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More is Not Merrier in the Marketing Creative Process

How many people should have input into the creative aspects of a marketing message? Is that too difficult a question to ask? Let’s see. We’ll start at the point after we’re committed to a project and we have a clear objective in mind. Now let’s invite people until we get everyone we need.

Start with a project manager. That’s the person who will see that the final product remains true to the original objective. Honestly, she or he will be more of a traffic cop than anything else, but that’s still an important function. You may need someone to say, “It’s okay to think outside the box, but at least be able to see the box.” (1)

Many copywriters and designers (graphic artists, web builders, video- editors … etc.) would subtract the project manager and put the number back at one—meaning themselves with the writer or designer only along to take their direction. They’re all equally vital, though, so we’ll include copy writer, designer and project manager. (3)

The next person we’ll add to the ideal creative group is a “brand champion” for the organization. She or he will make sure concept and execution stay consistent with the company’s identity and that the work delivers a consistent, over-arching value proposition. (4)

Finally, in many cases, we have someone who knows and understands the audience. This key person ensures messaging is on target and that the likeliest reaction will be the one that’s desired. Sometimes the project manager or brand champion serves this role, but we’ll include that person here to complete our team. (5)

That’s five. Were you expecting more? Possibly there could be, if the project has a lot of components and there’s more work to be done than a small team could handle. But, really, five people handling creative development is usually all you need. Now you could have fewer, when there’s a talented, very knowledgeable person fulfilling multiple roles. On the whole, though, five is good … and those few people need to stay in their lanes and communicate well and often!

After the creative team presents its work, an ultimate decision maker ought to grade the work as pass-fail. Maybe, but only maybe, this individual can suggest a tweak here or there, but usually it’s better to trust the judgement of paid professionals. To the extent that others must be involved, let them focus on considerations such as ROI and opportunity costs, or whether statements are factual and should be made public.

But what about the wisdom of crowds? Isn’t it true that the more eyes that are on a project, the more likely something will be discovered that needs changing. Plus, good ideas can come from anywhere, so let’s give lots of people a voice, right? Um, no. Here are excellent reasons why too many cooks make an unpalatable meal:

  • Lack of responsibility – One reason involving many people in any project usually results in declining quality is diffusion of responsibility. When one or two people are going to have to answer for an outcome, they’ll give it their best effort. Conversely, it’s a lot easier for a bunch of people to shrug off failure as not their fault.
  • Subjectivitis – That may not be real word, but marketing professionals certainly know the disease! (An example would be insisting on a model wearing a green cap rather than blue when company colors are green AND blue.) The signature illness of frustrated creatives, subjectivitis can deliver the death of a thousand cuts to any project—especially if the afflicted is too high on the food chain to be rightfully ignored or over-ruled.
  • Worry warts – Expanding the creative input group too much will inevitably bring in the person who wonders—frequently and aloud—what such-and-such higher up will think. Here’s the thing: such-and-such higher up is NOT the target audience! A worry wart’s entire contribution to the creative process is making good people second-guess themselves. This is counter-productive and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Mission creep – The more people involved with a marketing project, the more likely someone will want their pet interest addressed in the messaging. Soon, rather than a concise message crafted for a specific audience, you’ll have multiple thoughts competing for attention. And because copy and imagery needs to reinforce a single message to be most effective, the result ends up an ugly Frankenstein’s monster of mixed parts.
  • Proving worth – This happens when people realize they have no business being involved in the creative process, yet feel pressured to contribute. Sadly, they are dragged into a meeting or sent an email in which they’re asked their thoughts. To get back to their real duties, they’re compelled to offer the first thing off the top of their heads, after which some other poor soul is forced to take their half-baked ideas seriously.
  • Off script – This is when we bring someone into the creative process late who has her or his own ideas, quirks and sensibilities and really couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks. Such people either need to be involved at the very beginning of the process—before it goes to the creative team—or they should be kept out completely.

This might be the point you thought we’d back off that five number and hedge our bet. But, no, we’ve thought this through and experienced the repercussions of all of these downfalls. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other jobs associated with marketing for all the folks outside the creative process. For instance, someone needs to analyze the results of every campaign. Others can choose where ads will run and how often. There are surveys and focus groups to be conducted … all sorts of things. But you shouldn’t have your CFO doubling as a creative director any more than you would have your graphic artist making decisions about acquisitions and mergers.

East-West Shrine Game is next week!

