Marcus Fischer Chief Strategy Officer, Managing Partner at Carmichael Lynch
They said they understood the campaign, could envision the potential and see how it could change their business. Still, the answer was NO. The reason? Because it was too different. It would cause too much change. I remember trying to sell a campaign idea that I believed in my bones was the right thing for a brand to do. We had put everything into the idea. It was bold. It was big. It would help restore a declining brand to its former leadership position. I was heartbroken when the highest level of management said NO.
Crestfallen, we left the building. My (former) boss said, “That was a very smart move by the client to say NO.” I was stopped in my tracks. How could he say that? How can NO be a smart answer? His response, “Nobody ever got fired for saying NO.”
My response: “Maybe, but nobody ever won by saying NO. You have to say YES to win.”
Working in marketing, it is our job to sell ideas. We sell hope, possibilities and the idea that creativity can meet and exceed business objectives. We believe the power of a creative idea can impact people’s attitudes, behavior and spending. It is our job to figure out what to say, where to say it and whom to say it to.
Great agencies can see beyond the ordinary, and brilliant creative work can inspire both brands and consumers.
BUT until a client says yes to an idea, it’s academic. Great marketing programs take courage. They take risks. I believe the single-most important person in the creation of any marketing program is the brave client who says YES. It is the hardest word for a client to say, and rightfully so. Saying yes is risky. Saying yes means you’re saying no to the familiar, traditional, established and best practices.
Playing it safe vs. risk-taking
If you look at the C-suite of most organizations, they’re made up of risk-takers. Rarely do you see high-level executives who have achieved their positions by playing it safe. Playing it safe is, well, safe. It is mediocre.
Playing it safe has the potential for incremental gain or loss. And, frankly, you’ll never be sure if your campaign caused it or not. The nuances of subtle shifts in your marketing may not be known for months.
Creativity has the ability to be an X factor. It has the ability to cause exponential growth. To be clear, it can also fail. Sometimes badly. Oftentimes, you’ll know almost instantly.
This level of anxiety isn’t for everyone. Creative-driven companies live it every day. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. Advertising agencies know that they will be judged on results. Incremental ideas leave a lot up to chance. The results may or may not have anything to do with your work. Big ideas, however, will either make you a success or a failure.
The power of an idea’s potential
Clients come to agencies for an outside perspective. If truly all they wanted or needed was someone to execute on their existing vision, they’d create an internal agency. Great brands realize they need that perspective, creativity and expertise.
In the end, success can be amplified. Failure can be corrected.
Failure doesn’t always mean getting fired. In fact, failing fast can oftentimes be a benefit. Take a risk, assess, make a correction. That’s being decisive; that’s being a leader.
All of the greatest marketing campaigns we celebrate were not born easily. It took a brave soul to say YES. Somebody did it. Somebody was willing to fight for an idea. To believe in the power of an idea’s potential.
I applaud every client who had the conviction, strength and vision to say YES.