I’m no mathematician, but this is an equation I’m pretty confident in: marketing = strategy + creative.

Emphasis on the plus.

But too many marketers pick one camp and discount the other.

How many brainstorming sessions are packed with wonderful, innovative ideas that have no goal or specific audience in mind?

Meanwhile, how many marketing executives get so wrapped up in their analyses, plans, and budgets that they forget to check their gut and nurture big, breakthrough concepts?

Strategy without creative is like a carefully planned road trip down a straight highway in the middle of nowhere. Sure, it’s intentional and oriented toward a goal. But there’s no fun. No impact. Nothing to remember.

Long straight in the middle of nowhere road represents marketing strategy without any creative

Plus, it’s not exactly designed for the inevitable curves ahead; the sudden (and necessary) segues; and the changes in weather that are bound to roll in.

On the other hand, creative marketing that’s not built on a strategic foundation is often as effective as a carnival floating in the middle of the Pacific. You can build the most exciting rides on earth, but nobody’s coming.

In my experience, this latter misstep is very common in small businesses.

For example:

We decide it’s time to build or update a website. So we find a little agency or a freelance designer/developer to complete the selected task. And then we say go.

A year later (yes, it takes a long time to get where you’re going when you don’t have clear direction), we have a website that’s—well, just okay. It’s hard to admit after all we’ve invested, but it lacks the punch we dreamt of at the outset.

(Hint: Strategy + Creative [also] = Punch.)

If you’ve met me in person, you may have noticed that I often wear a compass instead of a watch. This isn’t a fashion statement. (Actually, it’s very difficult to find a wrist compass that’s anywhere as cute as the myriad gorgeous watches of the world.) Rather, it’s to remind me of what matters.

Because according to me, it’s more important to know where I’m headed than when I’m going to get there.

And that’s a philosophy that drives my marketing-strategy work as well.

Cheesy? Maybe. But in the world of marketing, it’s a twofer. Because direction improves efficiency, which means you reach your goals faster. (And it doesn’t hurt that with that strategy in tow, you actually know what your goals are in the first place.)

In short: creative is the magic. It’s the bomb.

But it’s a bomb that needs to explode in the right space and time, with the right team behind it, or it can be ineffective, misguided, or even dangerous.

On the other hand, if you harness all that creative juice in a clear direction, you’ll be amazed at how much faster your goals start to materialize.

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