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So, does your agency partner behave like a real partner?

  • wonderhatch
  • Apr 26, 2024

As a fast-growing agency, the team at Wonderhatch are obsessed with what makes for a successful agency-client relationship. We know it’s not just about the numbers, it’s also about the experience. Quality conversations, brand compatibility and the scope of work all matter, of course. But what we really value is genuine connections. 

We also recognise that it works both ways. As an agency, we fully appreciate the role of a great client in helping to foster the authentic and strong relationships that we crave. So we had a chat with the brilliant Josh Clark-Ward, Caffè Nero’s Marketing Manager. He’s a client we’ve had great fun working with and learning from over the last 6 months or so, who was up for answering a few of our questions.

How do you know if an agency partner will be the right fit? And why does it matter?

The process of finding the right agency partner is a bit like a first date – it’s a test of compatibility from both sides which is important to remember. I want to feel that our agency is genuinely interested in the brand, and I want to be just as interested in the agency.

With so many agencies to choose from it can be hard to know how to make the right decision. But for me, it’s about the prospects of a budding strategic partnership with a team who care, and who can also make the process fun and enjoyable.

Content is the fun part of marketing – if we’re excited about making it together, that will translate to the customer.

It’s all about seamless collaboration, natural integration and a level of trust that pushes boundaries with some fresh thinking and new perspectives. The end goal is to get people excited about our brand. Firstly, at an internal level as a newly integrated brand and agency partnership, followed by the customer-facing output.

How do you measure success in the agency partnership?

As with anything, we’ll be looking at all the metrics that impact business performance, but ultimately, the success of an agency is really about creating an inspiring hub of brand, creative and strategy – it shouldn’t be an ‘us and them’ relationship. If we can achieve the cliché of ‘one team, one dream’, then that’s where all the good stuff happens.

My first meeting with the Wonderhatch team was so casual, and much more of an exploratory conversation rather than feeling like I was being sold to.

They just asked me the right questions, which naturally yielded the most useful answers. But it felt like the focus was first and foremost on building that genuine connection with me as a person, as well as with our unique challenges at Caffè Nero. 

Crucially, I felt no pressure from them to agree to a project brief on the spot. The emphasis was always on building that trust. Then, when an opportunity to work together did arise, we were able to move forward incredibly quickly and with real confidence in each other.

Quality. Speed. Cost. Can you have all three, or do you need to pick and choose?

You hear quality, you assume high cost. You hear speed, you assume low quality. Really, what you need to get a high-quality output at a budget-friendly cost, is efficiency. Wonderhatch smashed this for our 2023 Festive ad, which had a very quick turnaround.

The team had already taken the time to get to know the brand and challenges without a live brief. They took the initiative so that when a brief came in, we were in production in just 3-4 weeks, and delivered a content series that our customers loved. They asked the right questions and really listened to the answers, which got us to the result at an unprecedented timescale.

Speed is great when it’s not at the cost of quality. Efficiency is everything.

Tell us a bit about Caffè Nero’s unique brand story and challenges.

Caffè Nero has a fantastic brand story, we’ve been family owned and operated since the very beginning, which is reflected in the care and passion that goes into everything we do as a brand. Inspired by European café culture, each of our coffee houses are designed for you to spend time in while you enjoy drinking your coffee – as much as we enjoy crafting the perfect cup. 

It’s hard to ignore that we are often seen as one of the ‘big 3 coffee chains’ despite being independent, with no franchised coffee houses. We work and act much more like a passionate start up – we’re focussed on making a positive impact in local communities and strive to be the best coffee brand, not the biggest. Wonderhatch definitely gets this last part I feel, as it matches up nicely with their own ethos. 

Our challenge is making it easy for customers to really know us, and to see us as more than just ‘the blue one’.

Should working with an agency mean sacrificing creative control?

Absolutely not. Collaboration is key. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of creative tension, because fantastic discussions often stem from that. But fundamentally, we’re all working towards one goal, and that should be reflected every step of the way.

There can sometimes be an ego-centric approach to developing a creative, which is completely avoidable if you have the right agency partner.

If we’ve all done our jobs well, our agency will be an extension of our team and we would have created a hub of talented, passionate people who can have fun while developing the best creative together for our customers.

An agency should be able to get right under the bonnet of each brand they are working with. And we should want to lift that bonnet up for them and help them look. There shouldn’t be too much creative disparity if this is done well. Similarly, every creative voice should be open to tweaks/suggestions and feedback – that just comes with the territory of developing a concept.

How do you see your role ideally within your agency relationship?

Personally, I love the creative process. I’m always happy to see work in progress concepts or have collaborative tissue sessions before seeing the final concept proposal.

The best agency relationships are when they’re inclusive and value my opinion along the way.

I’m also very conscious not to step on any toes – it’s more about leaving the door open for the agency to run anything by me before spending hours developing a creative in isolation.

With Wonderhatch, I am welcomed and treated very much as an Executive Producer, so they make me feel like I am right in the middle of everything. I spend time in their offices meeting the team and building that rapport – it makes the process fun and engaging, which is what it should be.

How important is having a strong cultural match with agency partners?

I mean, culture is everything, right? It’s how customers identify with brands, it’s what successful brands are founded on and it’s what makes you enjoy what you do professionally.

If an agency doesn’t understand our brand culture, how are they going to create content for our customers, or integrate with our teams?

For me, a good cultural match is what makes the process fun. Don’t get me wrong, we take what we do very seriously, but I think you get to an even better output if you can have some banter and a giggle along the way!