"Different?" Words with subjective definitions can lead to communication challenges

By Jenny Orr on March 3rd, 2011

“Different” to a healthcare client and “Different” to a creative agency can mean two very different things.As a creative, I get very excited when a client says they want something “different.” I think, “oh I can give you different alright!” But then I have to calm myself down and realize that what I think is just outside of the box may be way outside of the box for the healthcare  technology or life sciences industry. That one word can cause hours, sometimes days of wasted time. When a client says they want something different, it’s our job to ask “different to what you have now or different from your competitors?” and “on a scale from 1-10, how different?”

Over the last year I’ve had several clients say they want something different and they “like the apple site” all in the same breath. Then everyone jumps on the same bandwagon and nobody’s different any more.

Another word that needs clarification is “inexpensive.” When a client wants something “inexpensive,” the creative’s first thought is usually “darn, but ok, I’ll keep it simple.” But then you do something “simple” and often they love it, but sometimes they’re underwhelmed. For instance, say we get a creative brief for a direct mail piece and the client says they want something “inexpensive.” We immediately think postcard, but to some clients an “inexpensive” mail piece might just mean that it isn’t a 3d customized promotional item in a box.

In other words, we could still do something outside of the standard postage rate size, could still do an interesting die-cut, still use an interesting paperstock, etc! So again, clarification is needed up front to make the creative process go smoothly and to have a happy client in the end. Plus, you have to think, if your marketing piece doesn’t get noticed and doesn’t elevate your brand, and you don’t get any business out of it in the end, then the postcard really was more “expensive” than the pop-up, glow in the dark, embossed and foiled mailer!

Check out some of the direct mail pieces that Dodge has produced which are fairly “inexpensive”...or are they?There are an infinite number of words such as these that need clarification: “animated,” “colorful,” “professional,” “conservative,” “dynamic,” etc... So it’s all about clarifying and asking questions and getting on the same page. Of course, it’s also our job as the creative agency to advise our healthcare clients on just how “colorful” or “animated” they might want their professional brand to be. It’s not always an easy task to put your own personal taste aside and focus on what’s right for the target audience, but that’s another post.