There’s no disputing that the biggest challenge facing brands today is standing out in an increasingly saturated media landscape. Audiences are bombarded with millions of images a day across social media platforms — so figuring out how to cut through the noise and capture attention is the only way brands can acquire new customers.
And no one is set up better to do this work than the modern creative strategist. Why? Let’s get into it.
Producing creative that captures attention has always been crucial for brands to succeed, so why is the creative strategist suddenly the most important role on marketing teams?
Like almost everything we cover on this blog, the rise of the creative strategist boils down to the changing digital marketing landscape in the wake of reduced targeting capabilities brought on by iOS 14.5 and the subsequent changes to Meta’s and Google’s ad platforms. Five years ago, having a media buyer who could analyze and manipulate data to achieve the most precise targeting within Meta and Google was key to effective ad campaigns. Pulling the levers within the platforms came first, and brands could scale without stand-out creative. But today? Not so much.
Now, brands need people who can bridge the gap between data and art — between the quantitative (think thumbstop rates, CPCs, ROAS, etc.) and the qualitative (think on-brand assets, trending formats, compelling storytelling, etc.). The best creative strategists are tapped into both, they speak the language of media buyers, and understand how to leverage data to build campaigns that pique the interest of a brand’s target customers.
The biggest difference between the creative leaders of the past and the creative strategists of today is their ability to balance brand and performance.
Traditionally, creative teams’ top priority was to produce campaigns and supporting assets that were on-brand above all else. Whether or not those campaigns performed was of course important, but data wasn’t a driving factor in forward-looking planning and asset creation. But this approach of throwing on-brand creative at the wall and seeing what sticks simply doesn’t work anymore (even for brands with deep marketing budgets).
In contrast, today’s creative strategists are beholden to upholding brand standards and the creative best practices of each platform. They understand how to translate a brand into organic feeling, perfectly imperfect TikTok ads and into more slick, editorialized imagery for Instagram or display ads. It’s a task that requires deep knowledge of consumer psychology, creative production, and how to move the needle on key performance metrics.
At Coast, we’ve dialed into how to most effectively let our creative strategists ideate and execute campaigns that allow our clients to successfully scale both their ad spends and their businesses.
Here’s how we do it.
If you’ve been paying attention to this article to this point, the fact that our creative strategies always start with a data deep-dive should come as no surprise. Our initial audit process combines the brand’s own data within platforms like Meta, TikTok, and Google with real-time industry benchmark data to build a comprehensive picture of what’s working and what isn’t. (You can learn more about the critical role benchmarking plays in creating successful campaigns in this blog post!)
The insights uncovered in this deep dive are the first place our creative strategists start when it comes to identifying the gaps in a brand’s creative portfolio. It sets us up with information that is unique to that particular brand, which is then leveraged into crafting pinpoint strategies for creative asset production and testing.
The results of our initial audit also provide a foundation for our creative strategists to understand who the brand’s audience is, as well as what that audience has (or hasn’t) responded well to. As part of this research, our team will do a deep dive into existing product and brand reviews, as well as any organic user-generated content on social media to study how customers are actually speaking about the brand.
This, combined with consumer psychology principles, allows our creative team to build strategies designed to align creative assets with the values, aesthetics, and product attributes that will resonate best with a brand’s target audience (or audiences!). It also creates a foundation of knowledge that our team will use to create assets that feel authentic and relatable to the brand’s customers.
Throughout the deep-dive and audit process, our creative strategists also leverage our partner Foreplay to begin to gather and organize examples of stand-out ad creative from our client’s competitors or aspirational brands in their industry. This library of examples helps create an understanding of the existing aesthetic and messaging landscape surrounding our clients, allowing our team to spot trends, find examples that illustrate particular concepts or formats the team would like to test, and so on.
This library of examples is also incredibly useful for helping clients that haven’t participated in the process of building a performance creative strategy before understand the push and pull between brand best practices and platform best practices we discussed above. By pulling inspiration that upholds current trends or formats we know perform well on a particular platform and pairing it with on-brand messaging examples we can help our clients begin to envision how campaigns can play into the strengths of a particular marketing channel without completely abandoning brand standards.
All of the data, customer information, and inspiration we gathered in the previous three steps come together in our 90-day roadmap. These roadmaps outline goals, the creative concepts that will be most impactful in the short term, as well as the series of tests our team plans to focus on in the long term.
This is also where we’ll combine messaging, ad formats, and visual inspiration into actionable ad concepts for clients to review and approve — and by backing up our ideas with data, we’re able to help clients understand the why behind what we want to produce.
The image above is a great example of this. This is a small sliver of the broader creative strategy we put together for our client Feelgoodz. In this section, we’ve outlined the product value props that we know resonate most with their customers. We then break down the types of ads we want to produce (in this case a video, motion graphic, and static ad) and provide inspiration pulled from competitors in the space. This level of granularity takes some of the guesswork and subjectivity out of the creative production process, allowing the client to have a solid idea of what the finished asset will look like — and the types of results it will drive for the business.
With cutting-edge creative strategies and relationships with the partners your brand needs to succeed, Coast Digital takes the guesswork out of producing scalable campaigns. Set up a time to chat with our team today to learn more.