Every project that comes into our creative department is different, and the creative process at IWCO Direct must adapt for each circumstance. Some clients come in with a very specific idea of what kind of end product they want and look to us to bring it to life. Others have a general theme, but depend on us to combine direct mail best practices with their vision. Then there are clients who simply want new, fresh ideas and give us carte blanche to make them happen.
Because no two campaigns we work on are alike, there isn’t one formula for how we go about the creative process. However, when a new client or product comes in, it generally goes something like this…
Step 1: Kick-Off Meeting
We begin our creative process by having everyone who will be involved in the project—designers, copywriters, strategists, etc.—learn about the basics of the company, the product and the scope of the project. This is done to put some context around what we’re doing and get us in the right frame of mind.
Next, we all share what we know about the company. Nothing is off limits. We discuss anything from what they do and how we perceive their brand to the pros and cons of their product and more. We also take time to focus on all of the ads we’ve seen, the media channels we’ve seen them on and our impression of them.
Looking at our kick-off meeting from the outside, it might look more like water cooler conversation than creative marketing development, but in actuality, this is a crucial conversation. At this point in the process, we’re the same as any other audience. It’s like having a mini-focus group, and it gives us a unique insight. We get to learn which selling points resonate, which don’t, and what we as consumers—not creative developers—are looking for in a product.
Step 2: Background and Brainstorming
If Step 1 is a forum for free thought, Step 2 is the methodical, statistics-based approach. We conduct copious amounts of research, from learning everything we can about the company and its products (including looking at third-party customer reviews) to examining all marketing campaigns released by the company. We’ll also look at what competitors are offering, what separates them from our client, and examine winning formats and innovative ideas.
Getting the total lay of the land in terms of market space allows us to pick up what’s working, what’s not, and how we can help our client stand out against competitor noise. It allows us to brainstorm formats and designs that will elevate the key features and benefits and make the biggest impression on the audience.
Typically, we create a variety of formats for the client to review and include at least one innovative, out of the box idea, and one that’s been proven to have great results (we call these formats “hard working direct mail”). All of our creative offices have one wall that’s covered in whiteboard paint so we can sketch out ideas, jot down themes and narrow our brainstorming into highly sophisticated formats.
Step 3: Create and Review
Even after we split up to flesh out the designs and formats, we are in constant communication—you have to be if you want the packages to be successful. Depending on the timeline, we’ll meet several times a week for project check-ins and to evaluate the creative. We’ll make tweaks, change direction, and finalize our approach until they are complete packages.
At this point, we’re absorbed in what we’re doing and leagues away from the focus-group approach in Step 1. The designers know all the nuances of brand standards and the copywriters and editors know all there is to know about the product. We understand that we’ve been working on these too long to be able to be objective, so we pass it on to other teams to review and critique. The salesperson and strategist on the account take turns evaluating our work to make sure that it resonates from an outsider’s perspective.
The end result is a piece that’s tailored to a specific audience and puts the spotlight on what will move the response needle. It’s developed from emotional and logical standpoints and is the culmination of a whole lot of forethought and synergy.
If you’d like to put this creative process to work on your next campaign, contact your IWCO Direct account team today.
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