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Why Your Next Creative Idea Might Be Doomed Before It Launches

You can be clever in your marketing communications. You can be funny. You can be surprising, shocking if you want to. You can think outside the box…and then burn the box. You can come off sounding smart, savvy, hip. You can do all this, and still miss the point. Sure, you might make memorable creative, maybe even win an award. But you’ll only make a meaningful brand if you connect to the real needs, frustrations, and desires of your customers, and somehow do it in a way your competitors are not.

This is where strategy enters the picture. At The Valcort Group, we have a saying: creative that is not moored to strategy is just entertainment. At best. At worst, it’s noise. Expensive noise. What it’s not is business. What it doesn’t do is serve the best interests of the market – not your best interests, not your customers’.

What the market wants is a match: the unique demands of a buyer satisfied with the specific goods or services of a supplier, culminating in a mutually beneficial exchange of value. And marketing is the age-old practice of facilitating that match.

This all sounds fairly glib…you can read it in a Marketing 101 textbook, on the jacket cover. So why waste pixels saying it here? Because despite their head knowledge, many businesses can’t help themselves. They can’t help racing across the divide, chasing the next novel idea. An idea that might have all the power to mesmerize, and none to move.

We see it all the time. Creative is a tantalizing carrot. The fact is, you can throw a creative team into a room and – if it’s a good creative team – they’ll bang out something with flair in relatively short order. Who knows, maybe they’ll strike the perfect chord with our customers? Maybe they’ll conjure up a silver bullet. Maybe. Maybe. It’s the allure of alchemy, encouraged by the sizzle of that slick agency portfolio we just saw online. Maybe we can get us some of that magic, you say. And so, another executive rolls the dice.

And then…do you hear that low whine? It’s the sound of optimism deflating. Like a balloon that rises skyward at first, free-floating creative promises more flight that it can sustain. In a few days, it’ll barely bob along the floor. You’d step on it, but you’d rather not hear your budget popping.

So what went wrong, you ask? Why didn’t we get the customer engagement we wanted? Could further research really have told us something we don’t know? Don’t we already know what our customers need?

The answer is, of course you know. At least at a base level, or you wouldn’t be in business. But you also know things aren’t quite that easy. Your market is complex. It’s contested. Buying can be downright erratic, sensitive to a multiplicity of pressures. Disrupted by technology. Distracted by competing needs. Dissuaded by competing offers.

Getting and staying close enough to customers to hear their frustrations, to pick up on their emotional drivers, to learn not just their basic needs, but what kind of vendor relationship represents a win for them…this takes homework. And intention. And investment, both in cash and calendar. But unlike the gamble of free-floating creative, it’s the kind of investment that yields reliable returns, the kind of returns that fuel growth.

And this is where creativeenters back into the picture. If you have solid research, if you’ve done the strategic work to align yourself to the market, then good creative is like lighter fluid. Like accelerant. So be clever. Be funny. Think outside the box. This time, with your messaging based in solid strategy, you won’t miss the point. And the payoff will be lasting.

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