Nope tactics are not solutions, but our industry treats them as if they are.
So much so that you, dear brand, don’t go seeking solutions, you seek tactics—and it is all our fault. Well… not mine, but I am an unfortunate byproduct of how traditional brands go seeking agencies go about finding said “solutions.” Then again, I am here to shout into the wind as much as I am here to humbly ask you to consider the idea: F*ck tradition.
Think about it.
At first, waaaay back when (before they invented color) your marketing choices were very limited. Word of mouth, local radio, local print and maybe three television channels. That was it. No matter what your business challenge was it could be solved by awareness…and the only game in town were the few available tactics you had access too. The solution and the tactic went hand in hand because there really wasn’t any other way to go; the brands that wanted to grow…spent on those limited tactics. That spending built agencies with a singular purpose to sell you advertising. That ad revenue built an entire industry.
Then came more. More channels. More radio. More print. More agencies. Bigger and bigger agencies. The bigger and bigger agencies spawned more and more specialized services like PR, promotions, media and the like.
And then the market changed, again.
The internet arrived, and with it eventually came more tactics: like online ads, search, ad words, online video…and on and on. Then the customer grabbed hold of the microphone with a new, social media and it all exploded, again. The ecosystem fragmented and agencies followed. Now you have too many needs if you want to compete, and with all those needs new breeds of agencies followed. Web production, graphic design, search optimization, online ads specialists, social gurus, optimization experts, media buyers, email chimps…on, and on, and on…and you are constantly reminded how you need them all.
And there is no sign of it slowing down. Now you have at-home moms trying to make ads, you have content creators pitching products, you have channels selling audiences just like media buyers, you have software companies making artificial intelligences that can write copy or recreate voice overs, you’ve got tech giants selling you the audience’s information down to paying for every click…on and on.
But really, these are all tools, tactics.
But these traditional agencies, born out of the fragmenting market of the customer’s attention span, and the ever-growing opportunity to bill you, now just pitch tactics as solutions. A new logo/ad/buy/media type to solve your needs. They do it because 1) its profitable to them, 2) being agnostic to tactics is harder, and 3) it’s easier than seeking real solutions before tactics. And then there’s this: you can hold an ad in your hand. Put a logo on a screen. Quantify a media buy. Count clicks... and these are easy to sell to you, dear brand.
What is harder to sell is a solution. A strategy. A concept. It’s ethereal, it’s an idea. It’s a plan. It’s thinking. (Not to mention, impossible to craft before ever talking to you.) But thinking, in the beginning, that was what was sold—way before tactics got all tied up and confused with solutions.
And I get it. It’s hard to sell an idea but soooo much easier to sell an ad, or a design, or a buy. And I also get plenty of agency pitch people come with “solutions” in the shape of tactics. And I get it takes a trust, a partnership and a relationship to get there. It takes time and who has that? Especially when you can jump straight to the tactic…and hope it works.
And since that’s what we have done, traditionally, that’s what we will do.
But I say, f*ck that.
Take a step back, work with someone who will ask why before jumping to the tactic.
Find someone who wants an idea of how to solve challenges before they even think about what tactics work.
Find someone that isn’t selling tactics, but actual solutions.
Might have a few ideas where to look…
Good luck out there. XO