Five ways to be creative

Five ways to be creative

Creativity in marketing remains as impactful as ever, and can be delivered – and measured – in many different ways. Here are five areas to consider

Creativity is central to the discipline of marketing, especially as we transition into a digital age where artificial intelligence (AI) can analyse data and copy write effectively without human input. Indeed, advances in technology should in theory free up time for marketers to be more creative.

The effectiveness of marketers’ creativity is judged against KPIs – sales, profits, ROI, customer lifetime value and customer feedback, for example – but creativity itself is a powerful means of hitting those goals.

At the 2017 Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions, award-winning creative marketing campaigns needed to demonstrate solid and proven commercial results, but also effective brand-building stories that delivered awareness and customer engagement, or that shifted consumer or market culture. And while these might be the broader measures of success today, creativity shouldn’t only be reserved for ad campaigns – it can be applied across all areas of marketing.

Product iteration

The concept of product iteration is a design methodology based on a cyclical process of prototyping, testing and  analysing that is perhaps most ably demonstrated in a digital setting. The potential for creativity here is clear, but can it apply in less agile sectors? It does, even in the rather sedate world of piano making. Prestigious piano brand Steinway and Sons, founded in 1853, has continued to innovate, introducing a self-playing digital piano in 2015, rolling out its piano bank hire service in the 21st century, while gearing its range towards the huge Chinese market as sales in the West decline. At more than 160 years old, the company is still adapting to meet market needs.

And what about lower ticket items? There’s an apocryphal tale of the beauty lotion manufacturer that wanted to increase profits without hiking up prices or adding a new line. The creative solution they devised was to widen the aperture of the bottle’s nozzle, therefore increasing the speed at which customers used up the lotion. Whether it’s true or not, it serves as a reminder of how small creative ideas might make a big difference.

Play with price 

Last autumn, following the Brexit vote and a weakening of the pound, Unilever reportedly raised the price of its products by 10%. The result? Marmite-gate. Tesco refused to accept the price increase and pulled Unilever products from its shelves and website. The stand-off was short-lived, but the price squabble reaped benefits for both brands. Tesco’s message was that it cared about price and customers’ wallets, meanwhile Unilever found an opportunity to demonstrate how much its famous brands (including PG Tips and Colman’s) are loved. In the weeks after Marmite-gate, Marmite’s sales reportedly increased by 61%.

The takeout for marketers is a reminder that price isn’t only fixed by a set of external factors. Raising prices doesn’t always mean alienating customers and lowering your bottom line; cheaper prices can damage sales by suggesting lower quality. In the end, price is a marker of demand and expectation – two things that creativity in marketing can seek to influence.

Find your proper place

‘Proliferation of channels’ is one of the most overused phrases in marketing, mainly because marketers are still working out how to respond to audiences that have become fragmented across social and traditional media. Many brands have worked out that a one-size-fits-all approach to multichannel marketing isn’t the best way forward. Instead, creativity in approach is demanded, and this is the case for market leaders, too.

For example, YouTube’s recent Made For You campaign took a programmatic approach to advertising in traditional advertising locations. The campaign showcased 18 influential YouTube content creators in the UK who have more than 48 million combined subscribers to their YouTube channels, and ran across 275 cinema screens, escalator panels in tube stations, bus shelters and websites. If marketing, as the old adage goes, needs to ‘fish where the fish are’, then marketers need to know that the fish are everywhere. The question, therefore, isn’t just ‘where are you fishing?’, it’s ‘how are you fishing?’. As YouTube demonstrated, that warrants a creative response.

People power

Employees and customers: people are both the source and object of marketing creativity. Indeed, the take-up of the GDPR’s new data laws offer marketers an opportunity to re-set and re-invigorate customer relationships in new and creative ways.

Within the organisation, marketers can also be more creative by allowing colleagues’ creativity to flourish. It is important to encourage people to be creative by establishing company values and an authentic and unique mission – after all, if staff don’t know what a company stands for, how can they understand why they’re doing their job?

Aligning the business with a wider purpose can also provide focus for employees, who often respond well to the opportunity to ‘do something for the greater good’, for example socialising charity and volunteering throughout the organisation. Employer branding is also now a key area of creativity for marketers. Job seekers can be important brand advocates, whether or not they end up being hired. Vital feedback can be gleaned from them, and as part of your brand’s wider audience they should be considered when developing an employer branding strategy.

Purposely emotive promotion

Campaigns remain perhaps the most obvious outlet for marketers’ creativity. But where is campaign creativity winning with customers? At this year’s Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions, purpose-led advertising was a dominant theme, with the highest-ever number of non-profit and CSR-led campaigns shortlisted for awards. First-person narration and compelling storytelling were also commended – Ariel detergent’s emotive 2016 #sharetheload campaign in India has proved its effectiveness, and resonated globally, for example. ‘Emotion’ was a creative strategy employed by 71% of the shortlisted Lions campaigns.

The need for creative marketing remains as strong as ever, but the creative response must, always in the end, clearly speak to the customer’s current needs.

Read more about marketing’s new creativity here.

Martin Bewick Content Lead CPL
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