I hope that title shocked you. Now for the second half…unless it gets the right kind of attention. It’s true–creativity is useless unless it is led by cogent strategy and a keen understanding of human psychology. Consider this insightful statement by Faris Yakob in his excellent 2015 book, Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World:
“Advertiser agencies are not in the business of making cool stuff, they are in the business of making money for clients, using creativity…successful art is very commercially minded, by definition…In a world where mainstream media is increasingly supplemented by the media of the masses, one of the leverage points for creativity is earning attention, beyond that which has been paid for.”
In my 15+ years in the marketing and brand development industry, I have seen a lot of creative professionals come and go. They make a splash with their cleverness and sparkle. The problem is that many who hang up the marketing/advertising/creative agency shingle do not have the education and experience to translate that creativity into sales and so, ultimately, they fizzle out. Awards and pats on the back mean little if the work produced for a client fails to engage their audience.
Today’s digital marketing comes with built-in analytics, so professionals can no longer hide behind mere creativity; it’s produce or perish and creativity comes with accountability. Of course, most successful creative campaigns do take some time to develop results–there are few if any quick-fixes in marketing–and certainly there is value to building Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA). It’s a mistake to flit from one creative campaign to another seeking instant results.
So, how can you convert creativity into sales; how can you know your marketing firm or professional isn’t guiding you on a beautiful drive that ultimately leads to a dead end?
Years ago, I came up with a Marketing Hourglass to condense the process of the kind of solid marketing that will produce results and return on investment. I’ve presented this model to hundreds of people, and I’m glad to share a brief description of it here. It is a sure guide for any and every creative advertising campaign you launch.
A successful creative campaign starts with planning and creative discovery (the top part of the hourglass). Unfortunately, many people–even some marketing professionals–start at the bottom part of the hourglass, pushing out ads without going through the creative/strategic process. As Yakob writes, “Good ideas are non-obvious, non-trivial combinations.”
Brainstorming is not good enough, no matter how clever the ideas that come out of it may seem. “Ideas are new combinations,” he writes. “Innovative ideas are associative: What the innovators have in common is that they can put together ideas and information in unique combinations that nobody else has quite put together before. Researchers describe this ability to connect ideas as associating, and believe it is key to innovators’ ability to create non-obvious combinations.”
Coming up with these truly innovative combinations requires liberating the brilliance of the subconscious mind, and tapping that genius requires information input, planning and time–in other words, the analytical left brain provides information that the creative right brain sifts through as grist for the mill to bake up novel combinations. Out of that process comes the true brilliance that rises above the clutter of the mere creativity jamming the airwaves of every medium out there; it produces the campaigns that are impossible to ignore and that get everyone talking.
This top-of-the-hourglass part of the process condenses your campaign voice: a creative expression of your brand that will effectively inject your key message(s) into the hearts and minds of your audience. Only after this should you embark on the bottom of the hourglass, communicating that message via recommended media and only with a realistic expectation of the purpose of each medium–which part of the buying cycle each best influences.
There is great value in cultivating a constant brand awareness–the Attention phase where you keep your brand top of mind. Traditional media and the push elements of digital media are ideal for this function; they do not have the primary purpose of getting people to run out and buy; their value comes in cultivating future clients over time. Once people move toward being ready to make a decision and take action, these ads will show their value; you will already have their attention.
At the point when potential customers are making decisions and taking action, being on page number one of the search engines is immensely valuable (the right place at the right time), but even here, the fruits of your attention-getting campaigns will influence their decision as to which of the page one options they will choose. People tend to choose brands they are already familiar with, so your creative work, if done right, is not in vain (so give a campaign a few months to develop, for Pete’s sake!).
After you’ve gone through the Marketing Hourglass process, you will want to establish a Feedback Loop whereby you measure results via analytics as well as watching responsive behavior, and then fine-tune your campaign and media choices accordingly, essentially repeating the hourglass process on a smaller scale. As John Wannamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is I don’t know which half.”
To see how the Feedback Loop makes your marketing actually produce results so you can stop throwing away half your marketing budget, watch our video at: http://bit.ly/22Jga14
The truth is, strategic creativity has immense value, but is not an end in itself. It is an essential part of a larger process that, when done right, will produce excellent results for businesses offering good products and services. Are you ready to do it right?
Kelly J. Walker is creative director for Intrepid Marketing, a leading Bend marketing agency and host of A SWIG of Branding. For more information, contact Kelly at 541-419-9976 or Kelly@intrepidforward.com
(Graphic above: This is how good marketing works | Graphic courtesy of Kelly J. Walker)