Why do Creative Agencies Say the Same Thing?

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While working on pitches at UXUS, I realised our portfolio and mission could better communicate our expertise. What we were doing within customer experience, brand experience and interior design was hidden under a design-only lens. I researched other agencies’ missions, only to find they all sounded the same. So what’s going on?

What we’ll cover:

Let’s first clarify the scope here. This is a subset of agencies within branding and experience. The categories and focuses would probably change if we were talking about digital, motion or other specific creative industries. There are hundreds of notable agencies worldwide in this area, and this represents a small sampling. My humble blog post is not an intense investigation - more a provocation to start the conversation.

Many times, agencies are formed out of either circumstance or a reaction to the current design scene. This includes creatives who are tired of the status quo, whether at a particular agency or the industry as a whole. Thus, agency missions reflect this at the time of writing. These missions evolve over time as projects, audiences, contexts and clients evolve. Awareness around the impact of design also drove change within agencies’ missions.

Decades ago, design was perceived as something visual and separate from decision-making in top floor boardrooms. But as industries started to change quicker than business analysis could keep up, companies realised a more ‘out-of-the-box’ approach was needed for keeping up and reacting to industry or audience changes. Hence the pedestalization of design thinking.

“Design thinking”, according to IDEO CEO Tim Brown, “is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of the people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”. Today the value of design thinking is understood across multiple industries, and the design process has been promoted to a business process. Thanks to IDEO’s Tim Brown and many others, it’s become a buzz-term within the creative world.

Like any buzz-term, people say it without fully grasping the meaning. This is understandable - we’re all trying our best to keep up with the forever changing professional dictionary - but it means design agencies need to emphasis the value of design thinking for their clients. This also helps to elevate the work, communicate value and manage expectations.

As creatives, we know our work sounds a little like magic. We all wish this were the case, but today brands and journeys are more complex. Human-centricity, brand universes and design thinking’s affect on business innovation are more important. This is why there are four themes emerging from this informal agency mission study including: emotional connection, brand connection, creative talent and creative impact.

Let’s take a look at some examples and then we’ll catch-up afterwards.

Emotional connection

UXUS: UXUS transforms emotion into enhanced commercial outcomes through world-class physical retail & hospitality design.

Design Bridge: We combine a healthy dose of intuition with intelligence to bring brands to life through great ideas that reach out, engage and emotionally connect with people.

Brand connection

Amplify: Joining the dots between people, brands + culture.

Futurebrand: We help businesses grow even when times change by better connecting brand purpose to everyday experience.

Design Studio: We create brands the world loves. We make every experience people have with your business meaningful. We build brands with purpose, brands that impact the lives of millions, and brands that last.

Franklyn: We create brands with a soul. We’re not God, but we do believe that good design can lead to a spiritual experience.

Creative talent

Ogilvy: We continue that rich legacy through borderless creativity—operating, innovating, and creating at the intersection of talent and capabilities.

Rosie Lee: We believe that creativity is something worth standing for. We strive for creative excellence. We believe in people. We want every day to be different. We need every project to be different.

Creative impact

Qindle: We embrace creativity to solve real industry challenges.

Fitch: Designing the future online, offline and in person. We don’t predict the future, we influence it and we design it.

Landor: Extraordinary brand transformation, by design. We are a global brand transformation company, here to make an extraordinary difference: for our clients, our employees & the world around us.

Red Antler: We set off in 2007 with a mission to build brands that shift categories and add value to people’s lives. It’s quite magical.

Superunion: Superunion is a revolutionary creative company. We believe in the power of ideas to create positive, meaningful change.

Mixed feelings

There are two feelings you might be having after reading through all of this - wow, we are all the same, what’s the point? or there is a unified movement within design, experience and branding. I feel a bit of both. However us creatives are forever optimists, where I believe our missions and ideas will continue to evolve as our clients, audiences and contexts change. There will be new problems to solve, new values to address.

Instead of becoming bogged down in our jadedness, which I am also guilty of, let’s imagine where we might go. Maybe there will be a time when design thinking and business strategy are inseparable. Perhaps artists rise-up as disruptors within corporations or politics. Maybe sustainability and environmental impact will become norms for all companies. Designers will become CEOs, and CEOs designers.

Sure our life is a bit of same-sameness, but those shining irregularities are worth paying attention to and exploring. It might just become your next mission statement.

Let’s summarise

  • Design agency missions are starting to sound the same with a range of themes
  • This is because agency leaders are reacting to the status quo and context
  • The four main themes are emotion/brand connection and creative talent/impact
  • This can raise mixed feelings, but there are both positives and negatives
  • If we look at the irregularities, we might find tomorrow’s mission statements