A Business Model That Works

The advertising industry has changed….dramatically. From the 1950’s and 1960’s, when the business hinged on cute creative (Think Mad Men), it evolved into a handful of large agencies that were specialists in very specific industries. These people were experts, not only in the art and science of communications, but also in their client’s industries. There were auto industry agencies, industrial agencies, agricultural agencies, and on and on and on. Each was staffed by knowledgeable people who knew the industry inside out. They didn’t just design pretty or clever ads, they provided a very high level of counsel and industry insight that clients counted on. They knew how audiences thought, what they liked, and what made them buy.

Computers changed the (ad) world
During the 1980’s, computers found their way into nearly every business and the advertising world. Graphic designers were now able to develop multiple concepts in a fraction of the time and making changes was very easy. For many businesses, especially small ones, they now had the ability to design their own ads and brochures, in-house. The design work wasn’t very good, but it was cheap.

By the time the 1990’s rolled around, many ad agencies had become nothing more than design firms, offering no industry insight or strategic counsel. If agencies wanted to survive, they had to offer a very low price. “Cheap” was the name of the game and it showed. Many agencies went out of business and the advertising agency industry went into a long and agonizing decline. It was all about price….low price. If agencies did offer marketing counsel, they often did a terrible job selling its value. They were caught in the price trap and didn’t know how to get out, other than to lower their prices even more.

Specialization rises again
In 2005, after working at and managing other ad agencies, I had become weary of the price wars. Low price was what drove business. I hated it. I was better that that!

So I decided to go back to the old model…specialization! Brand Acceleration was born and, since it’s my business, I chose to focus on three industries; construction (AEC), economic development, and real estate. The pledge I made to myself, and to my clients, was to dig in, be involved and become a solid and knowledgeable resource. I wanted my company to be seen as an extension of my clients, not just a vendor.

We’re deeply involved in these industries. We attend numerous association meetings, trade shows, and conferences, constantly seeking and gathering information that will bring value to our clients. If we want them to see us as the best, we’d better earn that distinction.

In the economic development industry, we regularly meet with site selection consultants, real estate professionals, and employers in order to grow our knowledge of them, how they think, and how they interact with the communications services we provide.

For our construction industry clients, we not only work to deepen our understanding of architects, engineers, and builders, we want to understand their industries. Because of that desire, we often meet with facilities managers, educators, health care professionals and leaders in other target segments.

Real estate is unique, too. Just like the industries mentioned above, real estate has a special set of challenges. We work to not only understand seller needs; we labor to fully comprehend buyers and what motivates them to action.

We’re not the low-cost leader
When I started Brand Acceleration, I promised myself that the company would not get caught up in the price wars that resulted in the demise of many other agencies. Are we expensive? Certainly not! Are we cheap? No! My business plan was simple and hasn’t changed since the very first day: Become experts in our chosen industries, provide excellent counsel to our clients (friends), and do great work at a fair price. Sure, we occasionally face competitors who offer cheap design of web sites, brochures, or other tactics. And, we don’t always win the business. That’s okay! If that’s what a client wants, that may be the best fit for them. Our focus is always…always…always on one mission; to help our clients discover what makes them unique, and establish and keep a brand position that is powerful and dependable. Period!

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