Process. It’s the secret behind the scenes of great marketing. And it drives business results. With a roadmap to show the way forward and mark progress, creative professionals are free to focus on their expertise—creative solutions. When creativity flourishes marketing solutions become stronger and have more impact, so there’s good reason to lean in and learn the ropes.
At O2 Lab we use a creative process based on four principles we’ve refined to optimize effectiveness—insight, strategy, solutions, impact. This methodology guides every project, from large, complex integrated campaigns to smaller scale assignments. Here’s how we do it:
Become an explorer. Lay the groundwork for the creative process by fearlessly investigating the lay of the land. You’ll get a sense of the big picture and have the opportunity to dig deeper.
Start with a communications audit. You’ll gather and review relevant internal information and materials. To find out more, talk with the project team, end-users and stakeholders who will be affected by what you create. Have meaningful conversations and listen actively. Ask strategic questions.
And don’t leave out the C-suite and sales team—one sets the vision and direction for your company and the other has its ear to the ground with customers. You’ll need their buy-in to be successful.
Be sure to examine the larger context by familiarizing yourself with your competition and their communications. Analyze their approaches to ensure your marketing will be differentiated and stand out.
You’ll also need to determine metrics for how the success of the campaign will be measured.
With all of this insight in hand, you’ll start to see patterns and have aha moments, which will help to shape an effective creative strategy.
From insight comes strategy. Synthesize what you’ve uncovered to create a summary of your findings. Make observations including key benefits and differentiators for your brand, plus any obstacles you may face in achieving your goals. You’ll also want to consider your organization’s aspirations, which will inform how you move forward.
Whether you’re doing a product launch, an ad campaign or rebranding the organization, this kind of high-level assessment will allow you to define an initial messaging strategy.
This is another important time to check in with the team. Things run smoothly when you get buy-in throughout the process.
Get creative. Your reconnaissance, analysis and strategy set the stage. Now you’re ready to develop the messaging and visual approach that will drive your marketing.
Brainstorming is a great way to start. There are no bad ideas! Don’t censor, interrupt or veto thoughts from the team. You never know when a seemingly wild idea will pave the way for an idea that’s right-on target. Write everything down during brainstorming and you’ll begin to notice ideas that bubble to the top.
After a few rounds of brainstorming, identify the strongest messaging concepts and develop them further. Make sure you’re on strategy by vetting the ideas against the original objectives. Do they capture the information you need to express? Will your audiences be engaged? The writing you do in this stage is the foundation for your marketing campaign. Make any refinements you need to ensure your message will be on target. Check in with the decision makers and get their feedback to be sure they’re on board too.
Now you can begin visualizing. Mood boards are a great tool. They allow you to showcase and develop visual ideas in broad strokes—colors, textures, typography, style of imagery, etc. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot. Ask yourself what kinds of images will support the message. Mood boards can be as low-tech as doodles or pages torn from magazines, as long as they convey your ideas. Need inspiration? Google “mood boards”. If you don’t have a creative background and find this step too challenging you can hire an agency. If you’re already working with a creative team, share your thoughts with them.
Final mood boards are an opportunity to get feedback and make sure you’re on track. They provide direction for the visual language you’ll use as you develop solutions across the campaign. Fine-tune copywriting and design to show how the creative solutions you’re developing will be flexible and work across various platforms. Once you’ve created a range of real-world examples, get the campaign approach approved, then apply it to the full spectrum of marketing materials.
Make impressions. Once you’ve rolled out your new marketing campaign, be ready to measure the results. Use the metrics you determined during the insight phase to measure success. Stay open to learning. Where did you make the most impact? Which techniques were most effective? The insights you gain now will inform strategy refinements. You can continue to make adjustments along the way as you flex your marketing muscles.
We welcome you to use our process as a starting point and adapt it to fit your needs. We think you’ll find it helps to organize your marketing activities, while channeling your creative energy into successful solutions.