Content: Minimizing the Time from Ideation to Execution
An Optimove professional workshop about how to cut the lead time of your campaigns in half
– [Itay] My name is Itay Shalev. I’m Optimove’s Director of Growth Marketing. I work cross-functionally to develop and implement various growth initiatives around the company. And I do a lot of work with sales and marketing around CRM, analytics, and the digital marketing that’s following you guys all across the web.
– [Dana] Hey, guys. I’m Dana. I’m Optimove’s Marketing Creative Director, and I’m responsible for Optimove’s marketing studio and all the nice visuals that you see around you. Let’s get started.
– [Itay] So I’d like to start us off with a question, and that’s what if you could cut your campaign lead times in half? What if you could execute twice as many campaigns that you do right now, this week, this month, this year, with about the same amount of resources? See, the majority of your campaigns should take days, not weeks. And I’m talking about complicated campaigns as well. In many organizations, either lack of processes or cumbersome processes such as too many approval requirements or unnecessary iterations that lead to lengthy lead times. Sorry about that. See, in these cases, no matter how well designed your campaign is, you’ll never be able to iterate quickly enough to move at the speed of your customer, the experimentation you need to do, and get the coverage you need for all your target groups. Focusing your team around a well-defined process with articulated goals and very clear guidelines will save you ample time, leading to reduced marketing cycles and increased capacity.
Today’s session, we’re going to cover a framework. It’s going to be three parts that will allow you, if implemented correctly, to cut your development cycle in half. Okay? So if you can do a campaign in three days now, you can cut it down to a day and a half.
–[Dana] Well, actually, I wouldn’t say a day and a half, but… Just kidding. Okay. So what is this session about? We’re going to give you three take-outs. The first one is how to view your current campaign execution process in order to improve it, the second one is how to create a tight brief, and the third is a bit of an insight to what happens when the creative team gets your brief.
– [Itay] So I’m an industrial engineer and civil engineering by training, so everything gets its own special terminology. “Value stream.” Right? A value stream, it’s a term from industrial engineering. Operational excellence, lean, many different terms. It’s basically a type of flowchart that illustrates all the steps of creating a product or a service with various values that we’re going to talk about. So I have a campaign value stream, right? I mapped out the process that we go through at Optimove, and I’m going to share it with you guys. And that’s the process we do at Optimove. There’s also kind of a feedback loop. I didn’t want to complicate this chart. Right? Where we communicate the results of the campaigns back to the creative team, so they know if it worked or not, but we start off with a campaign brief. All the fuchsia…? What’s the right term for that? Fuchsia. We’ll call it fuchsia. All the fuchsia squares are marketing squares and all the white ones are creative squares. So we kick off with a campaign brief. We’re going to talk about that in a little bit, and then we go into an ideation process where the…, on a very high level, the creative team is going to create some sort of options for us in a mockup. And we’re going to come to Designer View one with usually two or three options. We’ll pick one. Okay? You have to be someone in the room that forces this process. So you pick one of those options, and then you can go and refine it. Right? So now, you can work on the visuals a little bit more, you can refine the copy, you can play around with it. When we go into Designer View two, we’ll already finalize. Right? So I’m going to give… You guys can have a copy of this afterwards, so don’t be in a rush to write it down. Designer View two, that’s the final approval in our stage. Right? So the concept is locked down. And the only thing that has to happen afterwards is producing all the necessary assets that perhaps haven’t been produced yet because they’re in a mockup stage, doing the right QA. Right? And then delivering them because everything’s already been approved. Like I said, a medium-complexity campaign. You can see there’s about 15 hours of production time, or value-added time, and about three and a half days of non-value added time or wait time. And this is about not creating too much friction in the system. We can do this whole thing in a day as well, and we can do it in a few hours, even very complicated campaigns if the resources are available. But they’re usually not. Right? So we have to wait a day, and then we kind of make the whole process go through.
So how do you build your own map? I don’t want you to complicate it because, value streams, you guys can go google it. You’re going to find something that’s very, very complicated, that’s for industrial engineers. Right? It’s not for marketers. You don’t need to go that complicated. You’re going to start out by mapping every single step of your current process, how it is today with all the warts and all the unnecessary iterations, and all the time the copy or the banner had to go back to get changed. Map it out the way it is, everything from development to execution. And then you’re going to focus on easy ways to fix things. Right? So you’re going to look for waste. Where are you over-processing? Where are you making unnecessary corrections? Where do you have too long of wait times or too many approvals, perhaps?
And the second thing you’re going to shoot for when you’re simplifying and approving these processes is first-time quality. It’s a term from manufacturing. At every stage, we’re talking about the designer views, the three key red squares in the diagram, you’ve got to make sure that you get there in the best shape possible. If you’re going to come to Designer View one with three options and they all have typos in them, guess what? You’re not going to make the right impression and they’re going to send you back to the drawing board. Same thing for Designer View two, etc., etc.
