Creative Strategy: The Core of Any Successful Marketing Project
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” - Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.
Focus and simplicity are the most valuable aspects of a well-defined strategy. As Steve Jobs aptly pointed out, these can be the most challenging part of crafting direction for a team or an organization. By mastering this discipline and translating marketing challenges and product features into a tightly focused and actionable creative strategy, an agency becomes invaluable to its clients.
The most important job for the account management role within the agency is shaping and validating a sound creative strategy. The resulting tool is both concise and very powerful, defining what must be accomplished or conveyed to our target audience in order to meet the client’s marketing objective.
Upon receipt of a well-constructed creative strategy statement, the creative team should have absolute clarity and confidence in the direction provided and feel at liberty to explore any and every option that effectively serves the strategy. The evaluation of ideas can then be as simple as an assessment of which concepts best serve the agreed-to focus, rather than drifting into an evaluation of different strategic approaches.
The Anatomy of the Creative Strategy
The creative strategy statement for each project is based on research, discovery, and discussion with the client. The development of the strategy by our team serves two purposes: First, it demonstrates an understanding of our client's business and the marketing communications challenges of the task at hand. Second, the endorsement/approval of the strategy statement by the client empowers us to aggressively channel our resources and thinking toward a single focus.
Avoid too much
A creative strategy statement should be limited to one page. The intent is to define the only thing the team should concern itself with in the creative process. By concisely defining our broader objectives and clearly articulating what we must convey, we can accomplish that objective.
This is not an opportunity to repackage hundreds of pages of market research, forensic competitive analysis, and media analytics. Having these available as reference resources is useful, but it is the job of the account lead to distill this down to an actionable, salient, focused strategy.
Avoid too tactical
Discussions with clients often leap forward and become prematurely tactical. The focus is on scope, deadline, and budget. A tremendous amount of energy and emotional equity are placed on defining how something is going to get done with an insufficient investment of time discussing why something should be done. A good agency partner ensures that thehow is balanced with the why, and that the team charged with executing is equipped with the information they need.
Executional requirements and considerations should be referenced in the strategy, but these should be considered as support information.
Avoid too benign
A creative strategy statement should serve up a single, proprietary focus that can be creatively leveraged at the expense of the competition. It must differentiate the product or service and express a valuable, marketable advantage that becomes the basis of the message.
Since the strategy is providing the guardrails for the creative, concepts will fall inside the guidance provided. If the strategy is framed in a narrow scope with little to differentiate it, the creative will be bland, uninventive, and ineffective.
Look to the Past to Improve Your Future
We started this post talking about how difficult it is to be simple. In order to build the best strategies, you must take a critical look at your past efforts and improve by degrees with each assignment. In addition, you can use successes of the past to frame future documents.
First, find the most successful creative within the agency. Then look at the creative strategies that guided these efforts. Discuss the strategies with the creative team to see what they liked, what they didn’t like, and how they found the strategy helpful in the creative process. Then use this information to guide your own efforts.
Whatever you do, be strategic. Take the necessary time and effort to build the best creative strategies you can. Understand and take pride in your role as strategist, as you are the first – and maybe most critical – step in producing great work.
Special Thanks to inferno for sharing their editorial content.