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Powerful Partnerships: How to Implement In-House Design Solutions

Posted By: SGK May 02, 2019

This blog post has been contributed by Rich Gearing, client solutions associate, SGK.

In recent times, some big-name brands have moved towards an in-house setup to manage their creative solutions. Whilst there can be benefits to this, it seems to be a rinse-and-repeat model which struggles to maintain a sure footing and often becomes the casualty of cost cuts.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is a setup whereby a host company partners with a creative agency to install an on-site creative team. When this is executed effectively it can become an incredibly powerful long-term strategy. BPO often remains much more cost-effective and has proven to be more sustainable than the brand-owned ‘in-house’ alternative.

Whilst there can be notable benefits to the BPO approach, there is a need to be hyper-sensitive with regard to the challenges and, perhaps more importantly, the potential knock-on effect of those challenges — some of which are shared with the in-house model.

WATCH: The Agency’s Role in Partnering With In-House Teams

Perhaps the most readily apparent issue with in-housing arises through the simple fact that the team are so visible. This creates 'over-the-shoulder' pressure, which brings with it the blight of the “Can you just…” — often simple tasks, but which run into days, deviate from the core and create issues in prioritisation when workload spikes. Scope creep combines with a lack of control as the in-house team are used to sneak in work that the company don't want to fund out of the proper purses. One mistaken "ok, just this once" and the core scope has instantly expanded without consultation or agreement.

Whilst BPO is not immune to the same pressures, it does benefit from ultra-clear delineation. In having defined roles, responsibilities, reporting lines and purse holders, scope creep becomes a business agreement rather than a water cooler conversation. The agency on-sites are more empowered to stick to their core and avoid deviating from that without prior agreement — all whilst retaining clear and visible control of project costs.

There's an argument that being an in-house team equates to 'living the brand' however, part of the very raison d'etre of hiring an external agency is their diversity, exposure, experience and unhindered creativity. Living a brand day-in, day-out, might seem convenient, but it also breeds complacency and stifles innovation — ultimately resulting in creativity becoming too 'safe'.

This is a time where the traditional thirty-second or one-minute TV ad is dying, increasingly to be replaced by six-second social media clips posted by influencers, resulting in products selling out within minutes yet becoming 'old hat' barely three-weeks later. Things move at such a pace in this modern, fast-fashion life that 'safe' simply isn't going to cut it.

It is for this same reason that the talent pool becomes diluted by the in-house alternative. The best candidates tend to want to work for the best agencies and avoid being stuck working on one brand. Straight away you're left looking towards lesser talent to get bums on seats.

In using a BPO approach, the agency element and connection is not lost, thereby lessening the risk of talent dilution and avoiding stifled creativity. In addition, an outsourced agency will offer a team who are already trained, are up-to-date on the latest software, can get started immediately and are connected to an agency that will be more diverse in its background and skillset.

From a workload perspective, how can a fixed size in-house setup respond to peaks and troughs in demand when things happen and change so quickly? Sure, more heads can be put onto a project - but that will inevitably mean resorting to the traditional external agency model, meaning the in-house benefit is instantly diluted, style consistency is lost and costs spiral.

Further to this, when growth is a requirement, will the floorplan real estate carry too much worth to enable it? This need for scalability is a prime justification for the BPO model as it is a consideration which is factored into the agreement at the start. This brings benefits as a need for more heads won’t blow out costs and periods of low volume doesn’t result in valuable desk space being taken up with costly thumb-twiddling.

READ: Continuous Improvement: What It Means for Leading Brands Today 

For an in-house creative IT setup there may be a drive to utilise procurement efficiencies and purchase PCs for the in-housers to keep costs down, which risks further diluting the talent pool as many creatives are only comfortable working on Macs. Conversely, swallowing the cost of a Mac setup but integrating them into an otherwise PC-based environment brings its own challenges, not to mention the specialist IT support considerations.

Having all of the equipment owned and managed by the outsource agency saves the host company significant sums of money, particularly over longer periods where software licence costs and equipment upgrades can mount up quickly. This also avoids situations where these important updates and upgrades might otherwise fall foul to the kind of cost saving that typically makes in-house setups suffer.

