Using in-the-box creativity keeps your advertising on strategy

The best creative marketing ideas come through in-the-box creativity using problem solving where the box is your brand strategy. Alternatively, save your blue sky out-of-the-box thinking for random inventions or the launch of a new brand. This in-the-box creativity can be used for any marketing communications including advertising, point of purchase, or B2B marketing. As well, we will show how it can be used for new product innovation. 

Our box that marketing ideas need to play in has four dimensions. 

First, all marketing ideas must be focused on the brand’s desired target market. Second, they must fit with the brand. Third, the marketing ideas must deliver the brand’s message. Finally, they must execute the brand strategy to move consumers in ways that benefit our brand.

Marketing Execution

The best marketing execution must balance being creatively different and strategically smart.

Creatively different helps achieve branded breakthrough. Indeed, the marketing idea captures the consumer’s attention within the clutter of the market while linking your brand closer to the story. Undoubtedly, think of this branded breakthrough as “how you say it.” 

Strategically smart helps deliver a motivating message to move consumers. Clearly, the marketing idea communicates the main message of the brand in a way that stick with consumers as they move throughout their purchase journey. Briefly, think of this motivating message as “what you say.” 

To illustrate, click on the diagram to see the set up of the in-the-box creativity. 

Set up the in-the-box creativity by creating the box.

First, for all marketing communication, use a creative brief to set up the box the work must play within. Next, once the marketing ideas come back from the experts, use our creative checklist to decide if the work is in the box. Moreover, a smart creative process predicts which marketing ideas will deliver the best growth for the brand.

For new product innovation, the innovation plan sets up the box that will steer the new products team to come up with the best ideas. Next, once new product concepts are built, use our innovation checklist to decide if the work is in the box. Likewise, a smart innovation process predicts which new products will deliver the best growth for the brand.

Watch our video: How to use in-the-box creativity

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play or volume buttons. 

Have a look at our video on how to use in-the-box creativity to ensure our marketing execution stays on strategy. We introduce our Creative Brief that defines the box the work must play in. And, our Creative Checklist to allow you to decide if the marketing execution delivers. 

Marketing decisions

Brand leaders must make tough decisions. The creative brief and creative checklist tools are designed to support the decision making on whether to accept, reject or change the marketing ideas. Importantly, use the creative checklist to identify gaps that allows the experts to alter the marketing ideas in ways that will fit into the box. This pushes the experts to engage with in-the-box creativity to find the solutions.

The ABC’s of communication.

All creative marketing execution can be judged as to whether it drives attention that breaks through (A),while telling the brand story in a creative way that helps consumer link with the brand (B). As well, it must communicate the main benefit that will move consumers (C) and stick long-term in the consumer’s mind. (S) Indeed, remember the ABC’s of marketing communication. Attention, Brand link, Communication, Stickiness.

The ACE’s of new product innovation. 

We also look at new product innovation as part of creative marketing execution. Indeed, innovation can be judged as to whether it is aligned to the brand (A), creates desire that will lead to a demand level that exceeds targets (C). As well, it must be easy to execute (E) and lead to long-term success in the market. (S) Unquestionably, use our ACE’s to find the best new products. Aligns to the brand, creates desire, easy to execute leads to success. 

Creative Brief

Use the creative brief to define the box that your marketing ideas must play in.

We want creative marketing execution that focus on the target. Almost half our creative brief template is about the consumer. 

So, marketers do a ton of work to provide detail knowledge of the consumer. To start, define the target with combination of demographics, behaviors, and attitudes, and links how a cookie could fit into other parts of their healthy lifestyle. Most importantly, focus on the dimensions that matter to the target. 

Next, add consumer insights that provides little secrets hidden beneath the surface. Indeed, your communications experts will love working with consumer insights. These insights help explain the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points and emotions of the consumers. In addition, we lay out the pain point of the consumer using the consumer enemy that we know torments our target market every day.

To illustrate, click on the creative brief that sets up the in-the-box creativity to steer creative marketing execution

We want creative marketing execution that fit with the brand.

A smart creative brief uses the brand idea that organizes everything we do. Add the Brand Assets that includes past work that has worked including visuals, slogans, copy points, logos, fonts, and colors. Don’t cross the line by telling what type of creative you want. Stay confident that you have written such a great brief, that you do not need to control the creative outcome. Give the expert enough freedom for them to come up with great ideas.

