Strategy Before Creativity

Creativity feels big, unattainable, and unaffordable without the context and understanding of how to get to something Creative. What's missing is the strategic foundation to build upon, to ground the idea in objective analysis and approach to the opportunity in the market.

By
Mike Geraci
|
September 28, 2023

I love that The B2B Institute at LinkedIn—a think-tank at the world’s largest B2B platform—is the latest to take on the seemingly Sisyphean struggle as an advocate for Creativity in B2B marketing. I’m rooting for them. There couldn't be a louder voice or bigger platform with required resources willing to elevate and penetrate the debate.

Also, I love that they are taking a page from the Category Strategy playbook to rebrand Advertising as Performance Branding to get the B2B world to better appreciate the opportunity without the negative associative baggage Advertising has within the market. At DRMG, we use the term Aware Gen . Similar intent, different words.

What is missing in their Performance Branding pitch, and what ultimately becomes the barrier to Creativity, is what comes before Creativity; between Performance Marketing—what B2B is doing now—and Performance Branding, where Creativity lives in their model.
That is Strategy.

Creativity feels big, unattainable, and unaffordable without the context and understanding of how to get to something Creative. What's missing is the strategic foundation to build upon, to ground the idea in objective analysis and approach to the opportunity in the market, “An informed opinion on how to win,” as Mark Pollard defines Strategy. Informed is the key term here. Opinion is a strong second.

Granted, the B2B Institute isn’t in the business of selling Creativity, they’re selling Media, so the absence of the Strategy step is understandable.

But, you can still be Creative. Absent working with DRMG, early-stage businesses can hack the Strategy process and create the foundation for Creativity by focusing on the four key elements of a Category Strategy creative brief:

1. Target Audience. The ICP in B2B parlance. “Who is the audience?” Is the number one question?
2. The Big Change in the World - Macro trends proximate to their business which keeps their customers up at night.
3. The problem you solve for them - Lead with the problem, from the prospect’s perspective. It’s likely bigger than you imagine.
4. ID a new way to look at the problem - Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of Hubspot said, “Don't try to convince people you have a better solution than your competitors. Convince them that you picked a better problem to solve. This is everything!”

Then, hire a freelance copywriter.

Einstein said "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." Creativity is not why you hired your existing internal team, so bring in outside talent. Ideally someone with a copywriting background but that also has experience as a creative director, somebody that has experience going from strategy to concept and can lead your internal team through execution.

Then, test, learn, and iterate. Give your team time and permission to see if the concept gains traction.

Finally, aim for Interesting.

Houdini Sportswear had a line in 2019,  “The goal is not to be the latest news. It’s to never become old.” Love that. It’s a nice reminder in our world of relentless hype cycle peddlers.

Jumping all the way up to Creative, brand level advertising (aka Performance Branding) from Performance Marketing is probably not a muscle, or budget, that currently exists in most B2B SaaS organizations, especially early-stage. But you likely have the internal talent and desire to make interesting work,

Creativity is hard. While the B2B Institute advocates Creativity, their entire go-to-market is traditional B2B, data-based rational arguments and thought leadership that lacks any Creativity.

Dogfood, people.

-DRMG

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