BPO is a model which requires strong and true partnering — arguably more than a typical agency relationship to ensure it works exactly as it needs to, with ultra-clear delineation and elevated levels of trust and ownership. This ensures the setup remains focused, driven and adhering to the core purpose. This also enables the host company to focus on their own core business — a factor which 57% of companies who use outsourcing state as being their driver for adopting the approach.

Regardless of the client, their workload, the complexity of the work or any other challenge of the setup, at SGK we aim to instil an environment that fosters the creation of, in the words of Steve Jackson, Executive Director of Schawk Australia: “strong, hard-working, fun-loving on-site teams building an inspirational culture, professional relationships, innovative solutions and delivering longevity of service“. We employ, and nurture, subject matter experts who become relied upon, specialists who know their field inside-out, the vastly experienced and fresh blood alike, to build the best teams we can to service the needs of our host.

Our teams develop into a hybrid culture where they bridge the agency-client relationship so effectively that we can always be trusted whole-heartedly to get the job done. As John Lawrence, Director of Client Solutions at SGK, puts it:

“A critical element of success is the development of a symbiotic relationship that drives open collaboration, culture creation and shared objectives. Your goals are our goals”.

More than that, though, we also recognise the need to truly tailor our offering; and, in a world where in-housing is presently on the rise, we recognise the need to support and compliment those in-house functions. Of the 64% of Corporate America who are currently utilising in-housing, 30% consider ‘staying abreast of trends’ and 19% consider ‘strategic acumen’ as their top issues — a prime example of where we can bridge those concerns and bolster the in-house offering.

And that is where the SGK approach to our BPO resources is perhaps most powerful. With a structured 'Design-Solution-Implementation' approach, we can listen to the need, build the solution and execute to realise the full potential of that solution. Resource becomes scalable and can be focused beyond pure production, meaning that adaptation and strategic execution can be 'on the table' from the start without significant cost impact. The setup can adapt, change and evolve easily and readily; and, perhaps most importantly, without impact or negativity with the client.

About Rich Gearing: Rich is a Consultant with the SGK Client Solutions team. He is a Packaging Artwork specialist and Subject Matter Expert who has over 18-years’ experience spanning FMCG, pharma, consumer health, food, retail, supermarkets and alcohol. He has worked for, and with, major brands and Blue Chip companies internationally; and has always done so with one eye on Continuous Improvement, process efficiency and eliminating waste.

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Employee Spotlight: Hope Massey

Posted By: SGK February 05, 2019

Hope Massey, engagement manager, client solutions at SGK explains her expatriate assignment in Chicago — the good, the bad, and the not so ugly.

In an increasingly global economy, having employees that are fluent in the ways of the world is not a nice to have for organisations, but a competitive necessity. The most effective way to create a worldly workforce is to expose your talent to the nuances of working within different regions. This is something that many organisations are realising, ‘nearly 80% of midsize and large companies currently send professionals abroad - and 45% plan to increase the number they have on assignment.’

Let’s start with the basics. An expatriate assignment is a way for organisations to send employees abroad, on a short to long term assignment, whilst still remaining an employee of the home country. Such an assignment is full of opportunities for both the organisation and employee and is considered to be a ‘rite of passage for many future leaders’. However, this life changing decision should not be made lightly as it can come with many obstacles.

To truly challenge yourself to grow, both personally and professionally, it is important to step outside of our comfort zones. Theodore Roosevelt famously said ‘we must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out’. So, when the opportunity presented itself to undertake an international assignment, I was ready and excited for the challenge.

The good.

It is no secret that expatriate assignments are an investment and like all other business decisions, there needs to be a return on that investment. So, why should companies bite the bullet and invest?

Competitive edge: Such assignments help funnel new perspectives, ideas and business practices across regions to develop a competitive edge. Having employees immersed in new cultures boosts creative problem solving and will make for a more effective workforce.

Strength in diversity: Optimise the ambition, flexibility and enthusiasm of talent to work across borders and invest in developing the diversity and skills to support regional business needs.

Employee development: A massive “70% of companies believe offering expat assignments increases staff loyalty,” combined with providing clear career development opportunities, organisations will retain existing talent.

Succession planning: According an article in Forbes, many companies fail to give the matter sufficient attention, even though the need for in-house candidates with essential skills to lead the organisation may be greater than ever. Organisations should be investing in the future by developing existing talent to meet succession planning objectives and international experience plays a significant role.

