Lightbulb, brain and heart graphic

The secret to finding that next great B2B marketing idea? Come up with a lot of ideas — then edit down from there. But how exactly does the creative cream rise to the top so you can determine which idea you want to present to the client? After all, we creatives tend to get emotionally attached to all of our ideas. But face it, when you can cover an entire wall with concept layouts, some of them won’t make the cut.

So after 34 years as an advertising copywriter, I’ve come up with my own criteria for objectively judging creative work and moving my best ideas forward. When presenting creative, I measure it by these three standards: ART/SMART/HEART.

No matter what we’re concepting — from a B2B magazine/banner ad or a product brochure/sell sheet to a trade show booth or a landing page — I ask myself and the rest of the creative team these questions to determine which ideas make the cut.

Is it ART?

Unlike fine art, advertising is not subjective, it has a clear objective — to create brand affinity and drive sales. But using the right visuals and words to do that is an ART all its own.

Is it well-designed?

  • Does the visual grab the audience’s eyes and make them want to read the copy?
  • Does the idea "click" right away for the audience or does it take some thought to piece the idea together?
  • Does the idea reveal itself in a manner appropriate for the medium? (Signage will capture attention in a different manner than a print ad would.)
  • Does the design convey the idea in a way that provokes the thought/mood/action that you’re intending?
  • Is the concept itself fresh and unique in its category?
  • If you cover up the company logo, are the visual elements still ownable and recognizable as the brand?

Is it well-written?

  • Does the headline draw the reader in to want to know more?
  • Is the message clear, succinct, clever (if that aligns with the brand’s voice), and enjoyable to read?
  • Does it have something new to say in the client category?

Is it SMART?

Good marketing ideas are never, ever creative for creativity’s sake. They must be strategic and purpose-driven. Ask these questions to decide if the idea is SMART.

  • Is the concept customer-first and benefit-focused?
  • Does it clearly communicate the information that the customer needs to hear at this stage in their buying journey?
  • Does it make something complex easy to understand?
  • Is it “speaking the customer’s language”? (In B2B marketing, you can’t fake technical knowledge.)
  • Does it teach the customer something new or challenge them to think differently? (Make the customer feel smart and they’ll like you. And if they like you, they’ll buy from you.)
  • Is it showing the brand in action rather than just telling?
  • Is it on brand or does it move the brand forward in a thoughtful way?
  • And, of course, does it meet the client objectives as presented in the creative brief?

Does it have HEART?

When an idea is right, you know it in your gut — because really great advertising makes you feel something. And since customers buy to fill an emotional need — yes, even B2B customers — a successful concept must tap into that. Think about these questions to decide if it has HEART.

  • Is it compelling? Work can be on brand, on brief, and skillfully designed and written, yet still be boring. Marketing is inherently interruptive, so what we do must be interesting enough to engage with in the first place.
  • Does it evoke emotion? Effective B2B marketing can make the reader feel proud, interested, confident, or curious — just to name a few.
  • Is it human? In other words, is the concept free of unnecessary industry jargon?
  • Does it show insight and empathy for your target audience’s challenges?
  • Does it create a real connection and brand affinity?
  • Does it speak the brand’s truth and is it socially conscious?

Looking at creative work through the lens of ART/SMART/HEART helps us to deliver marketing campaigns that create a deeper connection between brands and buyers. And it helps ensure our clients build long-term business success. Want to learn more?