Digital marketers (which, let’s be honest, is every marketer these days) operate in a medium of measurement. Every click, view, share, and purchase is probed under a microscope. I can’t think of a web interaction that isn’t scrutinized, rightly, for its impact on ROI. Campaigns can adapt to market conditions in real-time. Inability to pivot can kill a poorly thought-out campaign immediately (just ask Pepsi).
There’s no denying we’re entering a golden age of data-driven marketing. Metrics and measurements are king and execution is the name of the game. Time dedicated to generating ideas is as scarce as…well…whatever the scarcest animal on Earth is.*
But it wasn’t always this way. And (spoiler) good ideas can still crush it without the help of King Analytics. Some of the best ads of the twentieth century weren’t measured minute-by-minute.
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Indulge me in a wee bit of history
We don’t need to look too far back to find examples of ads that, for one reason or another, caught “it” at just the right time. (What “it” is, is a topic for another blog.)
In 1971, Bill Backer and Coca-Cola didn’t know “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” would catch “it,” spread like wildfire, and become a globe-trotting phenomenon. Oh, and be remembered as the greatest ad of all time. You set a high bar there, Bill. Geez.
Fast forward 26 years to 1995, a time when the web was but a young spring fawn. So young, in fact, that Amazon sold its first book online that year. Today there’s probably a book about that very fact available for sale on Amazon. (Clutch my pearls, there is!)
In ’95, comparing the fan bases of social influencers side-by-side wasn’t a thing when Goodby Silverstein & Partners pitched “Got Milk?” It’s on the short list greatest ads, too.
Now back to today. The age of all that data-dominance I babbled about earlier.
Last fall, Bud Light struck gold with a nonsense phrase that’s repeated from backyards to barstools across the country. A viral, buzzed-about, meme-tastic campaign that made its way to the Super Bowl, born from a couple creatives shouting gibberish at each other until maximum absurdity and hilarity was achieved.
Data and metrics can measure the success of an idea, but the creative process is what delivers the goods in the first place.
Here’s the point: data and metrics can measure the success of an idea, but the creative process is what delivers the goods in the first place.
So, what is this process?
Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all, guaranteed Cannes Lion-generating, billion-dollar making process. Bummer. I know.
BUT! Nurture the basics of a healthy creative process and you’ll be amazed what actionable, achievable amazingness creatives and strategists can deliver.
Where’s the Brief?!
Let’s start with brief short definition, so we’re all up to speed: a creative brief is a concise document that informs the team of the what, why, how, and when of a project. Essentially “this is what we’re doing, why it matters, and how we’re measuring success.”
Essential is an understatement. The value of having a document to reference is priceless. Imagine you’re an explorer hacking your way through the Amazon. Would you trot beneath that big green canopy with nothing but a machete and your intuition (snakes bad, piranha badder), hoping you make it out alive? Or would you arm yourself with the latest GPS and flamethrower to ensure you accomplish your mission?
Seems obvious, right?
Still, it’s far too common that creative projects kick off without a brief. This can harm outputs, pile on stress, and lead to client dissatisfaction.
Start every project, large or small, with a creative brief to guide and constrain creative ideas. Which brings us to number two.
Guardrails Keep Us on the Road
Creativity naturally derives from a child-like state. Your mind must play and explore to find the best creative solution. But if that process isn’t given constraints, it can run afoul of its purpose.
You might be asking “why on Earth would my creatives want constraints?” It’s all about one thing: Focus.
There’s a reason people vacation at the beach. There’s no shortage of things to do in the water or on the sand. If you take a child to the seashore and let her run wild and free, what might she do? Play in the surf. Bury her brother in the sand. Collect seashells. She’ll likely occupy herself gleefully and aimlessly until the sunburn sets in. Nothing wrong with that.
Now, take that same beach-bumming child and give her a task. More importantly, constrain her play with rules. “I want you to build me something,” is far more difficult to undertake than “I want you to build me something using this little green pale.”
Creativity naturally derives from a child-like state. Your mind must play and explore to find the best creative solution. It’s a wonderful, magical process.
But if that process isn’t given constraints it can run afoul of its purpose. “We need to sell more cupcakes,” doesn’t work. What works is “We need to sell more cupcakes. Our research shows advertising on social, using animation and making it funny will get people’s attention.” This is a modest example, but you get the idea.
Take me to a beach to play, and play I shall. Hand me a pail and a vision on the beach, and I’ll build you a castle.
This one goes without saying. The more time a team has to come up with and develop ideas, the better the outcomes. When creative teams are left with no choice but to do something that works rather than the thing that works, you’re gonna have a bad time. This quick video perfectly illustrates this concept (pun intended).
Trust Because You Must
Amazing things can result from a client’s goals being clearly stated, and a creative team being empowered to do its best work.
Trust is the most important part of the creative process. Trust among teammates that the work is getting prioritized and everyone has what they need to get the job done. And critically, trust between the team and the client.
That Bud Light campaign that’s drill-y drilling itself into your brain these days needed total client trust. And guess what? The creatives had it.
In conclusion, marketing success should be measured and scrutinized. But clients must first trust their creatives to do what they do best. Amazing things can result from a client’s goals being clearly stated, and a creative team being empowered to do its best work.
Even if that work is nonsense.
*Turns out the rarest animal on Earth is the Giant Squid. If it’s so giant why is it so hard to find?! I’ll see myself out.
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