As a digital agency, this is possibly the most difficult balance to strike. Does the campaign revolve entirely around simply achieving objectives to minimum cost, or is it about cementing your status as an original, creative team with quality ideas?
That much is dependent on your desired perception as an agency. Many who want to be known for their unique methods and ideas won’t focus enough on how those ideas achieve the client’s targets. It is vital to be creative, yes. But it should be carried out within a specified strategy. Here’s what we think:
Creativity should come from a strategic base layer
The best creative ideas come from understanding the task at hand. For example, we offer clients a Messaging Workshop session. We work through a structured format that enables us and you to really understand what makes the brand tick and what is important to home in on. From the Messaging Bible we then put together, we can then think artistically about what would be effective for a brand.
On that note, the importance of getting the messaging tone right cannot be stressed enough. In this regard, strategic thinking wins hands down. It is imperative to plan exactly the manner in which the brand is to communicate with their audience. This can only come from research, planning and making sure everyone internally is aligned to the same brand tone.
Luc Wise, Co-Founder of Herezie, feels that marketing planners should see themselves as “synthesizers”. Data should be collated from clients and transcribed in a simple message to be used creatively at the other side of that transcript. That is the absolute essence of our workshop: crystallising what a brands core theme is.
By approaching it methodically initially, you can then be completely assured that your ideas will be watertight, because their origins are from very strong foundations.
Achieve the client’s objectives first
The other part of strategy vs creativity is the ability to achieve objectives set out by the agency and the client. It may be cool and modern to join platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, but analysis needs to first be done into whether or not they are right for the client.
Even brands who appear reactive and seem to jump on bandwagons quickly will have done their homework about the benefit to them of extending their brand to a particular platform. Is their audience a prolific user? Is there an unusually high engagement and conversion rates with content there? Do you have the structure in place to support regular engagement across all of your social channels? Will you be spreading yourself too thin by committing yourselves to yet another channel? If you have positive answers to all these, then it may well be worth the plunge. Even so, it’s vital not to rush into generating buckets of content for a platform you don’t know much about yet.
Set the stall out early – recognise some clear aims & objectives for a new project and work back from there. Think about creative ways to solve the problem, rather than just what appears the most innovative.
Involve a team of people in the process
Some people are just more creative than others, whilst others have a head for strategy instead. Both are just as brilliant. A good agency will employ both kinds of people and apply them all to a project. To paraphrase an old saying – the thinkers keep the dreamers’ heads from staying in the clouds, whilst the dreamers make sure the thinkers actually get off the ground. The best creative strategies and projects will have input from both sides to ensure maximum output.
Evaluate your data properly
When planning a campaign, it’s vital to think about collecting as much data as possible, allowing you a crucial insight into your audience and to steer future projects. It also allows you to be reactionary along the way - if the data shows something isn’t quite working, you can address any issues as they arise, allowing you optimum ROI.
This understanding will prove invaluable when scoping future projects. Analytics tools – even something as simple as Google Analytics – can help form a more in-depth strategy that is based on relevant and up-to-date data. Without any tracking, it’s very difficult to understand the basics; what kind of social media content is most popular, where your web traffic is coming from or your audience’s demographics.
In summary, strategic thinking means that every action carried out will be for a specific purpose. It allows agencies to future-proof a project by planning eventualities and creating objectives. However, the trick is to not simultaneously stifle creative ideas that work in sync with the strategy. Allow enough room and opportunity for ideas to come to fruition naturally and weave them into the overarching approach.
Written by Andrew Thomson