Using Lead Time to your Advantage when Working with a Creative Team


At Panera Bread a popular “go-to” menu item is the “You Pick Two.” Can’t make up your mind on your perfect lunch? Pick two! Customers have the opportunity to combine any two half portions of an item on the menu, instead of having to settle for one.

Check out the diagram above. This popular graphic depicts the three general characteristics a client can expect in marketing projects: FAST, CHEAP, and AWESOME. As you can see, there is a grey area in the center of the diagram (the Reuleaux triangle) that has nothing. This represents an impossible and unrealistic utopia. Similar to ordering at Panera, the notion here is that you may pick just two. For example, asking for something Cheap and Fast will yield a product of lesser quality (not awesome). 

Being a professional agency (and self-titled “Experts in Awesome”), we always strive to produce work that is awesome; which leaves a binary choice:

Fast + Awesome (not cheap) or Cheap + Awesome (not fast)

Assuming you prefer the latter, we want to bring attention to these two important words: LEAD TIME. Lead time can make or break the success of your campaign. Of course on rare occasions, true “marketing emergencies” arise, sometimes unavoidably. However, many events that place pressure on a project are ones that can be planned for.

Situations that commonly cause conflict because of hard due dates:

  • Product launches
  • Trade shows or events
  • Grand openings
  • Time-sensitive promotions
  • Anything seasonal


Thanks to companies like Amazon and Netflix, we have become accustomed to instant (or close-to-instant) gratification. Want it tomorrow? Amazon! Want to watch your favorite show now? Netflix! These companies have shaped our behavior. I see this in my personal life when I place an order from another company (not Amazon) and four days later, I’m asking “Where’s my stuff?” 

Lack of lead time can cause:

  • Stress and anxiety for all involved
  • A rushed creative brief that leaves out pertinent information
  • Costly mistakes from miscommunication
  • Blowing your budget 
  • Inferior printed materials due to rush jobs
  • Incomplete projects
  • Missing that crucial launch date

If these potential problems are not convincing enough reasons to allow more lead time for upcoming projects, perhaps the following is…


There is a game-changing secret when working with a creative team. It’s a secret that explains why it is so critical to give your marketing team a generous amount of lead time. Are you looking for a standout idea? Something truly creative and fresh? The BEST things take time.

Here’s the secret I’ll let you in on…it happens behind the scenes.

If our creative team has a kickoff meeting to learn the parameters of the project with enough lead time before the project is due…we will actually (unintentionally) think about YOUR project while working on other projects. We’ll even think about your project while we’re out and about in our own worlds, running the loop, or taking a shower! Why? It’s human nature: our brains like to be busy while doing activities. We find connections from uncommon concepts while doing everyday things. (Check out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book on Amazon “Creativity, Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” about how ideas form through daily activities!) 

What does all this mean for you? Better, fully-cooked ideas, thoughtful details—all the things! And it’s delivered on-time! 

So, to sum it all up: talk to us! Been thinking about a future campaign? We’ll help you figure out if it’s a good fit for your brand and if so, we’ll formulate a plan to make it happen!

Maybe one day Panera will have the “You Pick Three,” but until then, remember this: the optimal approach for the best results is allowing for that crucial lead time.

Ready to get started? Let’s Talk!