And then the final thing you’re going to do is, in every system, people are the most important component. Right? You’re going to mitigate risk by empowering your team. You’re going to give them the right tools, you’re going to give them the right processes and the right knowledge, so that they can run the system themselves. And they can optimize it, because marketing changes all the time. And then you’re also going to provide them with very clear guidelines. Right? They need to know your taste. If you’re the person who’s approving the campaigns, if they know what you like, we’re going to get there much faster. Right? So if they have clear guidelines, they know certain things don’t fly. Right? And certain things, they know they’re flying, and all of a sudden, I see it and I’m like, “Wow, that was nice.” And I didn’t even know that it happened.
So let’s bring it down to something a little more practical. Right? So now, our mapping’s arguing with people. And that’s having a one-page creative strategy brief that every marketer has to submit before kicking off a campaign. Okay? This exercise serves two things. First, it forces the marketer to be very clear about their objectives and it prevents them from creating unnecessarily long strategies. Right? Because they have to put it down on a piece of paper. So now, all of a sudden, they’re like, “Okay, let’s think about it.” And the second thing it does, it provides the inspiration for the creative team, which are artists, both in terms of copy and design to get it off into an efficient and effective process. Right? So you have to give them something to start with, otherwise, they start with a blank canvas and when they find something they like, that’s the campaign you’re going to get.
So, why do you have to do it? I told you what it does. So there’s two truths, and happy to argue with anyone here about them. They’re almost as good as the Bible. And that’s that a good creative brief, one that’s insightful, informative, that’s been well-argued within the department makes the process of creating good creatives significantly easier. Right? And you can get there much, much, much faster. And on the other side, if you have a bad brief or, most of us are also guilty of this at times, have no brief whatsoever, you’re going to start off with a half-baked idea. It’s going to get changed and chopped along the way as your thinking develops, and you’re going to end up with a campaign. It might look nice. And chances are, it’s not going to engage because it doesn’t have the cohesive element that the brief puts into it. So having a brief, one. And, you know, here at Optimove, if I go to anyone, this is my process, and I ask them for a campaign like, “I need it now,” “Give me a brief.” They won’t start working without a brief.
–[Dana] Okay. So what makes a good brief? We already said that it has to be short and there’s a lot of information you want to communicate. So it doesn’t matter if you write it down on a napkin or on a PowerPoint presentation, it has to include these eight principles. First one, background. And, okay. So why are you doing this? For example, you want to create a birthday campaign. Okay. So a birthday campaign can be much lighter. It can be more personal. You can use humor. This is important information for the creative team to know when they start going.
– [Itay] Sorry. We’re having a little range issues with the clicker. So the second thing on this element of the brief is the objective. Right? It’s very critical that everyone on your team, even copywriters and designers, are connected to what you’re doing, they’re connected to the goal. So every campaign brief should have the objective and whatever the goal you’re planning on measuring. And this provides the creative team with the level of importance that they need for this campaign. Right? If you’re trying to grow revenue of a certain product line by 20% using this campaign, they’re going to put the right effort into it. And it’s not just about the creative, it’s about the ideation.
– [Dana] Okay. Your audience, define them as people, who they are. What’s your target audience? For example, okay, if you’re creating a campaign for a 20-year-old male or a 40-year-old woman, you would use different color, different language, different font. That’s important information when you start going.
– [Itay] So now, we get into the nitty-gritty. The promise, the unique value proposition, this is where the marketer distills the promise to the customer into one sentence. You can do it even a tweet. We call it the “Tweet Exercise” at Optimove. But you get it down to one sentence. That means you usually have to pick one thing. Right? You have to pick your primary promise. You can’t have too many things. But that’s okay, we solve it along the line in the next item, which is support for your promise. This is an area of the brief that can be a little bit longer. It can be a paragraph. And this is where you provide all the features, benefits that are supporting the promise that you put right above it. And this is going to provide both design and copy with levers to pull on when they’re going through their ideation process. They’re going to try to play on Feature one, they’re going to try to play on Benefit two, etc., etc. So it’s very, very critical that you give them that information. And then also, extremely critical, it sets the tone for everything, that’s the key messaging, what the customer should think, feel, and do as a result of engaging with this campaign. A lot of times, you know, when I shoot something out, I tell them, “You know what? I want fear,” or, “I want love,” or “I want this.” And that way, I can get the right creatives that can spark the right emotion. I can get the right copy that sparked the right emotion.
– [Dana] Okay. Visual references. Guys, from my end, this is the best tip I can give you. When you start working on a certain campaign and there’s something specific that you want, you should look for references. You should look for examples to what exactly you want. If you give me a good reference, I can understand better than words what exactly you want, what’s your personal taste, and where you want to take this campaign. Okay. I’m going to give you four websites that I recommend when you are looking for examples
The first one is for references. The first one is Canva. It’s actually a website not for designers, it’s for marketing people. And you can find specific examples for social media, Facebook posts. This is why it’s a friendly website for marketing teams. The second one is Pinterest. That’s actually my personal favorite. You just write in the search tab exactly what you’re looking for. Like for here, you see a design poster and you’ll see tons of really good examples, very creative ones. Third one, that’s Behance. That’s actually a portfolio site. It’s a great site. All the best designer use it. And last, Google Images. It’s the worst of the four, but it’s also a good place to start. Or at least, it’s a good place to look or at least start looking.
