Imagine for a minute that you are leading a brainstorming session with several coworkers about your next best business idea. You ask the group for their input, and the usual outspoken individuals immediately throw out some low-hanging fruit.
These few coworkers dominate the conversation to the point where you end up running with only the first few ideas. Everyone on the team goes along with it, and you start assigning work.
Eventually you get further along in the creative process and realize that the idea you initially came up with may not be worthwhile anymore. Even worse, you realize that your media strategy team is on a completely different page than your creative team. Your creative content does not target the right audiences, and the creative team feels defensive of its fleshed-out ideas being on the chopping block.
Unfortunately, this is how it has always been in most marketing circles. The innovation comes after the creative and media strategy teams have begun their work.
Your business will waste countless dollars and hours on remedying this situation when it could have all been avoided with a small shift earlier in the process. Instead of saying, “This is how it has always been done,” figure out how both teams can start on the same page and push their creative boundaries as well.
Should the Media Strategy or the Creative Plan Come First?
What really comes first when trying to launch a creative marketing campaign? The “way it’s always been done” within the media industry is to put the media strategy before the creative plan. While working on the business portion makes sense initially, it actually can hinder the creative plan.
We often based our creative plan on the medium in which it is presented. If you are going to make something for TV, then it will have a different look and feel than something made for social media. What looks good on a magazine ad may not have the same appeal on a billboard—the sensory experience of the medium has a huge impact on observers’ processing.
With social media content, for instance, the platform you choose will impact your success. Content made for LinkedIn is different than content made for Twitter. Implementing an effective social media strategy requires that both the creative and media strategy teams start with an understanding of the medium before even you calculate the dollars and cents required to make it happen.
Both media strategy and creative teams have the same end-goal, but they achieve their results via starkly different means. So, which one comes first?
The answer is neither! Both teams need to meet early on in the process so that they can formulate a coherent plan and set clear parameters for both teams.
Think about the process of creating a movie. If the creative team does not have a clear budget, then the cost of production can soar. Bigger budgets do not necessarily lead to better films.
Sometimes the best ideas can come from slashing your budget and trying to make it work. Having both the creative and media strategy teams meet early on can help both sides understand the end-goal and eliminate the need to innovate later in the process.
The Problem with Brainstorming and Creativity
Remember our brainstorming session from earlier? We use this strategy far too often despite its lackluster results and the numerous issues it creates when done in groups.
Often during these sessions, one or two people take over the discussion and only the first few ideas are seriously considered. In many cases, the same few people do nearly 60 to 75 percent of the talking.
Early ideas tend to have a disproportionate influence on the rest of the conversation. To make matters worse, the first few ideas tend to be the least creative of the bunch! You and your teams may decide they need to meet early on in the process, but if you don’t generate ideas efficiently, then you will still have problems later on.
There are quite a few ways to adapt brainstorming to work for your team. The single best way to generate the best ideas is to “write first, talk second.”
Try having every member of your team write down their best ideas before the meeting. Then, during the meeting, allow every person to present their ideas to the group until everyone has had a chance to speak. This allows more introverted members to speak their mind, promotes a meritocracy of ideas, and avoids the conformity pressure that so often plagues initial ideas.
Early in the creative process, don’t place too much emphasis on your first few ideas. Often these early iterations can put undue stress on the creative process and force your team into a defensive corner. Some of the best, most novel ideas are born from the ability to reevaluate the problem and fill in the gaps through trial-and-error.
Expose yourself and your team to a multitude of ideas in these early stages. Creativity is defined by the act of making connections between seemingly unrelated phenomenon and presenting them in a novel way. The more ideas you have to work with, the higher the likelihood you will come up with a creative solution.
Environments like this that promote the exploration of ideas will breed creativity. There are also five behaviors that promote creativity, which you can foster in these sessions:
Creativity can be taught in the right nurturing environment. Remember: Innovation doesn’t happen by accident.
Creating New Ideas Is Hard
While you can strive for novel ideas, often what you create is completely unoriginal. Don’t let that deter you!
Look at a product like the iPhone. Steve Jobs and Apple were hailed as creative geniuses for their new, shiny touchscreen device. Business classes across the nation continue to hold up the iPhone as the gold standard of creativity in business.
Yet, what they made was pretty unoriginal. There were plenty of touchscreen phones with music capabilities on the market in 2007. Apple simply did it better than everyone else.
Don’t worry about being the most creative. Instead, focus on executing your ideas the best way you can. Apple’s iPhone was successful not just because their device was better than everyone else’s, but also because they had a sleek marketing campaign that aligned with their business goals. Both the idea itself and the marketing built upon each other because Jobs aligned the two teams’ goals early on in the process.
Don’t focus on being creative in and of itself. That’s like focusing on happiness as your only goal in life: It sounds good, but it’s a great way to be miserable since happiness is a byproduct of doing something meaningful. You’ll simply spin your wheels, so to speak.
Instead, focus on the act of creating. Let your mind wander and accept that the early creative process might be a bit messy. When Jobs set out to shrink our touchscreen devices so that they could fit in our pockets, he focused on the “why” instead of the “how.” If you focus on the “why” early on the process, then you can mold the idea into something useful and interesting.