What about the benefits for the employee? An expatriate assignment can pose substantial disruption both personally and professionally; so, why would someone move to a foreign country, away from their home comforts and loved ones?

Career development: International exposure provides many opportunities to expand knowledge and expertise, from working with different market demands, different people and within different cultures. A significant “23.7% of returned expats are promoted in the first year of repatriation.”

Seeking new challenges: To develop and grow you need to experience new challenges that others may perhaps shy away from. Such assignments offer challenges both personally and professionally which can positively influence your development trajectory.

Enhanced exposure: Working within a different region will give you exposure to a new network of people, internal and external to the company, and will expose you to a host of new experiences, market insights, client organisations and ways of operating.

“Diverse networks foster new ways of thinking.”

Making memories: Let’s not forget that life is all about making memories. Such assignments will open up new opportunities for you to travel internationally, experience different cultures and develop relationships from all over the world; combined with a job that you enjoy will lead for a fulfilling lifestyle.

The bad.

Although these assignments have many benefits, it may not be all rainbows and butterflies. There are some significant lessons that both organisations and employees should sit up and take note of to avoid failure and disappointment, or worse, unnecessary cost or loss of talent.

Clearly defined objectives: It isn’t a secret that most expatriate assignments are a direct investment from an organisation in the development of their talent. Clear objectives and expectations are critical to instil a fulfilling sense of purpose for the employee, thereby ensuring that they are fulfilling the needs of the business and the expectations of their Leadership.

Strong support network: Moving abroad isn’t easy. It is challenging and at times scary. The only consistency the employee has, during that transitional time, is with their job and with their leadership. A strong support network creates a sense of security that enables the employee to settle quickly and more effectively within their host country. It also instils a level of trust between the employee and the organisation that will inevitably boost motivation, morale and loyalty.

A defined repatriation plan: “Most executives who oversee expat employees view their return home as a nonissue” but organisations lose up to 40% of returned assignees within the first 12 months.

So the question is why?

It appears that inadequate career planning and support during repatriation is a key driver of this turnover. Companies that recognise the struggle of repatriation and provide guidance and coaching on how employees can put their international experience to work, have higher degrees of retention and post-assignment career success.

The not so ugly.

I have talked about the lessons learned, identified when researching why both my company and I should invest in an expatriate assignment – so what is my story?

I work within SGK’s Client Solutions team, a consultancy function that delivers transformational results for our Clients by focusing on driving improvements within marketing operations.

In 2017, I was approached by the Vice President and Director of Client Solutions about undertaking an expatriate assignment in the Americas. Following an exciting initial conversation and a number of discussions later, I made the move from Manchester, UK to Chicago, US in June 2018.

Simply put by Louis Pasteur: “fortune favours the prepared mind.” Preparation is absolutely essential to maintain focus, from the physical move and first day in the office to the cultural challenges and language barriers… ok, slight exaggeration on the latter. Being away from your home comforts isn’t always easy.

There is much to organise both at home and abroad, accommodation (and everything that comes with it), visas, banks, government permits… and at times it can be quite overwhelming and frustrating, trust me. So, like anything, the key is to take it day by day, piece by piece and lean on the support network around you because when you finally make it through your never-ending list of ‘life administration’, the fun will commence.

Eight months into my assignment and so far, it has been a success. Professionally, I have expanded my network and have had the pleasure of working with different teams, across different projects, exposing me to many new ways of working.

“I don’t believe it’s a cliché that the greatest asset of a company is it’s people. As a function we are committed to supporting the development of our talent. These assignments are new to us but the success of Hope’s experience to date encourages us to continue down this path – to the benefit of our team and our company.” – John Lawrence, Director of Client Solutions, SGK

Personally, I have settled into my new way of life in Chicago. I live in the heart of the city, met some amazing friends, settled into my local yoga studio and have been experiencing the best that Chicago has to offer.

I have been extremely focused on ensuring that I embrace all opportunities, personally and professionally, and so far it has gone well.

My motto: say yes to everything that you haven’t already experienced... within reason.

SGK has opened up many opportunities and supported my on-going development, which has enabled me to progress into the role I have today. I hope that my experience will inspire and motivate others to seek out and embrace such opportunities in support of their own individual development and growth.