Focus creative marketing execution on one main message. 

Highlight the main message you know will work based on the brand positioning work that leverages the functional and emotional benefits that are most motivating to consumers and ownable for the brand. Explore using our brand positioning template.

Creative marketing execution delivers the strategy.

Make sure everyone is clear on the brand strategy, by having one very clear objective in the creative brief. Importantly, try to get consumers to do one thing. Not everything. As well, provide media choices to explore, but be willing to maneuver based on the creative ideas that come back.

To illustrate, click on the details of the creative brief for your marketing communications sets up the need for in-the-box creativity.

Creative Checklist

As you see creative marketing execution, our creative checklist will help steer the ideas back in the box.

When you see the creative marketing execution come back from your experts, our creative checklist to make decisions. Then, use your feedback to your marketing experts to steer the ideas back in-the-box. Highlight the gaps you see, while avoiding providing a solution. Let your creative marketing execution experts use their in-the-box creativity to figure out new solutions that will fit the box.

To illustrate, click on the creative checklist diagram to judge in-the-box creativity to deliver creative marketing execution

Will the marketing execution capture the attention of the target? (A)

You want marketing communications that helps build a bond with consumer. First, ask if it speak directly to the consumer target. Then, does it leverage consumer insights to connect? Next, will the marketing idea deepen the bond with the consumers? Finally, can the ad help build memories and rituals?

Will consumers link the marketing execution back to the brand? (B)

Look for marketing ideas that fit with the brand. First, does the marketing idea deliver the brand idea? Second, does it leverage your creative assets? Third, is there a fit with the tone of the brand? Finally, does the marketing idea meet brand book standards.

Does marketing execution communicate the message to consumers? (C)

You want marketing execution that has a motivating message. First, is the communication of the main benefit easy for consumers to understand? Second, does the idea naturally set up the main message? Finally, will the main message move consumers to see, think, act, feel, or whisper? 

Does the creative marketing execution help distinguishes the brand? Indeed, you want work to communicate the functional or emotional benefits. Importantly, the creative marketing execution should help the brand own a competitive space that is motivating to consumers. 

Will the creative marketing execution stick in the minds of consumers long enough to trigger a purchase?

Find marketing ideas that delivers the strategy. First, does the marketing idea match up to the objective of the brief, from your brand plan? Then, does it achieve the desired consumer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance? 

To illustrate, click on the details of the creative checklist diagram to judge the in-the-box creativity. 

Tap into your instincts.

The Creative Checklist is great tool to figure out if the creative marketing execution fits in the box. Importantly, I have added instincts to the creative checklist to tap into what your gut says. First and foremost, do you love what the marketing idea has the potential to do? Does the marketing communications match the creative brief? Will you be proud of this work as your legacy?

Advertising decision making

A demonstration of how to make smart, creative decisions on advertising using Apple's iPhone 11 launch ad.

Importantly, I want to use this case study to demonstrate how to use our creative advertising checklist to make the best possible advertising decisions. To start, I will show the creative brief to inspire the in-the-box creativity. 

From there, I will show how I would judge Apple’s TV advertising, by going through each element of the Creative Checklist with my own thoughts on the iPhone advertising. Use your own thoughts to play along and see what your feedback would be. The trick is to use the gaps you see to creative feedback for your advertising agency. 

Back September of 2019, Apple was about to launch its latest iPhone.

The timing follows a pattern for Apple, as they have launched a new iPhone every September for years. However, Apple is facing a growing belief among consumers that each iPhone was merely incrementally better than the last, so consumers felt less reason to trade in their phone. Consumers call it “death by incrementalism.” 

Moreover, consumers were starting to recognize that Apple has a technology gap against Samsung. However, Apple’s iPhone 11 is a catch-up technology to address many of the gaps. This truly is Apple’s best phone, even if the company has said that every year. It offers a significantly better camera, with as the tele lens camera with night mode. Also, it also has a faster chip for better search. As well, Apple has an improved battery life, better face recognition, more durable, and a waterproof feature that Apple has used since 2017. 

