As a partner in Cubic, a creative agency, I participate in weekly partner meetings where we discuss anything from personnel and equipment needs to projects and long-term strategy. For the past several months one partner has challenged us in every meeting with the question, “What are we selling?” The blank stares abound before we eventually get distracted and transition to a new topic. Each time this question is posed I think to myself, “If one of our owners doesn’t know what we do after 9 years in business, we may be in trouble.” However, during a mid-run epiphany recently, the soul of the question hit me – there is a huge difference in “what we do” and “what we sell”.
What we do is provide advertising and marketing solutions via the implementation of creative strategies and tactics. Those may include branding strategy, a logo, a brochure, a website, a tradeshow booth, a video, etc. What we do is the tangible expression of what we sell. Every freelance designer, design shop and ad agency does the same thing. Some are better than others at the execution. I admire the aesthetic work of many including those that might be seen as competitors, locally, nationally and internationally. We are very good at what we do. However, it is very clear that what we do does not differentiate us from the rest of the crowded playing field. What we sell is what differentiates Cubic. So, what is the answer?
Cubic sells the creative effectuation of
Clarity, Coherence, and Consistency.
Let’s first define those.
Clarity – clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; free from ambiguity
Coherence – logical interconnection of ideas; overall understandability
Consistency – steadfast adherence to common principles; harmony among the various expressions of a complex idea
In every strategy we develop and in every supporting tactic we implement, these 3 core concepts define our execution of the work – what we do.
Clarity is a goal throughout the entire development process at Cubic. The first step to any project is to understand clearly the problem and the goals. We must have clarity in this regard in order to provide on-target recommendations and sound strategies. When developing marketing strategies clarity in messaging ensures that our clients’ customers do not experience any ambiguity in the interpretation of that message regardless of how it’s delivered. At the end of the day, the clarity of the message is the essence of the consumer’s connection with a brand.
Coherence is an essential requirement in today’s advertising landscape. Coherence speaks to the ability to deliver a brand’s core message regardless of the delivery method or audience. It used to be that people experienced a brand’s message with a similar group of people via the same device at the same time. Think about the early days of radio and TV. Consumers huddled around those devices and advertisers knew to whom they were talking, when and where their message would be heard and the exact format for the delivery of their message. With the onslaught of media platforms and delivery systems and the global integration of cultures, diverse audiences are now experiencing brands nonstop through a variety of channels and in a variety of locations. As well, the format of the content now ranges from multi-million dollar commercial productions to 140 character tweets. Organizations must have an unwavering belief in the brand idea – the clarity of the message. This preeminent conviction makes it easy to translate the message across varied media and different cultures.
So, how do you ensure coherence? To paraphrase an excerpt from Language as Dialogue: From Rules to Principles (Edda Weigand), coherence is created in the minds of the individual in their attempt to comprehend the “different visual, perceptual and cognitive means at their disposal.” Coherence extends to the relation among text, imagery, sound, smell, taste, touch … all of a person’s sensory preceptors. Based on 20th century American Philosopher, Brand Blanshard’s teachings, truth (the heart of a brand) is a property of a whole system of interconnected propositions and that this whole must be so interdependent that every element (brand touch point) in it necessitates, and even entails, every other element. That’s a powerful concept. With coherence, the message does not have to be the same in every case. But, it must adhere to the brand truth in every case.
Consistency has been the focus of advertising philosophies since the early 1990’s. Then, and to an extent now, consistency meant delivering the same creative output across all brand touch points regardless of locale, culture, delivery platform, etc. This notion of consistency should be retired from all advertising and marketing mantras.
For us, consistency relates more to the way in which we provide clarity and coherence. Clarity in messaging is not an option. We must consistently listen to our clients, analyze the problem, determine the goals, research the industry and competitors, and provide sound strategies. Not just in the beginning, but in every interaction with our clients and their brands. As well, we must be consistently coherent in our approach to employing the tactics that arise from the established marketing strategy. Today’s advertising environment dictates that the popular understanding of consistency take a back seat to the importance of coherence. Consistency, in its archaic definition, does still have it’s place in marketing, but is now limited to providing consistency within much smaller markets and delivery platforms.
In essence, at Cubic, we consistently provide clarity and coherence for our clients’ brands. The value in that is immeasurable when compared to the countless things that we do day-to-day.
The value is in what we sell, not what we do.