Study after study shows people respond best to things that evoke emotional responses:

But still most companies are very conservative. Its a blue shape with a stock image. It reminds me of this line from the movie Ocean's Eleven

Don't use seven words when four will do. Don't shift your weight, look always at your mark but don't stare, be specific but not memorable, be funny but don't make him laugh. He's got to like you then forget you the moment you've left his side.

How can we as designers convince corporate B2B clients to take more risks? To stand out instead of trying to look like "everyone else in the industry."

  • 1
    By buying 51% of the companies voting shares?
    – joojaa
    Sep 5, 2019 at 13:49

4 Answers 4


As a solo designer versus an entire marketing department, you're pretty much open prey, as any kind of argument will get twisted and turned internally. Somebody will always say its too this, or too that. Or they haven't seen that before. What if they miss out on some sales? Eventually they'll figure out its just too risky to go with a radical design. After all, their business may just be doing the same thing as their competition (in terms or actual business activity).

So unless the business is really radical in scope, or the owners very open minded, most likely the design will just end up looking like "everyone else in the industry".

Consultancy type design studios will (sometimes) have a strategy-first approach, presenting clients with the benefits of this or that direction, getting the client warmed up for a calculated risk before actual designs are shown.

I guess one useful argument is to actually show how common a generic visual can be. Provide overwhelming examples of similar work done by other brands and the possibility of this being similar to all that other stuff. Make the "look like everyone else in the industry" sound like a drawback.

Another way is to be as radical as you expect the client to be: openly provide a discount on your service if they go crazy and do what nobody else does and approve that idea you're having. If it's just down to pricing and savings, some clients may just 'fall' for this approach and will at least hear you out before saying 'no'.

  • One example of "Make the "look like everyone else in the industry" sound like a drawback." I've heard of two competing companies having booths positioned close to each other in an industry specific event, and they were using the same stock shot on their roll-ups...!
    – curious
    Sep 6, 2019 at 2:50

In my experience, you can't change mindsets without proven results from changes made by others.

It's the same as whether or not a business sees "value" in a professional designer.

There are a buh-zillion business out there with someone untrained using Photoshop and creating their marketing materials. That works for them.

They won't change that mindset until it is proven that a trained professional actually does result in better Return on Investment (ROI).

This means testing. Same product/service, same copy, two (or more) entirely different marketing approaches.

Many knowledgable companies will test marketing and then have cold, hard, ROI data and they can see what actually works better. However, for many smaller or budget conscious companies, testing isn't something they are willing to explore.

As a further example, when dealing with sales related design, a company can look into Acxiom Infobase Data. What this does is provide a very detailed demographic breakdown of your consumers. (Yes all that data the internet collects on you is somewhere and being used.) For example, using Infobase a company may find it's consumers are....

  • Primarily Males
  • Affluent: 48% of your buyers make over $125,000 per year.
  • Cash Available: 80% have over $20,000 in savings.
  • Age: Primary 55 to 64 / Secondary 35 to 54
  • Married
  • Educated: 56% have completed college
  • Home Office: 51% work from home
  • Interested in Self Improvement

This data can be invaluable for sales-related design. However, there's a fee to acquire such data. And just like changing mindsets regarding a design, you can't convince a company this data would assist them in getting higher ROIs until they see it.

If you have such demographic data, then it's often feasible to create a compelling argument as to why current design models are failing. i.e. they are too male focused, they "look" too pricey/low budget, etc.

While the example here is based on individual consumers, the same general data can be acquired for businesses.

Ultimately though, it is often a leap of faith on the client's part initially. And really, that's generally the best you can hope for. Without hard data to build a case against current design models business owners tend to be scared to change for fear it will lower ROI. .

You could possibly hope for some personal connection a business owner may have to someone who does understand value in something - who can then sway the owner. As an outside entity, it's nearly impossible to convince a business owner that marketing could be improved by being "different" than the "herd".

One thing about many business owners I've encountered is they are risk adverse when it comes to their bottom line and only when things are going well for them would they ever consider something new to "test". Unfortunately, when things are going well, seeing what may work better is often the last thing on their minds

By all means present something different than their "norm" with your opinions and reasoning, but 99% of the time it'll be shot down. There will be that 1% that is willing to take the leap though.

