So December is edging closer and closer. The John Lewis advert is live. There is a nip in the air. My children have already written their lists to Santa. Christmas is definitely around the corner. As young innocent faces look with excitement and anticipation at the presents stacked under the tree, their eyes glinting with the fairy lights and advent candles, the question is 'Will they get what they really want this Christmas?" And if they do get their heart's desire, will it really live up to expectations? Change their life? Make them better, funnier, prettier, and more popular?
Marketing and communications campaigns can be a bit like Christmas morning. (Bear with me here, it’s not as tenacious as you think). The client briefs an agency, or a consultant, or an in-house team looking for them to transform the hearts and minds of their customers with a succinct, stylish, engaging and impactful campaign that raises awareness, gets 10,000s of inches of media coverage, is a viral phenomenon and of course, drives their product or service into the number one slot in their market.
However, sometimes, just like Christmas presents, what the client thinks they want as opposed to what they really want or need, is quite different. And often the challenge is getting clients to realise this, understand the gap between customers’ perception and their own and put their trust in a good communications consultant, either internal or external.
A great example of this is clients who tender out for a new website - new branding, new copy, new approach. Often well needed as company websites are like mattresses, well used and often out of date, although essential, often forgotten. So the client brief explains the history of the company, what they do, who they are, and why they are wonderful. Yet, do they think about their customers’ needs? Do they address these needs? Do they tailor different areas for different audience sectors? Or do they stand on top of the mountain and shout loudly about how great they are? The agency that doesn’t massage the client’s ego, but thinks about the best way to engage with their audiences, is the agency that in the long term will bring the best return on investment.
It is like the guest at the dinner party who sits all night talking about themselves, without asking questions to their neighbouring guest, or even tempering the conversation to mutual interests. What will be the lasting impression of the guest? A bore. A massive ego. Tiresome. The guest who listens, who carves their conversation according to the interest piqued by certain subjects and who enquires as well as engages will be the one that everyone wants to be friends with when the dinner plates are cleared away.
So back to my Christmas analogy. If you don’t get what you really want for Christmas, don’t despair, it could be the exact thing you need this Christmas, but just don’t realise it. Don’t be swayed by the glossy wrapping paper or the branded box, take a real look inside what is on offer. And if you still can’t see the value, there is always next Christmas.