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How Thoughtful Creative Sets Your Brand Apart (and Boosts the Bottom Line)

Drew Hill // April 11, 2019

All marketing efforts are not created equal. In today’s landscape consumers are exposed to an overwhelming amount of marketing messages. Estimates vary depending on where you live, how much media you consume, and the amount of time you spend online, but you could be served anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day. With that vast amount, it’s hard to imagine that anything could resonate with the audience, let alone impact buying behavior.

However, brands continue to see value in their marketing efforts. While there are many elements that can play a role in determining whether a message is a success or failure, time and again creativity proves to be a powerful tool in helping marketing efforts stand out.

Why creative?

In the cluttered world we live in, the last thing people want to see is messaging showing up like a door-to-door salesman hawking their latest offering. And just because you put something out into the world, that doesn’t mean that it will truly be seen. It’s like the old saying about a tree falling in the woods—just because it happens doesn’t mean that it’s heard.

That’s where creativity comes into play. Finding creative ways to speak to your consumers helps to separate you from your competition, positioning your brand uniquely. Through the use of humor, sentimentality, inspiration, or any number of emotions, you will be able to connect with your audience on a deeper, more intimate level, striking a chord with them and their psyche. It’s this level of connection that helps turn attraction into action. But how do you get there?

What goes into crafting thoughtful creative?

When creating effective marketing, it’s important to realize from the start that everything is subjective. Not everyone may connect with your ad or even like it, and that’s okay. There is no silver bullet or secret sauce here. Your goal should be to know your core audience as intimately as possible and then cater your messaging to them. Determine what will resonate with them, and let that lead your creative efforts. Now you’re ready to bring your messaging to life through two critical phases.

Concept

All great creative starts with a strong concept. Your concept is your foundation that everything else is built upon. Mess this up and no matter how beautiful your ad is, you’re sunk.

A good concept should be extendable beyond just one execution. It should naturally breed multiple thoughts and directions while still tying back to a central theme. Without a solid concept, your creative will feel hollow and fall to the wayside along with the other thousands of messages your audience is bombarded with.

An example of a strong concept can be seen in a recent campaign we did for our client Airstream. Each year, we help Airstream create a unique campaign around the holidays to help dealers boost sales during the off-season. In 2018, they asked us to focus on promoting a few of their newer, smaller units—Nest and Basecamp. We embraced the idea of “little” and ran with it, creating a campaign concept around the central theme of little adventures. With this small but strong concept in place, we were able to expand the campaign in multiple directions and executions. The versatility of this concept allowed us to highlight both the Airstream lifestyle and product features, keeping the campaign fresh over multiple months.

Execution

Once you have a concept selected, it’s time to bring it to life. It’s important to note that while execution can’t save a weak concept, it does have the power to kill even the best ideas. A great concept can survive a tight budget, if that’s taken into consideration up front. But if you try to cut corners during the execution process, it will hamper your efforts and lead to a subpar result. There are many choices that will be made during this phase that will work in tandem with one another to support the messaging. Typography, visuals, music, and more—these elements need to be selected with intentionality. It’s also the selection of any one of these pieces that will either draw the viewer into the creative or turn them away.

With a strong concept, standout execution, and accurately targeted messaging, you’re in a great position to deliver unique and successful creative. It’s important to always remember that your marketing is encroaching on your audience’s time and personal space. What you are sharing should add value to them. It’s an exchange and the viewer shouldn’t feel hoodwinked or just served a message to “buy now.” Connect with them. Give them something to ponder. Give them something with substance to remember you by.

Growing opportunity

With your established creative in hand, it’s important to grasp the opportunities for it to live in the modern world. The mediums and channels for reaching your audience continue to grow daily. Once limited to traditional efforts like radio, TV, and outdoor, the ever-changing digital landscape and evolving thinking on what constitutes ad space have opened up new arenas for your messages to be seen and heard.

These opportunities have expanded the possibilities for creative solutions to connect with your audience in even more unique ways. Along with these emerging mediums have come new ways of gauging the effectiveness of your creative. Platforms such as Facebook, Google, and HubSpot, among others, allow you to gain critical insights throughout the life of your creative. This information can allow you to tweak your creative to optimize performance or pivot the messaging to reach a specific subset of your audience. With a strong concept and assets in place, the options available to manipulate your creative are almost endless.

campaign blueprint wireframe

An example of a multichannel marketing campaign. Once you have powerful creative, it’s time to share it across the platforms and channels your audience frequents.

What does success look like?

So, how does thoughtful creative translate into success for your bottom line? As we’ve outlined, creativity draws people to your product or business by connecting with them on a deeper level. It speaks to your core audience while reaching others, engaging potential new buyers and influencers. It helps to increase brand awareness, which translates into more consideration and brand allegiance while separating you from your competition. Ultimately, your creative becomes an extension of your product and organization. It’s another way for you to speak to the world, stand out, and grow your business.

Drew Hill Team Photo at Element Three

A second-generation Creative Director, Drew has spent over 15 years in the advertising industry—winning numerous Addy awards and even a Judges Choice nod at the One Show RX Awards. He's the co-founder of INCH x INCH, a non-profit monthly button club Drew and his buddy Bob began to support youth art education programs.