Are we trying to sell oranges when our clients really need apples?

June 17, 2017











During a lively debate recently, a friend of mine proffered up “that too many times, agencies try to sell clients oranges, when what what they really need is apples”.


We had been discussing the sense of achievement brought about by making innovation and design real and getting beyond the drawing board, hence his fruit analogy.


Being a product designer by trade, he was constantly frustrated by the process of innovation within the agencies he had freelanced at. Often they had great insights and consumer trends, but lacked any understanding of the process of making, therefore unable to deliver tangible solutions that would deliver real value. So much so, he decided not only to start taking more control of the whole process, but create his own brand, one that required him to create, build, market and deliver the end product.


And though it has been a hugely challenging journey for him, he has learnt a lot about what it means to be both a client and a creative.


Not many of us have access to this unique perspective, but by eradicating the knowledge gap between client and creative, he was truly able to appreciate the need for both ambition and reality in what he set out to create. 


And though I’m sure his instincts as a creative, were to be as differentiated and as far reaching in his thinking as possible, the realities of budget, manufacturing and time to market, meant as a brand owner, he needed to be smart about his approach. After all, it was his money at stake and what better motivation for getting it right.


His oranges and apples quote made me smile. It reminded me, that too often, we (the creative community) don’t listen to and understand the real needs and capabilities of our clients. In our passion to create unique and truly differentiated propositions, we sometimes don’t fully appreciate that we are one part of a bigger business ecosystem, where making and distributing is as important as the idea itself. Therefore selling in an orange as opposed to an apple (despite both being fruit) can have big ramifications.


Design has the capacity to create incredible value, but without understanding the greater context of our clients businesses, it can be an incredibly expensive and wasteful use of our clients time and budget, not to mention the blight on a hard won relationship.


How many times have you been presented (or presented) an idea that just isn’t possible, or has had to be compromised so much it no longer resembles the reason it was loved in the first place. Never mind the weeks and months spent creating, and of course the budget in getting there.


Too often we develop strong relationships with marketing, but fail to fully connect with the teams responsible for actually implementing the ‘thing’ (product, packaging etc). By allowing ourselves to truly collaborate, we can develop a more creative and efficient journey to success.


By working closely with all aspects of our clients business, from marketing to manufacturing, we can demonstrate a clear understanding of what’s really possible early on, presenting ideas and concepts that are technically well informed and prototypes, no matter how basic, that start to bring the idea to life in the real world. 


Innovative design thinking is not only the result of actionable insights, but also a thorough understanding of a clients ambition and their capability to meet it (or not).


And of course if an orange really is the thing they need, what better way to argue that an apple is no longer the answer! 

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