The client & agency relationship: A foundation for success

There are moments of magic when creating a new brand. They appear at pivotal points in a brand development project that can be felt by both agency and client teams. It’s not the kind of magic that’s mysterious or puzzling. It’s the kind that’s sparked when the components of the brand wholly reflect the strategy from which they are built. And that’s at the heart of the magic — a foundation of rigorous strategy developed with deep client and agency collaboration.

There are plenty of whitepapers and articles on brand strategy methodologies and best practices. What’s seldom discussed is how agencies and clients can effectively work together to achieve successful outcomes. In our experience, a highly collaborative engagement leads to brands that endure. We’ve outlined a few of the ways we make magic happen with our clients.

Listening & Learning

Throughout the brand development process, our role is as partners, guides, and experts to help our clients realize their vision while balancing the opportunities and challenges in the market. And our clients play a similar role as they share their business goals and objectives.

Listen first. From the start, we look to identify the key stakeholders and make sure they’re in the room from the very beginning.  We listen to how they think about their customers, the company, their industry, and the world. Their vision drives the development of the brand strategy and is often the common thread that ties each stage of the brand development together. 

Curiosity is key. Asking the right questions to understand where clarity, information gaps, or misalignment exist helps avoid missteps. At times, clients may come to the table with assumptions or beliefs that need to be challenged or tested. It’s in our clients’ best interest that we probe and do the research that ensures factual inputs are what drive the concepts for brand strategy.

Aligning & Evaluating

Throughout brand development, our team collects an incredible amount of information that’s synthesized for the client to make critical decisions that become big ideas. How this information is interpreted and accepted has a direct effect on the strategic and creative work. It’s also a time when clients can develop a closer relationship with the work as they are central to how the brand is brought to life.

Language learning. Communication is hard. Even if we speak the same language, words can have very different meanings for each of us. This is especially true when translating brand strategy to verbal and visual identities. Starting with creative territories, we’re able to help our clients bring the strategy to life through metaphor, analogy, and storytelling. As we dive into the identity work, we may create a visual language that fully defines these concepts into the tangible. When we’re on the same page semantically, client and agency teams can create true breakthroughs and better evaluate the work across phases.

Consensus building. At Northbound, our strategists are expert facilitators and interactive workshops are a critical component of our approach. Workshops require client participation in curated exercises that are based on project-specific outputs. Rather than a presentation or Q&A meeting, these working sessions answer key brand questions and ensure decision maker alignment. The resulting concepts then inform subsequent phases of the brand’s development. These experiences unite the client team and make it more likely that they’ll be empowered to operationalize the work within the business.

At Northbound, we set the tone for a collaborative engagement from the start with our clients. This way our mutual investment in the process achieves, and often surpasses, our clients' goals and objectives.

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