This Creative Business
I don’t know how to walk a tightrope, balance on a ball or squeak those horns like Lucy did when she crashed Desi’s show and replaced Pepito the clown. This is mainly because I am not a poodle, a bear or a seal. Yet I have been invited innumerable times into the boardroom to perform my tricks.
I am a creative.
In the marketing world, “creative” is a noun. It’s a person who comes up with ideas. And to some, it’s a person who is moody, unsociable, wacky, unbalanced, genius, overly sensitive, gifted, dangerous, hilarious or any combination thereof. (I am three of these.) The fact is, creatives generally do share common traits. And we often are “pushed onstage” to dance and conjure and sell a concept. For most, that’s part of the fun.
But it’s a huge mistake to believe that enthusiastically tossing out ideas is the creative’s entire gig. Especially in retail marketing. And especially especially in this era of omnichannel.
Earlier this month I wrote about the retail marketer as fine artist. My point was that those crafting in-store displays and experiences assume the same personas (Rebel, Guide, Social Commentator, plus 40 more) as those creating works that end up hanging at MoMA. Without a doubt, great retail marketing requires an artist’s touch and temperament.
It now also requires solid business savvy. As retailers move to embrace omnichannel, they are discovering that an organizational shift may be required. Company silos do not make for seamless shopper experiences. The path to purchase has evolved. The straight-line chain of command is being reshaped into a loop; teams are being built across projects rather than disciplines; conversations are happening between people, not departments.
Which means the creative must now temper the ball balancing and tightrope walking with the demonstration of a keen understanding of how and why a concept will work. Here are seven business personas the retail creative might want to finally show off (because they’re there, and have been all along):
Sell ideas from a place of power. Be tough and be clear. Know when to push, and when to pull back. And don’t take any of it personally.
Know the numbers. Come armed with general costs and be ready to discuss and defend them. Demonstrate your understanding of ROI.
View presentation meetings as working sessions. Listen carefully and find ways to incorporate the ideas of others. Be a diplomatic problem solver; open, inclusive, team oriented and objective-focused.
Understand how the room is responding, and adjust course as necessary in real time. Be ready to take an idea in a different direction, or to share an alternative scenario. If you have to, create a whole new concept on the spot.
Of course the concept is driven by data. Just make sure everyone knows that. Demonstrate your ability to analyze the research and develop a meaningful insight. Ground the idea in reality, and then let it fly.
There is a time when the talking should stop and the decision should be made. Know when that time comes. Make decisions with confidence, and back them up with smart supporting details.
A concept is only as good as the results it achieves. Make that a mantra, and make it clear that the ideas link back to measureable program goals. Be able to draw a straight line from objective to strategy to tactic.