Do Agencies Understand Marketing?


Firstly, let me me preface this piece with the fact that I truly believe that there are a lot of great agencies that are talented at what they do, they have very specific skills and can execute some projects very well technically... but do they hit the mark?

What is "hitting the mark" and how do you define it?

For me, I would say that it equates to understanding the following about each unique client:

  • Their organisational needs
  • Their sales and marketing needs
  • Their internal department KPI's and structure
  • How the proposed marketing activity and strategy impacts on their bottom line, this can include an uplift in sales (and retention) as well or cost savings through efficiencies (or both).
  • and a whole lot more...

From my extensive experience on the client side, I would say that not many agencies have the knowledge in-house or financial incentive or possibly the opportunity (due to structural issues) to understand the above points with their clients and this is where the cracks in the relationship start (or exist). 

Agencies could be very talented within their specific area or a number of areas (such as branding, communications, media buying, digital etc) and often try to mould the clients brief into their latest bag of tricks...this to me has never been fundamental marketing principles in practice and leads to the chasm between the client and the agency . 

So what elements should to be understood to be a fundamental marketer?

  • Needs, wants and demand
  • Target markets, positioning and segmentation
  • Offerings and brands
  • Value and satisfaction
  • Marketing channels
  • Supply chain
  • Competition
  • Marketing environment
  • Marketing planning

The following PDF 'Marketing - The Fundamentals' is a good introduction into the fundamentals of marketing management. 

It would be unfair to state that there are no agencies that understand fundamental marketing management, however, there has been a disconnect for many years.

Just like the phenomena of the 'professional politician' has lead to the disconnect with the community, the marketing agency with a high proportion of staff that have never worked on the client side (and vice-versa) has lead to the demise of what is essentially two sides of the same coin from practising and pushing fundamental marketing management.

Global branding and product roll-out with no real local considerations also has a lot to answer for with the complacency of brand and product marketers (but that's another rant for another time).   

As a Sydney-based agency, we at Mind Methods have found that our clients have traditionally found it difficult to find 'true' marketing agencies out there with fundamental marketers, who essentially work with them to help achieve their business goals.

We have been fortunate that our clients have understood that 'marketing planning' (including brand, communication and campaign planning) ultimately brings them closer to their goals and that their previous ad-hoc approach was their marketing anchor. 

There are no short cuts to marketing and agencies that adopt this approach will retain their clients and the clients that invest in an agency that respects the fundamentals will set themselves up with the best platform to succeed!


Article by Simon Tokic. Simon has a few passions including basketball, music and surfing, however, most of his time is spent as a self proclaimed marketing geek applying fundamental marketing principles in strategic and creative ways. Prior to running Sydney marketing agency Mind Methods, Simon worked on leading brands including Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Glad, Chux, Armor All, Clorox, Barbeques Galore, Anglicare and more.