Wednesday, June 26, 2019

“Let’s Dance…again”

In a previous blog, I described a great design like a song. It needs to be catchy, infectious and inclusive, and you know it’s working when you see it’s intended audience all fully engaged with it. In other words: dancing. The seeds of that success can often be traced back to a great collaboration.

Creative collaboration with clients is a rewarding yet sometimes precarious process. From the client perspective, you might come to the table with a strong background in your particular industry and you certainly know your own products and services. From the Production Partner side, you may have strong skills in story-telling, a flair for design, and maybe the benefit experience of working with similar companies within the same industry. But before either team gets to exercise any skills and experience, you have to find some common ground where you can all take your first steps from.

As a Creative Director, I take that early opportunity to do some industry research and “get my head into the game”. This typically includes learning as much as I can about the client company, their products, their marketing, and culture. Because when you start “throwing spaghetti on the wall” in a client attended brain storm session, it helps if you both speak the same language and are working from the same data. The other reason to do this homework is so you don’t “step in it”. Knowing what to say is important. Knowing what not to say is critical. Now, you’re ready to take those first steps, in sync, with your client partner.

Preparation now behind you, you may be set off towards successful collaboration but there are still pit-falls ahead of you. Your style of communication. Just like dancing, it’s often better if you have some rhythm with your partner. Say something…then listen…then react…then listen again…then arrive at solutions. Sounds easy? It should be. One good way to have a mis-step, is to be so dug in on your own idea, to the degree that you can no longer accept any other ideas. Your idea could very well be the best logical approach, but it might not be so well received if it feels forced or exclusive to only your perspective. Collaboration is a two-way street, which means you must allow your clients some room to contribute, otherwise you are just dragging them along. That may also come with an unintentional perception that your idea just isn’t the best idea…all other ideas are wrong. Even if you ultimately land in a good place, your collaborating team may feel excluded from the process and may have trouble buying in whole-heartedly.

Those who know me, know I love a good analogy. So, here’s one for today: Yes, you can lead the dance, but that doesn’t mean you should throw your partner around the room, or even worst, ignore them while you show-boat across the floor.

The best creative collaborations lead to the longest client relationships. They encourage team work and a desire to “do it again”. They feel good in the moment and afterwards and when the song is over, you’ll be asked to dance again.

Bob Pascarella is Creative Director with Fenway Group in Boston MA and may or may not have questionable dance moves.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Moving From Good To Great

It’s an idea and a popular talk-point that has been around for a long while. It’s over discussed, yet under practiced. It’s well known, yet elusive. Easy to understand, yet difficult to achieve.
When we think of moving from Good to Great, we first think of ourselves: how can we enhance our skills, our capabilities, or our knowledge? How can we get so good that suddenly we’ve achieved greatness?

The fact is… this is all very subjective. The meter of greatness is unique to our perspective. What I think is great, you might find terrible. And what is sub-par for me, could be the very best in your opinion. So, the notion of Good to Great is definable from your unique perspective.

But the idea of growth in business is more clearly and universally defined, particularly in terms of capital growth. If your business is making more money each year and your brand is becoming more recognizable in the market…you are moving in the right direction. This also applies to your client relationships and that is the subject we’ll look at here: How can we take our clients from good clients to great clients?

The answer is similar: if you are bringing financial growth to your client… you are moving in the right direction. That means not only providing quality and performance in the solutions you provide, but to also understand that client and their world to the degree that you can now anticipate their needs. To build trust in that relationship to a level that exceeds your list of known capabilities. To have a client say, “I need something that’s never been done before and I know just who to ask.” Even better, to have a client’s trust so strong that a single request organically expands into a fully integrated campaign. In Marketing Communications, that’s moving from Good to Awesome.

Moving a client from Good to Great…or even Awesome, doesn’t mean just delivering something good over and over again. The drive to “Great” means exceeding an expectation and delivering another clichĂ© business phrase... a “wow moment”. That moment doesn’t necessarily have to be a creative genius design. It could be a strategy that connects one need to three other needs. It could be an idea that expands one success into several successes. In our world of Media Communications, this could mean expanding a print piece into a website or video. It could be a small, well executed deliverable like a logo design that grows into a brand story that then blooms into a brand experience.

How do we do it? Some may say it’s a gift. We say, listen to your client. Understand their challenges, their industry, and their audience, then tap into your creative gift and take them… and yourself…from Good to Great.

Bob Pascarella is the Creative Director at Fenway Group and a keen observer of humanity and business strategy.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Design You Can Dance To

Have you ever used the phrase “I meant to do that?” It’s a wonderful expression to convey that you did something on purpose. It wasn’t serendipity. It wasn’t luck. You planned it and carefully executed it according to that plan. It also works particularly well if you do something clumsy at work in front of everyone.

But, today we’re talking about purposeful, meaningful and relevant design, the kind that communicates an idea, tells a story and creates a reaction with the viewer. The kind of design where you can confidently say “I meant to do that”. Design that captures the essence of a message, often without words, but even more powerfully when aligned with a compelling narrative. And the best part is that the effect of a great design can be unique to the viewer’s own experience with it, and each viewer’s reaction will be different from everyone else’s, either slightly or vastly or anything in between.

So when we say “That was done By-Design,” what we are saying is that we did our homework, research and discovery on what we are trying to say and how best to say it. As commercial designers, we often get very abstract input from a client trying to define their brand. We hear things like “we’re smart and nimble” or “our brand story is confident and bold.” You look around the room at the graphics designers and everyone’s eyes are closed, trying to envision “confidence” while thinking about shapes and colors. The video designers are feverishly scratching in notebooks, compiling “confident” words and concepts. The print people are instantly calculating how large they can print before the design is visible from outer space. This is how designers start in their purposeful process.

Design is born from inspiration and delivered through perspiration. It’s not created for itself, it’s created for someone to experience. It’s both subtle and in-your-face. Its main purpose in life is to affect the viewer in some way and if it’s not doing that, then it’s not doing its job.

I often think of design like a song. Actually, songs are constructed using methodology that is similar to what you might use as a designer: identifying your message or story, discovering the way you wish to communicate it, planning your action, and executing that plan. And much like a song, if only you like it, you might be the only one on the dance floor. A design experience is a three-party proposition. There’s the designer, there’s the design, and there’s the people who are experiencing it. These three must come together in harmony to create a successful experience. How do you really know if you’re doing it right and delivering an effective design? Take a look at your audience and see if they’re dancing too.

Bob Pascarella is the Creative Director for The Fenway Group in Boston.