Wednesday, April 11, 2012

As long as you're fixing my car, can you look at this wart too?

Look, I get that web sites are the be-all and end-all in marketing and that web design companies can do just about everything. I do.

Actually, I don't. Not at all.

But I do get that people think that. And that, rather than venture out and look for someone new to take care of a specialized project, many will just see if somebody they already know can handle that too.

I'm talking specifically about brand development here. And, I guess, advertising.

Seems like we keep running across organizations that want to re-do their web site and realize that they need to clarify or define their brand, so they just ask the web company if they can do it. Much of the time, the answer is "sure, of course, why not?"

Same thing happens with advertising. "Saaaay, you fellas did us a pretty snappy web site. Can you do our print ads too? And maybe some television?"

Well, I'm sorry. With few exceptions, they can't. But they will say they can. (Some good friends of ours, one of the very best web and digital agencies you'll ever run across, are an exception. They know what they do better than almost everybody else and they stick to it.)

As a general rule, a web design firm cannot, by virtue of being a web design firm, develop your brand or do your print or broadcast advertising as well as a brand development or advertising agency can. We can go out back and fight about it if you want, but the fact is, they are different disciplines.

That's why different people do 'em. I mean, I like ducks. And I like dogs. But a duck is not a dog.

(Let's be clear, I'm talking about core skill-sets here. A design firm - web or otherwise - can almost always do a simple ad. And an ad agency can almost always do a simple web site. But when it comes to a specialty like Brand Development or Something Serious, well, it's a different story.)

A web design firm may well recognize that you need a clear brand position before you can create an effective web site, but that doesn't mean they are qualified to do it, any more than, say, a PR firm who recognizes you need a web site is qualified to do that.

There's a real good example locally. A big consumer-oriented home goods company has a really good web design/design studio working for them. The web site and online efforts are great. The print advertising and a television spot they attempted recently are horrible.

Again, there are exceptions. There are switch-hitters in every field who can do it all. But let's not try to pretend this is anything but the exception.

Web design firms, God love 'em, are web design firms. They are not ad agencies or brand development firms. And I wish to hell they'd stop pretending they are.

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