It would be an understatement to say that getting through the first wave of the pandemic was tough on businesses across the country. However, difficult decisions are only set to continue as the Job Retention Scheme winds down, while the pandemic rolls on. And, for many brands, the question of in-house or outsource is likely to arise.
Right now, it’s a question of fight or flight. So, an in-house operation is completely understandable; it might help you feel like you’re more in control. After all, your brand needs more attention than ever, yet external agencies might be stretched for resource. So, what better way to guarantee that it gets the attention it needs than by having dedicated staff in the same building? Or at least the same Zoom room.
However, there are also more conventional reasons why brands might choose an in-house marketing model (and by more conventional, we mean ones that don’t require a global pandemic to force consideration). For instance, speed. Dedicated in-house teams that are fluent in your brand guidelines, and your brand guidelines alone, can create efficiencies that can get campaigns to market quicker. It makes sense.
Yes, an in-house model can definitely work. There’s no doubt about that. But you need to have absolute confidence in your brand and complete stability in your offering to make it a real success. As much as there is to gain from working in-house, there is just as much, if not more, to lose.
There’s a reason why branding agencies don’t often do their own branding. They’re too close to the subject matter and there are too many cooks that are too emotionally invested in the process. And the same can be said here. Brands need some semblance of objectivity to make their advertising and marketing as cutting edge or as industry leading as they claim to be. If you isolate your brand, your vision of what you can achieve is instantly limited and if you remove outside influence, what you measure your brand against disappears.
Even if your brand guidelines are perfectly articulated and flawlessly executed in-house, your creativity is inevitably restricted. An in-house operation will always be reluctant to challenge the status quo because there’s no incentive to; it’s not in their brief. So, who’s going to look from the outside in? Who’s going to notice when things go stale? Who’s going to push the boundaries? If you just follow a formula, it will be no surprise if the result is formulaic.
In our experience and experiences, a quality creative output is the direct result of the unique dynamic between a brand and an external agency. A brand will brief a member of the agency’s client service team, who then interprets that request (taking into account competitor analysis and industry expertise) before relaying it to the creative team, who then develop ideas that challenge the brief creatively. The client’s brand aspirations and objectives are kept firmly in mind, but they are coupled with the ability to question what has gone before based on an objective view, a holistic understanding and a broader skillset.
Yes, an in-house model removes barriers. But, these barriers are essential levels of scrutiny, which are integral to make the work a success. Creative ideation requires friction, and ultimately, it’s that friction that makes the work better. It gives an idea its sharpness, breathes life into it and creates momentum for good thoughts while stopping non-starters in their tracks. It’s a stress test to ensure it’s the best, most striking, version of itself, whilst ensuring the brand is always keeping up with culture and topical in its behaviour.
For all of the benefits that having parts of your marketing model in-house can provide, it’s the level of craft in execution that will suffer most. Even on the most unassuming of jobs, there’s the possibility for it to be more effective than its predecessor and a new chance to create brilliant work that shows your brand in its best light, giving you the opportunity to sell. It’s that level of critical thinking, and that level of passion to exceed expectations, that is created and nurtured in agencies.
So, if you find yourself pondering the question of in-house or outsource. Please consider the creative. Whilst you’d be forgiven for feeling like the decision to outsource more work would compromise your brand, if anything, it’s quite the contrary.
At TCC, we can work both as part of an outsourced system and in tandem with in-house models. We work with some of the country’s most dynamic brands, alongside multiple outsourced studios, across a variety of products; as well as establishing guidelines, mentorship and processes for in-house studios. So, if you’re thinking about a change in your marketing model, we can help.
Written by Matt Rowland
October 29, 2020