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Change Management: The Devil Is in the Detail (or more accurately the individual)

Posted By: SGK September 20, 2018

This blog post has been contributed by John Lawrence, Director, Client Solutions, SGK Europe.

Change is often scary within organizations or functions of any size. Yet as individuals we experience change on a daily if not hourly basis within our personal lives. What is it that creates such fear and resistance to positive evolution when placed in a corporate environment? Job security, increasing workloads, having to learn new skills or ways of working?

Many Change Practitioners highlight 70% of change initiatives fail (Mckinsey & Company, July 2015, Forbes July 2017) – projects not meeting objectives, projects not finishing on time or budget and not achieving return on investment. I’d like to take a more optimistic viewpoint and suggest that change happens all around us, all the time so levels of success far outweigh failure. What is important is to recognize the reason for successful change and that’s YOU.

Breaking down negative perceptions of change – by this I’m focusing on wider positive change – can be attributed to many factors including other priorities, management behavior, employee resistance to change, poor communication, unexpected impacts, or reinforcement.

There are many more but without question your individual acceptance and role within that change is critical to success or failure. It is also true that the more informed you are, the more likely or well-equipped you will be to support and ideally thrive in the new future state.

The Prosci ADKAR model identifies 5 elements of successful change management:

  1. Awareness of the need to change
  2. Desire to make the change happen
  3. Knowledge about how to change
  4. Ability to implement new skills and behaviors
  5. Reinforcement to retain the change once it has been made

Steps 1 and 2, building up your knowledge and understanding of how this may impact you as an individual as well as the organization is the first step to recognizing what you need to do to thrive in the new world. The choices an individual makes directly influences the success or failure of a change project. It is through properly managing individual employees’ ADKAR, we can drive toward achieving the results of each initiative.

Organizations rarely, if ever, change to make it more difficult for their workforce. Change intentions are driven by a desire to meet market need. Effective businesses know how to manage this process of change to ensure success. It should never be the case that change is achieved via one giant leap, but one step at a time that ultimately accelerates successful adoption and achievement of objectives.

Successful change has a far better chance of achieving its goals when managed effectively:

“93% of projects with excellent change management met or exceeded objectives compared to 15% with poor change management” - Prosci Benchmarking Report 2018

As qualified change practitioners, it becomes more and more evident in the projects we support from a consultancy and implementation perspective for some of the world’s leading brands – that overall success is ultimately guided by individual responsibility to allow for evolution and therefore by extension the culture and mindset that has been created within those organizations.

Realizing the goals of any change can be a very positive and collaborative experience given the right methodologies are applied to engage and move forward together.

The next time you’re going through change in your personal or professional life, consider the model above - Prosci ADKAR. You and those around you hold the key to a successful outcome – whatever that may be.

To learn more about the Client Solutions function and Change Management please visit

About John Lawrence: John brings 17+ years of experience in brand marketing--both agency and brand side. Operating as a consultant for global, regional and national organizations, he provides Continuous Improvement (CI) projects from consultancy through to implementation across channels. As a member of the SGK Client Solutions Team, John has strategically led initiatives for some of the world’s most prominent brand owners to increase their speed-to-market, reduce costs in the marketing supply chain and better utilize their internal and external resources.

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6 Ways to Unlock Value Within Your Marketing Supply Chain

Posted By: SGK March 06, 2018

This blog was contributed by Stephen Marshman, business development director, SGK.

As part of the Business Development function at SGK, I am increasingly fortunate to be working alongside our Client Solutions team. This talented group is SGK’s consultancy division; a dispersed global community with diverse backgrounds united by the common goal of helping our clients unlock value within their marketing supply chain.

Tasked with delivering growth, I find partnering with the Client Solutions team often provides a productive starting point for a conversation with a prospective client, rather than simply navigating them through a range of traditional graphics service offerings.

It’s not really a surprise.

The rewards for our clients and prospective clients are significant, with projects usually delivering savings far in excess of what a company would spend on artwork or pre-press, for example. So I’ve been on a steep learning curve to better understand where we might start looking to explain why a marketing supply chain isn’t working as well as it should.

READ: The Cost of Marketing Supply Chain Inefficiency

Of course, the reasons will be many and varied and differ from company to company but I thought I’d share the top six I’ve encountered to get the ball rolling.  

The organic process evolution effect.  

