The Great Marketing Debate

I’m a big advocate of structure. It’s a theme you’ll see time and time again in my blog posts. For me a well-formed objective (in marketing and in life), …

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20th April 2007 at 10:28 am

I’m a big advocate of structure. It’s a theme you’ll see time and time again in my blog posts. For me a well-formed objective (in marketing and in life), is the gateway to results.

But a comment from Halina, on one of my recent posts gave me a much needed reminder that rules are made to be broken. But also that structures and frameworks that exclude (or preclude) creativity are fundamentally flawed.

How do the big boys do it?

Coming from a Marketing Agency background, I’ve experienced the Science vs Creativity debate that sits at the heart of the marketing discipline, first hand. In most agencies, you’ll find ‘suits’ (the planners and account handlers, responsible for analysis, planning, goal setting, relationship building etc). And then you have the ‘creatives’ (the art directors, writers and designers who come up with great, campaignable ideas and hopefully have the craft skills to bring those ideas to life). In a good agency, you’ll find a healthy tension between creatives and suits, they hang together like ying and yang – bringing out the best in each other, excelling in their respective roles. In a bad agency the same relationships run to open conflict, rivalry and mutual disrespect, with both sets of bods competing to wear the power trousers.

In the best agencies, these polar roles are almost a misnomer. You have so called ‘creatives’ who understand how to plan, structure and sell. And you have truly creative ‘suits’ who can inspire and innovate, all the way through strategy creation, to the nuts and bolts delivery of each tactical execution.

So what about me?

Knowing all of this is great, if you’re business is big enough to have the budgets needed to secure agency support. But what of the small business?

To be honest the same rules apply. Apply creativity and science in equal measure and you won’t go far wrong. This can be easier said than done. As individuals, we tend to rely on either the left side or the right side of our brains. Getting the two firing simultaneously can be hard.

Left Brainers

For those left brainers, like me, who love order and structure – force yourself to be creative, particularly when it comes to understanding your customers. Try and live a day in your customer’s shoes. Go where they go, see what they see, try and think how they think. This is an exercise in empathy that can unlock some of the mysteries of your customer’s emotional triggers – and knowing this stuff is what really powerful marketing is made of.

If you’re a desk jockey who likes detail, try to spot when you’re stuck in the planning rut. Force yourself to make some instinctive decisions quickly. (Instincts are the sum total of our life’s experience, so they’re great for the fast and dirty marketing that seems to be the hallmark of many great entrepreneurs). If this gives you the collywobbles, take your instinctive ideas and get out and run them by some of your customers. (Go on, get out from behind that desk!!).

Right Brainers

If you’re an innovator and creator, liable to go off on a tangent and a whim, as and when it takes you, I’d recommend nothing more complicated than writing down some objectives and putting a date in your diary to check progress against them.

Being a freestyler is great, but a lot of businesses hit the rocks by losing focus, not having a clear raison d’être. Be opportunist, fine. Be creative, great. But be consistent and single minded enough to have a clear proposition that your customers can cling on to. The most creative and successful entrepreneurs I know, give their ideas free reign, but instinctively keep their overall direction in check …

No Brainer

Great marketing is creative AND scientific. It’s a no-brainer. Embrace the debate. Have a debate about your customers, WITH your customers. Use a rule – if it works for you. Break a rule, if you think it’ll get a result. Be aware of your personal patterns and habits. Mix it up. And whatever you do, don’t forget to have fun with it.

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk/blog

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  1. We at Rocket have tried to sum up the science vs creativity with our phrase ‘creativity distilled’. That strange process that we call creativity will always play a part, no matter what activity we’re engaged with. Humans are naturally creative, its how we solve problems. But that problem solving needs to be structured, and so does creativity.

    We need clear goals and rules when we are being creative in a professional environment. We can’t just do it for the sake of it, we cannot argue that a project should be approved simply because it looks cool.

    As creative professionals we need to be creative, but we must keep that creativity in check and make sure that the worst excesses of our industry don’t creep in. This is what we at Rocket try to some up as creativity distilled.

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