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A Branding Guide for Small Businesses

6. Listen. Analyze. Then, react.

Jeremy, a new account rep that would later become a good friend, called me during the day. “I have a meeting tomorrow with a new client and I’m going to bring you along. I want you to come with three ideas locked and loaded and blow him away.“


As much as I was flattered by Jeremy‘s faith in my creativity, I explained, “That’s not how this works.“ 

Good creative comes after doing a lot of listening. I will have a face-to-face meeting with your new client and I can almost guarantee you big ideas will come during that meeting. Jeremy continued to insist that I show up with ideas and I explained further. “If I come with three brilliant ideas, no matter how creative they are, if they are not in line with the client’s needs and goals, we are wasting each other’s time and resources. 


“Just because it’s a great concept, doesn’t mean it’s a great concept for your client.“  


As predicted, at the meeting, even though we had a huge obstacle, the client was a bail bondsman and wanted to make light of drinking and driving which I would never do and management would frown upon, obviously, we came away with a very effective concept that resulted in success for the client. 


I was able to shift the humor away from making light of the very serious problem, to lampooning his potential clients who have difficulty with honesty and self-awareness. 


I still ruffled the feathers of management because at the end of the commercial was a photo of a man who had been pulled over by the police but was flipping “the bird“ to the cops and laughing maniacally. “The bird“ was gridded out so it was unrecognizable, but in context, you know what he was doing.  


I was called on carpet in a conference call more than once over this decision. I assured my bosses the client was running his commercial on channels where this was the least offensive content compared to any of the programming. “We’re not running this on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel,“ I assured them. 

The client called Jeremy and told him the day the commercial dropped a policeman friend of his rolled up next to him at the stoplight. When he looked over, the cop flipped him “the bird”, laughed, and drove off. That’s when he knew my concept and his new commercial were 100% effective.

The finished ad is below.


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