6 reasons why!
Creative Courage is defined, in my opinion at least, as standing up for creativity in all its forms as a critical way to engage your audience. So why should you care? Well, I’ve been through the ups and downs of marketing life, and I’ve had the honour of leading and working with teams across different disciplines, countries, businesses and agencies… and below I’ve shared my thoughts (often lessons learned the hard way!) on how Creative Courage can make a real difference. The good news is that it’ll be just as relevant emerging from the current crisis…
My 6 Reasons Why
1. Be a beacon of YES in a sea of NO. Everyone – especially right now – can find reasons not to advertise… “It’s too soon” - “it’s too late” - “it’s too much” - “it’s too little” - “no-one’s buying”. You’re probably living this right now. In normal times (remember them?) this would be “it’s too expensive” - “It’s too rational” - “It’s not rational enough” - “we can’t say that!” Throw a (virtual) stone in your business and chances are you’ll hit someone with a compelling reason not to. It’s almost always better to advertise than not to – and a very recent study from Kantar suggests consumers want to hear more from brands right now – just don’t be exploitative or tone deaf to your audience’s sentiment. This theme will be explored more in a future article in this series. Have the creative courage to… Be the beacon of YES! Stem the tide of the sea of NO!
2. Hold your nerve… and everyone else’s. Think long-term as well as short-term. Delayed gratification. As a species we don’t really go in for it. I won’t go into the well-trodden story of tech explosion connecting us all with Everything Now, but suffice to say that, current situation notwithstanding, we’re all less prepared to wait for what we want. This has in part led to marketers obsessing about short-term metrics often at the expense of the long term [note – if you haven’t read the works of Binet/Field on this then a) shame on you and b) start with The Long And Short Of It (here). Whatever the size and nature of your business, without brand-building activity it will probably not grow. FDs usually want short-term results, so marketers measure whatever they can as often and as soon as they can and ignore the long-term measures. Don’t rest until you’ve found the short-term lead indicators which lead to longer-term success – validate with Finance – report progress frequently. Have the creative courage to… know the numbers - talk positively about measurement to your FD – whilst you give your team the creative air cover to be brilliant
3. Less is more. Much more. You’ve got loads of reasons people should care about and buy your product. It’s natural that you’d want to put as much reasoning into your comms as you can. Don’t. Put less in. Fewer, high-impact points. It takes courage (and patience and skill!) to focus on the fewest words as possible to advertise your product/service/business but the reality is that you’ve got a fraction of a second to grab attention – whatever the media. Jack Daniel’s is the exception – making the detail in their ads a key asset – but they also combine their legacy with the right media which enables this approach to succeed. Almost everywhere else less is more, unless your target consumer has 25 times the amount of time to digest ad take-outs. Have the creative courage to…write less to say more. Make every word of copy fight for space in your creative. Then take out more.
4. Don’t be afraid of your instinct. Customer and market testing is great – if not essential – for a number of reasons. As well as being central to the NPD and campaign development process, it is very handy to stem the tide in the sea of NO! (see above). For example: Them: “… but has it been tested on customers.” You: “yes of course it has”. End of. But not for creative execution. You’re a marketing professional, it’s your calling. Two of the most successful ads of all time didn’t test well creatively (Gorilla - article) & (Surfer - article). Remember Ogilvy – “customers don’t think how they feel. They don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say”. Have the creative courage to… trust your instinct as a skilled professional more than that of a bunch of survey-responders in a fabricated environment
5. Don’t go changing… (for the sake of it). Out with the old, in with the new blah blah blah. One of the trends which has permeated over the last few years is creative inconsistency – and an inert desire for new marketing leaders (CMOs have the shortest tenures in c-suites - article) to stamp their mark by chucking out previous campaign creatives. Not invented here so not welcome. Irrelevant and outdated. We need a new brand positioning…Sound familiar? I’d argue that this attitude is more irrelevant and outdated. It is indisputable that consistent branding and creative assets such as colour, logos or phrases increases awareness over time, recall and attribution – so however strong the urge to change (either if you are the new boss or to demonstrate support for your new boss) then be courageous enough to defend the creative. Michelle Roberts took a deeper look at this theme in her excellent ‘in with the old’ article as part of this series found here Have the creative courage to… be unique by staying the same
6. Don’t hurry love… My final point is one about marketing agencies <awful cliché klaxon>. I look at agency partnerships like long term personal relationships: Pitch process is the dating – play the field, check the chemistry (I’ll avoid reference to tissue sessions in this analogy…). Selection is the marriage – both sides are happy, champagne and cake. First campaign is the honeymoon – excitement, glossing over each other’s flaws. Then the tiny patter of feet – you deliver a healthy, bouncing campaign. Then more! Then… back to work. A bit less exciting. You notice the flaws more. Finding the right agency partner is hard work, and maintaining the magic is even harder. However, continuing with my awful analogy, when you find ‘the one’ you’ll know. Furthermore you’ll be stronger together – you learn how to get the best out of each other, what you’re both good and not so good at. Most importantly, you develop a tension out of which amazing things can happen – and they can help sell the creative message in. Sometimes a conscious uncoupling is needed, but if you look at the most successful brands and campaigns, there’s usually a long term partnership behind it. Have the creative courage to… work toward a long term agency relationship – playing the field can be fun but creative tension to deliver brilliant work comes from a long-term love
These are my ‘6 reasons why…’ Creative Courage can unlock marketing – and therefore commercial – success.