August 3rd, 2011 | Glenda Rissman
When planning a new creative initiative, you know the importance of aligning the visuals, and messaging to your marketing and strategic objectives. But how can you assess if your creative partner understands those goals and – more critically – has the ability to translate them into action?
This is no idle question. Improperly executed programs can do more than damage your brand integrity. They can also weaken customer loyalty. Although checks and balances exist to ensure creative executions support strategic objectives, many companies still frequently approve and distribute questionable executions. So where’s the disconnect? Why do some marketing managers inadvertently green light designs that could harm their company’s image?
Although there are several answers to that question, sometimes it comes down to this: companies rely on the executions presented by their creative partner, even when those executions may be off-target, off-brand or simply sub-standard.
This happens most frequently when companies begin work with a new creative partner. Despite competitive RFPs and careful assessment of portfolios, companies still often select firms that lack the ability, know-how or capacity to fulfill their needs. Whether you’re selecting a new firm or reviewing the quality of your existing firm’s work, you need to:
1. Understand the project’s history.
The question is not whether the creative resonates with you; it’s whether it fulfilled that specific client’s objectives. That means beautiful visuals alone aren’t enough. Creative firms can’t deliver solutions that align with your visual identity and messaging guidelines if they don’t have a complete understanding of your strategic objectives. This largely explains why speculative work rarely allows companies to gauge a creative partner’s underlying ability.
2. Ascertain that the creative partner can deliver on your needs.
Although strategic workshops and creative processes can be important introductory tools, the creative partner you select must have the requisite expertise to translate the information you share into tangible results. Do they have proven experience bringing corporate visions to life? Can they perform beyond your expected baseline?
3. Select a creative partner with the skills to analyze gut reactions.
Does your creative partner know how to elicit a response that reflects your organization? Do they understand the overall industry landscape? Have they analyzed what your competitors are doing? Do they have the finger on the pulse of creative innovation? Do they follow best practices in the design world and from different media?
4. Assess if the solution represents the organization’s culture or essence.
Is it targeted to the appropriate audience? Does it reflect the company’s character attributes? Is it properly differentiated? Does it evoke a specific spirit or mood? Is it aspirational?
5. Take intangible elements into account.
Is the execution both creatively fresh and capable of withstanding the test of time? Is it thought provoking? Irreverent? Immediate without being too trendy? Beyond the norm? Or perhaps pared down to something so simple that it evokes surprise or delight?
While there is no foolproof process for assessing and selecting the ideal creative partner, asking yourself these questions gives you a basis to begin objectively analyzing something that, by its nature, can be abstract and immeasurable. This checklist should help to raise the bar on creative executions across the board.