How do you know when you’ve struck gold?

It can be very tempting, as a creative, to take an idea and run with it. Sprint with it, even. In that (all too rare) moment when lightning strikes and the thought is so good that you give yourself goosebumps, and then you immediately get out a pencil and paper and start drawing it and coming up with 72 different ways to execute it, and then…you pause. Because Uri taught you strategy. 

It might be an amazing idea, and it’s possible the idea came before you defined your creative strategy. But there’s a reason it’s a good idea, and that’s because there’s a sound strategy behind it—even if you don’t know it yet. So you can work backwards to understand the strategy and pressure test it against the win conditions. To do that, ask yourself, does it have integrity? In other words, does it make sense coming from this brand/product/entity? Second, is it relevant? And third, is it different? If it checks those boxes, then there’s a good chance it’s built on a solid strategy. Next, you can dig a layer deeper to see if it meets the win conditions of a good idea. Does it represent a truth about the brand? Is it recognizable or familiar? Is it surprising, or is there a sense of play? If you answer “yes” to these three questions, then it’s probably a good idea—or even a great one.

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of running with an idea without setting a solid strategy beforehand..(me too). I’m learning how interrelated strategy and creative are, and that the best creatives know how to do both well. Even if you do start with a good idea before setting your strategy, there’s a good chance there’s an even better iteration of your idea out there. To find it, you have to be willing and able to pause and examine the strategy behind it, so you can then push it further.

It’s not a linear process, but generally a strategy leads to an idea, then that idea might lead to a better strategy, which could lead to an even better idea, and so on and so forth. I’ve got a bad case of shiny object syndrome, so I have no problem scrapping my original, brilliant line of thinking for the newer, better one that comes along. But the trick is you have to actually take the time and do the work. Sure, your first idea might have a bit of gold in it, but there could be a whole treasure if you keep going. The risk in not doing this is that you find a trivial attribute about your brand or product, which leads you to discover an insignificant insight and thus create an inconsequential execution. In other words, your work will be pronounced dead upon arrival. 

The bad news is that strategy is proving to be really, really hard to get right. The good news is I’ve watched myself and my peers blossom in just 8 short weeks at the hands of our incredible mentors, so I know we (I) can get there. And the even better news is there’s a great outlook for us if/when we do get there. Uri concluded the class by showing us data from a Nielsen report a few years ago, which found that creative contributed 47% of total sales (the most of any element, including reach, brand, and targeting) when it came to advertising effectiveness. So not only do we want to be great at this, we’re needed to be. And it’s really nice to be needed.


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