For smaller companies, it can be a real pain if marketing materials reflect the owner’s character; it can make it impossible for the company to grow, or can explain a recent downturn. While for such companies this is a personal pain, for larger companies and multinationals a completely different mechanism is at play. Rather, it is the defence of reputational honour that is the biggest challenge for professionals, and while in a smaller company setting it is one person and often their family who has to fight for success, in the case of large companies, it is usually a whole board of directors that has to face a counter-opinion.
And we work hard
Perhaps this is the best way to summarise the basic problem for larger companies when it comes to negotiating on brand, product concept, design, and other issues. While many businesses try to build all the strategically important areas of business development within their own network, and even put a lot of effort into ensuring that these areas communicate well with each other, it is clear that if they are going to make a really big strategic move, they need to bring in external help. After all, it is not worth paying professionals with the market research or brand strategy knowledge that a company needs every two or three years. After all, these professionals are not cheap labour, so maintaining them during a period when they are not working is almost impossible. If only because the real professional wants to work and develop professionally, and it is obviously very difficult to do so if there is not enough work to provide them with that. So these specialists with unique knowledge in a specific field will sooner or later leave the company and either work freelance or set up a company dedicated to that one specialist field, but with a very deep knowledge of it. This also means that they receive a growing number of ongoing assignments in this field, often from a very different clientele to the outside world, and their specific experience is therefore far inferior to that of professionals working in a single firm. When it comes to a segment such as marketing, believe it or not, it is the sheer human factor that causes the greatest tensions between clients and professionals. When it comes to redesigning a company’s logo, for example, or designing a new design, or even when an existing company wants to launch a new product, it is important to have the support of professionals who do this on a regular basis and who have dozens of orders a year. Of course, this creates serious tensions with internal marketers, directors and often the CEO themself, as they clearly have to face the fact that they are stuck at a certain level. This mirror creates fear in the employee, as a bad translation could easily lead to the conclusion that they are not working as hard or are no longer needed. And while this is true in this particular case, it is certainly not true in general!
The world is increasingly about accepting others and understanding differences, but translating this into business, in a really serious way, is still a long way off for most companies. We tend to accept what is not so far away and proudly declare that we are open-minded. The first step to not starting with ourselves when it comes to the company brand is to accept others. Accepting that a professional knows certain things better than I do. Of course, we test their knowledge, we are always looking for logical hiccups, but it is important not to kill the development. In many cases, business development programmes end in a way that at this point, although there is no break, the business developer loses loyalty and motivation towards the partner and the “you know what, do it your way” mentality kicks in. At this point, it is safe to wash your hands of the process at the end, as the client has tampered with the process. But the real client, even if at the cost of testing, accepts what the competent specialist they are paying for says, and the specialist doesn’t give up at the first inappropriate question. Just as this point can be the start of a slow break-up, it can also be the start of a long-lasting serious professional relationship where mutual respect becomes a fundamental principle.