Why strategy always comes first

Creativity and creative ideas don’t spring from nowhere. They need fertile soil to take root in. For us, that means research, insight, and strategy.

Strategy is always the first step in our creative process. When we start work on a brand, whether for an organisation or a campaign, we start with three questions. Who’s the audience? What does it need to communicate? And what is the context – what other brands and messages are competing for the same audience’s attention?

Those three questions guide our research, revealing insights that help us form the idea at the heart of the brand.

There’s a notion that leading with strategy makes the creative work less … creative. That the strategy constrains the creativity, turning something that should be inspired and expressive into something more like painting by numbers.

But ask anyone involved in a creative pursuit and they’ll tell you that constraints and parameters are vital for creativity. There’s nothing less inspiring than a blank canvas.

There’s nothing less inspiring than a blank canvas

Brand strategy research

And while our work is creative, inspiring and expressive, it’s also a commercial service. We commit to delivering it within a certain timeframe to help our clients achieve their goals. Starting with strategy gets us focused as early as possible on what we need to do creatively to achieve those goals.

It means we don’t waste our clients’ time waiting and hoping the muse will inspire us. It gives us a better chance of presenting something that’s right first time. And it streamlines decision-making.

Decisions about creative work can all too easily become about individual reviewers’ personal taste, which can lead to deadlock, followed by dilution of the work to try to please everyone. But when there’s a clear strategy behind the work, the discussion can focus on whether it could deliver on that strategy more powerfully, rather than on the associations it sparks in individual people.

We’re a creative bunch, and we’ve found that this way of working makes the best use of our creativity. Research and insight show us what matters; and instead of spreading ourselves thin, trying to fill an entire blank canvas, we can focus the full force of our creativity on those key elements.

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