(First of a three-part series on creative marketing)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZV8ciujyT0Relying on creative marketing too much to grow your business can kill it. There. I said it and I’m not taking it back.
I can’t even believe I said it. I consider my own creativity to be one of my strongest skills and personal characteristics. I’ve nurtured my creativity for a lifetime. Spent my career in a creative field. Even got a master’s degree in “creative writing.”
So how in God’s green earth could I besmirch the concept of “creative marketing”? Isn’t that the holy grail of marketing and PR firms? Just google the term and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of firms claiming the word “creative” in their name. Ad agencies hang their shingles on being creative. They even nounicize that adjective and call their work by the name “creative,” as in, the “creative for that campaign will cost $250,000.”
So here’s the deal. The dirty little secret.
Creative marketing is overrated.
Why I am down on creative marketing
OK, OK … before you creative types jump down my throat, let me back up. Yes, I agree. There must be some creativity in marketing or else nobody would pay any attention to you at all. You must have an attractive, well-designed logo, website, social media, etc. And it helps a lot to have some surprisingly creative aspects to your brand.
For example, the branding of Cuties, a seedless, sweet, easy-to-peel mandarin orange as a children’s fruit has been wildly successful. Who would have thought about taking a plain old orange – a commodity – and giving it a name? That’s great creative marketing.
On the other hand, too many businesses are throwing money down the tube – the boob tube — on “creative” marketing. Case in point: the Super Bowl commercials — arguably the most creative advertising out there. They’re wonderful entertainment! They are the only reason I watch the Super Bowl. But a study by the research firm Communicus suggests that 80 percent of the ads don’t sell stuff.
The firm conducted more than 1,000 interviews before and after the game, asking people what they’d bought recently and what they intended to buy in the advertising categories of the Super Bowl advertiser base. It checked back with the same group weeks later and asked similar questions.
The researchers said that the ads did better than average in ad awareness, with 44 percent of people remembering they’d seen an ad vs. 32 percent for other ads. But, here’s where it gets interesting. Because the creative focused less on the brands themselves, people remembered the brands less often in the Super Bowl ads. People who remembered a Super Bowl ad, recalled the brand only 35 percent of the time vs. about half the time for other ads.
So what’s going on here? Why are people dishing out millions of dollars for this “creative marketing”? Well, I have my theories.
The problem with (many) ad agencies and creative marketing
Ad agencies are full of creative people. Unfortunately, many have the silly and immature notion that they are there to self-actualize through their creativity rather than to help clients sell their products and services. They love to show off for each other, and they love to win awards. It’s fun. So do I.
But seldom are results taken into consideration for awards – or if so, it plays a token role. In fact, there are awards for creative that clients didn’t buy. That’s right, clients. I bet you didn’t know that, did you? The stuff that you were smart enough to reject because you knew it wouldn’t work for you? They give awards out for that, too.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is good work out there, too. And when it matches your strategic objectives and speaks to your audience, that’s terrific. But often it doesn’t. It’s just creative. And that doesn’t do you a bit of good. It just builds an ad agency’s portfolio and sucks you dry.
Often the most “creative” agencies are the most expensive. They have the toniest addresses, the nicest offices, the largest staffs. It’s all a mirage to make you think you’re getting your money’s worth. They make you feel like a rock star so you don’t notice that loud sucking sound coming from your bank account.
Just remember the line from the famous adman David Ogilvy who said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” That means that ultimately, a lot of creative marketing isn’t creative after all.
What this has to do with you and your biz
So you’re not playing in that rarefied air of Super Bowl ads and big agency budgets. What’s this talk about relying on creative marketing got to do with you and your small or mid-sized business?
Every day I see businesses struggle with their marketing because they don’t know what to do. They’re all over the map, looking for the magic bullet that’s going to propel their sales into the stratosphere. They try this shiny toy, then that. They don’t have a strategy; they’re just ripe for the picking for the next ad salesman or schemer that comes along.
Just. Stop. It.
It doesn’t matter how “creative” it is. It doesn’t matter how great a deal the next salesman is offering. You’re throwing your money and your business away without: 1) A strategy based on your specific business goals and audience; 2) Consistency; 3) Repetition over the long haul.
Great marketing doesn’t have to be flashy. Gains happen incrementally over time, applied patiently and with purpose. No, of course you don’t want to be boring, but everything you do doesn’t have to produce fireworks. Most businesses don’t fail because they lack creative marketing — they fail because they lack sustained marketing.
It’s a balancing act, yes. But don’t put so much weight on the creative, artzy, fun, inspirational side, that you don’t do the hard stuff. The daily stuff. When you get down to it, marketing is work. But when you do the hard stuff right, marketing works for you.
(Next in the series: Balance creative marketing with consistency to grow your business)