blog post | marketing

Using creativity to optimize your marketing

Jarret Fleagle Team Photo
Jarrett FleagleDirector of Business Development

What are the two key ingredients to award-winning campaigns?

Creativity and an omnichannel strategy.

These days people are on every channel all at once, and you need to meet them where they are. Our recent guest on the Performance Marketing Insiders podcast, Suzanne Darmory, has some hints for pulling that off.

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With over 25 years of international experience championing Fortune 500 brands, Susan’s tips for boosting awareness can’t be beat.

She even has the awards to prove it. Suzanne has been recognized by MARsum as a member of the Top 100 Influencers in Marketing and Advertising, Business Leaders Magazine as one of the Top 100 Business Leaders, Refinery29 as a member of the top 29 most powerful women in digital, and was featured on the “Where Are the Boss Ladies?” list.

Learn the secrets to developing a creative, omnichannel strategy through an integrated marketing and customer-centric approach.

6 secrets to a winning creative strategy

1. Develop a thick skin and a warm heart

In marketing, there are so many hoops to jump through. So many people to impress. So many levels to scale before getting to the top. And you need that thick skin to get through it.

But growing thick skin is challenging; creatives are particularly sensitive. Coming up with new ideas day after day only to have them critiqued can be frustrating.

The key is not to take it personally. You need to make the distinction between you and your work.

In her interview, Suzanne suggested reminding yourself that your work is what moves the company forward:

“A helpful frame is to think about how your work can get the best results. Say to yourself, ‘This is not about me; it’s about achieving a bigger brand purpose.’”

Maintaining a healthy perspective can help you move on from tough criticism and perform better in the long run. Grinding through tough times also gets easier when you think about the direct result of your creativity. Not the clicks and meetings — the tangible, human results. The way you made your customers’ lives better.

After launching an award-winning campaign, “What the Buck,” Suzanne heard so many stories about the difference Jason Hewitt was making in their customers’ lives.

The money they saved helped them buy Christmas presents for their kids or get the new set of tires they really needed. Reminding yourself of the impact you’re having on your customers can give you the extra motivation you need to keep going.

2. Take creative risks

Creativity is essential in marketing. But to be creative means you have to be willing to take risks.

The most memorable campaigns are often the most controversial ones. And they probably took some testing to get optimal results. Taking a chance on something really out there can actually tell you a lot about your customers.

For instance, after launching that “What the Buck” campaign, Suzanne received a flood of personal phone calls, emails, and handwritten notes. People were upset that the slogan was too close to a swear word and their kids or grandkids had seen the ad spot.

Without that feedback, Suzanne wouldn’t necessarily know about the prospects and customers she was alienating. Thankfully, her team was able to pivot fast, switching “What the Buck” to “You Need Money” to show that the company was listening to its audience.

And it was a smashing success. The company scheduled tons of meetings in the next few weeks. This example just goes to show that rolling the dice can pay off — in terms of revenue and customer insights.

3. Establish a “center of excellence”

Leveraging external vendors can make sense for production and dissemination, but your internal marketing team needs to live, breathe, and own your brand.

The internal folks know their customers, know the products and services they’re selling, and have the ability to create the most relevant content. Delegating the “soul” of your company’s marketing to a third party puts your positioning, messaging, and timing at risk.

So consider developing an internal “center of excellence,” a team with copywriters, creative directors, art directors, and editors who know the brand inside and out. They’ll be the minds behind your company’s great ideas and coordinate external production vendors to bring those ideas to life.

With this structure in place, more powerful marketing messages get into the market at a faster clip.

For Suzanne, this setup was particularly important given Jackson Hewitt’s short window of opportunity to acquire as many new customers as possible — before and during tax season. Keeping the brand consistent across all channels and continuing to optimize it with the in-house team has made the company’s marketing incredibly effective and cost-efficient, even during crunch time.

This setup even had another hidden benefit: it made Suzanne’s team more invested in their work. She says, “Doing it this way is just more fun. People are more invested and live and breathe the brand, day in and day out.”

4. Use some channels just to promote your brand

In today’s world, we are completely omnichannel. Everyone is looking at all their devices all the time, and they expect to see your ads and content on the channels they consume.

The key to maximizing your budget is to identify the channels working best. But that’s easier for some channels than others.

Tracking social and digital campaign performance is fairly straightforward. But TV and radio are whole other beasts. You can make educated guesses about the traffic they drove, but they’re just estimations.

In Suzanne’s experience, advertising on those two mediums has simply been a “brand awareness” activity. It’s not about stressing over leads. It’s about getting your name and product out there for the world to see and remember.

5. Pay attention to your data

Just because some channels are harder to measure doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to look at ROI.

Data really is the future, and to nail the customer journey, you not only need to know your customer funnel inside and out, you constantly need to be polishing it.

Use data to push the envelope on your acquisition and retention tactics. Find new burgeoning segments of potential new customers and go after them in a highly targeted way. Run tests to see what works and what doesn’t.

6. Look ahead

Yes, you need to focus on your tasks at hand. But you also need to keep one eye on the future.

If you’re not, you’re falling behind. By embracing the next big thing, you can make your career skyrocket.

Suzanne learned this first-hand, going into digital early. By joining a startup, she got the opportunity to write IKEA’s first e-commerce website — talk about a career milestone.

Later in Suzanne’s career, she moved to London for three years to learn about a new concept called “the customer journey.” As we all know, that buzzword became the foundation for the customer acquisition and lifetime value strategies we’re all familiar with today. And that early knowledge she gained scored her the Chief Creative Officer role at Zeta Global.

As she puts it, “Knowing where we’re going next as marketers and advertisers is key to staying relevant.”

7. BONUS: There’s no replacement for human creativity

Creativity is one of the superpowers you get as a human. Don’t be afraid of it. Instead, use it to fuel your work — especially at a time when AI is all the rage.

As Suzanne says, “We’ve always had this threat. Before, people thought computers were going to take our jobs. But we’ve seen time and again that you need people to pull things off. I think that expertise and creativity isn’t something you can replicate in any sort of AI.”

Creativity helps you stand out. It helps make a real impact on your customers. And it helps you feel connected to yourself.

Want to hear more of Suzanne’s fantastic tips and tricks? Follow (or if you’re feeling brave, reach out to) her on LinkedIn, or listen to the full podcast on Performance Marketing Insiders.

If you’re itching for more ways to distinguish your marketing and your brand, RSVP for our next monthly Growth Clinic to hear what moves digital marketing leaders are making.

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