All this is much easier if you have an established relationship with a business over a period of time or via past successful projects. If they've been happy with your work, and then you present them with something which is outside the customary purview, there's a greater chance they'll listen.

--- I have no affiliation with nor do I endorse Axciom Infobase directly. ---


The Gangnam Style video has 368 million views.

Google chief business officer Nikesh Arora revealed that “Gangnam Style” had brought in $8 million from all of its advertising channels.

And this is just for Google, I have not any info about other communication channels.

If someone from any industry tells you this, you can do absolutely nothing. If you are interested in keeping the job, accept it and try to involve your creativity even in small doses. But you cannot inculcate values to someone who only sees results and whose parameters are within the cited example. Which is just an example, a bit exaggerated to better understand this answer, but situations similar to this I have lived a lot.

To show an opposite position, there are the quite controversial opinions of the last years of Oliviero Toscani, the former Benetton photographer. When asked about the current situation of the company at creativity level he said:

How did you find Benetton 17 years later?:

Bad, because since Luciano (Benetton) retired, the company has been managed by sales representatives, creative agencies, marketing specialists ... stupid people. -

Actually he has many interesting opinions which can be read here:

Ad agencies are really making an effort not to be creative. They’re all the same, they want to please everybody

If you want to have real success, you should listen to what the marketing research says and do the opposite

Of course, this kind of opinion can only be formulated by him from his position, someone who created, motivated and provoked the entire world during a decade. If any of us stands in front of a client and proclaims that the marketing agents are stupid, we fly out from one of the office windows.

Nor is it that Toscani is the paradigm of truth, but at least he's someone who thinks freely and sometimes rightly. What's that reason, I guess the fatigue we all have about what we have seen and seen and seen.

How can we as designers convinces corporate B2B clients to take more risks? To stand out instead of trying to look like "everyone else in the industry".

This is an old new dilemma. Actually very old, the novelty is put by new technologies and social networks, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. they have created quite painful communication standards but they reach an exaggerated number of people and have acceptance. Can be someone creative and propose to a client that he/her company has no any participation in social networks? Perhaps, but it is quite difficult to manage.

When I was young, I thought that as designers we had the obligation to visually educate people in a creative way by proposing really innovative pieces and trying not to fall into mass communication standards.

But as a young person one is very idealistic. Over the years I have become much more pragmatic and aim for a balance, as in everything. I return to what was written above:

  • My client only thinks about money and results and I only think about innovating in creativity. We both want to make money, but the designer also wants or needs to feel comforted with his/her work, something the client will not see anywhere. Where's the balance? Accepting the client's proposal, clarifying the weaknesses regarding visual communication and try to find the "areas" where to develop our creativity.

Excuses for the bad grammar

  • Talking about personal experiences, this is one I remember. Marketing Director: –We have a client who wants a website like B&B but doesn't want to spend a lot of money.
    – user120647
    Aug 30, 2019 at 16:02

The key takeaway to the studies you link is that people are emotional, full of biases, and make decisions based on their emotions and biases all the time. Some relevant sources here, and here. It should be really easy to find more evidence of this. This doesn't solely apply to your client's target audience but your client as well.

Get to know your client. Find something they love/look up to and find a way to tie it into the decision you're trying to have them make.

(True) story time

A president from a company doesn't want to change their freakishly outdated logo. An art director working for the company knows it's harming them and is working with a graphic designer to get the president to change their mind. Together, they whip up a document to show how the president's favorite sports' club logo has evolved through the years to adapt to the times. Stars align, and president signs off on logo makeover. Proposal makes sure to keep some key elements from the previous logo but the change is drastic. Logo is accepted on the first round.

And now I'm hearing: "But that's twisted and manipulative! How sneaky!"

Your duty as a designer is to ensure that this risk is well calculated (you can use market research for that) and that it's not some self-serving endeavor.

  • I figured that would be a somewhat controversial answer but I wouldn't mind an explanation for the downvotes. My first take was along the lines of Scott's answer, but in a lot of scenarios, a sole person holds the power and needs to be convinced to sign off on changes.
    – curious
    Sep 11, 2019 at 18:51

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