Creative Advertising Isn’t What You Think It Is


“We need a great ‘slogan’.”

“I want something really edgy.”

“Let’s do something really funny like the Geico camel.”

“Bright colors. Really, really bright colors.”

“I love this font.”

“Whatever it is, we have to use Twitter.”

“I want something we can submit for an award.”

“What’s our emotional paradigm?”

When it’s time to develop a new creative advertising concept, it’s not uncommon for the key players in a business or brand to spend a lot of time discussing and brainstorming before they finally come up with what they hope is a viable idea. Unfortunately, many of these discussions aren’t very strategic, especially when a lot of non-marketing professionals are involved in the process.

That isn’t to say that free-form brainstorming can’t be extremely productive, or that non-marketing types can’t have a fabulous notion or two to contribute to your campaign. But contrary to popular notion, creative advertising and marketing concepts that actually work, not just look good, are less about edgy images, cool fonts, and “catchy” marketing themes. In reality the creative process is part inspiration, part art, part science – and when done correctly, all about data-fueled strategy. And most especially, good creative is born out of thinking that’s centered around your best customers, not your business.

So the next time your team is at the drawing board, forget about the buzzy jargon and the musings about what’s cool or trendy. Instead, find out what happens when you introduce some strategy into your creative thinking. For example:

What are your customer’s motivations?

Let’s say that one of your best customer segments is working class moms and dads in their 30s and 40s who live in smaller cities and suburbs. Depending on which category your product falls into, pleasure-giver or problem-solver, a list of your customer’s motivations or “buy buttons” might look something like this:

Pleasure Giver: Special experiences with family, opportunities to do/eat/buy/visit something they don’t typically have the means to access, opportunities to express their value system/faith.

Problem Solver: Opportunities to save money, spend time with family, get better access to healthcare or childcare, acquire more material possessions, alleviate debt, spend less time taking care of household tasks.

What have your customers done in the past?

Pull out your analytics for social media, pay-per-click advertising, website traffic, direct mail redemption, and so forth. Study the results over the last year or two and see if you notice any patterns:

– Do your customers tend to respond to certain types of images better than others?

– Do some messages, punch words (“exclusive”, “today only”), or calls to action (“act now”, “let’s get started”, “want to learn more?”) seem to resonate with your customers more than others do?

What are your customers doing right now?

How do your customers like to receive information: In person, via desktop, via mobile, in the mail? Do they listen to the radio or use email much?

These customer behaviors may seem like matters to only consider during the implementation phase of your campaign. However, it’s important to think about them when you’re developing a creative concept as well – and if you’ll indulge us in a quick sidebar, this is also a good juncture to think about your budget, too.

A “no-limits” way of thinking is great during brainstorming, but at some point your creative has to be considered within a framework of reality. You may have a brilliant idea for a creative concept, but if the concept is really going to need some video to pull it off – and your customers usually don’t interact with you online, or if you don’t really have the budget to produce video, your concept is going to need to be refined.

Now you’re ready to start brainstorming.

Once you’ve finished thinking along the lines of customer motivation and customer behavior, you don’t have to start with an intimidating blank page and hope that it’s somehow transformed into an award-winning creative concept (or better still, a sales-winning one).

Instead, you’ll find that viable ideas will begin to push themselves into the collective consciousness of your business’s marketing team members – ideas that are constructed from the perspective of your customer, not your business’s team members. Once that happens, you’ll be set to land miles ahead of your competition. They’re still sitting in an office talking about cool colors and catchy slogans.

Creative advertising is what we live for. Well, next to data. Talk to MindEcology if you’re ready to do something awesome.