Why do some clients change perfectly good creative work into some unrecognizable thing lacking soul? That's one of the hardest lessons any creative person will ever have to learn. The truth is as simple as it is complicated, for publicly traded companies that is.
Imagine that you are the brand manager for a major brand that is part of a larger publicly held firm. You are asked to create the strategic platform for the new direction of the brand. Your company has suffered losses in the last few quarters based on speculation and the actions of the person who previously held your position. Your stock is going to go up or down based on your plan. You have to increase sales, improve the brand's image, and not frighten already fearful stockholders who determine your (company's) worth. What you do will effect the company's entire brand portfolio. You're agency just pitched some groundbreaking work and you're excited. The problem is that stockholders don't want a cool campaign, they want assurance that the next quarter will be better than the last. Your job, reputation, and your company are on the line. What do you do?
Who's really in control? That's the million dollar question. The answer varies from company to company. Private companies can often move faster because they don't have to answer to stockholders. They do have stakeholders, however. Everyone who buys their products or uses their services has a vested interest. Large public firms often get caught up in pleasing the owners of their financial products, who don't necessarily own physical product. Private equity firms alleviate some of these problems, but they come with their own money driven agendas. Mass communication and message customization are creating a fast economy where survival depends on the ability to adapt quickly. Sprinting is just as important as jumping, dodging and marathon running, but you have to know your sport. Understanding who's judging the game is a vital issue. Sometimes it's the stockholders, sometimes it's the "consumers," or some combination of factors.
We understand the importance of the consumers, but sometimes fail to recognize the economic and political factors that effect strategic decision making. To learn more about market fluctuations and brands, check out investopedia.com. They are a Forbes company. They have many tutorials and feature a powerful simulator that lets you trade stocks, options and other financial instruments in current market conditions. Use the simulator to invest in brands that you like and watch how volatile the market can be. It will give you a good understanding as to why some decisions are based more on numbers and others on people. Sometimes a bigger logo is what the stockholders want. There is a way to meet half way.
I consider myself a creative, learning as much as I can about the business behind the brands. I need to understand business like business people understand business. If I am going to be successful in the fast economy, I have to double dip. I urge people in the business world to learn as much as they can about design and creativity. Interdisciplinary programs are being being created at major universities around the world. The shift is already well under way. The walls are coming down. Don't let them hit you on the way down.