How to say, “Your (blank) needs help!”

Have you ever seen a really bad web site (or brochure, or wine label, etc.) and wish you could tell the company how bad it is and how much better it would be if they hired you to fix it?

But you can’t just call them and say, “Your materials need help” — right?

Well, maybe you can, although you’d have to be more diplomatic about it. And you’d have to be fearless and know you have nothing to lose, if you do it right.

That’s the lesson Jeff Tara of BrandVue Design in Rochester NY learned when he did just that. And he got a new client with ongoing work as a result.

I’ll be posting a podcast with him later this week in which he tells the story of how he was laid off 4 weeks ago (!) but because he bought the Freelancer Essentials Collection a year ago and had been reading through the materials little by little, he was prepared and landed on his feet.

Here’s the text of the message he sent to the winery whose label needed help.

Dear CL Vineyards,

I’ve been a fan of your brand for years, and actually grew up with your wine on our family dinner table. I would like nothing more than to see great brands such as yours to succeed in Rochester, so I’ve chosen to share my opinion of your recent label redesign of “Name of Wine”.

Recently I was given a bottle of “Name of Wine” and didn’t recognize it to be your bottle or label design. With all due respect, I believed it to be a price fighter brand, meant to compete from a shopping cart with fluorescent sale signs hung around it. Without your company logo on the front, along with the change from a screen printed bottle to a paper label, too much change happened at once for me to make the connection that this was your product.

I believe there is a difference between a complaint and a criticism, and the difference reflects the desire to help. CL has a great line of wine products, and you deserve to do well. Your “Name of Wine” happens to be my favorite, so I was passionate enough about it to write to you today. I also happen to be a designer, and would be happy to talk with you more about this if you have time.

On a Friday night, Jeff sent this message to the “info@” address since he didn’t know who to send it to. Before the weekend was over, he’d heard back from the winery and got an appointment to meet shortly thereafter.

Obviously, this isn’t going to happen every time, but there’s no reason not to do it, especially when you have strong feelings about a brand or a product.

Have you tried to do anything like that? If so, share your story!

4 thoughts on “How to say, “Your (blank) needs help!”

  1. Natalie

    I like how thoughtful and diplomatic his letter was. His passion–both about strong branding and about the product/company–came through beautifully. That’s always the tricky balancing act when you’re trying to tell someone their design is doing them no favors. Well done!

  2. di

    Great story! There’s a winery near me that shares some of the same issues – poorly done, self-designed and self-printed labels (there’s a label printing product out there for wineries…not good), ineffective website, and now some unprofessional comments on their social media. I’ve marketed to them in the past however it never resulted in much. I’ve always wondered how forward I should be regarding their branding – maybe I need to try again and be more direct.

  3. Jess

    I recently did something similar with a local bakery that I love! Their website was terrible and the photos of their pies were not appetizing. I contacted the owned and told her what a fan of her bakery I am, and that I’m a local food photographer and wanted to work with her on her images. We recently did our first shoot for the bakery’s website and have plans to shoot more images for collateral and signage. Now, she’s not only a repeat client, but a great friend!