Thoughts from the Kelstadt client and agency interaction panel from someone who is now on the other side ....

February 13, 2012
I really enjoyed participating in a fantastic event the other night at the DePaul Kellstadt MBA program’s event on client/agency interaction. We had a packed house of more than 50 students and alumni and a excellent panel.
The panel was focused on three major questions:  
What is effective brand management today and how has it changed over the past five to ten years?
What are the major challenges faced by brand managers and their agencies, and how do they work together to capitalize on opportunities and overcome obstacles? 
What opportunities exist for careers in brand management and agency account
management, and how should MBA students prepare to enter these fields?

A few things that were discussed at the event stuck with me, especially now as I transition from the client world into more of an agency role as KBooM! continues its gamification initiatives with our branded clients. Here are the top three lessons I took away from the panel:
  1. Don’t ask the agency to solve your strategy problems. I am totally guilty of this in my past life. My briefs were often too long and didn’t cut to the meat of the project. Instead, I would tee up a major strategic issue hoping my agency somehow was able to magically solve. Now that I am in the business of working with client briefs, I can attest that clear communication and transparency are critical in a new project. If a strategy isn’t nailed down, some solid dialogue and brainstorming are in order before working on that brief.
  2. Marketing is where the romance meets the finance. My marketing professor during my MBA brought up this quote, and it is so important to keep in mind today. As I was at the panel, one of the things everyone that had been a brand manager iterated was the need for marketers today to have a solid understanding of the financial pressures on their brand. Whether it is managing your P&L, understanding seasonality or dealing with bloated or slim inventories, it is imperative financial metrics are taken into account during the planning process.
  3. One of my panelists commented that marketers get “the work they deserve” from their agencies. If you don’t put in the time aligning with your agency team beforehand, you are not setting yourself up for success. It is imperative to write a clear and cohesive brief that outlines the task and, just as important, provides timely, well-thought-out feedback. You are not going to get your agency’s best work as they aren’t focused entirely on your goals.
It was a great event with some great people and really nice to take a little mental detour back to my life in brand management.