One of the fundamental challenges a lot of businesses face is that parts of their marketing supply chain (and in some cases the majority of their supply chain) have been inherited. As anyone who works for an organisation where growth has come largely through merger and acquisition will know, despite the best efforts of programs that aim to harmonise and optimise processes and systems, where standardising such aspects of how we work is not deemed a top priority, old ways of working will remain in place.

In some companies this tendency can become a real impediment to efficiency; in the absence of a strategic approach, there will often be layer upon layer of process that has evolved organically. In a global organisation, even the same simple activity within a process, such as how a code is generated, for example, could be reliant on multiple different processes across the organisation.

In such an environment, making wide-reaching improvements can be tough. No one wants to give up their way of working; people are generally very protective of their method of doing things. In this context it is sometimes necessary to return to a blank sheet of paper and set about designing the optimum solution. To do this often requires facilitation by a neutral third party.  

Hidden Factories.  

This is currently a very fashionable term but it took an unexpected example from a long time ago to help me understand it. I grew up in Britain in the 1970s, so I apologise in advance for using a cultural reference that reflects this and potentially alienates those who grew up in a different time and space.

One of my childhood TV favourites was a children’s show called Bagpuss. The titular character was a toy cat made of cloth who really didn’t do a lot (beyond yawning) but he shared the stage with a wooden woodpecker called Professor Yaffle and some seemingly industrious toy mice. And it’s these mice that are exposed by Yaffle as harbouring a “Hidden Factory”.

The mice have an impressive looking chocolate biscuit factory. Ingredients in large sacks are hoisted in at the front, there is a lot of feverish mouse activity and then a perfectly formed chocolate biscuit rolls out of a chute and is whisked away in a tiny truck.

Yaffle – a process engineer ahead of his time – is sceptical. Why can’t he see what happens to the ingredients? Why is the finished product taken away so quickly? It looks like a lot of activity is happening but it’s all taking place behind the scenes.

Soon enough our intrepid woodpecker exposes the mice as frauds. They are simply recycling the same sacks of ingredients into their factory and then wheeling out the same single chocolate biscuit every time. They’re not producing anything. As a four-year old I was probably bitterly disappointed that the factory wasn’t really making chocolate biscuits but forty years on I see how it's a great example of the hidden factory problem.

WATCH: In Today's Content Environment: "Hidden Factories" Undermine Success

Of course, we’re not talking about fake production lines here but how many of us can honestly say that there aren’t processes and practices that exist within our marketing supply chain where no one is really sure what value they add?

Like the mice, it is not unusual to find organisations where people are often overwhelmed by the work they do but where it is not always clear that those activities are providing a clear business benefit, let alone being optimised. Sometimes we need a Professor Yaffle to take a closer look.  

A lack of good data.  

Nearly every time I’ve been involved in implementing a new process for a client, there are people on the Steering Committee who, quite rightly, want to make sure that the new way of working (and usually the new supplier) will be able to deliver all the efficiencies that were promised.

For me, this is standard best practice and should be part of any new engagement. What is quite revealing however, and frequently hampers this objective being achieved, is how difficult it is to arrive upon any reliable data that provides a true picture of the current state. I am often surprised at just how little good data exists within businesses so that they can actually make informed decisions about marketing supply chains in the first place.

Of course this problem is not universal and you may be reading this from the fortunate position of having reliable data about how your business is performing but all too often accurate data isn't there. Benchmarking is impossible and if not addressed a lack of good data inevitably leads to sub-optimal decision-making and poor prioritisation.  

It’s almost always about the input.  

This one shouldn’t come as any surprise. What is surprising is how often an organisation doesn’t address the issue. It’s all too common to see a defect tolerant mentality in operations whereby stakeholders will find sometimes elaborate ways of accommodating poor inputs and develop workarounds to mitigate, rather than address the root cause.

This is not a fix and it certainly doesn’t help in the quest for efficiency.

The earlier defects enter the supply chain, the more destructive their effect. The cost of correcting something at the end of the process that was wrong at the input stage will almost always be greater than the effort required to develop a sustainable solution. In the graphics supply chain a defective input that can go undetected can have a disastrous impact, not just in terms of costs but also in terms of quality and reputation.

