This blog contains exercises to kick-start the development of your creative concept step by step. Follow these steps when it is the first time that you develop a creative concept or when you have very limited resources.
The creative concept is strongly linked to the proposition:
- Proposition: what do we want to get across.
- Concept: how do we get it across (Floor & Van Raaij 2011 p183).
A concept is the creative translation of the proposition (Floor & Van Raaij 2011 p185). Concepts are ideas that can be similar in format to what would be prepared for a completed ad or commercial but are not approved or tested. (…) The concepts are presented in a tangible form such as a rough layout or a storyboard for television (Schultz 1996 p90).
It is advisable to develop the creative concept & proposition in a team of 3-5 people.
Step 0: Before you develop a proposition and a creative concept
Before you develop the proposition and creative concept you should have a description of the target audience. Also you should know what effect the proposition and creative concept should have on this target audience. So: what should the target audience know and feel after confrontation with the creative concept, and what do you want the target audience to do? (Here we apply the domino model for communication effects.)
Step 1: Brainstorm about proposition
Come together with your team of 3-5 people but do not sit down, you will be more creative when you are in action! Stand, walk, talk, discuss, write and draw on a big piece of paper, a white board, smart board etc.
First brainstorm about the proposition and then about the creative concept. The following questions may help (inspired on Floor & Van Raaij 2011 p183-184)
Questions to help finding the proposition:
- What do we want to get across. (p183)
- What is the promise to be communicated to the target audience. (p184) =>
- What are we promising the target audience, implicitly or explicitly?
- What is the distinctive benefit of our brand and our product?
- Why would consumers buy our product or brand?
- What do consumers gain by buying our product or brand?
- What brand position are we aiming for?
- What values do we want to associate with our brand?
- What should the product mean to the target audience?
After you have answered these questions you can go to the next step.
Step 2: Conclude a concrete proposition
- Mark the most relevant promises (benefits, arguments, values) that came up during your brainstorm. Make a list of these promises. Discuss which promise is most attractive to the target audience, which one is second etc.
- It is a good idea to do some research here: ask representatives from the target audience which of the promises they think is most attractive.
- Then formulate a sentence that expresses the promise. One or two sentences should be sufficient. In principle, one argument is selected. When there is more than one argument, there is a risk of confusion.
- Completing the following position statement (Schultz 1996 p65) may be helpful for describing your proposition:
To [target audience} Brand x is
the best brand of [competitive frame, product category]
that will [target buying incentive]
because [product support]
To young professionals, Jasmin’s Kitchen is
the best brand of restaurants for good food for a reasonable price,
that will entertain them
because there a story behind every dish.
Step 3: Judge and improve your proposition
Try to judge your proposition a few days after you have concluded the concrete proposition because ideas need an incubation time, after a few days your ideas will be sharper.
Decide if your proposition meets the most important criteria for a good proposition (Franzen, 1982):
Benefits for consumers.
- The proposition should make clear why consumers should buy the brand.
- What do consumers gain by it?
- What benefits do consumers reap by buying the brand?
Uniqueness of the brand.
- It must be indicated what the characteristic feature of the brand is and in what way it differentiates itself from other brands.
- The proposition must be in accordance with other aspects of marketing communication for the brand, including its historical and current position, packaging, distribution and sales promotion (integrated communication).
Synergy of marketing communication and product use.
- Marketing communication and product experience should reinforce and support each other.
- The proposition must not be contrary to the truth and must not contain any exaggerated claims.
- The proposition must not be contrary to communication codes and generally accepted norms. Smoking and health cannot be linked; nor can alcohol and youth.
You might find that your proposition does not meet all these criteria. Then improve it until you feel that your proposition is good.
It might be a good idea to ask others if they think that your proposition meets all these criteria.
Step 4: Select ‘media’ for your Creative Concept
In Steps 1 and 2 you have decided what the target audience should know about your product, service, brand, event, enterprise or organization. Now you decide how this proposition should be delivered to the individual members of the target audience. Then, this step is about sending: S -> .
But we want to find efficient and effective ways to deliver the proposition, and therefore you will have to think from the perspective of the receiver. That is: we want to use as little resources as possible to change what the individual member of the target audience knows and feels about the product, service, brand, event, enterprise or organization; so that these individuals will do what we want them to do. So, this step is about sending and receiving: S -> R.
Actually, in this step you will find ‘contact points’ rather than ‘media‘. These ‘contact points’ can be described as ‘media in the broadest sense‘ and will be explained in Step 4C.
