Why creatives need to study marketing

A few months ago, I left my corporate job.

Shortly before that big move, I had an opportunity to be coached for an hour by author and Learning Ritual instructor Michael Simmons.

Knowing how freelancers struggle with getting paid well, I asked him how I can increase my value as a creative.

His advice was to offer services that directly contribute to the client’s revenue.

"The more you can help your clients sell, the more value you are bringing to their business, he said."


Creatives are normally spared from having to worry about ROI, audience engagement statistics, all those numbers, but that is not necessarily a good thing. Creatives (graphic designers, copywriters) are rigorously trained in communication strategy and execution. And it’s only after having been recently guided by a seasoned marketing practitioner that I realize how much I don’t know about marketing, and how gaining marketing experience changes everything.

You may have studied marketing in school, know the 4Ps, but unless you immerse yourself in market research, campaign strategy, and data analytics, your understanding of marketing is limited.

These are some marketing disciplines I am convinced every creative should dig into:

1. Market research

The more you know your target audience, the more on-point your communication will be. Not all clients will give you a comprehensive picture of who your comms is speaking to. But knowing principles of market research/persona building will help you ask the right questions during a creative briefing. You’ll know the info they’re supposed to give you. And if they give you one line of target audience description and demographics, you’ll know that’s not enough. If you’re going to do a good job, and speak right to the heart of your audience you need to request a comprehensive brief with relevant target audience information, validated and verified. And it doesn’t have to be major research work. Short interviews and conversations with the audience are even better when the right questions are being asked.

With market research familiarity, you will be able to review a strategy as to whether it’s sound. How many times have creatives been misdirected and creative brilliance wasted because of a wrong understanding of the audience? What’s worse is that the business suffers and ends up wasting resources.

Resources are often wasted by working based on assumptions. If you are knowledgeable in marketing processes, you’ll be able to see which statements are assumptions, and ask for verification. By being able to confirm that data is verified, you’ll be able to work confidently, and make your work — and the entire team’s and client’s work — worthwhile.

Knowing your audience is the heart of selling, and communicating, well.

2. Marketing campaigns + analytics

Marketing objectives are different from communication objectives. Marketing objectives are directly related to sales targets. Being aware of targets gives you the big picture of what’s at stake in a campaign. You’ll be able to work well with the marketing team on aligning the communications strategy with the marketing strategy. You also get to see exactly where the creative work sits in the campaign and that will give you a better understanding of what you need to do.

Knowing the potential ROI and success metrics of the items you are working on will help you prioritize. We creatives make the mistake of spending time on which parts of the project are fun and can showcase our brilliance. But prioritizing what is most important to the marketing objectives are in the best interest of the client.

Being involved in various stages of the marketing campaign gives you a taste of how relevant your communication is.

3. Content marketing

Now we’re talking. Yes, content. Something fun at last. This is where creative and marketing departments overlap. This is also where marketing teams have increased their budgets.

This article shares that “A study by Content Marketing Institute shows that 38 percent marketers plan to increase their content marketing spends during 2018.”

Marketing helps you bring value to your ultimate audience

Most importantly, marketing skills help you add value to yourself as a creative.

Marketing teaches you how to put yourself in the shoes of your ultimate audience — your client. Having experience in marketing will teach you to focus on what’s at stake for them. You’ll be able to prioritize tasks with more wisdom.

Many things that might concern you as a creative, such as your typographic knowledge or your state-of-the-art equipment, will not be relevant. Don’t try to sell based on your values. It’s what they value that matters. They’ll want to know how your great idea is going to meet the marketing objective.

Know what they value and focus on giving them that. When you do, they will love you to bits.

  • Content Marketing
  • marketing
  • Writing
  • Creativity
  • Freelancing