Creative connection with a target audience is the holy grail of marketing campaigns yet, just as Elastica frustratedly sings about in this track, it’s not always clear how ‘the vital connection is made’. Stroll around an art gallery with a friend and some paintings will jump out at you more than to your companion, and the other way round; the same goes for marketing artwork.
One of the most challenging, at times outright confrontational, parts of working in marketing typically arises from sharing creative concepts for a new campaign or piece of marketing material. Marketing veterans will accumulate a fair share of battle scars just from this!
We all know design by committee is never a good thing, and yet there are often multiple stakeholder views to accommodate, from those higher up in the chain, to subject matter experts, to creative agency inputs, to brand guidelines…all balanced with what you’re trying to achieve in the market and the way your target audience has a track record of interpreting creative styles.
Deciding on the marketing goal early will determine the best style of creative for your marketing materials, for instance standout because you’re doing something original or blend in because you belong here? Where are you positioning yourself? Perhaps as a leader in your field with muted minimalism and a grown-up palette, or maybe the complete opposite as youthful and fun with eye-catching pops of colour and playful fonts.
Watch this random selection of campaign videos, and you’ll experience very different types of connection:
- Nike’s 2019 ‘Dream crazier’ campaign is a timely, impactful and inspirational call for gender equality action.
- Ikea’s ‘Experience the power of a bookbook’ advert is a hilarious, alternative take on tech world advertising.
- Manchester United’s GDPR campaign is an educational and informative video made for its fans explaining the new data protection regulation in a super-simple way.
- Levi’s ‘Circles’ campaign is an inclusive, ageless, fun celebration of diversity.
Wildly mixed types of connection and emotions created, but what they have in common is they all successfully show the human aspect of their work.
The creative toolkit
Design essentials for marketing activity are:
Graphic design – often originating from putting pen to paper, this is on-brand creative that brings your key messages to life. Good design can stimulate interaction and engagement, drive buy-in to the concept, create intrigue in something new or be memorable. Keeping it clear and clutterfree is important – every design detail should have a purpose for being there so it doesn’t distract from the messages you’re trying to communicate. Best suited for printed materials and print advertising.
Photography – high impact visual images and, ideally, real people in real places not overtly staged (a recipe for instant disconnection). The less stock photography used the better, unless it’s abstract images which are useful for conveying concepts. Best suited for digital campaigns, advertising, and social media.
Infographics – an easy and impactful way to communicate and digest stats such as locations where you’re based, scale of business, growth numbers, customer satisfaction and advocacy results, or timelines using simple charts, graphs and icons. Best suited for more detailed campaigns and client-facing materials such as reports, presentations, and emails.
Crafting supreme creative
Since we’ve got the basics covered, I asked Paul McArdle, Creative Director at agency Supreme Creative how can we connect more effectively through marketing design?
“From a design and creative solutions perspective, connecting effectively with an audience requires thought and planning before any design or conceptual work begins. Here at Supreme Creative, we make sure the following building blocks are embedded before initiating the design process:
Is there consensus on messaging and proposition? We need to be sure that the client’s ‘ducks are lined up’. In other words, we ensure key stakeholders in the organisation agree on how and where its products or services offer value and benefit, and that they’re all on the same page when speaking to external audiences.
Is the brief the ‘real brief’? Sometimes, essentially throw-away comments in a formal brief can take centre stage and lead to dead ends when considering creative solutions to a marketing challenge. We always challenge the brief and make sure every bit of information we use is measured and aligns with the business goals of the campaign.
Do we have great content? Today’s audiences demand great content and supporting resources; no marketing campaign will get off the ground without both. We take this into account at every touchpoint of a campaign.
What’s the right medium for your message? We need to understand how your audience engages online and offline: some are now totally digital and some still respond to more traditional collateral. We’ll then use that key knowledge to ensure we choose the appropriate channels to reach your audience.
That’s a wrap
With these foundations in place, the chances of connecting effectively with your audience increase dramatically – you’re talking to them directly, in a language they understand, via channels they’re comfortable using. It all sounds simple, but is so often overlooked by agencies in the rush to get design solutions to the client.”
Interestingly, this year’s Pantone Colour of the Year 2019 ‘Living Coral’ was chosen for its powers of connection in the digital age:
In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy…Representing the fusion of modern life, PANTONE Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.
For all campaign types, the creative wrapper needs to be flexible to scale as needed across email, digital, social media, physical branding, merchandise, events, and be consistently executed across these channels for maximum impact.
Design is the language of connection, as much so as the actual words used, and critical to making marketing tactics work in an integrated way for a winning marketing strategy. Good design and good content go hand-in-hand, you know straightaway when it works and a connection is made.
Song credit: Elastica. Watch the music video here.