Does Great Creative Sell Itself?

The answer is no. 

Landfills are filled with Foamcore storyboards and hard drives are chockablock full of great ideas that never saw the light of day.  No matter how awesome your work is, you’ve got to be able sell it.  Or else it will quickly be trashed.

I was talking about this the other day with my good friend Rene Hodges.  Rene brought up the story of how a talented young designer named Brandon Scharr sold her on the Charlotte Ad Club logo design.  It was one of the best and most unorthodox sales jobs ever. 

Rene said to me, “Remember years ago when I came to the agency to get you guys to design a new logo and identity package for the Charlotte Ad Club?”  I chuckled and said yes. 

“We sat down with Brandon Scharr and I briefed y’all on what I was looking for in this new identity,” Rene continued.  “We need something that’s gonna get the art directors, copywriters and designers to show up for our events.  We can get the account executives and the media folks to show up.  To get them, all we have to do is say we’re gonna open a bottle of wine.  But I want the hot, young, creative people to come to our parties.”

She said Brandon listened to her and then said, “OK, well, give me a couple of weeks and I’ll have some designs for you.”

She came back a couple of weeks later to the agency and Brandon was in the conference room with his feet up on the table, wearing combat boots.  She said to him, “Didn’t your mama raise you to know better than to put your feet on the table?”

“Yes,” he said, “but she’s not here right now.”

Then Brandon showed Rene about a dozen different logo designs.  She looked them over carefully and then Brandon asked, “Well, which one do you like?  She pointed at a couple of them and said she liked this one and that one. 

“You like those?”  Brandon said. 

“Yes, I do.” 

“Hmmm…” he replied. 

“Well, Brandon, which one do you like?” 

Brandon pointed to another one and said, “This one.  Without a doubt, this one is the best.” 

And Rene said, “Well, I really like these two over here better.  And if you combine the top part of this one with the bottom of this other one…” 

“Wait a minute, Rene,” Brandon interrupted.  “Please don’t come in here and tell me what you want and then tell me how to do it.  Do you go to Ruth’s Chris and order a bone-in-filet mignon and then go to the kitchen and tell them how to cook it?  I don’t think so.”

Brandon continued, “You said you wanted something for hot, young, creative people.”

Rene nodded yes.

“Well, Rene, you’re not hot.  You're not young.  And you’re NOT creative.”

Then he pointed at the logo he liked and said, “This is the logo we’re going to do.”

Rene said she stared at him for a moment and then busted out laughing.  “I guess I’m not the target audience.  But you’re one hell of a salesman.  Looks like we got ourselves a logo.”

There are many different ways to sell your work.  Insulting a client is not always the best approach.  And I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.  But Brandon accomplished exactly what he set out to do:  He created great work.  And then he sold it.

5 responses
Love this! Just came over from your LinkedIn profile (I'll be sending you a LI request momentarily :D) out of curiosity and quickly fell in love with this blog entry. Your title reminds me of a favorite quote from David Ogilvy: "When Aeschines spoke, they said, 'How well he speaks.' But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, 'Let us march against Philip.'" Great creative isn't always great motivation. Looking forward to connecting...
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Yup, it happened just exactly as Oakley reported except it was hot, not hip, young creatives. News flash I'm not hot either except in flashes!
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