Author: meradmin

MÉR Companies Introduces MÉR Connect

MÉR Companies Introduces MÉR Connect, a Unique, Expanded Functionality Solution For Online Meetings.

KNOXVILLE, TN – Knoxville-based MÉR Companies is proud to introduce MÉR Connect; a unique approach to adding versatility and functionality to online meeting platforms, allowing them to be applied to much larger events. By integrating specialized audio-visual presentation technology, the system can allow users of any online meeting platform to vary their approach and use of these services to more closely resemble a live, traditional presentation.

MÉR Companies, which regularly produces annual meetings, press, and other branded events for its clients, sees the system as a powerful, timely solution to meeting limitations companies are currently faced with. The system incorporates various additional cameras allowing the user to include views of a speaker at a podium, any limited audience, remote presenters, and more.

MÉR’s, Managing Director, Paul Cherney, sees this as the ideal way to bridge the gap between traditional meetings and larger online gatherings. “Online meeting platforms are great for everyday use,” Cherney said. “But they fall short when it comes to events where more impact and a polished presentation is expected. This system fills in that void nicely by creating an in-person feel online meetings otherwise lack.”

MÉR Connect is, in essence, a directed production using a professional control team to manage the presentation elements, ensuring everyone experiences the content as if they were on location. Users can create a location to host the event anywhere they want. From that location, the MÉR Connect team coordinates every element—from inviting live audience members, setting up remote presenters and unlimited attendees from around the world if necessary. The system provides real time interaction, impromptu Q&A, and a level of distinction no standard online meeting format can equal.

MÉR Connect will be offered through MÉR’s events and meetings division, MÉR International. It is currently targeting companies who host larger, annual meetings, training seminars, award ceremonies, press conferences, and those needing a means to present new product rollouts.

About MÉR Companies

MÉR Companies is a full-spectrum Marketing and Business Advisory firm. Through its three divisions, MÉR Brand Solutions, MÉR International, and MÉR Graphics, it provides Brand Management, Business Advisory Services, Creative Services, Show and Event Production, and Production Support to various brands, often functioning as an extension of their marketing and other departments.

To schedule a live demo, contact Paul Cherney at 888-610-7285 Ext. 102.

MÉR Companies Introduces M360

MÉR Companies Introduces New 360˚ Virtual Product Presentation Offering With Unprecedented 36-Hour Turnaround to Shoot, Produce, and Deliver.

KNOXVILLE, TN – Knoxville-based MÉR Companies is proud to introduce M360; its new Virtual Product Experience presentation featuring an unprecedented 36-hour turnaround from start to finish. In 36 hours, MÉR’s photo and production team will photograph the boat or other product, assemble the shots in a seamless, user-driven 360-degree presentation, and deliver to their clients ready to use.

MÉR’s, Managing Director, Paul Cherney, is confident this speed of delivery will appeal to clients. “New product introductions are some of the most time-challenged initiatives on a marketing department’s plate,” Cherney said. “By delivering one of their most engaging marketing tools in a much shorter time than ever before, it gives them one less thing to worry about at crunch time. We see real value in that.”

Called M360 Virtual Product Experiences, this new capability will be offered through MÉR’s Marketing Communications Division, MÉR Brand Solutions. It is currently targeting Marine Industry OEMs and yacht brokers as its primary market.

About MÉR Companies

MÉR Companies is a full-spectrum Marketing and Business Advisory firm. Through its three divisions, MÉR Brand Solutions, MÉR International, and MÉR Graphics, it provides Brand Management, Business Advisory Services, Creative Services, Show and Event Production, and Production Support to various brands, often functioning as an extension of their marketing and other departments.

For more information, visit mercompanies.com.
Or, contact Paul Cherney at 888-610-7285 Ext. 102.

WHAT NEXT?

Image from Soundings Trade Only, August 2020

Veteran Industry firm weighs in on what’s in store for our industry in the coming months.

Many of us in our industry have been faced with business challenges. The thing these challenges have in common is our industry came out stronger than ever. The Great Recession of 2008 is branded in our minds for most. Some can still recall the Luxury Tax of 1991 and even the 1979 Oil Crisis. In every case our industry persevered and became better in their wake.

We are managing through our current situation with similar expectations, however, with a much different tack. We have learned through our experiences. In any business, we will always be faced with the unexpected. Hurdles will present themselves, potholes will be uncovered, and obstacles will pop up. What will define us are not these challenges, but rather how we choose to deal with them.