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We are in full swing with one of our most heartwarming clients, the East-West Shrine Game. This is the longest running college all-star football game in the country, and it benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children. We cherish this client! Tickets are $15 and the game is at Tropicana Field on Saturday, January 20, kickoff time at 3pm. Get your tickets here.

Check out our case study video with some great Shrine Game, practice, and hospital visit footage.

Women’s Conference of Florida Recap

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We attended the Women’s Conference of Florida this fall – what an incredible experience. We walked into the Marriot Waterside Hotel on a bright and sunny Thursday morning, full of anticipation. As we walked through registration we saw other faces full of excitement, anticipation, hope. And boy, we were not disappointed.

The first presentation was given by Nely Galan, author, real estate mogul, founder of the Adelante Movement, and former President of Telemundo. What a great way to kick off the conference! Nely was full of energy and inspiration, her stories were riveting, and she sent a wave through the crowd that made us all want to leave that room and do amazing things. She started her story with her childhood, when her family immigrated to the United States from Cuba. She ended up in a strange school, strange neighborhood, and they all had to learn a new language. She told of her and her family’s struggles, but through each and every obstacle, she was able to make the most of the situation and create positives out of negatives – EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Galan was so vivacious in her story-telling, so funny and sincere – she really wants other women to succeed and listening to her story is a step in that direction. Each attendee received a copy of her book, “Self-Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way,” which we will review when we’re done reading! The title is fairly self-explanatory, and as a sneak preview, Nely recounts the story of her childhood and rise to real-estate moguldum and self-made woman. Her motto, “buy real estate, not shoes,” is wise advice, one that we can all learn from. As she told story after story, this kept coming up; she also reminded us that everyone has moments of insecurity and “around the corner from my biggest failures are my biggest successes.”

Another stand-out presenter was Tiffany Dufu, Chief Leadership Officer of LEVO. She talked about “dropping the ball” as a positive, in the sense that if you let yourself drop the ball on certain things, you can excel in others. In other words, you have to figure out what is most important for you and focus your energies on those things. For example, sometimes you have to leave the dirty laundry for another day when you have a tight deadline to meet on a project, or you may be forced to order pizza for family dinner instead of that super healthy home cooked meal if you really need to squeeze in a workout. She also recommends learning to ask for help. Many super women try to take on all the heavy lifting without asking partners or friends for help. Stop this! Tiffany’s final point is that when we do things like this, we should own it, not feel guilty, not beat ourselves up. No one is perfect. If you’re going to try to “do it all” and be Wonder Woman, you will have to accept the occasional slip up or assistance. And when it comes to ordering pizza for family dinner instead of that healthy, vegetable heavy meal, you know no one else is complaining!

There were many other incredible women presenting during the conference, each one with a unique story of their rise to leadership, fortune, and in some cases, fame. Our takeaways – if you see a women’s conference or presentation, sign up for it – it will inspire you. Women are powerful, stop doubting yourself. Hard work pays off. Do something every day to achieve your goals. Rid yourself of guilt and go conquer the world!

Plan to Remember the New Year When It Becomes Old

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How well do you remember 2016? Yes, we do mean 2016. And we might ask the same thing about 2015 –and the preceding years as well—going all the way back to the day you started your business.

Of course, we know you remember some things very well—like when you hired a great employee, or fired a lousy one. You can probably recollect landing a super customer or being driven nuts by one that was irrationally demanding. You’ll remember good times for sales and bad times … and a lot of other standout occurrences too. Your marketing though, what do you remember about your marketing?

Okay, we’ll lower the bar to merely recalling the year that’s just now ending. Many business owners might say 2017 is fresh in their memories, but is it? We’ll grant that you’re likely to be aware of how your most recent marketing budget was spent, but did you track the details of each marketing project and advertising campaign? Can you figure out which specific ad or communication went to which audience and when? Do you know the response rates?

Let’s say you did keep excellent records of what you did for marketing in 2017. Congratulations, truly! We can’t stress enough how good it is that you’re tracking how your promotional dollars are spent and understanding the results that they are providing. But effective marketing is a long-term journey, and the more years you have to compare, the better you’ll be able to plan how to advertise in the coming year. Without stats from 2016, 2017 can’t tell you nearly enough to help you make wiser decisions.

Still, everyone has to begin somewhere. So, if tracking your marketing dollars isn’t something you’ve been doing, resolve to do so in 2018. And if you find that being on your own in tracking and analyzing ROI of your marketing dollars is a bit too daunting, remember that you don’t have to be on your own. Your friends at Pinstripe are always available to help.


