The vagaries of branding means that it's rare for senior brand creatives to be hands-on in all three aspects of the business. This also appears in part because there's a strong parallel in the fast turnaround, low cost, high quality dynamics of a project where clients can only choose two of these three factors. The same seems to be true of design, strategy and management. And also partly because market forces within the sector are constantly changing
The traditional dedicated branding business model requires economies of scale. This tends to squeeze out hands-on roles for senior brand creatives, fostering instead management roles and engendering multiple teams of less experienced creatives working on different projects. This also usually means that senior creatives spend more time in meetings instead of designing and strategising. And so, management becomes the primary activity. And hence, the traditional leadership positions of Design Director and the myriad versions of Creative Director: Associate, Managing, Executive, Global Executive etc.
The success of this model is also contingent on the stability provided by a fully loaded new business pipeline and new projects landing at regular intervals. This was all well and good in the heydays of brand consulting but – given client-side brand-literacy nowadays – the branding business has morphed into the brand agency. Today, even quintessential advertising agencies present themselves as brand agencies, which is a major win for branding on the whole. But, this has also fomented fierce, fast and furious competition between smaller, less expensive, more nimble suppliers
The explosion of new players in the brand agency space means that market forces are now, not only more nuanced and dynamic but also, it would appear, in a race to the bottom. This generally means that creative teams bubbling under management level creatives aren't nearly as abundant as they once were. Perhaps still true today for the larger, longstanding agencies with reputations to boot. But, even within these large agencies project parameters are undergoing radical change. These changes include fewer permanent senior hands-on creatives, dramatic budget cuts and streamlining of operations, more freelancers across the business and faster turnaround times for mission critical stages. Recently, at a major brand agency, I was told that two weeks for stage one creative brand development is the new normal. In my books this is a false economy and ultimately self-defeating but I'll leave the reasons why for another juicy blog post
The emergence of dedicated digital agencies and specialist tech supplier platforms also muscling in on the action – bringing with them a host of new challenges for clients unaccustomed to buying branding services – means the industry has hotted up even further. Embodied in what I call 'And Branding' (I've touched on this in another post that you can read here) the dedicated branding sector is now under enormous stress. Under pressure things vent out, cave in or transform; as carbon becomes diamond. People either spin out to other sectors, work themselves to the bone, venture client-side or undergo uncommon change, combining roles and working differently
With all of the above in mind I present my latest PDF portfolio. In it you should find an uncommon mix of naming, upfront thinking, supplementary writing, brand messaging and creative brand design. I'm well suited to agencies committed to producing original work under tight budget constraints in small senior teams. A high resolution PDF is available for download here
I also have an abridged version of a little more than twenty pages available on request