11. Beyond the “what”.

I have never wanted more to go out and buy a new, fresh, lightheaded stupor-inducing Sharpie pen and note cards than I did after Tuesday’s Creative Strategist lecture.

Strategic Planner Kelly Eidson of Modea, a digital ad agency in Blacksburg, Virginia, graced us with her presence and brilliant ideas about the importance of the creative process, understanding the “why” of a brand, storytelling and getting people excited about what you have to say.

Modea defines themselves as “a creative agency with digital roots,” and judging by their website, it looks like a social, friendly and fantastic place that knows you have to work hard in order to play hard. They’re also big brand junkies. The employees know the importance of getting to what Kelly referred to as the “brand guts” before diving headfirst into a project. What’s important to the brand? What does the brand stand for? Why are they in business? Questions like these need to be answered before moving ahead with brainstorming if you really want to create a campaign that truly resonates with the client and the brand. This is similar to what Scott Bedbury says in his book “A New Brand World”. If your brand can’t back up what the ad is presenting, don’t do it. It will ultimately hurt you in the long run. This is why it’s important to understand the brand guts.

While Kelly is a strategic planner, don’t let her title fool you into thinking she isn’t creative. From the moment her presentation began, I was so excited to see how much she was allowed to exercise her creative muscle. From her first brainstorming sessions to her final presentation of a creative brief, every step involves creativity and strategy. While she was showing us her creative brief for the moving company, Moveline, she showed off her ability to tell stories. I found it very unique and strategic that she let Moveline see more than one idea. She showed them multiple ideas for the direction the brand could go, then let them know which ones she thought wouldn’t work or represent the brand properly. I’d never seen that done before in creative briefs we’d looked at previously in class. Not only is it a great strategy, but it really shows the client that you’re passionately brainstorming all the possible options.

Whenever great thinkers (and great people!) come into our class, it’s always difficult to sum up their lecture with a few brief points; however, here are my key takeaway ideas from Kelly’s lecture.

1)    Storytelling is key. Be able to craft a story.

Everyone involved in advertising needs to know how to be a storyteller. If you’re presenting a creative brief, storytelling is key! You need to be able to get people excited and captivate their attention with the idea you’re presenting.

2)    Plan it on paper first.

This is definitely a personal preference; however, sometimes trying to brainstorm on your computer can complicate things. You might start worrying about how you’ll design your brief or what sort of type to use. You don’t need to be thinking about this yet. Sometimes a sharpie and a stack of note cards are best. It definitely makes it easy to go back and see what you’ve written.

3)    Look for patterns in brainstorming.

If you used note cards to brainstorm, then this part is simple! You can look through all your cards and categorize them. Are there things you wrote down on two separate cards that are similar? Find different patterns in your brainstorming. Put them in groups.

4)    Don’t stop at the “what.”

Many brands stop at the “what”. What is the “what,” exactly? This would simply be the product. Here is the product. Here is the price. The “why” is what’s really important. Successful companies/brands know why they’re in business. The “why” is what gets people engaged. As Dave Allen (link) mentioned in his lecture today, people who are engaged with a brand will want to participate and interact with the brand. “What” is advertising. “Why” is brand thinking. Be a brand thinker! People are much more willing to buy the “why.”

5)    Make connections with people at the top of brands and companies.

If you really want to learn about the brand guts of a client, find a way to get in touch with the top dogs of the brand. They’re the ones who (should) fully understand what the brand is all about. When digging to find the brand’s core, do all you can to talk with them.

Kelly’s lecture brought together so many of the ideas we’ve been focusing on in class, and seeing how all these ideas can come together to create a strategic and very creative brief was inspiring. I’m not a history fan, but even her World War I story in the brief kept my full attention! She’s not just a strategic planner, but a professional storyteller as well.

To learn more about Kelly, follow her on twitter!

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