A scale balancing artistic tools and a camera on one side representing creativity with a briefcase and business analytics on the other representing marketing objectives, embodying the harmony between creativity and business strategy.

Always Balance Your Creativity and Marketing Objectives

Why You Need to Balance Your Creativity and Marketing Objectives

“Roger, did you balance your creativity and marketing objectives when you first started in advertising?”

Absolutely not.

My first project when I got into the advertising industry was a complete failure. A total flop. Our job was to market a real estate project on the west coast of British Columbia. The value proposition was luxury real estate with the charm of the great outdoors (picture opulent living, but with hiking trails and ocean sports). To sell the project the developer was insistent that the audience we were going after was wealthy men and women in Alberta (because at the time there was a huge oil boom). We spent a lot of money on the campaign. And it had GREAT creative (or so I thought). For example, to communicate the juxtaposition of luxury with the outdoors we photographed a sexy new Lamborghini, but with a kayak strapped to the roof. The campaign looked incredible and won awards… but we didn’t sell a single unit. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. Our campaign was out of balance. 

You see, this campaign didn’t find the right balance between creative storytelling and our client’s business goals. On the business side, we didn’t do our homework. We assumed we were targeting wealthy men who drove Lamborghinis, wore fancy clothes, and drank fancy scotch.

A man dressed in an elegant suit standing on a platform in the middle of a tranquil pool, with a luxurious mansion in the background, embodies sophistication and high fashion.

But in reality we should have been targeting wealthy cowboys in Calgary looking for a vacation home, or to downsize…cowboys who drive expensive trucks and drink Molson Canadian. We made assumptions and jumped right into creating flashy creative.

A close up portrait of a stern-faced rancher wearing a cowboy hat, with a herd of buffalo in the grassy plains behind him, epitomizing the hardy spirit of the American West.

I want you to avoid the same mistakes that I made.

The Dual Imperatives of Content Marketing

I have a firm belief that most of today’s marketing content isn’t doing the job it needs to do. It’s a waste of time, energy and money. So what’s wrong with it?

At the heart of effective content marketing lies the dual imperative to captivate and engage the audience while fulfilling clear business objectives. This means creating content that people enjoy and want to interact with, which at the same time supports goals like increasing sales or enhancing brand awareness. An overemphasis on either creative flair without business relevance or aggressive brand promotion can lead to an imbalance, diminishing the content’s overall impact.

For instance, a campaign that is visually stunning and creative but does not resonate with the target audience will fall short of its marketing objectives. Conversely, content that is too sales-driven may alienate potential customers, appearing pushy or out of touch with their actual interests and needs.

Understanding Your Audience

The key to striking the right balance is a deep understanding of your audience. Knowing their interests, needs, and preferences allows for the alignment of creative efforts with the business objectives at hand. This involves crafting stories and experiences that not only draw attention but also build trust and foster relationships over time, contributing to sustained business success.

Seesaw Analogy

Visualize your marketing efforts as a seesaw, with creativity on one end and business objectives on the other. Neither side should overpower the other; instead, they should work in tandem, creating a balanced and effective content marketing strategy. This balance ensures that content is not only award-winning in its creativity but also successful in achieving its business aims.

Animated characters – one green with a quirky expression and the other blue, resembling a fish – gleefully ride a seesaw, representing the playful side of balance and harmony.

Empathy, Engagement, and Execution

Effective content marketing is a blend of empathy, engagement, and excellence in execution. It’s about creating content that is not just seen but sought after and enjoyed by the audience. In the crowded space of today’s market, the brands that achieve this balance are the ones that truly stand out and succeed. They manage to be the signal in the noise, attracting and retaining customers with content that matters to them.

The Airbnb Misstep: A Lesson in Audience Sentiment

Airbnb’s campaign against the San Francisco tax proposal illustrates the pitfalls of ignoring audience sentiment. Intending to oppose a tax that would align their cost structure with hotels, Airbnb launched a passive-aggressive campaign that backfired spectacularly. 

AirBnB campaign

What would Airbnb’s seesaw rating be? 

A seesaw with 'BUSINESS' on one end and 'CREATIVITY' on the other, perfectly balanced on a bright red fulcrum, against a speckled blue background, depicting the balance between the two forces in the corporate world.

