With today’s media fragmentation, is your marketing creative doing its share of heavy lifting?  In a mobile, tablet-driven, what’s-on-now environment, strategic creative design must perform under the most difficult pressures imaginable.

Ignition1How long have you got to stop a pair of roaming eyeballs? Barely half a second. If your marketing design isn’t compelling, there are plenty more that are.

Creative design in the 21st century has to consider multiple applications across diverse platforms. A big rectangular traditional image or logo may not translate well—if at all—from a print magazine design to a mobile smartphone application.  It may look stale, dull, or worse, stupid.

With that in mind, consider that not-thought-through designs can be disastrous.  Whacking off half a headline to squeeze in a video frame can distort a message and leave a key influencer in a target market wondering what amateur put that together. Not exactly brand-building.

Toss in the clip art and template capacity of most office desktop programs, and one has a recipe for brand destruction. In a matter of seconds terrible creative design can be cobbled together, pronounced fit for prime time, and be about its way fomenting creative apocalypse.

So what’s the difference between bad/terrible/poor marketing creative design and great blockbuster “Big Idea” creative that launches and sustains brands?

Great creative design ignites. It works across all (or at least most) media and communication platforms. It permeates brand essence. It is memorable—it sticks. And it provides results that hit the bottom line – in a good way.

Oftentimes, truly strategic and impactful creative design is what not you like or prefer—it’s what your target market reacts to or likes. The concept of self-referenced criteria – which means essentially: “I like it, therefore everybody likes it” – rarely works 100% of the time. Even Steve Jobs of Apple – the acknowledged master of looking around marketing corners — had his lapses.

“Sticky creative” – the kind of design that stays top-of-mind and highly memorable – changes one’s perception and perspective. Coupled with strong content on the verbal side, it changes minds. It is persuasive.

Strategic creative works in tandem with key messaging. It doesn’t fight it or create an alternative message that dilutes what the product, service or advocate is trying to say or achieve.

So how to you get there? Through careful planning and understanding your target market. Through relentless curiosity – far too much bad creative is simply the result of accepting the very first creative idea or concept that presents itself. Although there are many “a-ha” creative moments or Malcolm Gladwell “Blink” scenarios, most complex creative projects benefit from multiple concepts and disciplined refinement.

Therefore, for your next creative assignment, break the mold. Map out a creative plan. Know who you’re creating for and why they think the way they do. Create at least three totally different concepts and justify them all. Test objectively so you know you’re not stuck in a cookie clutter mode. Find inspiration in different places: nature, architecture, literature. Be relentless. When you feel comfortable, throw it all under the bus for a second and start over. Ask: what I am I missing? Be mercilessly disciplined and don’t cut mental corners.

Sound exhausting? Hard? Absolutely. Did you expect anything different? Strategic eye-stopping marketing creative that builds brands is typically not easy, even though the pros may make it look so.

So why are you still reading this? Start creating marketing designs that ignite!

By Tim Meyers, Creative Director, The MEK Group