Apple has outsourcing at its core. You can too.
Designed in California. Assembled in China. The message is etched elegantly into the many Apple products that I pick up, pocket, and log into daily.
Concept and execution: Different functions managed on opposing sides of the planet but totally integrated.
Apple’s success is as much to do with its sourcing and supply chain excellence as its famed design and intuitive operating system. From around the turn of the millennium the bulk of Apple’s making has been done offshore. China mainly. But also India and Brazil and other places where components are produced and integrated into the supply chain.
Small(ish) teams of product designers conceive beautiful and easy to use devices. Vast numbers of technicians, and now robots, make the billions of units that part customers from their cash. Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, Tim Cook and their acolytes understood that achieving scale (and world domination) required access to large pools of workers with skills and flexibility, and at price points, not available in California. So, through a magical mix of design, marketing and outsourcing, Apple became the world’s most valuable company by market cap.
The lesson I’ve realised (pardon the pun) is that there’s a profound difference between ideation and execution. They require different mindsets, skillsets, and resource allocations.
That philosophy underpins my approach to outsourcing and how that’s evolved into what we’ve termed creative process outsourcing. It recognises that design is a very different task to delivery. Concept and execution. Two different worlds working hand in glove.
Many companies, including creative agencies, still try and manage these two processes under the same roof or by applying the same methodologies. They’re missing a trick.
Originating an idea can be a messy and convoluted process. A product design, a branding concept, packaging intent, a script, or a campaign theme – requires iteration, review, market testing and refining. Executing doesn’t. Executing demands scalable resources, repeatable process, quality control, speed, and agility. As a tactical execution partner, we bring those capabilities to the table. We pick up where the designers leave off. Our role is to take a concept and execute. Rigorously. That means understanding the designer’s intent and being able to interpret brand guidelines, local market requirements, and other relevant parameters.
We’re there to give every asset the love, and attention to detail, it deserves. In a way that the originator never would nor could.
I find more and more folks who see the value of making this distinction between origination and execution. Not because they think they’re creating the next Apple. Most are more prosaic in their ambitions. They want to use the limited resources they have doing cool concept stuff and to trust a reliable and proven tactical execution partner to take care of downstream activities.
Our services are relevant to leaders of creative agencies, enterprise procurement people, marketing heads and others who want access to creative and production resources at scale but don’t want to manage that activity in house. Tasks might be a multilingual packaging roll out with scores of SKUs, captioning hundreds of hours of video output, or populating thousands of data points for a research project. In some instances, we add resources to an existing studio boosting bench strength for a period of high demand such as the annual reporting season. In others we’ll work with an in-house marketing function where our task is to take a campaign idea and roll it out across multiple regions and in many languages. Our clients can focus on their core creative competencies knowing that the execution is in safe hands.
With creative process outsourcing Indigo is taking well proven principles and applying them to a new area of outsourcing. Our clients say we’re easy to work with – a key success factor in any outsourcing relationship. The Global Sourcing Association (GSA) named us the entrepreneurial team of the year in 2022.
If you’d like to hear about our services, get in touch with my colleague Michael Breen. He’d love to tell you more.