Marketing Strategy meets Design

Marketing Strategy

Marketing Strategy meets Design

I know many marketers have uttered a litany of terrible directions to graphic designers, including the cardinal sin, ‘Just make it look pretty.’

I am a marketer.  I have done it.  Many times. But does it have to be that way?

I just completed teaching a professional marketing workshop at the University of Akron called “Design to Sell: The Synergies of Effective Design and Sound Marketing Strategy” with Todd Bertsch, owner of Evolve Creative Group this past month.  We had speakers from marketing departments, creative teams and ad agencies discuss their point of view as to how to improve the communication lines between marketing and creative.

We all know there is natural and healthy friction between sales and marketing, marketing and operations, and finance and marketing for various reasons, but what seems to be often overlooked is that handoff from marketing strategy to creative design.  Often, there is an ad agency involved to add to the telephone game.  Poor communication here is a common problem, and it often costs precious time and resources. Consider these pitfalls of a broken relationship as evidence:

  • Miscommunication from account services to creative team
  • Poor tactical output without overarching strategy
  • Endless rounds of edits
  • Missed campaign deadlines
  • Overall inefficiencies and frustrations

I’ve had my fair share of disagreements with creative teams and agencies over concept, creative design and campaign assets.  In one of my earlier posts,’ It’s Not Me, It’s You,’ I talk about the marketer/agency relationship and pitfalls that could happen.  But I have also learned a great deal about the power of communication and how it’s important to bring teams into a campaign as early as possible, which can be a real difference maker when it comes to finding the right creative product.

We all know that for a marketing campaign or program to be successful, many things need to work perfectly together…the right strategy and the right design for the right audience with the right execution. This usually involves more than one person—perhaps an entire department and/or external resources. As a marketer, how do you effectively communicate your vision of what the campaign should be to a team of designers that will make it come to life? As a graphic designer, how do you effectively “get into the head” of the marketer to make sure the graphical representation hits the mark? These are the questions we asked in our recent workshop.

We focus our workshop on development of the creative brief—the Bible of strategy and creative planning. There are other simple, but forgotten ways that both sides can work better together, like:

  1. Having a strategy, knowing the strategy and effectively communicating the strategy – the toughest part of the marketing process when we are so tactically-focused
  2. Including the creative team in the campaign development process sooner – the sooner they understand, the sooner they will be on board
  3. Relaying the full information needed for the campaign – don’t ‘think’ they know, make sure they know
  4. Understanding when to give creative authority and when to guide– go beyond ‘pretty,’ but give them the freedom
  5. Bringing creative into the campaign results – they provided the work, let them know how it performed

When it all clicks, it’s magic. Not just for that campaign, but for the relationship. Thinking through the tips above can help.

At the same time, we have to be smart about what we can and cannot do.  Don’t waste five hours trying to add a line of text in Photoshop when you don’t have the training, but also know how to communicate the right direction when you need assistance.  Just like in sports, sometimes the best players aren’t the best coaches, so know your limitations and be willing to give up the reins when necessary.  Finally, if you do need to engage outside experts, go beyond the usual vendor relationship and build real partnerships. The better you communicate and thoughtfully interact, the better your chance of long-term success.

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