Who doesn’t love a good creative strategy?
Sure, it can be tough to find the time for strategy and creative briefs when everything seems to be constantly on the move.
But your creative team, from copywriters to art directors, will appreciate a guiding document that can provide good direction.
So let’s talk about how you can get there.
This step-by-step guide will help you build a strategic and tactical plan designed to enhance any marketing campaign.
First Things First: What’s a Creative Marketing Strategy?
A creative strategy in marketing is a document that outlines exactly what goals you’re looking to achieve with deliverables for marketing campaigns. From brochures to social media graphics, it provides guidance and direction that ranges from brand strategy integration to the call to action needed in each piece.
In other words, it guides the creative process.
Rather than relying on your team to come up with creative ideas out of nowhere, the strategist’s role is to create the framework out of which those ideas can develop.
1. Define Your Core Goals
In marketing, it always helps to start with your end goals in mind. That’s no different here.
Before we get into messaging, the brief should begin by outlining the core objective that the marketing campaign needs to accomplish. Knowing the goals will be extremely helpful to your team, which will work differently if it needs to increase general brand awareness than it would if rapid business growth is on the menu.
It’s even more helpful if those goals are SMART:
Creating SMART goals allows you to attach specific metrics to them, like increasing your brand engagement by 15% over the next six months. You can also derive more specific KPIs, which will become key for the benchmarking we’ll discuss below.
Finally, your goals are at their best when derived directly from your larger marketing plan, ensuring alignment between creative strategy and brand strategy.
2. Outline Your Target Audience
Next, it’s time to think about the people for whom the creative content is being developed. Outlining your target audience allows your team to put themselves in the audience’s shoes, speaking to preferences on a number of levels.
- Basic demographics, like age and gender, help with choices like font size and types of images
- Geographic characteristics allow for creative choices like featuring the outdoors vs. cityscapes
- Advanced psychographics, like preferences, pain points, and behaviors, can allow for nuanced adjustments in anything from the copy to the “hardness” of the graphics
Looking for an advanced step here? Try leveraging the concept of buyer personas.
That means essentially creating hypothetical ideal customer profiles, humanizing the data categories above, and making it easier for your creative team to connect the audience with design outcomes.
3. Set Your Brand Positioning
Next, it’s time to define exactly how the creative work in question should align with your larger brand strategy. Within this step, focus on a few core areas:
- Your place in the larger competitive environment
- Your key differentiator to make yourself unique in that environment
- Your brand voice and tone, including how that differs from your competitors.
- Any graphic considerations (such as color combinations or other visual assets) that apply to this creative project.
This is not a step that needs to be completed from scratch for every strategic document. Instead, it should derive from your larger branding efforts with minor tweaks or clarifying nuances where relevant for the specific project or campaign at hand.
When outsourcing creative work to an ad agency or other external partner, this step is crucial. But even your internal marketing team could use a refresher on the topic, so it’s never a bad idea to include.
4. Define Your Key Takeaway
What’s the one thing your audience should take away when they see one of your creative pieces?
That question is, in many ways, what the entire creative brief boils down to. If you could only get one thing across, what would it be?
This takeaway or call to action should be directly connected with all of the variables mentioned above. Depending on the deliverables in question, it’s not always explicit. But it should always be top of mind for your team as they build the various pieces within the campaign.
For additional context, and to help out your copywriters, you might also want to spell out the details beyond this single takeaway. In other words, break down what your audience gets when they take that next step, and how it helps their larger customer journey.
5. Identify Your Channels
As we mentioned earlier, a creative strategy tends to be specifically designed for a marketing campaign. If you have at least a broad plan for that campaign in place, take the opportunity to outline the channels on which you’ll run your messaging.
Ideally, these steps align closely with your content marketing strategy. Through that document, you already know many of the details and nuances that come with channels like social media, display, search, or your website.
Here, it’s about breaking down those details in a simple way for your team. That way, creative directors know the context of the pieces they’re creating. This is important because of how different channels may impact the way the content is displayed. Naturally, a social media-heavy creative plan looks very different from one that focuses on billboards or OTT ads.
6. Sketch Out Deliverables
With your general channel overview in place, it’s time to sketch out the deliverables expected as part of the larger campaign. Here, it’s important to get specific enough for your creative team to know exactly what to expect.
That’s right, we’re talking specs. Depending on your plan, these could range widely. Examples include:
- Word count on Google search ads
- Dimensions on social media graphics
- Partner expectations for a guest blog post
- Pixel density for a billboard display
And the list goes on. For more comprehensive creative operations, many of these specs are standard know-how already in the hands of your team. Whether or not that’s the case, a list of deliverables with core specs never hurts!
Of course, you can always adjust and expand your needs as campaign planning moves on. Beyond the brief, think of your strategy as a flexible document.
7. Create a Timeline
At this point, the strategy has gotten quite complex. Your team will want to know exactly what’s expected of them to get it done.
In other words, you’ll need a timeline that outlines exactly what is due when, and how.
Some assets may not be needed until later in the campaign. Others might be absolutely crucial at launch time. You might need review time for some initial pieces, but not for later ones that build on that initial foundation.
Here, the timeline becomes invaluable. It provides creative directors and other marketers within your organization a perfect overview and understanding of expectations.
Of course, as is the case with the individual assets, your timeline might need to be adjusted over time. As long as everyone is aware of that flexibility, it can become a valuable planning tool throughout the execution phase of the strategy.
8. Set Key Benchmarks
With your timeline in place and the KPIs firmly in hand from the first step, you can now set reliable benchmarks. These benchmarks allow for regular check-ins that help you and your team stay on track.
A few common benchmarks within a typical creative plan include:
- Initial creative concepts based on the strategy presented
- First set of creative assets delivered prior to campaign launch
- Second set of creative assets delivered during campaign launch
- Check-in on performance of creative and potential adjustments based on key performance indicators
- A/B tests of two creative pieces to optimize audience response and results
Of course, these are just some of the countless benchmarking examples you can pursue. Building them into your strategy allows you to stay on track and ahead of the game, ensuring the long-term success of your creative development.
The Hidden Key to Executing Your Marketing Strategy
Put it all together and you get more than a short, single-page creative brief. You get a comprehensive strategy designed to give your team everything they need to create the right assets for the right audience to accomplish the right goals.
Yes, it’s complex. This is why the final piece of advice we’ll give you is to not do it all manually. Instead, why not take advantage of a secret weapon for your creative strategy?
We’re talking, of course, about project management software. Once implemented, a platform like Welcome allows you to create overview documents and plan templates specifically designed to get your creative team on the same page quickly.
Rather than having to create everything from scratch, you can plan and execute in a more nimble and agile fashion. Set your goals, pull in audience and positioning documents, move through the rest of the steps, and let the platform do the work in moving your team along.
In short, Welcome can be a perfect partner to help you build and execute your creative strategy, and marketing strategy in general. Ready to give it a try? Create your free Welcome account today.