The relationships between fashion brands and agencies can get complicated.
Fashion brands come with a creative director, boards of directors and often large communications teams. And despite the fashion industry being built on creativity and regular change when it comes to seasonal collections, older, heritage brands are known for being notoriously slow and reluctant when it comes to changing other aspects of business. That’s where agencies step in, to help with re-branding, market positioning and campaigns, as well as digital and social media strategies.
But as Glossy discovered in speaking to four current and former creative directors, the working relationships between brands and agencies come with tensions, challenges and frustrations. We asked them to share what those are in our latest edition of confessions, where we grant anonymity in exchange for honesty.
“There are too many cooks”
In an ideal world, the brand’s creative director and the agency’s creative director will share the same vision, agree on all designs and strategies and implement them smoothly. But that rarely happens.
“It’s so complex and multilayered,” said one creative director with seven years’ experience. “Essentially this is a subjective industry and you have two visions.” Then, when the board of directors, communications, and marketing teams, all weigh in with their opinions, the ideas are pulled in multiple different directions. “Everything gets diluted during the process because essentially there’s just too many cooks.”
Another creative director complained that often the team leaders within the same brand have differences in opinion.
“There are marketing and PR sides [at brands], which aren’t necessarily aligned with the creative director,” this person said. “So you have the person at the top who’s not answerable to other people who are employed to make a brand successful.”
Often, the agency would feel stuck in the middle.
“We’d have teams within a brand saying, ‘We need this,’ and we’d say, ‘Well your boss wants this, so that’s what we’re going to give him. You need to talk to your boss.’”
“Obsessed with behind-the-scenes”
The rise of social media, in particular Instagram and Snapchat, and consumers’ desire to see a more authentic side of a brand has driven a rise in behind-the-scenes glimpses at photo shoots, runway shows and the lives of creative directors and head designers. But this can be frustrating for an agency, especially when they’re focused on shooting campaigns before fashion shows, one creative director said.
“Everyone in fashion is obsessed with behind-the-scenes photos and videos,” he said.
Almost all brands offer behind-the-scenes content today. The thinking behind it is to let consumers, particularly younger ones who can’t yet afford the brand, in on the experience, in hopes they’ll one day become customers. But as this agency exec puts it, the behind-the-scenes coverage is a lot of work, and he’s unsure of the actual benefit.
“They’re so competitive with what other brands are doing behind the scenes and it’s like, ‘why are we putting so much effort into this? People who pay $5,000 for a handbag are not on Snapchat.’”
Agency staff need to look the part
One agency executive who used to work with fashion brands complained that agency workers need to look that part — that is, fashionable — to be taken seriously by brands. “I’ve been in a meeting where a fashion client eyeballed an agency person because of what they were wearing. You could be the smartest person in the room, but if you’re not dressed appropriately you’re literally not heard.”
Short attention spans
According to one of the agency executives Glossy spoke to, keeping fashion brands focused on lengthy strategies is one of the biggest challenges. “There’s a tendency to switch. Fashion is based on new creations, but a marketing strategy needs to have investment and longevity. Communications and advertising need time to simmer with the consumer, otherwise changing leads to inconsistency as opposed to freshness,” she said.
“There’s also a lot of big egos, at the end of the day it’s fashion,” said one former agency creative director-turned-freelancer. “People take it so seriously.”