This post was originally published on our co-founder/owner and Creative Director’s website on May 30, 2013. Its truth is evergreen.

A True Believer is a person who has both a personal and professional belief in all of the product brand’s value propositions. The true believer not only works on the product as a profession but also uses the product in their home and personal life, and is exuberantly evangelical about it.

We have lost bids on projects because the business we were courting could sense that we were not True Believers in their products.

When a brand requires its creative team to consist only of True Believers it should be regarded as a red flag of troubled logic and problems ahead.

The brand that only wants True Believers working on their products is a business that wants a team of “Yes People.” This brand will get results that is produced in an echo chamber of nodding heads where no push-back is heard, no ideas challenged for the overall good of the product, and no sharpening of the concept through the process of critical thinking.

If this brand were a person we could see the obvious insecurities of only hiring True Believers. This business is myopic at best and should be approached with great caution and a healthy up-front deposit on the total budget, with full compensation paid before any final files are released.

It’s a big deal.

So, does the creative team for products need to be made up of only true believers? No.

But does the creative team need to consist of people who push back at every turn, a bunch of Debbie Downers? Heck no!

The team simply needs to be what true creative professionals are: Creatives who can think from the perspective of the customer persona and are informed by data at every point.

Personally, these creatives do not need to be True Believers in the product. If they happen to be, that can be a benefit in some cases, but it should never be criteria for a product’s team.

In my mind is carved the words of Walter Gropius, a famed architect and founder of the Bauhaus school of design:

“Art is self-expression; Design is problem solving.”

Problem solvers: That’s what a quality team of professional creatives consists of. Having some True Believers on the team is useful – we shouldn’t keep out that perspective. But making True Belief criteria for being on a brand’s team is likely to result in limited success, and only for the short term at that.

The creative team is there to bring ideas to life and to solve problems. A competent, mature creative team will offer their recommendations throughout the process. Yet, at the end of the process, you need to believe in what has been created. If you don’t believe in it, you will start using something that doesn’t have your full buy-in, and your customers will smell it a mile away.

It’s worth mentioning that timing is one of the top relationship killers between creative teams and those they serve.

Whom we get feedback from is equally important as getting the actual feedback, so it is important to ask the right people for feedback. There is a temptation, however, to ask the nearest trusted warm-body: The spouse, co-worker, best friend, trusted advisor, etc.

“I’ll know it when I see it” is a phrase creatives hear a lot, and it’s a phrase we can usually resonate with quite well. Sometimes we don’t know, specifically, what we are about to create. We just have a hunch, intuition, or shadow of an idea. The end result will show itself along the way. We completely understand the “I’ll know it when I see it” mentality. It is a perfectly normal creative process.

If there’s one thing professional creative teams loathe, it’s being hired for a gig, then being directed, step-by-step, how something should look or function.At best, it sends contradictory messages.

Whether you have hired an agency, or are working with an in-house department, there are ways to get the best work from your creative team.You have expectations of getting ideas brought to life for the betterment and profitability of the product, and your creative team wants to unleash their power on your product to make it worthy of their portfolio and bragging rights. It should be a win-win thing, right?

Brand Shepherd is rolling out a new way to learn what we believe to be true about product branding: The Brand Shepherd Podcast.

This is a product-focused podcast that will explore the various approaches, best practices, expertise, and experts in products, guided and brought to you by Brand Shepherd.

Today we announce a focused direction for Brand Shepherd, one that specializes in working with the kinds of brands we find ourselves working with most often, resulting in years-long productive relationships: Brands that make, sell, or manage products.

Cincinnati, Ohio ABC News affiliate, WCPO 9 On Your Side, interviewed Brand Shepherd Creative Director, Dan Crask, for a take on a new niche sports apparel brand aimed specifically at tennis enthusiasts.

It was a pleasure to contribute some thoughts on why this new tennis apparel brand could be a big hit with its customers.

Or read the full article on WCPO’s website here »