Successful brands know it takes more than a great product to change behavior in the marketplace. You need a big idea–a clear story that creates consistency and connection throughout every interaction with your audience. Clarity in creative expression will not only entice your audience to try something new; it will also give them something to connect with, fueling motivation to stay loyal and engaged when the novelty wears off.  

When done well, these big ideas are woven into every aspect of a brand–from large-scale marketing strategies to social campaigns, to digital presence, all the way down to the in-person experiences and products. 

What does this look like in practice?   

At first glance, you might assume that Volvo simply sells cars. But dig deeper and you’ll see that Volvo actually offers one big idea: safety. Ford sells trucks, and also the idea of toughness. Trader Joe’s sells groceries, but if you go there, you know they also sell the joy of novelty and discovery. Walk into an REI store to buy camping gear, and walk out with the idea of possibility.  

The foundation of a brand’s story or big idea is a sound and authentic strategy, which drives creative expression, among several other key aspects of the brand. At Syneos Health Communications, we utilize a proprietary framework called the Motivational Edge to create that foundation, defining clarity through both brand expression and audience experience. 

The core of strategic success lies in pinpointing a friction begging for removal: 

“Harnessing a tension gives strategic focus and clarity. It allows the creative to establish a foothold in the audience's mind by spotlighting emotional dissonance, which demands resolution, usually in the form of some type of behavior change. It also grounds our vision to a trigger point in the current cultural reality—giving the conversation a place to begin.”

– Carolyn Stephenson, Executive Vice President of Strategy at Syneos Health Communications.  

Let’s tie Carolyn’s point to Trader Joe’s, mentioned earlier, for example:  

Pain point (or emotional dissonance): Grocery shopping is boring and often feels like an overwhelming chore.  

Creative resolution: Make getting groceries more fun with quirky items, interesting creative expression and a store experience unlike any other.  

Audience behavior change: Gamification of grocery shopping: the hunt for seasonal items, the excitement over an exclusive product and the ultimate satisfaction of better prices for specialty products.  

We asked Todd Henwood, Executive Creative Director of GSW Canada, how this concept ties back to creative expression in the biopharma industry. 

“First, we must have clarity around the behaviors we hope to shift. Then, we learn the levers we’re moving–the human truths we’re working with. The more specific you can be about a patient or health care provider’s experience, the further our work will resonate,” explains Todd.  

Once these human truths have been identified and understood, the rest of the creative process is about commitment.   

“The best creative comes when you start with a clear goal in mind from the beginning. Then that goal is maintained throughout the process. You have to stay committed–stand up for that goal throughout the work and ask yourself if it’s coming through in a novel way,” says Henwood. 

This clarity is even more vital for creative leader Orrin Pollard, Director of European Creative Expression for Syneos Health Communications, who is responsible for ensuring that big idea translates in many different languages, cultures and platforms throughout the global market.  

“You have to take a step back from your work and ask, does this idea work in France? What about in Japan? Denmark? You have to strip the language down. The message must be simple. The visuals should be more symbolic so that they are accessible. Then, the work should be evaluated through different lenses and perspectives,” Orrin explains.  

(While Orrin works in the global market, evaluating work in this manner is just as vital in any market where cultures and languages naturally co-exist, as described in this post by Farah Khan.)

Staying focused, streamlined and connected to a big idea ensures that creative work speaks clearly–making it easier to understand, identify with and act upon. This truth should be front-of-mind for the healthcare industry, where healthcare providers and patients are consistently faced with complex, life-altering decisions. Prioritizing a clear message can not only help shift behavior, but it can also begin to untangle the notoriously complicated healthcare space, one simplified choice at a time.  

About the Author:

Kelly Abrams, Content Strategy Director at Syneos Health Communications, has a deep curiosity for what drives human behavior and is passionate about telling stories that connect the dots between data and the everyday. Prior to her career at Syneos, Kelly helped clients build brand loyalty and communicate with purpose in industries like retail, healthcare, and higher education.