Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When Marketing is Too Client Focused

This post by Kevin O'Keefe at lexblog.com points out the age old dilemma of professionals crossing each other boundaries when it comes to 'who may know best'. Kevin is not the only writer to tackle this subject, and I suspect the dilemma won't be going away ever.... But it did get me thinking about the frailty of going too far in handing creative control over to someone not of the firm.

Of course a firm wants the best creative assistance they can find... and there is plenty of great help out there. But, a lot of the best people in the design community have personality traits similar to successful attorneys. Traits like strong will and certainty of being right... you know, 'type A'.

IF all control is given over to people outside the firm (and they are certainly willing to wrestle for it) the firm may wind up with designs and communications they just can't feel comfortable wearing. Believe me; it happens.

Truth: Many design agencies are not very good in the discovery process. They don't take the time to really understand what makes a firm tick. They enter a project believing they already know what the customer-base prefers and set about to fit the firm into that image.

I believe it is the job of a design firm to create a 'message' that will resonate with a target audience, AND, reflect what is true about the firm. It can't be a facade nor can the attorneys be 'made' to represent something they are not. That means attorneys have to have input, and have to be able to tell their designers when the fit is wrong.

Often the process can feel nit-picky and frustrating because the attorneys are messing with tiny little details that are of minimal consequence. Sometimes it totally bites! What I’ve discovered is happening, in many cases, is that what they’re seeing just doesn’t ‘feel’ right, and don’t know how to express that feeling except to keep tinkering until they either give in or give up.

In therapy circles the term 'codependent' is used to describe people who have no healthy sense of self and habitually try to fit themselves within a perceived notion of what other people want them to be. To believe that attorneys should let other people make all of the design and communications decisions for them is to force them to try and act not as themselves, but as what others want them to be…. Sounds a lot like forced codependency to me.

Of course; there IS a healthy balance. Just remember who has to wear the suit once you're done tailoring it. It may look great, but does it fit?