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Get Out of the Way of Design

When too many people try to drive your marketing designs it can be like you're a passenger of a teenager driving an old car with manual steering and a stick shift!

I find that when most CEOs, Product Managers, Sales Managers. and even Engineers initially work with marketing communications, they have a tendency to try to drive the design concepts. Often when these ‘internal customers’ get involved with a campaign or marketing project, they have a tendency to insert their opinion on the design to communicate the ‘big idea.’ Sometimes their involvement can feel like you are the passenger with a 15year-old kid driving a '57 Chevy with a stick shift and manual steering racing down Mulholland Drive… It just always ends badly.

 

The internal customer’s leverage can be paralyzing to the process. For example, I’ve had a CEO tell me to run his design concept or I might lose my job. I’ve had a Product Manager demand we run the picture of his product or he would pull the whole campaign. And I’ve had a Sales Manager practically bully some of my staff members trying to push his marketing concepts. It’s quite natural for product and sales owners to want to be involved as developing concepts is one of the most exciting parts of being in marketing. After decades of experience, however, I have found the best way to connect the message with the design is to give designers solid demographic details, strong market messages, and possibly an experience with the product or service, and then just get out of the way.

 

The silver lining if you do find yourself wedged between an internal customer trying to steer and a designer spinning from too much direction is that there is some good that comes from everyone involved. Mistakes can be a very healthy way to learn that each player in the process has a specific role to make the marketing campaign effective. The Engineer needs to develop a product the market will desire; the Product Manager needs to tap the voice of the customer and be clear in communicating which differentiating features and benefits to promote that will best connect with the customer. The Marketing Manager needs to package a design brief that clearly outlines all aspects of the communication plan, coupled with the Product Manager’s information. The CEO and executive staff must clearly outline the financial resources and expected outcomes. And finally, the Designer must develop concepts that will be visually arresting and effectively communicate the core benefit to the target demographic. When members of the team overstep their bounds or fail to deliver their part, the process suffers.

 

If you find yourself playing a role in this marketing process as an internal customer, I encourage you to step back from your expectations, and let the process drive the result. While the outcome may surprise you, it will most likely give you the biggest bang for your buck. If too many people try to grab the wheel and drive the design, you will end up with a massive compromise. In the short-term compromise will satisfy internal customers but do nothing to connect with your external one and that will result in a tragic crash of your marketing investment.


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