10 Lessons from ‘A Christmas Story’ Applied to Marketing

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Even if you don’t do it yourself, you probably know at least one person who sees the word, “fragile” and goes on to loudly pronounce it “fra-gee-LAY.” Such is the ubiquitous influence of the nostalgic 1984 film, A Christmas Story.

So, in the spirit of the season, we thought we’d shoehorn the movie into a newsletter article. Fortunately for our purposes, many scenes from A Christmas Story truly can teach business owners and managers something about effective marketing.

We aren’t going to give you a synopsis because we figure nearly everyone in the U.S. has seen this movie at least 20 times. That’s why we think we’re safe writing this piece. However, for the three people who haven’t seen it—consider yourself spoiler alerted. And to those folks, do yourself a favor: watch the movie. (It really is a funny, warm film). Now, without further ado, here are 10 lessons:

Don’t waste effort on the wrong audience. Young Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Most of the movie is centered on him trying to persuade certain people that he should have one. But consider the targets of his messaging: his overly protective mother (remember how she dresses her youngest son for outdoors?); a school teacher who was most concerned that her students keep nice margins; and an overworked department-store Santa. None of these people were going to be a receptive audience to Raphie’s message.

How you express yourself does matter. Sometimes we say, “Fudge!” (only we don’t say “fudge”). When this happens, we can turn customers off or even get a hostile reaction. This is especially true in today’s hypersensitive, PC world. Always carefully craft your marketing communications to accomplish an objective rather than rashly blurting out something counterproductive. Keep in mind that social media can be especially dangerous because of the speed at which communications are spread.

Some brands are recognized as leaving a bad taste in your mouth. If you think brand ID doesn’t carry weight, consider Raphie’s concern about which bar soap his mother would use to wash his mouth out (Palmolive’s “nice piquant” vs. Lifebuoy potentially causing him to go blind). No business can do much if its products and services are used in an improper manner, but you can be vigilant as to how your brand is perceived by the public and do everything possible to protect and enhance its image.

Rethink showing off that “major award.” It’s easy to be distracted about what aspect of your business should be front and center in your marketing communications. If some new development at your company doesn’t support your brand and validate your value proposition, it probably isn’t worth publicizing … and making a big deal of it could cause you to look silly, like the leg lamp does for Ralphie’s father.

Following the crowd can leave you stuck all alone. What your company excels at doing may not be the same thing that your competitors do well. (In fact, it’s better if you’re unique!) Don’t let yourself be “triple-dog-dared” into abandoning your true value proposition because you think you need to be all things to all people. “Me too” is never a compelling message; stick to communicating what you do best or you’ll find yourself abandoned in the cold.

Be true to yourself. Don’t let the expectations of others force you into a ridiculous bunny costume—figuratively speaking … or literally. Remember Ralphie’s bunny costume, a gift from his aunt? He looked and felt ridiculous. If you can’t sell what you’re offering and be yourself doing it, then you should probably be in another business. As a business owner, incorporate your personal style into your brand to help make it special. If you do good work, you’ll find your niche—and you’ll have a lot more fun.branding strategy

Know what you really want. Most business owners know they should do “marketing.” As a result, they may sit down with an agency or their in-house marketing staff to create a campaign. At some point, someone should pose the question as to what the objective is. This requires identifying a promising target audience, setting tangible goals so that success can be measured, and then coming up with a step-by-step plan. Anything less, and you may as well mumble that you want a football. Poor Ralphie had to say something to Santa.

Marketing professionals will usually let you take the creative lead (if you insist). Ralphie had given up hope that he would get that BB gun because no one seemed responsive to his plea. Yet the Old Man comes through at the end. That’s something to keep in mind when making creative suggestions to marketing professionals. They really are listening to your ideas … but may desperately hope to change your mind. Ultimately, however, you’re the boss and your team will want you to be happy (placated). But beware, getting your way could be dangerous because …

You really could “shoot your eye out.” That didn’t quite happen to Ralphie but he did end up with broken glasses. Just think about it. If you’re paying people to market your business—and they presumably know more about marketing than you—why would you ignore their advice? That’s like going to a doctor and then prescribing your own treatment.

Be open to new ideas. Sometimes the neighbor’s dogs eat the Christmas turkey and you must come up with an alternative plan. When such things happen, Plan B may turn out better than you ever expected—like roast duck at a Chinese restaurant. Why wait until a disaster strikes to try something new and innovative? If you’re consistent with your brand, properly target your audience, and can deliver a compelling message, try something different!

We can help you navigate these 10 lessons – just let us know how by dropping a line here.

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