Running a creative agency in Bangalore for 5 years teaches you a lot of things. Most important being: never fix a client meeting in Yelahanka at 10 AM. You could leave your house at 6 and still be late.
Jokes apart though, looking back at all these years of design, advertising and branding, we now know a lot we wish we’d known when we were just starting out.
When you’re building something of your own, it’s often hard to know where to stop. Limitless growth is always a possibility for any venture. For us, the early years were full of hectic days with the whole agency abuzz; each person on our 15-member team working on something brilliant and different. Each following through on their own ideas of what Brand X’s logo design needs or the characteristics that Brand Y’s typography could embody. It was chaotic, yes, but never full-on chaos.
However, gradually, there was a shift in how we perceived our work and our clients. When you have a huge agency working on dozens of clients, it becomes harder to cultivate meaningful relationships between them. This is how most traditional large-scale advertising agencies still do it, which is why brands feel the need to branch out and look for smaller teams where they wouldn’t get lost on a roster.
And this led us to change our approach; from a large team, we scaled down over time to just two creative directors working personally on every project.
A vendor-client relationship is inherently transactional: you give us a brief and a briefcase full of money, we give you a beautiful website/logo/TVC. The problem is that in a vendor-client relationship, the first thing we forget is what the brand needs. Sure, the clients can fill out a brief with what they think the brand needs and we can interpret what we think the brand needs, but mostly it isn’t as easy as that.
Figuring out what a brand needs is a collaborative process where you usually need to put yourself in the client’s shoes. You need to integrate with their team to see what makes them click. It’s lengthy, cumbersome, messy and something that most branding agencies neglect.
“What’s the point in spending a day at the client’s office?,” you might ask, “How does that help me design a beautiful logo?”
Well, ask any creative and they’ll tell you: the best work is honest. The best work feels true and makes you want to believe in it. Those insights of “what feels true” can only be gained in collaboration with the people who created the brand to begin with. From a branding or a creative agency, we’ve become consultants and all the work we do is born out of a partnership with our clients.
Think of a piece of art that you love. It could be anything. A movie, a song, a play, a book. Chances are, more than one person worked on it. Even a prodigal Grammy-Tony-Emmy-Pulitzer-MacArthur Grant winning genius like Lin-Manuel Miranda needed the musical expertise of Alex Lacamoire to help him arrange the music of Hamilton.
That’s what a team does. Each person is immeasurably valuable because of the expertise they bring in. In the previous section, we discussed how important it is to look at clients as our equals and partners. This section is about valuing their inputs.
Where our expertise lies in ideation and expression of creative thought, theirs lies in knowing their market, audience and product. When both of these worlds come together in harmony, that’s when we do great stuff. For example, in a short film we did for Wishberry, we were tasked with explaining how crowdfunding works to a general audience. Their expertise in knowing what they needed to communicate combined with our creative idea of treating the film as a cop questioning a young filmmaker led to this:
After countless projects across various industries, we realised what mattered to us, as a company. Doing focused and quality work with brands that understand the power of branding.
Which is why we make sure that both creative directors, work on every project, that we have a focused and process driven approach to our work and that we work with the best when it comes to implementing our ideas/strategies.
Stay small, but powerful. Pretty bold, isn’t it?