My popular cultural reference for this one comes from the classic rock mockumentary This is Spinal Tap. The film follows a rock band that wants to make a big impact with their live set and decide that having a full size replica of Stonehenge descend during the gig will do the job. Unfortunately, they mix up feet and inches when they specify the dimensions and the replica stones are barely knee-high.

Our end product might be an artwork file rather than a replica model of Stonehenge but we will also feel the pain of not having inputs correct upfront.  

Technology has to fit.  

Technology, when correctly specified and deployed, is of course one of the greatest ways of improving marketing supply chain efficiency. The difficulty here is that technology solutions are frequently implemented before the business case is properly developed and understood. In these instances, technology can often become a blocker rather than an enabler.

Over-engineered solutions can end up slowing down and suffocating the process they were designed to streamline. On the one hand, technology can become a limiter that inhibits potential but the equally dangerous ‘shiny new object’ syndrome that causes businesses to be deflected from core activities as users become too focused on the technology in its own right.

Another technology issue arises when multiple systems are part of the supply chain but have very little integration. I have seen people on packaging technology teams and artwork coordination roles crippled by processes that require them to collect, transfer and duplicate data across multiple systems to make the tiniest steps forward in a workflow. Technology should be our friend but when badly designed or deployed, it can also become a major barrier to optimising the marketing supply chain.  

Decentralisation hinders efficiency.  

When the ‘centre cannot hold’ things fall apart or so the WB Yeats poem tells us. We might not want to take this too literally, but it’s certainly the case that a heavily decentralised organisational structure can make supply chain efficiency much harder to achieve.

Closely related to the process evolution effect described above, where businesses are highly siloed and lack enterprise-wide focus, attempts to implement global efficiencies are often frustrated.

In the graphics world, fragmentation takes different forms: regions or markets wanting to work in their own way, individual brands developing bespoke processes and, in organisations where there is a manufacturing-led approach to the graphics supply chain, it is not uncommon for each production site to have its own completely unique set of processes, practices and systems.

I think it is an oversimplification to assume that a decentralised structure will always be inefficient and, by extension, that a highly centralized approach will always deliver optimized results. In fact, a failure to recognise the nuances of certain markets or brands can be equally damaging, but it is still undoubtedly the case that those organisations that can effectively identify aspects of their supply chain to centralise, standardise and harmonise have a distinct advantage in terms of delivering efficiency.  

So there it is, a brief look at some of the reasons your graphics supply chain might not be fulfilling its potential.  If the above challenges are currently evident in your organisation and you’d like some help in addressing them, please get in touch. Failing that, by way of cultural personal indulgence, why not treat yourself this weekend to Bagpuss, This is Spinal Tap and the poetry of W.B. Yeats.  

About Stephen Marshman: Stephen has twenty years’ experience in the artwork and packaging sector having begun his career with graphics specialist SGK in 1997. Today he works as a Business Development Director, focused on helping companies implement best practice artwork processes.

Stephen played a pioneering role in the development of SGK’s unique approach to helping clients implement process improvements more than fifteen years ago and remains a key part of the global team today. Earlier in his career he enjoyed a range of client-facing roles, including working on-site at clients’ facilities, providing him with valuable first-hand insights into the specific supply chain challenges organisations face.

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The Rise of the Tailored Agency: An Evolved Content Support Model

Posted By: SGK September 27, 2017

This blog was contributed by John Lawrence, Director Client Solutions, SGK Europe

Brand marketers, agencies and procurement partners of today are all paying more attention to the rise of the Tailored Agency — a bespoke ecosystem of external agency and in-house competencies arranged to drive connected content.

Marked contrasts to traditional hierarchical strategic to production models, connected content responsibilities are re-defined to ensure an appropriate mix of long cultivating big ideas and speedy content delivery to channel. This shift is being driven by the pressures of cost, a need for greater control, expanded scope, scale and velocity of change.

Mercedes-Benz (Antoni), Kohler (In-house), McDonald’s (We Are Unlimited), Jaguar Land Rover (Hybrid agency/In-house capability) and Redbull (Redbull Creative) are but five major global brand examples of this well-publicised change in approach.

These forward-thinking brands have not only acknowledged but have adapted successfully to this new way of working by striking a key balance between agency and in-house capability. There is a trend of brands approaching supplier selection with an initial in-depth audit of current and future requirements and designing and implementing human resources, technology, processes and agency support models accordingly.

