If your agency isn’t actively managing its own brand growth, what makes you think they're prepared to handle yours?

If you’re in charge of running an agency, then you know growth isn’t optional, it’s essential. And while all agencies understand that recruiting and retaining talent is a key driver for agency growth, I think the current trend in our industry may be focused more on providing distractions (Yogibo furniture, catered lunches, ping pong tables), rather than opportunities for development that will ultimately benefit their team, their agency, and—the most important part of this equation—the client.

I believe that having a culture that celebrates a “mentorship mentality” is one of the quickest and most cost-effective solutions to help agencies overcome the challenge of how to grow leadership in their organization. And the beauty is that it doesn’t always have to come from the top, so all you busy bosses can relax because anyone can be a mentor. There are only two requirements:

  1. You have a great deal of knowledge and experience.
  2. You’re willing to share them with someone else.

As an agency leader, I’ve benefited immensely from the mentors I’ve had over the course of my career, and mentorship is a foundational principle at our agency today. Here are some of the ways we’ve made mentorship a part of our culture:

  • We have formal internship programs with several colleges in our area. In addition to rotating through each department, every intern is paired with a senior team member specific to their educational focus.
  • We encourage everyone on our team to spend time each week learning something new or developing a skill they have a passion for (even non-agency stuff like extreme couponing). The only caveat—they must participate in our monthly Lunch and Learns and share a presentation of what they’ve learned with the rest of the team.
  • Part of our onboarding process requires new hires to identify 2-3 short-term and 1 long-term professional development goals that they want to achieve within 12-18 months. Once identified, they have the option to meet with me on a scheduled basis where I help them develop a plan and provide ongoing guidance and support as needed.

I’ve seen the benefits of mentorship, both in my career and in the growth of our agency. Just seven years ago I started as a brand consultant. Today, Paris Marketing has a team of ten highly invested and deeply committed creative brand warriors, and our portfolio of work includes clients from start-ups to global legacy brands. And in 2017, we became an affiliate of The BlueHive Group; that allowed us to add custom exhibit design and build, and custom branded interiors to our list of services. The combined creative staff and resources of the BlueHive Group amounts to nearly 100 employees and lets us offer end-to-end brand management solutions that other agencies of our size just can’t.

So if an agency’s offering is only as good as its people, then mentoring makes a strong case. Otherwise, how can you trust your team to keep your clients happy, if you haven’t created a culture that empowers your employees with the knowledge and confidence to do so.

Does this matter? Well, I think it says something about an agency that can maintain a client and employee churn under 10%, especially when the industry average hovers around the 30% mark.

Maybe you can distract a frustrated client with an agency-branded Yogibo lounger? Just kidding, I love bean bags chairs as much as the next gal, but I hope you understand the salient point here. If you’re an agency struggling to grow, feel free to try some of these tips. And if you’re a client that’s looking for an agency to help you grow your own brand, ask how they’re handling that challenge within their own house before you make the decision to trust them to help you grow yours.

 

Lisa Woodford

CEO? More like Commander-in-Chief. Someone’s got to aim our team’s creativity at the right target, and Lisa’s the woman for the job.


Want to Know What It Really Takes to Grow A Brand in the Cannabis Industry?

We’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with calls.

Cannabis branding, you know it’s a “real” thing when Adweek starts writing about it. Snarky sarcasm aside, there is something to be said when one of the most influential publishing platforms in advertising starts posting articles on best practices to brand your bud. And while this type of recognition is also vindication at the highest level (no pun intended), the legitimization of cannabis as an industry, while long overdue, is certainly not going to make building your bud brand easier. Cannabis is a billion-dollar industry; to think Fortune 500 companies and big pharma with their million-dollar marketing budgets aren’t going to be jumping on the Pineapple Express soon is not just short-sighted, but fatalistic.

Smart growers in the cannabis community know that once the federal government opens the commercial flood gates, their priority—in addition to growing healthy plants—will be nurturing brands that can thrive in an emerging market.