This is exactly how MÉR Companies, a marketing and event firm based in Knoxville, Tennessee and Southwest Florida, approaches their business every day. Every day for the past 10 years—as we proudly celebrate that milestone this year. We see our current challenges a bit more complex than most yet forecasting a calmer sea ahead. Our current situation exists due to three core factors.

The Three Core Factors:

  • Building Field Inventory – Today, it is incumbent on all of us to stay nimble and prepared. This disciplined approach will maintain a confident stance and clarity to navigate these times. The complexity lies not with the social challenges we face, but by seeing the opportunity to leverage them. The first point that challenged us was back at the beginning of 2020. Retailers and manufacturers alike saw retail inventory begin to increase. We were dealing with a ‘watch’ of this indicator. Product available to sell was reaching levels we had not seen since the early 2000s. This has been the single largest dashboard item for most manufacturers. As retail sales began to flatten and even shrink from 2018 numbers, manufacturers were beginning to take steps to reduce retailers’ inventory. While these steps were not drastic, they were intentional and calculated.
  • Shutting Down Manufacturing Facilities – In March, factories were faced with a daunting decision about how to best manage the dynamic of keeping everyone safe and maintaining their professional commitments, all while knowing every move they made would be scrutinized from all angles. This impacted not just OEM manufactures, but all suppliers’ businesses as well. Often in our industry the suppliers are the ‘tail of the dog’. Their businesses go as the OEM manufacturers businesses go. This time, it was not the case. All businesses were faced with these challenging decisions – unfortunately, it was not just within our industry. Many OEM manufactures saw a bit of an opportunity amidst the darkness. While shutting down manufacturing facilities can be extreme and excruciating, even if they are forced to do so, it should help deplete the product inventory in retail stores. A silver lining perhaps? Of course, retail activity would then be the single remaining driving force to accomplish this — an expectation that did not seem likely as we neared the end of the 1st quarter.
  • Sustained Retail Sales Increase – Most profess to stay ‘nimble’. But what does that really mean? Ready for anything? Reactive to the slightest activity? But what if we react too quickly? What if we overreact? What does overreacting even mean? MÉR’s definition of nimble is a collage of all of this. What is necessary, however, is discipline. Discipline exudes knowledge. And knowledge exudes confidence. MÉR’s version of being nimble implies an anticipatory approach to business. One that is based on factual information as well as intangible information. One that considers a 360-degree view. Not just looking at historical data or internal tendencies, but all inputs combined, internal AND external alike. This applies to ‘in industry’ and relevant items out of industry. Not long after production adjustments were made across the country, retail sales began to increase well after the show season concluded. This was not a wave left over from the show season. In fact, two of the last shows of the season were cancelled. As time continued, we saw retailers face their own unique challenges…those placed on them by their customers. People were buying boats and they wanted to go boating immediately. People were stuck in their homes with nothing to do, and with more people than they were used to having at home…and for longer periods of time. Homes became much smaller…very quickly. Many of these people turned to boating for relief. Retailers were tasked with keeping their teams safe and ensuring they were able to meet the increasing demands of their clients – which were “Get my boat in the water so I can take my family boating.”

Today, retailers are still challenged to get products to sell. Manufacturing facilities have been back running since May – some sooner than others. However, getting a multifaceted manufacturing facility back up and running is much more complex than turning the light on in your garage. Entire facilities needed to be readied. Hard assets needed to be addressed. Offices and plants needed to be cleaned. Logistic plans needed to be executed and of course, their people needed to be reengaged. In a vacuum, this seems like a lot, however, keep in mind in order to build boats, manufacturers need raw materials. Materials supplied by plants which, much like everyone else, had been shut down. The sophisticated level of businesses in our industry commands low raw materials inventory. Thereby, reopening to address a shrinking inventory scenario was far more multi-faceted than it seems on the surface. Detailed coordination with the supply chain also posed some challenges.

