The gap between brand strategy and creative messaging.

Porter CommunicationManaging the translation of brand strategy to creative messaging is a delicate process of enabling the polarized thinking archetypes of the engineer, economist, and artist to form a singular voice.

Seemingly the intersection of brand strategy and creative messaging is an area where many marketers struggle. Developing a brand strategy is a top-down introspective process driven by a business strategy, while creative expression is a downstream activity centered in marketing communications. In many organizations, these two disciplines occupy different levels on the value chain.

Brand strategy is not marketing.

Brand strategy can’t be created from the outside in.  Brand strategy is not a decorative or promotional process either. All leading brands represent a single, compelling unifying principle that drives business performance from the inside out.

Brand strategy illuminates the brand’s behavior in every internal action taken by stakeholders, and in all mental and physical interactions customer/consumer’s experience.  Strategy and messaging are two sides of a coin.

Translating brand strategy into creative messaging is a complex process.  To be effective, the process requires more than a thoughtful “hand-off” between left-brainers and right-brainers. It’s too messy with lots of moving parts. When markets change in six-month increments, something more transcendent is required to close the gap.

Creative briefs ensure creative block.

The default tool for aligning strategic imperatives to a creative messaging platform is the Creative Brief.  We’ve all written them, read them and ignored them.  No doubt, the creative brief is a useful tool if your plan is to simply provide the descriptive criteria for directing “creatives” to make marketing stuff and deliver it through channels and touch points.

A creative brief, no matter how well written, doesn’t always ensure clarity in translating the essence of brand strategy into brand messaging. In fact, most creative briefs are an impediment to the process. Here’s why:

Brand managers and agency account planners (generally the authors) are tactics driven. That’s because 80% of the daily processes within marketing departments and ad agencies are based in project management. Creative Briefs tend to be “control” documents, rather than a forum for gathering inspirational ideas. Brand managers and their communication partners focus on the best way to manage the process and the tight budgets they have been allocated. They usually aren’t thinking long-term when at the crossroads of strategic and creative decision-making. They’re focused on getting a job done (on-time and on-budget).  Add the changing priorities of executive management into the mix, and it’s easy to see how messy creative briefs become.

Creatives (the receivers) have different motivations and definitions of successful outcomes (things like winning awards, peer acceptance, career advancement). As a generalization, creative people get the rap of being more into doing stuff that’s cool first and foremost. By nature, creative people are style, technique, and craft-driven. They need guidance. For many, data is dry and not very interesting. There’s a built-in bias to discount left-brain imperatives. And heaven forbid you to place boundaries and restrictions on their creativity by adherence to a long, highly detailed creative brief.

We need a more perfect union.

There’s a natural separation between the thinking styles of data people and creative people.  Within any organization, there are three “thinking” archetypes that must work together in harmony if your translation from brand strategy to brand messaging will ring true and clear for all concerned. They are the engineer, the economist, and the artist.

Managing the translation of brand strategy and creative messaging is a delicate process of allowing the polarized thinking archetypes of the engineer, economist, and artist to come together as an integrated force giving voice to brands that will create the bigger futures every one desires.

Likewise, people within the diverse functional disciplines of product development, manufacturing, finance, marketing, sales, and HR need to come together in a more perfect union of artist, economist and engineer thinking. These thinking archetypes form the quintessential three legs of the stool that comprise the fullest expression of the brand aligned with it’s unifying strategic principle. However, to design the stool requires yet another thinking style that embodies the value of the other three.

The catalyst for designing grand cathedrals

In our view, brand owners and stakeholders must all learn to become “brand architects”– integrating their diverse organizational disciplines to harness their collective power to better manage materials, data, money, and creativity when at the crossroads of strategic and creative decision-making.

In effect, thinking like architects will enable your team to design an enduring structure to bridge brand strategy and brand messaging in ways that don’t look, feel, sound or smell like marketing.

Through the archetype of the “architect”, the translation of brand strategy into compelling brand messaging becomes a more inclusive, elegant, transparent and designed process. Like any good architect designing a grand cathedral, concern for the integrity of brand materials (engineer), the rigor of brand metrics (economist), and the beauty of the brand stories (artist) are all necessary elements of a far greater whole.

It takes an architect to create the vision and build cathedrals… everything else is just bricks in a wall.