As seasoned advertising professionals (code for we’ve been at this a long time), both my co-author Brent and I have worked with clients from a wide range of industries from legacy brands to start-ups. And regardless of size, product, or service, we’ve discovered that the one constant across all good advertising is this: great brands don’t just know what makes them different, they celebrate it!

Federal regulations notwithstanding, should cannabis marketing be any different? We don’t believe so if your goal is to present an honest face to your consumers. It takes courage and a few calculated risks, but when brands are fearlessly authentic and creatively accountable, the risks are undeniably worth the rewards—just ask True Humboldt.

Of course, many of you reading this article have spent your days (years) developing your grow-craft, not managing national marketing campaigns. But that’s good, because while making a profit is important in any business, the passion you have for the product is what’s going to help you grow your brand without having to sell your soul in the process.

So, if you’re interested in developing a cannabis brand that can stand out among the competition, you may want to consider the following before you get started:

Be Really Clear About Your Purpose

Many people mistakenly believe a brand is a product or a logo, but that’s not the case. A brand is a collection of immutable characteristics that together represent a promise about:

  • What your company does, creates, or offers that makes it awesome;
  • Why everyone at your company wants to do, create, or offer this awesome thing; and
  • Whether your company really cares if this awesome thing matters to its customers.

A clearly articulated, authentic purpose makes it easier for customers to understand what they can expect from a brand, especially when it’s unapologetically and proudly reflected in the logo, website, packaging, content, and throughout the retail space. But when digital and physical experiences aren’t consistent with what a brand promises or is so weakly executed that the brand message isn’t shining through, then it becomes harder for consumers to trust you.

Get to Know and Love Your Customers

Strong brands don’t just have relationships with their customers, they have love affairs. And like all great romances, not only is it reciprocal, it may even border on obsessive. Just think about your first real crush, how many hours did you spend thinking about:

  • What they liked, or didn’t like;
  • What made them happy, or didn’t;
  • Could you orchestrate a way to talk them again, and when you did, what would you say;
  • What were their hopes, their dreams?

Ok you get the picture, but every relationship is built on trust, so be honest about your purpose and don’t be shy about it sharing it. If you’re not honest about this stuff then your customers are going to find out—maybe not right away, but ultimately, it’s going to happen. And just like dating, if you break your promises, if you try to be something you’re not, if you just aren’t emotionally invested in the relationship, then you’re going to get dumped.

Send the Right Message to the Right Customers

Because it’s not practical to market to every individual, begin by placing your customers into several main groups that encompass your main customer types and then create personas that represent them. The personas should include basic demographic information like age, sex, education, location, and so on. But it should also include factors like:

  • What is a day in their life is like?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What do they value?
  • What’s important to them when selecting a vendor?
  • What are their common objections to buying?
  • Where do they go for information?

Creating these personas allows you to send the right message to the right customers. For example, if middle age professionals are one of your major customer groups, they’ll likely respond differently to an ad that’s targeted at younger people just entering the workforce. By knowing your brand and who you’re trying to reach, you can focus your marketing and advertising efforts appropriately. This saves time and money, something you can’t afford to waste as a business owner.

Conclusion

Growing your brand involves being honest about what you want your brand to represent, learning who your customers are and what they expect from you, and having the guts to tell your message. If you can keep this mantra of honesty and courage in all your marketing efforts, it’ll pay off. Don’t try to be something you’re not and your brand authenticity will show through. As a bonus, you won’t end up selling your soul—just your grow.

If you like what you read, then check out our podcast for more episodes on creative accountability and how to bravely develop a brand in the cannabis industry at creativebrandwarriorpodcast.com.

Lisa Woodford

CEO? More like Commander-in-Chief. Someone’s got to aim our team’s creativity at the right target, and Lisa’s the woman for the job.

Brent Martino

How can so much mystery fit into his earthly frame? Who is the man behind the unicorn mask? Is it a mask? The world may never know.