How clients of any size can influence their creative results

Few jobs in marketing are tougher than those belonging to the creative team. When they’re on their game they come to work every day and fill a blank screen with meaningful words and visuals that convey good strategy and connect with your customers. It’s impressive and energizing to be around.

One of the pervasive questions I’ve faced as a client and again on the “agency” side is this: What does it take to achieve world-class creative? This question struck close to home this past June, when Ogilvy, a multinational, storied agency with roots in the Golden Age of Marketing, launched its new logo and style guide. Just a month before, our company, Halmyre, had launched our new name and logo using some very similar design techniques in the ligature of our respective logos (how we connected the letters).

I could explain at length the details of how the design techniques are used to pursue our respective brand positions. But in short, collaboration is the common theme. In Ogilvy’s logo the ligature treatment they use is to convey a renewed focus on agility and creative connectedness. In ours, connecting the letters in our logos is used to focus on the fundamentals of marketing strategy and relationships. Both are valid creative approaches that make sense for our businesses.

I will even be so bold as to say that in each case, the creative is great: They serve our different identities and business objectives well. But I am equally confident in saying that more minds worked on Ogilvy’s solution – a lot more – than on ours.

Without a true empathy for the connection to the issues, challenges and opportunities you and your customers face, nothing great will come of any work you do. World-class creative never sprouts from apathy or cynicism.

Which raises another related question: Is size required for great creative?

Obviously, I will be accused of bias, but my answer is that no, more minds do not guarantee great creative.

How all clients can get great creative

Who isn’t looking for world-class creative? The problem is that some organizations assume they’ll get it from a global-sized agency because they too are large and have budgets that can command a big agency’s attention. And many other organizations on the smaller end of the scale assume that they are excluded from the “great” category by their budgets and that they’ll have to settle. In both cases, nothing is farther from the truth.

Size of partner does not matter. But here are four factors that do.

First, look for peers and a meeting of minds.

When clients assess us, or another agency or group of consultants, as potential partners, the most important advice I can give is to look for peers across the table, not to worry about whether they have a deep enough pool of talent. The people you’ll be working with - are they your peers in whatever way you define it, e.g., intellectual, industry, experience, etc.?

Finding peers in your external marketing strategy partners ensures that you will be heard, understood and valued.

Second, choose partners who have empathy for you – and for your customers.

No matter your budget you should look for this: Alignment between you, your marketing strategy partners and your clients. Without a true empathy for the connection to the issues, challenges and opportunities you and your customers face, nothing great will come of any work you do. World-class creative never sprouts from apathy or cynicism.

Third, great creative work starts with great marketing strategy.

Halmyre was formed after our people spent years in agency situations working on weak or incomplete marketing briefs reflecting rushed strategies, or too often, no strategy at all. The tried-and-true approach is to let discipline rule.

As a client, anchor your role in developing world-class creative with a solid strategy and plan. Your partners can then build on it. This is achievable for organizations of all sizes. Getting clarity on your value proposition and on your audiences and their motivating personas, service experience, goals and objectives, for instance, is essential. Starting a marketing or creative project without a stellar strategic brief is like building a house without a blueprint.

Fourth, understand that great work takes time.

There is little to explain here. If you want it world-class, give it time. Sometimes you might just get the right idea and catch lightning in a bottle right out of the gate or under pressure. But don’t bank on it. Plan your fundamentals and give them time to develop in collaboration with your marketing strategy partners. And trust the process.

There is great talent everywhere at agencies like Ogilvy and at consultancies like ours that match every client situation and need. In today’s workforce, talent is drawn to all types of employment situations: Large, higher-profile agencies, virtual offices and smaller boutique teams where there can be more freedom and a sense of impact. And the global, connected economy makes it easier than ever to find your partners for success.

So is size required for world-class creative? No. Lead with picking your partners who fit your business, and then do your own planning to build the foundation. From there talent and greatness will have the space to shine.

About Christine Saunders

Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. In 2014 she founded The Marketing Strategy Group, which has recently rebranded as Halmyre. Prior to this, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.


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