When you take the word creative on its own, it has the tendency to drum up images and thoughts in our minds of paintings and photographs, of music and songs, of books and literature and even of dance and theatre. But there is far more to this word than what directly meets the eye – or indeed ears!
Taking the dictionary definition, creativity is “the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something”. It is therefore a twofold process; first you think then you produce. It is this latter element that is crucial, the production takes an imaginative idea and turns it into a creative application.
Creativity, therefore, surely is a self-evident element of marketing and should be practically inseparable. As marketers we create content, sites and campaigns, we create relationships, brands and strategies, and ultimately we create conversions and revenue for clients and businesses – why then is creative marketing seen as a distinct, separate, yet highly desirable realm for marketers and companies alike?
This is because, although all marketing should create and be creative, this is unfortunately not always the case: One example where a wave of distinctly ‘uncreative’ marketing was witnessed, was in Content Marketing. Many brands and indeed companies as a whole jumped on the bandwagon of content marketing and rather superficially might I add, the result? Many were producing content for content’s sake, that focused solely on SEO; by doing that they effectively sucked the soul, the interest and the skill out of the content.
By viewing content marketing and SEO as separate goals and tasks, the creative flair diminishes. As a consequence, search engines altered the way that they read and value content and now more closely focus on the content itself, rather than simply scanning for the words – although keywords are still crucial. Content now needs to be unique, relevant and impactful. The myth that engaging and impressionable content can not be SEO optimised must be dispelled once and for all. Content must be recognised as just part of the jigsaw for a much larger strategy. True creative marketing unites all services and tactics together, in order to create an overarching strategy that aims for, and achieves, one end goal.
Trends, such as this solely SEO driven approach to content, are arguably the antithesis of creativity. Using another example in the sphere of content, storytelling seems to have been rife among brand’s content marketing over the past couple of years. The Drum’s Leslie De Chernatony, believes that, ironically, instead of promising individually characteristic branding this trend is “more responsible for brands becoming more undifferentiated than ever before.”
This being said, the appeal that storytelling holds for us is unmatchable, being curious by nature. You only have to look at the facebook page “Humans of New York,” which takes New Yorkers one at a time and tells their story, and it’s 16.9 million likes to see the true power of words and stories. The difference here though is that these are real and unique stories, rather that synthetic words fabricated together to produce a story to appeal to a consumer. People can see through the latter. Marketers need to take a step back and let the brands and products speak for themselves. An audience will always respond better to writing that they can really connect with and true creative marketing implements honest, distinctive and original ideas. Trends are for the analysts, but it’s the breaking of these trends that is the work of bona fide creatives.
In today’s world, your average London commuter is exposed to an average of 3,500 advertisements and product promotions a day – a whopping 99% of these make no impact whatsoever. Additionally, according to Google, over the past two years searches for the term “infographic” have increased by over 800% and as it stands there are 79 million search results for this term.
Clearly then, the need and necessity for creativity in marking has reached an all new high. Agencies and departments are increasingly finding themselves having to not only shout, but scream to have themselves heard over the white noise of all that is marketing that the advance towards, and arrival at, a digital society has and continues to blare out. This being said creativity is the line on which marketing either survives or indeed dies. Furthermore, creative marketing, it is imperative to note, is not necessarily synonymous with successful marketing.
Let us take a look at some obviously “creative” marketing campaigns, first the successful and then the less successful.The difference is not always so clear cut on paper but when you face a truly successful creative campaign it certainly is clear: It will incite the mind – often through brilliant simplicity – and truly implant the message, to the extent that it hangs around in the observer’s thoughts long after user engagement has passed. This is the prize of successful creative marketing, positive brand impression. On the flip side the consequences of unsuccessful creativity can be detrimental to a brand’s reputation – and in some cases irrevocable.
Let us look at Always’ #ThisGirlCan campaign which proved to be a creative marketing stroke of genius for the brand. Due to the nature of the products they sell, Always fall into the consumer and customer low-involvement category which has an uncertain an unengaged brand following. Always needed to reconnect with their audience on a different and more emotive level rather than simply a functional and practical one, and give their audience some content that they would actually want to talk about.