What does all this mean? Preparing for the fall boat show season is still a must. The shows are scheduled to go on as planned, however, some shows have been cancelled—but not for reasons you may think. Many shows are struggling to secure exhibitors because the retailers simply do not have the product available to sell. Rather than spending the money and not being able to sell enough product to cover show costs, retailers are opting out—saving their money and waiting for more product to come in. Most of MÉR’s OEM clients are well ahead of the curve, replenishing retailers’ inventories. After 10 years in business and more than 100 years of collective marine experience on staff, MÉR Companies is expecting 3rd quarter retail sales to remain flat or, possibly, slightly increase from 2019. Maintaining a sense of social regard and responsibility – business will continue to be strong. There are other external factors in the near term that will have a direct impact on our industry’s health, however, this is always this case. WE as an industry need to continue to operate with high standards, prudence, and humility.

Our industry is built on passion, inspired by our customers, and embraced by all of us. Our customers deserve our attention to this and yearn to get out on the water. As history has shown, we will yet again, come out stronger and better than we were before! Safe Boating!

MÉR Companies Celebrates 10 Year Milestone

KNOXVILLE, TN – Knoxville-based MÉR Companies celebrates its first decade in business. The marketing and brand services firm, has three divisions providing a full-spectrum of services including brand communications, branded events and experiential marketing, and material solutions. The company has staff and resources in Knoxville, Naples, FL, and Annapolis, MD.

Company founder, Paul Cherney, started the firm to provide various specialized marketing services, from printing and specialty items, to consumer trade show management. The company has steadily grown and diversified over the past ten years, adding a brand communications division in 2017.

“Our growth has been a function of fulfilling the growing needs of our clients. We now have a unique mix of services that positions us well against traditional ‘ad agencies’ or ‘events companies’ and the like,” said Cherney. We now cover a broader spectrum of services than these types of companies typically offer. This allows us to offer clients an integrated menu of services that can be tailored to a client’s size or budget better than most. Plus, as a small business, our size allows us to service clients at a very personal level, while performing like a much larger company.”

The company’s three divisions are:

Mer Brand Solutions

  • Brand Development
  • Brand Management
  • Marketing Communications
  • Creative Services
  • Digital Marketing
  • Social Media Management
Mer International

  • Luxury Sales Events
  • Exhibitor Services
  • Event Marketing & Management
  • Meetings & Conferences
  • Production Management
Mer Graphics

  • Printing
  • Point-of-Sale
  • Premium Items
  • Apparel

For more information, visit mercompanies.com. Or, contact Paul Cherney at 888-610-7285 Ext. 102.

Trade & Boat Show Brief

A Review of our upcoming Boat Show Season and ongoing Trade Show Industry


July 10, 2020
(Revised August 24, 2020)

Overview:

Trade shows are a large part of the marine industry. Not only in retail boat shows. There are many B-2-B shows within our industry as well. They come in all sizes and venues, from regionally sponsored and national marine supplier events to dealer meetings and of course retail shows. Nationally, the trade show industry is a $14.3 Billion Industry and estimated to have an indirect economic impact as much as $100 Billion in the marketplace. The New York market alone estimates the loss revenue impact to The Jacob Javits Center will reach $100 million dollars as a result of these times. Additionally, the lack of activity at this one facility will reduce the local economy by $1 Billion over the course of the shutdown. The impacts touch many layers of our communities and businesses not just the venue. From air & ground travel to hotels, restaurants, and other local establishments the Trade Show Industry has a deeper affect than most industries.

FALL BOAT SHOW SEASON:

The boat show season is approaching quickly and in years past by this time we would have been deep into the planning of these events. Some shows have announced their cancellations. Such events are:

Tampa Boat Show September 11 – 13, 2020 Tampa Boat Show Site
Newport Boat Show September 17 – 20, 2020 Newport Boat Show Site
Norwalk Boat Show September 24 – 27, 2020 Norwalk Boat Show Site
Annapolis Boat Show October 1 – 4, 2020 Annapolis Boat Show Site

The FT Lauderdale Boat Show is still on schedule for later this season, October 28 through November 1, 2020; FT Lauderdale Boat Show Site.

REASONS:

We understand things are constantly evolving and there could still be some adjustments to this schedule, however, at this point the above information is intact. These cancellations also need the proper context. In every case itemized above with one exception, the events were cancelled NOT due to public health and safety concerns, but rather due to a lack of exhibitors. In the events above, most of the exhibitors are marine retailers. Since the end of March 2020, retail sales of boats and boating products hit a pace that our industry has not seen before. This increase in retail sales AND manufacturing facilities and suppliers shutting down for health and safety reasons for as long as 8 weeks, the market’s supply of products has been significantly diluted. Increase in demand AND decrease in supply, has strained the retailers’ ability to run their businesses. With little supply, retailers are having to make a difficult decision NOT to exhibit in their local boat shows. Events that have been a corner stone of their businesses for years. Now they are having to opt out of attending as they will not be able to recoup their costs to exhibit in these events for months. As exhibitors do not renew their contracts with these events, the shows are then faced with the decision of even having the event. In the cases above, event organizers are deciding to cancel this year’s event.

