He wanted sex, she wanted love

By Christian Barnett

People often want different things from a relationship. Clients and agencies often want different things from a relationship, and different marketing disciplines who have to work together often want different things from a relationship (shotgun wedding?). These ‘wants’ often come from the different philosophies, perspectives or assumptions people have about how the world works.

Here are some examples.

Rob Varney, the Design Director of Foolproof, was heading to one of the big media agencies (I forget which one) to discuss how he was designing a web site for humans – while the media agency was buying SEO for clicks.

John Howkins, Founding Partner at Sword & Stone, was asked to facilitate a workshop for one of the big banks, during which the brand agency and the UX agency were at loggerheads over the principles of the new website. The brand agency wanted to create a differentiated brand at all costs. The UX agency wanted the quickest and easiest journey from A to B. Initially neither party really understood the other.

My breakfast cereal clients would regularly spend fifty hours a week thinking about their cereal brands because their mortgage repayments, holidays, pension contributions, car and children’s school fees were dependent upon their brand’s performance, whereas their consumers would rarely spend more than a few seconds each week thinking about what cereal they buy. The clients were thinking about hitting their brand’s business performance targets. The consumers were thinking about breakfast.

Too many people, or agencies, or clients, don’t discuss their ‘going in assumptions’ or their underlying beliefs at the start of an engagement, and my contention is that if they did, the quality of the output and the quality of the relationship would be better.

It’s a problem.

I have had four careers: research, advertising strategist, brand design strategist and small business founder. Each time I have had to learn a new set of philosophies, perspectives and assumptions. As well as making me a better all round strategist, it has made me realize how important it is to understand the underlying drivers of different disciplines, clients, organisations and individuals because they explain so much of what they want.

At Sword & Stone we always make an effort to understand the underlying philosophies that drive the clients’ or partner agencies’ needs. That is a first step in delivering work that satisfies and relationships that last, rather than something that more looks like a one-night-stand.

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