How often do you hear agency folk describe their ideal client as ‘brave’? The industry seems to be on the hunt for these rare gems who are willing to overcome their fears and put full creative control in the hands of the agency and let them run with it. However there is something fundamentally wrong with the term ‘brave’. Why should any client have to overcome fear before creating something amazing?
In 2003, England Rugby Team Manager Sir Clive Woodward led England to their first World Cup Victory. The world’s media was itching to know his secret. How did England finally pull together and beat the All Blacks? To him, it was simple: A prepared mindset. He got the team to mentally rehearse scenarios that could happen in the game so when the moment arrived, they’d all think correctly under pressure. In that moment the team was energised and ready to respond effectively. He got rid of the notion fans should settle for ‘brave old England,’ instead creating world beaters that got 85,000 people on their feet screaming them on.
Successful sporting culture is often used for learning in advertising. Sport is an arena where legendary moments are achieved and where famous memories are etched in history forever. A major brand refresh isn’t that different. Huge investment goes in to deliver a winning moment - a big bang to lay brand foundations for years to come, potentially even decades. Apple’s 1984 only aired once, yet that ad still reverberates in culture today.
At the end of the day, we all want our clients to go for creative greatness. To take them to new heights. But, are we really all priming them for the challenge and getting ready for success by asking them to put fear to one side? No. If we did, our clients would invest that bit more. Campaigns would be brilliant most of the time. Creative agencies would be more valuable.
"Are you nervous?"
And every single time, athletes had the same response: "No. I'm excited."
Sinek observed that the athletes had been primed to change their mindset about nervousness. "They had learned to interpret what their body was telling them not as nerves, but as excitement." To your body, the signs of nervousness and the signs of excitement are the same. Elite athletes chose to embrace the excitement and prepare themselves for success.
Sinek then applied this to his approach to business. If he felt nervous he would tell himself it was excitement. He retrained his mind, looking for reasons to be excited, preparing himself to change the narrative and achieve greatness.
This is what agencies should be doing for brands. We should not be asking them to overcome fear but preparing them to feel excited about what’s to come - expected or unexpected.
This isn’t the 1960’s and we can’t assume that Don Draper-like we will sell creative change in one presentation. Big change feels uncomfortable – and that’s good. To build confidence we need more creative energy in every exchange, in every meeting. The entire agency team has to bring infectious enthusiasm. We need to coach the client to go for greatness, so that they want to make it count in the same way that we do. Our job is to prime the organisation by vision setting, by practising mental scenarios for when to focus creative energy and to identify energy killing behaviours.
If we can coach a winning mindset, fear or nervousness won’t come into it. Excitement will enhance performance and provide the creative energy to psyche the client up for the game of their lives. So, please, let’s stop asking clients to be brave.