The Great Debate: In-house VS Outsourced Design

On first glance, they might seem quite similar, but in actual fact, there are important differences. It has been a long-fought debate in the world of business: which is best? Recruiting an In-house design team? Or engage a design agency? We thought we’d chime in!

As an agency in the competitive design and creative industry, we have pretty much heard it all when it comes to our clients and nearly-over-the-line decision makers, on their reasoning behind why they choose us, and why they don’t. Business owners have an assumption that design agencies come with massive fees and don’t receive enough flexibility or time for any given project. We would have to agree – but only CERTAIN agencies are doing this, and there are definitely agencies out there dragging their clients through massive hourly rates and strict, non-flexible billable hours. In the end, it costs a business well over their budget by the end of the project.

To get your minds thinking, here are some pros and cons on heading down the agency track (and before we lose you completely, scroll down further to learn more about APR’s unique approach for delivering creative services).

Pros of using a design agency team

1. Multiple skill sets are worked on throughout the artwork process or production, giving you the opportunity to receive more ideas or have elements delivered quicker.

2. Budget – YOU are in control of this and depending on the workload, it can change from month to month. Agencies don’t cost you overheads, annual/parental leave or sick leave. You may not believe it, but all of these common benefits you provide to staff members, definitely add up.

3. Fresh perspective and innovation – agencies only hire top-notch designers and creatives, who are willing to go that extra mile. It also means that a project can pass through multiple eyes on a given day, and therefore further ideas or comments can arise that you wouldn’t have thought about.

Cons of using a design agency team

1. The depth of understanding can be lost if multiple designers are working on a project and it can result in a game of Chinese whisper. In this case, hours and money are being spent on communication back and forth.

2. Design style may not be consistent and of quality, if the Senior Designers are palming ‘easier’ jobs off to the juniors.

3. The turnaround times can be delayed if other clients are needy of the studios time. If you do source a well-known and reputable agency, you risk other clients’ and jobs taking priority over your work.

When our Directors extracted these pros and cons, they were astounded to find that most of the ‘drawbacks’ weren’t, in fact, bad aspects to an agency, they just needed to be tweaked, resulting in more of an ‘in-house’ feel, but with Agency benefits.

We are now so proud of our ArtSmart™ services, a retainer-based model that works with our clients’ budgets, needs and expectations for their art production in an efficient manner. Obtaining a full-time Account Manager for management of deadlines, as well as a dedicated designer, it really is the best of both worlds.

ArtSmart™ is a proven business model that can be fully customized to suit your business needs and it also complements your existing creative agency partners by delivering cost-effective, quality artwork and rollout services.

To see how ArtSmart™ can deliver a world real savings for your marketing department click here.

–Jordyn Martino

The best co-branding partnerships (and why they worked!)

Do you agree with us when we say that the numerous store line-ups outside Foot Locker over the past ten years have been insane and unnecessary? Well, we may think so but big-name celebs and shoe brands all over the world are starring in the mirror, rolling their fingers together, while whispering ‘we have got to be the fairest of them all’.

This partnership is just one example of the hundreds of brand collaborations over the world. Why are they so annoyingly successful? If the chemistry and synergy between the two brands are right, then this creates hype, engagement and an epic amount of publicity for those involved. Here are 5 of the most acknowledged (in our opinion) co-branding strategies and why they nailed it:

1. BMW X Louis Vuitton: The Art of Travel

There are many reasons why this partnership made sense. They both seek the sophisticated, professional and successful demographic of buyers, using quality as the reflection of their hefty price points. The agreed deliverables of the partnership included a BMW sports car model (the BMW i8) and a Louis Vuitton exclusively-designed four-piece set of suitcases and bags that fit perfectly into the car’s elegant boot (a nice addition we wouldn’t say no to!).

Photo credit: Louis Vuitton

Keep in mind, this collaboration not only interests the likes of luxurious individuals who enjoy nice things, it also targets the money-conscious who might not feel comfortable purchasing $20,000 of designer bags. This being said those ‘money-conscious’ buyers are still willing to buy a $180,000 car, not quite realising the gorgeous leather totes in the back are incorporated into this price. Hence – investing in the dream vehicle and envisioning free Louis Vuitton. Designer brand 1, buyer 0.

