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Operationalizing Creativity: Customer Acquisition Through Systemized Iteration and Optimization

Operationalizing Creativity: Customer Acquisition Through Systemized Iteration and Optimization

Last Updated:  
May 7, 2024

You don’t need me to tell you this, but gone are the days when you could throw any old creative into Facebook, put a little bit of spend behind it, and boom. Instant money factory. Times, they are a’changin’ - and you’d better change with them or risk getting left in the dust. 

With ever-changing privacy laws, AI adoption, new platforms, and endless updates it’s easy to bury your head in the sand and soldier on with how you’ve always done things. But I want to show you the light. A newer, systemized, more efficient way to drive results for your DTC brand.

The only way to truly see consistent success with your customer acquisition strategy on Meta, TikTok, and beyond is to have a dialed-in brand, creative, and performance marketing strategy. When all three of these aspects work together, they do so in complete harmony. 

At last, an answer to your customer acquisition conundrum and a gold-paved road to a brighter brand future. 

Without further ado, let’s dive right into it. 

Brand Alignment & Research 

Brand alignment

First of all, let's make sure we’re all on the same page. What is brand alignment? 

Brand alignment is essentially keeping the house in order. It’s making sure that all of the external touchpoints of your brand are in line with your brand's values and overall identity. When a customer comes across your website, sees your product, or gets hit with some of your advertising - you need to make sure that everything is consistent and matches their expectations while highlighting what you stand for.

Do you truly understand what it is that your brand stands for? If you don’t, how do you expect anyone else to? 

We can break down what forms the overall basis of your brand alignment into two categories:

  • Brand strategy 
  • Brand expression

Brand strategy is how your brand appears to others and can be explained with the help of this diagram. 

Brand expression is how you take your brand strategy and communicate it to your audience. 

You can see the distinct difference between the two, but how the two come together as one to forms something beautiful. It brings a tear to your eye. Brands like Nike, The North Face, and Red Bull are some legacy brands that come to mind that have complete control, ownership, and expression over their brand. 

Here’s some DTC brands we love that are killing it when it comes to their brand:

Data-driven analysis

Now that you truly know who you are it’s time to get to know other people. This is the part where you get to know your audience intimately. Really knuckle in and figure out what makes them tick.

Here’s some important information you need to find out to gather key insights:

  • Emotions and pain points
  • Lifestyle and habits
  • Influences and role models
  • How they perceive your brand
  • Their decision-making criteria
  • How they consume media
  • Their social circle and community
  • Their financial situation
  • Long term goals

But how are you going to get this information? 

Well, I’m glad you asked. There’s a ton of data sources at your disposal:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews and focus groups
  • Website analytics
  • Social media listening
  • Competitor research
  • Customer feedback and reviews
  • Online forums and communities
  • Purchase data and consumer databases
  • Market research reports 

Social Listening + AI Review Mining

Let’s dive a little deeper into one of those data sources and look at how we can use AI to take hours off the research process. 

Now, you might not know this but you already have a huge amount of information available at your fingertips. That data comes in the form of comments and reviews. 

Here’s how to conduct AI-assisted social listening. 

  1. Download a CSV of your reviews
  2. Upload this into an AI tool of your choosing that’s capable of the job
  3. Use a detailed prompt to analyze and present all of the information you require

You should angle your prompt in such a way that once it’s analyzed all of the reviews it presents details back to you about your product and your customer. You want the AI to give you a report on key points around product and customer:


  • Value propositions of the product
  • Unique features and benefits of your product


  • Pain points
  • Desired outcomes
  • What led to the customer making the purchase
  • Misconceptions
  • Failed solutions
  • Objections

Once you’ve got this report you can start picking out key insights and inferences from that data it gives back to you. Remember, you can’t always rely on the AI - double-check the findings before you take things forward.

Us vs. Them 

What sets you apart from your competitors - what are the differentiating factors? 

These are your strengths that are going to make up a large part of your marketing efforts. Think about rational factors such as price, the problem it solves, quality, features and functionality. 

But it’s also important to consider the emotional side of the spectrum and think about things like brand position and messaging, the emotional appeal of a product, personal expression, trust and reliability, happiness and satisfaction, storytelling and brand narrative. 

Establishing the Creative Foundations

Now that the major research has been completed, it’s time to get started on the fun stuff: creative

By now, you should have a ton of insights and know your audience like the back of your hand. Now it’s time to put all of this hard work to the test and create some ads that are going to talk directly to your ideal customers deepest, darkest desires.

Creative Ideation

We use Foreplay to completely streamline and take hours off the initial ideation process across all of our clients. Being able to streamline, organize, and essentially moodboard creative has been a game changer for our creative strategists and media buyers. Being able to easily see what your competitors are up to as well spot trends in creative across top DTC brands quickly fuels initial ideation and gives you a great place to start from. 

Once you have the creative angle of your ad based on the pain points of your audience that you’ve unearthed through a painstaking research and analysis process - it’s time to start putting your ads together. It’s important that you take a systemised and scientific approach to make sure you’re making ad creative that just won't miss.

That scientific approach comes in the form of a framework called AIDA. 

What is the AIDA Framework?

In simple terms, the AIDA framework, also known as the AIDA marketing model, comprises four fundamental components: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. This serves as a general roadmap that a customer follows before making a purchase. Typically, marketers and advertisers utilize these key stages to map out a customer's journey, plotting how to effectively engage them at various points in this journey.

Distinct phases of the customer journey necessitate distinct types of content or messaging to guide them to the following stage.

In a standard customer journey, the AIDA framework works just like this:

Attention: Establish brand recognition and capture the audience's attention through your product, service, or advertisement.

