Holding image

How marketing can be just as creative as design

We feel marketing has a bad rep.

As a design led digital studio, it’s very easy for us to see marketing as a necessary evil, something that needs to be done to display a message to potential clients in order to sell ourselves. In other words, necessary, dull, predictable, and not creative in any way. I think it’s fair to say that for a lot of marketing this is the case. Predictable ads showcasing features and prices in an uninteresting way. Usually throwing around the same buzzwords as GREAT VALUE, GOOD SERVICE & QUALITY. Ultimately meaning nothing and as such, easily ignored. I mean, what do any of those words mean by themselves? And how can you prove it?

It’s something talked about in “Allan Dib’s 1 Page Marketing Plan” (2018 Successwise). A concise but insightful book that talks about how marketing has lost its way and needs to get back to basics. The 1 page plan itself is pretty straightforward. It breaks down marketing into 9 distinct sections. Essentially the pre, during and post customer journeys. It’s a great tool for small business strategy and planning individual campaigns. Of course, planning your campaigns right is vitally important, and Allan Dib has great advice about how to make your marketing niche, hyper-relevant and effective.

The most important part of it all? DON’T BE DULL. See, that’s the thing. We all experience marketing every day, from posters to billboards, to TV and radio, and most of it just passes us by. It’s uninspired and the message is often too generic. Then there is the other type of marketing, the kind many of us wait in anticipation for (think John Lewis at Xmas, or the Superbowl). Everybody can recall at least one piece of advertising or marketing that was more that just QUALITY, BEST VALUE, CALL NOW. The best marketing campaigns are creative, dynamic, and have become as iconic as any other kind of design.

The Truth is Hard.

Take this recent example from The New York Times, their Truth Is Hard campaign. Politics aside, this was a masterstroke in capitalising on one particular moment in the zeitgeist. With the onslaught of fake news, alternative facts and post-truth, there was a clamouring from certain sections of the public for there to be an arbiter in the media. This is where the New York Times stepped in.

The key lessons?

Know your audience – This was broadcast during the Oscars, generally known to be a left-leaning audience, and potentially more receptive to the message of the ad. It was a smart play from the NYT, using their knowledge of demographics and readership to their advantage.

Be versatile
– The design of the ad allowed it to be re-produced anywhere: online, in print, in video, etc. This meant that one simple and striking design could be put everywhere without diluting its key message. In the aftermath of this, subscription to the paper increased by 276,000*, showing that timeliness, and hyper-relevancy to your market could be your greatest asset. *Source: Ad Age

Get A Mac

I think we all remember this one. During the mid-2000’s Microsoft had a problem. Everything they shipped was buggy, hard to use and expensive. Their dominance in the market had allowed them to get a little complacent, allowing their main competitor (who until this point had been merely a footnote in the laptop/desktop market) to pounce. With a series of well-produced and tonally perfect (hard to do) ads, Apple took the features of its product and framed them in a way that people, who normally don’t care that much about technology, could go “huh, that’s kinda clever, maybe I should look at one of those”.

Take the below example.

The ads are witty, well made and highly stylised. The number of parodies over the years goes to show how instantly recognisable and iconic the format has become.

The key lesson?

Hyper-relevant – This ad wasn’t targeting people who didn’t use computers, it was targeting the people that use them enough to be annoyed by something like the power cord. Anyone who has worked with laptop computers for a while knows that all too well. Highlighting something that seems so trivial actually tells you a lot about Apple as a company. The way they view themselves, the way they view their major competitor, and crucially their attitude to the way they build their products. The other masterstroke was there were many of these ads, all of them targeting a specific problem. In each one of them the format was familiar, the tone continued to be spot on, and in identifying and ‘correcting’ the flaws in the competitor’s product, established their product as the superior one, and the company itself as more interested in their user’s needs. Needless to say after this campaign, sales of Apple computers drastically increased. To this day sales of Macs are growing year on year, with their market share increasing year on year also, now standing at 7.1% *Source: Mac Rumours

Then finally, a bit of a throwback.


Allan Dib tells the story of this campaign in the “1 Page Marketing Plan”, so I won’t spoil it for you. The important thing is that it’s a great example of being able to understand your product and your customers, and being able to completely flip the narrative. The other thing is, it’s incredible to watch.

The key lessons?

Turn your perceived negative into a positive – The essential goal of the campaign was to improve the sales of Guinness. There was a perception that people didn’t like waiting the few minutes it took for a perfect pour and as such it was being eclipsed by lagers and other drinks. This ad however, takes this as a positive, saying that you will ultimately have a better experience for waiting just a little bit longer. The ad flips the narrative, turning Guinness into something more luxurious, premium and worth the wait. It’s possible that this campaign may have saved the business.

The power of emotion
– There is a lot to take in in that ad. The sense of dread, foreboding, tension and joy that flows through it is indicative of any great design, and possibly even art. Having that kind of effect on an audience instantly makes you distinctive as a business, creating a powerful connection with your audience. Now I don’t know about you, but I would say that ad is as good as any design I’ve ever experienced. At least, that’s the way we look at it.

For more info on Chaptr check out

For more info on the “1 Page Marketing Plan” check out

In the interest of transparency. We were offered a free copy of 1pmp to review and we accepted willingly.