A checklist of everything to include when writing a creative strategy statement to produce better ads, plus tips to craft an efficient creative process.
In today's dynamic digital landscape, creativity is the secret sauce that sets your brand apart from the crowd. This blog post delves into the world of creative marketing strategies, exploring their significance, their components, and the art of crafting them. More importantly, we tell you what you should include when you’re creating yours.
What is a creative strategy?
Picture this. Your ad creative ignites a spark in the mind that travels neural pathways sending the message to the body to use the thumb to stop scrolling.
In a split second, you connected with someone enough to stop them from going straight past your ad. How? It was your creative, the artful combination of imagery, wording, and planning that did it. This is the power of strong ad creative.
How do you continuously produce designs like this? Well, you need a creative strategy.
At its core, a creative strategy is a blueprint to guide your marketing efforts, outlining how you will convey your brand's message to your ideal audience. It's the master plan with your unique ideas and how you intend to make them memorable, engaging, and impactful. Which, in turn, means better results.
A creative strategy is an essential business tool that can be used for an overall brand, a specific campaign, or a launch. Usually, a creative strategy is developed by a team consisting of a copywriter, an art director, and a creative director, and don’t forget the creative strategist.
They work together to define a creative strategy statement that becomes a toolkit for anyone who needs to work on the brand or campaign. It comprises the creative elements, the platform and implementation plan, and the tactics used for marketing.
Why is it important to have a creative marketing strategy?
First of all, your marketing simply won’t work without a creative strategy, and you’re likely to experience poor results in ad performance.
Furthermore, in a world where your brand’s creative is the secret weapon against the privacy and tracking restrictions that limit us marketers, a creative strategy is simply non-negotiable. Read our article on privacy and tracking restrictions.
In short, a creative marketing strategy is your ticket to standing out in a noisy marketplace and achieving the brand goals. Here's why it's crucial:
🎯 Increased team focus - with everyone in the loop, it adds focus to creative tasks that hit the target more regularly. It becomes your roadmap to marketing cohesion.
🧘 Convenience - all your brand info and guidelines are inside a shareable document which you shouldn’t have to explain. It ensures your marketing and creative teams are aligned.
🤠 No more “John Wayne shoot-from-the-hip marketing” - your advertising shifts from reactive to proactive when you work to a plan. It’s also easier to manage and produces better results.
Watch the user dodge the scary marketer’s unplanned ads.
🤔 Data-driven decisions - the work defined in a creative strategy statement includes KPIs which means it's all measurable. You can tell what worked and what didn’t and make better choices next time based on actual results.
🌟 Better ad performance - by producing thumb-stopping ad content consistently, your chances of reaching your goals increase. People start to remember your brand, and you stand out in the sea of digital noise.
🤑 Saves money - focused creative means less time spent on ideation. It also means you spend your marketing budget to produce creative based on data and proven results
7 essential things to include in a killer creative strategy
At its core, a creative strategy should inform the decisions required for the campaign’s ongoing creative processes and encapsulate your value proposition. It is there to answer the ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How’ questions that arise when you advertise your brand.
However, a creative strategy is not a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all kind of plan. While some brands may have overlapping elements, each creative strategy statement is as unique as the business it’s for.
It’s a given it includes visuals and text and can also include creative ways to connect with your target audience and how best to showcase your business. Moreover, a well-rounded creative strategy should also include the following components:
- Your brand information
Firstly, this includes your brand identity, your brand values, and messaging guidelines.
Your brand identity is all the moving design parts that go into your creatives; logos, icons, colors, fonts, patterns, links, images, videos, audio, and so on.
In a sea of people and businesses out there on the web, it’s more important than ever before to share your story. Unquestionably, when you show who you are, share why you do what you do, and why potential customers should choose you, you give your audience something to connect to.
Lastly, your messaging guidelines include slogans, taglines, ad copy, call-to-actions, and any other defined text that should be included in your marketing.
- Unique selling proposition (USP)
It’s vital to identify what sets your product or service apart from the competition. What problems do you uniquely solve, and how do you add value? Once defined, your USP is the anchor of your creative strategy and underpins the customer experience.
To work it out, you must find the sweet spot between what your customers want and what you do well. This should be YOUR unique offer that your competitors don’t do well, so try not to include something they rock at.
With a defined USP, marketing your products or services is much easier… you know what to say and how to say it when you have clear guidelines.
- Marketing goals and objectives
What is the overarching goal of your brand or campaign? What are you trying to realistically achieve? Is it increased awareness or a boost in sales revenue? Are you launching a new product? Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Once you know, a list of what you want to achieve should be included in your creative strategy.
You’ve built a new online store for your company. You want to increase awareness and start selling from your website. Your goals may include:
- Drive traffic to the website: increase clicks and traffic to your website over 3 months
- Drive website sales: 50 purchases in month 1, 100 in month 2, 200 in month 3
- Target audience
You shouldn’t spend a cent on advertising unless you know who your ideal audience is and what they want. Put yourself in their shoes to consider what keeps them up at night and how you can help them.
