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What is Creative Strategy? Why Do Businesses Need Creative Strategists?

What is Marketing Strategy? Why Does it Come First?


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Wesley Morton

3 years ago | 2 min read

Prior to a new freelance engagement, a creative director asked me to define Creative Strategy. There is no simple answer.

Creative strategists are strange hybrids, straddling both the strategic needs of a business and the creative mediums that speak to a company’s end customer. Yet, what kind of a creative strategist would I be if I did not attempt an answer?

What is Marketing Strategy? Why Does it Come First?

A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve an overall objective. If you are a business, then you are in the business of selling a product or a service. Yet, all businesses face a universal problem — other businesses all vying for the same consumers.

These businesses offer a viable alternative to yours. You need a plan to win. This is the fundamental need of having a strategy, a plan to win the market.

Your marketing strategy should be composed of several elements. A good creative strategist will ask these questions in order to develop a strategic plan.

1. What is our business trying to accomplish?

2. Who is our target audience?

3. What are our key success metrics (KPIs)?

4. What are our margins and investment we can make?

5. Who are our competitors?

6. What makes us unique?

7. Why should people care?

The answers to these questions inform your eventual go-to-market strategy. Written out plainly, they take the form of a company mission statement. The What, How, and Why your company exists. Your plan to win.

Strategy should always come before creative. How would you produce anything without having a winning plan to draft off? That’s like building a skyscraper without a blueprint. No matter how shiny it appears, it’s going to crumble. A business needs to have clarity of vision, goals, and a plan before it can execute the creative to get there. The irony of ‘creative strategy’ is that it’s backwards. A better term would be strategic creative.

What is Creative? How Does Strategy Inform Creative?

In the marketing world, creative are the materials or assets used to sell a product or service. Your ads, banners, videos, blog spots, dots, and TikToks. Anything a customer sees that represents your business is your creative.

The best creative is polished, elegant, and consistent. It tells a consumer why they should care, speaks to a consumer need, and delivers on the needs of the business while respecting a consumer’s time.

When creative fails, it either alienates a consumer or fails to achieve a business objective. A strategy makes that needle easier to thread by defining the aperture of the needle itself.

Creative is the sensory expression of a business strategy that consumers ultimately experience. It could be auditory, visual, or even tasteful. Its expression should mirror those initial answers to those strategic questions. A well-defined strategy will tether creative to business objectives and sharpen a creative team’s ability to execute on that plan.

The marriage between strategy and creative is a marketing plan that works. A cohesive plan that delivers on business objectives while successfully speaking to a customer.

A creative strategist speaks two languages, business and creativity. Creativity strategy defines business objectives with key company stakeholders while managing creative teams to produce great work.

Marketing organizations are often siloed into divisions, PR, art, copywriting, performance, media planning, strategy, e-commerce, experiential, sponsorships. My job is to make sure they all work together.

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