BE MORE CREATIVE
Updated: Jun 16
How to spot and nurture brand creativity
What defines a great, hell – a remarkable idea? How adept are you and your team at recognising creative ideas and nurturing their development? If you are a marketeer working either with a creative agency or managing your own in-house team, this guide to critiquing creative concepts will help you recognise and plan your next successful campaign.
Heist, a hosiery disruptor, created a body-wear campaign minus bodies. They abandoned the tired clichés of a tiresome category to surprise with something fresh and provocative.
Creativity is a powerful tool in every brand’s arsenal. Studies repeatedly show that the most creative brands deliver better business results. Far from being an amorphous concept, creativity is inherently linked to a brand’s fortunes.
Creative appreciation is both a rational and emotional process. Some people may have an innate gift for spotting excellence, while others learn to hone and craft the skill. However, most of us have at one time or another been guilty of letting personal preferences cloud our judgement. Breaking down the principles for creative idea appreciation will help ensure you are more adept at fostering brand creativity.
Here’s our top 10:
1. Take off the blinkers
One of the biggest pitfalls is to be self-absorbed. Rather than evaluate an idea on its merits, you get hung up on the internal challenges of implementing the idea. For in-house marketeers, it’s easy to obsess on your own sector. Sure, it’s important to know your competitors’ every move, but it’s easy to forget that your audience doesn’t. They will see thousands of messages every day, from every kind of brand and only a handful of these will penetrate. So, how do you judge whether your concept is good enough to be one of the lucky few?
Commit to exposing yourself to the wider world of marketing. Seek out the best campaigns in other sectors and understand what they did differently. Think about what you could learn from them. Your creative will have to compete against the best ads, not just in your sector, but in the world. And the more you know about what’s happening in your audience’s feeds, the better able you are to judge what to put there yourself
2. Think BIG
Don’t get caught up in the detail from the off. Instead, try to separate your evaluation into a logical hierarchy. First, focus on the idea. What is the consumer hook – and is it powerful? Is it simple, effective and single-minded? Is it clever? Unusual? Distinctive? Will it motivate the target audience? Then and only then, focus on the execution. Look at the proposed design, image content and style. Consider the copy and typography. Is the headline engaging? What’s the call to action? Finally, delve into the detail. Tick the mandatory boxes; key messages, logos, legals, URLs and so on.
Thinking big lead Red Bull to create its own media empire to create fascinating sports and adventure content. Felix Baumgartner's Red Bull Stratos freefall broke the YouTube livestream record when an audience of 8 million tuned in.
Great ideas will often work 360 across different media and platforms, so ask yourself if it has legs. Can you envisage it working anywhere and everywhere? Exploring how it might, just might make it even bigger and better.
3. Does it make you feel uncomfortable?
“If you can look at something and say ‘I like it’ then it isn’t new” (Helmut Krone).
Don’t confuse ‘on brief’ creative with predictable and safe. If a piece of work makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s often a good thing, because you’ve not seen it before. An original or unusual idea is more likely to achieve the standout and engagement you’re after.
Beauty start-up, Billie, featured ‘radically hairy’ women as part of its campaign to normalise body hair and change the conversation around it. It quickly earned a place on Ad Age’s America’s Hottest Brands list.
4. The importance of instinct
Think up front about what internal influences may impact your decisions - internal sell-in, cost and timings are some of the usual suspects. Put all of these aside for a moment so your appraisal is truly objective. Remember that consumers won’t have these concerns, so think like a consumer, go with your gut. Does the idea grab you? Do you want to engage with it?
Big, bold ideas usually need championing through development. If it’s the right idea, identify potential obstacles and find ways to work around them with your agency, your team and internal stakeholders.
This quirky and insightful Spotify campaign tapped into music nostalgia, with a reminder that while people's lives may have changed, their music taste hasn't.
5. Step into your consumers’ shoes
“I hate it. I’m sure it will be very successful” was the Chairman of Unilever’s response to their latest Lynx campaign.
What matters is whether or not the idea will engage your target market. Even if you’re the same age, gender and lead a similar lifestyle to your consumer, you’re not the audience. You’re always too close. You know too much.
Make sure your agency has based their work on genuine insights and if you’re not convinced, dig deeper until you are. Explore the themes with your community – whatever it takes to liberate your perspective and understand how THEY think and feel.
6. Build your brand
Every piece of creative is an opportunity to create a positive brand impression and elevate your brand. Before briefing an agency or your in-house studio, it’s important to be crystal clear about who you are, what you stand for and what makes you different. That way, every campaign will be greater than the sum of its parts and resonate in a more meaningful way. It will work harder.
With a defined brand purpose and voice, take a step back and examine whether the proposed creative idea is reflecting and amplifying that position. Is it taking your brand forwards? Is it cementing your purpose or detracting from it?
We defined the Pro Evolution brand story in raw on the pitch action. A rallying call to arms and a celebration of the sublime, heart-stopping, precious moments spent whilst the ball’s in play.
7. Is it on brief?
Excellent creative ideas are born from a robust strategy, which is then filtered into the brief - the core proposition and the communication objectives. Ideas are developed to either address a business problem or capitalise on an opportunity. Does the idea do this? Does it achieve the objectives? Does it connect on an emotional level?
The creative brief is pivotal for inspiring idea creation. These documents should be a springboard - concise but packed full of directional insight. Every organisation briefs differently, so make sure that everyone is on the same page at the start. At Frontroom, we ensure that idea generation kicks off on the firmest footing by developing the brief on behalf of our clients for their sign off. Ask to see your agency’s brief before they start work to avoid any nasty surprises at the creative concept stage.
8. Score the ideas
Putting a system in place for scoring creative ideas can really hone your analysis and help formulate more structured feedback for your creative teams. It also acts as a continual reminder of what you are trying to achieve. We have provided a simple scoring system below but use this as the starting point to develop your own.
You can download your Creative Concept Scores card below. Just click on the link.
9. Use research to inform decisions (not make them)
Research can provide valuable insights, but be mindful of what your objectives are and how you interpret the results. As Henry Ford said; “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” The key is to use research to inspire and guide creative development – rather than dictate it.
“...use research as a compass not a map. Use it to explore – not to decide.” (McKee, 2007).
10. Collaborate from kick off
Whether you’re working with an agency or an in-house studio, relationships based on partnership and collaboration are the key to developing and nurturing creativity. The best agencies will encourage your involvement at the earliest stages. If you aren’t already, ask to have tissue meetings with your agency to explore early WIP directions, ask questions, challenge the ideas, then help nurture them. The earlier you get involved, the greater chance you have of turning a good idea into a great, actionable one.
We provide as much direct access to the creative team as possible at Frontoom, because we know that if the ownership of an idea is shared, then it's always far less likely to fall by the wayside.