We’re big believers in strong connections between strategy and creative work. It’s been a topic on the blog, and it’s a key component of the strategic thinking workshops I conduct.

Strategy and Creative Work Passing in the Daylight

Strategy-CreativeI was talking recently with someone involved on a team creating a response for a customer inquiry. For various reasons, team members building the strategy for the response worked separately from those addressing the creative elements. Since the strategy people and the creative people were working one after the other, instead of together, a variety of late in the process issues developed.

As the person sharing the story related it, some issues were addressed successfully, many were addressed in a compromised fashion, and some were never addressed in an integrated way.


5 Reasons Strategy and Creative Work Must Be Integrated

Listening to this person’s frustration prompts these five reasons it’s vital for strategy and creative work to be integrated. In this example, all five reasons contributed to falling short in creating an optimal response.

When a strategy and creative team are working together . . .

1. The creative team can do initial design with an integrated view of the end product

Without knowing key decisions the strategy team was making over the course of a week, the creative team sat idle awaiting input. By the time creative team members received the nearly final content, team members were behind the gun to get the creative design turned around with adequate review time to meet the deadline.

2. It allows the strategy team to efficiently deliver direction and content

The strategy team didn’t understand the final format the creative team was creating. As a result, they threw “stuff” over the wall to the creative team in ways that made sense from a strategic standpoint. What was convenient for the strategy team wasn’t optimal for the creative team, unfortunately, since the divided team didn’t talk throughout the development process.

3. Clarifying questions from the creative team can be placed in context

As the work moved into creative development, the creative team asked for more input from the strategy team. Because strategy team members lacked a frame of reference, they viewed the request as too encompassing for the time available. The result was the strategy team passed on sharing additional information. After the fact, strategy team members discovered they had over-estimated what the creative team was asking for in the request, creating a gap that went unaddressed.

4. It keeps creative team members from guessing when needing to fill last minute blanks

No matter how well a process is planned and managed, there will be last minute details and gaps to be filled. In this case, because the strategy and creative teams were disconnected, the creative team wound up filling last minute blanks without sufficient input. Some blanks were filled appropriately; others weren’t.

5. The creative team won’t leave out important things because they don’t fit the design

The strategy team had made decisions about the customer response’s positioning and compelling support points to reinforce the recommendation. Lacking visibility to the decisions or a strategic understanding why it received some of the content, the creative team varied the positioning and left out significant detail behind the support points. Why? The content didn’t fit the design and creative direction developed in isolation.

Sounds like a cluster? That’s why strategy and creative efforts need to be integrated.

As a former associate used to say, “This wasn’t open heart surgery. No one died.”

That’s certainly true in this case, but the disconnect between the strategy and creative teams created a needlessly under-optimized business result. That’s just one reason why when we’re conducting a live strategy, business performance, or innovation workshop for a client, we push for having both strategic and creative team members included.

You can’t have one or the other group represented and expect the most successful result.

Are you with us on how imperative it is to connect strategy and creative work? What do you do to make sure it happens as successfully as possible? – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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  • Anthology Coms

    Great post and I totally agree! As a strategist who works closely with creatives I often find that if the creative isn’t integrated with the strategy – you often get:

    Creativity just for the sake of being creative: what I mean by this… many true creatives really need the core information such as key messages, target audience(s) and what you are trying to accomplish to sort of reign in all the ideas swirling through their head. Without the strategy (and budget), you can lose track of a project because you are following a really creative idea – that may night be right for that project.

    The creative team understands timeline and expectations. I get the most success out of the creative team when they have involvement from beginning, Understanding of customer and working with the strategist within a project frame breeds success. I have never met a creative who didn’t believe they did their best work at the 11th hour – BUT – if the strategist and creative are working in tandem along the way – 2 am firestorms are avoided.

    Creating a culture where strategy and creative are interdependent of each other. Many a designer have suggested they don’t “get” what a strategist does – especially true in the PR side. And the strategists find the creatives to be “difficult to work with”. So when you bring them together and they begin a ying and yang approach to a complex customer problem = happiness (for me, but ya know, I’m the boss).

    It mitigates disappointment from creative team… So many times the creatives may complain that their amazing idea wasn’t a hit with the client or wasn’t selected. I find when we integrate strategy/creative we better manage the disappointments that do come and mitigate the frequency of disappointment. When creatives and strategists alike are better able to articulate why it’s a good idea or even why a client went in another direction – you can move on and focus on client easier. In my experience the strategists bounce back from that dissappointment a little easier than a creative – so building trust between the two is essential.

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