In seven years of weekly posts I've never promoted anything in which I'm involved. Until now. This week three colleagues and I are pleased to announce the birth of a new business, a collective that pulls together market research, data analytics, media planning and measurement and creative strategy, and from the mass of data, insights and thinking delivers a cohesive story and a single clear narrative. We are Crater Lake & Co.
One thing that has always fascinated me about this business is how much all sides agree on the big issues the industry faces. We may see the problem from different perspectives, we may all have different solutions, but we generally all agree that whatever it is exists.
Whether you're a creative agency, a tracking study partner, a media agency, a market modelling business, a design business, a PR outfit, an adtech supplier or a client marketing manager one key theme keeps re-occurring.
You can call it the need for greater collaboration; the requirement that we all pull in the same direction; the need for integrated thinking. Whatever you call it, we simply don't have it, don't do it … and yet we all recognize its worth.
It's not just down to structure and organization. (After all, the full-service creative agencies of my youth weren't exactly models of collective thinking.) The reason for our failure to collaborate lies deep in a need to prove our own worth, to promote ourselves and our specialism above all others.
A few years ago, this manifested itself in arguments over who was the client's 'lead strategic partner.' Everyone had a claim, which of course led to turf wars and to clients spending all their time settling disputes and putting over-ambitious partners back in their boxes.
As the specialisms have multiplied, and the sheer quantity of data has increased from a trickle to a gush, and as measured accountability (however you define it) has become essential, so the need to work together has increased.
As one seasoned marketer put it: "I've got more data than ever before; and I'm more confused than I've ever been."
It doesn't matter where you sit, odds are you're less well informed than all this data sloshing around suggests you should be.
Market research studies that stay in their siloes and are never shared with non-research partners or colleagues. Data analysts whose work never gets to creative agencies. Media agencies who are seen as buyers, as executors, but whose knowledge of what data and insights lie behind the briefs that guide their buys is sketchy.
And then there's the poor client, faced with more and more data, more and more specialists whispering in his ear, more pressure on his time, and more often than not a CFO who sees marketing as pink, fluffy and an expense to be cut as opposed to an investment to be managed.
And at the same time coping with fewer neutral resources at his disposal, and a business that expects short-term performance, whilst not linking those needs with the benefits that come from building the brand over time.
The four Crater Lake founders have come together because we want marketing to be understood at board level and to be seen as an accountable driver of business. In short, to succeed.
We are a collective: Hilary Woods, a creative agency strategist with decades of experience at BBH, Ogilvy and mcgarrybowen working on brands like American Express and Unilever; Fiona Blades, the founder of the Real-time Experience Tracking (RET) business MESH Experience, a business she started after spending time in brand management and agencies where she discovered that her questions on the relative performance of PR versus advertising versus in-store versus sponsorships were not being answered; David Beaton, co-founder of Custometrics, a data analyst business built around predicting outcomes, something it's done successfully for many years across North America, and myself.
We all have our specialist areas, we are all highly experienced and we know that how clients will use us will vary.
We are launching with the stated aim of "making sense of it all." Taking all that expensive research, all that data, all that insight and turning it into a clear narrative, a story understood by all of a business' partners, as well as by those internal stakeholders outside of marketing.
We believe that there are many clients with a pile of jigsaw pieces in front of them and without the time and resources to complete the puzzle. We aim to provide the picture on the top of the box.
Crater Lake itself is a beauty spot in Oregon. It's famous for the depth, and clarity of its water.
If you're intrigued, and want to dip your toe in, to see what we can do for your business we would love to hear from you. You can contact any of us: in my case it's firstname.lastname@example.org.
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