All Marketing Is Creative, But All Creative Is Not Marketing
By Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer
It seems more and more I hear about “creative agencies” handling marketing for companies. While being creative is one of my foundational premises for successful marketing in any industry, the fact is creative agencies rarely have the full scope of skilled staff necessary to drive a marketing campaign, let alone marketing division, for a company. It’s no knock on the “creative sector” that is out there. I have some unbelievable creative designers on my staff, and many campaigns would not have been nearly as successful without their outside the box vision and drive. However, a true marketing agency will carry the full array of skills on staff, and creative is just one piece of that puzzle.
I’m not sure at what point being a creative agency became labeled as marketing. Sure, it’s absolute a part of the marketing genre. For many creative agencies they do just that, execute strongly a part of the marketing strategy. However, I have run across many creative agencies attempting (that’s key) to execute full tradition and inbound marketing strategies, only to fall short of success or miss critical deadlines.
It’s not as puzzling as it sounds. Creative people on staff are the group that gives life to a marketing vision. For the first time, a bunch of random brainstorming is harnessed and placed into a drafted, organized vision. It’s pretty cool when it turns out “exactly as I was thinking.” But here is where things get out of control for the creative side. There are now a series of revisions to get it to where it is acceptable (key term). See my company motto is to always do better. There is always room for improvement in the effectiveness and success of an inbound marketing campaign we run at Stone Road Media. Creative people also think this way, and at some point a project strategist or manager has to cut them off. Why? Timelines, cost, new projects, basically a whole host of reasons. At some point “perfection kills profitability,” and all businesses like profit. When a creative agency embraces a start to finish campaign the drag on of changes and perfection can be painful. But that’s an easy oversight for a company (although I hate missing deadlines!), where the real test is at for the creative is the success with consumers. The absolute best creative, outside the box, dynamite idea is only as good as the execution of marketing exposure. Whether that is social media, web, TV or print, the fact is it doesn’t matter how great the campaign idea and creative are if it doesn’t effectively reach the target, it will fail!
This is why a diverse, full-service agency team is needed from start to finish. Everyone on the team has their certain strong points. A strategist builds the campaign framework and goals, a project manager organizes and initiates the teams to complete deliverables, creative will focus on forming the vision into something tangible, and implementers will begin preparing web, social media, TV spots, and print for maximum exposure. Our team at Stone Road Media focuses primarily on the digital side so we are more concerned with our digital implementers having all channels of syndication “tee’d up” for delivering the campaign message. The strategist and project manager come back around to assure execution at the final level, and more importantly to gather analytical results from the success or failure of the campaign. This is a marketing agency that can take your idea, needs, or goals and run from start to finish. It’s a team of complements that work as one unit to deliver a successful end result.
As you begin to develop a strategy it’s often hard to ignore the creative bells and whistles. It is the first place rand ideas get a vision. Steve Smolenski, the other co-founder of Stone Road Media, and I are huge Apple fans. Not necessarily the apple products of today as much as the story of the company and its founder Steve Jobs. Steve was a strategist at heart, but he often was overcome creatively developing a vision that he would lead to fruition. As Jobs worked on the Macintosh in the 1980s, he fell victim to the “perfection kills profitability.” Missed timelines and overpriced parts made the Macintosh a much more expensive and delayed product to market. That collapse of “creative control” led to him being ousted from his own company. Now that is obviously a much more serious example but had there been a project manager or strategist counterpart to funnel his creative genius to abide by timelines and cost restraints the Macintosh could have changed the entire outcome of the Apple we all know today, for better or worse.
Lastly, companies that have already formed a vision and goals looking for an agency should consider creative agencies, or a full-service agency. Often the blinders are put on internally and the vision is inadvertently molded into what everyone expected it to be. Using a 3rd party allows an outsiders take to construct the vision often utilizing components that are learned in the industry outside of the four walls of the hiring company. This allows for a much more “free” conversion of the company’s vision to a complete campaign for the consumer it intends to reach.
As you being to lay out inbound marketing campaigns or divisions for your business, consider the strengths of your own company and areas that you need help. Look to employ a group that has a long history of successful work in your industry, as it will convey that they already have a grip on the target consumer. Sometimes bringing in multiple agencies to diversify and handle different aspects can be good. But always remember that the more agencies and people involved, the more difficult the communication wire will be. Communication between all parties will be the final straw to determine ultimate success of the marketing campaign, or just another good creative vision.