To illustrate, click on the details of the creative brief for the iPhone 11 to set up the in-the-box creativity. 

iPhone 11 launch advertising: Wind Tunnel

Below, this Apple advertising opens with the iPhone 11 on a stand in the middle of a an extremely powerful, high-speed, over-sized wind tunnel. 

One-by-one, objects begin flying at the iPhone 11, including kids’ toys, food particles, ice cubes, and a hairbrush. Cut to a close up of the iPhone 11 with a slow motion shot of a rubber toy hitting the screen, to  show it can hold its ground without any dents or scratches. 

A sprinkler, similar to a car wash rinse cycle, begins to spray the iPhone 11 to demonstrate water resistance. In the closing seconds, a wedding cake is dropped through the ceiling and falls onto the iPhone 11.  

Close with the tagline “iPhone 11 Pro: It’s tough out there.” Take a look. Try out your own Creative Checklist. 

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play or volume buttons for the Apple marketing communication.

Grab the Creative Checklist to judge the marketing communication.

At this point, I recommend you reach for the Creative Checklist to begin rating each item, giving scores of high, medium, or low to set up gaps you see. 

While I am a big fan of Apple ads, this is not a great ad. Below, you can see the scores I gave it using my Creative Checklist. Wherever there is a Low score, I take that gap and turn that into feedback for the agency. 

To illustrate, click on the details of the creative checklist for the marketing communication of the iPhone 11 ad. 

First, the agency will not see your checklist scores. That’s for your eyes only. I don’t see much hope with this wind tunnel demo ad. It is always difficult to give very negative feedback while keeping the team engaged. You need to be firm without overdoing the criticism. Give direction. 

Summary of the direction I would give the agency.

1. This wind tunnel ad doesn’t fit, nor will it excite our consumer. 

Importantly, the wind tunnel doesn’t work. It doesn’t fit with my consumer’s life. Some of the objects feel soft and specific to parents with small kids. This ad would not be exciting to our core audience of a launch. How do we get ideas that are more relevant, engaging, and motivating to our consumers? 

2. The advertising lacks emotion, and there is no storytelling.

The brand has such a tight emotional bond with Apple fans. Indeed, the iPhone is an essential part of their life. I can’t let that go. This wind tunnel feels lifeless and too cold for the Apple brand. There is no storytelling. How do create a warmer ad that is be part of our consumer’s life?

3. Durability and waterproof are not enough to distinguish our brand.

This scenario of this ad feels overly fixated on durability/waterproof, which we have said has already been a component of the iPhone for several years. It is not motivating enough and misses our differences. I need this launch to seem like our best iPhone ever, as we have fixed everything our consumer has told us we need to fix. There is nothing here about the camera, our tele lens, wide-angle lens, or the night mode. Do we need to revisit our brief to make sure we prioritize our message communication? 

Provide your problems. Not your advertising solutions.

You will notice I directly provided my points, yet ended each in a question for the agency. The questions sums up the problem for the agency to solve. I am reminding them of the box. Don’t tell them what to do but tell what needs to be done. Do not give them your solutions but giving them your problems.  

For instance, with the first point, I see no hope in the wind tunnel, but my question is a bit rhetorical in order to get them to move us out of the wind tunnel when answered. It may feel like a game, but it maintains respect for them as the expert. 

The second iPhone 11 ad: A day in the life

To view, use the  ▶️  controls to play or volume buttons.

In the second round, the agency creates a day-in-the-life ad, starting with a wake-up scene, then showing various young people on the go, whether on a bus, running for class, in the grocery store, playing video games, getting ready to go out. Each moment allows a demonstration of the great features of the new iPhone 11. 

My direction on the second round

This TV ad would receive much higher marks from me. While the agency has nailed the tone and energy to fit with consumer, the communication might still be feature overload. There’s a need to focus. Nevertheless, I love this creative execution. I want to focus on this ad as a potential winner. The high-energy, fast-paced tone fits with our audience, and will draw attention and stick. Moreover, the activities feel like a perfect depiction of our consumers life, filled with small life insights.

The advertising still has potential issues. 