Okay. Execution specifics. If you want the process to be shorter… And I start working and I don’t know the sizes, I don’t know if it’s for web, for print, and probably going to take me three, four, five times to get it right. So if you tell me what sizes you need and what channels you’re using, it’s probably going to be a much shorter process.
– [Itay] I have one more thing to add to this, and this is the second part of the brief that’s long. Right? You guys have the support for the promise when you give them the levers. The execution specs is more dependent on the complexity of your campaign. You kind of think of the brief as kind of like, you know, a ticket that goes in a factory along with the campaign through all the processes. So you’ve got to make sure you have all the specs. Right? For us at Optimove, we have a terminology that we use. I’ll tell them I need a mini, a maxi, they know exactly what I mean. If you don’t have that type of sub-processes to develop the right sizes that you need, it’s very, very critical. Okay? So the execution specs, if you want to do a multichannel campaign, guess what? It’s going to be long. Right? And you need to give them that information. And that goes down, by the way, to ad unit. Right? So if you’re doing a Facebook campaign, which ad unit is it actually going to be? Right? Because each ad unit is going to be a little bit different.
So where you can go wrong in the process. The first thing is you can overcomplicate it, all right? You can put too much information in the brief. You can make it unnecessarily long. Be strict, simple, and focused. Try to keep it to one page. You got a multichannel campaign, that execution spec is going to come back to the second page. That’s fine. And the second thing is you can get lazy. Either you skip steps, or you don’t do a brief at all. And like I said before, they won’t let me move without a brief. Right? So you’ve got to make sure you do the brief, you provide the necessary information. It’s about context. Right? It’s about being informative. It’s about being inspirational so that it can get to the right place.
So before I shoot this over to Dana to an overview of the creative process, there’s one key thing, and I don’t know if you saw it on the previous flowchart, and that’s right after the brief, there was a little box that said “CM.” And that’s the creative meeting. Right? So this doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long meeting with three parties. It can be a quick watercooler chat. The whole exercise is about information. Make sure that the other person knows exactly what you want, they understood the brief. The whole process is going to go significantly smoother.
– [Dana] I’m back. Or not. Okay. Okay. So the second one is trust your expert. When you have a cavity, you don’t try to fill it yourself. You go to the dentist. The designer, the copywriter, they went to four-and-a-half-years of school. They have experience. They know what they’re doing. So you should let them do their job. Give them the brief and release. And third, which I actually don’t remember, is know your must-haves. If, for example, you need a logo and you have to have a logo, let the designer know. If there’s a headline and the headline has to be big, let them know. That’s important information when you start a process. And now, we’re going to… Okay, we’re running right now. Go back. Okay. The other side.
So we wanted to let you know a bit what happens when the designer gets your brief. So what I do first is very similar to what I told you, is that I start with references. Next one? Okay. So for example, you can see this badge. When we started working on it, the first thing I did is I went to Pinterest and I looked for examples for what to do, and for especially what not to do, like here, formats, colors. Next step…or not, okay, is I start working if I have time. Then, I make a few options, A, B, and C. As you can see, we chose A. This is actually for the speakers, the pink ones. And next, and this is very important, and that’s a mockup. Or not. That’s a very important stage. Don’t skip it. Because for example, I can make a beautiful visual for an email campaign and then when I put it inside an email, I can understand that you can’t see anything. So always make a mockup. Know your brand and its limitations. For example, this is the brand, or the brand guide for this event. If you know your style guide, you would probably know what not to do. For example, Itay can come and say, “Okay, I want the badge and I want it to be yellow.” But if he knew the brand book, he would know I can’t use yellow. It’s not in my style guide. So that might help you. If you don’t have a style guide, then get one.
– [Itay] So some final thoughts before we summarize everything, and they sound like a cliché, but they’re important. And the first one, the medium is the message. It’s a universal truth. Every campaign needs to be tailored to the channel. Right? If you’re doing an email campaign the visuals and the copy are going to be a little bit different. What you need is one big idea that you can exploit multiple ways for all your channels. Don’t have the same copy all across. When people are on Facebook, they’re in a different mode than when they’re reading their email or they’re on Google. And the second thing, is embracing good enough? You guys familiar with Optimove, “Test, improve, optimize.” Same thing for your creative process, okay? It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t need, necessarily, to keep working on that campaign, another day doing that other iteration, moving that copy a little bit. Right? Trust your team. And if your team lacks the resources, make sure to give them the training. But if they got their basics covered, you don’t need too many approval processes. You just need to approve the idea in the beginning and approve it at the end.
So to summarize… And I’m sorry about the mess. The workshop over there, which I’ll go visit in a second, always finishes early. So they’re messing up the queue. So first, we gave you a framework on how to holistically evaluate your campaign execution process. Right? You map it out, you focus on easy ways on how you can improve it, and you mitigate your risk. The second thing we did is we taught you how to build an effective creative strategy brief, one that’s going to make for a very efficient creative process, getting the right creatives out the first time out. And the third thing, just like in the first thing, people, is the last element. Right? Inside of the creative mind. How do you work better with copywriters and designers? How do they approach their process? If you know their language, everything is going to be much, much smoother. So thank you very much.