Most pitches are, by definition, competitive and most will call for a response to a brief. To compete we must, and do, rise to the challenge set focussing our efforts on developing substantial proposals- strategic, technical, creative- that we believe will be better than those of our competitors.
They may be ‘better’ but judging on ‘technical’ merit will be almost impossible unless you come up with an unbelievably better or cheaper solution. Given that your competition will have been chosen because they have similiar track records this is pretty unlikely. In practice, the people on the receiving end will attempt to evaluate on rational grounds but will usually end up with two or three candidates where their judgment, however later justified, is based on style.
Despite knowing this, and we do, learning from our first nervous interview, we still spend disproportionate amount of the available time, effort and resource, on the substance of our pitch, often at the expense of style. Typically grinding out a, hopefully improved, solution right up to the last minute, before thinking about what really matters, how the pitch will resonate. how it will be received.
The solution to this pit(ch)fall is simple. Recognise it.
Recent and current examples include Paris, whose 2012 bid was substantially the best but ‘le style’ , arrogant and lacking empathy, lost it for them. Gordon Brown, undeniably a man of substance but weakened by his style. Ken and Boris, both with individual flair but one the fresher and hungrier. and boiling up in USA, Obama the one with style but losing it and Clinton, the one with substance, but finishing with style.