Sometimes our clients think that we have a crystal ball … that somewhere in a dark corner of our offices there is a black velvet curtain under which lies the holy of holies … This magic orb is supposed to house a potent mix of business/brand strategy and the ingredient that will turn an idea into reality.
Of course, this is the role of the agency … so we should not complain (and I keep my crystal ball in my bottom drawer) … but an agency cannot manage a client’s internal alignment. We can talk big picture strategy and brand-customer engagement but we also need to make sure we truthfully tell our clients what it will cost to DO what they want. We need to prompt the conversations that will ensure the project succeeds for our client WITHIN their organisation as well as with their target audience.
Steve Vaught has a great post over at Mike Wagner’s Own Your Own Brand blog that speaks to all of us who deal with clients — internal and external. He references the five forces of brand ownership, focusing on "truthfulness" and explains the challenge for strategic execution is to deliver on your promises — "branding isn’t about something you say, it’s about something you do".
As marketers our challenge is to take on some elements of brand ownership. We need to be responsible for helping our clients understand where a program will work — what the barriers may look like and how to avoid them. We need to be realistic and advise our clients about the business impacts of success and wild success. And even though they may provide poor briefs we can’t just with the challenges away. We tell our clients not to expect a wish to come true, and we shouldn’t expect it either. We need to plan and prepare and guide the way. As Steve says "wishing is not a business strategy". But planning should be.