The best explanation of what makes great advertising or messaging was given to me a long time ago but it still holds steadfast today. The most effective way to deliver an advertising message is to do so in an unexpected way. Why? Because you don’t see it coming so it is powerful and sticks with you for a long time. Think about commercials or even books you remember. Most likely you will find that there was a twist or something happened you didn’t expect and that’s why you still remember it.
The fun part of marketing is developing impactful creative elements and messages to bring your brand or products to life. Many times, good creative makes or breaks the balance sheets, as its vital to a campaign’s success. One question that keeps marketing directors up at night, however, is knowing exactly when to change creative.
There are 5 key indicators that clearly signal a creative change is needed. These are signs marketing directors should be monitoring anyway because they are essential in creating an integrated marketing plan and message. As the protector of the brand, whether you own the company or were given the responsibility of managing it, these signals will also be the first indicators of whether a serious change or reinvention is needed. Knowing what to do or not do will decide if your brand or new product thrives or dies.
5 Indicators a Creative Change May be Needed
- Growth. Your brand is not growing even though the market has grown. This symptom can sneak up on you because by the time you realize or confirm it – it might be too late. Not keeping up with an upward trending market is a tell-tale sign you need to revamp your creative.
- Failure. Previous marketing campaigns are not meeting expectations. If you have increased your spend on channels that target your demographic but aren’t seeing improvements in sales figures, this can be a very clear sign your creative execution has a problem, not your budget.
- Competition. Competitors are promoting a message that you never considered or you discounted as irrelevant. The common term is a unique selling proposition. Remember – great advertising is presented in an unexpected way. Go back to your planning process and see if you missed something in your research or if there is a better way to differentiate your brand and your competitive advantage. Make sure the right key messaging is reflected in your creative.
- Dated. The days of annual plans are almost extinct. An Internet year is about three months and things can change drastically in that time period. Creative needs to be updated periodically or it will start to “blend in” with its surroundings. Good creative needs to pop and an easy way to “keep it poppin’” is to keep it fresh. Wholesale buyers may bluntly tell you that your products seem old or they may take a less direct approach and tell you that your competitor is hot. What is the first question buyers ask you at trade shows? “What’s new this year?” SKU proliferation is not your friend. There is no doubt you have a brand or product problem if buyers from major channel stores tell you to rebrand or risk the loss of shelf space. They are driven by irrefutable facts: how fast products move off the shelves.
- Awareness. This is a big red flag and one that takes a long time to change. If your target market doesn’t know your brand exists or doesn’t consider it when it is time to buy, your creative is most likely not doing its job. There’s a reason you recognize brands and remember slogans like Nike’s “Just Do It”. A strong, simple and effective tagline helps, but it can’t do the entire job. Creative components and marketing strategy, plan and execution must work together in order to be successful.
Now, maybe the bigger story here is why you shouldn’t change your creative approach. You don’t need to change your creative just because a competitor has updated their logo. You also don’t need to change your creative just because your company has a new President, Marketing Director or advertising agency.
Supported by good research, the brand vision and market analysis should be the main influences of any redesign or creative change. Internal decisions must be cautiously weighted by the “target customers” needs and preferences because your brand and products need to appeal to the buyer’s needs, triggers and trends – not the brand owner. Designing for a 60+ year old demographic is much different than targeting a 30-year-old or a younger millennial demographic.
Finally, one of the most important reasons why changing advertising creative on a continual basis is such a necessity is because of the ever-evolving nature of the Internet. When ads of all types are designed, they are typically done so with an eye on the techniques and best practices of the moment. As those best practices can change dramatically one moment to the next, the ad creation process itself must evolve in the same way or it may lose its effectiveness virtually overnight.
Social and digital platforms are now marketing cornerstones. There was a time when the catalog was the torch carrier and everything else supported it. Now, the main catalyst is your website supported by social and other marketing assets. It’s no longer enough for a brand just to sell its products: it has to be a lifestyle brand, an entertainment brand, an educational brand – it has to be far more tangible than ever before. You achieve this by quickly and cleverly illustrating why your product or service is the best and is the only real choice for a customer to solve his or her problem and enhance their experience.
Branding encompasses much more than the logo on your website and your packaging. It is the image created by all the ways you touch customers. Being aware of your competition and consumer trends is key to maintaining a branded impression and marketing message that builds market share. Good creative execution really boils down to one simple premise – stop yelling and start being heard.
Updated for 2019 – Originally posted 10/7/16