Dan Taylor: The Phantom Client

Conntext| 2.11.14| No Comments

We’re sitting in a kick-off meeting with a new client. He tells us, “We want this year’s brand style to be cutting-edge.” “We want the look and feel to be ten times better than last year.” “Let’s really push the boundaries on this one.”

Creative and strategic questions are asked and answered. Everyone around the table is excited and we leave the meeting energized to produce a top-notch new brand program.

Later that month our team presents its initial creative ideas to the client, who loves them, thanks us for aligning with the strategic goals, and says he’ll share them with the boss in Chicago.

A week goes by without any feedback. Then two weeks. We start to get a little nervous. Finally, an e-mail arrives: “I showed your concepts to our president. She didn’t really like them, but she found an illustration on Google, see attached, and wants something that looks like this.”

Seriously? We were so far off the mark that nothing we presented was even close? How did this happen? Where did we go wrong?

The obvious problem was the absence of the key decision-maker in the initial meeting. Whether she has an eye like a MoMA curator or hangs a velvet Elvis painting in her office with pride, she is the person to please. She is the person that matters. We should have done everything in our power to get her involved from the get-go.

Here are a few additional tips to keep your creative project moving in the right direction:

- Insist on a detailed and complete creative platform with every possible question answered and share this document with the key decision-maker before getting started on creative.

- Make sure the key decision-maker is not only an attendee at the initial meeting, but, if at all possible, present at all creative presentations.

- Try and get a handle on the key decision-maker’s aesthetic sense (ie “Do you like the style and tone of the Nike brand? The Apple brand? The Pepsi brand?).

- If the key decision-maker has dislikes (i.e., “I hate the color purple”), find out at the first meeting.

- If the key decision-maker doesn’t like your solution, sit down and discuss it within the context of the original creative platform.

If you follow these suggestions and all the stars align, your creative process will go smoothly and the project will be a success.

But if the key decision-maker ends the meeting with “looks pretty good, let me show my husband this weekend and I will follow up on Monday,” all bets are off.

Daniel Taylor has extensive experience in the business of communications, branding, and marketing. He started Taylor Design in 1992 in Stamford, CT and has built it into a thriving studio with twelve employees. Over the years, Dan and his team have partnered with a variety of corporations, colleges, and non-profits, from Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Mt. Sinai Medical Center to MasterCard, GE, and FedEx. From 1985 to1992 he was a Creative Director at William Snyder Design, Inc. in New York City. He was responsible for developing marketing and advertising materials for Exxon Corporation, AT&T, Merrill Lynch, ABC Television and MTV Networks. Prior to that he worked as a freelance designer at Pushpin, Lubalin, Peckolick, NYC; Beau Gardner Associates, NYC; and Steve Burnett, Inc., NYC. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design in 1983 from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY. Born in Providence, RI and raised in various parts of New England, Dan lives in Stamford, CT.

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