Airbnb definitely overindexed on business. The campaign, which targeted public departments benefitting from the tax, was seen as tone-deaf and led to significant backlash, forcing Airbnb to retract the campaign and issue an apology. This case exemplifies the consequences of a business-driven approach that neglects audience engagement, tilting the balance too far on the business side.

Shift4Shop: Creativity Without Clarity

Shift4Shop’s Super Bowl ad is another cautionary tale. The e-commerce platform’s advertisement featured a space suit floating in the void, set to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” to promote a space contest. 

What would Shift4Shop’s seesaw rating be? 

A pop-art style seesaw with spheres marked 'CREATIVITY' and 'BUSINESS' balanced on either end, set against a dotted yellow and orange background, symbolizing the balance between creative innovation and business strategy.

They definitely overindexed on creativity…the creative failed to communicate the brand’s identity or services, leading to low recall and wasted opportunity. This example underscores the risk of over-indexing on creativity without clear ties to the business’s core message and objectives. I still don’t even know who Shift4Shop is or what they do. 

Amazon’s Masterful Balance with “This Is Small Business”

Amazon found the sweet spot with its podcast, “This Is Small Business,” a business podcast aimed at small business owners who make up a significant portion of their sellers. By hiring Andrea Marquez, who was on her own journey of starting a business, to host the podcast, Amazon created content that was both engaging and educational. 

What would Amazon’s seesaw rating be? 

An animated GIF of a stylized seesaw gently tilting back and forth on an orange fulcrum, set against a navy-blue night sky and a dusty rose ground, symbolizing the dynamic equilibrium between competing priorities.

You’re right. This is in perfect balance. The podcast’s success in building brand affinity among small business owners, evidenced by a brand lift study and high listener engagement, showcases the power of content that aligns closely with both audience interests and business goals. 

Cirque du Soleil: Reviving a Brand with Creative Genius

Cirque du Soleil‘s response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 through its podcast, “Cirque du Sound,” offers a blueprint for leveraging creativity to re-engage and expand an audience. 

What would Cirque’s seesaw rating be? 

A fun, animated GIF featuring two cartoon characters on a seesaw, one green and one blue, portraying the lighthearted nature of maintaining balance, set against a soft pink background.

Right again. Cirque du Soleil is in perfect balance. With a focus on the anthropology of creativity, the podcast tapped into the brand’s innovative essence to draw in listeners. By featuring a diverse set of guests, the podcast aligned with the brand’s ethos while offering content that resonated with both existing and new audiences, demonstrating a perfect balance between creativity and business objectives.

The Art of Balanced Content Creation

In the end, the art of creating great content hinges on harmonizing creative storytelling with business objectives. This dual focus ensures that marketing efforts are both enjoyable for the audience and beneficial for the brand, leading to a virtuous cycle of engagement and business growth.

By fostering an environment where creativity and business acumen coexist and complement each other, organizations can craft content that truly resonates with their audience and drives the desired business outcomes. In doing so, they not only achieve their marketing goals but also build a lasting connection with their customers, setting the stage for ongoing success in an ever-evolving market landscape.

What Are Some Immediate Actions You Can Take?

  1. ​​Conduct a quarterly review of your content. 
  2. Put an image of a seesaw up on your wall along with your existing (or proposed) content. 
  3. Then judge if your content is balanced. Be honest with yourself. And adjust as needed. 
  4. Ask yourself some key questions: 
    • “As a brand, are we a net giver, or a net taker?” 
    • “What unique knowledge does our company have that can be of value to our audience?” 
    • “Are we audience focused, or brand focused?”

Share this with your organization…so everyone can be on the same page, and stay balanced.

5 Key Takeaways: 

  1. Strategic Balance: Balancing creativity with business goals is crucial for content that engages and converts.
  2. Audience Insight: Deep understanding of your audience’s preferences and needs leads to more resonant and effective content.
  3. Business Alignment: Clearly defined business objectives should guide the content creation process to ensure measurable success.
  4. Creative Storytelling: Innovative and compelling storytelling captures attention and fosters an emotional connection with the audience.
  5. Continuous Evaluation: Regularly assessing the balance between creativity and business impact is key to maintaining effective content marketing strategies.

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