Marketing: increasingly going to be encroaching on the traditional ‘management consulting’ paradigm

In the media and digital world, the name of the game these days is convergence. Convergence seems to be the positioning driving large companies. M&A activity is up across the communications industry as large holding companies buy up the best creative talent there is.

The recent merger of Publicis-Omnicom only reinforced the fact that there is massive convergence in the marketing and media services industries. Opta, the digital sports media company, was recently acquired by the PERFORM group.

Some of the more interesting activity, however, is the convergence this brings. In a world increasingly driven by creative innovation and positioning, marketing agencies/groups are increasingly tasked not with just creating great creative, but solving business problems in doing so.

This brings an interesting conflict emerging on the horizon: the crossover between management consulting, and creative consulting. And the reality is that they are often two sides of the same coin.

Management consulting means solving business problems by looking for areas in which the business process could be streamlined, refined, or restructured. Creative consulting often involves looking for out of the box solutions which achieve similar goals – perhaps through better utilisation of data.

And as digital is one of the most effective ways to scale business (no production costs, remember), it is digital agencies that are leading the charge into this strategic creativity that they are bringing to their clients.

Management consultants have already seen the threat. Recently, Accenture acquired the London design agency Fjord (http://adage.com/article/agency-news/agencies-accenture-s-invading-turf-big-time/241338/). Fjord is a typical agency holding company buy – but the purchaser, in this case, was Accenture, recognising the fact that digital meant their clients faced a strategic issue as much as anything.

And increasingly, agencies are being called in to solve business problems. Here’s a description talking about a strategy offering:

  • Define business objectives
  • What are the needs of your audience?
  • Connection between audience and your services – what are these engagement points?
  • Telling your story, branding, why us?
  • Communication with audience, customers telling others your story.
  • Ensuring consistent brand experience.
  • Thorough analysis and review.

And here is the strategy offering from another business:

  • What are the issues & opportunities?
  • What are the guiding parameters?
  • What products and services will we offer, to what customers, and through which channels?
  • How should we set ourselves up to deliver, and what needs to change?
  • How and when will we make the changes?

Sounds remarkably similar. And yet, the first was the strategic offering from a full-service digital agency, Zero, in London. The second was a management consulting firm, Berkeley’s, again in London.

What can clearly be shown in these examples (and they are top ranking Google results, for those curious), is that they are two sides of the same coin. And for businesses with limited expenditure on consultants, these two offerings should (broadly) be solving similar types of problems.

But this isn’t just going to be digital agencies moving into this area. In a world increasingly driven by clever product innovation or unique positioning (for examples of how the latter is true, look no further than Apple), increasingly business problems are solved creatively rather than by process.

And for management consultants, this is increasingly hard to grasp.

Watch this space for convergence. I predict that within a year, WPP will start moving into management consulting type businesses. Agencies increasingly are going to be called in to solve business problems, not just produce creative propositions.

It’s an exciting time to be in marketing.

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