I work at a branding agency. We build brands. We live and breathe brands. Brands are what separate the Coca-Cola's from the Pepsi’s. But there is one situation in which brand doesn’t matter, and that’s when it comes to new business.
As Chief Growth Officer at Turner Duckworth, a leading brand design consultancy, I often get asked what brands I want to pursue for our company. My answer is always, “The brand doesn’t matter. The client matters.” Sure, it’s great to work on a well-known brand, and Turner Duckworth excels at this, but the truth is we actually got our start in toilet cleaner.
If you really look, creative opportunities are everywhere. Over 20 years ago, Turner Duckworth was building its profile in the industry and designing a portfolio for Superdrug, a UK store chain. We designed over 200 product packaging SKUs for them, but we always point to the toilet cleaner as proof that we could bring creativity to even the most mundane product. The design cast aside the category norms in favor of a bold, simple design that stood out on shelf.
The key to success in producing ambitious creative work like this is finding the right (client) partner. I’ve learned after working on countless projects it comes down to a few simple things.
- Shared enthusiasm.
Our best clients have always been ones that were on our same team. We’ve shared a genuine love for the brand and believe in the power of design. When we come together, there’s no limit to what we can achieve. We’ll always give clients what they pay for, but when our clients’ enthusiasm is genuine and palpable, our team will always go above and beyond.
- Respect for each other’s expertise.
Our clients are immersed in their business every day, and know the internal politics and business goals better than we will as outside observers. But sometimes that means as clients, they can be too close to the challenge. By bringing an outside point-of-view and knowledge of design, we can offer solutions that they may not have considered. Then, relying on our clients’ internal relationships, we can work together to make the designs a reality.
If advertising is about being timely, design is about being timeless. It takes time to look at the big picture and solve for every eventual possibility. We always design with the future in mind, to keep doors open to possible expansion into new territories, or to appeal to new audiences. For example, we designed the Amazon logo over 20 years ago and it’s now used across their entire portfolio of products. Design is an investment in a brand’s future. The best clients allow space for the creative process, and it pays off in the quality and enduring value of the work.
We’re not always going to agree, and that’s OK. Good partners challenge each other and ask tough questions. We are creative people solving business problems. Sometimes that requires asking hard questions and having difficult conversations. The best clients are honest internally, as well. They have the courage to speak up in support of the work and the potential it can deliver for the brand even in the face of skepticism.
And in all honesty, one of the things I miss most from working on the day-to-day accounts is collaborating with these amazing client partners. I meet them during the new business process then I have to move on to new opportunities. But I love checking in from time to time and seeing all the ways our work together brings creativity to any brand, big or small. Even brands that sell toilet cleaner.