How to Discuss Design in Customer Kickoff Calls

woman-using-laptop-tablet-graphic-designer

Whether or not you’re the design-y type, it can be difficult bridging the gap between a customer’s desires and what you know makes great podcast artwork.

For that reason, we gathered up some of the best practices for discussing design in a kickoff call

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • The 3 approaches to podcast brand identity
  • 5 things you need to get from the customer
  • Some things the customer needs from you

3 Approaches to Brand Identity

An effective way to frame the podcast’s brand identity is to lay out these three approaches for the customer:

  1. Master Brand: The first approach to a show’s brand identity is Master Brand. This method uses all of the parent company’s design assets: Color, typography, imagery, texture, etc. It does not stray from the company’s brand guide.
  2. Endorsed: This approach is what B2B Growth uses and what we normally want to steer customers towards. Endorsed means that the show’s branding mirrors elements from the company’s brand guide. However, it leaves room for adaptations and focuses more on the main topic of the show.
  3. Individual: The Individual approach is starting the design process from scratch. There are no hints towards the parent company — the show is its own thing and is far removed from the company brand guide.

Master Brand Example:

first-business-bank-podcast-cover-art

In addition to naming their podcast after their company, First Business uses design elements all included in the parent company’s branding.

Endorsed Example:

autodesk-digital-builder-podcast-cover-art

Digital Builder’s cover art and subsequent design assets hint at the blue and green within its parent company’s logo. Plus, the logo is included in the cover art, but much smaller than the name of the show.

Individual Example:

startup-success-podcast-cover-art

You would have no idea what company is behind Startup Success from just looking at the cover art. With no logo and a completely different color scheme, Burkland clearly went the Individual route with their show.

[READ/LISTEN: Here’s how to make podcast cover art that doesn’t suck.]

What Makes Sense for Them

Talk through what would make the most sense for your customer. 

If they have a brand style guide, it’d be relatively easy for them to take the Master Brand or Endorsed route. Obviously, if they don’t have set branding guidelines or even a logo, Individual is probably the way to go.

Steer Clear of Twins

Many companies think that their podcast should be an exact reflection of their company brand to be successful. We know this isn’t true, otherwise, B2B Growth would be called The Sweet Fish Show.

Same goes for design. People trust an unaffiliated podcast more than those that use company branding.

Simply put, the podcast should be the parent company’s child, not its twin.

the-shining-twins-GIF

What You Need From Them

Let’s go over five things you (and the design team) need from the customer.

1. Other Stakeholders Involved

Is there anyone else that should be looped into the design conversation? Identifying other stakeholders can clear up a lot of concerns and confusion around the podcast branding.

Does the company have a design team? Does their head of marketing have any input on design or branding? Is there a creative director?

In later design calls, it will be paramount to involve design stakeholders, so they should be identified and looped in right off the bat. Our designers need them to be on calls — not giving written feedback after the fact.

2. Media Library and/or Brand Guide

If the customer has a media library with images and graphics they typically use in their company’s branding, it’s helpful to get access to it.

Additionally, if the company has a brand guide, that can be extremely useful to the design team. Depending on the approach the customer chooses (Master Brand, Endorsed, Individual), the designer may rely heavily on the company style/branding guide. (It’s useful for the writing team, too.)

on-brand-GIF

Of course, if the customer chooses the Individual route, a media library and brand guide probably won’t be necessary to acquire.

If there is a media library or brand guide, ask the customer to send a folder with high-resolution vector files of the images/graphics.

3. Common Symbols

If the customer goes with Master Brand or Endorsed, the next step is to figure out if there are any recurring symbols in their branding.

Take, for instance, Salesforce. They use a cloud as a symbol to represent their cloud nativeness.

salesforce-logo

They also use this little dude a lot. He’s sort of like their mascot.

salesforce-trailblazer-mascot

Some brands use the image of a path to symbolize a journey. Some use a compass to symbolize navigation or finding your way.

Some brands don’t use symbols at all. But it’s important to ask anyway — maybe they’d like to explore using a symbol in their podcast branding.

