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Fight for the Right to be Creative


Next week, the Queen B will be speaking at NEDMA's annual Direct Mail Symposium. Her presentation is called, "From Blank Page to Killer Creative." She'll be sharing several campaigns, showcasing the successful concepts that were produced and mailed, but also the two or three in each case that didn't ever see the light of day. The goal is to illuminate the creative process.

If you're interested in attending, visit:

When the Bs sit down to brainstorm, there are generally two different categories of input that we work with. The first is a formal Creative Strategy. You can think of this as all the left brain data and insight. It usually includes:

  • The creative challenge
  • Industry overview
  • Product overview
  • Competition
  • Objectives
  • Target audience
  • Message strategy
  • Format
  • Lists/Media strategy
  • Offers
  • Misc. (mandatories and/or “sacred cows”)

This information can come from the client in the form of a Strategy Brief. It can be generated by B Direct, after various input conversations. Or, it can be the result of collaboration between client and agency. No matter how it's built (or which of dozens of templates we use), it's critical that these articulated and agreed upon.

Concept presentation is NOT the time to determine strategy. The goal, always, is to present mutiple options that ALL adhere to a predetermined strategy.

So, strategy in hand, the fun begins. The creative team should look for additional insights using more creative or right brain thinking by asking:

  • What is the real challenge?
  • Who is the audience, beyond job titles or demographics?
  • What does the product/solution do?
  • AND, what does that really mean?
  • How can we dig deeper?
  • How can we get more people involved (sales, customers, partners)?

At this point, the creative team is looking for clues that will point them toward killer concepts. These activities can include:

  • Meeting the audience
  • Talking to them
  • Imagining them
  • Reading what they read
  • Mystery shopping
  • Trying the product (ask for a demo)
  • Trying the competition's product
  • Visiting the factory
  • Calling customer service
  • Using online chat
  • Creating analogies
  • Making connections

And when we actually sit down to create, there's a whole other set of rules (albeit fun ones). We give ourselves permission to:

  • Digress
  • Play
  • Be outrageous
  • Explore other ways of communicating
  • Beg, borrow, or steal
  • Champion great creative ideas

All we are saying ... is give great creative a chance.

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