by Mike Gallagher
‘Oh, that’s not what I meant.’
‘Bob from sales didn’t think it was hard-hitting enough.’
‘The ad was supposed to target attendees and exhibitors.’
‘Our CEO hates yellow.’
‘This isn’t it, but I’ll know it when I see it.’
They’re responses to creative work we’ve all probably heard at one time or another (or even delivered ourselves). Responses intended to be constructive, but when born out of subjectivity instead of strategy, they rarely help make the work perform better.
They’re all part of a syndrome commonly known as ‘Ready, Fire, Aim.’
We all know that every show, every event is a huge undertaking. Mobilizing the people, places, materials, budgets and logistics–efficiently and effectively–takes careful planning. Your communications and creative should be approached in the same fashion. Whether it’s an attendee ad, an exhibitor prospectus, a floor plan, a website, a logo, an e-blast a booth design or an entire campaign, the clearer the upfront direction and the more focused the goals, the better (and more affordable) the results.
So where does this direction come from? This strategy for the creative work? It comes from you and your team of stakeholders, usually in conjunction with your marketing or communications firm. And it’s important that everyone with a say in the creative work has a say in the direction. So if you’re going to be sharing the creative with your sales team, get them involved with the strategy upfront. If your CFO’s opinion of the work is important, do the best you can to make your CFO aware of the strategy beforehand. Discussions about direction and goals are best had before any creative work is started.
Below is an example of a document that can help crystalize the direction and goals for the creative. Documents like this can be called a strategy, a creative brief, a creative plan or any number of things. And while it may take some thought and wrestling of ideas and opinions, having agreement on the information in this kind of document prior to any creative work being started is the most efficient way to ensure effective creative.
When the creative is complete, be sure to have this document on hand when reviewing the work. Use it as your scorecard. Does the creative achieve the goals set out in the brief? Does it connect with the audiences established in the brief, utilizing the right rational and emotional motivators? Is it the right tone? Use this as the filter for judging the work – and as a filter for any other comments that may come. After all, even the most adamant CEO can be convinced to like yellow if it’s shown to be stragetically supportive of achieving communications goals.
Creative Assignment & Support Brief
Assignment: Here you articulate the big picture perspective on the project. If it’s for a new campaign that all show materials for the next 18 months will fall out of, state that. List the elements, the time frame, and goals for the campaign. If it’s for an element of a campaign that’s already been created, like a direct mail piece, state that. And include some refresher on the campaign itself.
Product/Subject: Your show, event or initiative – then perspective on it. Dates, location. What’s new this year? What’s better than last year? Who sponsors the show? Why do they sponsor it? How does the industry feel about this event/initiative?
Convince: This is where you describe your target audience(s). But not just by job function or demographic. Ideally, there is some insight into what makes your show compelling to your audience(s) – a common need that motivates behavior within the competitive set. (For example: Our target says they come to the show to learn about new products, but for them it’s really about the industry camaraderie.)
That: Here is where you state the action you want your target to take – whether it’s to believe one show is better than another, go online to look for exhibit space or sign up for sponsorships.
Because: This is the most important aspect for all stakeholders to agree upon. Here you state the rational and emotional reasons why our target(s) will take the action stated above. It helps if it is linked to the insight articulated in the Convince section. In the trade show business, our customers tend to be more rational – they need past attendance/past leads/etc. numbers to justify their actions to their superiors. However, linking the why to the target insight brings a more compelling, emotional reason for taking the desired action. (For example: XXXX highly qualified attendees, so you are sure to reconnect with friends, mentors and respected associates).
Support: This is where all of the important statistics come in. The facts. The figures. And anything else you think is important to support your Because rationale.
Must-Know: This is where your logo & graphic standard requirements come in, your website url, phone #, etc. This is also where any pet peeves (eg: the CEO hates pink), industry requirements (eg: the show is sponsored by 2 associations – both must be treated with equal weight in layouts) and historical landmines (eg: trying to get quotes from past attendees is impossible) need to be spelled out so your creative team knows what to maneuver around while developing the work.
Mike is Creative Director at Fixation Marketing, the largest full-service agency specializing in creative strategy, design and interactive solutions for association events and trade shows.
Mike can be reached at Mike@Fixation.com