4. Desired Emotions

An effective way to get the customer to come up with some juicy adjectives is to ask them what emotion they want their show’s artwork to evoke. These descriptive words help our designers out a lot.

If the customer is struggling to come up with adjectives, you can suggest a few.

  • Empowered
  • Appreciated
  • Understood
  • Excited
  • Calm
  • Curious
  • Enlivened
  • Grounded
  • Optimistic
  • Hopeful
  • Dazzled

5. Ideal Buyer/Listener

The next thing to discuss with the customer is what their ideal buyer looks like. This persona will also act as the ideal listener.

Understanding the ideal buyer is critical for targeting the right audience through the podcast, design, and written material.

If the customer doesn’t already have a buyer persona sussed out, here are a few questions to help:

  • What are your customers’ demographics? (Geographical location, annual income, age, etc.)
  • What’s your average customer’s educational background? (Get as specific as possible.)
  • What role do they play in their company?
  • In which industries do their companies operate?
  • What’s the average size of their companies?
  • Who do they tend to report to at work?
  • How is their success at work measured? (What KPIs do they care about?)
  • What does a typical day look like for your ideal buyer?
  • What’s their favorite channel to consume media?
  • What are their biggest challenges?
  • What publications do they read? (Forbes, TechCrunch, NPR, etc.)

All of these questions can inform the show’s artwork as well as the rest of the assets we deliver.

The other useful question you can ask the customer is… 

What words would your ideal listener use to describe themselves?

Answers could include… 

  • Smart
  • Easy-going
  • Corporate
  • Friendly
  • Fun-loving
  • Stressed
  • Overwhelmed
  • Motivated
  • Driven
  • Leader
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Cynical
  • Forward-thinking

What They Need From You

This isn’t just a one-way street — the customer needs a few things from you, too. They’ve never been through this process before, so it’s important that they feel heard.

Use Examples

People might not know what you mean by “Master Brand” or “common symbols.” The most effective way to reach an understanding is to offer examples.

Examples can come from past or current Sweet Fish customers. Or, they can come from more well-known sources.

If you’re explaining what Endorsed podcast design looks like, you could use NPR as a for-instance. It’s a well-known media company that uses an Endorsed approach to cover art.

npr-planet-money-podcast-cover-art

Using examples also positions you as the expert in the situation. Customers want to know that you know what the heck you’re talking about. Examples help.

Use Analogies

Similar to examples, analogies make unfamiliar ideas familiar.

Your podcast is your company’s baby, not its twin. Podcast cover art is like the cover of a book. That kind of stuff.

Make Small Negotiations

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that the customer is *not* always right.

When you’re on a call with a customer who has their heart set on making their logo the center of the cover art, put your polite negotiator hat on.

First of all, show some examples of what other customers have done. Give a few reasons why it might hurt their listenership if the company logo is the focus.

Then, let them know that there are other opportunities for the company to be plugged. The show description, the recorded intro and outro, social media posts.

Also, use our design team’s insights as excuses. For instance, they recommend not including a show’s subtitle or tagline in the cover art. There are other chances for those elements to shine.
Thinking of it as a negotiation keeps you in charge while the customer still feels like they’re being heard.

do-we-have-a-deal-GIF

Make Them Feel Heard

This is their show. You’re helping them make it but ultimately it’s their responsibility.

Make a point of letting the customer know that you’re hearing them. You understand their goals, needs, and perspective.

This really comes down to good listening skills. Try repeating the customer’s top priorities back to them and asking if you’re understanding correctly. That way, you can avoid confusion and detrimental misunderstandings.

The Takeaways

A handful of pointers that you should walk away with:

  • Frame the podcast’s brand identity using three approaches (Master Brand, Endorsed, Individual).
  • If the customer has a brand guide or media library, get access to it.
  • Encourage the customer to use adjectives to describe their ideal listener and what they’d like the artwork to convey.
  • Use examples and analogies.
  • Make the customer feel heard.

That’s all for now, folks!

Emily Kingland

Lead Writer at Sweet Fish Media

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