Collective: Does category experience really matter?


Does choosing an agency based on relevant category experience really improve an organisations chance of marketing success? It depends on what success looks like. If the goal is to produce concepts against popular formats that are supported by strong research, then an agency that has relevant experience is the way to go. If the objective is to produce novel ideas and inspired campaigns that are meaningful to the values and behaviours of your particular buyer based on strong research, then choose an agency who specialises in consumer-centric experiences… irrespective of the category.

The conundrum many marketers face is wanting an agency who has relevant category experience, without account conflicts and creative monotony. But it’s difficult to have one without the other.

This is because agencies who focus one type of category (Like FMGC, Beauty or Auto) generally steer clients down a proven marketing system that produces a predictable (and safe) outcome. And it is often the very same system competitors have been down too. Which in turn generates a lack of marketing creativity and variety.

Have you ever wondered why most fragrance ads feature a mega female celebrity, donning a silky gold liquid dress who breaks free from some kind of restraint and then mutters a pseudo-profound monologue in French?  Or why watch commercials always set the product to the time 10:10? And auto ads love to feature the cardriving along a winding desert, ocean or mountain road against a deep and ominous music track?

In all three scenarios, organisation have chosen to replicate the same style of advertisement as their direct competitors. Sure, the format has been tested over and over again as a proven way to persuade consumers. But, when placed alongside one another in magazines, or aired back-to back on television, it becomes a little ridiculous and completely counter-intuitive to the whole point of marketing.

And how concrete and relevant are those old-school proven formats we’ve been seeing for more than a decade? In last 5 years alone, the attitudes of consumers have completely changed. The way they shop has changed. They way companies provide service has completely changed. But the formats of these commercials have not.

So, when it comes to choosing your next agency, instead focusing on relevant category experience, perhaps consider how they plan to influence consumer behaviour and culture in a way that’s meaningful to your brand.