The solution? They took the previously negative phrase of ‘like a girl’ and turned it on its head into a powerful and awe-inspiring statement through the hashtag #LikeAGirl. They pushed a video on all digital channels and resultantly it was viewed over 90 million times and by over one million viewers – and this, crucially, was not solely a female endorsed campaign which certainly heightened its cultural impact. To the extent that the UN even acknowledged the power of this creative campaign and in March 2015 awarded Always an award for the impact that it had had on global female empowerment.
Back in September 2014 everyone will remember the creative marketing move from Apple and U2 and their forced gift of U2’s latest offering Songs of Innocence. Believing that they were going one up on Samsung and Jay Z’s offering to Galaxy owners where they could choose to have the rapper’s new album for free by deciding to make that choice for all iTunes users collectively.
This promotional marketing campaign backfired horribly and people openly voiced their outrage on twitter with people deeming the creative move to be “rude” and others were appalled at the band’s encroachment on their precious storage. Considering that you can’t actually delete the album from your cloud storage you can’t really help but agree that this really was a bit over an overestimate of their fan base.
The stunt ended with Bono having to apologise for getting “carried away”, the album losing its Innocence and Apple awkwardly brushing the whole saga aside. Ultimately, U2, it can be argued, still have not recovered and there remains an air of mistrust and astonishment at their cockiness – which is pronounced when you consider that there are 800 million iTunes users worldwide and all of U2’s albums collectively have only (!) sold 150 million copies!
In some cases, creative marketing campaigns and stunts can not only be bad but they can be directly harmful. Contradictions of messaging can devalue and impurify a brand. Dove, after campaigning ardently for Real Beauty, got things tragically wrong with their Choose Beauty stunt.
The stunt consisted of two doors – one labelled “Average” and the other “Beautiful” – women had to choose one to walk through. Not only did Dove devalue their previous messaging that all women have real beauty by insinuating that self-esteem must be based on looks rather than qualities.
Buzzfeed’s Arabelle Sicardi, who resigned after a backlash to this campaign, agrees here and protested that “maybe those women described themselves as smart, funny, generous, kind, but we’ll never know because the soap manufacturer wants to tell us how we feel about ourselves.”
Additionally, the statistics that they utilised alongside the stunt also played on negative low self-esteem figures rather than the opposite which is what the Dove brand itself is established. Forbes’ Susan Chumsky comments how Dove advertised that 4% of women think they’re beautiful, which may be true, however, the same research found that 71% women are satisfied with their beauty. This latter statistic surely promotes a much more positive message and one which reinforces their Real Beauty for all campaign.
The ultimate consequence of this campaign, other than many resigning in protest, was that is polarised its consumer base and critics. Those who engaged negatively to this creative marketing stunt did, and did so badly, criticising the brand for not believing in the value of its message and instead focusing on profits and even cheating it’s loyalists by using actresses, as O’Reilly believes, and calling into question the validity of previous marketing campaigns and stunts.
Creative marketing undeniably is key. However, marketers must be awake to that fact that creativity can actually devalue a brand, a campaign and an offering rather than bolster it’s worth if not it is not stringently kept in line with brand and campaign guidelines.
It emerges then that moderated creativity – if that’s not an oxymoron in itself – is the key to successful and creative marketing campaigns. Unbounded and unrestrained creativity can do more harm than good – in some cases – and a damaged brand is very difficult to resolve and to do so is more often than not a long, lengthy and costly process.
As it stands, in our digital world where information and access is almost limitless to the consumer, brand loyalties are far more fickle and so marketers seem to find ourselves in an age where if a brand slips up, the mountain they have to climb to re-establish themselves is a far steeper one than ever before.
To harness creative marketing’s value, one must finely tune it to fit in precisely with what is appropriate and what will add value to a strategy, instead of distracting and distorting the message and goal. If done right, as we can see creative marketing can redefine a brand, set it heads and shoulders above its competition and even contribute and impact culturally on a global scale.
Here at Rooster Creative Marketing we are a dynamic and creative team who pride ourselves on getting the balance just right. Creativity, in our eyes, is the hook. You can have the best strategy, website, email marketing, content and adverts, but if the creativity does not capture your audience’s attention, it could be a huge waste of time and investment.
We create ideas that make a real difference to our clients, setting them apart from their competitors; shaping culture, rather than just following it. Get in touch to discuss your next creative marketing project.