How Fast and Cheap Can You Go?

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I recently saw a full-page ad in the New York Times for a small marketing agency, promoting its "improved branding process" that creates new products and positions them in a fraction of the typical time and cost. And I thought to myself, it was only a matter of time.

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
Yes, folks, Faster/Better/Cheaper has now landed squarely on branding shops. The Landors of the world might still be able to charge seven-figure fees to create a new identity for a big company (I'm just jealous!), but it appears from what I'm hearing from clients and now seeing in the business press, that we have to shift our intellectual and economic gears into an even higher level. And step on it.

Branding processes are now moving at the speed of business. Which means a six-month product development project must be condensed into three. And a six-figure fee trims down to fifty grand. And you can push back, but be aware that there will be a handful of agencies waiting to do the work if you don't. Which may be OK.

I'm all for building efficiencies into any project. What concerns me is at what point is quality sacrificed for speed and price? Can you afford to put your best people on a low-priced job? Even if you can, is your team going to be motivated to cut corners and deliver a product that is on time but half-baked?

This demand for faster/better/cheaper has already infected other areas of small and large agencies. Client CEOs demand greater levels of accountability, which puts heat on the CMOs, who in turn crank it up on their agencies. As a result, ads have to be conceived in less than optimal amounts of time. PR campaigns have to be launched on a parallel track with the due diligence typically required. And complex websites are mobilized from start to finish in a half the time it took even 18 months ago.

We can mourn the new demands on our cerebrums. Or we can figure out ways to do great work at the speed of business. I believe it comes down to better vetting of clients. Ask the right questions when a client proposes a large scope and what may seem like an unreasonable timeline, fee, and expectations. Sometimes you can trim scope. Or buy more time. Those will likely be the more respectful clients. If you run into a client who is unwilling to bend on any of his/her demands, be very wary. And dig deeper before committing your agency.

Now don't just sit there reading this blog, you have a client to manage!
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