What is the creative process in advertising, and why is it important? The creative process is a phrase you might think of when it comes to drafting novels, designing clothes, or painting a masterpiece. It is also the same process that applies in business, branding, advertising, and marketing. The definition of creativity is “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness”.
When it comes to advertising, creativity is required to get the cut-through on your business or product. It’s also the creative process that brings the fun and joy to advertising and marketing. Creativity is what will grab people’s attention, and also get them to take action.
There’s various identified processes to follow, as well as different frameworks and theories, but many share the same characteristics. The social psychologist Graham Wallance outlined a creative process framework that many creatives, advertisers, and marketing agencies use today.
The creative process in advertising
- Preparation – market research and brainstorming ideas
- Incubation – taking space from the ideas and letting them unfold and mold
- Illumination – the moment you land on the idea
- Evaluation – thinking critically about the idea and weighing it up against other solutions
- Verification – bringing the idea into fruition
The creative process in advertising involves finding new ideas and inspiration, exploring new perspectives, and then using marketing strategies to launch your idea into the market, to connect with your audience and inspire them to action.
While there’s a process to follow, the trick with creativity is tapping into imagination. There’s a lot of other strategies which draw on logic and data, to get your business and products into the world. However, this phase of advertising and marketing is all about creativity. It might not even seem like work, and that’s the point. The closer to play and fun it feels, the closer it will be to a truly imaginative and creative idea, that will be memorable and evocative to others.
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Creative market research: understanding your target audience’s mind
Phase one, the preparation phase of the creative process, is to undergo creative market research. Creative market research can be the most overlooked aspect of the creative process in advertising, but it is research that fuels the best campaigns and marketing strategies. It can also be the make or break between advertising and marketing success, or even the entire success of your business. Many businesses and products have been launched, and have failed, because they hadn’t tapped into the target audience’s mind.
Market research is about understanding your target audience’s mind and how likely they are to react to your advertising and marketing. This is clearly fundamentally important, as the goal is to elicit an action from your audience, whether it be brand engagement, attracting new audiences, or a purchase. Every type of advertising campaign can benefit from the creative process, and all you have to do is ensure that you follow it.
It’s pivotal to develop a clear and in-depth understanding of how your target market thinks, what problems they have, and how you can help solve them. Various people across the globe, and even your target audience who you might assume think one specific way, may have different preferences when it comes to language, imagery, problems, desires, and needs. Data is required to bust through stereotypical assumptions about your target audience.
How to undertake creative market research
Many creative advertising and marketing agencies will have specialist knowledge of how to best undertake creative market research. Creative market research is a set of techniques used to gather information for understanding, which makes up a core part of the creative process in advertising. Some of the most common types of market research include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observing the customer.
Usually, the process starts with developing a marketing persona, a fictional representation of the type of buyers you might have. This can be fun, as you can give these personas a name, images and develop a picture of their life. This process helps connect to your audience as real people, rather than numbers, or an idea or assumption of who you think they might be.
Brainstorming and ideation is a key part of the creative process
You can brainstorm how your business or product helps solve their problem, and the barriers that keep them from taking action. What does your audience need to know to take the action that the creative advertising campaign asks them to take?
After developing personas, the next phase is to conduct research. There’s many ways this can be done, and it depends on what’s right for your product or business, though direct feedback from your target audience, as well as observation, works well. Once the target audience is clearly defined with personas, and the data has been gathered via research, it’s then time to analyse the data. From there, you can develop a customer journey map, which is the framework for your creative advertising campaigns and marketing strategies.
This is all part of the overall creative process in advertising, and it’s the step that is the most important for success. It’s also the step that’s often overlooked. Once you understand exactly who the person is that you’re marketing to, including how they think and what evokes them emotionally, you can develop excellent creative ideas to market to them via creative advertising campaigns.
Creativity in marketing: a key to grab people’s attention
A fun part of the creative process is ideation via inspiration. With the ground work complete, you can develop creative ideas on how to share your product or service via marketing and advertising. This is the time to tap into the source of creativity, the same type artists use. The great news is everyone can do this, as all humans are inherently and innately creative. If you’ve ever had an idea, no matter how big or small, that’s creativity in action.
A great way to do this is an old-fashioned brainstorm, coming up with many different ideas, no matter how strange or implausible they may sound. This can be done in a team where people can bounce off others’ ideas, or through individual ideation sessions. In the brainstorm phase, don’t impose limits, as that will come later on, when testing out the top ideas. The aim here is to play with creativity, and have fun with your imagination to come up with original ideas without restraint.
After the brainstorm, take some time to process the ideas. When you come back to them, rather than choosing during the same creative brainstorm session, it will become clear which one is the ideal for your next creative advertising campaign. Test the idea out with strategic thinking, such as thinking through different scenarios and possible problems. Include restrictions at this part of the process, including resource, time and budget. Then, it’s time to bring your creative advertising campaign to life with marketing.
Evoke emotional reactions with attention grabbing creative ideas
Creative agencies commonly facilitate this process, or they can do this for you, and present you with the top ideas for you to choose from, for your creative advertising campaign. Implementing creativity in marketing includes the entire creative process outlined, and fusing the ideas into your marketing strategies.
The idea itself is the key to grabbing people’s attention, and the way it’s best delivered depends on your uniquely individual business situation and offering. Campaigns need to be creative because we are constantly bombarded with online and offline messaging, and there’s only a few seconds we have to invoke a reaction in your target audience.
Once attention is grabbed, an emotional response needs to be evoked. This is why it’s so important to know your target audience, as the more you understand their minds, the more you will understand how to grab their attention and elicit an emotional reaction.
Tapping into creativity has been proven to help your marketing, and business, succeed. Often the success comes down to a variety of elements, and getting it right involves following the creative process in advertising, as well as applying data-proven marketing strategies and techniques.
When it comes time to launch your creative idea, consider utilising a full-funnel marketing strategy. You can also apply the creative process to re-branding your business.
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