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How to turn insights into great creative

Sakiko Suga

A big part of my role as a strategist is to find insights that resonate with the target audience on a human level. This is the foundation of any great client work, but it’s only the start.

Insights are simply the hook. From there, our research needs to be mapped out and converted into a strong strategy and successful creative. As my colleague, Creative Strategist Maja Radosavljević, often says, “Good strategy with bad creative and bad strategy with good creative both lead to the same thing – a missed opportunity.” But the good stuff doesn’t come out of nowhere.

We can break this journey down into three key points: the process, the people involved and the environment in which it takes place. When we get these elements right, the result is a piece of work that does the best job of capturing the audience’s imagination.

Sticking to a process

Most people still imagine creative businesses to be filled with artistic genius-types throwing out wild ideas between boozy lunches and yoga classes. If only! When mapping out an insight into a piece of compelling, memorable and differentiated creative, an element of logic needs to be at play and a process followed.

This begins with the audience. In B2B communications we can lose sight of the fact we are talking to human beings who have individual needs. I see the idea of personas as outdated; it makes too many assumptions based on someone’s job title. Typically, at The Frameworks, we engage in research to uncover what makes the audience tick. What keeps them up at night? Where do they get their information from? What business challenges does this customer need to answer? This exercise reveals the individuals we are addressing and enables us to create profiles.

Then we look at our client’s business and how their capabilities fit to the audience’s needs and, crucially, how they compare to what the competition offers. It’s important to understand what opportunities and threats exist in the client’s market as that will impact the creative approach. But it doesn’t end there. We can’t ignore the bigger picture. To avoid falling into any unexpected traps we need to understand what’s going on in the wider world, not just the client’s market. Companies that don’t have the pulse of the zeitgeist risk tone-deaf messaging, or worse – becoming entirely irrelevant.

One way we try to combat this is by using social listening tools to understand the outside-in perspective, and overlay that with the qualitative data we’ve gathered. This helps us to confirm that what we are hearing from within a client’s organisation is reflected in the real world.

People power

Joe Henrich, Professor and Chair of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, said; "Innovation does not take a genius or a village; it takes a big network of freely interacting minds.” Cognitive diversity is the ingredient that helps us to solve complex problems and create something powerful. Involving a mixed bag of people in the process helps to reflect the individual nuances of a target audience and enables the team to identify the best angle for the creative.

At The Frameworks we are headed up by a designer and an accountant. That combination of creativity and logic steers our company. Filtering that down through the business, we find that recognising and celebrating our differences as people generates stronger, better informed and more rounded work. In fact, complex tasks are often better dealt with by a range of people. People who share the same skills and background will share the same blind spots; if we are to respond to our clients’ complex challenges well, diversity of thought is vital, not just nice to have.

Treating our relationship with clients as a partnership is just as important. Ultimately, they know their business best, and getting feedback during the creative process will steer it in the right direction.

An open environment

A working environment plays a role in unlocking a creativity, too. Strategy and creative teams may be cognitively diverse, but the environment where people share ideas needs to be defined by psychological safety so that they feel confident in contributing.

As Henrich’s quote above suggests, meaningful work can only emerge when individuals can “freely” exchange views, disagree, learn from each other, collaborate and be wrong. And so, the environment where people come together needs to be open to radical truths and transparency. It’s that freedom for creative friction – combined with thorough research – that is the secret sauce for developing a great strategy and great creative.

Getting this approach right can lead to bold campaigns that play on insights in powerful ways. Take Channel 4’s Super.Human. campaign for its Paralympics coverage this year. The team at 4Creative did its research, inviting the perspectives of athletes with disabilities rather than relying on assumptions, to create a striking campaign that focused on the gritty, human side of their lives.

One of the print adverts tackles the insight that people may feel uncomfortable about how to interact with people with disabilities. The ad turns this on its head, inverting the mantra typically dished out to children that they shouldn’t stare and boldly states: “IT’S RUDE NOT TO STARE”. It’s radical because it attacks an uncomfortable truth about society head-on, and it’s great creative because it does this while still empowering Paralympians who want their achievements to be witnessed and celebrated, not ignored.

Art meets science

It’s tempting to define the success of a campaign by clicks and follows, but as the best creative comes from a happy marriage between art and science, it’s short-sighted to think that results can only be defined by the latter. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to calculate the impact of compelling creative on the target audience.

We pride ourselves on achieving the right balance between the two as we turn insights into creative. And when it comes to results, I like to consider the cost of doing nothing. As markets and technology constantly evolve, competitors will eat up your lunch very quickly. If a business doesn’t act it can miss out on the real, audience-capturing benefits of a campaign.

And the amazing creative that drives this doesn’t just appear by magic. Everything comes back to a thorough creative brief that is underpinned by research, analysis and strategy.

A version of this article first appeared in Shots, in November 2021