How Your Marketing Creative Impacts Your Marketing Strategy

How Your Marketing Creative Impacts Your Marketing Strategy

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

The Value of Off-Site Strategic Planning

The Value of Off-Site Strategic Planning

The office. For many workers, this is the place you get to around 8 AM and don’t leave until 5 PM (or after) every day, pretty much five days a week. Love or hate it, the office is the place many of us spend the majority of our time any given day.

While having a job and an office to go to every day is a terrific thing, familiarity can breed contempt. That’s why it’s important to consider moving your strategic planning session off-site rather than hosting it somewhere at your credit union facility.

Here are a few additional reasons why taking your strategic planning meeting off-site is a good idea.

  • A new location will generate new ideas. Sure, not every credit union is going to send its management team to the Bahamas, but even going to a conference room across town gets you out of your familiar surroundings and can help attendees develop new ideas.
  • A new location will lessen distractions. If you keep your strategic planning meeting at your credit union facility, odds are you encounter daily interruptions. Instead of devoting themselves to contributing to the strategic planning session, attendees are tempted to spend time checking emails, returning calls and interacting with other employees. When you take your strategic planning session off-site, these distractions aren’t nearly as much of an issue.
  • A new location will build camaraderie. Since you are meeting at the credit union, you are on anyone’s pre-designated “turf.” Office location, seniority and old-fashioned territoriality are no longer a factor. Every strategic planning session attendee, from the first year rookies to twenty-plus year veterans, are on the same playing field.

While taking your credit union strategic planning session off-site generally comes with an increased investment and requires additional time and planning, the above reasons (and many more) offset those expenditures. When you’re talking about something as important as your growth and development plan for the next five or ten years, a relatively small matter like an off-site session makes good sense.

Strategic Plan Ownership is Key

Strategic Plan Ownership is Key

Okay, great. So you’ve had a strategic planning session. Everyone sat around a big table, talked a lot, shared ideas, got down in the weeds about controversial topics and maybe even worked with an outside moderator.

You’ve got your plan, printed in full color on glossy paper, bound in folders and in the hands of each participant.

Terrific. Now what? A key part of your strategic planning session actually happens after everyone leaves the table that day. This key element is answered by a simple question — who the heck owns this thing?

That’s right — who owns your strategic plan? Is it your bank or credit union president? Members of the board? Maybe your marketing/branding expert or even someone in business development?

The answer is — everybody owns your strategic plan. Your strategic planning team absolutely must walk away from the table with the understanding that everybody involved, from the CEO/president down the organizational chart, has full ownership of this puppy.

Why is this important? Without everyone embracing their ownership of the strategic plan, it’s much more likely to fail. Certainly, key elements of your strategic plan (such as specific initiatives with time-frames and parties responsible) fall more squarely on individual folders. However, the overall plan (and its success or failure) is the responsibility of everyone on the strategic planning team. No one can be the “fall guy” or sacrificial lamb if parts of the plan should falter. Conversely, no one person should get all the glory and accolades if parts (or all) of the plan succeed.

Strategic plan ownership requires initiative, honesty and buy-in. Make sure everyone around your strategic planning table understands his or her stake in this process. And make doubly sure they understand that (once all the cussing and discussing is done) they are 100% part-owners in the entire plan.

Is Your Brand Memorable?

Is Your Brand Memorable?

While many things combine to make a successful brand, a common denominator is originality. Originality plays strongly into just how memorable your brand is in the minds of consumers. Think about it in terms of memorable pop-culture figures. Johnny Cash made a name for himself in country music as “the man in black.” In the early 1990s, a young Mark Wahlberg was the “it” spokesman for Calvin Klein. For years, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs walked out on stage in his trademark blue jeans and black turtleneck, you knew it was time for a new product unveiling.

You get the idea. Being original and memorable makes for a strong brand. The strength of your brand is critical to the success and growth of your bank or credit union. After all, Johnny Cash was hardly the only country music singer in his era and Mark Wahlberg wasn’t the only model hawking underwear and cologne. Being memorable matters.

Here are a few simple litmus tests to consider when asking the question “Is your brand memorable?”

  • Does your brand represent the consumers we serve and wish to serve? In other words, do you look, sound and act in ways familiar with the people in your marketplace? If your brand serves a hip, upscale Millennial area, doesn’t look and sound like it? If your brand doesn’t (both visually and interpersonally) represent your existing and target consumer segments, it’s not likely memorable.
  • Does your brand look the same across all channels? Take a look at the retail appearance and layout of your branches. Now check-out your website. Next, pull up your app on smart phone. Check out your billboards, banner ads and business development materials. Does your brand look the same across all these (and other) marketing/advertising channels? If your brand isn’t consistent across all venues, it’s not likely memorable.
  • Does your brand make a personal connection? Are you reaching out to consumers with a voice they can understand, with images to which they can relate and in a way that encourages dialogue? Or are you simply pushing brochure-type language that focuses more on product features than benefits and using stock photography that any other financial institution could buy and promote? Most importantly, does your brand encourage a dialogue with consumers in which your bank or credit union takes the time to listen and educate as opposed to sell, sell, sell? If your brand doesn’t make a personal connection, it’s not likely memorable.

There’s a reason people talk about famous pop culture icons, sometimes even long after they passed away. These individuals found ways to promote an original and memorable brand for themselves. If your bank or credit union can craft, implement and consistently deliver a similarly memorable brand, it greatly enhances its chances of future success.

Your Strategic Plan Isn’t Important

Your Strategic Plan Isn’t Important

Get your attention? Good – I hope so.

Now that you have had a moment to catch your breath, let me explain.

British statesman Sir Winston Churchill said: “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find truer words in the strategic planning process arena.

Your strategic plan, once hammered out and put on paper, is really nothing more than a tool for direction, a compass for your bank or credit union to follow in shifting winds. Too often, bank and credit union executives come out of the strategic planning process completely fixated upon that which is on paper. Guess what? Times change. The markets change. The ripple effect of an interconnected global economy means a drop in the bucket in Beijing can be a tidal wave once it reaches Bakersfield.

Your strategic plan absolutely must include the fluidity to adapt to the only inevitability in the business world — change. You simply cannot look at your strategic plan like your television remote control; in other words, something with which you can tap a button and make the world bend to your will. It just doesn’t work that way. Using that analogy, a better way to look at your strategic plan might be like the dial on the radio. Don’t like the station you’re listening to or is it coming in fuzzy? Reach for the dial until you find something you like better of that comes in crystal clear.

One of the greatest values of strategic planning is not the document itself but the time in which your team puts into it. Those days facing each other across the table are invaluable when it comes to confronting differences, acknowledging past successes and failures as well as hammering out some kind of general consensus about the future of your credit union.

Your bank or credit union must have a strategic plan in order to move forward. What that plan requires to succeed, however, is flexibility in its planners when the inevitable change hits the fan. Perhaps the best way to cap off every strategic plan is with the famous Boy Scout motto, “be prepared.” Be prepared for the unknown. Be prepared for change. Be prepared for your strategic plan to require considerable updating the day after the ink dries.

But you know what? This is a good thing. Adaptability is a linchpin of a successful evolutionary process. If your bank or credit union becomes so bogged down in the printed page of the strategic plan, it is far less likely to bounce back to rapidly changing elements in the financial services world entirely outside its control.

Strategic planning, in other words, is not a destination. It is a journey.