I have something to confess. I am a creative marketer, but I’m not a “creative.” Gasp. There, I said it. The idea of having to come up with a creative concept is a little daunting for me and many marketers I’ve worked with over the years.

There is still a common perception that successful marketing campaigns are founded on the creative concept or ‘hook’. However, the reality is when you launch a successful marketing campaign, creative is last step – research is the first step. How else will the ‘creatives’ know what their canvas looks like, which brushes to employ, and correctly mix the colors to tell a story that engages the audience? Research dictates the creative, not the reverse. I know there may be a dramatic difference of opinion among marketers, so let’s take a look at an approach the makes for great creative and strong campaigns.

  1. Analytical: The foundations of a strong marketing campaign lie in the accuracy of the intent and the value it brings to the user. Meaning, you can better predict an outcome when you know what users want. A marketing campaign that begins with a well-constructed user persona profile, or what the user wants, forms the foundation a sturdy campaign. Feel free to use Oodi’s persona template to get started.
  2. Strategic: Once you have an understanding of your user’s persona, it’s time to develop the strategy which should include: goals, metrics, budget, market research, channel planning, and more.
  3. Operational: Define the metrics you are going to use to measure and refine campaign results. Leveraging the right process for tracking performance is paramount to success. Google Analytics + URL tracking tools such Google’s Campaign Builder is my go-to for tracking campaigns appropriately.
  4. Creative: While you’re developing your measurement tools, the ‘creatives’ can begin the creative process. Based on the goals, budgets, market and persona research, the ‘creatives’ can do what we mere marketers cannot, tell a story that creates awareness, shapes perception, and engages the audience to drive results.

So to all my fellow marketers out there who fear creativity, start with market research - it will highlight the path towards successful creative and a successful campaign. Many smaller marketing firms will employ a “creative” to help develop this important part of the campaign.

The Monogram Group: Where Research Reigns

The Monogram Group, a branding agency based in Chicago, has perfected the approach. To quote Scott Markman, Founder and President, “We get smart before we get creative.” They have built their 28-year practice with this approach, as it continues to show results for their clients.

In addition to being world-class marketers, the team at Monogram are TV celebrities. When Scott and the team appeared on AMC’s The Pitch, they revealed their disciplined approach to developing campaigns. It led to them winning the creative pitch for rebooting the 100+-year-old Fuller Brush brand. Ironically, during the initial pitch-meeting the client only wanted to hear their creative concept. But it was their focus on research that led them to victory.

Here are two reasons why they won this televised competition:

  1. Transparency and collaboration are at the center of their success: Many agencies will hold their ideas close to their chest during a pitch meeting, out of fear their ideas will be stolen. It takes a true partner to be transparent and open when a client asks for the idea to be shared, especially with the other agency in the room and you’re on TV. But Scott and the team know a successful project requires collaboration and transparency at every point throughout the relationship. If you aren’t willing to be open, the project will go awry due to lack of communication.
  2. Research-backed approach: The concepts they develop are data-driven, leading to a higher probability for success. Jackie Short, Monogram’s Research Director, ran point on compiling tangible evidence that supported their recommendations. It’s not about what looks good or what feels right - it’s about what will minimize risk and drive ROI. As The Pitch revealed, they ran two focus groups in 5 days. Not too shabby.

This is a small glimpse into Monogram’s approach, which follows a ‘building the house from the ground-up’ philosophy. They start with research to understand the foundation of the client’s business. Once the team has conducted and analyzed the research, set goals, budgets, strategy, and crafted and tested the value proposition, they then initiate a creative process that transforms their findings into ‘creative’ that engages the target audience.

Scott Markman and Jackie Short at Monogram's HQ

Another secret to Monogram’s success is shared learnings. They know the more they understand collectively, the better the caliber of work will be for their clients. The team consistently learns and shares insights and ideas, allowing them to stay fresh and engaged in each engagement. Another means to consistent improvement is their robust internship program, which allows them to give back and build the next-generation brand and digital experts.

Monogram Group was recently named in the top 20 agencies in Chicago by Expertise.com. On the Oodi platform, they offer Branding and Web Development services. Please check them out on their Oodi store.