2. Uber & Spotify: Soundtrack your ride

Did Uber really need another reason to add fire to the flame with their rival Taxi companies? Apparently so. Introducing the ultimate addition to your ride with a custom playlist, entertaining travellers from A to B. A perfect way for Uber and Spotify to stamp the tech world with their innovative brands, using each other to provide a new way of getting around (and making it prominent they are the future). These two brands collaborating fuelled great engagement online due to the duo’s complimented propositions and features, making it a perfect partnership for the emerging millennial audience. A great example of an ideal partnership.

Photo credit: Spotify

3. Alexander Wang X H&M

We’re hoping we don’t have to blabber on too much about the differences between these two iconic brands (one being designer and luxury, the other selling tees for $10). What is interesting about this collaboration, is that they welcomed a strategy that sits beyond Marketing and Branding, focusing less on their image and more on the future and success as they move through this ever-changing world. Who knows – we may be virtually trying on clothes in the comfort of our own home in 10 years! (C’mon, Elon Musk). In turn, creating no reason for bricks and mortar stores. Retailers now depend on millennials to survive, and the only way to do that is to promote themselves in unexpected places, hoping to reach a different market of shoppers.

Photo credit: H&M

While both brands are nurturing their image less and increasing their sales more (let’s be honest – H&M were dying for this collab, so props to Alexander Wang for commitment), 20-something-year-olds now have a distinct vision of Alexander Wang, while H&M also becomes more appealing. Props all round!

4. Nike X Apple: Nike+

A tech giant buddying up with a, well…. Global giant screams success. These two brands were the key to a co-branding success with their already famous products and services. The app ‘Nike+’ is one of the most used fitness apps in the world, with 28 million iPhone users giving it a go. The app calculates your heart rate, where you run, average pace, personal bests etc. etc. – all sounds great, right? Well, they have had their fair share of competition kicking them to the curb and coming in red hot with (we’re sure you’re aware of it) Fitbit.

Photo credit: Nike, Apple

Although their partnership made sense and it did create talk, unfortunately, it was only a matter of time until an up and coming brand bring in something more accessible, comfortable and convenient. After all, running with a phone in your hand or on your arm isn’t exactly ‘fitness-inspo’ stuff.

5. Go-Pro X Red Bull: “Stratos”

GoPro and RedBull are known for two things: a great, popular product and a name that extends much more than their product — in particular, a lifestyle that’s fearless, action-packed, and pretty damn extreme if you ask us!

An incredible video was released by the brands to symbolise their visions, and what a way to do it! The collaboration involved dare-devil Felix Baumgartner jumping out of a space vessel almost 24 miles above Earth. The footage is spine-chilling, view it below:

What made this work? GoPro used its knowledge within the extreme sports space, i.e. sourcing athletes and adventurers from around the world, filming epic content and sharing it online. While Red Bull used its sponsorship of major events to advertise the campaign. Both brands delivering, and both brands gaining massive exposure. It’s a tick from us.

Tips for Successful Co-branding

1. Are the brands a good match? Focus on things like positioning, audience, tone and what they’re known for.

2. Define your goals, separately and together – be clear about what you want to achieve.

3. Will your cultures collaborate well? Do you like and respect each other’s culture and want to work alongside each other?

4. What’s the actual offer & does it make sense to the customers of both brands?

5 .What are the risks? Be savvy – in what ways could this go wrong for either or both brands?

6. Be clear about expectations and time-frames — is this a long term or one off engagement?

7. Be open & human — all relationships experience challenges and the way you navigate them strengthens or undermines your partnership.

–Jordyn Martino

How to set and pursue business goals as a small business

As businesses, we all strive to increase our customer base, increase revenue, create better products and services. The general direction for our business is clear in our minds. We know where we want to go. We may even have ideas in the back of our minds on how we think we will get there. But when it comes to defining formal business goals and setting your company on course to achieve them, small businesses often struggle to find the right approach.

This article aims to act as a general roadmap describing a top-level approach to business goals, highlighting a few common pitfalls along the way.

Goals are not always about growth and expansion

When we talk about business goals we often think growth and expansion. But depending on your industry and current situation your immediate challenge might be around stopping or reversing loss of market share. For example, if you are Taxi operator in 2017, dealing with the disruption that Uber is causing on a global scale, business growth might simply not be an option right now. In this case it might be time to step back and re-evaluate your position in the market.

