Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'll know it when I see it but until then, just pretend I'm not here

We've been working on some Brand Development with a new client lately. A credit union in our area. And it's been a great experience, because the CEO is totally tuned in and involved. He doesn't just delegate to his marketing people and sweep in at the last second to give the thinking a thumbs-up or thumbs down.

And frankly, that's one reason we think it's going so well. We're excited about where this is going to go and the future of working with these people. And a lot of credit goes to the marketing VP who is not so threatened that she doesn't want him involved. She understands the importance of his direct engagement with us. And so does he.

But I've met a couple of marketing VP's or directors who didn't want the CEO involved, and both times the results were disastrous.

One was with a satellite communications company. We were working on a new print campaign that involved illustrations. What we had to do was get an illustration that the marketing minion thought the marketing director would like enough to show to the unit president to see if he liked it enough to show it to the CEO. That's a whole ****load of layers to work through, each one based on what somebody thought the next level would like. After about the fifth false start (and resulting kill fee), I had the temerity to suggest that perhaps things would go more smoothly if we could talk directly to the CEO to see what she liked and didn't like (because "like" was, apparently a factor in this). Or at least, I asked, could we get some face time with John the unit president.

The marketing director threw a fit and stormed out of the room.

Bottom line, they spent as much on kill fees as they spent on the final art.

(Side note: The CEO had mandated that we never use black and orange, because she used to work for MCI and it was not a good experience for her. Maybe we were better off not meeting with her directly.)

Another time, we'd been working with a startup telecommunications company. After some real initial success, this company eventually lost their way a bit as they got bigger, and they started to emulate Bell Atlantic -- which they had originally held up as what they did not want to become. Up to that point, we'd had a great deal of success producing smart, effective materials for them, a point their new marketing VP (from -- ahem -- Bell Atlantic) noted when she met us the first time and asked us what we thought was the primary reason for that sucess.

We answered without hesitation: "Access to Charlie (the CEO) and his involvement in the advertising."

"Well," she answered, "that's over with. You will deal only with me." She went on to say that even she didn't want to get too directly involved. She simply wanted to review everything at the last minute and tell us whether whatever it was we'd done was sponge-worthy or not.

Needless to say we were gone within six months when she held an agency review and we declined to participate. The company itself was gone fewer than six months after that.

I understand that CEO's are busy people. But the more they are willing to be involved in their branding, marketing and marketing communications, the better -- and more cost efficient -- it is going to be.

Not mention working with your agency or creative thinking firm is bound to be a hell of a lot more fun than meeting with your lawyers or accountants.


will write for beer said...

hopefully you'll have better luck with your credit union than we did. after a complete rebrand and subsequent jump in numbers, a woman told the client's president that she didn't like the tv ads we were running, because they were animated. the result? we were fired. the result of the result? their numbers went back down. hah!

Woody Hinkle said...

Those animated spots will get you every time. Give me a spokesman talking about interest rates any time. THAT'S advertising!

(But now I know where to find some creative help for our credit union work. I like what you guys did.)