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Confessions of an MKP Creative Director | MKP communications inc.

By Jeff Keller, Creative Director

“What are you going to wear?” I ask my design partner Nick as soon as I hear about the meeting.

“Black,” says Nick. “I always wear black.”

“I was thinking about a jacket and tie,” I say nervously.

“Too formal. Go with a vest. You’re a vest guy.”

“What about pants?”

“What about ‘em?”

“You wearing them?”

“Well,” says Nick, “it’s a Zoom meeting.”

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At MKP, brand meetings with a client are some of the most intriguing, most anticipated meetings on our calendar. Whether it’s a brand introduction from a new client or a brand update from an existing one, these meetings are different. The agendas are more open-ended, the focus more aspirational. We spend our time talking about feelings and moods instead of the usual bottom-line topics. Strange to say, it brings back all kinds of memories from my youthful dating days, with agency and client filling the roles of two very earnest but awkward teens trying to find ways to connect with each other. So, I thought it would be fun to dust off a few of the old dating rules I learned through painful trial and error over the years, to demonstrate some of the odd similarities the two experiences share.

Rule #1: Don’t talk about yourself too much.

Nothing’s worse than being on a date with someone who drones on about himself – or an agency that spends more time talking than listening. At MKP, we always bring the focus back to your company’s brand – where it’s been, where it’s heading, what you love about it and what you want to change.  An agency that spends too much time talking about past clients is like a date who’s fixated on past relationships. Get over it! Focus on the relationship you’re beginning. This is the one that’s important.

Rule #2: Establish your do’s and don’ts.

Do you like sushi or not? Scary movies or not? Roller coasters or not? In relationships, answers to certain questions tend to be black and white. Same for most corporate brands. Some are pro-tagline, others avoid them like the plague.  Some love warm, people-focused photography, others demand abstractions, or icons, or no photography at all. One of our most important tasks in exploring brand is to make sure we understand which boundaries are flexible and which aren’t, so we don’t get slapped in the face at the end of a bruising roller coaster ride, metaphorically speaking.

Rule #3: Be ready for the good times and the bad.

When your dinner reservation gets lost or the beach weather turns stormy, how do the two of you react? Sometimes you learn more about each other when something goes wrong than when everything goes right. The same is true of brands. As merger/change communications specialists, we frequently need to convey the kinds of messages not everyone wants to hear. And a brand expression that stands up for impacted customers, in word and in deed, is one of the hallmarks of a brand standard that been clearly thought out and articulated for all audiences. We’ll make sure it’s part of your brand agenda if it isn’t there already.

Rule #4: Find a way to grow together.

In good relationships, both people grow to become better than they were separately. Same with your company and your agency. For many clients, the brand is a fully defined, static sets of standards and guidelines, and we’re there to learn the rules. But every agency has something to add, particularly in graphic domains like direct mail, where graphic guidelines are frequently less fully defined than they are in other forms of print. If you can go into your brand meeting with the attitude that both participants have something unique to add, it opens the door to fresh perspectives -- and through this creative give-and-take process, you’ll find that your brand could benefit considerably.

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“So Nick, what did you think of the meeting? This could work!

 I really think this could work!”

“It was just one meeting,” says Nick. “Don’t go head over heels again, OK?

“Let’s see if they call us back.”

“Well, you know where I’ll be…”

“I know, I know, waiting for the phone to ring!”

MKP communications inc. is a New York City-based communications company specializing in financial services marketing and merger/change communication.