You can’t outsource your brand

We like to outsource digital marketing activities in order to gain cost effective access to more experienced professionals. But in our haste to do so, one hopes that we don’t lose sight of one simple fact:

There are a lot of things you can outsource in digital, but your brand is not one of them. 

And the corollary:

Each company that is sincerely invested in digital needs to provide their own “digital leadership” from within. 

Trying to outsource the entirety of your digital marketing (which includes your brand, whether you like it or not) is like trying to outsource your personality to a therapist, it simply doesn’t make sense.

But if you have internal digital leadership and a brand identity, outsourced providers can go a long way to assisting the magnification of that message.

What is a your brand?

Your brand is your identity. It is how you hope you are perceived at large. It is the blood that runs in the veins of your company. It is the “why”, it is what you stand for and the values you embrace. It is why you wake up in the morning.

Something as crucial as a company’s brand identity cannot simply be dictated by an external provider who knows more about digital than the company at hand.

And if a company genuinely doesn’t have a brand identity, then they truly are a commodity on the race to the bottom. They shouldn’t expect spectacular results from digital.

Why this is important from an organic SEO perspective

Here’s a nice picture from the folks at SEObook:

It’s been suggested that Google’s spam algorithm updates are actually attempts “to penalise sites that rank without a brand”. There’s much insight in that statement.

Decoding that for a second it means they target folks who are small and scrappy, who just want to rank highly without the level of dedication, commitment, understanding and love that Google expects a proper brand would put into their audience.

And so the Eric Schmidt quote is: “Brands are the solution, not the problem… brands are how you sort out the cesspool”.

Not a brand? That’s a good way to blend in with the crowd.

Digital Leadership and Content

This article itself may seem strange, because I work in a digital agency. I am the outsourced provider, and I am writing an article about the limits of outsourced providers.

But that is simply from experience. The companies with which we’ve managed to generate the greatest returns and the most spectacular results were and are all clear on their own brand and identity, and we helped them to amplify that.

Aside from understanding and projecting your brand message, something interesting is happening in the landscape of content marketing:

Simply put, the proliferation of folks doing “content marketing” has lead to a situation where mediocre content is copious, but excellent content is rare.

Mediocre content is easily created by an outsourced agency. They just bring in some copywriters, get them to generate ideas, and BOOM:

“5 Tips for moving back in with your parents”

Non-life changing content has just been spawned.Life changing content

But the most spectacular content, the most interesting, insightful and “thought leader-like” content always comes from within. That doesn’t mean the folks “within” know how to create great content, but they have the knowledge that lies at the heart of great content. It’s a great agency’s job to bring that out into the open and amplify it.

Our experience is that the greatest content we’ve managed to create is in conjunction with those “thought-leader” type clients. The ideas come from them, we just assist them in creating the most attractive format, writing the article or piece of content, and disseminating it.

When I first started working in digital I was always surprised by folks who outsourced their digital content entirely. “So you’re saying this blog article isn’t actually a representation of your company or brand but merely something you purchased from a copywriter?” came to mind on several occasions.

If content is outsourced, without a hint of care or inspiration from the brand itself, then it is not an accurate reflection of a brand.

Agencies can help you accelerate and disseminate your brand, but they can’t define it for you.

Great success can be reached when your brand, digital strategy and content are in line with one another.

Now let’s go! Be a winner!

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1 Response

  1. Matthew says:

    SPOT ON! You article hits the nail on the head.

    You cannot grow your brand without having any involvement with the agency you’re paying to grow it in the first place. Your digital agency needs to be an extension of you. They are there to amplify/extend your brand and what it represents; something that nobody knows better than you.

    My favourite bits:
    “the most spectacular content, the most interesting, insightful and “thought leader-like” content always comes from within”
    “It’s a great agency’s job to bring that out into the open and amplify it”

    This is a common mistake in the SME space and can be compared to someone wanting to lose weight by taking a magic pill to make the weight disappear overnight.

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