Dealing with clients who crave last year’s thing

It doesn't take long working in the creative field before you start to notice that some people – even creative people – don’t appreciate truly innovative ideas. I recently came across a funny poster that read:
People’s reactions to ideas:

Bad ideas – “that will never work”
Mediocre ideas – “that might work”
Great ideas – “that will never work”

It's funny because it’s all too familiar. We see this throughout this industry – inside the meeting rooms of our own organisations as well as in the boardrooms where we pitch our ideas to clients.
We are continually being asked by our clients to come up with concepts that are new and fresh and ‘wow’.  The truth is that while many clients say they want something new, innovative or cutting-edge, what they really mean is that they want a solution similar to something they have seen previously, which has been labelled by someone else as being new, innovative, or cutting-edge. What they’re asking for is to be given something trendy.
While this might not sit well with your creative sensibilities – relax! There are things you can do to make this easy for yourself and most importantly to help your clients at the same time:
First of all, keep up on current trends. I encourage my designers to spend at least an hour every day reading design magazines, browsing blogs, or even surfing YouTube for the most fresh ideas and trends. It’s important to keep up with what’s going on in the world so that you have plenty of ideas in your brain to create with. Remember – you have to build up your creative juices continually and consistently. Creativity is a muscle that requires constant exercise!
Second, know your clients’ sensibilities. We always talk about how important it is to understand the brief and know our client’s challenges. But it’s equally important to know our client’s style. Look for clues that tell you which trends might resonate with them: pay attention to their office design, their brand’s look and feel; look at the clothes they wear or the cars they drive, and when you get a chance for casual conversation talk to them about their personal interests. All these things will tell you about their likes and dislikes. Also remember that design is subjective. It’s tough to sell a BMW to an Audi person.
Lastly, pick your battles. You likely have a lot of clients. Don't overthink things! For some clients, what they really want is a variation on last year’s theme. Instead of forcing your clients to be innovative, why not try doing a great execution of an existing or enhanced idea. You can save your creative steam for those clients that you know will appreciate your best efforts!
At the end of the day, what’s wrong with giving the client what they want? In fact, it is the most important part of the job.

Patrick Larsen is chief creative officer of Pico Singapore


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