The Pink Elephant

Just over a year ago, my team made a big decision. After 3 years of pretty well strictly being a development shop called upon by larger agencies, we put on our big boy pants and declared, “We’re an agency, too, dammit!” With that, our focus shifted, our confidence grew, and we were off.

Armed with an ideation that we were going to re-invigorate the market with our fresh approach, we won some big contracts and were well on our way. Then, something happened - our carefully cultivated strategy wasn’t quite as embraced as being pure genius. What gives? We spent weeks getting everything just right, and in one fell swoop it was pooh-poohed all over.

After brushing the dirt off of our bruised egos, we took a step back and re-assessed. When you boil it down, marketing is a consulting service. Clients hire us to advise them on everything from a small campaign to the planning and execution of their long term marketing strategy. We act as a sherpa, of sorts, their guide through the mountains.


Image Credit: Scientific American

We, as marketers, tend to understand what works and what dosen't, but clients understand their own industry better than we could ever imagine. What we need to do is marry the knowledge the client has of their industry with our own understanding of company stakeholders and goals to help map out effective campaigns and strategies.

Where we all struggle as human beings is when a request comes back that goes against every fiber of our moral being. I’m very likely exaggerating with those words, but throughout many projects comes a time where the client will introduce a pink elephant into the mix. The notorious pink elephant tends to come back in feedback - often around design.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

We’re focused primarily in the digital space, meaning we build websites. Our pink elephants are commonly a request for a gigantic hero image, often calling for as many rotating marketing banners as one could dream (as far as the eye can see, even), large social feeds (often a running list of links right back to the very website we’re building), and automatic pop-overs, just to name a few. Arguably, these aren’t terrible asks, but if we didn’t use them in our proposed designs, there’s probably a good reason why.

Okay, so what’s the point? What the pink elephant quickly taught us is that our role is to provide the client with the best advice possible, based on what we know and have researched.

When asked to go a different route (both small and large scale), we must be prepared to defend and explain why we made the choices we’d made. Sometimes, the client gets it and agrees. Other times, the point is taken, but the pink elephant is deemed too important to let go. At this stage, our job becomes taking that little fella and making him the most convincing and proud elephant this world has ever seen.

That is not meant to be facetious - I’m serious. Rather than angrily just slapping 100 elephants on the page and declaring the project a resounding failure, our role is to re-assess every angle with which we can look at adding the elephant to the mix, and find the most effective solution.

In the end, we're ordinary people. We don't know everything our clients know, and, because of this, we may not always consider all possible options. But when we work with an open mind and set our egos aside, the results tend to exceed what was first envisioned.

Creative Agency

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