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Why CRM Agencies Produce So Many Big Ideas

By Nic Climer, Executive Creative Director

There is a misconception that “brand” agencies are where the biggest and best ideas come from. As a result, a brand agency’s value is perceived to be higher than, say, that of a CRM agency. Is this a fair assessment? Hardly.

Brand agencies have lived in a world where the work they do is held in higher regard than the agencies that sit below the line. But why is that? What is it about a 30-second TV spot that makes the idea bigger, or better, or worth more than a hypertargeted, super-individualized and personalized ad or email that actually speaks directly to the customer in a way that connects to them? Is it simply the cost? Are we hung up on a model where the more you spend on an idea, the better that idea must be?

Let’s hope not. Big ideas come from anywhere and anyone. But it takes paying close attention to the other voices in the room — those who are doing the real work, not just the shiny brand spots.

Driving Business Forward

I won’t try to cover up the fact that I work in CRM. Sometimes we are treated like the stepchild in the agency hierarchy. But why? I think it’s because we can create brilliant work with both speed and scale. Super-personalized communications, hypertargeted, precisely delivered. It’s essentially creating, to quote RAPP’s Chief Innovation Officer Troy Hitch, “a million little big ideas.”

At RAPP, we believe that we can take a big idea and make it scalable, specific, individualized, precise, and so much more impactful than a mass-driven campaign. The cost of a marketing email is pennies on the dollar compared to a TV spot. A social post that speaks to someone directly and intimately costs a fraction of what a massive production requires. So why continue to invest so much into television (where returns are dismal) when you can be more individual-centric and distribute that idea in a truly effective and personal way through CRM?

Don’t get me wrong: We need to create brand anthems and emotional tear-jerkers (and everything in between) to really build awareness. But we also need to give some credit where it is due. CRM is driving the brand’s business forward. Brilliant ideas are being built at scale and driving incredible growth for our clients. But both clients and agencies need to rethink what “value” means. It’s time to rework the agency of record model and really embrace the big-ideas-at-scale mode of thinking for two primary reasons:

  • Big ideas can come in small packages. Just because an idea is in an email makes it no less valuable than a television spot. In fact, the cost comparison often makes that email thousands of times more effective than TV.
  • There is value in data (and data exchange).CRM allows for interactive relationships to happen between brands and customers. TV spots are one-sided conversations with zero personalization.

The Pendulum Swings

When we break apart the process that goes into fiercely individualized communications, it can seem heavy and complex at first blush. Ultimately, however, going that extra mile to focus on the individual is just tapping into human truths and showing up in front of our customers to acknowledge that we see them, we hear them, and we want to help them — that we serve up info that they can find useful or a product that could help them in some way.

We provide useful information, products, and services through ideas that are rooted in data and insights, and these big ideas are then scaled in a way that allows us to talk to customers in a more individual way. That kind of value exchange is huge. What is more valuable to a customer than a deeper human connection? CRM provides a long-term relationship-building machine that can help you stay connected to your customer. TV spots are a blip on the radar in comparison.

Remember: We are in an opt-in kind of world now. The days of people having to go out of their way to opt out are over. We can easily turn off most ads on streaming TV. Any iOS user can now just block sharing of information across apps, shutting off the pipeline of leads and data that most agencies need to execute their best targeting. But it also means that we have to be more relevant and personal. Smart marketers are responding by serving up ads based on what customers are doing, buying, saying, and sharing. These ads feel less invasive because they are relevant.

Data is now the ad world’s No. 1 currency, and our customers hold it all. They will be the ones who ultimately decide whose ideas are worth more. As we watch both the agency models of the world and the way we share data change, consumers will wield their power and data to shift the value of what an idea is worth. The safe bet is the hyper-personalized and individualized content that speaks directly to consumers in ways they need and expect.

The glory days of big brands controlling the conversation via one-way TV spots are over, and they’ll never return. What’s really more valuable, anyway: $1 million developed into a single TV spot for the masses or a million little big ideas that connect at an individual level?