Industry specialism – smart or short sighted?

When it comes to marketing and PR, you can pretty much spin a story either way. In fact, the entire marketing world is all about creating a version of reality that you think your audience wants to hear – and this is very true of the ongoing debate about industry sector specialism.

If you review the websites and other marketing messages of pretty much any design, marketing or digital agency, you’ll find a line in there somewhere – with varying degrees of prominence – about their expertise in one or more industries. Some focus purely on one specific sector such as healthcare, retail or logistics. Then others opt for a wider, but still not totally limitless, market segment – maybe ‘public sector’ or ‘professional services’, or even just ‘B2B’ vs ‘B2C’. Then at the extreme end of the scale, you have those agencies who don’t market themselves as being specialist in any given industry, and instead like to cast their net as wide as possible.

Initial impressions

What’s interesting is that, at first glance, those offering a more specialised service tend to seem the most appealing. In fact, any organisation that is looking for a new agency may well search for ‘design agency retail specialist’ or ‘marketing agency education specialist’ and assume that they will find someone who really knows their business inside out. And of course those companies do exist. But equally, any agency can state that it is a specialist in a given arena, or even just make sure that those keywords are included in its website. So a specific search of this type may not actually get you where you want to be.

But we digress. The debate here is about sector specialism vs a more ‘broad brush’ approach, not how each agency chooses to pitch itself. Though the fact remains that a service provider with particular skill in your own industry is likely to appear to be the most effective at first glance, once you’ve managed to track them down through all the marketing and SEO fluff.

So why is that? It happens because clients are all experts in their own industries, and they think that an agency which also has great knowledge of the same industry is bound to be ‘better’ and to understand their needs, and their audience, more fully.

Which ‘expertise’ matters most?

Actually, is it not more important that the service provider is an expert in their own industry – be that design, marketing, digital or whatever – and can bring the widest possible range of skills and experience to the party? If this is true, then there is an argument for choosing an agency that has worked across many different industries, and with both business-to-consumer and business-to-business clients.

This wide ranging knowledge enables creative teams to bring in ideas, approaches and experience from many different campaigns, across numerous industry sectors and market segments – adding a richer and infinitely more diverse spectrum of knowledge to each project they undertake.

At this point, you won’t be surprised to hear that Shine Creative falls firmly into this latter camp. Yes of course we do have multiple clients from similar industries, but we never class ourselves as only having a focus on these types of companies. Instead, we take the approach that we can always bring something fresh and new to any brand or campaign, because we have such a wide range of experience gained from many other sectors, and through targeting a very varied range of audiences.

We approach every new client, and every new sector, by meticulously researching the industry and the competition – following our design methodology, which enables us to really get ‘under the skin’ of each client’s business. So you can be sure we will never get complacent, and you certainly won’t find us dragging the same old ideas out of the filing cabinet and reworking them!


What our experience has taught us

Having worked with or taken over from some of these ‘specialised’ agencies over the years, we quickly see a pattern of uninspiring similarity emerging in their creative solutions. This could be due to an agency feeling they have found the right answer for one client, and then repeating the same thing over and over again for others in that industry – or at worst it could be sheer laziness. Which is unforgivable if so.

At Shine, we are experts in creativity and problem solving, regardless of our client’s industry sector. We have always argued that, when we have less up front knowledge, we are quite rightly forced to spend time gaining a greater level of knowledge and understanding of our client’s industry. We also take less for granted, focusing instead on the company’s values and USPs – so we can thoroughly appreciate the needs and desires of their audience.

So next time you’re looking for a new agency, don’t always assume that the one with the in-depth knowledge of your industry is the best one for the job. It may just be that our experience of someone else’s world will help us to deliver exactly the right creative solution for yours.


If you would like further advice on finding the right solution for your industry needs, please email