One of the most important components of an integrated marketing communications program is the marketing communication message. It will be obvious that there are a myriad of ways to convey an marketing communication message. However, underlying all of these messages is a creative strategy that involves determining what the marketing communication message will say or communicate and creative tactics dealing with how the message strategy will be implemented or executed.
The importance of creativity in marketing communication
The creative side of marketing communication is one of its most interesting aspects. The creative strategy used to communicate an marketing communication message is an integral part of the promotional process and is often critical to the success or failure of the campaign. Numerous examples or cases can be cited of how a good creative strategy was an important factor in determining the success of a product (goods and services) or reversing the fortunes of a struggling brand. Of course there are also many situations where companies struggle to find a creative formula that works effectively. Attention must also be given to the issue of creative versus effective marketing communication as many ads may be critically acclaimed from a creative perspective but fail to help the sales of the brand.
Marketing communication creativity
It is important to examine the concept of creativity, how it applies to marketing communication, and the challenge firms face in developing creative and effective marketing communication.
What Is Creativity?
Creativity is one of the most commonly used terms in marketing communication as those who develop marketing communication messages are often referred to as “creative types” and agencies develop reputations for their creativity. So much attention is focused on the concept of creativity because the major challenge given to those who develop marketing communication messages is to be creative. Creativity has been defined as “a quality possessed by persons that enables them to generate novel approaches in situations, generally reflected in new and improved solutions to problems.”
Perspectives of Marketing Communication Creativity
Perspectives of what constitutes creativity in marketing communication vary. At one extreme are those who argue that marketing communication is creative only if it sells the product. At the other end of the continuum are those who judge creativity in terms of its artistic or aesthetic value and argue that creative marketing communication must be novel, original and unique. The answer as to what constitutes creative in marketing communication is probably somewhere between these two extreme positions.
We are concerned with marketing communication creativity which refers to “the ability to generate fresh, unique and appropriate ideas that can be used as solutions to communications problems.” This perspective recognises that creative marketing communication ideas are those that are novel, original and appropriate. To be appropriate a creative idea must be relevant or have some importance to the target audience.
Planning Creative Strategy
Those who work on the creative side of marketing communication often face a real challenge. They must take all the research, creative briefs, strategy statements, communication objectives and other inputs and transform them into an marketing communication message. Their job is to write copy, design layouts and illustrations and produce commercials that communicate effectively. Marketers usually hire marketing communication agencies to develop and implement their marketing communication campaigns because they are specialists in the creative function of marketing communication. However, it is important to point out that the development of creative strategy also involves representatives from the client side and other people in the agency as well as the creative staff.
The Creative Challenge
Those who work on the creative side of marketing communication have the responsibility of developing an effective way of communicating the marketer’s message to their customers. The creative person or team is often provided with a great deal of input and background information on the target audience, such as their lifestyles, needs and motives, and communication objectives. However, every marketing situation is different and requires a unique approach.
Taking Creative Risks
Many creative people in agencies argue that they often follow proven approaches or formulas when creating ads because they are safe and less likely to fail. They note that their clients are very often risk averse and feel uncomfortable with marketing communication that is too different. It is important to note that companies who have very creative marketing communication are more willing to assume some risk. However, many managers are more comfortable with marketing communication that is straight forward in communicating with customers and gives them a reason to buy.
It is a fairly common perception that those individuals who work on the creative side of marketing communication tend to be somewhat unique and different from those working on the managerial or business side. It is worthwhile to discuss some of the characteristics of creative personnel in marketing communication and the need to create an environment that fosters, and is conducive to, the development of creative marketing communication.
The Creative Process
A number of marketing communication people have argued that creativity in marketing communication is best viewed as a process and that creative success is most likely when some organized approach is followed. While most marketing communication people reject and/or resist attempts to standardise creativity or develop rules or guidelines to follow, most creative people do follow some type of process when approaching the task of developing an advertisement.
The creative process contains five steps:
Reality or verification
Inputs to the Creative Process: Preparation/Incubation/Illumination —
These models of the creative process offer an organized way of approaching an marketing communication problem. Both models stress the need for preparation or gathering of background information that is relevant to the problem as the first step in the creative process. Various types of research and information can provide input to the creative process of marketing communication at each stage. There are numerous ways the creative specialist can acquire background information that is relevant to the marketing communication problem. These include:
Background research – informal fact-finding techniques and general preplanning input. Various ways of gathering background information might be discussed. ti
Product specific research – this involves different types of studies such as attitude, market structure and positioning, perceptual mapping and psychographic studies.
Qualitative research input – techniques such as in-depth interview or focus groups with customers or ethnographic studies.
Verification/Revision – The purpose of the verification/revision stage of the creative process is to evaluate ideas that come from the illumination stage, reject any that may be inappropriate, and refine those that remain and help give them final expression.
Some of the techniques used at this stage include:
Pretesting of ads in storyboard or aniamatic form
Creative Strategy Development
The creative process of marketing communication is guided by specific goals and objectives and requires the development of a creative strategy or plan of action for achieving the goal. Creative strategy development actually begins with a thorough assessment of the marketing and promotional situation and a determination of what needs to be communicated to the marketer’s target audience. Creative strategy should, however, also be based on a number of other factors that are stated in the creative or copy platform.
Copy Platform – A copy platform provides a plan or checklist that is useful in guiding the development of an marketing communication message or campaign. This document is prepared by the agency team or group assigned to the account and may include creative personnel as well as the account coordinator and representatives from media and research. The marketing communication manager and/or the marketing and product manager from the client side will also be involved in the process and must approve the copy platform.
Marketing Communication Campaigns
Most advertisements are part of a series of messages that make up an marketing communication campaign which consists of multiple messages, often in a variety of media that center on a single theme or idea. The determination of the central theme, idea, position, or image is a critical part of the creative process as it sets the tone or direction for the development of the individual ads that make up the campaign.
The Search for the Major Selling Idea
An important part of creative strategy development is determining the central theme that will become the major selling idea or big idea for the ad campaign. There are several different approaches that can be used for developing major selling ideas and as the basis of creative strategy. Some of the best known and most discussed approaches include:
The unique selling proposition
This concept, which was mentioned in the opening vignette, is described in Rosser Reeve’s Reality in Marketing communication. It’s three characteristics include:
- each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer
- the proposition must be one that the competition either cannot or does not offer
- the proposition must be strong enough to pull over new customers to your brand
Creating a brand image
Some competing brands are so similar it is difficult to find or create a unique attribute or benefit so the creative strategy is based on the development of a strong, memorable identity for the brand through image marketing communication.
Finding the inherent drama
Leo Burnett believed marketing communication should be based on a foundation of consumer benefits with an emphasis on the dramatic element in expressing these benefits.
The basic idea is that marketing communication is used to establish or “position” the product or service in a particular place in the consumer’s mind.
These approaches to determining the major selling ideas discussed above are very popular and are often used as the basis of the creative strategy for marketing communication campaigns. These creative approaches represent specific “creative styles” that have become associated with some of the most successful marketing communication creative minds and their agencies. However, it should be pointed out that many other creative approaches and styles are available and are often used in marketing communication. The challenge to the creative team is to find a major selling idea and use it as a guide to the development of an effective creative strategy.