This Apple advertising certainly shows a day in the life. But, maybe too many random activities without a story, or an ending. Is that possible within this type of ad? I’m worried we seem to be trying to say way too many things within one ad. We need to cut down on the number of features we show. Get back to the brief and focus on the amazing new elements of the camera. Can we use other media choices to deliver the other features? Should it be many ads, with each ad focused on one singular feature that allows our consumers to do more/get more?   

Again, you will see how I would steer the agency yet use questions to create problems for them to solve. From my experience, the best experts would rather be pushed rather than held back. 

Take a look at some of the best Apple ads of all time

Advertising Decisions

The ABC's of Advertising: Attention, brand link, communication stickiness

Here are four questions to ask:

  • First, is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  • Then, is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand link?
  • Next, is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  • And, is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

To illustrate, click on the ABC’s of advertising to see details.

The best marketing execution uses in-the-box creativity. Indeed, we believe there is great marketing execution that uses emotional advertising, humor, feel-good ads, and consumer insights

Importantly, we have posts on writing creative brief, running the advertising process, making advertising decisions, and media plans

Moreover, read how to conduct your own marketing research, social media plans, and how to lead the innovation.  

Innovation Plan

Use the Innovation Plan to define the box to play in

Innovation is another element of creative marketing execution. Indeed, we need capitalize on in-the-box creativity to win in the innovation space. First, use your brand idea to guide the product development team to manage innovation ideas at the exploratory stage, (beyond five years), pipeline ideas (two to five years) and go-to-market launch plans (within the next two years). As the brand leader, you need to influence, manage, and even direct your product development team to ensure they focus on the brand strategy. 

To illustrate, click on the details of the Innovation Plan to set up the need for in-the-box creativity. 

Building the innovation plan.

For the Innovation Plan we recommend that you have a specific goal and strategy to help frame your intentions. The innovation strategy should come out of your brand planning process

To start, what are you investing in, and what is the focused opportunity you want to take advantage of? Next, what is the desired market impact you want. Finally, what is the performance result you expect from the innovation. From the brand positioning work, lay out the brand idea, main consumer benefit, and support point. Our innovation plan uses an internal beacon to guide the work of the R&D team and keep track of the project status of major innovations. 

We do have a brand plan template to use. 

Range of Innovation

Brands have a range of innovation options that should use in-the-box creativity. To start, product extensions are most straightforward and lowest risk, but likely lower gains. For instance, at the other extreme, blue ocean exploratory is the highest risk and challenging, but it could bring the highest gains. 

Product extensions: 

  • Importantly, identify new consumer needs that your brand can handle. Broaden portfolio to neutralize competitors or gain a share of shelf. Keep the brand fresh with new benefits, flavors, and sizes. This type of creative marketing execution is relatively lower risk. But, it’s also lower reward. 

Product improvements: 

  • In this case, identify where you are losing consumers; help isolate flaws and gaps in your brand that need fixing so that your brand moves ahead or catches up to competitors.

New formats: 

  • Stretch brand into new subcategories/adjacencies or parts of the value chain. For instance, these ideas help get into new parts of the store, new distribution channels, or new usage occasions. This type of creative marketing execution is moderate risk and moderate reward for the brand. 

Brand stretching: 

  • Take brand assets into new business opportunities—bringing loyal users and brand idea.

Game-changing technology: 

  • Clearly, these R&D-driven invention should be matched up to fit the changing needs of consumers.

Blue ocean exploratory: 

  • Furthermore, these ideas combine your technical capabilities, matched to pure unexplored consumer need states. Importantly, these create game-changing launches to move into fully protected blue oceans. This creative marketing execution are higher risk.

Examples of product innovation

To illustrate, click on any of the diagrams to zoom in on examples of the types of innovation. 

Innovation Checklist

Our Innovation Checklist helps decide if the ad fits in the box

Our Innovation Checklist is designed to help brand leaders compare innovation ideas. It is a decision-making tool to help sort through various factors to compare and decide which ideas to move through the innovation process. 

To illustrate, click on the Innovation Checklist to judge the marketing ideas using in-the-box creativity. 

How to work with the innovation checklist

Aligns to the brand. (A)

For each innovation idea, do consumers see a fit with the brand idea and it will attract the brand’s most loyal consumers to drive early trial and provide an easy entry?

Creates Desire. (C)

Essentially, there is a consumer demand that will help the innovation reach the volume thresholds to bring a significant impact to the category and brand. And, the market impact will help tighten the brand’s bond with consumers and add to the brand’s reputation.

