What You Think You Want


Something that’s been floating around in my head are things like, “it’s what the client wants“, “whatever the client wants“, and that’s what you give them. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.

A friend of the family called me last week, and wanted to know if I knew how to make a playlist and burn it to a CD. Yes. Yes I do. What kind of music was she talking about? She’s having a charity party with a Hawaiian theme, so she wanted Hawaiian music.

Hawaiian music? Somehow I didn’t think so.

This is where you need to do a couple of things. Basically you need to figure out what your client actually wants when they say what they want. And do it in a way that leaves them happy – because really, who wants or likes to be told they don’t actually know what they want?

How do we do this? I had an edge this time – I already knew the person quite well, and the types of charity gatherings she threw. But I still started with getting more information, and sometimes it’s as simple as a few questions. And the first one I asked was,

Is it an actual Hawaiian themed party, or is it more of a luau- themed party?” (because there’s a difference)
Do you have any types of Hawaiian music, or musicians in mind?” (because if she did, it might actually be Hawaiian themed)
Did you want something with vocals, did you want something upbeat?” (which again indicates knowledge of the type of music she was asking for)

You get the picture.  So we went from the client saying they wanted “traditional Hawaiian music” to “you know – Hawaiian music, ukeleles, things people want to dance to, things people know. And one of the committee members would like to have Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” in the mix somewhere.” And there we have it.

CLIENT SAYS THEY WANT: traditional Hawaiian music.
CLIENT ACTUALLY WANTS: what a certain demographic thinks of when they think of Hawaiian music

Armed with that sentence alone, I put together a very tiki-kitschy playlist, burned it to a CD and sent it off with an invoice for parts and labour. She’s very happy – it’s exactly what she wanted.

This is what I do with all my clients. So should everyone. Even if it is “just” a CD for a family friend, it’s the type of care that needs to be taken with all clients – they are hiring you for your thoughts, ideas and creativity. They are hiring you to make what they want not only happen, but happen better than they thought it would. My job is to give them something they never knew they wanted. (That, BTW is half of an advertising slogan – the first half is about “creating the need”). Not in this instance – the need is already there – but my job is to figure out what it actually is – and go forward with them as a team.

Enjoy your day! Game Six tonight @Bruins! Go Canucks!

2 Comments to “What You Think You Want”

  1. Dear Sue,
    Not that I want to take issue with your blog post, but really at this stage in life you otta know that all good parties must have one Elvis song on the playlist. So, regardless of what the client says they want, the starting question should be, “which Elvis do you want to include?” It’s all gravy after that.

    • Dear L.,
      You are entirely right – I’ll be adding that to my list of questions, be it a branding exercise, creative brief, or CD for my Mom’s friend. Everyone gets an Elvis song.

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