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Lost in translation at the intersection of brand strategy and creative messaging.

To bridge the gap in the translation of brand strategy to creative messaging requires the archetypes of the engineer, economist and artist working in harmony.

The intersection of brand strategy and creative messaging is an activity where many CEOs and their brand management teams struggle.

Developing brand strategy is a top-down introspective process driven by a business strategy, while messaging and creative expression is a downstream activity centered in tactical marketing communications.

In many organizations, these two disciplines occupy different levels on the value chain. It should be no surprise that one can easily conclude the articulation of brand strategy often gets lost in its creative translation.

Brand strategy is not marketing.

Brand strategy can’t be created from the outside in. Brand strategy is not a decorative or promotional process either.

All leading brands represent a single, compelling unifying principle that drives business performance from the inside out. Brand strategy illuminates the brand’s behavior in every internal action taken by stakeholders, and in all the mental and physical interactions customer/consumer’s experience.

Strategy and messaging are two sides of a coin. Translating brand strategy into creative messaging is a complex process. To be effective, the process requires more than a thoughtful “hand-off” between left-brainers and right brainers.

It’s too messy with lots of moving parts. When markets change in six-month increments, something more transcendent is required to close the gap.

Creative briefs insure creative block.

The default tool for aligning the imperatives of brand strategy to a creative messaging platform is the Creative Brief. We’ve all written them, read them and ignored them.

No doubt, the creative brief is a useful tool if your plan is to simply provide the descriptive criteria for directing your “creative partners” to make marketing stuff and deliver it through media channels and physical touch points.

A creative brief, no matter how well structured and written, doesn’t always insure clarity in translating the essence of brand strategy into effective brand messaging. In fact, I suggest most creative briefs are an impediment to the process. Here’s why:

Brand managers and agency account planners (generally the authors) are tactics driven.

That’s because 80% of the daily processes within marketing departments and their ad agencies are based in tactics and project management.

Creative Briefs tend to be control documents, rather than a forum for gathering inspirational ideas. Brand managers and their communication partners focus on the best way to manage process within the tight budgets they have been allocated.

They usually aren’t thinking long-term when at the crossroads of strategic and creative decision-making. They’re focused on getting a job done (on-time and on-budget). Add the changing priorities of executive management into the mix, and it’s easy to see how messy creative briefs can be to create and implement.

Creative professionals (the receivers) have different motivations and definitions of successful outcomes (things like winning awards, peer acceptance, career advancement).

Creative people typically seem more focused on what’s cool in the culture first and foremost. They draw inspiration from artful execution. By nature, creative people are style, technique and craft driven.

For creative types, data is dry and not very interesting. There’s a built in bias to discount left-brain imperatives. And heaven forbid you place boundaries and restrictions on their creativity by adherence to a long, highly detailed creative brief.

Brand management need a more perfect union.

In my many years of strategic and creative consulting, I’ve found there are three “thinking” archetypes that must work in harmony if your translation from brand strategy to creative messaging will ring true and clear for all concerned.

They are the engineer, the economist and the artist.

Managing the translation of brand strategy and creative messaging is a delicate process of allowing the polarized thinking styles of the engineer, economist and artist to come together as an integrated force giving voice to brands that will create the bigger futures every one desires.

People within the diverse functional disciplines of product development, manufacturing, finance, marketing, sales and HR need to come together in a more perfect union of artist, economist and engineer thinking.

These thinking archetypes form the quintessential three legs of the stool that comprise the fullest expression of your brand aligned to its unifying strategic principle.

However, to design the stool, requires yet another thinking style that organizes the full value of the other three– the architect.

In my view, brand owners must learn to become “brand architects”– integrating their diverse organizational disciplines to harness their collective power to better manage materials, data, money and creativity when at the crossroads of strategic and creative decision-making.

In effect, thinking like an architect will enable your brand management team to design an enduring structure to bridge brand strategy and brand messaging in ways that don’t look, feel, sound or smell like marketing.

Through the archetype of the “architect”, the translation of brand strategy into compelling brand messaging becomes a more inclusive, elegant, transparent and well designed process.

Like any good architect, designing a grand brand cathedral, concern for the integrity of brand materials (engineer), the rigor of brand metrics (economist), and the beauty of the brand stories (artist) are all necessary elements for the design of the far greater whole.

It takes an architect to vision and build the elegant structure of an enduring brand. Without the vision of an architect, everything else is just bricks in a wall.


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