How to have satisfied clients long term

Jun 16, 2023

Tesco probably didn’t initially realise the wider ramifications of using the Clubcard name, so may have been satisfied with its advertising agency.


However, clients who are initially satisfied with a service can later become dissatisfied once they learn more about branding…


This happened to me.


Nearly 10 years ago a designer acquaintance approached me to offer her “brand refresh” service.


My logo had been professionally designed and I was happy enough with it. But, as we’d added various elements to the logo, such as a bull symbol and tagline, I thought a designer’s touch might be useful to harmonise all the disparate parts.


I assumed the designer would tweak my existing designs and change the symbol as she’d expressed reservations about it. However, she did a much more extensive job.


She scrapped the visual identity I’d been using for nearly 10 years, changing my tagline, colours, and replacing the logo with a completely new one. And she didn’t give me a symbol even though I’d said it was important to me to have a “visual hammer”.


At the time I assumed she knew best and deferred to her expertise, believing she had insights into the visual world that justified making such radical changes. I was satisfied with the work.


In retrospect, it’s surprising she did all this work even though I was ready to pay her the same fee to simply tweak my existing designs! That would have presumably involved less work, but more importantly, it would have kept me as a satisfied client long term.


As it was, the fact that she completely changed the visual identity by which people recognised my business, was something I later regretted.


When I learnt more about branding, specifically the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s evidence-based research on distinctiveness I better understood the role of the visual identity. So, I wished I hadn’t let her make such radical changes.


I’m now a dissatisfied client because she didn’t do what I asked her to do. She ignored my request for a visual hammer so that I had to find another designer to tweak the logo to add one. And she provided no explanations for the radical changes she introduced.


Visual identity is closely bound up with intellectual property and is something the Brand Tuned program covers in detail.


Designers who undergo training emerge from courses curated by well-known designers that focus entirely on differentiation and positioning – effectively they’re taught marketing. These courses say nothing about the visual identity.


I know because I’ve attended the courses myself.


It’s no wonder that designers assume it’s acceptable to do what this designer did to my brand and chuck out the identity a business has been using.


Clients may be happy with the services they receive because they don’t know that disturbing consumers’ memory structures could result in loss of recognition for the brand.


The individual elements of identity are ‘designations of origin’. They have a special job to do. If well-chosen and consistently used, they could become extremely valuable IP representing the value of a brand.


The visual identity is the equivalent of the face of an individual. Just as we wouldn’t have plastic surgery to radically transform our appearance and make ourselves unrecognisable, it’s misguided to completely change the face of a business once it’s progressed beyond the very early years.


Designers need to use their creativity to build on and develop what already exists. A change in positioning shouldn’t involve a complete change of visual identity because a brand’s positioning might change several times during its lifetime as it better understands the market or tries to differentiate itself.


Small businesses may not know much about the role of visual identity so will welcome a fresh new look or new name. They may even seek out such changes because they don’t realise their business could be less successful or could even fail simply for using a generic or near generic name or having a change of identity.


People assume their designer or agency knows all they need to know about branding, including about the IP aspects of it. It’s not an unreasonable assumption given that IP is part and parcel of business design.


I know designers and marketers who say they don’t need to learn about IP themselves because they work with lawyers. Usually what that means is that they involve lawyers to do clearance searches and register trademarks.


The only way it would be possible to leave IP to lawyers is if you worked closely with a brand lawyer, involving them in the actual choice of name and designs. However, it’s a rare designer or marketer that involves lawyers in all the branding decisions.


Not taking account of brand protection when making branding choices, means IP doesn’t form part of the consideration set. That’s how mistakes like Clubcard happen.


IP is an intrinsic part of branding. It’s a tool of the trade that needs to be mastered by anyone providing a branding or digital marketing service.


I place a high value on providing excellence to clients. That involves getting training to fill any gaps in my knowledge.


The more you learn the more you earn.


Getting a rounded view of branding or brand protection is about widening and broadening ones expertise rather than purely staying in one lane. For example, I’ve learnt about marketing and design as these disciplines impact brands.


Having broader knowledge equips me to deliver a more holistic service to clients. The fact that I understand what’s involved to create a brand means I can deliver better IP support.


Designers, marketers, and commercial lawyers who learn the IP principles that impact business design would stand out among their peers and help raise standards. In my experience, it would be very easy to distinguish themselves by adding IP to their skillset.


I’d recommend that business leaders in every company learn what branding involves by enrolling on the Brand Tuned program. Your business would be better placed to manage its brand, and to assess the quality of any service provider you’re taking on…


Brand Tuned is the only training course that equips business leaders, designers, marketers, and commercial lawyers to develop holistic knowledge and skills. No other course teaches the skills you’re missing so you get a 360-degree perspective on brand management.


To have life-long clients who return to us again and again when they need the kind of service we provide involves delivering excellence objectively speaking.


In branding, excellence invariably includes delivering a service grounded in IP. It’s virtually impossible to provide a branding service and NOT give IP advice, because so many aspects of branding involve IP.


That’s why law firms like Mishcon de Reya are seeing remarkable growth in a very short period after establishing their own brand management companies. They are exceeding their own expectations.


This doesn’t surprise me because clients of traditional agencies don’t currently get the most important aspect of brand management covered! IP contains the value of a brand, so a brand management service that includes the missing IP dimension better addresses client needs.


What’s happening at the top end of the market will sooner or later filter down to the small business end of the market as marketers and designers wake up to the importance of getting proper IP training.


Without training in IP,  designers and marketers risk passing on incorrect IP information to their clients without even realising it. It’s easily done when the IP information you learn is based on the myths and misconceptions that dominate the subject in society.


To ensure your IP knowledge is based on truth rather than on myth, enrol on the Brand Tuned program in June and benefit from the Brand Tuned special offer.


Remember if you’re among the first 20 to enrol, you’ll qualify for a one-to-one consultation with me to use as you wish. That alone nearly covers the entire cost of the course.