How Your Strategic Processes Are Undermining Your Results

You’ve got a solid marketing team. You’re working with talented designers. So why aren’t your campaigns yielding the results you want? The answer might be that traditional planning models in our field tend to quash creativity.

Think about it for a second. When you ask your in-house team to come up with collateral in support of a campaign, how is it presented to you? Do you see a rough sketch or a completed design? Are they presenting you with fifteen ideas or one, maybe two?

That might seem like the most efficient way to get things done, but in reality, it’s probably the most efficient way to achieve mediocrity.

A team of researchers in Switzerland recently completed a study examining how presentation of ideas can impact creativity. They were assigned anonymous partners and asked to collaborate via a virtual whiteboard, brainstorming suggestions for improvements to a company’s strategy. They could add their own ideas and elaborate on each other’s suggestions. These suggestions were to be denoted with icons. The icons were the variable in question. Some saw icons that were “sketched” while others saw standard blocks.

Jonathan Binks, adapted from McGrath, Bresciani, & Eppler (2016)

Examples of finished and unfinished-appearing icons.
Source: Jonathan Binks, adapted from McGrath, Bresciani, & Eppler (2016)

It seems like a pretty minor issue, right? The only distinction was whether the bullet points looked professional or not. And yet, as psychologist Dr. Wilma Koutstaal explains for Psychology Today, the differences in contributions from the two groups were striking:

Independent raters who evaluated the feasibility and creativity of the ideas that were generated found significantly greater creativity in the pairs whose icons appeared unfinished and roughly sketched than in pairs whose icons were highly polished and finished.  The partners whose icons were unfinished and sketch-like also significantly more often elaborated on the ideas they produced.

Think about that for a second. If something so seemingly insignificant as the format of a bullet point can impact brainstorming creativity to this extent, how do you think your in-house approach to design is impacting your marketing strategy’s performance?

This is where crowdsourcing design comes into play. Kicking off your campaign planning with a crowdsourced design project helps to hedge against this creativity pitfall. When you start from a place of creative strength, evaluating not only in-house concepts but hundreds of designs from dozens of creative professionals from around the world, you can be confident that you’re moving in the right direction with a fresh, compelling look for your message. The outcome of that one design project can lay the groundwork for the rest of the collateral development for the campaign.