In the case of FT Lauderdale International Boat Show, contracts have been sent. Deposits have been paid. The exhibitors for this show are generally the manufacturers themselves. Thereby products to show & sell come directly from the manufacturers. The retailers still take part in the show, but the product supply is generally on the manufacturers.

Show producers have been very understanding and are working with exhibitors to be fair and accommodating during this time. Our meetings with event organizers have been very productive. Show producers have been very understanding and accommodating to the current landscape. We pride ourselves to build long-term relationships with these event producers. As a result, we have been able to approach this on a common platform to meet everyone’s needs and objectives. The preparation and aligning the complex show producer environment is not an easy task and we are working with each of them to best understand their situations and help where we can. We expect some new show and exhibitor guidelines to follow for the shows to stay on schedule. We believe many of these new guidelines will be put on the show organizers to adhere to, however, there will undoubtedly be a trickle-down effect to exhibitors and exhibit managers.

Some of the items that are being considered are designed to better control access to the shows through such measures as:

  • Selling tickets online only
  • Each ticket has its own “Entrance Time” – entering the show on specific days and times only
  • Install new “Exit Only” gates to direct patrons leaving the show away from patrons entering

These steps are designed to

  • Eliminate large congregation of show patrons trying to enter the show
  • Spreading out people coming through the gates
  • Separating large congregations of people from collecting in small areas
  • Manage the overall number of people that are on site

This means exhibitors should experience:

  • A smoother flow of patrons in the mornings – better to engage each as there will not be a morning rush and more level flow of people in the show throughout each day
  • Be able to spend more time with each qualified customer throughout the day and not have to be rushed as much during the peak hours of the show

TRADE SHOW INDUSTRY:

To help understand and proof these trade show plans, the Industry sponsored a test platform at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. “Together Again Expo” took place on Friday, July 24th for one day only. The convention center was set up as a normal trade show. Together Again Expo was for industry members only. The event was free for exhibitors. Each exhibitor received a 10’ x 10’ booth. Exhibitors were industry trade companies looking to ensure steps taken in this event provided a safe and healthy environment for everyone. This event was not open to the public. The event was a success and received good reviews from local, county and state constituents that have a responsibility to maintain public health and safety.

On a larger scale, but still relevant, the trade show industry has been lobbying our government to provide tax benefits to exhibitors of any trade show. There is currently a request to allow trade exhibitors to apply 50% of trade show costs as a tax credit for 2020. The tax credit is geared to incent exhibitors to reengage trade shows soon. While the requested tax credit is yet to pass, it is a definite incentive which should gain support, should it be adopted. As of the date of this brief, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida has had 31 events reschedule. Losing these events & conventions have negatively impacted the local economy by an estimated $314 million. There have been an additional 58 conventions or events that have been cancelled. The local economic impact is estimated at $1.21 billion.

Source: OCCC Website

MARINE INDUSTRY:

In more than 25 years in the marine industry I have yet to experience anything like this. Many manufacturers have worked the challenging phases of reopening their facilities. From access to raw materials to personnel and transportation challenges, many are back to run rates they enjoyed in Q1 2020. However, still many are not. This coupled with better than expected retail activity in March, April, May, AND continuing into the summer. Manufacturing facilities are challenged to keep their retailers supplied with product. A unique opportunity to make up lost earnings from March & April shutdowns, the demand exists, however, the supply chain is challenged. A more desired problem, nonetheless, still a problem. The amount of new AND used product in retailers’ inventory is frightfully low compared to 2019 numbers.

