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September 28, 2015
When Strategy and Execution Are Incompatible, Magic Happens
Magic? Isn’t it more like mayhem?

Have no doubt about it; a clash between individuals responsible for creative ideation and those concerned with strategic development can be debilitating to the brand-building process.

But must it?

With a dollop of sarcasm, I suggest butting heads produces a greater result. And I’ll go further: It’s out of sparks of friction that new ideas are shaped, and unexplored directions are usually first tippy-toed, then trampled, by eager minds determined to leave an indelible brand mark on an audience.

Yes, it’s this friction that leads to better work. The give-and-take exchange results in unfamiliar directions that make for even more surprising brand communications.

You see, the wild-eyed creative director is looking to push the boundaries of a surprising and ironic execution, and the brand planner, who develops the strategy for which the foundation of the brand story is to be built, is responsible for the underpinnings of the message, but not necessarily the delivery in which it is expressed.

I’ve been there on some big accounts where the planner stridently determines the “way in” to influence an audience and we, as a creative team, see no way to express that insight. Or even agree with its relevance. So, what do we do?

Argue. Politely. And influence each other before we attempt to influence an audience. That’s right. Convince each other first, and you’ll find it so much easier to persuade your audience to purchase your clients’ products or fall in love with their brand. Which is no easy task, as anyone who’s done it will tell you.

It is through this clash that the magic happens in this business, whether it’s between a creative and planner or two individuals comprising a creative team. Point is, the exchange of ideas and the heat from the challenge of a different point of view pushes the diamond to the surface. That’s how the best ideas are unearthed. Without opposing views constantly challenging ideas, nothing new will be born.

It’s who we are anyway. Ever wonder why we are a business of skeptics, cynics, and doubting Thomases? We are because we challenge each other’s ideas. Constantly. We have to. (But, then again, maybe we are born smart-assed and it’s exactly this personality trait that leads us into this business. Who knows?) Point is, we do this, challenge ideas, before they are for public consumption. We spend hours questioning our ideas, executions, strategies, and positions to try and make them as effective as they can be. We second-guess ourselves and examine conceptual nuggets until we are blue in the face or until research budgets dwindle to potato flakes in a bowl where chips used to be.

But this exhaustive grind is a good thing. The audience will challenge our work, won’t they? And they will ultimately decide who was right or wrong.

One thing is for certain, though; without that spark of conflict, there won’t be many ideas that will stand out and magically hold an audience, propelling them to act differently.

Tried-and-true strategic solutions will be expressed in executional ways everyone will already be familiar with. Surprise will be taken out of the recipe. The work will be unmemorable for audiences and ineffective for brands looking to leave a mark.

So why not agree to politely butt heads? It’s where the magic resides

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Steve Biegel develops transformative ideas through persuasive communications programs to help change consumer behavior, and has done so throughout his career. Steve is a battle-tested thinker with a broad perspective on the industry who can infuse others with creative energy while applying it to the details of the craft. Steve helped hatch some of the most effective campaigns for brands of all sizes and shapes. His ambidextrous approach to creative problem solving through digital, social, and traditional mediums is built on provocative ideation that surprises, informs, and rewards audiences. Steve is co-founder and Creative Director at Scarlet Heifer, a NYC digital communications boutique. Contact him here
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