By: Stephen Kanter
Building a business into a full fledged brand is a complex, multi step process. Creating an attractive online destination, growing an engaged social media community, and devising innovative campaigns to promote your business are all essential elements.
Marketers today must be proficient in more distinct areas than ever before. Clients expect an agency to have expertise in all of these sectors, and any deficiency in a given area can be a deal breaker. The best firms embody the versatility required of a modern marketing sensibility.
Cultivating an environment conducive to this requisite versatility is no simple task. It requires a multiplicity of creative voices, it requires a diverse range of talent, and perhaps most importantly, it requires open and clear lines of communication between the various members of your team. In light of these realities, it seems major marketing firms are expanding larger than ever before.
How do you get a group of passionate, opinionated marketers to collaborate harmoniously to create something beautiful for a client? Are larger firms more readily equipped to handle this challenge? Is bigger better?
Here at Raze, our creative process begins and ends with embodying the voice of our clientele. We seek to understand our client’s vision as thoroughly as possible before iterating on marketing materials for them.
Of course, our creative team is given the freedom to explore more exciting, edgy design possibilities, even presenting some concepts that might venture outside a client’s comfort zone. This stretching process is valuable, as it allows the creative team the flexibility to construct something adventurous and inspired while also pushing the client to see the full aesthetic potential of their brand. Our creative team typically designs a concept that conforms strictly to the client’s vision, a second boundary pushing version that is creatively unrestrained, and a third concept that synthesizes our team’s artistic sensibilities with the client’s directive. This approach ensures that our team is presenting their best work, while also allowing the client’s direction and feedback to the guide the process and decide the ultimate result.
While hardly groundbreaking, this simple guideline of “listen to your client” is worth repeating and remembering. Too often, creatives are so concerned with devising something viral or visionary that the client’s initial directive is swallowed up in the deluge of originality. Privileging your client’s vision above your own voice as a marketer is challenging but invaluable.
For a worst case scenario that demonstrates what can happen when a big agency allows creative vision to undermine the overall objective , let’s recall a memorable (and cringe worthy) instance from May 2014. British firm Ogilvy & Mather was hired by Kurl–on Mattresses to create a poster advertisement. The agency decided to depict a cartoon version of a young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, being shot by the Taliban, and then bouncing off a Kurl-on mattress to rise up again and receive an award. The image was captioned “Bounce Back”.
The ad was heavily criticized, resulting in much embarrassment and scandal for Ogilvy & Mather and for Kurl-on. The buzz generated by the ad was the total opposite of what both the firm and their client intended. Instead of generating positive brand awareness, Kurl-on was viewed in the public eye as having tastelessly used a young girl’s horrific, harrowing journey to sell some mattresses.
One of the major advantages of being a smaller firm is the way our team communicates internally. Nothing goes out the door without first being heavily scrutinized by every member of our team. Lofty creative goals, take a backseat to healthy group critique. Our close knit culture ensures that everything we produce is a truly collaborative effort, something every one of our team members can feel proud of. The intimate culture helps to ensure creative vision doesn’t compromise a client’s goals.
It’s our conviction that the client’s vision can only be done justice when designers and marketers communicate openly and honestly every step of the way. When internal communication thrives, quality work, work that adheres to client desires and enhances their brand, is produced.
Remembering to prioritize the voice of the client is invaluable, not only because it effectively presents your client’s brand to their audience, but because it refocuses and reunites your team (no matter the size) around their common goal. When the initial vision for a project begins to get lost in a swirl of sometimes competing (sometimes really bad) ideas, remember and refocus on the voice of the client.
For us, creating conversation around a brand we believe in begins and ends with effectively leveraging the talent of our team to empower our clients and to let their voice be heard (avoiding any disastrous scandal along the way).