I have told many industry beginners over the years: “in this business you spend a lot of time in other peoples’ living rooms.” What I mean is that from our perspective, a small agency working within a variety of verticals, we walk into a set of interpersonal dynamics that first needs to be seen, inquired about and understood. Consider that many of our clients are not only business owners and operators, they are often related to each other.
The blend of healthcare, education, manufacturing, real-estate development, consumer product and corporate brand work that we do here at TWIST can, at first blush, make your head spin. We work in emerging sectors as well, such as cannabis and cryptocurrency. How is it possible to have methodologies of discovery for so many different scenarios? Well, it’s not.
At TWIST we approach our work from a core set of values and a set of fundamentals that we believe a brand requires in order to meet our Fearless Thinkers’ criteria of: Instill Confidence, Influence Culture and Inspire Devotion. We don’t have a multitude of methodologies⎯we only have one.
Beware of the phrase: Think Outside the Box
If you are a business owner, marketing director or CMO you have spent time in meetings where you were asked to “think outside the box”. This phrase is the cause of a lot of misperceptions of the creative trade because to “think outside the box” is to forget about the natural boundaries, barriers and challenges that the client is facing. Every client that we work with and every project that we work on begins with understanding parameters.
Before we dive deep, we set the frame. This aids our collaborative relationship with clients and delivers a result that has a metric we can all measure by.
So how do you build boundaries around a seemingly intangible service like brand? It typically works like this: risk tolerance + capacity / time & budget (over) values. For many clients this leaves a fairly small box to work within and as someone once said “necessity is the mother of invention.” Creativity compressed into the proper form is a diamond, a thing of beauty, value and meaning all rolled into one. A timeless and precious thing that is handed from one generation to the next.
With boundaries clearly articulated our brand strategy team begins the dive into brand and we always approach it the same way. Our purpose is not to gather the raw data (that’s the place for the marketing and media team), it is rather to discover the human perception and gain a true appreciation for a client’s impact on their customers, their industry, their teams and their community.
If you want to get to know a customer’s business, you have to talk to the customers that selected them, stuck with them, fired them and could have but never hired them.
There are all kinds of ways to evaluate a company’s metrics. At TWIST we layer our partner’s quantitative research about the brand on top of very candid 15-minute conversations with current, former, perspective customers. They typically have no problem filling in the nuance of small barriers that are hard to see but prevent consideration or selection.
One important thing to note for all business owners and marketers is that the thing we hear the most often during these customer conversations is “I didn’t know they did that.” And this is always a shock to our clients. The most important thing to take away about knowing customers is they only know a small fraction of what you tell them. They have businesses to run. They know you only for what they last hired you to do. This is universally true across the board for 99% of service organizations.
It is easier to lift the logs from the river than to redirect its flow.
It is because of this lack of awareness that I implore business owners to think about how their business has progressed and overlay that on their longest accounts. A strong and consistent communications strategy with current customers and even employees is the quickest path to increased sales. Your current customers have already paid for their own acquisition costs. If you clearly communicate improvements and follow up with discussions that process will, no doubt, result in account consolidation opportunities.
What do we ask?
A final brand document contains simply expressed versions of deep insights that can adjust in language to speak to each audience.
We begin with one question in three parts: Who are you, What do you do & Why does it matter? Beyond that we cannot disclose the actual questions that we ask as our process is a trade secret, but in the end, we deliver a brand platform that takes into consideration and maps a brand’s place in a competitive environment and clearly articulates a positioning that is ownable, defensible and most importantly, scalable.
Ultimately, it’s candor that drives insight and inspires language and you can’t arrive at these conclusions if you don’t have direct conversations with key decision makers. We have seen these conversation result in additional revenue, but more importantly they serve as a level set foundation from which to grow together.
About Mike Ozan:
Michael Ozan is the Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of TWIST Creative. Michael and his wife, Connie, founded the business in 2000 — hence the name, referring to the merging of two creative disciplines; he, a writer, and Connie, a designer. As Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Michael acts as business leader and brand consultant: tasked with creative concept development, organization naming and product naming and launch, as well as developing branding and communication strategies. He works closely with clients — and his team — to identify key messages and central themes, map communications creation and strategic release to maximize return on investment.