How to Push the Creative Needle with a Conservative Brand

When’s the last time you heard the client say, “give me your best thinking”, “we are looking to change things up” OR “we are looking for something new and innovative” only to hear, “we’re not comfortable with the direction” or “that may be a bit off strategy”?


Often times, the account teams are left to feel deflated and the client questions if the account team “gets the brand”.  Don’t lose hope.  Sometimes, it can be challenging for clients to step outside of their modus operandi but this is when the art and science of client relations meet to make magic.



Here are a few helpful tips that have worked to help remove the challenge behind transitioning a not so contemporary brand into very contemporary thinking:


1. Apply client insight. Think about how information is processed, prioritized and what influences behavior. For example, if the client doesn’t care about what the competition is doing, don’t invest the time showing a case study that is benchmarked off of the nearest competitor. Instead, make reference to previous brand innovations that were pivotal for the company and how the new “idea” on the table has the makings for the next new milestone.


2. Demonstrate that the research has been done. Make sure that the idea has longevity and meets the outlined directives and validate that the idea can be scaled. There’s nothing wrong with starting small to gain a degree of comfort among the client’s internal chain of command. But, in the pitch, make sure that the expansion opportunities are clearly communicated. It shows passion and confidence in the idea, the team, and its strategic linkage for the brand.


3. Know the politics and the process. Sometimes the hesitation comes from within the client’s chain of command and not the direct client contact. Knowing the client hierarchy and the politics and passion points of immediate decision makers can be key in not only understanding client feedback but also the assignment’s origin.


4. Before the account team starts working on the assignment, it’s assumed that all of the necessary questions were asked of the client. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t ask more. During ideation, it is absolutely okay to request time to ask additional questions. Just make sure they weren’t already addressed in previously shared assignment briefings or documents.


5. Pre-sell. Where possible, use personal and business interactions to plant the seed of the idea or gauge responses around the idea. This will help validate and gain advocates in the room. But be conscious not to oversell or share the entirety of the big idea prematurely. These pre-sell opportunities have to be strategically executed.



A client’s request for something new and different doesn’t always have to be a challenge. It takes effort and often time hours of weeding through objective and subjective intel but the ability to meet the challenge successfully can be professionally gratifying. Enlisting a few, if not all of these, tips should help to avoid allowing the request for change to be a challenge.


Barbara Thompson is an Executive Vice President at FCG.

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