Don’t let them fool you: Lean creative is also brilliant creative

main illustration lean creativity

Trapped creativity, or just a felt moose on a speaker in a bird cage?

Back in the day when I was an Advertising Art Director we believed that the initial creative process was best kept to the Art Director and Copy Writer in a tight-lipped little team. Creativity was our magic, and we pulled it out of magical brainstorming processes alone. Sure there was a brief, but the creative process went greatly unchecked by other than subjective opinions along the way until released. Since marketing effect couldn’t really be measured properly, each campaign was a fresh start to do something new, often with little learning from the previous campaign. Ah, the carefree fun we had!

Data driven creativity is the future, like it or not

Surprisingly many still think this way, even with all the new measuring and testing possibilities we have today. They cling tightly to the idea that true creative marketing is a magical secret process that will only be corrupted by data and testing. Some fear the consumer won’t understand the idea before the campaign is finished, others argue that competitors will steal it if it’s out there. So they spend insane amounts of money producing fancy TV-campaigns with no idea wether they will fly or crash until production is done and media is spent. Meanwhile, lean marketers like Google are laughing all the way to the bank. Creatively, too.

So what is the flaw here?

1. The fancy ideas that win aren’t necessarily the creative ones. Nor are they the ones the customer wants. They tend to be what the team want to produce or what the client wants. In a lean process where you test early, you’ll often see that the best ideas will shine already in their roughest form because the idea stays in focus rather than the execution.

2. The advertiser puts all their eggs in one basket – with no proof of success. In a lean creative process you could test a lot of ideas at an early stage. Even the crazy ones you thought too wild. This can stir up some great creative processes. And sometimes,  your customer will be ready for more than you think, and an idea that would never make it past the client will win the market over. Creatively.

3. They miss a great opportunity to be creative with their customers rather than against them. In todays social climate your ambassadors are the true gold. Involving your customers not only secures that the advertising speaks to them, it builds ownership and loyalty to the finished campaign. I am frequently surprised how eager consumers are to share great campaigns, especially the ones that involve real user input and involvement of all sorts. They don’t have to be as involved as the Old Spice 2010 campaign, but lean or not this shows the power of user involvement from an agency that dared. Would these commercials be as funny or viral if they had been invented by a professional team alone? I have my doubts.

A lean love story

Not surprisingly, Google took to Lean Marketing early. I remember when the Google concept Search On appeared on YouTube. A few full blown executions there later it was clear that one idea separated itself from the rest in terms of viewer engagement. The winner was Parisian Love, and it went on to become Google’s acclaimed first Superbowl ad ever. A low cost production with a huge following before it even aired. Now that’s fool proof creative and ad spending.

Let the data give creative freedom

Wether it’s previously gathered data on user behavior or it’s what you learn when you test your fresh ideas, it’s how you use it that determines weather it makes or breaks creativity. Used wisely it gives great opportunity to experiment and explore to create brilliant creative without wasting money. So

  • Get to know your data (including the quirky details that inspire)
  • test lots of ideas early, even the wild ones
  • test often on real segments users
  • Use what they say and do to refine your work

Only then will you have memorable campaigns and sustainable marketing at a low risk that you know will suit your target group before they’ve even seen it.

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