Sunday, June 7, 2009

Keeping creative on track

Sometimes the creative stage of a marketing project can derail the whole initiative. Decision makers in the organization get frustrated because they are not seeing what they want and the designers are feeling exasperated – not only because the client doesn’t like what they’re doing but also because they are now putting more time into a project than they’re being paid for. Cutting through means either paying more than originally estimated for creative or having a difficult decision with the design firm. Inertia sets in. Before you know it, the project is going nowhere.

Here are two quick suggestions on how to avoid this all-too-familiar predicament.

  • Make sure that those who are making the decision regarding creative issues have the opportunity to meet with the design firm before any work is done. This would apply when professional staff is working with the designers but lay people are making the ultimate decision or when the design firm is briefed by a staff person but more senior staff are making the final decision. There may be lots of push back in terms of making the best use of the time of lay people or senior staff but a face-to-face meeting between designer and decision maker will ensure that everyone is on the same page. It will provide the design firm with a deeper understanding of the strategic objectives and the opportunity to get “inside the heads” of key stakeholders. You may even have to pay the firm to attend one more meeting but any additional time and money will yield better results.

  • Have the design firm provide two or three distinct options for whatever is being designed. Make sure the firm understands you want different options and not just variations on a theme. It will cost more but in the end will avoid a project-ending impasse. There is little more frustrating or more useless to a designer than hearing the client say, “I don’t like it but I can’t really tell you why or what I would like better.” Where do you go from there? And who pays for it? Having the additional points of reference that more choices bring will almost always guarantee the possibility of “mixing and matching” between options to arrive at a sense of creative direction. This effect is magnified in a committee situation where multiple minds must meet. There is little chance that everyone will agree on one option but with multiple choices there is a very good possibility of building consensus.

After over 20 years of experience, I can guarantee that these things works and will help you keep projects chugging along.

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