God, Country and the Retail Code

Photo of Cliff Courtney
Date: 2015-05-05 14:32:42 // Categories: Advertising, Retail,
By: Cliff Courtney
Date: 2015-05-05 14:32:42 // Categories: Advertising, Retail,

Ad agencies don’t like being called “vendors.” They don’t like dealing with procurement or competing in agency cattle calls. And yet, the great divide between how agencies think and act versus brand marketers is as deep as the Mariana Trench.

On Saturday morning, a brand marketer’s first cup of coffee takes a back set to a review of Friday’s traffic and comp numbers. Calls, emails, strategic adjustments, discussing test and learn protocols, and reforecasting.

So how many ad agency professionals are doing the very same, living by the same retail code?

In retail, the code is everything. Demanding, sure. But it’s the cost of doing business and ad agencies simply haven’t taken the pledge.

  • The retail code demands a 24/7 focus on success. Amazon doesn’t sleep.
  • The retail code demands constant attention: In the omni-channel world, comp sales are reported minute by minute.
  • The retail code demands that value proposition trumps low price, speed, convenience, or any other single denominator no matter how compelling. At the end of the day, numerators rule.
  • The retail code demands agility, because retail is a speed game and reaction time is critical. The competition is not in wait and see mode anymore than you are.
  • The retail code demands a separation between the metrics wheat v. the chaff.  There’s not a shareholder on the planet who cares more about awareness scores than their Q2 dividend check.
  • The retail code demands commoditization-busting differentiation at every consumer touch point. Find something that matters and make it stick.
  • The retail code demands, above all, that there’s no time or room for a partner who doesnt eat, sleep, breathe, bleed and pray for the brand that way the brand marketer does. If that’s not you, just be happy you’re even a vendor.
  • The retail code demands integration. Because the cost in dollars and time for housing one offs and specialists is simply too high a price to pay.


The few, the proud, the professionals who give a damn. That’s what we’re talking about. It’s a world where it’s not about the work; it’s about work that works. It’s not about the ads; it’s about KPI based solutions. It’s about urgency and fearlessness.

Using creativity as a tool? Yes, forever. But focusing on output instead of outcome? Not in this agency’s lifetime.

Retail is not right for everyone. Not every marketer, and certainly not every agency. So whether you’re a marketer picking an agency or an agency picking a lane, know that in the world of retail, the qualities that bind the right people together have very little to do with advertising.

And everything to do with code.