Simple Strat Blog

Creative and Strategic: What's the Difference?

Posted by Emma Urbanek on December 20, 2016
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When you’re hiring a marketing agency, or even an internal marketing director, creative director, marketing coordinator, or intern, it’s likely that you’ll have two words in the job description.

Creative and strategic. 

They may be worded something like this:

“Must be able to help guide the creative process and design creative material for marketing campaigns”


“Develop a strategic marketing plan to guide the sales and marketing efforts in achieving goals”


The problem that we see, however, is that most people aren’t 100% familiar with these two words. They may even use them synonymously.

Note: These words are not synonyms!

They may be found in the same job descriptions or the same proposal for marketing services. However, it’s important to understand the difference.




If a client asks us to be STRATEGIC, or they need help with strategy, then we become problem solvers.

We scope out your business as a whole and go further into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to completely define any problems.

When business owners are looking for help with strategy or strategic marketing, what they probably mean is:

  • Help understanding the problem at hand. Analysis of the opportunities and challenges within the company and/or marketing objectives and a recommendation for how to proceed.
  • Assessment of specific opportunities, channels, or ideas and the potential impact each may have on overall outcomes.
  • Help brainstorming ideas and then prioritizing the ideas according to the desired outcome.
  • Identifying and selecting resources, including a plan for how to use them most effectively.
  • Measuring milestones, successes, and returns of marketing efforts

Being strategic allows you to take an entire picture of your business and craft a plan to achieve your goals. By the way, if you need help adding some strategy to your marketing, we put together this marketing plan template and guide just for you.

Strategic thinking doesn't have to be boring x’s and o’s on a board.

strategic white board

This style of thinking prompts you to ask questions you’ve not thought of before. Strategic means pulling back all the layers and digging deeper….which can often lead to creative thinking.




If a client asks us to be CREATIVE, they want help coming up with ideas, devising tactics that will cleverly and effectively convey their message and call to action to the target audience.

When business owners are looking for help with creative marketing, what they probably mean is:

  • Brainstorming – coming up with as many ideas as possible. Being an idea machine.
  • Taking risks and finding new ways to define and illustrate concepts
  • Breaking out of the status quo or “what everybody else does”
  • Being expressive
  • Finding ways to inspire their audience
  • Igniting curiosity
  • Engaging the imagination
  • Connecting the idea to the action

Having a creative mindset means you draft ideas, brainstorm campaigns, and ignite curiosity in hopes of fulfilling your goals. You ask questions like, “What if?”

creative sketch

Great creative is a result of a solid strategy. Being creative can be hard to reign in on because not all creative thoughts lead to tangible results. If there is a lack of a strategic focus, then companies often find themselves being creative for “creative’s sake” – a direction that may produce a very clever ad, but may not actually help you reach your goals.




If you find yourself thinking I need strategic help, but are also attracted to the creative solutions, don’t worry. You can do both.

Just because you’re a strategic thinker doesn't mean you shouldn’t be creative or that you can’t be creative. Being strategic and creative is a two-way street that is best navigated one lane at a time.

Strategy is always a good place to start but that doesn’t mean you have to stay inside the box for all your ideas.

In the same breath, being creative doesn’t mean you can’t be strategic or that you aren’t a strategic thinker.

This article from describes creative thinking as a gateway for employees to see the picture as a whole and to leverage productive focus on issues with greater impact.

Creative thinking can scare some businesses because it can seem less productive, but ultimately when you find those big-picture issues, your productivity becomes more substantial.


While these two words mean different things, they work as partners for the best outcome for your marketing plan. Which one do you need to grow your company?

Marketing Plan Guide and Template

Posted in Content Marketing, Marketing Strategy