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Feedback; the test of a client-agency relationship

The development phase of any design project can uncover how solid the client-agency relationship really is. And whilst I’ve always worked in agencies that welcomed the collaboration of the design process, I know this isn’t always the case. Too often over the years I have met clients who have talked about their previous agency’s inability to listen and act on their feedback and from the other side an agency unhappy with a client’s prescriptive feedback style.

So what are my key take outs, from an agency perspective, that I think would help those marketers new to giving feedback, to get better, more consistent results from their agency:

  1. As a client you don’t need to solve the problem


    Marketers, account directors and strategists don’t think like creatives do. Often our mistake is to try and come up with a solution whereas our role is to focus on identifying the problem.

  2. Do store visits during the development phase

    
A quick mock up placed on shelf next to the competitive set will give you a real indicator of how the brand and communication hierarchy works.

  3. Have a conversation


    Emails are important to ensure all the points have been captured but not to agree how the development or nuance of a design should progress. Continual dialogue builds relationships and avoids misunderstandings.

  4. Don’t always focus on the negative

    
It’s as important to focus on the positive ‘on brand’, ‘on brief’ aspects of any design as well as the assets that don’t meet the criteria.

  5. Be honest

    
Sometimes clients use the design process to create the brief which can lead to routes that push brands in uncomfortable directions, which are often easily dismissed in a meeting. Having an honest conversation of what has been learned can allow the agency to appreciate the journey of where to go next.

I was worried when I was writing this article that it was perhaps a tad pedestrian. However, on reflection I realise that it’s when we don’t do the simple things consistently projects can derail. By creating opportunities to continually have a dialogue about design, with both parties bringing their area of expertise to the process, both client and agency can then focus on doing what’s right for the brand.

Claire Riley

Founder & Strategy Directory, The Mill Brand Design Agency, Melbourne

Contact Claire if you would like to take advantage of her 20 plus years in the branding and packaging industry. With experience in the UK and Australia working on consumer goods brands, from cheese to gin and everything in between, Claire is passionate about creating unique brand assets that tell stories and increase the bottom line.

Rob Riley