As a client-side marketer this has been a constant balancing act for me over the last 30 years.
It is easy, on the one hand, to suggest the only time to change creative is when you have evidence it is no longer working as you would expect … or is it as it once did … or is it as it did last year … or even the year before. I hope you see my point, context as well as rational argument is required.
At this point I will say that I am steering clear of brand identity creative, iconography and logotype in this post. After all where would we be without those brands who have been so consistent since the birth of modern advertising such as Pears, Coca Cola and so on?
I will assume the brand is in rude health and that the consistency of its delivery is at the heart of why the brand is successful.
Over the years I’ve seen a number of drivers of change, but the timing of when to ‘press the change button’ is perhaps just as important as the drivers of change themselves.
In direct marketing terms your key goal will be to generate a lead, a sale or some other form of conversion, so the key driver of change is likely to be ineffectiveness or at the very least declining effectiveness.
This can however take many forms, I hope my check list below may be helpful in establishing whether you should indeed change creative;
- Increased Cost of Acquisition in the sense that it is no longer on plan – this likely to be your most important internal measure. There is a tipping point where the marketing pound can be better spent elsewhere either in a different channel or on a different line. Your task is to determine what is driving the downturn of course, the answer may not drive a creative change, it may drive a channel change or a targeting change that is more appropriate, at least in the short term.
- Response rate falls – in a pure math sense this still may be giving you an acceptable cost of acquisition. In a mature business with a longstanding creative, or one with integrated high cost assets alongside such as TV, this is a complex challenge because you may not be getting the volume to support your business plan. Looking at targeting and channel is crucial because if one element is not working to plan but other channels or targeting are, there may be a compromise to be had with creative, or your cost of acquisition target.
- Customer feedback – a difficult one as this is very subjective. Complaints about creative (over time) are most often driven by external changes in my experience. There may be an emerging risk around climate change and sustainability for any advertising which does not reflect the current societal view/mood as I write this post. In my experience customer feedback driving creative change is infrequent and rare in practice.
This could of course be related to the answer you give to the question “Do you ask your target customers what they think?” I have done this consistently in the past on only one of the brands I worked on, with a dual objective of looking at TCF ‘compliance’ (note small c) as well as being driven by a desire to demonstrate “outside in” thinking. It was refreshing and drove change, but came at a cost of course.
- In some cases creative change will be driven by a need to express the proposition differently, this is most common where either a product changes for the better internally or there is a market shift which necessitates a refresh of the positioning of the product or what element of the proposition you are highlighting.
- I did say earlier I would ignore brand, but if there is a change in branding or brand standards then of course your direct creative will need to be sense checked. If it jars in any way then you should invest in a refresh that can leverage your fresh new brand assets and/or design.
So, there are my five checkpoints for positive creative change, but it is worth looking at what drivers of creative change are (likely to be) inappropriate or at the very least less valid;
- Executive whim/new broom – usually a new ‘Head of’ or New CMO and often a symbolic act and usually not grounded in the metrics but based on their last brand.
- Silo’d working – where a solus asset stops working as expected and drives wholesale change. Your risk here is of being backed into a ‘consistency corner’.
- New Year new challenge – there is a temptation to make a change just because you think it’s time. That’s dangerous unless it is backed up by hard metrics that show a decline in effectiveness.
- Old creative. This could also be called ‘New Agency New Creative’. There are many reasons to change creative agency and many reasons to review creative that has been around for a while, but please, if you are going for the shiny new agency pitch creative, remember they will in all likelihood know less about you than you’d like (so make sure you immerse them in the business before changing the creative … in this instance pitching can be dreadfully misleading). If a creative is old but still hitting your effectiveness measures then save yourself the extra time, cost and effort of changing it.
As ever if you have any comments on my post I would love to hear them.
27 January 2020
Image courtesy of @bamagal via https://unsplash.com/@bamagal