Define your ideal customers – their demographics, preferences, and, most notably, their pain points. Understanding your audience is pivotal for crafting compelling content that’s tailored to them. You can do your research the old-fashioned way, or you can use an app like Madgicx to do it for you. Targeting Insights analyzes your audience information across your entire account, giving you much more insight into who your audience is and what makes them tick.
- Core creative message
What is the main message you want to get across? What should your ads look like? If you advertise on Meta, you may want to check out our article on producing great Facebook ad creative - it goes into granular details we won’t cover in this article.
Do you want them to buy on your website? Or, click a link, or subscribe? Or perhaps install your app? What should be included in your messages from a visual and copy perspective? What graphic elements should be used?
This part of your creative strategy should include examples of the creative assets to help achieve the goals and objectives already defined. These are generally individual components like key visuals, headlines, ad copy, icons, images, videos, products, and call-to-actions.
The creative brief
While a creative brief shouldn’t necessarily be included in your creative strategy, it deserves to be here. Why? It’s a pawn in the game. And, because every single creative brief should be based on the information inside your creative strategy.
Every. Single. One. Every time 📣
The creative brief is the framework your designer uses to create and deliver what you’re asking for in the right format for effective distribution. It sets the limits for the designer and defines their “play area.”
Furthermore, it’s safe to say that the quality of the deliverable largely depends on the quality of the creative brief. Unless you use Sparkle, crafting the brief can take as long as the design itself as it should include:
- An overview: The job to be done, for example, design an ad, flyer, product label, or menu.
- The brand kit: the brand or business it’s for and what it’s about, your brand identity - your logo, brand fonts and colors, brand copy and wording, approved images, video, and audio which may be required to complete the task.
- Platforms: Where the deliverable will be seen e.g., which platforms it is destined for, or how it will be used e.g., social media, website, print advertising, banners, flyers, etc.
- Visual references: An example of what you want to create, like a video, image, or website link. If you use multiple references, make sure you say what you like about each one.
- Target audience: Who we’re speaking to, their interests, behaviors, and demographics. We go into this more below.
- Industry references: A list of competitor links so your designer can see what’s happening in the industry and spot trends for inspiration.
- Written brief: What you want the designer to do if you have a specific idea in mind. This is your opportunity to paint the picture using your words, yet it should be simple and easy to interpret.
- Copy: The text that must be included, like taglines, specific wording, call-to-actions, product names, etc.
- Dimensions or aspect ratio: The sizes and specs of what you want to create for example, a social media post is usually 1080x1080px, but a reel or story is sized at 1920x1080px.
- File format: How you need the files sized e.g. low resolution for digital distribution (the designer should use 72dpi) versus extremely large high resolution (300dpi) files for print. Or, the file must be smaller than 150kb for a website or 4GB for Instagram feed videos. It’s important to note that different platforms require files in certain formats with restrictions in both file size and dimensions. This means you’ll need your creative in each platform’s required format. You should list the dimensions and platform specs here.
- Deadline: Always include the time frame in which you need the work done.
🦸Pro tip: You can send a creative brief straight from Madgicx’s Ad Library to your designer, which shaves years off your brief writing time!
Aside from the amazing creative you plan to use in your campaign, what are the other tactics you want to utilize to reach your goal? Are you planning to use user-generated content to provide social proof to your followers that your product or service is amazing? Are you running a competition or a limited offer? Do you want to encourage site visitors with a discount code to drive traffic and promote sales of your new product? Are you going to offer free content to get new email subscribers?
Your tactics speak to the ‘How’ more than anything else, as they dictate the customer journey and experience that sets you apart from your competition.
- Budget & Timeline
How much you’re willing to spend is essential knowledge for your marketing teams, and it's critical to know this at the ideation stage. The budget is used to temper the wild imaginations of your creative team. It helps them come up with ideas aligned with realistic goals instead of pie-in-the-sky notions.
Then we get to the painful point of this process that can bring even a reasonably sane creative professional to tears.
“When do you need this by?”
*The moment every designer stops breathing until they hear the answer*
Unfortunately, this response is often unreasonable. People frequently underestimate the time it takes to create, so the designer braces themselves for the worst possible answer and the need to justify more time.
If you plan in advance, you empower creators to budget their time effectively to meet the deadline and produce work that isn’t rushed.
How to create a timeline
It’s super important to include a timeline in your creative strategy, and it’s a great idea to break it down into phases. For a shortish ad campaign, it may look like this:
- Pre-launch phase - the time to get all the research and big thinking done, as well as the creative assets and any setup that’s needed before you officially start.
- Launch phase - everything starts to go live, and you start promoting
- Live phase - everything is up and working, analytics are tracking, and the ads are monitored and maintained
- Wrap-up phase - analyze data for insights into what worked and what didn’t, highlights, and content repurposing - you should reuse anything that worked well. If a particular ad creative experienced good traction, you should recreate a similar one.
For long-term projects and ongoing work, you would keep the live phase as an ongoing one and incorporate the ‘Wrap-up phase’ at regular intervals as a reporting and assessment phase.
If this sounds complex, you could simply number your phases - whatever works best for you and what you want to achieve.
