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I’ve been working in direct and 1-2-1 marketing for a long time – so long in fact I can still quote Drayton Bird. For most of that time, I’ve always felt that our clients (especially the big ones) put agencies in our space into a invisible ‘second tier’. We’re important – but not as important as the much more glamorous advertising agencies, or more recently, the oh-so-serious consultancies.

It may be the result of an inferiority complex – I think it was instilled in me early on.  I remember once trying to explain to my mum what I did when I got my first agency role, and when I said I worked ‘below-the-line’, she chastised me saying ‘why would you want be below a line, you need to work harder and get above it.’

The world has changed massively since my mum first aired her disappointment – the emergence of digital, the complex media landscape, the limitless capabilities of marketing technologies and an overwhelming volume of data has moved us into a place no one could have predicted back when I was proof reading off cromalins (millenials may need to look that up). But, as exciting (and challenging) as all this is, what surprises me most is that many brands are still working to the same hierarchical, channel centric model.

In the last month alone we’ve been asked (by big brands) whether we do social, or whether we do digital or even whether we do DM. I’d like our answer to be – ‘no, we develop customer strategies – that may include social’.  But we know that doesn’t yet fit into the structure of most marketing teams (and definitely not in the way procrurement teams procure)

I know many brands are midway through trying to navigate a way through their digital transformation and looking for new ways to succeed (or survive) in the ‘age of the customer’ – but I think they would have more success if they replaced channel centricity (and the outdated hierarchy that comes with it) with a truly customer first mindset and operating model.

By truly thinking customer first, brands and their marketing teams will be forced to integrate their channels and deliver better joined up experiences – or as we call them customer ‘conversations’.  And, with that, the experts in developing those customer strategies should eventually see their position elevated from the second tier.

Or maybe it’s time to ditch the inferiority complex and just shout louder.