SGK’s Client Solutions team has worked with several multi billion-dollar organisations across media, retail and CPG to achieve just these aims with significant and on-going success against their unique objectives.

Can this global trend service the future?

Today we are observing the initial emergence of a game-changing new agency model and brand relationships that are being driven by consumers and enabled by technology. New Tailored Agencies bear many of the hallmarks of the past full-service agency thinking — a consolidation of service partners and the intention of stronger relationships to solve for the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The true value of an agency supplier in the present and future lies in the ability to provide a dedicated expert service and handle complex, technical tasks across a range of content channels. This is an extension to the marketing capability that requires the agility to change and the capacity to connect and streamline content creation and delivery.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Cost of Marketing Supply Chain Inefficiency

The age of inflexible, swaggering agency hierarchies is at an end with a greater emphasis on empowered, flat and flexible models. There will always be essential underlying competencies, from consumer insights through to production specialists across channels that make up the foundation of any content delivery model.

It is also important to recognize that there isn’t necessarily a best of class content strategy and execution structure unless you build it to your brand’s specific requirements. Each model will require a subset of competencies to be arranged in a bespoke and evolving structure as best fits the brand need and financial reality.

“As a marketing leader, you must build an organization capable of supporting a rapidly evolving set of requirements.” Gartner CMO Survey, 2016

Is this right for you?

It is certain that there is value in the fresh perspective of external agency support in new or traditional formats — providing a wider experience in sector and multi-sector — that brand marketers may not have access to in-house.

Equally, offering clarity and understanding of the brand’s specific and evolving needs prove just as valuable. This requires mutual transparency, intelligent risk taking, long-term thinking, flexibility and a critical focus on a client-centric solution. The challenges faced by modern marketers are better met collectively and proactively, making great teamwork all the more valuable.

Brands are challenged by the need for connected content which has generated complex challenges including:

  • Multiple processes across channels and business lines
  • Inefficient workflows
  • Poor inputs and cumbersome hand-offs
  • De-centralization – reducing prioritization and efficiencies
  • Limited control, poor quality, expensive, inconsistent
  • Duplication • Inappropriate resource (skill, size, availability, etc.)
  • Inability to respond to changing market needs
  • Lack of decision-making data

If this is true to your organization then it is likely there is a proliferation of agency partners that have amplified some, if not all, of these challenges and you are unlikely achieving your desired outcomes.

“The great majority of both agency CEOs (68%) and brand CMOs (72%) agree that current agency structures, processes and pace of delivery are not evolving at the same pace as a brand’s needs.” Creative brief Survey, May 2017

A more traditional hierarchical model will simply add to these challenges and so looking beyond the status quo and shaping your content delivery model will help to achieve your current and future vision. As the content world continues to evolve, you need to be actively thinking about how to adapt to future requirements to ensure you can keep up with the shift.

Setting up for success – how to make the model a team.

The biggest challenge is not agreeing on the principle of a tailored approach but setting up for success. The main risk is defaulting to a supplier-customer model before the ink on the contract has dried.

Taking all stakeholders on the journey is the only true way to achieve success. From establishing a clear State of the Nation for the executive board and gaining approval to execute your desired model, to the diligence and hard work of achieving clear and ongoing engagement with internal and external audiences, which never ends. Leadership vision, involvement, communication and teamwork are fundamental to managing this change successfully.

The aim must be to become one team. The model is just the start, the opportunity is to build it out in a way that makes it yours and differentiates it in the same way your objectives and challenges as a business are unique to you. Nor should it be static. As requirements evolve, we should adapt to sustain success in the same way consumer demands are constantly evolving and require you to adapt.

How are brands set up to deliver content today?

Through our experience, we have identified four core archetypes:

  1. External ‘Power’ Advertising Agencies: Content is created by 1-3 global power advertising agencies that have ‘intimate’ relationships with a network of production agencies.
  2. Portfolio of Agencies: Content is created by a large portfolio of agencies, projects are briefed based on individual marketer relationships. 3
  3. Portfolio of Specialist Agencies: Content is created by a portfolio of specialist agencies and projects are briefed based on required deliverables.
  4. Client Internal Studio: Content is created by an internal client-owned creative and production studio that may utilize a small network on a per-project basis.

