(A guest blog post written by Beckie Manley, Founder + Idea Chief of Fierce Strategy +Creative, for Black Sheep Agency, Houston, Texas.)
The answer is no. But yes.
One of the questions new clients always love to ask in that first meeting is: “Do you have any prior experience in our particular field?” In the early days of my career, this question would easily intimidate me, especially if my answer was no. It doesn’t any more, because after 20+ years of experience, I know with confidence the secret to success with great brands, products, services and ideas: a highly strategic creative process.
One of my favorite things about the creative process is that it’s constantly evolving. It’s a living, breathing magical force that we are relentlessly committed to each time we undertake a new project at our shop. Every time we push its boundaries, when we study more, learn more, experience more, interact more, ask more and allow the process to change us and make us and our work more meaningful, it surprises us with some unexpected learning. It’s part of what keeps this business new and fresh and exciting every day.
But as metamorphic as the process can be, the fundamentals always remain the same—another of my favorite things about the creative process. When the moment comes, the moment when we are set free by our clients to wonder and imagine and strategize and create, we know just where to start. We know what questions to ask first and how to be open to new ones. We know how to listen and be insatiably curious, and we know there’s more to know, which is why we believe so deeply in research and in doing our homework first. We’re not doing work that is simply clever for clever’s sake; instead, we’re disciplined. We roll up our sleeves first.
And we love every minute of it.
We taste test the client’s salsas and meet the passionate artists behind the secret recipes in their kitchens before we start to brainstorm names for their products. We visit the ranch in Austin and have a true cowboy breakfast around the campfire before we attempt to write copy about an authentic Texas-style barbecue sauce. (I have never had coffee so delicious!) We put on steel-toed boots and visit the plant where fresh vegetables come in at dawn from local farms, get flash-frozen to seal in all that garden freshness and get trucked out to grocery stores later that afternoon. We put on a hard hat and drive out to the oil wells and meet the guys who work on the rigs seven days a week. We listen as they tell their stories in the scorching 100-degree heat before we ever pretend to understand and capture into words the pride and love in their voices for their work, their company and their country. We try new shrimp recipes in our beer and brainstorming sessions; we do guest appearances in college classrooms; we eat in college cafeterias and interact with our clients’ apps, websites, products and services every chance we get.
We totally dig this stuff. And we get how brand immersion—really, truly, madly immersing yourself into your clients’ brands and the research that is available to you—matters. It all gets you to the good stuff that endears consumers and motivates action and sometimes changes the world.
As an agency, we don’t have knowledge about every product, every service, every field or every brand. And we don’t pretend to. But what we do have is a thorough understanding of the creative process and a complete confidence in its results. We’ve tested it over and over again and it works. Every. Single. Time. Bring us a new product, service or idea and we will apply our proven methods to it and create meaningful strategies, messaging, creative and connections on its behalf. A few years ago we didn’t know everything there was to know about shrimp or dinosaurs, but after building meaningful relationships with our clients and applying the creative process to their brands and working with our research partners to gain new insights, we know more about this protein and these museum-worthy creatures than anyone on the planet.
It works. We believe in it. We practice it and we’re committed to it. And we love to see the positive impact the creative process has on our clients’ behalf every day.