HOW ACTION-CENTRIC DESIGN CAN IMPROVE CLIENT-AGENCY RELATIONSHIPS
CEO & Partner
September 3, 2020
First, let’s start with the requisite client brief. Amarante spoke candidly and with humility on the inadequacies of most client briefs. One difficulty may lie in the RFP process which doesn’t always allow agency partners to challenge the thinking while bidding for projects. A brief, in many cases, is a hypothesis, a place to start a conversation. Consequently, it is more helpful when both parties are able to discuss and possibly rewrite the brief together while considering how internal and external teams can achieve project goals. Access and communication are key to working through the brief and aligning on budgets, timing, and overall expectations. Yet even so, design thinking is not merely following the brief and giving clients what they expect; it is just as important to challenge these expectations by incorporating consumer trends, provocative creativity, and category disruption to produce new ideas. Our Pointing North methodology allows us to do just that and gives everyone a seat at the design table. It’s in our DNA to deliver project objectives while also upending or reimagining them from different perspectives.
To succeed in today’s fast-moving consumer-product markets, brands and their design partners need to act more like entrepreneurs—all the time. They need to think fast, embrace experimentation, and take value from failure. In other words, they need to supplement their professional experience and technical intelligence with two key things: the creativity of design thinking and the agility of an action-centric process versus a linear one.
In the design world, there are two different approaches to process: the linear Rational Model and the agile Action-Centric Model (which is equivalent to our Pointing North methodology). The Rational Model is a plan-driven process or sequence of events that
Alternatively, the more agile Action-Centric Model is the future of both agency-client collaboration and the creative culture within agencies themselves. We know it works because we have been practicing and honing this approach for many years. Whereas the Rational Model stresses prior research and accepted knowledge, this model is based on an empiricist philosophy of building knowledge through sensory experience and using abstract thinking to arrive at tangible artifacts such as comps, mock-ups
In today’s market, there are various business factors and external influences that affect decision-making. For example, trends, brand attributes, consumer behavior, and competitive landscape are already in our lens. But there are many more ever-shifting influences beyond our immediate field of view. For instance, how well is the company (and its stock) performing? How does that shift economic priorities, sales forecasts, current inventory, staffing? Have there been any recent regulatory mandates or product recalls? These outside influences create an environment of constant change that a siloed linear approach cannot adapt to so they’re often ignored, whereas an Action-Centric Model continuously incorporates new data to refine the business
Every project stakeholder wants to be heard, their ideas realized in some form. Adopting an Action-Centric Model can help ensure all perspectives are considered and revive the client-agency relationship. However, embracing this approach takes more than lip service: it requires courage, time, and both parties working together. Agencies need to manage continuous change effectively and build agility into their engagement strategy and budget. With more open lines of communication, agencies can also stop complaining about a “difficult” client because they are better equipped to understand each other while exceeding expectations. Conversely, clients need value and ROI while still ensuring their agencies are operating profitably. Rely on the methodology, stay flexible, and rest assured that an agile approach is well worth the effort when it comes to growing brands.
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