The most common trend is that brands are increasingly looking to migrate to a model that delivers higher leveraged and optimized spend providing greater control, brand understanding, evolving specialist skills and consistency across channels. Coupled to this is clarity on creative and production responsibilities to maximize value of partners, driving savings and efficiencies. There is no one best-in-class solution but there is a great opportunity to define what that might be for you today and in the future.

How can we help?

We believe there is an optimal approach to understanding and shaping the way marketing functions operate to drive connected content to achieve business objectives. Getting started is actually quite simple and straightforward — we’ve done it before and hope to do it again with you.

About John Lawrence: John brings 15+ years of experience in brand marketing--both agency and brand side. Operating as a consultant for global, regional and national organizations, he provides Continuous Improvement (CI) projects from consultancy through to implementation across channels. As a member of the SGK Client Solutions Team, John has strategically led initiatives for some of the world’s most prominent brand owners to increase their speed-to-market, reduce costs in the marketing supply chain and better utilize their internal and external resources. 

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Innovation: Individual Genius or Collective Evolution?

Posted By: SGK June 22, 2016

This blog post was contributed by John Lawrence, Client Solutions, SGK Europe.

Is innovation within organizations driven by the competence of individuals or generated as part of a wider discussion among a community?

READ: The Right Fit: 5 Tips to Help You Match the Right Agency with the Right Creative Job  

The term “Genius” is often used to describe innovators – individuals recognized as the drivers of change and ideas, but just as often supported or ‘fed’ by a huge network of collaborating groups who have been given the license to share both challenges and solutions.

Genius [adjective]: showing unusually great intelligence, skill or artistic ability It is my opinion that the description

Genius is misunderstood. I do not intend to play down the intellectual accomplishments of this group of people but more to highlight a skill within that description: they are exceptional listeners.

“A genius idea” is always something that fulfills a need. In order to fulfill a need, you must first and foremost clearly identify the need. But amongst so much noise, how do you hear the true need? The greatest innovators are the ones who have learned to listen. Their moment of solution or clarity is often called a “light bulb moment,” but reality suggests that the light bulb was initially turned on earlier by something that stimulated the idea – an experience. Innovators must have heightened listening skills in order to absorb that experience and identify a subsequent opportunity.

Innovation in business is most often associated with commercial advantage or efficiency, and rightly so or it wouldn’t make business sense. When innovation can get off track though is when suppliers look to solve business needs in isolation. Focusing on developing products or services just to create a wider portfolio instead of responding to a threat or client request may result in a futile exercise and failed innovation. If the fundamental requirement of a ‘genius idea’ is listening, then it holds that successful innovation cannot occur in a vacuum.

If innovative ideas seldom come from an isolated approach, then they are far more likely to succeed through mutual collaboration between a supplier and client. This collective pool of insight, resource, and skill creates a rich environment for ideas that can then be validated and implemented through a controlled and measured process. The significance of culture cannot be overstated. In order for a successful innovative collaboration to actually get off the ground and then succeed, it is a pre-requisite that both supplier and client have cultures that foster an environment of sharing and risk. In these environments, ideas will appear and in some cases disappear just as quickly, but there is a platform for the greatest ideas to prosper be championed.

For any Game of Thrones fans, you may remember a poignant moment in Series One of the show when King Robert Baratheon asks his Queen (Cersei Lannister) an apparently simple question: “Which is the bigger number, five or one?” (King Robert Baratheon, Game of Thrones). He then holds up a fist with his right hand and an open palm with his fingers extended on his left.

In the context of innovation, the answer is simple. A consolidated single driving force of many is far more powerful than the genius of one or disparate ideas that can only be taken so far. A true genius or innovator is someone or a group that can capture the collective power and insight of a wider group and harness that to drive an idea forward.

Understanding the context, culture, and characteristics of innovation is important because:

  • 93% of executives are looking to innovation to drive growth (PwC Survey of 1,757 Corporate Executives)
  • 49% of organizations have initiatives to grow via reducing costs, only 29% have initiatives to grow via new products or services (Board of Innovation)
  • 15 months is the time Slack, a team collaboration tool, needed to reach a $1B valuation

To innovate is no longer a question but a demand, which is why SGK has created a formal central global team, Client Solutions, to focus on innovation, foster it through the business, and collaborate with key client partners and subject matter experts to deliver meaningful new products and services to a wider audience.

To learn more about SGK please visit