Scientia Potentia Est: what The Queen and modern businesses have in common


by Carey Trevill, Fractional CMO

Scientia Potentia Est or, if your Latin is a little rusty, knowledge is power. This expression rings especially true with businesses all over the world as we work our way through unprecedented times of political and economic change.

Agencies are no exception and never has the model been more publicly challenged by some of the largest brand owners in the world; seeking a new value aligned to the new commercial world we live in.

In this, we are reminded of an episode of The Crown, where we discover that Elizabeth’s education was that of the constitution and monarchy rather than the usual mathematics, geography, history.

A game changing moment for Elizabeth II

Pausing for a moment, and getting past any ‘lucky her’ envy, one understands that she feels exposed and underprepared for a life talking politics and policy, having to divert to her only real expert view on horses and dogs. Clearly no fool, Elizabeth ignores the advice of her mother and engages a tutor, Professor Hogg, with whom she is honest and open about her shortcomings. In asking for help, she changes the direction and empowers herself, and by default those around her.

When a crisis arises where government’s role has been positioned to potentially undermine the monarchy, her supporter and mentor, Professor Hogg, reminds her that she’s always had the resources to deal with the challenge ahead. Armed with advice and succour, she is able to firmly exercise her authority with Scientia Potentia Est, re-establishing her position as Queen and leader.

The context and its relation to modern business

Let’s consider where Elizabeth R found herself: the old-fashioned monarchy and parenting style of her mother was attached to the obsoleted. When she challenged it, she accessed skills from a temporary, qualified source to help her see the path ahead, clearly and succinctly.

Whilst The Crown is based on real events in the Queen’s life, it might be hard to relate modern business to the moment that had many people re-evaluating her in the context of this drama, seeing that she was capable and formidable when she took control, shaking off the blinkers.

However, we do this all the time. That classic expression ‘we’ve just always done it that way’ is one of the most repeated phrases in business conversations. It was challenged by another empowered leader, pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper, who dubbed it “the most dangerous phrase in our language”, and yet, we continue to potentially limit our businesses’ abilities by not re-framing the challenges ahead, identifying the gaps in our capabilities and reaching out to experts to fill those gaps.

The changing role of the agency

The agency model has stayed pretty much the same for over 25 years with no real challenge until now. As marketers, we can either look at this era as a potential disaster or as an opportunity.

Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, is a prolific commentator on our industry and has long held the belief that agencies have not kept up with the times; by sticking rigidly to a business model that does not necessarily serve to mirror the way brands must now operate to survive.

In 2017, Unilever halved their roster, and as an example, created their own in-house studio to take back control of costs. Challenging agencies on price may have stalwart agency types up in arms, however Weed stated, “There is everything to play for if agencies reinvent themselves in a fragmented media world. It’s never been so complex but also there has never been such an opportunity to build an agency solution. If you simplify the complexity I’ll buy the product.”

Kingston Smith reported in their agency survey ‘Under Pressure’ that for example, media buying has seen a better year, raising their operating profits on average to 17.4%; a far cry from profit levels reported a few years ago. Top ad agencies are reportedly only hitting an average 10.4% OP. What was interesting was the lack of investment in talent in most agencies, cited by Kingston Smith as a shortage in the industry. With the average top 50 ad agency spending 61.3% on employment costs (not including freelance costs) it’s a tough environment in which to keep pace. Many agencies are now forced into servicing more work for the same or lower fees, whilst reducing headcount to counteract the impact on the balance sheet. Kingston Smith states that those who are able to separate themselves from price competition will deliver sustainable profits.

How do you make the changing landscape work for you?

So, the question for us all is this: how can you address some of these complexities that exist without breaking your business? How do you resource at the right level when ultimately what is called for is a gig solution that you switch on when you need it?

Permanent candidate availability has significantly declined in the last 18 months; consistently showing that this sector of the market is opting to work differently, a single career path is no longer as desirable as it once was. The result is flexible for candidates but can be really frustrating for those trying to fill urgent roles.

In a recent #TeslaTalks session with renowned US writer Bob Miglani, he spoke to gigCMO Scott Magnacca about the changing world we live in and the ways in which we can now access incredible talent, applying a fractional approach to getting the job done.

How Professionals Like You Can Adapt In The New Gig Economy With Best Selling Author Bob Miglani from gigCMO Ltd on Vimeo.

Mission impossible?

Hiring a CMO is always considered a high priced role, taking time to search and employ the right person. How many times have we sat around thinking, what if we could just get that resource now…?

Imagine what could happen in your business if you were handed the Mission Impossible file containing immediate access to some serious C-Suite talent to get that urgent task under control?

Immense change absolutely could happen, could change your outcomes and could create a new place for your organisation, allowing room to transform into a future-ready solution.

With a world that is changing around us, we looked at what some of the biggest brands are thinking. Of the five most influential CMO’s at Cannes this year they all, without exception, discussed how their businesses have changed to put consumers as their true north, citing trust as a key to the success of their marketing strategies. Expectations of agencies are no lower; trusting that transparency and open book means better service, value and expertise at the right price.

Mark Magnacca, founder of gigCMO, feels so passionately about the changed economic opportunity he’s written a book about it.

Magnacca observes just some of the benefits of tapping into the gig economy: ‘Younger companies are adopting policies of bringing in short-term C-Suite executives to navigate particular growth phases. Consider the benefit of a senior member of staff joining your team to drive your company forwards at particular times. The right gig employee is at a stage in their career where they understand the pressures you are under, and without an agenda, they can offer you support’. With belief that accessing the ecosystem of incredibly high skills within the shared economy, new ideas for growth and adaptability are on hand and with collaboration with other organisations presenting never before seen options.

There is room to pause and consider new paths.

The gig economy is just one way to approach the changing market situation and, more importantly, to take advantage of the C-Suite talent that’s ready to step up and stand next to you whilst you figure out where you take your business next.

The Gig Economy – the book!

Things you should know to make your business grow

Learn all about the benefits that the gig economy and fractional talent bring to companies from Mark Magnacca, CEO of gigCMO, the global business consultancy and sharing economy innovator lead by real world, bottom-line driven, blue chip C-suite executives.