Easy to execute. (E)

First, focus on innovation ideas that build on the brand’s manufacturing or servicing processes to ensure higher profitability and less reliance on partnerships to cover off weaknesses. Also, make sure the ideas match up to the abilities of the current sales team, and fits with the distribution, warehousing and shipping.

Success in the market. (S)

Importantly, can the idea translate from desire to a long-range success that uses differentiation to help separate the brand. Moreover, do you see how it fit with the brand’s strengths, while providing long-range sales and profits? And, make sure you identify the degree of competitive intensity of the category impacts initiation success, and prevents competitors from duplicating your offering. 

Innovation Checklist details in-the-box creativity marketing execution

To illustrate, click on the details of the Innovation Checklist to judge the marketing ideas using in-the-box creativity.

Our A.C.E.S. process helps your innovation decisions

All new product innovation using in-the-box creativity can be judged as to whether it is aligned to the brand (A), creates desire that will lead to a demand level that exceeds targets (C). As well, it must be easy to execute (E) and lead to long-term success in the market. (S) Unquestionably, use our ACE’s to find the best new products. Aligns to the brand, creates desire, easy to execute leads to success. 

Comparing innovation ideas

The beauty of the Innovation Checklist is it allows you to compare diverse opportunities. Below are two examples for Gray’s Cookies. 

An easy to launch snack-pack that provides small revenue but a shorter payback. And, a more challenging ice cream launch that brings a higher upside but also higher risk. 

Indeed, both ideas are using in-the-box creativity. But now, the brand leader can use the Innovation Checklist to highlight any issues, and make the decision on where they wish to invest. 

Product Innovation ideas for Gray's Cookies.

To illustrate, click on the details of the Innovation Checklist to compare different creative marketing execution.

The output of your innovation process.

Below is a new product pipeline tracking chart. Plot your creative marketing execution ideas over the next five years. Break it out via the six types of product innovation.

To illustrate, click on the New Products Pipeline over the next five years with all the in-the-box creativity

Marketing Excellence

We empower the ambitious to achieve the extraordinary

Without a doubt, I see our role is to help the ambitious marketers who are trying to improve their skills. In most cases, we hope to challenge your thinking so you become a smarter marketer. Most importantly, our purpose is to find ways to help you reach your full potential. We provide the tools, templates, processes, and provocative thoughts. 

Undoubtably, everyone learns their own way. With this in mind, we provide numerous brand stories to engage on our Beloved Brands site

Moreover, we provide brand templates that help you run your brand. For instance, you can find templates for marketing plans, brand positioning, creative briefs, and business reviews. Altogether, we offer brand toolkits with all the presentation slides you need. 

Our marketing training programs cover different streams to suit the type of marketer you are. For instance, our marketing training covers consumer marketing, B2B marketing, and Healthcare marketing. 

Finally, I wrote our brand playbooks to help you build a brand that your consumers will love. 

The fundamentals of marketing matter

The marketing fundamentals that we show in this article are part of what we use in our marketing training programs. Ambitious marketers will learn about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, writing creative briefs, advertising decision-making, marketing analytics, and marketing finance

Importantly, when you invest in our marketing training program, you will help your team gain the marketing skills they need to succeed. Without a doubt, you will see your people make smarter decisions and produce exceptional work that drives business growth. 

Strategic Thinking

Articles that will improve your strategic thinking skills

To start, take the opportunity to improve your strategic thinking skills. Look to the five steps to building an effective brand strategy

We show how to use our Strategic ThinkBox, and lay out the five elements of strategic thinking. Next, go deeper on to challenge your brand’s core strength, engage with consumer strategy, or competitive strategy

Undoubtedly, you must understand the business situation before making your next move. We show how to write the ideal strategy statements you can use in your marketing plan

As you move to the marketing execution, you need to use in-the-box creativity to stay on strategy. Importantly, marketers need to understand pricing strategy, social media strategy, and product innovation

If you are a B2B marketer, look at at how to use our B2B Strategic ThinkBox, Also, you can look at how we evolve Porter’s model. You can explore our Blowfish Marketing for niche brands. 

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Graham Robertson

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