In my advertising days we always talked about the “big idea,” the creative starting point for all advertising campaigns. This “big idea” is not the same as a creative strategy (the two are often confused). One way to think about it is: while the big idea drives marketing and communication, the creative strategy drives the whole organisation, including the purpose.
Let’s take Storck (Werthers, Merci, Toffifee), a privately-owned German sweets producer. I had the privilege of serving Storck for some eight years, where I worked in branding and was first introduced to the creative (long term) strategy. Storck builds brands predominantly around the theme of love:
- Werthers. Built around the theme of “love for tradition,” Werthers emphasises the tradition of the product (highlighting how the product is made) and the tradition of handing over from generation to generation (reimagining the candy store from your youth and grandfather to grandson).
- Merci. A small, but sincere, token of love, Merci offers chocolate combinations for a fair price. Its logo is a heart and its advertising feeds us suggestions on how to show appreciation to other people. The box contains a wide selection of flavours for everybody to enjoy.
Storck will never stray from this creative strategy for the simple reason that consistency provides a creative umbilical cord with consumers, employees and all their stakeholders.
How to develop a creative strategy
Without a creative strategy, you might hop over from one big idea to another, making yourself more vulnerable to volatile economic trends. Dozens of mainstream propositions are struggling to survive because their reason for being is not clear, resulting in price, speed, or convenience becoming the dominant parameters in the battle for the consumers’ attention.
That is exactly where a creative strategy can help: it communicates and provides proof of who you are and why you are here in a compelling, irresistible way. It is the starting point for your product creation, iconic customer journey moments, additional services, processes and your pricing model. It is the poetic foundation of your whole organisation. As such, it is a vital strategic starting point. The creative strategy is the answer to the question customers never posed, ‘why do you not give me the things I would love to get from you?’
To create a creative strategy, I like to refer to the beautiful French saying, “Reculer pour mieux sauter,” which essentially explains having to take a few steps back in order to propel forward. That takes courage, we at ScaleUpNation know this. It means looking into the mirror and accepting what you see. Start this by deeply reflecting on what you are doing as a company. What is going on around you, do you really take notice? What do you do well? What could you do better? What not to do any more? What are your competitors doing and are they really your competitors? Who is the first human being on the planet that will buy your proposition? What is going on in his or her mind and world? How well do you really know this person and do you care for this person as being your best friend?
Building a creative strategy might be easier for purpose-driven brands, like Patagonia, who have a very clear reason for being, which is almost the same as a creative strategy. When forming your creative strategy, it might be easier to take a page from these purpose-driven brands and think about your purpose and reason of existence, as well as your design strategy. What will your product or service look like – and why? Write a press release for your brand, that’s a good exercise to start with.
A design strategy could ignite the creative backbone of your brand. Alessi, Braun, and BMW are great examples of effective design strategies. At Alessi, all products are designed in a way to make you smile, while Braun wants its customers to intuitively understand the use of the product, you do not have to read the manual! BMW cars are designed to look like they’ve just had the worst workout, an important feature of BMW’s design strategy. None of these strategies are a coincidence, they are designed, conceived with a lot of effort and creativity.
Don’t underestimate the smallest of ideas when developing a creative strategy. Nurture every idea for it to grow. Growing and blossoming are the key drivers of managing a creative strategy. It might take decades to develop – and even longer to embed into your organisation’s culture – but a creative strategy builds prosperity, safeguards your brand’s uniqueness, gives direction to marketing and business opportunities, and ensures you get the right talent in to give purpose to what you do.
One more thing – if you think that a creative strategy is more important for B2C than for B2B, you are wrong. Brand recognition in B2B is more important than in B2C. Do you want to know more about this? And develop a creative strategy for your brand? Reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get to work.
Peter de Boer PhD
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