United We (marketers) Stand

In today’s highly competitive business environment is there really much room for like-service companies to dwell in unity? Haven’t we been taught that we need to eat or be eaten? There’s certainly no time for coopetition. Or is there?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand…” so said America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The great Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked that “we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Even the good book teaches in Psalms “how good and pleasant it is to dwell together in unity.”

But in today’s highly competitive business environment is there really much room for like-service companies to dwell in unity? Haven’t we been taught that we need to eat or be eaten?

Technology, processes and algorithms change fast. It’s difficult, if not impossible to keep up. There’s certainly no time for coopetition. Or is there?

In the marketing realm, we’ve seen that no one can be truly great – or even proficient – in everything. That means there’s a need for naturally competitive agencies to cooperate for greater good. Rogue has a driving mantra that it will seek to work with other agencies that like to work together. It’s hard to find those though. We look.

If you work at an agency, or employ an agency, then you know how critical it is that you have like-minded agencies/teams working together for your overall benefit. You don’t have time to play referee. You’re not wanting to settle the score on who’s right.

Is this type of unity achievable? Consider this: it’s not only possible… but it’s mandatory if marketers and marketing agencies are going to survive and thrive.

With this in mind, I was particularly drawn to a few articles I read this week. Their topics were diverse: cancer, economic development, oil manufacturing and transportation… and yet, they had an underlying theme. Cooperation. For a larger good. To solve a significant problem.

I read about Sean Parker (of Napster and Facebook fame) who has recruited scores of the nation’s top research scientists to join him in a wildly ambitious $250 million philanthropic effort to rid the world of cancer. His plan involves bringing together a critical mass of scientists in the red-hot area of immunotherapy and pointing them in the direction of the most promising targets in the hope that, together, they can move research along faster than by working alone. By increasing collaboration and decreasing competition among 300 scientists and 40 labs, the new venture hopes to make it easier for those working towards the same goal to eventually reach it. The group will focus on immunotherapy treatments—a relatively new yet promising branch of cancer research that uses the body’s own defense systems to attack cancer cells.

Few would argue that real estate is a cutthroat industry. Fort Worth’s largely undeveloped West Side will certainly be no exception with tough competition for businesses, home buyers and amenities. But developers and investors are calling a truce, at least for marketing purposes. It would seem that the city didn’t need another building project… they needed a destination: The River District. And that required cooperation for the common good.

And U.S. auto and aviation safety regulators will descend next week on Washington for a closed-door summit to discuss ways in which practices in the airline industry may be applied to protecting drivers on the road.

These articles stood out for the sheer fact that cooperation at this level is so uncommon. That’s why I was less surprised to read about the discord in the oil industry. You may know that the price of oil took a tumble this week when the 18 members of OPEC couldn’t come to agreement on how to tighten supply to boost prices. At greatest odds were Saudi Arabia and Iran and the tension between these two countries hurt these discussions. Regardless of right or wrong, what is blatantly clear is that a disagreement between two parties seldom stays between two parties. If you are one of multiple agencies serving a client, be sure they notice any discord too.

As marketers, you may not be doing something as big or significant as curing cancer… but there’s something powerful to be gleaned here, if we’re willing to take notice. If you’re always in a state of protecting your turf and competition, those actions are sure to have a ripple effect. To be sure, there’s a place for competition. But competition as a product of collaboration is more productive than competition to simply be better and only growing as much as needed to stay ahead of others. Uniting our forces together we just might stand. Fighting one another? We’re on our way to being replaced.