SPRING BOAT SHOW SEASON

We are well prepared for the upcoming fall show season. Consumer confidence is still strong. Southern markets are carrying strong sales deep into the summer and people will continue to enjoy their responsible activities on the water. We are now getting a little more information to consider what life in 2021 will look like and the upcoming Spring Show Season. Much of this will still be impacted by the upcoming November elections. We are expecting a similar slate of challenges in 2021 while also anticipating a similar set of solutions. Much will be unique from show to show, so we will have to stay nimble and ready for just about anything. We are prepared and staying connected to our show partners prepped for new guidelines that will have to be adhered to. One of the first shows of the calendar year is the New York Boat Show. This year’s event, January 27-31, 2021, is currently on schedule. At the time of this brief, much of the show’s host venue, The Jacob Javits Center, is still outfitted as a temporary hospital. The Javits Center, a New York state run facility, has been communicating its situation well. In June 2020, The Javits Center released a comprehensive plan to reopen. This includes a dismantling, sanitizing, and refitting the Center by September 1st, 2020. This, however, does not imply shows will begin occupying the space on September 1st. The contract between the NMMA and the Javits Center for the 2021 New York Boat Show binds the NMMA for up to 120% of the cost of the contract should the show not go on as scheduled. This is significant and requires a level of diligence and discipline unlike normal scenarios. This situation is repeated for show producers many times for a single event. The planning for a seemingly simple boat show has many dependent components. Due to the significant planning required each event will be monitored and assessed on its own set of circumstances to determine timing of Go/No Go decisions. A unique aspect to address is many of the non-boat trade shows come from out of town – exhibitors and patrons alike. The travel requirement for patrons and exhibitors is beginning to conflict with company “Travel Bans” and therefore putting the trade show market restart at risk. For the events that are more locally oriented, such as boat shows where many exhibitors (retailers) and patrons (customers) are local, there is less conflict with corporate travel bans and restrictions.

CONCLUSION

As we take the mounds of information we have collected, we conclude we are continuing to navigate our course. We are prepared for Q3 retail activity to follow its previous years trends. Shows and events are a vital piece of our business. Dealers have matured and become more sophisticated, thereby, reinventing themselves, bringing customer experiences like never before. While customer experiences are important in our industry, we are still challenged to keep things fresh. A change from the norm. Not for our sake, but for the sake of the customers and their expectations. People yearn for Fall In-Water Boat Shows, Spring Season Boat Shows, and Boating Events of all kinds. We are fortunate to be a part of a deeply passionate industry made up of deeply passionate people. This passion is ignited by our customer base and we all embrace it. This passion, as it has shown us since this past March, will continue.

I hope this brief has provided you with some insight, information, and relevant perspective. We are eagerly preparing for the upcoming months and of course watching the race for a vaccine closely. We are optimistic on both fronts and preparing for as many contingency scenarios as possible. We hope you enjoyed this brief. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or comments.

Best Regards and Stay Safe!
Paul Cherney

The Four Noble Truths…of Marketing.

Followers of Buddhism observe a central foundation: The Four Noble Truths.

  1. Life involves suffering
  2. The cause of suffering is attachment
  3. Avoiding attachment ends suffering
  4. Following a prescribed path can end suffering

Applied to marketing, I submit the following:

  1. Marketing can be painful
  2. Pain in marketing is caused by the absence of strategy
  3. Embracing strategy lessens the pain
  4. Following the right strategy can eliminate the pain

1) Marketing can be painful

All too often, brands will approach things from a tactical standpoint–without any real reasoning for what they are trying to accomplish. Sometimes it’s simply following the lead of their arch competitor, believing they will be able to grab market share if they ‘just keep pace’. This is insane.

In other cases, choosing a direction based on personal tastes (as opposed to those of their target market) seems logical. I call that ‘baiting the hook for the fisherman, not the fish’. Equally flawed. Infinitely illogical.

It is decisions like these why it is no wonder Marketing can be so painful for so many. But have faith…enlightenment is just a few paragraphs–and a phone call–away.

2) Pain in marketing is caused by the absence of strategy

Without planning your marketing efforts with purpose or strategy, you fail on two levels: a) Aligning your efforts with measurable goals, and b) Managing your expectations. Only with a careful, strategic plan in place, can you expect to measure your successes. And, equally importantly, know how to adjust your tactics if something is NOT working. After all, spinning wheels equates to wasteful spending.

Many people (wrongly) believe marketing is a waste of money. This is only true of POOR marketing; which much of what is out there, unfortunately, is. We regularly counsel clients on the differences, and guide them down the proper path.

