People always ask me, “so what is it that makes a brand leader good at creative advertising. I used to think they must be more creative. Or they are more in touch with creative people. Or better yet, they are a visionary. I never really thought these answers satisfied me. Advertising is so much more than that. In fact there are many things around advertising that have nothing to do with the creative. There needs to be a great brand plan that inspires great strategy, the creative brief should be tight, yet rich with insight. Brand leaders have to manage the process and stay on strategy and they should have an ability to select the right media. They should take risks. They have to be able to handle the stress of ambiguity against deadlines, and the pressure to make the numbers in the face of art. Advertising is half art, half science. They have to be able to give some freedom of execution, yet maintain a tight control on the strategy.
The thinking behind smart and creative advertising
The best advertising must balance being creatively different and strategically smart.
When ads are smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of the business, marketers are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. However, when it comes to advertising if the ads start too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of boring your consumers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through.
When ads are different but not smart, they will entertain consumers, but do nothing for your brand. Your advertising must be smart enough to trigger the desired consumer response to match your brand strategy.
Be a better client
Brand Leaders must be good at giving good feedback, maybe even a bit fussy about details. Be nice though. They have to love the work and bring that emotion to the table. What about motivating the team? Not just motivating the creatives, but the planners, the account people, the editors and even the directors. Someone who is great at Advertising has to make decisions. They have to be able to walk in the shoes of the consumer, yet still, live at the desk of the brand. The best brand leaders must have the ability to gain alignment with their own team and yet gain approval from the senior management of the company. They have to be able to sell the work. At all stages. The list goes on and on. There are just so many things that are required to get good advertising. Being creative is a great start. But it is more.
The best brand leaders must consistently get good creative advertising into the market, and they can keep bad creative advertising out of the market.
It’s such a simple yet complicated answer. Almost as simple and complicated as David Ogilvy’s line “Clients get the work they deserve”. I always ask Brand Leaders, “if you knew that how you showed up actually impacts the advertising, do you think you might show up differently?” I hope the answer is yes. But I’m not sure they do. Those great at advertising get it.
Sadly, there is an equally long list of things that make Brand Leaders bad at advertising. These days, there is so much learning on the job that people end up as the decision-maker in the room, sitting there trying to lead the advertising when they haven’t even properly trained on how to do it. Malcolm Gladwell says you’re an expert when you’ve had 10,000 hours. And yet, there are Brand Leaders are thrust into leading an Ad Campaign with 20, 30 or maybe 100 hours. And no training. Even those who are supposed to teach you haven’t been trained. So you are both learning. How can you consistently get good advertising on the air, managing such a complicated process when you’re still learning. On the job.
What great creative advertising must do for your brand
Creative advertising that is different enough to drive engagement.
To gain attention among the 5,000 ads consumers see each day, you have to make what you do interesting enough to get noticed.
1. Let the visuals do the talking.
Need a visual to capture attention, link to your brand and communicate your message. ‘See-say’ advertising helps consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember.
2. Set your brand apart from the competition.
The more different the execution and positioning message, the more different it will make the brand seem.
3. Connect using consumer Insight.
Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers will see that the brand must be for them. Focus on mattering the most to those consumers who care the most.
4. Keep the idea and communication focused and very simple.
Focused target, focused message, focused strategy and a focused media. If you try to shout too many messages, consumer just ends up hearing a confusing mess
5. Sell the benefit, not the problem or your features.
Focus more on the solution than the problem. And it is not what you do, but what consumers get, and how it makes them feel.
6. Tell the story behind the brand.
Talk about your brand’s purpose and your story about why you started this brand, what do you hope the brand really does to help people.
7. Use creative advertising to build up your brand idea.
Brand Ideas drive consistency, aligning your thinking over time, across mediums (paid, earned, social, store) and across the entire brand line up.
The ABC'S of creative advertising
Another way to rephrase this list is through the ABC’S: Attention Branding Communication and Stickiness.
- Attention: You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
- Brand Link: Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumer’s view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits the climax of the ad.
- Communication: Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
- Stickiness: Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own. Brands have to exist in the minds of the consumer.
Show up the right way
If how you show up to the agency will produce better creative advertising work Then show up right.
Agencies should be treated like trusted partners, not suppliers. Engage them early asking for advice, not just telling them what to do and when. If you tell an agency what to do, there will only be one answer “YES”. But if you ask them what to do, there are three answers: yes, no or maybe. Seek their advice beyond advertising. Build a relationship directly with the creative teams. Be more than “just another client”.
Getting great creative advertising is a balance between freedom and control. Most Marketers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative. It should be the reverse, you should control the strategy and give freedom to creative. Don’t go into a creative meeting with a pre-conceived notion as to what the ad should look like. Creative people are “in the box” problem solvers. What they don’t want a) blank canvas b) unclear problem and c) your solutions to the problem. Let them be in the box and find the solution for you. That’s what motivates them the most.
Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential
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Our playbooks will show you new ways for how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand
- You will find new strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies.
- To define the brand, I provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We show a step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept.
- For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the marketing communications plan, innovation process, and sales plan.
- To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution with chapters on how to write a creative brief, how to make decisions on creative advertising and how to lead the media choices.
- When it comes time for analyzing the performance of your brand, I provide all the analytical tools you need to lead a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand.
You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand and be successful in your marketing career.
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