Your marketing strategy drives your marketing creative. Not the other way around. However, creative is vitally important to your marketing plan’s execution. The most unique strategy in the world is meaningless unless the creative pops and sizzles.

So how do you strike the right blend between creative and strategy? We asked Jim Foley, On the Mark Strategies creative director, a series of questions when it comes to that issue.

  • How does strategy drive creative?

Without strategy you are really just creating graphics for the sake of creating graphics. It becomes more of a beauty contest or about pretty pictures. If you define your strategy well your creative should be the execution of your strategy.

  • How does creative impact the strategy?

Creative is the execution of the strategy or information gleaned in strategy sessions. Therefore you circle back around to utilizing the creative to further develop the strategy. Quality creative that pops will also help your overall brand strategy. For example, if your strategy is to increase consumer engagement then having unique and clear creative will better connect your brand with the consumers you are trying to reach. People don’t necessarily ‘connect’ with logos—they connect with people—but logos and cool creative can illicit strong emotional reactions.

  • When designing websites, what are three key elements financial institutions must consider?

The first thing is to remember that the majority of your users are coming to your website to login to their accounts. Therefore, cross-selling your services in that environment is beyond important. Second, you need to create the corporate brand vibe that allows a potential customer to understand you and how you are different from other banks or credit unions. Third, keep your website focused. It has to be easy to navigate and easy to get to resources whether you are on a laptop or mobile device. Websites sometimes start simple and then end up confusing consumers because financial institutions put so much information into it. You must make your website usable and relevant.

  • What is the right blend between creative and strategy?

They are 50/50. They are the ying and the yang. Together they form balance. When you do one more than another you are out of balance. If you use too much creative without enough strategy you may not hit your goals and objectives. Conversely, it may be pretty but it might not get the results you are seeking. If you are too research driven but your graphics are dull and boring then you are not going to attract the attention of those you are seeking.

  • When you are creating a campaign how do you take strategy into consideration?

There are different parts of your strategy: target audience, message, reactions you are trying to gain from the end user. The creative has to follow those objectives or they will not be as effective. As Steven Covey once said, “you begin with the end in mind.” That strategy quote also applies to creative: your creative should start with the overall strategic goals and objectives of the particular campaign.

  • How do you bring brands alive creatively? How do you take the research and brand strategy information and develop a unique and impactful look for clients?

Through visual cues such as fonts, colors, and images. All of those items play a huge role when it comes to communicating your brand. For example, when we are helping clients with branding projects we use a mood board exercise that helps guide the creative direction. That exercise—which involves you creatively and visually describing your credit union or bank—brings colors and graphics into executing the brand based on your strategy.

If you are interested in better connecting your marketing or branding strategy with your creative efforts, On the Mark Strategies can help you do just that. Contact Mark at 214-538-4147 or e-mail