Bonus: Questions to ask when drafting your creative strategy
Considering that every business is different, strategists need to ask specific questions to distill this information. Here are a few we’ve put together for you as prompts to spark your ideas. Furthermore, consider the thinking behind them as well as your answers to these questions. Just click the image to see them.
👆We give you full permission to save and use these.
Challenges in developing creative strategies and tips to overcome them
Creative inspiration 💡
Get online and look at what your competitors are doing or browse ads on the Meta Ad Library for creative inspiration. You can follow hashtags in your niche, look at your competitor’s followers and see what they’re following, and look at your favorite unrelated brands to see what they’re doing right to get inspired. Still stuck? You can ask ChatGPT using these genius prompts.
Hiring a full creative team can be costly, especially if you’re not there yet in your business journey. Therefore, outsourcing creative services is a great idea to start. Another way to tackle this problem is to find the right software to make your creative process more efficient. By using tools like Madgicx, you can optimize and automate processes to be more effective.
If you wear many hats in your business, you know that time costs money. In addition, shaving off an hour here and there improves productivity and efficiency. While we can’t get around the fact that crafting a creative strategy takes time, there are ways to speed up other key functions, like sending creative briefs, outsourcing teams, managing ads, and reporting.
Measuring analytics is pretty easy, but collating the data can be tedious and time-consuming. We highly recommend using software to help manage this so that you don’t have to export reports from a gazillion different places and manually put them into a spreadsheet. If we’re describing your process, you should set up scheduled reporting on each of your analytics tools.
At Madgicx, we’re well aware of the challenges in developing and implementing strategies. As a result, we’ve crafted the Creative Workflow - to simplify the entire creative process for you. Now you have an efficient solution for creative work in your business.
This workflow is intended to reduce the often painstaking time spent on planning your ad designs as well as the cost of an entire creative team. The best part is that you can do it all from one place.
- Step 1: Browse the Madgicx Ad Library for creative inspiration
- Step 2: Save ads you like to your board (you’ll need to upgrade to the paid plan)
- Step 3: Send a creative brief to Sparkle straight from the Madgicx Ad Library page or share your board with your creative team
Evaluating the success of your creative strategy
How do we know what works and what doesn’t?
*all together now*
We measure our results 👏
First of all, test your creative. The effectiveness of your creative is measurable when you can test different versions of your ad and see which one comes out best. You can read more about Facebook ad creative testing in our other article, but it allows you to run two types of tests: simple A/B testing, which is ideal for testing one difference at a time, and multivariate testing, which will test multiple ad creative components at the same time.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) for creative strategies
Yes, you can measure the performance of your creative efforts simply to see what works better from actual results. You can have all the strategy, tactics, optimizations, and preparation in place, but if your creative doesn’t hit the mark, your ad performance won’t either. So how does looking at the metrics tell you a story about your creative? Let’s go through the list of most relevant metrics:
- Conversion rate - how many times a user did what you wanted them to do, whether it’s like a page, make a purchase, or visit your website. If they do what you want them to, it means your creative elements are working.
- Click-through rate - what percentage of users clicked to see or do more - this tells you whether you’re able to hook users with your creative.
- Engagement - all interactions, including likes, shares, comments, and messages. This is a great way to test the efficacy of your creative as users respond to it.
- Mentions - every time a user tags or mentions your brand, product, or service, see what they’re saying. By monitoring brand sentiment, you get an idea of how your audience reacts to your creative.
- Video views - seeing how long people spend watching your videos will tell you how good they are. If you’re losing them after a second, you need to work on your video creative.
When you look at how all of these different factors work together, you can start to build the puzzle picture. These metrics all reflect the impact of your creative efforts, and remember: data doesn’t lie.
Revision and adaptation of creative strategies
Great marketers gather their insights and adapt accordingly. Once you’ve analyzed your creative performance piece by piece, you can try new combinations based on your findings. Try multiple designs of the same idea to test what works the best. Or, you can try pairing a winning headline with a different image to test if it works even better. Don’t stop trying!
Another thing we all know to be true is that things change. Global crises and pandemics happen. Tracking restrictions happen. New competitors emerge. The landscape is ever-changing and advancing rapidly, so agility is key. Be sure to update your creative strategy as new events occur so you don’t lose relevance.
Conclusion: Implementing creative strategies in your business
Incorporating creative strategies into your marketing efforts is not just a choice; it's a necessity in today's competitive business landscape. With a well-crafted creative strategy, your brand can flourish in an ever-changing marketplace, making a lasting impact and forging meaningful connections with your audience.
Implementation of your creative strategy comes down to taking action. Write it down. Browse for inspiration. Send a creative brief. Just start. And with Madgicx at your fingertips, you can do so much more.
Say yes to better creatives and improved efficiency! Try out Madgicx’s Creative Workflow. Start with oodles of inspiration in the Ad Library, write concise creative briefs in Sparkle, and launch straight from Madgicx! Shave off hours of work with our smooth process.
As a content and technical writer, my goal is to help business owners and advertisers navigate the digital landscape.