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Oct 09 2014

The Guardian: Marketing Agencies Have a Duty to Create New Communication Channels for Clients


By Nigel Vaz

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It isn’t enough to simply respond to a brief, says SapientNitro’s Nigel Vaz. In this perpetually connected digital world, you have to make a brand more relevant to consumers through innovation

As marketing agencies, we spend a lot of time with our clients addressing challenges in the here-and-now. As critical as that is for our clients’ businesses, it’s rarely a route to the kind of innovation that puts clear water between them and the competition.

We know that perpetual connectivity has transformed consumers’ daily lives, and that what was once a linear brand relationship with them has evolved into a complicated landscape that melds channels, technologies and experiences.

In our clients’ organisations, this has brought about a dismantling of distinct functions such that brand communications, product and service design are interlinked and require a new approach – or even a new model – from partner agencies.

In 2012, RBS unveiled a new brand promise, Here For You, with the aim of making the brand more relevant to customers. As well as the TV campaign to communicate the promise, RBS set in motion a programme to deliver customer benefits that were tangible, helpful and differentiating.

Get Cash, a mobile app that allows customers to withdraw emergency cash from ATMs using a time-sensitive, six-digit passcode, was a market-first for RBS and, crucially, demonstrated to customers that the bank was doing as well as saying. The app was one of a host of ideas developed by Royal Bank of Scotland Group in partnership with SapientNitro – all of which tied to the brand promises Here For You (RBS) and Helpful Banking (NatWest).

For instance, Intention to Lend is a digital mortgage tool that gives real-time proof of NatWest’s intent to lend against a specific property and gives customers a head start in the house-buying process. Another tool, Auto ID, shortcuts the process of opening a NatWest bank account by allowing customers to photograph and submit proof of identification, rather than have to provide physical documents during banking hours.

Different agencies, differently resourced, will have their own way of coming at the innovation challenge, be it through R&D labs, investments, external networks, account-centric innovation or, as SapientNitro does, through a combination of these.

It’s for no one agency to prescribe how it is done, but it is beholden on us as an industry to face the innovation challenge, explore best practice and recognise that we need to be able to see around corners, understand what’s next and create the products, experiences and stories that brands and consumers expect and deserve.

Nigel Vaz is Senior Vice President and European Managing Director of SapientNitro

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