Christian Finucane is founder and creative partner at The Core Agency.
A few weeks ago, my family was particularly impressed when I returned from the local Vietnamese restaurant with the takeaway in one hand and a free loo roll, they’d given me in the other. It was an unexpected idea that used topicality and context brilliantly.
COVID-19 is proving to be the mother of invention.
While working from home and spending more time in my local patch, it has been truly inspiring to see creativity and entrepreneurship in full swing amongst the local businesses.
The gyms have been teaching classes online, restaurants are selling delicious wine from their cellars and even boutique dressmakers switched to sewing surgery scrubs.
Like a looming client deadline, the pressure to keep cashflow alive has sharpened the mind. And having to work within a set of strict government rules (yes, a bit like an advertising brief…) it has forced many of the more laterally minded local services and providers to think outside the box.
In fact, the local gym I mentioned, who thought they were going to hit the financial wall, set-up part of their warehouse into a studio to stream their classes online. They have gone from 400 members to 7,000 members - that’s incredible!
Though, it’s not surprising either. And that’s because independent businesses have the all-important magic ingredient - skin in the game.
They understand what’s going on in their hood, they ask and listen to what their customers really want, and they go above and beyond to produce the goods. All at a fair price that represents true value, while fostering ongoing trusted relationships.
Another great example is the events company that (after its usual business stopped overnight) moved to manufacturing flat-packed desks for the WFH population. There’s also the little old lady who owns my beloved local bookstore, who created curbside pick-up so people could get the latest novels, while maintaining social distancing!
Many small business owners are ‘pivoting’ with the agility and dexterity of a ballerina in new, unexpected and unique ways. What’s more, probably learning more about themselves and their customers in the last three months than they did in the last three years.
It takes a tight, smart and nimble team to achieve this, people who are optimistic in mindset, as well as ambitious in their goals and outcomes. People who are willing to challenge convention, take risks and back fresh ideas. Basically, the kind of mindset and values that many local marketing departments are going to need to call on more and more.
Budgets may be shrinking in some categories, so you’re going to need bigger thinking! More powerful thinking for your money.
Could it be that out of this pandemic we’re going see a new landscape of creativity and innovation? One where local independent agencies and clients work together to help businesses and brands thrive, pushing Australia into a new economic recovery?
And, of course, one of the best things about working closely together in this new tougher environment is that everyone genuinely shares in the thrill of creating success - because everything matters more now, the stakes are higher. The whole team is engaged in nailing the campaign, because, like many stretched marketing departments now, indies have no fat in them.
It’s everyone equally pulling their weight and working in the same direction to make a difference. Adding not subtracting, encouraging not sabotaging. A collaboration where everyone makes a difference.
Though, the irony of working local is that when you do nail that killer campaign the global CMO is suddenly your best friend because you cracked the uncrackable brief!
So next time you’re shopping for an agency, shop locally and go to an indie. You can snap up bundles of fresh new thinking, not pre-packaged from a global parent company, but gleaned from relevant local insights and rooted in our own culture.
Not only that, just like the family-owned bookstore or local gym owner, independent agencies go the extra mile for you. They genuinely want you to get great results because they need to do well too. It’s a virtuous circle which means they won’t be afraid to challenge and surprise you in the pursuit of success.
By keeping local creativity and innovation alive and well you’ll be unearthing surprising new ways to communicate. You’ll probably befriend some new ‘locals’ along the way too…