The ingenious spark of creativity could grant life to a brand and control of perceptions.

Those days are long gone.

Today, we still wrestle over the fine details of a brand’s story—carefully choosing what we say, how we define its verbal and visual language and how our promises can be lived up to operationally. Only today, the perceptions of those brands are largely shaped by customer experiences and openly shared in social mediums in real time. Once released into the wild, the power no longer lives in the hands of agencies like ours. Instead, brands are living, breathing organisms that can live or die by the daily exchanges between company and customer.

As we embrace this change, we must look at enhancing engagements and ensuring the promises we make as a brand are lived up to at each and every customer touch point. That means agencies need a higher degree of business acumen and clients need to be open to making operational adjustments to wholly support the core values of the brand. When these commitments are in place, brands can flourish and businesses can grow.

As the definition of a brand continues to evolve, so too should the way creative agencies are compensated for our role in creating and promoting them. If we are truly seen as a strategic partner in helping to shape the message and enhance the experience, then we have a greater level of control over the success of that company and, by extension, have some meaningful impact on its future growth trajectory.

As a result of this shift, we have begun evolving from a pure fee-for-service agency to one that blends fees and equity, holding ownership in the brands we launch. For our clients, it means significantly reducing the investment in strengthening their brand while increasing the attention and effort we invest in their business. With enough skin in the game, our focus shifts from producing materials and tracking billable hours to simply ensuring the business thrives and sharing in the upside when it does.

Agencies are constantly looking for ways to move the label from vendor to partner. Here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is.