Help Your Client Live Its Brand . . .

Have One to Live Yourself

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
There's an old adage in our business that great advertising will kill a bad product. Many times it's not the product that is bad, but the delivery of that product. One of the greatest services an agency can offer a client is guidance to brand promise delivery. Don't be afraid to tell a client it needs to better live up to its brand. If it's offended by constructive criticism, it will simply give you an insight to how much you can help the client succeed.

While on a flight home a few weeks back, I was reading "The Starbucks Experience" by Joseph A. Michelli. One of the flight attendants noticed the title and asked me why I was reading it (she wondered if I worked for Starbucks for some reason). I explained that I was in marketing and was researching the different perspectives of company's that "live their brand." Our conversation continued for a while about the importance of the brand experience.

I wondered if she thought about what kind of brand experience she was creating for her company, Delta Airlines? She was helping me feel better about a brand that I used to be devoted to, but of late had become very disappointed with. I mentioned that we continually remind our clients that no matter what we create and communicate to their customers, it has no positive effect if they do not complete the promise during the customer's experience. In fact, our advertising efforts could harm their brands by over-promising, something that feels misleading to a customer.

I believe in using my clients' products or services. Doing so tells me a great deal about what they need to do to successfully express their brand stories. We tend to get very physically and emotionally involved with the products of our clients. It helps us communicate their brands more genuinely. Clients see that you're into what they do and understand their passion for it.

Immersing yourself in your client's world is the best way to capture its true essence. We recently finished up a new re-branding for one of our clients. It was one of the most satisfying experiences. The president of the company passed a book onto me that she had just finished reading. It was a history of her company's industry. I expected a dry and dull telling of this story, but the author had written an intriguing and entertaining tale that showed a true passion for an industry that is ignored by most of humanity.

The next Monday I met with my creative teams with a glimmer in my eye. I was stoked. The book had given me a true appreciation for my client that I didn't have before. I passed out copies of the book to my creative team and we were soon off and running. Through that little book, we discovered a goldmine of possible solutions. The next time we met with the client they were delighted with what we showed. I'm genuinely excited about the creative work because it is so true to the client's spirit. They are really excited about what we're producing because they know it shows how they live their brand.

A client and its agency can enjoy an amazing partnership developing and living a brand if the agency is able to guide the way. This is when advertising is most rewarding. If you find you're doing lackluster work for your client, ask yourself how immersed you are in its business. Many times, I thought we were, but in actuality, we weren't. We were too busy doing ads for them to really learn what we were advertising. It's much more gratifying when you really know what you're talking about. It is also much less dull.
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