How Great Creative Strategies Are Like Great Rock Bands

There are several levels of successful ideas in marketing, ranging from really good ideas to epic ideas. But how do you know if a creative strategy—and its subsequent marketing expression—might be one of those rare epic ideas? Perhaps a key question can help: Does the idea work at different emotional speeds? Can it emotionally upshift and downshift and still be on strategy?

Like this:



It’s a bit like people. There are times when we want energy and excitement, and then there are times that we welcome introspection and caring. If a brand stands for something huge, the same theory should apply. In Nike’s case, standing for “the athlete” is a huge position. It upshifts and downshifts but it’s always about the athlete. Because being an athlete carries a range of emotions. Harley-Davidson has done similar over time. Allstate is doing this now. The Gap did this when their advertising was part of culture.

We see this beyond advertising… we see it in rock bands. The epic groups are those capable of rocking a stadium, then immediately slowing things down, all the while still being, well, them. Consider: there’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and then “With or Without You.” “Revolution” and “Let It Be.” “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Going to California.” But no matter what track you’re listening to, it always feels perfectly normal and is unquestionably U2, The Beatles, and Zepplin through and through.

Most highly regarded marketing campaigns get a few great years of run time. But they need refreshing because the audience can start to wain and culture begins to shift, so we concept something new. Very normal. But I always have a fondness for emotional range. And the epic ideas are big enough to represent many different emotions all under one creative strategy, keeping the audience engaged for decades.


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