marketing strategy

A marketing campaign is only as strong as the strategy that drives it. Yet sometimes we treat marketing strategy as an afterthought. This often comes across in the creative brief process. Marketers copy and paste old creative briefs or parrot benefit statements without getting to the heart of why our brands or products are meaningfully unique.

In an ad shoot, we often hear someone say, “we’ll fix it in post-production”. This usually happens when there’s been a mistake, but not severe enough to reshoot the scene. Yet we learn the hard way that there’s only so much that we can actually fix in post-production. Our source footage limits how much we can do later. It’s often worth the extra effort of reshooting the scene to make sure we get it right.

Similarly, advertising can’t fix a bad marketing strategy. Agency creatives work with the material they have. The better the source material, the better the ideas. Garbage in, garbage out.

Creative briefs should be incendiary. Marketers should invest upfront to creative briefs that truly inspire. That investment will more than pay off in the creative work.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)

  1. Gerri @ Ninetynineways says

    The way I see it, you will find it hard to achieve successful results in your campaigns unless you have a clear idea of where you want to get and a clear idea of how you are going to get there. With that information in toe, you can then formulate a strategy that will see you get there. A good strategy (at I guess what you could call a functional level) should ensure that you have the right tools for you to create the best creatives.

  2. Bland Boxers says

    I am doubtful that anyone will post a truly insightful comment if they’re purely seeking the reward of your signed cartoon unless… its me.

  3. Kat Krieger says

    Spot on Tom. I think this goes beyond a marketing strategy to product. If the product doesn’t work, no marketing strategy, creative brief or advertising campaign will fix it. I also think too many take the easy road. It’s easy to cut and paste pieces of old briefs/plans. It takes a lot of work to well, do the work and do it right. Thanks as always for a great post Tom!

  4. Andy says

    To make it even easier for the, lets call them slightly less disciplined marketer, the solution is to mount a social media campaign….let them find us, tell us what they want and advertise it on our behalf. Now that’s a strategy!

  5. Bill Carlson says

    So you’re not an advocate of “ready, fire, aim”? :)

    I agree with the point here that marketing plans/activities/tactics should be driven by marketing strategy but it’s actually even bigger than that if you add in brand strategy and adding another 10,000 feet in altitude, the overall business strategy. Not to suggest those strategies don’t change over time but if they were developed, then they should be honored.

    And everything (right down to a proper creative brief) needs to be in sync in order for an organization to be successful in the long term.

    (BTW – I’m not trying to go tangential with the topic but defining “strategy” seems to be one of those things that will forever be a subject of discussion…)

    That said, all of the hype about “online strategies” (social media in particular) includes a sense that it’s “cheap” to execute and easy to change. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll do something different” is feasible, maybe even fine as there is of course value in the argument that the high degree of interaction with customers should be a factor in the marketing effort. But that should not be a rationale for not having a plan in place. Imagine a cruise ship leaving the dock and looking to its passengers for navigation…

    Creative marketing concepts developed without regard to strategy are just art.

  6. John says

    The insight that underlies the creative brief should be incendiary, everybody’s assertions should be challenged and clients should be confronted by real users and reminded that they don’t care about brands. Then maybe we wouldn’t get ego-driven nonsense like the ad I saw last night that celebrated the 50th anniversary of Flash floor cleaner. WTF?

  7. Pontus says

    Tom, you’re really spot on with this one!
    One observation you sparked is that often creativity is asked to cover for a lack of strategy. Of course this is impossible, but coming up with a coherent plan seems to be beyond many people or not something they believe is important. So they skip that part and move on to looking at or ordering (more or less) creative solutions to what they want to communicate. And with a lack of strategy any campaign or project will fail. On the other hand, when a clear strategy works in tandem with a creative solution we can really have an impact.
    Thanks for a funny and thought provoking cartoon!

  8. Jennifer Nelson says

    I’d love to get more expansive about what constitutes “garbage.” Clearly a mindless cut and paste is one, but another common source is to have veiled, vague language in briefs. This is usually a bi-product of the need for internal alignment on the advertisers side. There’s an assumption that the creative team will “really know what we mean” — which is completely fallacious. They have no idea what nonsense has transpired on our side of the fence, nor is it likely to inspire and ignite their efforts. Another typical source of garbage brief comes from when it is loaded with too much “stuff.” This is not the place to summarize every minor insight you’ve ever had about primary, secondary or “future potential growth target” (seriously, I once saw that on a brief).

    If you can’t invest the time in developing and aligning on a good brief, why should your company invest (potentially) millions of dollars in A&P to execute it?

    Happy Monday,

  9. Scott says

    The foundation of the brand, the marketing strategy, the creative brief… right down to the copy points.. is the marketing research used to develop the communication plam, the positioning and messaging. To often marketing creatives fail to rely on a solid foundation of intelligence to build the communications plan. As Advertising patriarch David Ogilvy said: “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”

  10. says

    Hi all,

    Great insight and perspective, many thanks! This week’s cartoon print goes to Jennifer Nelson. She illustrates the funny truth that many teams don’t invest the time in developing a good brief, but are fine investing millions of dollars in A&P to execute it. I may have to create a cartoon specifically on that. In lieu of taking the time on a brief, we do sometimes assume that the creative team will “really know what we mean.” Or we dump everything we know about the target into a brief.

    To Bill Carlson’s point, I’m actually a fan of “ready, fire, aim”, but too often in practice that comes out as “fire, ready, aim”…



  11. Margaret says


    Brilliant! Absolute truth. The homework needs to be done, directions need to be challenged, brief needs to be focused and allow for creative to properly springboard.

    And this beginning portion takes time … not too much time. But time. And sometimes (most times) I have seen were the upfront stage is rushed. That is an ineffective approach. Allow the proper time to set up before hitting the ball (think first … just like in pool or golf or baseball).

    Thanks for the wonderfully relevant and enjoyable cartoon. Always a Monday morning pleasure.

    – Margaret

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