stakeholder research
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Stakeholder Research Leads To Great Branding…If You Let It

There’s a significant amount of value in the stakeholder research process for designers, because in the end, the clients are the people that approve the work of the creatives. There are just some things that you are not going to be able to do creatively with some clients; even if the research points 190% in one direction, you might not be able to jump in feet first. The problem is a lot of times branding can be scary for stakeholders, especially if they had a hand in the creation of their organization’s branding. It’s very easy to offend them or scare them if you take things too far. What creatives might not think of as going very far can be a huge leap for them. It doesn’t take much to really scare people. I’ve done it enough to know that, and screwed up enough to know that’s where I’d gone wrong.

We worked with a business that was aiming for a cutting edge feeling, but you looked at their brand, it appeared dated and amateurish. They didn’t know that; they thought they were being contemporary. We created beautiful work for this business, so I was shocked when we presented it to them and they didn’t like it. Aaron thought the designs were great as well, but wasn’t surprised that we didn’t sell it. He said the work scared them. I probably should have baby-stepped them more throughout the entire process, especially in the visuals. They had very strong emotional reactions to what we showed them, even though we had all the research and surveys from their current client base that showed that was really what they responded to and what they liked.

It’s not always a game of “I’m right and you’re wrong.” With designers it often is. But it needs to be for them, because that’s what allows them to create really great work. But what you also have to understand is it’s a give and take. Creatives can learn a lot from clients about their businesses that you can’t get from the research, and vice versa. When it works that way together, that’s when you come up with the best product. A designer might say, “I’m not really that wild about this creative solution. I’m not that personally drawn to it.” But in the end, did you work with the client? Is the client happy? Does it still meet the consumer’s need?

The best stakeholder research leads to collaboration. I think that’s a hard thing for young business people and creatives to understand. And when I talk about collaboration, I don’t mean as a creative that you’re now a yes man; your job is to give a client your professional opinion. And their job is to give you their insight. Typically the best situations are collaborative, where I’m not going to get everything I want because I might be slightly blinded by the creative process, and they show us a little bit of reality, like how their consumers really are.

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