Strategy vs Creativity

Strategy vs. Creativity: Which is More Important?

The struggle of balancing strategy and creativity has plagued every business at one stage. Where some completely focus on strategy, others pride themselves in creativity, but when you can create the perfect blend of both elements, you will end up becoming ethereal gods of your market.

Take for example Apple vs Blackberry. Blackberry was once the cornerstone of the smartphone market, but its black and white user experience was one of its major downfalls. BlackBerry also insisted on producing phones with full keyboards, even after it became clear that many users preferred touchscreens, which allowed for better video viewing and User experience. They also failed to anticipate that consumers — not business customers — would drive the smartphone revolution.

Today Apple is the largest tech company in the world, they utilised their innovation and creativity to change the world, but if it weren’t for the aggressive technical strategies behind the products and their complimenting marketing campaigns, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

Why Strategy?

Steuart Henderson Britt once said, “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.” Replace advertising with its broadened concept, strategy, and you’ve got yourself a killer-quote to live by.

A business most definitely needs strategy. It requires asking the important questions that drive success:

  • Who are your target customers?
  • How can your customers benefit from your product/service?
  • How exactly are you different from your competitors?
  • Where do you want to be and how are you going to achieve that?

If nobody asks the important questions, you won’t really get anything done.

Why Creativity?

Every business needs strategy, but what’s strategy without anything that distinguishes you from the next business doing the exact same thing as you. In some industries, differentiation isn’t necessarily a big deal, and that’s fine, but if you really want to get anywhere in your industry, adding a bit of differentiation is like adding a spark to a haystack.

Do you think Apple would’ve become so popular if they decided to focus more on technically operational user experiences (UX) and user interfaces (UI)? I highly doubt so. What helped skyrocket them into half of the world’s hands is how easy to use their software is, and how slick and seemingly modern their hardware design is. They put creative thought into everything they do, not just technical thought. 

When it comes to the creative side of the equation, you need to be thinking different to everyone else. A few things to keep in mind when creating campaign artwork  or writing a brief for a designer:

Plan your design
Identity is important as it will help to define your campaign and be sure to carry the look and feel of your brand through all aspects.
Vision: What do you want to achieve? Brand awareness? Do you want to inspire? Answer a question? Maybe even ask a question? Be intellectually playful with your vision.
Insight: What do you want your target market to feel? E.g. Warm, welcome, hungry, excited, inspired etc.
Intent: What do you want your market to do? Click, read, subscribe etc.
Balance: Balance provides stability and structure to a design. This can be achieved through hierarchy of text

Post design
Is it attention-grabbing? Will the user engage? Does everything have purpose? If you can’t explain why an element has to be there or be a certain way – it simply shouldn’t be there.
Does the design have focal points? Do they draw attention to certain elements, CTA, specific images, particular words you want to highlight or trigger an emotio?.
Test Use and optimise: Don’t be afraid of criticism, test your artwork and ideas with peers. Also don’t be afraid to fail with your artwork, optimise and evolve until you get it right.

Why both?

The two elements shouldn’t be considered as rivalling opposites, but rather as coexisting partners because they need to work together in order to achieve the best outcome.

A great example of good creative and good strategy working together is found in nightclubs. You go to a nightclub for the dancing and genre of music; although the revenue is made at the bar. They sell an experience.

Make your campaign a nightclub; give your audience an experience, rather than serve them an image with some overlay text, repeated multiple times throughout a campaign, think outside the box, push your brief to its limits and research what works or doesn’t.

Also, think about how can you use those images and text in different ways? How can you get the most from your target market? Everyone has an audience on the dance floor (your followers, local community or existing customers), now you need to get them to the bar.

Don’t ask yourself ‘how do I build a bridge’, ask yourself ‘how do I cross the river’.


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