Step 4A: Create a Persona
A persona is an archetype of the target audience, it is an invented individual member of the target audience.
For example: Jerry Franks is 27 years old, he lives in Dortmund Germany, he is a decorator and works out at the fitness center twice a week. He lives with his girlfriend Tamara Hayek (25 years old) and their little son of 2 years old.
Creating a persona allows you to create a concept for a concrete individual instead of for an abstract audience. This is necessary for touching individuals emotionally and that is needed if you want to change how people feel and behave.
Step 4B: Describe a day in the life of the Persona
Imagine what the persona does during an average day (or two days) from when he wakes up until he falls asleep. Especially the media that he uses are important, plus the people that influence him.
The information from this step will be more realistic if you check it. Therefore you could do some research to find out if the target audience really uses media as you imagined.
Step 4C: Conclude contact points
Traditionally selecting media means choosing which mass-media you suggest. But an efficient and effective solution often demands media that are more efficient in reaching and touching a specific target audience in an effective way.
You can find these media by thinking from the perspective of the receiver (outside-in thinking), and often the solution does not only comprise traditional media, but also guerrilla actions, events, etc. That is why we don’t talk about ‘media’ but about ‘touch points’.
In general mass-media belong to an inside-out approach, whereas contact points belong to an outside-in approach.
The following questions may help to find contact points:
- Where are they when they need our product?
- Where are they when they are most likely to accept a selling message?
- Where are they when our product can be of greatest benefit to them?
- What medium will reach them at these times? (Schultz 1996 p66)
Next to finding these contact points it is a good idea to find people who influence the target audience. These influentials are smaller in number than the actual target audience. So, with relatively little resources you can have a big impact on these influentials and on the actual target audience. You can find these influentials by applying the decision-making process roles. For example: send a press-release to 10 journalists, 3 may write an article about it, thus you can reach possibly thousands of members of the target audience, plus you have the endorsement of a journalist that they trust.
Step 5: Develop copy & art for your Creative Concept
Now you have decided the proposition and via which ‘media’ to deliver it to the target audience. But in order to attract attention and touch individuals emotionally you will have to translate the proposition into copy & art that appeal to the individual members of the target audience.
Guidelines for copy & art (inspired on Floor & Van Raaij 2011 p189)
- The house style of the brand determines the typeface that must be used. The brand can for example be the corporate brand of the organization, or the product brand that is put on all the products.
- Logo is the most important element of any house style.
- Art & copy will have to be more or less the same in all ‘media’ that you want to apply.
- In some media you can also apply sound or other channels for communication. These channels should be consistent with copy & art.
Use of models and mascots.
- Models and mascots help to make emotional contact with the target audience and are therefore an advisable element in your art.
- Different target audiences might demand a different approach because they belong to a different (sub)culture. It might for example be necessary to change the language, or adapt to the language to a sub-culture in order to make contact. Also, pictures that are attractive in one (sub)culture may not even be accepted in another (sub)culture.
Step 5A: Briefing
In case you work with a creative team to develop copy & art, you should brief them. Make a document for them of about 2 pages A4. Present the content of this document to them – in a presentation meeting – and discuss it; the goal of this meeting is that the creative team understands what should be delivered and that your expectations are not too high/ low.
After the creative team has developed the creative concept they will present it to you and you will have to judge it. Do not just judge it based on what you like/ don’t like, but judge it on the extent it fits to your brand and communication objectives.
The next step help.
Step 6: Judge copy & art
Judge copy & art a few days after you have created them because ideas need an incubation time, after a few days your ideas will be sharper.
Decide if copy and art meet the following criteria; the concept should:
- appeal to the target audience
- match target audience’s experience
- match the identity of the brand
- achieve the communication objectives
- be clear & simple
- consistent with other messages (implicitly & explicitly)
- have a style & tone of voice that fits both the target audience and the brand
- be distinctive
- fit within the budget.
(inspired on Floor & Van Raaij 2011 p185, p202-203)
You might find that your copy & art does not meet all these criteria. Then improve it until you feel that copy & art are good.
It might be a good idea to ask others to find out if they think that your copy & art meets all these criteria.
Create a message that will influence the individual member of the target audience. This influence should be: change in what he knows and feels about the product etc. so that he will change his behavior as you intended.
In order to confront this individual with your message you will have to select media. Actually, you will have to find contact points by thinking from his perspective.