By Jo Pearce
What’s it like to oversee the development of a new vision for a marketing agency? Our Head of Strategy, Jo Pearce, talks us through the highs and the lows.
By the time anyone gets to read this, AB will have a new vision.
We believe in the idea of better growth. As an agency, we are committed to helping businesses grow by building stronger brands and creating positive experiences. We pride ourselves on our ability to take our clients’ ideas and make them a reality.
The concept of growth – of our clients, their brands, their businesses, our agency and ourselves as individuals – runs through AB like Torquay through a stick of acid pink and white rock. So far, so common, you might say. Well, I would say yes, and no.
I think there are a number of businesses and organisations out there who are talking about change, growth and the need for transformation in order to thrive. But not everyone is doing it. I think in part, this is due to the sheer scariness of the thought, the imagined scale of the challenge and the time, money and effort required to pull it off. But it doesn’t have to be like that. I say this based on my experience since joining AB late last September.
What does AB do well?
AB spends an inordinate amount of time looking at the structure of the agency; this includes the people they employ, the ways in which we work, the client base we have and the ways in which we behave.
From hybrid working, flexible hours and personal development chats to Curiosity Days, provision of Mental Health First Aiders and a ‘Buddy’ system, AB has put in place so many initiatives to promote and nurture better growth.
Looked at in isolation, none of these things represents grand gestures, or breaks the bank in terms of investment in order to make them happen. But what they do is foster the right environment and mindset for growth and transformation.
These building blocks form the foundation of our ever-evolving Better Growth strategy. The only piece missing was our direction of travel. Where were we going and most importantly, why?
Developing the Vision
Our Purpose, ‘Working with open minded, enthusiastic people, that are up for exploring just where their ambition and imagination could take them’, drives us forwards. It applies to the clients that we want to work with, as much as it does to potential partners and the people that come to work in AB itself. This is our ‘why’. It wasn’t too much of a leap to then define our Vision, which is ‘Dare to dream…’
I was really concerned that my colleagues would dismiss the Vision as being too lofty, flimsy, theoretical, irrelevant and too idealistic for its own good. I believed that you could get all Disney about it if you were talking to the right client, within the right context.
However, the beauty of this Vision is that it can be, could be and in many cases, should be, downright every day and ordinary in its application and ability to inspire growth and transformation.
Whilst preparing to launch the new Vision to the AB team, I was determined to pull off two specific things. I wanted to excite and inspire people, but I also wanted to challenge them. To lay down the gauntlet and invite them to help make the Vision real, to get them to devise ways in which we could embed it in the day to day. I was nervous and apprehensive, but the week before the launch, two amazing things happened.
Firstly, Millicent, our Designer, took my rudimentary PowerPoint slides with – predictably for me – too many words, and transformed them into a thing of engaging beauty with cool iconography which lightened the tone considerably. When asked what she thought about the new Vision, she said, “Dare to dream feels like we’ve got a back bone and we’re not afraid to push boundaries, I love it!”
Secondly, Tim, our Senior Developer, presented a Curiosity Day to the agency on permaculture. This was a weekend course he had attended a while ago, but that had continued to make a big impression on him. As part of the presentation, Tim brought it back to us, asking, “What would permaculture and its principles look like when applied to AB?”
Making reference to our Curiosity Days (when staff take a day to explore something they’re interested in) and other internal initiatives that we champion, Tim then said:
“What have guitar shops got to do with campaign processes? What’s animal acupressure got to do with our clients? What’s hybrid working got to do with foraging by a canal? The more ideas and influences that enter our collective hive mind, the more likely it is that valuable connection will be made between things and at the very least, the system becomes even more resilient whilst enriching our culture.”
Late on a Friday afternoon, at the end of a long week, Tim’s riff was perfect on the diverse clients we have, the working practices we employ and some of the interests and skill sets we have as individuals outside of AB. He did all this in the context of permaculture and the need for new and emerging systems that thrive on ideas and the ability to adapt and change. He got my full attention. Not only was it brilliant – typical of an ABer, delivered in an unassuming, ‘here’s just something I wonder about’, sort of way – it also made me think.
Typical of AB, it made me think personally and it made me think professionally.
Tim’s questions, in conjunction with Millicent’s “back bone” that enables us to push boundaries, convinced me that the launch of the Vision was going to be okay. That AB has every right to dare to dream.