Like all relationships, it is easier to remain in a comfortable and established partnership with a marketing agency than to break it off for something better. But just as an ill-fitting romance is not going to fuel your fires, an unimaginative agency stuck in the status quo is not going to ignite passion in your brand. So, you must ask yourself, “is my agency playing to win, or playing not to lose?”

What Does This Mean?
It is really very simple. It is a war of attrition. When you are playing to win, you focus on making the most of your strengths. When you are playing not to lose, your focus is taken off innovation and the needs of the client. Instead, it is focused on guarding weaknesses, the professional equivalent of treading water while slowly drowning.

Let’s Switch Analogies for a Moment.
You’re at a restaurant, but your meal is undercooked. Do you stand for it? Of course not, you send it back. Your investment is important, and nobody wants food poisoning. Would you give the establishment a further chance if the meal was brought back in as bad a state as before? Perhaps, but now you will forever approach the place with uncertainty, plus it also enables the owners to continue to provide a mediocre service.

The restaurant is playing not to lose—and is unlikely to change—which means you will look for a new eatery the next time you dine out…and you should approach marketing agencies with the same attitude. The agency is the restaurant, the meal is their creative solutions, and the food poisoning is the result of the unsatisfactory relationship.

Why Do Companies Fail to Protect Their Brand in the Same Way?
The answer is that it is scary to take a risk. Your subconscious is held back by the cynical adage that life is not always greener on the other side, while the practical side of your brain knows that uprooting and changing agencies is no easy task.

But what use is it if you are settled in a false sense of ease, yet your brand is suffering as a result? That is the marketing equivalent of burying your head in the sand (to use another axiom). The online audience is fickle and disloyal; if your marketing fails to inspire, they will go elsewhere (let’s call it, digital food poisoning) and are unlikely to return.

What Should You Be Doing?
Companies should be aware of what their digital marketing agency is doing, how well their ideas are performing, and whether their activities align with the company’s overall goals. However, it is also important to consult an independent party to provide an objective evaluation. And one of the best ways to achieve a realistic understanding of the strength of your online presence is via a marketing audit.

Unsure of the value? C-Level strategists at Fortune 500 companies recommend an independent audit be performed every 2-3 years, and it is marketing audits that help drive some of the biggest—and most impactful—changes in the branding landscape.

Need an example? In 2003, McDonald’s decided to shake things up and named Heye & Partner, a division of DDB Worldwide based in Germany, to lead its new worldwide advertising campaigns. The result of this switch? The “I’m lovin’ it” theme.

Start lovin’ your brand again; figure out if your agency is playing not to lose.

Amadeus Finlay

Amadeus is our off-the-boat Irishman. Like all good sons of the Emerald Isle, Amadeus was born with a pen in his hand and a notebook stuffed under one arm. At Paris, Amadeus spends most of his time making connections and having fun on-screen, but despite that, writing remains his first love.