Interest: Cultivate curiosity into your offering by highlighting its benefits and prompting further exploration.

Desire: Evoke a strong desire for your product. Forge an emotional bond between the customer and your product by emphasizing the solution it delivers.

Action: Motivate the customer to take action and make a purchase through a compelling 'Call-to-action' (CTA).

Check out this blog we wrote for Foreplay exploring using the AIDA framework to structure TikTok ads.

5 Step Creative Optimization & Iteration Process

Now your ads are roaming free in the wild - what’s next? 

Don’t let all of that data and insight go to waste - here’s the 5 step process to get the most out of the initial data from your ads. 

Step 1: Creative Reporting

Set up a robust, clear, and thought-out bi-weekly creative reporting process for your ads. This should cover all of the most important bases so that you can quickly and easily work out what’s working as well as what isn’t. 

What you need to include in your report at a bare minimum for any video creative:

  • The creative name
  • The type of creative
  • A link to the creative
  • The offer
  • Click through rate (CTR) % 
  • Thumb-stop ratio (TSR) % (3-second video plays / number of impressions)
  • Average watch time
  • Conversion rate

This will give you an overview of your videos performance from a top-level perspective and help you understand what is and isn’t working about your creative based on the data from the analytics. 

Step 2: Pull Data From Best Performers and Worst Performers

Use a creative analytics software to pull data from your top 4 best performers and your worst performers from a creative & performance perspective. 

Step 3: What is the Data Telling You?

Get your data, absorb it and track it against benchmarks. Work out what it’s telling you. 

Generally, we’d aim for: 

  • A TSR of over 30%. 
  • A CTR of anything over 0.8-1%
  • A hold rate of around 8-10%

This would indicate to us that the video is performing pretty well. 

Let’s first consider videos with a high TSR. What is it about these videos that’s getting people to stop and watch? Let’s imagine the hook of most of the videos was obscure or controversial. This would indicate to us that right now what’s grabbing the attention of your audience is the weird and wonderful, and your future creative should aim to do more of this. 

However, be cautious with hooks that aren’t related to the products. You want to make sure that your results are reflective of the people you actually want to be viewing your videos - and not just a bunch of randoms you’ve attracted with a general hook that will apply to people outside of your target audience. 

If you’ve got a creative with a TSR rate but a low CTR consider using the hook with a creative with a CTR above 0.8%. Combining the two creatives with the best TSR and CTR should result in better performance across the board. 

If you are suffering from low CTR, don’t worry we have the remedy. Try some of these:

  • Add overlay text throughout the creative to retain attention
  • Try cutting every 1-2 seconds to improve pacing
  • Add more scenes and locations to your videos
  • Cut the creative down to get to the CTA quicker
  • Add a CTA earlier in the video

Step 4: Use Data to Create Macro Insights 

Now that you’ve listened to what your data is telling you - how do you use this to create macro insights for future creatives and your next campaign? 

Look at key components of your ad to assess what is driving results around your creative metrics. For instance, you might notice that across videos driving a high TSR all of the creatives have a common element. This could be an action that grabs attention, text overlays in the first two seconds, leading with the offer etc.

Step 5: Turn Insights Into Plan for Next Batch of Creative

The final step in the 5 part plan is where we gather all insights and data on your ads and sort them into 5 key categories. 

  • Top performers
  • Underperformers
  • Winning creative types
  • Promising concepts (improvement potential)
  • Successful angles/hooks

Detailed analysis of these areas will then form the overall strategic direction for your next campaign. 

You should then split this out into 5 sections for a new campaign brief:

Key focus areas: what stood out to you as main insights based on the previous campaign?

New ideas & opportunities: outline innovative ideas or opportunities based on the previous campaigns creative report.

Ideation list: list all ideas, no matter how weird and wonderful. Make sure to back these ideas up with data from creative reports and recommendations

New hooks to test: make a list of new hooks to test in the new campaign

Successful concepts for reuse: list all concepts from the previous campaign to use again.

Take this framework and use it to structure your next campaign. 

The Infinite Iteration Conversion Loop 

What if we told you the system that we’ve outlined here can be used to iterate indefinitely to keep creative. And we’ve given it a fancy name. May I present to you the infinite iteration conversion loop.

Here’s how it works:

Test a macro concept > collect and consume data > iterate on successful concepts > collect and consume data > optimize winners > collect and consume data > test macro concepts.

Each step of the way is generating you money via conversions, the more you iterate based on the data that you are receiving in theory the more you’ll generate as you craft the perfect piece of creative through relentless iterations. 

There you have it. This is how your creative process should look in 2024 and the foreseeable future. 

In Practice

Over the last 365 days we’ve used this process to help help The Essence Vault achieve a 93% increase in growth compared to last year, we’ve generated multi 8 figs in sales and spend almost $10k a day on TikTok alone (all while maintaining a blended ROAS of about 4x throughout the year).

This scale and consistency wouldn’t be possible without a systemised creative testing and iteration process in place. We’re producing about 150 pieces of UGC creative a month for The Essence Vault so it’s incredibly important key creative processes are in place to keep things moving forwards as we scale. AND over Black Friday we helped them achieve a record £6M in 30 days - £3M of that in 5 days. 

We’ve also used this system to help the legendary mushroom coffee brand Spacegoods cut customer acquisition costs in half.

AND we’ve used this very process to increase YoY revenue for skincare brand 47 Skin by 451% and cut customer acquisition costs by 41%. 

If you run a brand and need help with your creative strategy - we’ve got the tools to put you in the best position possible. Get in touch with us here and let’s have a chat about how we can help you grow your business. 

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