Sometimes your goals have to focus around regaining profitability, or even just slowing down and an ongoing decline. Regardless of your starting position, the general rules for setting goals are the.

Push for new heights, but don’t reach for the stars

Keep your goals realistic. If you are an established business, maybe operating in a highly saturated and exploited market, doubling your revenue over 12 months simply might not be possible.

Finding the sweet-spot where you challenge your business to reach new heights, while keeping the bar at a height that you can still reach, is maybe the hardest part of this process. As a business owner or key stakeholder, your insight and experience will be the most valuable resource to get this task right.

Achieving your goals with measurable objectives

A business objective is a specific measurable step you take to reach your defined goal. They buzzword here is ‘measurable’. And that is often easier said than done.

For example, if your goal is to increase your bottom line by 15% over 12 months, the following objectives could form the basis for your approach:

  • Improve your marketing performance with better communication

    Your customers’ needs should always be front and centre of your communication. Changing your language to more accurately address how your product meets their needs can unlock a previously uncharted segment. Measuring the impact of your communication on your bottom line can be tricky, especially when operating in retail. You may need help from a third party to find ways of measuring success in this area. In the online world it is a lot easier to get conclusive results. Here responses and actions can be tracked almost in real time.

  • Invest in new product development

    A new product range increases your offering in the marketplace and can cater to customers that your existing products don’t cater to.Product development is a long-term process. You might not be able to develop and activate a new product in only twelve months. And if you do, you might not obtain reliable sales results from your new product in that time frame.To overcome this, targeted product testing in the development stage is one way of measuring the likely performance of your new product in the market place.

  • Optimise your internal processes

    A leaner business structure can reduce cost and contribute to the boost in your bottom line.This might again be a task that takes longer than twelve months to implement, depending on your business model and business size.Implementing changes step-by-step allows you to measure how each step effects your bottom line and allows you to more accurately predict the general impact of your measures.

Set the right time-frame for your goals

Goals need an end date, where you can look back and check on the difference you have made. The broad examples above highlight that you may have to go back and revise the timeline of your goals once you get into the details.

In the given example two of the objectives could most likely not be completed in the given timeframe. In this case you can either revise the timeline of your original goal or branch it out into multiple goals for short-term and long-term outcomes

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Small businesses are known offenders when it comes to a DIY approach. Don’t be afraid to ask for help where you need it. You will get better results faster.

  • Ask a business consultant if you are struggling with setting your goals
  • Use research companies to gain insights into what your customers need
  • Use a business analyst to optimise your processes
  • Use specialised agencies like us for creative tasks

If you need assistance to achieve your goals we can help.

Step back and get ahead of the game

In our daily race against our competitors, trying to keep up with ever changing customer behaviours and expectations, how do we know that we are still running in the right direction?

Stop and have a look around! Where are you standing right now?

The reality for many companies is that our marketing activities are largely based on assumptions. We re-apply the things that have worked for us in the past, assuming that our customers’ needs and behaviors are still the same. Sometimes we even adopt our competitors’ approach because we assume it is working for them. But are we actually hitting the mark? Is our service or product still living up to our customers’ expectations? Are customers reacting to our call to action?

Taking a step back offers a new perspective

Stepping out of the race for a minute, allows us to re-assess what our customer’s needs are – today. It also gives us an idea of how far off we are from meeting those needs with our service offering.

Our client Kingswim, a learn to swim school for kids, faced this very challenge and they decided to re-evaluate their customers’ needs to improve the targeting of their marketing activities.

If you want to know what the consumer thinks, ask the consumer!

It seems like a logical step but companies often dismiss this opportunity, as they feel they know their customers, based on their experience in the industry.

Kingswim conducted targeted consumer research, using the findings to create their ideal client profiles. They were then able to refine their communication to better talk to their customers’ needs. But there was more.

Be prepared to take it a step further

When you start asking questions you may get answers you were not expecting.

When Kingswim conducted their customer research they were looking for ways to improve their communication. But the research also revealed opportunities to improve their service delivery on an operational level.

Research-based strategy is more likely to deliver results

Since rolling out their new marketing strategy and operational improvements, Kingswim have seen a marked increase in enrolments and identified other exciting business growth opportunities along the way.

If you feel your business is struggling to keep up, maybe your next step should be a step back.