3) Embracing strategy lessens the pain

Almost without exception, the first time we’ve taken a new client through a strategic marketing planning process, they quickly recognize and appreciate what they’ve been doing wrong. The simple logic of

Objectives >>> (giving way to)

>>> Selecting Strategies>>> (giving way to)

>>> Choosing Tactics

It’s a very linear process that feeds the eventual creative solutions we craft to support it. The blending of art and science in one of its purest forms. It’s the only method we endorse and prescribe for our clients.

4) Following the right strategy can eliminate the pain

A strategy that works for one brand in a category does not (nor should it) work for all. Getting back to our advice against mimicking what a competitor does earlier in this article, YOUR strategy needs to fit YOUR brand.

This is where effectively defining your brand and what unique space it should occupy in your target market’s mind is crucial. Not every brand can stand for the same thing. If they do, it’s the same as none of the brands in a segment standing for anything.

For further enlightenment, we’d be glad to show you the path.

Contact Us

MÉR International Staying Busy Adding Value to
Client Show Exhibits

MÉR International has been busy designing and constructing show displays for several client exhibitors this boat show season. From New York to Miami, our experienced crews have been putting in the hours to ensure each and every detail is handled.

“We’ve always taken a 360-degree approach to managing our client’s show exhibits and assets. We know the sales potential of these major events, and how to capitalize on every opportunity. It’s just one way we bring value and efficiency to our clients’ marketing investments.”

– Paul Cherney, Managing Director

MÉR International will have designed, built and managed 6 displays for 4 clients in the first 60 days of 2020 alone. These include landside and in-water displays for boats ranging from 19 to 45 feet.

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A BREADTH OF SERVICES

MÉR International has designed, created, built, and managed exhibits and events at some of the largest consumer trade shows in the world. Our expertise spans on-location work, plus all contract management, spend tracking and reporting, and the ongoing management of your show assets.

Design | Construction | Turnkey Management | Logistics
Logistics and Freight | Warehousing | Asset Management

Raising your brand’s luxury appeal.

Luxury, while one of those words that means different things to different people, is one of the most commonly used words among today’s marketers. Many brands claim it, but not always justifiably.

Expectations have changed wildly. Where you once had to opt for the upper end of a brand’s spectrum to get certain appealing ‘extras’, many of these features are now standard equipment in lower end models as the ‘more for your money’ battle rages on.

Here’s a good example:

Ten years ago, Hyundai Genesis aired its first spot on the Super Bowl titled ‘Angry Bosses’. After winning North American Car of The Year honors, the brand touted the fact by showing the reactions of their more established luxury competitors (Lexus, BMW, etc) in the spot. In doing so, they began to position themselves as a viable, high value option to these long-standing ‘luxury’ nameplates. Disruption at its finest.

At MÉR Brand Solutions, we’ve helped several brands raise their luxury appeal and have distilled down a distinct process to help them do so. Here are the basics:

The Product Promise. It all starts here. If a product wants to claim a more luxurious rung on the brand ‘ladder’, they must first commit to having their product fulfill the promise of luxury. If it doesn’t walk the walk, no amount of marketing genius can help move that needle. In fact, it will have exactly the opposite effect.

Find your niche. Position your brand based on its unique attributes, or put a spin on it that creates distinction. If a segment doesn’t exist to express your product positioning, create one.

Images are everything. Playing at a higher level means investing in how you portray your product in still and motion imagery. Product photography and videography are the raw material of your brand’s outward appearance. Dress it for success.

Less is more. Design ads, websites, digital, and collateral at a higher level. This means everything from font choice to colors and use of white space. These things all send a message, and are all done with a purpose and intent.

Bring your A-game…at ALL touch points. Today’s buyer gravitates toward brands who understand them. Brands that do this right have learned that every THING and every ONE representing them needs to be GENUINELY on target. Buyers can smell a put-on, or phony pitch that is trying too hard. We’ve successfully counseled brands on how to do this effectively.

Be a luxury expert. No customer wants to waste money on inexperience–particularly those who expect more from a brand. Expertise is king. Certifications and credentials are a plus. Insist on impeccable product knowledge from everyone who is in touch with a prospect or customer.

It’s a recipe. All the elements we’ve touched on above need to be combined carefully…and the proportions will differ from brand to brand. Like any recipe, it will affect the flavor of the end result. Your best bet is to hire an experienced cook…and our kitchen is open.

Keys to creating client/agency synergy.

