Marketers complain all the time that creativity gets killed by too many processes, but creativity let loose often loses track of what the end goal truly is. Yes, it’s possible to be too creative, too cute, and in the process, create campaigns that are far too complex to execute properly. The same way, if you don’t let your creativity flag fly at least a little, the results will be boring, and probably won’t be any more successful.

That’s where #crexecution comes in: a mindset where you constantly challenge your creativity, and make up processes along the way to ensure execution goes smoothly. It’s a middle ground for marketers, a way to actually get the best of both worlds.

The Burrito Story: An Important Warning

Before we dive in the specifics of #crexecution, I have to give you a fair warning. This one actually happened to me. I was working at a tech company, and I was in charge of all the creative production in marketing, along with another member of the team. We got along great, and our brainstorms always went swimmingly. We were consistently producing awesome, edgy work. Or so we thought.

One of our coworkers on the operations side of things started nicknaming us “The Creative Burrito”. As funny as it sounds, it was not done in good faith. She was frustrated that our ideas were always so complicated to execute. At the time, we didn’t realize this and we took the nickname as a pride badge. We renamed our brainstorm meetings to “Burrito Sessions” and referred to each other as “The Burrito”. You get the drift.

What we never stopped to think about is why that name came to be placed upon us. It was because my coworker and I got along so well that we started doing things simply because they sounded awesome, and not because they made marketing sense. We would egg each other on over some pretty ridiculous ideas. Sometimes it worked, other times it failed pretty hard.

Because we were two very creative individuals, we lost sight of the end goal of many campaigns. We forgot what our prospects were looking for, and what our sales team needed to sell. It’s an easy mistake to make. Deep down, you probably know if you’re doing this. Looking back at my Creative Burrito days, I definitely knew something was wrong, but fixing it was a matter of admitting it to myself. It’s easy to find yourself in such a predicament, but it’s fairly easy to get out of. You just need to change the way you look at marketing projects, and how you work on them.

Meet Who Will Use What You Make

It’s a pretty fair bet that marketers know how to market things, right? And we do, but sometimes we have a hard time figuring out what to market. We’re often pretty far removed from actual operations, simply devising campaigns, and watching them perform.

We rarely talk to clients, or prospects. We don’t really know what they say, what they think. It’s always things we infer from their online behavior. This is the kind of attitude that builds silos within companies and diminishes effectiveness.

So swallow up your pride, and go talk to sales, go talk to customer support, go talk to whoever is going to be using the asset you are producing. They will tell you what they need. If you pitch it to them in a way that will help their job, they’ll gladly give you some of their time. You’re free to put a creative spin on what they say, but keep the original goal in mind. I know I’ve had a hard time with that last part. Don’t be afraid to go as dorky as visual reminders. I like to write the main goal of the asset I’m producing on a post-it, and sticking it on my desk. It keeps me focused at the most basic level. Sometimes, the simplest measures keep you grounded.

Hate Everything You Do

Obviously, you should be happy with what you produce. The important part is not being blinded by your ego since we are inherently biased about our own work. If you have what you think is a really good idea, there’s a high chance you’ll forget about other aspects.

I remember having this idea (yeah, in the Burrito) about a hospitality room our company was hosting at a convention. My designer and I thought it would be cool to make it into a relaxation room. Soft colors, comfy chairs, there was a table with a hollow center that we wanted to fill with sand to make a Japanese zen garden. I even wrote business haikus (what a nerd) and we made banner stands with soothing images. I still think that idea sounds pretty cool, but if I had stopped for a second and reviewed it from another stance, I would have seen the error of my ways. The room was a massive flop. It was way too complicated to execute, it was in a city far away in a different country, things were too hard to source, it was a mess.

The thing is, we rolled with this idea from the start, and things got out of hand. No one really questioned us along the way, but you can’t always count on that. My job was to produce a good concept, and I didn’t do that. If you don’t have a good concept, you have no chance at producing a good end product. This applies to anything, whether it’s a print document or a full conference. I thought since no one voiced concerns, my concept was good, but that’s not how it works.

Since I tend to get excited for concepts and forget to question myself about them, I came up with a trick to not repeat the relaxation room fiasco. I invented a few personas, of typical people that would interject to a more “out there” idea, and I read my briefs while pretending to be them. Here are the ones I use, but feel free to make up the ones that fit you and your job:

  • The boss who think this will be too edgy/too expensive
  • The sales guy who thinks some of his potential clients won’t “get the joke”
  • Your coworker in marketing who always thinks what you do won’t align with the brand
  • Your mom, because she always loves everything you do, but isn’t impartial at all

Make Up Deadlines

I’ve been out of university for a long time now, but I sure still work like a university student waiting until the night before a paper’s due to write all 15 pages. There is something about how our brains process stress that seems to make us more creative. Now, all-nighter work sessions were fun back in the day, but not so much now. At a real job, big projects have deadlines set up by management, but they can sometimes seem so far away.

To keep myself from procrastinating until the last minute, I found that making myself deadlines for smaller portions of the project worked well. If I had to deliver the copy for a whole website by April, I would make myself deadlines that I had to have finished the Product page by February, the About Us by March, and so on. This will help you put things into perspective, and it will allow you to look at the project at a more reasonable scale.

They Say Creativity Can’t Be Taught

I used to think being creative meant coming up with the wackiest, edgiest concepts, but that’s not at all what it’s about. Creativity in marketing is about servicing a goal through innovative means. It doesn’t mean your ideas are restrained, but that they have a purpose.

Creativity and execution will always be a balancing act for marketers. What you need to figure out, is which side you need to release. Whether you’re trying to become more creative, or you already are, you have the potential to fall into the same traps. In both cases, the #crexecution mindset will help you greatly. Just keep these four things in mind, and you should be good:

  • Don’t become the burrito. Never think you’re better than others, and that you know best.
  • Find out who knows best and listen to them. Just don’t forget to put your spin on it, don’t just become their mouthpiece.
  • Learn to hate yourself. Give yourself critique, the nastiest ones are usually the most constructive.
  • Make your own schedule. Invent deadlines for yourself, for where you want to be in the project.

Max Doucet-Benoit