Clients behaving badly

This week I had a catch up with a senior manager at a creative agency. She has been in the industry many years and seen it change. We spent some time ruminating about the way clients treat creatives.

It was an opportune conversation because I had just finished reading a major report on the role of design in business.

The Accenture Strategy report looked at Design in business. Their tag line was
‘It’s not about creating something pretty. It’s about creating value.’

Their research led them to state that:

Business capabilities that just a few years ago produced competitive advantage no longer do. It’s no longer enough for companies to demonstrate executional excellence. Innovation and speed are the new must-haves.
Customer focus has given way to customer obsession. Data-led is now data-driven. Product development is no longer about designing things customers want. It’s about designing solutions that give customers the outcomes they need.

In this very different environment, business leaders know they need to adapt. But questions remain about how they can develop these attributes fast.

92% of executives recognize their organizations must be faster, more networked and more collaborative.

Herein lies the problem.

My observation is that many of these large corporates have marketing staff from Gen C.

What is Gen C?

Gen C is permeates the lower ranks of many corporations and they will be coming into the upper levels over the next decade.

They are typically realists and materialists.

According to Roman Friedrich, Michael Peterson, and Alex Koster in their strategy + business article The Rise of Generation C;

They are culturally liberal, though not necessarily politically progressive. They are upwardly mobile, yet they live with their parents longer than earlier generations ever did. Many of their social interactions take place on the Internet, where they feel free to express their opinions and attitudes. They’ve grown up under the influence of Harry Potter, Barack Obama, and iEverything — iPods, iTunes, iPhones. Technology is so intimately woven into their lives that the baby boom–era concept of
“early adopters” is essentially meaningless.

We call them Generation C — connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented, always clicking.

Their obsession with everything digital has blinded them to the value that comes from face-to-face discussion. I hear so many complaints that clients just want it sent as pdf and they can assess the creative from that.

They want a fast answer. Clients have accepted that digital means fast. They forgo customer interviews for online surveys so that data can be collected faster.

According to Friedrich, Peterson, and Koster;

As a rule, they were born after 1990, they are primarily urban and suburban. By 2020, they will make up 40 percent of the population in the U.S., Europe, and the BRIC countries, and 10 percent of the rest of the world — and by then, they will constitute the largest single cohort of consumers worldwide.

This is the first generation that has never known any reality other than that defined and enabled by the Internet, mobile devices, and social networking.

This is a daunting world for those of us who worked in an industry where hand rendered visuals and storyboards were used to sell a concept.

Should we retire and give up?

The answer is definitely no.
I have watched many of my peers do this and they have drained the industry of a collective wisdom that results in clients being able to dumb down the creative process.

I am fortunate to work with many design agencies who insist on face-to-face presentations. They use research based on live interviews and they respect a diverse range of opinions when it comes to design.

The reassuring research we have recently conducted (The Design Maturity Index) shows that some corporates are taking a more considered approach to design; they are giving agencies the chance to scope, research and interview before starting design. Interestingly some of these clients are developing design thinking and human centred design practice with their businesses.

One bite at a time

One of Australia’s greatest designer, Grant Featherston, once told us while we worked on a large project with him;

There is only one way to tackle eating an elephant – one bite at a time.’

This is how we need to educate the Gen C’s in marketing and management. Slowly, patiently we educate them that good design takes time.

Start by writing a design value proposition.

Want some help writing a design value proposition. Please feel free to email me.

Want more?

Selling design value to clients here.

Proving a return on design investment here.

What is your ‘onlyness’? Here

Got a question?

Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.

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Greg Branson

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Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.

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