As anyone in the world of branding agencies will tell you, finding a great client is
challenging. And I’m talking about something much deeper than the proverbial revenue
stream. A great client not only impacts the quality of the work developed, but also the
overall motivation of the agency team.

Early in my career, I was told how packaged goods giant Procter and Gamble would
send young brand managers to their agencies for a few months. They did so to work
alongside their creative department, in order to better understand the challenges of the
creative teams they would ultimately direct. The belief was these brand leaders would
return to their posts as better clients. P&G felt that learning to be a great client was that
important.

Similarly, I also believe agency-side staffers could learn a lot walking in the client’s
shoes, to understand the pressures they face. It is ageless, primal empathy…and it
makes both sides stronger. Our agency team is staunch in its philosophy that
understanding our clients’ businesses is central to producing effective, relevant work.
At the same time, inspiring and working collaboratively with a branding agency is an
important part of a Brand Leader’s role.

Far too few do it well. But there is hope.

Tips To Get The Best Work From Your Agency Partner…

As stated earlier, the pressures facing Brand Leaders are many, and often skewed
toward short-term results. We live in a world increasingly ruled by the all-powerful (but
not always predictive) metric. This pressure alone can influence a Brand Leader to favor
decisions that, in the long run, weaken a brand as much as they might affect the short
term. The best client/agency partnerships are able to navigate and bridge this paradox
while still achieving engagement goals in ways that are still ‘on-brand’. At MÉR Brand
Solutions, we are fortunate to have found long-term client partners who thoroughly
understand this balance. Here are some other things to keep in mind.

Beware the over-fashionable agency. In many cases, high-profile agencies are often
more skilled at self-promotion than at increasing the profile of a client’s brand–especially
in a highly-competitive, ever-changing marketplace. In short, hire with your head, not
your ego. Just because an agency represents a high-profile brand you admire, doesn’t
mean they’re best suited to your brand’s unique challenges. High-profile shops with a
self-serving attitude often miss opportunities for your brand. They tend to be poor
listeners, and believe you need them more than they need you. The irony is, the same
superficial attraction commonly used in branding should not be something you are
seduced by. You want results. You want depth. And you want your brand to be
enduring, not the flavor of the month.

Think of your brand as a destination. Seek out a branding partner who can really
create a balance of information and entertainment around your brand. Done correctly,
your brand should become your target audience’s destination of choice, and should
motivate them to beat a path to your brand and, in turn, increase its value. Hire a
branding partner that knows how to make your brand part of the larger, more lasting
culture. This is something we consider a prerequisite in clients we work with. Plenty of
firms claim they can do this, so here’s a test: If their past work demonstrates they can
think like your market and you connect with them as people, chances are your
customers will respond to the work they do for you.

Never hire based on price. Getting financial types involved in choosing an agency
partner is flawed. Instead, involve their input a different way–drafting creative
compensation agreements that require the agency to share in the risk AND the reward.
This way, they have ‘skin in the game’ in terms of their advice and skill set, while you
share a reasonable portion of the results and rewards they generate. This will help
assure they are swinging for the fences. But remember, this requires you to be a client
willing to let them hold the bat.

Brand leaders are people leaders. The best brand leaders use their position to inspire
and ‘infect’ everyone working on the brand with the desire to break new ground. In a
way, they give everyone involved ‘permission’ to push the envelope–to not be inhibited,
and to kick fear to the curb. To make this work in actual practice, the brand leader has
to do more than just talk the talk. They need to be willing to take risks, to fight the
internal battles, and to defend the best strategies and executions. As their partner, a
branding agency needs to listen to them, understand and care about their product
portfolios, coexisting agendas, and arrive at solutions that serve all objectives.

Take it seriously, but don’t. The worst thing for a client/agency partnership is the
belief that results and productivity can only be achieved in an environment of fear and
pressure. Unfortunately, some very successful people tend to believe this–despite the
fact there is absolutely NO proof of it. In most cases, it is the result of how they were
managed, and little more than the continuation of a cyclic, toxic management style. It is
a poor, learned behavior and, worse, it stifles truly great ideas.

What there IS proof of, is that the most brilliant ideas more frequently happen in an
uninhibited environment of, put simply, FUN. Solving “impossible” problems and
breaking new ground is a product of passion–plain and simple. And all it requires is
refusing to settle for less, and preserving an environment that fuels it.

Celebrating a Decade of Dedication.

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