Words Matter: Why a Top Agency Has No “Clients”

Regular readers of this blog know that, to me, words matter. I’ve long encouraged teachers to choose their words wisely, because the words we choose have a powerful effect on learning.

Yesterday, I came across a stellar example of this principle in the workplace.

72andSunny is a communications company that was recently named  AdAge Agency of the Year. It has a stellar lineup of cutting-edge clients, including Target and Samsung, which is “taking a big bite out of Apple,” and displacing it as the coolest company on earth.

Yet for all the agency’s success, there is one word that 72andSunny CEO John Boiler tries not to use: “Client.”

If you’re an ardent fan of “Mad Men,” you may have just fallen off your chair.

But in “5 Reasons You Should Quit Using the Word ‘Client,'” Boiler explains that when his agency was created, all it had was a few good friends for whom it did work, and whom it referred to on a first-name basis. This culture of treating clients as friends has continued as the agency has grown.

Boiler goes on to explain:

  • By referring to people by their names, you “tend to think of them more as the people that they are as opposed to cogs in some machine.”
  • When dealing with complaints, by removing the label, the agency has “found it easier to empathize with our partners and their situations.”
  • The old approach of listening to a client’s needs and going into isolation to develop an idea is over. Instead, agencies and clients work together in a manner that is “fluid and collaborative.” By “putting ego aside and trying stuff together, things get better. It’s like improv.”
  • Avoiding the “client” label and the artificial divide it creates, 72andSunny promotes “a culture of respect, understanding and open-mindedness. This affects the way we treat each other as well. People rise to a higher standard of human interaction.”
  • In sum, “we can all benefit from this simple mental switch. It may seem an insignificant thing, but considering the importance of relationships in advertising, it can make all the difference.”

Now it’s your turn.

What “simple mental switches” can we make in the classroom that might “make all the difference”?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/PhillipRoyDeems Phillip R Deems

    That is a great mindset that should be adopted by all companies. Thanks for the post.

  • Leah Van Rooy

    Great article! Those relationships with customers are so important and the mental shift that takes place by calling them by name vs. by “client” or company name is huge. That mentality has been with the company I work for (Blue Door Consulting: http://www.bluedoorconsulting.com) since it’s inception 10 years ago.

  • http://www.SiaKnight.com/ Sia Knight

    I am a firm believer that relationships are at the root of all success. My message to all of my students is to connect, connect, connect.

  • Janice

    What is your opinion of how this applies to the the classroom? The only one I can think of is the way students address teachers, in order to bridge the gap. Would that then blur the lines of a student-teacher relationship?

  • Melanie Meren

    Interesting take on this, although I’d also like if “clients” could use a different word than “consultant”. I find “consultant” has more barriers to it in terms of creating an integrated team. I suppose it’s the other side to the conversation raised by Boiler.

  • Urban

    There are so many euphemisms that can be used in place of negative words. The more the better really, young minds need all the positive encouragement they can get. When they leave the classroom it may be the last place they get it.

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