Creating Creative Strategy a la Madison Avenue

By Marvin Garellek
September 1st

Creating Creative Strategy a la Madison Avenue

When you work in the advertising industry, you learn how creative strategy is developed. The following process is used at most of the ad agencies I've worked for. You ask a series of probing questions, and the answers you come up with inform your creative strategy for an ad or a campaign.

Even if you aren't planning advertising strategy, this analytical approach can help you create realistic plans, by serving as a model for your strategic thinking.

Note: If you'd like to use this article as a tool, and answer the questions in writing, right-click on it and choose Copy Contents, then Paste it into the Memo view or a Strategies module.

The Questions:

1. What is our focus of sale?
Do we want to spotlight the brand name or image? company's capability or strength? a product or a service?Narrowing the focus on what you are selling, points you to the customer you hope will buy it.

2. Who is the target market?
What distinguishes our prospective customer from the crowd? Is it age or sex? economics or education? attitude or location?Deciding what you are selling and to whom, brings you to why the customer may buy it.

3. What does the customer really need or want that we deliver?
To solve a problem? To reach a goal? To save money? To look good?Answering the first three questions leads to your competitive position.

4. Should we pre-empt or confront our competition?
Are we selling something no other company offers, or are we penetrating a category? Are we in the position of 'Coca-Cola' (originally, the only cola drink), or the later entry 'Pepsi-Cola' ('real cola taste, more for your money, too'). Whether you are selling something unique or something better, make that your key benefit to the customer.

5. What is our key benefit to the customer?
What is the most important feature or attribute of what we sell that the customer values? How does what we sell add value to the customer's life experience?It is important to zero-in on the key benefit to the customer, and build on that.

6.  Why should the customer believe our claim?
Can we make a rational case for it? Special ingredients or processes? Would a demonstration be convincing? Or testimonials or endorsements?It is important to give the customer a 'rational anchor' or 'permission to believe' that your claim is true.

7. What is our brand character?
Do we want to project a personality that is friendly? helpful? innovative? youthful? fun? knowledgeable?Whether you are selling to consumers or businesses, you are selling to people. So deciding on a brand character is a key decision.

8. What shouldn't we talk about?
There may be several features of what you're selling that seem important to you, but do they build on the key benefit to the customer. For instance, if the key benefit were 'More for Your Money,' then a list of the things which comprise that 'more' would support a 'value' position. On the other hand, if the key benefit were 'Freshness,' then anything 'more' that does not directly contribute to freshness, could take away from it. What your ad shouldn't talk about, is anything that does not directly add to or support the key benefit to the customer.

9. What response to do we want our ad to produce?
Do we want the customer to feel a certain way about our brand or company, product or service? Do we want them to rush out and buy it, or click a link to buy now? Or do we want them to contact or visit us for more information?Deciding on the response you want your ad to produce, helps you decide what to say and how to say it. And decide what kind of response mechanism to include, if any.

10. What should be our media interface with our public?
Should we use magazines or newsletters? Mailing lists or trade papers? Billboards or sandwich boards. Spot TV or network broadcast? Airport posters or skywriting?The medium is the message. It is also your market. Deciding the information outlets or channels through which your ad message meets the prospective customer, creates your media interface with your public.

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