Essence Design to auction its services

Essence Design will start auctioning its services from next month, in the hope of drumming up business during the recession.

The Birmingham-based design consultancy is setting up an Ebay-style auction section on its website, where it will offer a menu of services that will change ‘once or twice a month’.

The first two offers, due to launch on 10 March, will be a website design, usually worth about £7000, and a branding project.

Essence hopes that the initiative will help to identify ‘today’s market rate for design services’, according to managing director Steven Wilber.

‘In these troubled times we have to put ourselves out at the market rate, and this an interesting way of finding out what that is,’ says Wilber.

He dismisses concerns that the scheme undermines Design Busines Association guidelines intended to protect design groups’ fee structures.

Wilber says, ‘At one or two projects a month, I don’t think that this will affect the market particularly. If we were churning out cheap template websites constantly, then it would be undermining the market.’

Essence plans to run the offers for about a year.

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  • Maxine J Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Oops – Essence – this idea will cause one almighty stink in the design industry.
    I agree with you that the biggest damage won’t be to the design industry, it will be to your own company. Why would any of your clients now wish to pay the price you quote when you have so publically admitted you don’t know the market level for your own service.
    Surely this tactic is not one your better – or perhaps it is?

  • Chris November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Its a buyers market, granted, but this strategy could be fatal. Perhaps increase new business enquiries from new and existing clients by raffling one free site design from all enquiries made in a certain time frame? Good excuse for a party too!

  • Brian Shields November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    As a new studio we floated the same idea, not so much as a way of revenue gathering, but as a social experiment to see what value local clients put on design. After careful consideration we decided against it and based our fee structure on the value we believe good design to be worth.

    The danger was not in what the design community thought but did we really want to work for clients who are out bargain hunting at an auction.

  • John Stone November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    There’s a risk to the agency’s brand here, but not in the way you might think: the risk is that the agency won’t want to be associated with the company that wins the auction. Let’s play this out. The perception of any agency’s brand is determined by (a) who it works with; (b) how it services them and (c) the strategies and designs it creates. Those factors inform demand and the market is set at demand’s intersection with supply.

    The real risk here is that a company – e.g. A-1 Toilet Sanitation Service – will win the auction. Assuming Essence’s offer to work with the highest bidder is genuine they would be forced to work with a certain client regardless; thereby risking their own brand image and imprimatur.

    The moral: actions have consequences –> choose your partners wisely.
    John Stone,

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