Yesterday, a friend who runs marketing at a 500-person management consultancy was venting (okay, “venting” is being kind: he was flat-out “bitching”) to us about the design firm his company had hired and the struggles they were having hitting the mark with on-brand creative. “They keep showing us stuff, but none of it is quite ‘there.’ I think they understand us, but I’m not 100% sure because they just can’t seem to nail it.”
Sound familiar? We’ve all worked on projects that devolve into in endless design cycles in search of the perfect logo, typeface, wording, image or look. “I’m not feeling it” and “I’ll know it when I see it” are the common refrains of these wheel-spinning exercises.
As their clients’ budgets and timeframes continue to tighten, creative agencies – design, marketing, interactive and advertising firms – are under increasing pressure to deliver great results quickly and cost-effectively. At the same time, crowd-sourcing and DIY website/digital marketing platforms threaten to undermine value and commoditize the creative process. While there is no substitute for high-quality creative advice and execution, agencies nevertheless need to operate with maximum efficiency, reducing cycles and avoiding the scope-creep scope that often comes with trying to satisfy fickle clients.
A Roadmap for Getting to “Yes” Faster
One remedy to this challenge is to create a robust brand platform before the creative process begins. A comprehensive, customer-tested compendium of the authentic and differentiated values, purpose and messages behind a company and its culture, the brand platform serves as a navigational “north star” that guides – and significantly accelerates – the development of on-brand creative.
Hennessey Design founder and nationally recognized corporate-design guru Michael Hennessey is no stranger to the benefits that a brand platform can unlock.
“The deep insight and messages found in a solid brand platform bring a simple creative brief to life, allowing me to develop a visual language that ties directly back to a client-approved, customer-tested framework. Having a well-constructed brand platform in place removes guesswork or ‘design for design’s sake’ and lets me work far more efficiently. And because everyone on the client team is familiar and comfortable with the platform, we get incredibly fast buy-in and approval on creative concepts.”
Rounding Out “Full-Service” with Specific Expertise
Many creative or “full-service” agencies have a pre-design process that they feel takes them down the path of brand articulation and achieves the efficiencies described herein. And, to be fair, some do a very thorough job. But in this era of specialization – and with the stakes so high – clients are increasingly dubious about “do it all” vendors, preferring instead to put their trust in subject matter experts focused on specific initiatives. This is because their customers crave the sort of authenticity that can’t be achieved through design alone: it must begin with a solid foundation of brand values and messages that informs the design process.
Regardless of size, full-service agencies would be wise to consider partnering with experts who don’t do design or “marketing” but are instead laser-focused on conducting a strategic, company-wide brand platform process to guide those disciplines. It’s a can’t-miss combination and a win-win proposition for agencies and their clients.
Does your organization operate from a dedicated brand platform? An authoritative go-to document that establishes what you’re all about and your deeper purpose? Or are you a creative agency looking for a smarter, more sure-fire way to “nail it” for your clients? Either way, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help you build a solid foundation for brand success.