Marketing Creative Gone Bad: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

marketing-creative-gone-badLet’s face it, the marketing creative process can be a major headache. Even after you’ve worked with your media partner to come up with a great campaign or slogan, it still needs to be reviewed, stamped, and approved by people who should (or shouldn’t) be involved in the process.

The temptation for many businesses is to involve more and more people in evaluating creative content, hoping that each person’s unique contribution will help improve the outcome. However, sometimes involving too many people in this process actually goes against many modern advertising best practices.

Having “too many cooks in the kitchen” can generally lead to marketing creative gone bad. Here are few examples of how, not trusting the original creative content by involving too many people in the approval process can lead to negative outcomes for your business, and how best to avoid them:

The Creative Process Takes Too Long

Whether or not you’ve previously worked in marketing, we all know that the more people we ask for opinions the longer any process is going to take. This issue becomes exacerbated in approving marketing creative, since people in companies may fancy themselves “creative types” and want to have a say in the matter. In one case, a company’s creative process was divided into two separate departments, marketing and creative. While the project had a twelve week deadline, the marketing department took eleven and a half weeks to complete their part before passing it to creative. Needless to say, the creative team wasn’t excited to have half a week to complete their portion by the deadline, resulting in a significantly expanded timetable (and likely an unhappy client). Bottom line, by not letting creative do their thing, you’re not only risking an onerously long timeline but also lower quality content.

Too Many Opinions Causes Confusion

It’s not that gathering a variety of opinions is a bad thing, or that people’s voices shouldn’t be heard. It’s that this approach can have diminishing returns or backfire if too many people become involved in the marketing creative process. It takes time to hear out every opinion and evaluate them in meetings. You’ll also be inviting those same people to chime in throughout the process, resulting in countless changes and revisions. Having someone that owns the creative process is an increasingly important part instilling marketing creative best practices, and failure to have this kind of operational approach to your creative will invite more opinions, revisions and confusion. Advertising best practices suggest that you simply let the creative experts and a small team of decision makers take control and have the final say in the content, thereby setting clear parameters and guarding against unwarranted input from the “peanut gallery.”

Poor Creative Outcomes

We all have differing levels of marketing and creative expertise, and inviting too many people into the process can devalue key input from experts. In one real-life example, a marketing individual (not an expert in creative), insisted to the creative team that artistic changes be made on a project. The creative staff (aka experts) relayed that the changes would result in a poor product. Moreover, the marketing person refused to provide details on their communication with the client regarding the potential changes. In this case, the agency went through with the changes, and the result was a disgruntled client who wondered why their creative vision was not accurately represented in the final product.

Trying to Please Too Many People

Your company probably has some sort of advertising best practices as it relates to marketing creative. This may involve getting campaign approval from people involved in marketing, but also upper management, sales, owners, directors, and many others who aren’t truly “experts” in the marketing creative space. Your key point person has likely worked very closely with your marketing partner to develop creative that fits the needed parameters and goals of this campaign, so it’s important to decide if your tedious approval (and possibly revision) process is only getting in the way.

These processes were surely designed with the good intention of giving everyone a say and to ensure people are on the same page. But it may be that involving too many individuals across the process is leading to lower quality content. The danger is that turning out excellent creative content can take a back seat to office politics, as everyone competes to put their “stamp” on the project and take credit for its success. By giving your designated creative experts (either internally and/or with your media partner or agency) the freedom to produce knowing that the approval process will be short and simple, it provides them the opportunity to really own the project and do their best.

You Become Your Own Focus Group

When people bring their own insights and opinions to the creative process, they will often claim their ideas will work because “they know the customer” better than anyone. But no matter how many times your team has dealt with clients or researched the demographic, at the end of the day many team members are simply not a part of your target market.

You and your team are too close to the business and/or product to have a truly unbiased opinion on what your customers’ true perceptions are. For example, one study found that 62% of salespeople have a misperception of the customer’s commitment to their product or service. Hence the reason to trust the partner you work with -- whether that be your team here at Zimmer, an ad agency, or other media partners -- and stay out of the process; only a true outsider can take an objective view of your business and formulate just the right creative for your target market.

So what are some simple and effective ways to combat these missteps that stem from having too many people involved in the creative process? Here are a few key tactics and strategies:

  • Invite People to Participate in BrainstormingAllowing those a say at the beginning of the process makes them feel like key contributors, but eliminates them from muddling the creative process later on.

  • Create a Structured Review ProcessHaving an operational approach to the creative process draws clear-cut boundaries between roles and department that lets people contribute, but only when and where appropriate.

  • Involve People on a Need to Know BasisThose that participated in the brainstorming stage don’t necessarily need to be informed as the process progresses, and in doing so erases their temptation to chime in at an inopportune time.

  • Utilize Your ExpertsThis goes for both internal and external, by leveraging your senior creative staff in addition to your dedicated marketing partners, you’ll get a clear picture of what’s really important in the project.

  • Have Your Partner Own the CreativePlacing an expert in charge of the creative process lessens the burden on your organization and reduces the temptation of people wanting to chime in.

These are just a few of the major dilemmas businesses face when the marketing creative process has “too many cooks in the kitchen”, along with stories about how it can result in marketing creative gone bad.


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