I’d recently presented concepts for a campaign and that was the reply.
“But I wanted something really creative…”
At this point in my career I know that’s the wrong answer. I pushed back and explained why, in my judgement, a less “creative” answer was better.
Years back I worked at a big agency and I saw a pattern. We creative types would do our best to sell wildly creative concepts because we knew we’d win a design award and get a better job somewhere else. Our concern wasn’t so much to actually sell our clients product. Our concern was to do really cool work.
Then I ended up at a direct marketing wing of a big agency and I learned that nobody cared so much about the wildly creative because we were going to do 50 test cells and the one with the best results would win.
How bizarre. Use our creative chops to sell stuff.
Many years hence, I’ve learned to balance wild creative and the desire to actually sell something.
The key, which took me years to figure out, is buyer personas and empathy.
Before you can effectively sell something to an audience, you need to truly understand that audience. You need to get inside their heads and see the world through their eyes. Talk to potential customers. Imagine being a potential customer and try to understand how they think.
It may not be something wildly creative. It may be a very well focused, simple message but do you have the discipline to tune the creative juices down enough to be well understood and approachable.
And how do you get there?
Experience, failure and testing.
The experience means you’ve failed enough to learn something. That brilliant idea just HAD to work because it was so cool… But it didn’t. Everyone loved it in the office, the client thought it was brilliant but their customers could care less. Ouch. Lesson learned. Maturity gained.
Testing? Most clients I’ve worked with don’t do much testing because it can be slow and costly so more often than not, it’s good judgement and persona understanding that will lead a successful campaign.
But what about the wildly creative ideas.
Keep doing them. I know I do, but I’ve learned to temper that by having a clear understanding of the recipient. A new, custom motorcycle can be a wildly creative masterpiece, but my Great Aunt Lucy isn’t going to buy it.